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May 17-23, 2006

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Raising Dough Differently

By Brett Ascarelli

Raising money for some wine country schools is taking a gourmet turn, landing far from the brownied-out bake sales enduring elsewhere. Sebastopol parent Mariline Olson, owner of Screamin' Mimi's ice cream parlor, has organized the first annual Sonoma County Bites, an outdoor afternoon of epicurean tastings and kiddie fun, to benefit the town's Twin Hills Middle and Apple Blossom Elementary schools.

For $1 to $3 per taste, event attendees can try wines provided by Balletto, Korbel and Hook & Ladder, to name just a few, or consume edibles cooked up by such notable restaurants as John Ash & Co., Mosaic, Downtown Bakery & Creamery and others. Entertainment includes a magic show, silent auction, marketplace and cooking demonstration, as well as live music and morris dancers. Blazing trails in even the trash department, this will be a low-waste event, overseen by Green Mary, a local earth steward.

With her two-year-old's voice piping up in the background, Olson explains by phone the strategy behind the novel event. "As a business owner, I get asked for a lot of donations to a lot of causes, but when I give to a benefit, I tend to get one new customer. So I wanted to set up an event that would let me reach out and get 200 or 300 customers, and at the same time really benefit the group that's doing it. This is a way to thank the businesses for helping the schools out, and hopefully, they'll get the publicity and new customers." Judging by the impressive list of notable participants, Olson's strategy is working, and she hopes to turn Sonoma County Bites into an annual affair.

Teach state and federal school budgeteers how to untighten their belts at Sonoma County Bites on Sunday, May 21, at the O'Reilly & Associates greenway. 1005 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Sebastopol. Noon to 5pm. Free admission. 707.799.3079.

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