'Best of Sonoma County' winners honored at Santa Rosa awards ceremony

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'Best of Sonoma County' winners honored at Santa Rosa awards ceremony
'Best of Sonoma County' winners honored at Santa Rosa awards ceremony

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'Best of Sonoma County' winners honored at Santa Rosa awards ceremony

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'Best of Sonoma County' winners honored at Santa Rosa awards ceremony

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'Best of Sonoma County' winners honored at Santa Rosa awards ceremony

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'Best of Sonoma County' winners honored at Santa Rosa awards ceremony

Hundreds of happy local business owners received their "Best of Sonoma County" awards Tuesday night at the Friedman Event Center in Santa Rosa.

The event, to honor all the winners of the annual Press Democrat reader poll, had been scheduled for Oct. 10 but was cancelled due to the fires.

The fires added a somber tone to the event and there were standing ovations for Paradise Ridge Winery, Willie’s Wine Bar and Cardinal Newman High School, each severely damaged in the fires.

As PD’s publisher Steve Falk put it: "We are not here for a long time, but for a good time."

See all of the winners and maybe discover your next favorite go-to spot in the gallery above.

GET CHEESY

Here are some tips on serving cheese from Omar Mueller of Freestone Artisan Cheese and Bradley Frank of Healdsburg Shed:

Warm it up: If your cheese is still firm and not quite ripe, you can leave it out on the counter for a day. The warmer temperature will speed up the ripening.

Wine pairings: When in doubt, go with a sauvignon blanc and a syrah. Both are cheese-friendly.

Finding closure: Consider serving a cheese tray at the end of the meal, with the last of the wine. “It really satisfies your appetite,” Mueller said.

Sweet cheeses: As a dessert cheese, try the Cowabunga from Bohemian Creamery in Sebastopol. It’s a fresh cow’s milk cheese with a caramel center. Bleating Heart’s Funky Bleats also provides a satisfying closure. It’s a washed-rind, aged cheese made from unpasteurized sheep/goat cheese.

Consider the guests: Think about who you are serving. Are the guests adventurous or traditional? Children or adults? Think about a theme, such as all local, all domestic or all Italian cheeses.

Sizing it up: If you’re serving a cheese board before the meal, figure on 1 to 2 ounces per person. If after, you can serve 1 to 1.5 ounces per person. Serve lighter cheeses, like herbed goat cheese and fresh mozzarella before the meal. Bring out the triple-creme afterwards, like the Andante Largo and the aged Goudas.

Fresh is best: Try to buy the cheese as close to the party as you can. You don’t need to refrigerate the aged cheeses, but wrap the rest of them well and keep in the fridge.

Warm it up: Always put out the cheese about an hour before serving, so the flavors open up.

Bored with boards: For a serving vehicle, open your cabinet and look for something unique, such as a vintage tray or a cake plate, a piece of marble or slate.

The cheese stands alone: If you’re serving a funky cheese, such as the Nicasio Square, serve it on a separate plate so it doesn’t overpower the other cheeses.

Do your homework: Talk to your cheesemonger and do a little research on the Internet, then share what you’ve learned with your guests. One good source is the Library of Cheese at cowgirlcreamery.com.

A side of charcuterie: The saltiness of cured meats goes well with all kinds of cheese. Consider serving a selection of prosciuttos, salumis, patés or terrines alongside some pickled vegetables.

Label it: To show what you’re serving, use little chalk slates that can be erased and re-used in the future.

- Diane Peterson