Leslie Sbrocco to Host Audubon Canyon Ranch Annual Fundraiser, May 18

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Down an unassuming dirt road, deep in the heart of the Valley of the Moon, in Sonoma County lies the stunning Bouverie Preserve, one of four nature

belltowermfk sanctuaries owned and managed by the non-profit environmental education organization Audubon Canyon Ranch. ACR will be hosting its annual food and wine fundraiser on May 18th at the Preserve. Inspired by MFK Fisher, the gathering is aptly entitled The Art of Eating: a celebration of all that is local and delicious.

Featuring several dwellings, including the famed Last House of preeminent food writer MFK Fisher, a haunted bell tower imported from Hearst Castle and now home to nesting Canada geese, this property is now an abundant 535- acre nature preserve with a rich variety of ecosystems including rolling oak woodlands, redolent mixed evergreen forests, and striking swathes of grasslands. Stuart Creek punctuates the length of the property that is home to at least 130 species of birds and 350 species of flowering plants.

In 1994, ownership of this largely untouched land was donated to Audubon Canyon Ranch, an organization whose goal is to protect nature through land preservation, nature education, and conservation science. Every year it provides no-cost educational programs to more than 6000 grade school children giving them a hands-on experience of the natural world.

Originally owned by David Pleydell-Bouverie, grandson of the fifth Earl of Radnor, architect, bohemian bon vivant, and nature lover, the property includes homes designed by David with many beautifully conceived, unique details. Case in point: a sign over the entrance to his home which reads, “Enter with love, leaving malice behind.” During its heyday, the property was host to many distinguished guests from the Queen of Jordon to Maya Angelou.

David found his perfect co-host in his close friend MFK Fisher, whose elegantly crafted prose defined a genre. Her distinctive literary style allowed her to be at once completely confessional while paradoxically utterly private, causing John Updike to proclaim her our “poet of the appetites.”

Fisher once joked while living alone in her home in St. Helena that she was afraid of being found dead on the floor of her kitchen with a half eaten pear in her mouth and a glass of warm champagne on the counter! To protect her from such fear, David instigated her exodus from St. Helena to his ranch where he built Last House for her in 1971, closely following her specifications. Fisher affectionately nicknamed Last House her “palazinno” and made sure the bathroom was as large as the bedroom with vibrant red walls to display her art.

Writer Anne Lamott, a friend of Fisher, has said she seemed to wear her home – it was classic and simple as the perfect dress. The home perfectly suited her, with its views of wildflower-strewn meadows that so reminded her of her time abroad. The world came to her in those last decades of her life, to her Last House, where she hosted such foodie luminaries as Julia Child, James Beard, and Alice Waters.

Visitors to ACR’s fundraiser are granted a rare opportunity to experience this cultural and natural wonder. This year’s benefit features a silent and live auction that includes private access to ARC’s preserves, an exhibit on MFK Fisher titled Wine is Life, curated by Randall Tarpey-Schwed, expert on Fisher’s life and work and co-author of MFK Fisher: An Annotated Bibliography, as well as a variety of nature exhibits showcasing the abundant variety of plants and animals protected by ARC’s Bouverie Preserve. KQED’s “Check, Please! Bay Area” host and wine consultant Leslie Sbrocco, will act as emcee.

The annual Art of Eating benefit will be held May 18 from 12:30-4:30 at the Bouverie Preserve, in Glen Ellen. Come for an afternoon celebrating the woman who changed forever the way we think, feel, and write about food and wine in a setting that is nothing less than enchanting.

For more information please visit www.egret.org or call 415.868.9244 x 23

I am a passionate home cook, organic gardener, and mother of three always on the lookout for culinary inspiration. My background in food and wine has been shaped by my experiences working in restaurants, wine publishing, and hosting events.

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