Authors Posts by Flora Tsapovsky

Flora Tsapovsky


Chef Daniel Tellez dedicates culinary creations to Mexican cousins

Copita, located on Bridgeway in Sausalito, features an executive chef who pays tribute to his family in Mexico through a creative menu. Photo courtesy of Copita.

By Flora Tsapovsky

Daniel Tellez, executive chef of Sausalito’s Copita Tequileria y Comida, tries to visit his home country of Mexico at least twice a year. Traveling between Mexico City, Puebla, Jalisco, Oaxaca and other spots, he always makes sure to visit some of his cousins. That’s quite the itinerary, since Tellez has 52 of them. In the beginning of 2016, Tellez decided to channel all of that family love into the new menu at Copita, launching a weekly specials program dedicated to his cousins and their culinary preferences.

When Tellez joined Copita in the beginning of 2016, it was with a goal to refresh the menu. Born and raised in Mexico City, he’s worked in a number of restaurants in Rome and his hometown, tapping into Michelin-starred establishments and collecting, on his route, awards and recognition from Bocuse d’or, the New York City Wine & Food Festival and more. Despite all of this glitz and résumé markers, family and tradition are enormous inspirations for Tellez.

“Growing up in Mexico and being surrounded by all of my family and a lot of friends brings back a lot of wonderful memories,” he says. “Whenever I visit, there is always some kind of special feast happening. Of course, I love to do most of the cooking and it’s also a fun time for the rest of my family to get involved and help out. I really love and miss that.”

Taking all of that longing and adding fresh local ingredients, Tellez is now on the 30th week of his tongue-in-cheek, elaborate 52 Cousins menu journey. After all, family is where passion for cooking was ignited within him.

“I grew up only a few blocks away from my grandmother’s house,” he recalls. “She always called on all of her grandchildren to help her in the kitchen. I was one of the youngest grandchildren and I always loved

Copita Executive Chef Daniel Tellez has 52 cousins who inspire his culinary creations. Photo courtesy of Copita.

watching her cook. I was also very eager to jump in and help out as much as I could!”

In his cousin-celebrating menu, there’s something for everyone, with plenty of dishes rarely seen on typical Mexican-Californian menus. Week 31, running from July 18-23, is dedicated to cousin Cassiana, who grew up in Zacatecas, one of the six known birthplaces of the famous pozole dish. Her week will feature Pozole Rojo de Pollo, a rich chicken stew with hominy corn, lettuce radish, oregano and chile de arbol.

“Though her mother had made it with pork, she told me she preferred chicken, as it offers a much lighter flavor profile,” Tellez says.

Next, Week 32 (July 25-30) will shine a spotlight on cousin Julio, a cactus grower and “one of the leading voices in the debate on whether cactus may become the world’s next kale.” To honor Julio’s healthy outlook, Tellez created an Ensalada de Nopal, with Nopal cactus, tomatoes, onion, lettuce, and panela cheese. In the following weeks, customers can expect Mexico City Street-Style Esquites (off-the-cob white corn with epazote, queso fresco lime and chili powder), Chile en Nogada (poblano chile filled with Mexican picadillo meat and nogada sauce), Crab Taquitos (fried crab tacos in tomato and serrano broth with chipotle aioli) and other regional Mexican delicacies.

When it comes to Mexican cuisine in the Bay Area, this approach—looking back to lesser-known classics and incorporating old family recipes—is exactly the right way to innovate and keep things interesting. In his cooking, Tellez, who oversees all of Copita’s gluten-free menu, combines the family rarities with news fresh from Mexico.

I am constantly in contact with my chef friends in Mexico to hear about the latest trends and I also get a lot of inspiration during my trips to Mexico,” he says. “My vision has always been to continue to evolve Mexican food without losing its roots, and using high-quality ingredients.”

The cousins, on their end of things, welcome the tribute.

“When I came up with the idea, I let them know about it before I started putting together the menu and they seemed really happy and excited,” Tellez says. “It’s my way of saying thanks to them and to relive some of the memories we have from growing up together.”

Copita Tequileria y Comida, 739 Bridgeway, Sausalito; 415/331-7400; copitarestaurant.com.

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Fairfax’s The Utility Room mixes vintage, handmade, upcycled and new

The Utility Room, a boutique in Fairfax, features upcycled cashmere products, jewelry, home goods and even homemade fudge. Photo by Rachel Weill.

By Flora Tsapovsky

First impressions are a tricky thing. Elizabeth Lavoie may look like an actress—but then again, she really did spend her 20s acting in Los Angeles. The one thing you’ll find harder to derive from Lavoie’s edgy and fashion-forward look is a passionate love for customizing cashmere sweaters—but that’s exactly what keeps her happy these days.The woman behind The Utility Room, a new boutique in Fairfax, is full of surprises.“After L.A., my 30s were a mix of having babies and getting a masters in creative writing,” Lavoie says. In August of last year, she opened The Utility Room after her previous retail venture, the well-loved The Shop in Olema, became no longer hers. “My store is my sanctuary,” she adds. “I have three kids, I’m single and sometimes I need a break.”The Utility Room, full of attractive objects and motivational slogans, can be an instant sanctuary for anyone who walks in; it is now the home of The Utility Room the brand, which Lavoie started four years ago while juggling other retail businesses.“I started the label when I had the opportunity to have a space in The Garage, an artisan collective in Fairfax,” she says. “I had no idea that this would become my career. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom; sewing was the thing that I got to do when my other chores were done—it was dessert. Now sewing is my work, what I get to do all day long.”

