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Monday, July 2, 2012, 6:00 am

New owners rename six-room Sonoma B&B

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    Dan Verel, Business Journal Staff ReporterThe Thistle Dew Inn near downtown Sonoma has been purchased by new owners, who will rename the property An Inn 2 Remember.

    The six-room bed-and-breakfast hotel at 171 W. Spain St. was purchased by Kym Edwards and Les Waller, both of whom have significant experience in the hospitality industry, according to their SBA 504 lender, Bay Area Development Company of Walnut Creek.

    Newly renamed An Inn 2 Remember

    The new owners (www.aninn2remember.com) will enlist family members to serve as innkeeper, head chef and kitchen manager, and plan to offer aerial and wine tours, limo services, dining guides and historical tours to the inn’s guests, according to the SBA lender.

    Located in Sonoma’s historic district, the inn’s two buildings were constructed in 1869 and 1910, respectively. The location has operated as a bed and breakfast inn under the name Thistle Dew Inn since 1981, according to Bay Area Development Company.

    The inn was initially purchased in 2010, but, subsequently, a variety of improvements were made as part of the project financing. When the improvements were completed, Bay Area Development Company began the process of funding the SBA 504 loan along with Santa Rosa-based Redwood Credit Union.

    The purchase price in 2010 was approximately $950,000, according to public records.

    ***

    Across California, restaurateurs, chefs and fine diners who fancy foie gras this week face a grim acknowledgement: their goose is cooked.

    The fine-dining staple can no longer be delivered to patrons, as a statewide measure went into effect that bans the making, selling or distribution of the dish on July 1. Restaurants caught serving the dish could face fines of $1,000 for each offense.

    The state’s only producer, Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras, in Sonoma, is closing in lieu of the ban.

    The measure was passed in 2004 and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, although the law was given a seven-year sunset for producers to come up with an alternative means of producing the product that is made from fattened duck or goose liver. Animal rights’ activists, chiefly the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society, pushed for the measure and championed its passage a victory for what they say is a cruel and inhumane process in making the dish.

    Activists who support the law, authored by former state Sen. John Burton of San Francisco, contend that the method used in making the dish, known as Gavage, is cruel because it involves force-feeding ducks or geese by way of a tube that helps enlarge the liver, making it richer for human consumption.

    But chefs and other proponents of the dish say the ban is both unfair and that it misses what they say is a key point — neither duck nor geese have gag reflexes and the process is, indeed, humane.

    Chefs across the state — and many in Sonoma and Napa counties, where high-end dining is big business — rallied to support foie gras. Ken Frank, head chef at Michelin-starred French restaurant La Toque in Napa, said the ban will ultimately hurt California’s standing as a culinary destination, noting that no other state has such a ban.

    “To have California be the only place in the world that bans it really hurts,” said Mr. Frank, who uses the dish regularly. He said there are high-end tourists that specifically seek out the savory dish, but they will now likely bypass the state entirely for other destinations such as Las Vegas.

    Mr. Frank and high-profile chefs, from Los Angeles to the Napa Valley, maintain that foie gras can be produced humanely. Mr. Frank added that he has toured the Sonoma facility, which was run by Guillermo Gonzalez since 1986, and that he found it to be humane.

    “It will tarnish and impact our ability to compete on the world stage,” he said. “If foie gras was cruel, I would have taken it off my menu 20 years ago, but I went and found out myself, and I determined there’s no mistreatment. There’s no torture.”

    Animal rights activists strongly disagree.

    “Force-feeding animals to induce liver disease so people can consume a high-priced hors d’oeuvre is completely out of step with today’s growing commitment to animal welfare,” said Suzanne McMillan, director of the ASPCA’s farm animal welfare campaign, in a statement.

    While the ban went into effect, Mr. Frank said he and other chefs will work to repeal the law, adding that it has unified much of the culinary landscape across California.

    “I do anticipate this is a short-lived situation,” he said.

    ***

    Flavor Napa Valley, the star-studded food and wine festival that started last year as means of highlighting the culinary prowess of the region, will be back for a second year, organizers said.

    It will run from Nov. 14-18 at the Silverado Resort and Spa and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, as well as other locations.

    Some of the chefs this year include: Michael Chiarello, who helped establish the original concept; Thomas Keller, Christopher Kostow, Cindy Pawlcyn, Jeffrey Jake and Masaharu Morimoto, among others. The festival will also include winegrower Andy Beckstoffer and winemaker Heidi Barrett.

    The festival is part of a wider effort to draw visitors to the Napa Valley during the off-season.

    “The 2011 event exceeded our expectations and drew more than 3,000 people to the valley during a time of year that is traditionally lower occupancy,” said Clay Gregory, CEO of the Napa Valley Destination Council.

    Net proceeds of the event go to a student programs and scholarship funds at the CIA Greystone Campus.

    For more information, go to www.flavornapavalley.com.

    ***

    The Marin Convention and Visitors Bureau will be hosting a Tourism Summit on Thursday, Sept. 20, at Inn Marin in Novato from 10 a..m. to  2 p.m., with an introduction from Mark Essman on local, regional and state tourism trends presented by Visit California.

    A special presentation called “Food for Thought: Exploring Agritourism and Our Commitment to Local Agriculture in Marin” will be led by Ellie Rilla, community development adviser, University of California, Cooperative Extension – Marin County, followed by a handful of speakers including Kevin Lunny of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Brigitte Moran of Agricultural Institute of Marin, Dena Grunt of Nick’s Cove and Cottages, Jill Giacomini Basch of The Fork at Point Reyes, and Vivien Straus of Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail.

    For all event questions, please contact Gina Marr, membership director at 415-925-2060 or email gina@visitMarin.org.

    Submit items for this column to Business Journal Staff Writer Dan Verel, dan.verel@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4257.

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