Thanksgiving (and many more delicious meals, including a Dungeness Crab Feast) in Sonoma

Vikki’s gorgeous table…for 29!

This was the fourth year we’ve spent Thanksgiving weekend with our son Kyle’s fiancée Calla’s family in Sonoma.  We drive up from San Diego, stopping to pick up our daughter Ally (coming in from New Orleans) at LAX.  Kyle and Calla (and this year their roommate Jesse, and pooch, June) drive down from Portland, OR.  It’s the perfect halfway point.

The Sonoma Valley is beautiful in the Fall…the leaves in the vineyards have turned gold and orange and red.  Calla’s dad Bill and his girlfriend Vikki have a gorgeous home in the hills above Sonoma, with panoramic views of the valley below and all the way to Oakland and the Bay.

The view from Vikki’s deck

There’s always a LOT of great food and wine and beer and tequila and a lot of laughs shared with LOTS of family (Vikki’s three kids, Calla’s three brothers and significant others) and a whole gaggle of friends.  This year there were 29 of us at the Thanksgiving table!  Bill brined and roasted a 24-pound turkey that was one of the best I’ve ever had.  We feasted on mashed potatoes and yams and roasted green beans and Brussels sprouts and gravy and vegan gravy and quinoa and salad and stuffing and wine and champagne and bread pudding and pumpkin roll and apple pie and apple tart until we could barely move.

Uh huh. My plate.

Bill and Vikki are absolutely the definition of the hostess(es) with the mostess(es).  Not only is there THE Thanksgiving dinner, but hiking and wine tasting and more hiking and visits to breweries and so much more good food.

Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma

Hiking at Sugarloaf National Park

Bill outdid himself this year with a Crab Feast…fresh Dungeness Crab, Roasted Corn-on-the-Cob (a la Tyler Florence) and Broccoli Slaw (I made the Smitten Kitchen recipe).  I’d never had roasted corn-on-the-cob, but I will definitely be doing it…so easy and so good.  Roasting just makes all veggies taste better! And Smitten Kitchen’s Broccoli Slaw is one of my all-time favorites.

Lots o’ Crab!

Crab, Oven-Roasted Corn, Broccoli Slaw

Thank you once again Bill and Vikki, et al.  We are grateful that Kyle and Calla found each other and for the “melding” of our families.  We are so excited and looking forward to the wedding and to many, many years of good times and awesome events with the Bruser-Leff-Mapel clan!

Alright…the recipes.

Bill Mapel’s Dungeness Crab


A whole lot of Dungeness crabs



1.  Drive to Santa Rosa to Santa Rosa Seafood to get fresh Dungeness crabs for $4 a pound

2.  Bring the crabs back to the house and steam them

3.  Melt the butter and serve in cool little fondue pot/butter warmer things

4.  Make sure to have a big ol’ discard bowl and little crab forks and plenty of napkins!

5.  Serve accompanied by Oven-Roasted Corn-on-the-Cob and Broccoli Slaw

Tyler Florence’s No Shucking Oven-Roasted Corn


Fresh corn on the cob, unhusked


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place corn directly on the roasting rack and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the husks and use them as a handle while eating.   Roll in butter and sprinkle with a little salt.

Broccoli Slaw

Smitten Kitchen’s Broccoli Slaw

(Okay, funny story…on Election Night, Tony and I made burgers and this slaw for dinner.  As we were sitting down to eat, he says, “I love this broccoli slaw” and I say, “what did you say?” and he repeats himself.  And then it hits me!  “It’s not Broccoli Slaw”, I say.  “It’s BARACK-oli Slaw!!!”  And then I laughed myself silly.  Get it?  BARACK-oli!!  And, yes, I told the story again during the Crab Feast and, yes, cracked myself up again.)


2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

Buttermilk Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (or, you could just use a little extra red onion to simplify it)


Trim broccoli and cut it into large chunks. From here, you can either feed it through your food processor’s slicing blade, use a mandoline to cut it into thin slices, or simply hand chop it into smaller pieces

Toss the sliced broccoli with the almonds, cranberries and red onion in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients in a smaller one, with a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the broccoli and toss it well. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.