The sewing machine located in the welcoming space is proof of that, and often you’ll find Lavoie creating something on the spot, upon a customer’s request. You’ll also find Lavoie’s upcycled cashmere products and other projects, such as jewelry, girls’ dresses, serapes and even homemade fudge, as well as a selection of curated home goods, design objects and accessories with a strong Californian appeal.

“I named the brand and the store The Utility Room because I’m a dedicated utilitarian,” Lavoie says. “When I buy for the store, beyond my intuitive sense of what pleases my eye, I look towards beauty and usefulness. With clothing, that means comfort, but not at the price of style. My goal when I design and buy is to populate the shop with clothes that a woman will feel grounded in, feel herself in the best possible way. I incorporate vintage, handmade, upcycled and new products in what is hopefully a magical jumble.”

Lavoie’s own designs stem from a desire to “make use of discarded objects by giving them new life.” The best example, perhaps, is the array of cool-looking, fresh sweaters hanging in the shop. “I love cashmere but I’m a bargain shopper,” she explains. “I’ve been sewing my whole life and it occurred to me that I could salvage cashmere from thrift stores and either refurbish the sweaters by washing, combing, mending and sometimes adding appliqués over holes or stains, or by cutting them up and sewing them together to make new garments. It’s a magic material; warm and breathable.”

These adjectives could describe Fairfax itself, its laid-back charm easily accommodating Lavoie’s latest endeavor.

“I’m really passionate about this town,” Lavoie says. “Often, I’ll find myself preaching its virtues to my out-of-town customers.”

Lavoie grew up in Mill Valley, and Fairfax reminds her of Mill Valley in the ’70s. “There is some economic diversity here, rare these days in Marin. There are still artists and characters. I can’t walk down the street without running into someone I know,” she muses. “It’s a small town with a deep and quirky soul, a hint of sophistication added by the proximity of San Francisco.”

Lavoie’s been back in the area since 2000, living intermittently in Fairfax and San Anselmo. “Currently, my zip code is in San Anselmo, but my heart is in Fairfax,” she says. “I’m really proud to be a local, independent business owner in this town where every shop and restaurant I can think of is locally owned and run. My kids come and go, as do their friends and mine. It’s a rich life.”

The Utility Room, 10 Bolinas Rd., Fairfax; theutilityroom.net.

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The work of floral designer and stylist Natasha Kolenko

Natasha Kolenko, a Marin-based floral designer and stylist, has a passionate, knowledgeable and loving approach to flowers. Photo by Mike Larson.

By Flora Tsapovsky

A prestigious status symbol imperative to any occasion of importance, and with more than 700,000 appearances on Instagram, the prettiest social network of all, flowers are blooming—literally and figuratively.

The most delicate, intricate and touching part of any big occasion, flowers have never stopped fascinating us—it’s just that now they get way more social media exposure. Natasha Kolenko, a Bay Area native and a Mill Valley resident, has adopted them as a full-flung career. Kolenko, an established floral designer and stylist, has a biology degree from Cal Poly, as well as an interior design degree. Surely, there’s no better combination to prepare someone for a full-time floral gig.

“I started working, more like playing, with flowers when I was in college and my friends were getting married,” Kolenko says. “I was looking for a creative outlet and my friends entrusted me with the duty of putting their wedding arrangements together. I never anticipated this hobby becoming part of what I would do for a living.”

In reality, however, the hobby grew and developed into a busy schedule of collecting, arranging, photographing and dealing with some of nature’s most beautiful creations.

“A typical day as a florist starts early, something at 2 to 3am, when the flower mart opens,” says Kolenko, who confesses, “Even at those ungodly hours, the flower mart, and my vendor friends there always put a smile on my face.”

Kolenko picks up orders, shops for last-minute additions and heads to her studio in Sausalito, where she and her team process the flowers and get them ready to be arranged according to their needs.

“The processing is the tedious part,” she says. “Cleaning stems, stripping leaves, trimming stems, getting everything in buckets of water. Then the fun starts—the arrangements!”

Kolenko’s floral arrangements, be it for a wedding, a photo shoot or a stylish city event, are easy to spot—they’re wild and never overdone, not too fussy and always elegantly messy.

“They’re typically a variety of lush blooms and lots of textural greenery,” she says. Once the arrangements are complete, they are boxed up and loaded for delivery.

These days, Kolenko’s scope includes wedding and other family celebrations in the Bay Area, creating floral settings for magazines such as C magazine and Sunset, private events for companies as large as Google and Apple, commercial photo shoots and props styling for food photography and beauty shots, where flowers are sometime replaced by branches, leaves and loose petals. The upcoming months are all about the wedding season.

“Since California lacks drastic seasonal change, the wedding season in the Bay Area really goes March to November,” Kolenko says. “My studio will be hustling and bustling.”

A lot goes into Kolenko’s dialogues with clients. “Often I will ask brides to bring in color palette swatches and images of florals they love, we will look at vase and ribbon options [and] I make suggestions of seasonal flowers for their event,” she says. “We come up with the overall design together and then I take it from there. I tell my clients that I truly believe that the more they trust me to work my magic, the more magical their arrangements turn out.”

