You might think that a popular television drama like Downton Abbey and a local sausage maker like Franco Dunn have little in common.

But they do.

Both the acclaimed drama and the widely praised artisan sausages stand on the shoulders of the pioneers who came before them.

Lady Mary Josephine Crawley, played by Michelle Dockery, of Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey wouldn’t exist, certainly not in its current form, without Upstairs Downstairs, the enormously popular 1970s PBS drama featuring the lives of an upper class British family and the butler, cook, maids and footmen who serve them. If you love Downton Abbey and have not seen Upstairs Downstairs you are in for a treat, especially since the entire series is now available for instant viewing at netflix. At a minimum, you’ll have fun catching the similarities between the two shows. At best, you’ll fall in love and carry such characters as Rose, Mrs. Bridges, Hudson, Richard, James and my favorite, the shy red-haired beauty Hazel, with you forever, as I do. In more ways that I want to admit, though that is a story for another time. Or maybe never.

Hazel Bellamy, played by Meg Wynn Owen, in an episode from Season 4 of Upstairs Downstairs

But what about sausages? you rightly wonder.

Franco Dunn’s sausages are among the finest I’ve ever tasted. Indeed, I find his chorizos positively addictive–I cannot resist them.

Bruce Aidells, with his signature sausages.

Whether or not Franco ever thinks about it, he stands on the shoulders of Bruce Aidells, aka The Sausage King. Bruce, who started his career as a cancer researcher, was part of the famed Gourmet Ghetto of Berkeley, where he was inspired, back in 1979, when he met Anzonini del Puerto, a flamenco singer, dancer and sausage maker, while Les Blank was filming Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers. Bruce made Anzonini’s chorizo and the rest, as they say, is history. Suddenly, once-regional sausages like andouille were available in the Bay Area and then nation wide and the sausage revolution was on.

Bruce sold his highly successful sausage company in 2002 but his legacy lives on even as he has moved on, in part through artisans like Franco Dunn. Anyone who makes specialty sausages today stands on Bruce’s broad shoulders.

A few years ago, Bruce and his wife, chef Nancy Oakes, built a home in Healdsburg. He doesn’t make a lot of public appearances but now there is an opportunity–a delicious one–to meet him.

On Sunday, August 5, Bruce will be the featured author at a benefit for the Sonoma County Book Festival taking place at Windrush Farm, a beautiful working ranch in south Petaluma. I’ll be in conversation with Bruce and we’ll talk about his latest book, The Great Meat Book, to be published in October. If you have any questions about meat, grass-fed beef, humanely raised animals or the term organic as it applies to meat, you don’t want to miss this event. I’ll also get Bruce to tell some of his great stories about life at the heart of the Gourmet Revolution, which changed the way we all eat. Add to this delicious foods–pizza from the outdoor oven, sausages, Lagunitas beer, free-flowing wine and the famous honeydew melon and absinthe salad that has become a tradition at this annual event–and a beautiful location with interesting, engaging guests and you really really don’t want to miss it.

Yanni’s Sausage Grill of Penngrove is donating sausages for the event. Yanni is thrilled, he says, to meet the man who inspired him to become a sausage maker.

It all takes place from 2 to 5 p.m. on August 5 at Windrush Farm, 2263 Chileno Valley Rd., Petaluma. You can get more information from J. J. Wilson at or 795-9028. Tickets are also available at and via its event page at facebook, which you can find here. Admission is a sliding scale donation, $40  to $60. Children under 12 are free.