Best Little Horror House in Sonoma

Given the annual rate of attrition of the kids who trick or treat my house, this year I expect, at most, two – the one’s from next door whose parents make them come over for the sake of being polite.

The low turnout baffles my wife who thrills at the sight of little one’s garbed as ghouls, scampering willy-nilly over the landscaping. But I know why we yearly loose a handful of trick-or-treaters. It’s not because they’re matriculating into more mature activities like egging cars or strafing houses with toilet paper. It’s because my wife is the brand manager of a natural foods company and subsequently loads up the kids’ sundry pillowcases, plastic jack-o-lanterns and the occasional Timbuktu bag with “healthy” snacks from her company. I can already hear the sigh(s) of disappointment. Halloween is the one time of year kids are permitted to take candy from strangers and my wife has to go on her one-women crusade to prevent cavities and childhood diabetes. What a witch.

I know, I know – kids should be so lucky. Back in my day, the healthy stuff was where the loonies did their dirty work. Remember the apple chock full of razor blades shown in X-ray on the evening news?

Those were the days, when madmen tried to kill you outright whilst the Mad Men sold us confectionary poisons that would take years to lethally clog our systems.

Then there was the Red No. 2 scare of 1976. Otherwise known as “amaranth,” the food dye was banned that year once it became apparent that it was a carcinogen. Thereafter, we had to get our red M&Ms on the black market of the schoolyard blacktop. Ironic that the dye, named for an imaginary, immortal flower referenced by Milton in “Paradise Lost” (Immortal amaranth, a flower which once / In paradise, fast by the tree of life…) was a suspected killer.

And to think that rock group Van Halen had a rider in its contract prohibiting brown M&Ms. Their lawyer must have been color blind.

A way to avoid M&Ms of all shades on the cheap is to window shop for one’s heebie jeebies. With my infant son, the Cannoli, strapped to me in his Bjorn, I sneaked a peek at the Sebastiani Theatre lobby which is presently in full Halloween regalia in honor of the resurrection of Witchie-Poo, the annual spectacle of spooks.

As I fogged the glass door, squinting at the entry strewn with cotton cob webs and other frights of blight, the four-month-old Cannoli expressed his approval by attempting to French kiss the glass, having just discovered his tongue, which remains too slippery for him to catch with his cocktail wiener fingers. Interestingly, if you say “horror house” while holding your tongue, “trick-or-treat” takes on a markedly different meaning.

Likewise, I’m advised by an informant that the foyer of Dr. Forsythe’s office is also done up in Halloween hues. The Cannoli and I never made it far enough down Broadway to visit (we were waylaid by a pit stop at my office, which, being a burgeoning media empire, is also a 700-square-foot diaper changing station). Consequently, I’m unsure if Forsythe’s deathly decor recalls a pet cemetery, in which case methinks the pet reaper should spell his name “For-scythe.”

And that, darling readers, is why they pay me the big bucks.

Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack has also apparently undergone a Transylvanian transformation in time, I suppose, for its namesake restaurateur to cameo as a latter day Elvira when she hosts Sonoma Drive-In’s broadcast of “White Zombie” at 10 p.m., Saturday night on local Comcast channel 27 (hooray for educational programming).

Incidentally, White Zombie is also the name of a metal act which had a rider in its contract excluding all M&Ms except green ones, which allegedly have aphrodisiacal properties.

I, of course, will be home on Halloween night vainly attempting to distribute health food while slipping green M&Ms to my wife.

Trick or treat? Yes.

Emmy Kaplan: Patr?n of the Arts

Emmy Kaplan

For Emmy Kaplan, the proprietress of both the San Francisco and Sonoma, California iterations of Emmy?s Spaghetti Shack, the secret ingredient to a good cocktail is ?freshness.? Fear not for Emmy?s punk rock cred, however, a favorite among Bay Area musicians, artists and foodies alike, the Shack (as it?s colloquially known) has not been Michael Pollan-ized. Simply put, Kaplan and her staff don?t believe in mixing good booze with so-so mixers. To avoid doing so, they make their own with seasonal ingredients sourced from artisanal providers instead of agribusiness.

DH: ?So far as I can tell, your rules are ?Don?t use frozen purees or pre-made syrups, triple sec is verboten and stay seasonal whenever possible.??

EK: ?Work off what?s available. If Meyer lemons are in lemon season, make a killer lemon compote, or lemon puree.?

DH: ?Sounds like a farmers market in a glass.?

EK: ?It could be considered a farmers market in a glass, although we do like to do it a little more eccentric than your classic farmers market might. There wouldn?t just be peach, it would be peach with something you wouldn?t think peach would go well with. Instead of peach and mint, consider peach and basil. Don?t be typical.?

DH: ?What about sustainable??

EK: ?We try to be as sustainable as possible for the price. We don?t want to go overboard.? We don?t want our specialty drinks to be more than $9.?

DH: ?What will nine bucks get you??

EK:? ?The Emmy?s Berry Margarita made with Patr?n for one. We worked a long time making sure we had the proper berries. Again, it depends on what?s in season. Sometimes the raspberries are better, sometimes the blackberries are better ??you could do blueberries or a mixture of all of the berries. The other great thing about using good ingredients and forgoing products like triple sec that have a lot of sugar is that you can avoid a lot of hangovers, which are caused, in part, by the excessive sugar.?

DH: ?I thought hangovers were caused by excessive drinking.?

EK: ?If you make the simple syrup yourself, boil it down, you don?t get as bad of a hangover. You don?t need to over sweeten it. You just need a little bit of sugar. If it?s good liquor want to taste it, if it?s a martini or a margarita, you want to taste the vodka or tequila, that?s the whole point. If you?re going to put triple sec in your margarita, in my opinion, you shouldn?t be using top-shelf liquor.?

DH: ?I hear you have a ?secret menu.? What?s on it??

EK: ?It?s a secret.?

DH: ?What?s the protocol one has to enact to receive the secret menu??

EK: ?They have to make friends with us, they have to get in good, be friendly and bring their family in and we?ll surprise them every once and a while.?

DH: ?You got a tequila joke??

EK: ?It?s an old one. A guy sits at a bar in a high-rise ??like the Equinox in San Francisco.?

DH: ?That?s the restaurant on top of the Hyatt that spins. Great place if you?re afraid of heights and merry-go-rounds.?

EK: ?So, the guy next to him, slams a shot of tequila, opens a window and jumps. Five minutes later, he?s back and totally fine. The guy at the bar is shocked. He says ?How did you do that?? The guy who jumped is totally wasted and says that he doesn?t know, just that after he slams tequila and jumps out the window, at the last second the tequila suspends him above the ground.?

DH: ?It has the exact opposite effect on me.?

EK: ?Listen. The jumper does it again ? orders a shot, slams it and jumps out the window and come back unscathed. So, the guy at the bar is so impressed he insists on trying it too. He orders a shot, jumps out the window and ? wait for it ??splat! It?s over. The bartender looks at the other guy and says, ?You?re a real a?hole when you?re drunk, Superman.?

DH: ?So, the moral of the story is don?t try this with the Emmy?s Berry Margarita.?

EK: ?Unless you?re Superman.?

Emmy?s Berry Margarita with Patr?n

1 ? ounces of Patr?n Silver

? an ounce of Cointreau

? a squeezed fresh, organic lemon

? a squeezed fresh, organic lime

1 tablespoon organic berry compote

Generous splash of simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled and chilled)

In a pint glass brimming with ice, pour the above contents, shake and strain into a sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with lime wedge or with a raspberry or blackberry or all the above.

A version of this article appeared in Patterson’s Tasting Panel Magazine.