When she’s not busy creating dreamy bouquets for blushing brides, Kolenko keeps evolving as a florist while nurturing her inner biologist or, the way she puts it, “nerding out.”

“One new endeavor that I am really excited to dive deeper into is growing my own flowers,” she says. “I am currently reading several books about local roses, dahlias and other cut-flower favorites and have planted a few tests runs. My distant drum rose is off to a great start and my dahlia blooms are loving this summer sun.”

Being a self-taught florist, Kolenko constantly hones her craft; “I practice, I read, I take workshops and I teach,” she says. “My biology and interior design degrees, although not directly related to flowers, both gave me a solid understanding of botany, the science of plants and flowers and the basic design principles which I apply in my designs daily.”

One would have a hard time imagining a better geographical spot to  run a florist business.

“I am constantly inspired by the natural beauty that surrounds me both at home and at our wonderful local flower mart,” Kolenko says. “I am a nature girl, I hike the surrounding hills as often as possible, stopping to touch and smell all the wildflowers.”

The designer’s aesthetics are largely inspired by the local landscape, as arrangements often look “like they almost could’ve grown on a tree that way.” Some of the ‘easiest’ blooms to work with, according to Kolenko, are ranunculus, protea and zinnia. “They are hardy, and hold up well in warm conditions,” she says.

“Flowers are easy to work with because they are innately beautiful,” Kolenko says. “I often say I am ‘playing with flowers’ because it feels like play rather than work. Flowers make people happy, and it feels great to be able to contribute a little beauty to my clients’ most special days.”

Natasha Kolenko; natashakolenko.com; @natashakolenko.

Novato-based Norwegian Wood features stylish clothing and homewares

Norwegian Wood, a Novato-based, online design store, offers everything from decorative pillows to printed kimonos. Photo courtesy of Angie Johnson.

By Flora Tsapovsky

When an online store is called Norwegian Wood, you can pretty much expect anything. And indeed, on Angie Johnson’s impeccably designed website you’ll find funky, colorful leggings next to decorative pillows, metal wall mobiles next to roomy, compliment-attracting bags and printed kimonos. The only thing that these items have in common is a cool-girl, desirable appeal, and a worldliness deserving of a globetrotter. And all of them are shipping around the world from Novato.

Johnson, who has a degree from the University of Manitoba in human ecology, with a focus on clothing and textiles, knows all about global vibes. She moved here from Montreal, following her husband’s job, in 2015, and brought Norwegian Wood with her. The store is almost a decade old.

“I started designing at a very young age, starting my first clothing line at 16 and selling the clothes in three local boutiques in Winnipeg, Manitoba,” Johnson says. She continued to run various small clothing design businesses on the side from that time forward, but also went on to work for larger clothing companies, earning industry experience and often traveling to Europe and Asia. The move to California prompted a slightly more free-flowing, liberal approach to merchandising.

“In the past I created seasonal collections, two times per year on the traditional fashion calendar,” Johnson says. “Since moving to California and starting the homewares collection, I’ve pulled back on that, and am now just making leggings and kimonos. That’s the beauty of having your own business; you can evolve it as your life changes.”

For the Norwegian Wood store, Johnson makes all of the textile-based homewares in Novato; the metal hanging planters are made by a metal fabrication company in Los Angeles and the leggings are printed and sewn in Montreal. The pillows are often made of African textiles like mudcloth and indigo-dyed cloth, and the Indian ikats, or fabrics, Johnson designs herself. Often, she collaborates with other makers or artists, like Jessi Preston, a tattoo artist from Montreal who co-created a mini collection of artful, bold lingerie featuring tattoo-inspired graphics (Johnson is a big fan of tattoos herself). Another memorable collaboration is with the well-known Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, focused on digital collages of various images to be printed on silk kimonos.

“All of the artists I’ve collaborated with in the past are personal friends of mine, so all those collabs came about very organically through conversations and get-togethers,” Johnson says.

It sounds like Californian style fits well into her general aesthetic. “It’s funny, but even when I lived in Montreal I always had the bulk of my U.S. customers based in California,” she says. “I think California was calling to me for a long time; I just didn’t know it until I got here. Now I have an even stronger reason to indulge in the bohemian West Coast aesthetic, and I feel like the history of that movement is deeply rooted in the Bay Area. It seeps out of everywhere, from the architecture and home decor, to the fashion sense of the people.”

In Novato, aside from enjoying the sunshine (“It’s not too hard to get used to life without snow!” Johnson says enthusiastically), the designer has become a true devotee of nature. “I love how close we are to nature at all times, having a big backyard for our dog to run around in, and exploring all the amazing plantlife year-round,” she says.

Gardening is a recently adopted passion of Johnson’s. “Very shortly after I moved to Novato I was looking on Craigslist for some used patio furniture and met a lovely lady who sold me her set,” she recalls. “She had a truck and offered to bring it to my house, and upon seeing our giant backyard invited me to join the Novato Garden Club.”

Johnson has been an active member ever since, joining the programs committee last year. “We put together the guest speakers and activities for the monthly club meetings,” she says. “It’s been so great to meet a group of people who care about plants as much as I do, and who can help me navigate the very different climate/soil conditions and teach me about California gardening!”

Luckily, when it comes to curating tasteful home decor and individualistic garments and accessories, Johnson needs absolutely no help.

Norwegian Wood; norwegianwoodonline.com.

The Surf ’n Turf  Shack makes its farmers’ market debut

The Surf ’n Turf  Shack, now at the Sunday Marin Farmers’ Market in San Rafael, is an example of a company combining seafood and meats, and cooking them on the spot.

By Flora Tsapovsky

The Sunday Marin Farmers’ Market in San Rafael scored a new and intriguing resident over Memorial Day weekend—The Surf ’n Turf  Shack. Technically, it’s not really new, but a welcome unity of two neighboring stands that frequent market-goers know well: Same Day Seafood and Prather Ranch Meat Co.

“The idea came out of conversations with Doug from the meat stand,” says Gary Root, the man behind Same Day Seafood and the owner of the shack. “There [are] zero miles between the source and the customer.”

Root believes that the stand will highlight the seafood and meat by the two collaborators, and add to the fun, interactive approach he’s already taking. “We do a lot with kids, educating young people about fishing, local seafood, wild versus farmed, and we’ll expand that to explaining how meats arrive at a market,” he says.

The Surf ’n Turf  Shack serves land and sea dishes like steak sandwiches, salmon cakes, ceviche and sashimi, and in the near future, will offer combo platters that include side dishes like mac & cheese.

“We both spend a lot of time explaining to customers how to turn our offerings into meals at home,” Root says. “The shack will give them a number of ideas.”

Root recruited Efren Sandoval, the executive chef of San Francisco’s Scoma’s, to manage Sunday’s cooking activities, and wanted to give him “flexibility in the cooking process, so he can accommodate people’s requests.”

Root’s belief in the Shack is so strong that he’s already looking into a permanent location in San Rafael or San Francisco, where Prather and Same Day Seafood would partner up. Stay tuned.

The Surf ’n Turf  Shack; 415/944-7871; facebook.com/surfnturfshack.

Expert outdoor guides offer insider’s look at Marin’s beauty

Marin Outdoor Adventure, offering world-class surfing, hiking and biking trips, hopes to ‘inspire, empower and awaken others to a conscious way of travel and living.’ Photo courtesy of Nicki Clark.

By Flora Tsapovsky

What makes an adventure? Can a divorce be one? For Nicki Clark, the founder of Marin Outdoor Adventure, one turbulent escapade led to another much more joyous one, and a business based on connection, empowerment and community was born.

“About four years ago I was in a pretty major life transition,” says Clark, a Marin native. “I had just gotten divorced with two children, now 10 and 8, was eager and ready to start working towards financial independence for the sake of personal growth and confidence and simply to be able to continue to live in Marin.”

Around that time Clark, who had previously worked as a mountain biking guide, a snowboarding instructor, a glacier tour guide and a CrossFit coach, got an email from a friend.

“I learned that Airbnb [was] starting a pilot program for offering ‘experiences’ and looking for people who were interested in being a part of that,” Clark says, describing what recently launched in multiple cities across the U.S. as a brand-new offering by the hospitality giant. The premise: In addition to staying in people’s homes, travelers can book an experience with a local guide—be it in the form of an artist’s studio visit, a cooking class, a behind-the-scenes look at a ballet group and more—as a way to deepen their romance with a place.

“The opportunity to work with Airbnb during the beta phase of this new product was a catalyst for me to start Marin Outdoor Adventure,” Clark says. “Within a few months I had my first booking for ‘Mountain Biking in Marin,’ which was the first ever Airbnb experience to be booked.”

Currently, Clark’s venture, working both with Airbnb and outside of it, offers countless local outdoor adventures for groups and individuals. Led by experienced guides, excursions range from exploring Muir Woods, to beginner and advanced mountain biking, to group surfing lessons on the coast. Surely, anyone can go hiking and exploring on their own, right?

“Having an expert who is passionate about whatever the activity may be makes the experience completely different,” Clark says. “We bring a quality of connection to the experience with each guest—a person-to-person connection that tends to lead the guests to a feeling that is memorable and special. It has to do with human connection and passionate, kind and experienced experts.”

While Clark hires both male and female guides, the representation of women adventure guides and what they offer is vast—Marin Outdoor Adventure lists Kathy Hutton, a windsurfing expert and triathlon runner, Audrey Le, a hiking enthusiast and producer and Drea Lester, a mountain biking lover, among its guides—and it’s no coincidence.

“I am passionate about empowering and inspiring women and young girls,” Clark says. “I have a weekly girl’s and women’s surf club that meets every Tuesday afternoon, and I think it could turn into something very powerful and special.”

Clark also works with Send It Foundation, a nonprofit offering adventures for young adults who are cancer survivors. On a regular week, clients could be locals and travelers alike, as well as companies aiming for teambuilding through mindfulness, adventuring and simply getting down and dirty.

Three years in, Clark’s business is blossoming; last November, Airbnb invited her to speak at Airbnb Open, the company’s community-based hospitality festival in Los Angeles.

“I had the opportunity to speak at the Orpheum Theatre in L.A., and give a presentation on what it takes to be a successful experience host,” Clark recalls.

In addition to participating in the experiences and running Marin Outdoor Adventure, Clark keeps incredibly busy in more ways than one; she recently accepted a position as regional manager for Air Concierge, a property management company based in San Diego. She also teaches two CrossFit classes a week at TJ’s Gym in Mill Valley and is participating in a teacher’s training with Mark Coleman, a mindfulness guru, to become a meditation teacher in a nature context.

“I feel like I am at a point in my life where my capacity for productivity is growing and developing, which is exciting,” Clark says. Add raising two young kids to the mix, and you’ll get an adventure like no other.

Marin Outdoor Adventure; 415/322-0034; marinoutdooradventure.com.

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Artist Cristina Rose-Guizar on her playful work

San Rafael-based textile artist Cristina Rose-Guizar creates whimsical designs that are full of humor. Photo courtesy of Rose-Guizar.

By Flora Tsapovsky

Nowadays, the global is local and the universal can be deeply personal. If this sounds like an empty statement, take a look at the story of Cristina Rose-Guizar, 39, an accessories designer with an international reach and a unique coming-to-America story, working and creating right here in San Rafael. For her brand, Centinelle, Guizar illustrates colorful silk scarves, pocket squares and silk-cotton blend bandanas, decorating them with whimsical, fantastical worlds made up of hypnotizing cats, koalas in tiny pedal boats, dancing donkeys, colorful guitars, corn husks and ‘Mexican pinup’ ladies. The latter two are a nod to her home country of Mexico, which Rose-Guizar left two years ago, after meeting her future husband in San Francisco, while visiting a friend.

As a girl back in Mexico, growing up in Morelia, a four-hour drive from Mexico City, Rose-Guizar always loved sewing. “I started sewing when I was 5 years old with a little toy machine that my mom bought me for my birthday” she recalls, “making clothes for all my dolls.”

The artist also expressed, from a young age, a special interest in drawing. “All kids draw, but I continued, always forming projects that would need some illustration, and I drew for the high school newspaper.”

Rose-Guizar went to Jannette Klein Fashion University in Mexico City and launched her first collection in 2010. The scarves were there from the beginning, as a simple and straightforward product.

I wanted to create something easy to sell, so Centinelle started with handmade/homemade accessories, focusing on local fabrics and between friends at first,” she says. “When traveling, I started to look for the fabric store wherever I was and get fabrics. Once on a visit to L.A., I found a huge store in the fashion district and I got crazy. I thought, this could be a dress, too—and just like that, that same year, Centinelle accessories became Centinelle clothing, with pieces focused on craftsmanship, natural fabrics and prints designed by me.”

The name of the brand is a story among friends, too. “My friends in Mexico City gave me the nickname of Chispa, which means ‘sparkle,’ 20 years ago,” Rose-Guizar says. “So I wanted to give the brand a name related to that. Centella is a Spanish synonym for ‘sparkle,’ so playing with that I ended up with Centinelle.”

After a couple of years of designing both accessories and garments, Rose-Guizar understood the challenges

The work of Cristina Rose-Guizar. Photo courtesy of Rose-Guizar.

involved in creating clothes, especially when it comes to providing sizes and the right fit. “One day in 2014, I sat down and made my business plan,” she says. “That’s when I went back to the original accessories plan, specializing in silk accessories, and applying all I learnt in the past years.”

Besides their practical appeal and the ease of their production, Rose-Guizar loves the versatility of scarves.

“As a child growing up in the ’70s, I remember my mom having these gorgeous scarves in her walk-in closet, lots of them, from different places; beautiful, colorful, elegant but fun, with bold prints that some people probably will never dare to wear, but would accept in a scarf. It’s like a well-kept secret,” she says.

The artist’s lifelong passion for illustration, too, contributed to the expansion of scarves. “I started to realize that I enjoy the textile design process the most,” Rose-Guizar says.

After Rose-Guizar draws and adds details digitally, the prints are placed on the scarves at a manufacturing facility in China; they then make the trip around the world back to Rose-Guizar’s home studio in San Rafael.

Before moving to the U.S., Rose-Guizar lived in Mexico City.

I was lucky to live a very nice life in Mexico city, in the Napoles neighborhood, surrounded by jacaranda trees that bloom beautiful purple flowers every spring,” she says. “I lived 15 minutes away from the Condesa neighborhood, and it had a lot of cool restaurants and a farmers’ market at walking distance.”

Rose-Guizar and her then-future-husband lived in San Francisco upon her arrival to the country, and later moved to San Rafael. While living in San Francisco she came pretty close to her favorite Mexico City vibe; the move to Marin was an adjustment. The reason for the move? Partially, two cats, Evo and Naoko, whom Rose-Guizar and her husband adopted soon after meeting. “We lived in a studio in Pacific Heights and the cats had to sleep in the bathroom—naturally, a studio for two humans and two kittens was too small,” she says.

The couple started looking for a house that would suit them. “We all know San Francisco real estate is just ridiculous right now,” Rose-Guizar says. Enter the city of San Rafael. You can’t walk to run errands here; everything is done by car and cars are not my favorite thing. But I love to be surrounded by nature, and almost every day I get to see deer; this makes me feel so lucky.”

Other welcome additions include riding to China Camp by bicycle, and the views. “From my living room, I have an amazing view of the bay, the Marin Islands and the Richmond Bridge.”

Currently, in addition to her online store, Rose-Guizar’s accessories are sold in more than 15 stores across the U.S. and Mexico, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art gift shop and Mexico City’s Tamayo Museum, to name a few. She’s taken part in numerous trade shows in New York City and L.A., and has displayed her creations at Tictail Market, the brick-and-mortar Manhattan store of the online platform Tictail. She’s highly devoted to her business—it’s a full-time commitment.

How would she describe the designs, which turn the basic idea of a neck scarf into a humorous, stand-out affair? “In a few words, fiction, fantasy, memory and myth are what I would use to describe my scarves,” Rose-Guizar says. “These four concepts mix together to inspire each scarf design, all with a common thread: A chic sense of humor. Humor is a part of my daily life, and I would like it to be a part of the lives of many others.”

The inspiration for the out-there illustrations, according to the artist, is very everyday. “I get inspired by my daily life as a city girl who loves animals, nature and life’s simple pleasures, as well as my fascination with

Cristina Rose-Guizar holds one of the scarves that she designed. Photo courtesy of Rose-Guizar.

foreign culture and traveling in general.” Japan, specifically, is a big influence. “Japan is just a beautiful, photogenic surreal place. The mix with the old and new amazes me, so much energy, the incredible food,” she says.

Sometimes, however, the motivation is to fix a pop-culture injustice: See the playful donkey scarf as evidence. “I just thought that the donkeys are so underestimated and deserve the same focus as magical unicorns,” she says.

But our nation’s obsession with all things unicorn isn’t the only bias on Rose-Guizar’s mind. The elections, and their surprising result, shook her and led her to reconsider her position as a U.S resident.

“These aren’t great times to be a Mexican in the U.S.,” she says, “when fear and ignorance are driving people to see other cultures through stereotypes and not give the chance to meeting individuals. It’s weird not to feel welcome in your own home. Regardless of the fact that I have great people around, from the U.S. as from other countries, times are tense.”

And so escapism is echoed in her newest illustrations, featuring peaceful bunnies, pink flamingoes and always, Rose-Guizar’s greatest muse, cats. But despite the somewhat intensified attitude towards immigrants these days, much of it inspired by our current president, she still feels quite at home in San Rafael, or rather comfortable in her own skin.

“I don’t think the move changed me much,” Rose-Guizar concludes. “I still travel to Japan and other places, I am still Mexican, still love nature and cute things, my friends are still my friends. And I think that is why the transition of Centinelle from Mexico to the U.S. has been well received—because the brand gets inspired by simple, daily things that could happen to any gal in the world. And besides, who doesn’t love cats?”

Learn more at centinelle.com.

Craig Ponsford’s ‘innovation center’ is forever evolving

“I am a servant; I am meant to take care of people,” says Craig Ponsford, owner of Ponsford’s Place, a small, innovative bakery tucked away on San Rafael’s Shaver Street. Photo by Andrea Salles.

By Flora Tsapovsky

Craig Ponsford has been in San Rafael since 2010, which means that he’s way ahead of trends. He may be a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, the ex-owner of acclaimed Artisan Bakers in Sonoma and an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, but first and foremost Ponsford is a pioneer of gluten-free baking and innovative approaches to pastry. Experimenting with unique baking techniques and gluten-free flour way before it became a hot topic, Ponsford calls his San Rafael venture, Ponsford’s Place, an ‘innovation center,’ among other things.

“When I opened it, the idea was not only to have a kind of experimental retail kind of place but also a development laboratory, which can be used for a very focused project getting an item from the bench to the factory,” Ponsford says.

In the bakery, Ponsford constantly tries new products made of quinoa, spelt, durum, cornmeal and amaranth flour, as well as grapeseed and even grapeskin flours, a byproduct of the area’s rich winemaking industry. He’s eager to pass the knowledge on; educational classes in the bakery are coming soon, but for now, along with baking, Ponsford often consults with big brands and small businesses on system optimization, gluten-free and high-fiber baking and more. On his resume, one will find truRoots, a brand which made it into Costco and was later purchased by The J.M. Smucker Company, as well as work with the California Raisin Marketing Board, advising Enray, a company out of Livermore, on incorporating sprouted, organic grains from around the world and much more. His take on the huge surge of gluten-free products as a fad? Let’s just say that Ponsford, who has taken the long and patient route to the phenomenon, is not thrilled: “It has been hard to watch and see all the misinformation,” he says. “Ultimately, it has been a big win for Wall Street. Do I need to say more?”

In a welcome contrast to his impressive resume and in full concordance with his modest approach, Ponsford’s bakery is a humble and simple place, filled, nevertheless, with tempting treats. “Everything is made with wholegrain flour; we do not use any white flour,” he stresses, adding that most of the flours come from small California farms. Favorites include a very popular and unique vegetable croissant, seasonal breads like an artichoke, olive and feta levain or a sauerkraut rye, plus “European-style baked goods with a healthy twist.”  

The creativity doesn’t stop at the dough, either—the menu includes turnovers filled with anything from crème of nettle mushroom with or without speck, Rancho Gordo Domingo Rojo and vaquero beans with cumin, shishito peppers and potatoes, biscotti adorned with candied blood orange, and there’s a lime mousse tart with tequila-flavored whipped cream. Announcements about seasonal offerings are posted on the bakery’s website, and often lead to a mini-frenzy.

Despite the fact that Ponsford’s Place is now seamlessly embedded in the local community, opening the business wasn’t an easy decision for Ponsford. “I had made a bad business decision with my previous business of 17 years and was going through a terrible ‘divorce’ with my new business partners,” he recalls. “I realized my real passion was feeding people, with my own two hands.” So he found a location close to his home, “small enough to be pretty much a one-man show,” and went for it.

Ponsford has been living in San Rafael for more than 10 years, appreciating every moment. Now, with his small business employing a couple more grain enthusiasts, he feels more at home than ever.

“We have an incredibly supportive local San Rafael crowd, and then we have people who come from all over the Bay Area to visit us,” he says. “The community is the best part.”

Ponsford’s Place, 117 Shaver St., San Rafael; ponsfordsplace.com.

VenturePad offers workspace, social stimulation and motivation

VenturePad, Marin’s new coworking and entrepreneurship center, is a project by Alejandro Moreno (left) and Chris Yalonis. Photo by Andrea Salles.

By Flora Tsapovosky

It took some time, but the coworking trend has reached San Rafael; VenturePad, a full-service coworking and entrepreneurship center, opened here in March. The bright, welcoming space on B Street (between Fourth and Fifth streets) is a joint venture by Chris Yalonis, a longtime Marin entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in software development, and Alejandro Moreno, who guided marketing at Marin’s former leading accelerator Venture Greenhouse. We caught up with Yalonis on local entrepreneurship, working remotely yet together and Marin County realities.

Flora Tsapovsky: Why start a coworking space in Marin, why in San Rafael and why now?

Chris Yalonis: “I’m a 30-year Marin resident and VenturePad is my sixth start-up that I have founded or have been on the ground floor with. I believe that as a community, we need to support our entrepreneurs, freelancers and work-at-home professionals. We were involved with Venture Greenhouse and Renaissance Center, two incubators here in San Rafael that supported and launched over 350 businesses between 2010 and 2015. They dissolved because of unsustainable business models and left many of us in the entrepreneurship and small business support community without a rallying hub. Existing Marin coworking spaces are either niche, or out of the way without nearby amenities, so we wanted to have a center that was substantial and professional, with capacity for a critical mass of over 150 small businesses and entrepreneurs to inspire and support one another.”

FT: Who is your target audience?

CY: “It is an inclusive model that casts a wide net across Marin: Work-at-home individuals in Marin, incorporated entities with four employees or less, commuters to San Francisco, Sonoma, the East Bay and Silicon Valley—a percentage of whom would prefer to work closer to home part of the week, individuals employed by Marin nonprofits and more. Our early founding members tell us that they find that working at home, while comfortable much of the time, can be isolating and distracting and they need to be around other people for social stimulation and motivation.”

FT: Most of your team members are age 40 and older—do you feel there’s a need in coworking for this age group, rather than just the younger, start-up-like crowds?

CY: “According to the census, Marin’s average age is 45. There is a substantial number of professionals who are well established in their careers, are on their third or fourth start-up or business that they own. Besides, according to a McKinsey study in 2016, one third of the U.S. workforce do some kind of freelance work. Marin has an even higher percentage, closer to 40 percent, according to census data, which is approximately 60,000 residents freelancing, so regardless of age, coworking is addressing these needs.”

FT: What kind of workshops and classes do you plan on offering?

CY: “Every Thursday, we have a Lunch & Learn session, free to members and $10 for non-members. They are run by local experts in a variety of leadership practices, [and cover] special skills or relevant hot issues that impact a small business owner or leader. Popular topics have included social media for small business, intergenerational team collaboration, managing cash flow, innovative business models and negotiation skills.

We will be launching our incubator and accelerator program later this year. This will be a six- to nine-month program with 10-15 members per cohort who will have a workspace and meeting rooms, weekly mentoring and classwork, regular milestones and presentations to hit and a network of advisors. VenturePad is also organizing Marin’s first Sustainable Enterprise Conference, slated for October 26 at the Embassy Suites. This is an offshoot of a 12-year-running conference in Sonoma that draws over 400 every spring.”

FT: Where did the inspiration for the look and feel of the place come from?

CY: “We wanted something open, full of natural light with a modern, yet post-industrial feel. Plenty of steel, wood and glass; a very uncluttered, clean look. We found a wonderful open space at street level with 16-foot ceilings, all glass on two of the four exterior walls. We also have ‘baked’ sustainable practices into our operations; VenturePad is carbon-neutral, and all of our energy comes from 100 percent renewable sources.”

FT: What’s your take on the changes that Marin County has gone through in recent years, following the tech boom?

CY: “In recent years, we have added jobs overall, but not our housing stock. The lack of housing stock is the biggest challenge we face as a community, and it has multiple ripple impacts. This includes longer commutes and more out-of-county commuters. As a community, we need to make commercial and residential space more affordable to be able to support young and growing companies and families. Otherwise, they will continue to decline in numbers.”

FT: What are you hoping to achieve with this project?

CY: “We want to grow our membership and build out a rich educational program of lunch, online and workshop sessions, as well as classroom programs for baseline entrepreneurship skills and tools. We also want to be a convenor for public-private collaborations that link up our technical and professional services experts with policymakers and nonprofits to address some of our biggest community challenges. Right now, the target issues include homelessness, sea level rise impact and climate change, fossil fuel-based transportation and congestion, affordable housing and equity. Easy stuff, right?”

VenturePad, 1020 B St., San Rafael; 415/309-0331; venturepad.works.

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Point Reyes National Seashore safaris with Daniel Dietrich

With his wildlife viewing and photography safaris, Daniel Dietrich helps locals and visitors alike discover the natural wonder of Point Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Daniel Dietrich.

By Flora Tsapovsky

Being a resident tourist sometimes takes effort. While gems may be hidden on a neighboring street, or in an unassuming parking lot, sometimes discovering the richness and boldness of your surroundings means driving for a few miles, immersing yourself in nature and, to your own surprise, finding a safari experience—minus the plane ticket to Kenya. Marin County-based professional photographer Daniel Dietrich has made a whole career of it. Born in Buffalo, New York, Dietrich moved to Point Reyes from San Francisco three years ago, and now lives on the coast with his family.

“Photography has always been a passion hobby of mine,” he says. “I developed my first roll of film in the darkroom when I was 13 years old. A camera went with me on every trip I took growing up, but it wasn’t until four years ago that I dropped my high tech industry job to pursue wildlife photography full-time.”

Since moving, Dietrich launched a service under the intriguing name Point Reyes Safaris, offering authentic safari experiences for groups of up to eight people. “Wildlife is my only focus,” Dietrich says, “and I am very fortunate that I don’t have to supplement my income with any other form of photography.”

On a full-day safari, visitors go from sunrise to sunset exploring Point Reyes National Seashore, photographing wildlife and barely stopping for lunch to spot as many animals as possible. Sound too good to be true? We asked Dietrich to tell us more.

Flora Tsapovsky: How did you come up with the safari idea?

Daniel Dietrich: “I have been fascinated with bobcats for years. They are elusive and shy, powerful and regal. As I spent more and more time observing them, I was able to obtain better and better images of them. Being one of the only places in the country where you can find and photograph them with any consistency, I invited a few friends to come shoot with me. With that, the idea to guide to photograph bobcats was born. But it really is the [Point Reyes] National Seashore that makes it all possible. Over 50 percent of North America’s birds have been documented here, as well as 85 species of mammals. It is a highly overlooked park for wildlife, but one that needs to be on any wildlife photographer’s list.”

FT: What kind of animals do you encounter on the safari?

DD: “The animals we encounter really depend on the season and what my guests want to see. The animals we see most often are tule elk, elephant seals, bobcats, coyotes, great horned owls, barn owls, whales, peregrine falcons and so many other birds. We get lucky at times seeing badgers, eagles and long-tailed weasels. I am still waiting to see a mountain lion with one of my guests. Each safari is quite different, which is great. They are wild animals so we never know what we’ll see, but we always see something exciting.”

FT: Have you done safaris in other countries? How is the Point Reyes experience different?

DD: “I am very lucky to have traveled quite a bit. Growing up, I was always saving for a plane ticket instead of saving to buy some material item. I have done quite a few safaris overseas. On these safaris, you cover vast amounts of land in pursuit of viewing wildlife. Point Reyes is quite small in comparison to the likes of a Masai Mara. So we don’t have to cover as much ground to encounter wildlife. And of course the wildlife itself is quite different. Point Reyes is home to many animals not found in any other country.”

FT: What are some of your tips on ethics and safety while on a safari?

DD: “Ethics are of the utmost importance to me. Keeping the safety of the animal first should be at the top of every photographer’s list. Never purposefully flush an animal or bird to get a shot. And never, ever, bait or feed an animal for the purpose of photography. The best tip I can give to anyone photographing wildlife in

Professional photographer Daniel Dietrich shares the magic of Point Reyes National Seashore through his wildlife viewing and photography safaris. Photo courtesy of Daniel Dietrich.

Point Reyes National Seashore is, use your binoculars first. Stop and scan. Walk to higher ground and search the hills for wildlife. It is there; you just have to find it. When you do find a bobcat or a coyote, work out the best plan to help you photograph it. Position yourself to where you think you can get a good shot without running after the animal. Patience is the number one thing needed to capture great wildlife images.”

FT: Who typically signs up for these experiences?

DD: “The diversity of people who have joined me on safari has been incredible. I have had guests fly in from overseas specifically to photograph bobcats. I’ve taken out many people who live right here in Point Reyes. I’ve taken out families with kids as young as 2 and retired folks who aren’t getting around like they used to. Since I typically take out very small groups, the itinerary is totally up to my guests, which I think makes it very personal and enjoyable for them.”

FT: Are there any photography pointers specific to West Marin and the Point Reyes area?

DD: “Point Reyes has so many different faces when it comes to weather. This gives incredible diversity to photography. Shooting the tule elk during a cool, foggy morning one day to a red, fiery sunrise the next is really exciting and creates such drastically different images. You always have to be prepared for any kind of weather here, so dress in layers, even in the middle of summer. Bring a variety of lenses with you. It is great to have a long telephoto lens for wildlife, but don’t forget your landscape lens. There is a magical scene around every corner.”

FT: And finally, what can we do to enrich our daily ‘resident tourist’ experience and be more open to our surroundings?

DD: “Point Reyes National Seashore sits within striking distance to millions and millions of people. Yet when I was living in San Francisco, I met an enormous amount of people who had never visited this magical place. We have national parks and public lands all around us here in Northern California. Get out and visit some of them. Connect with these special places that are right at your doorstep. You will be amazed at what a sighting of a whale can do to you, or the feeling you get standing on a sun-drenched cliff at sunset with the wind blowing on your face. There is growing pressure on these special places, and who knows what the future holds for them. By connecting with them, we will be more inclined to protect these national treasures for many years to come.”

Point Reyes Safaris; 303/929-8443; pointreyessafaris.com.



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