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Authors Posts by Tanya Henry

Tanya Henry

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Celebrate the season with these cool food & drink events

Oysters on the water, hard cider on the farm … there’s a lot to love about summer in Marin.

By Tanya Henry

Slowly but surely a collective shift from long school days and harried work schedules is giving way to a more relaxed, summertime pace, and plums, apricots and nectarines are hitting the farmers’ markets. Here are a few ideas to celebrate the season.

Kick off summer with a trip out to Marshall for some briny bivalves. There are several options on Tomales Bay, but The Marshall Store is a favorite with its funky, local vibe. Order inside the store; outdoor seating is first come, first serve. There are a handful of choices—raw, smoked or with chorizo—and they couldn’t be fresher; themarshallstore.com.

Check out an organic apple farm in Tomales that specializes in heritage apple trees. AppleGarden Farm produces “estate” hard cider from its own apples, and it’s now offering weekend farm tours, which include a tour of the apple orchard and a tasting of organic hard cider. The cost is $5 per couple; larger groups (up to 15 people) are $20; admission costs are waived if you buy cider. For more information, send an email to info@applegardenfarm.com.

Attention all gardeners: The Marin Open Garden Project has officially started its veggie exchange program. Seeds, starts, fruits and veggies can all be swapped on Saturday mornings from 9-10am on the lawn in front of the Town Hall at 525 San Anselmo Avenue. The exchange will continue through October. To find out about other programs in Marin, visit opengardenproject.org, email contact@opengardenproject.org or call 415/419-4941.

Learn new ways to prepare the bounty of the season from a pro! Sweetwater’s celebrated chef, Gordon Drysdale, will be offering a cooking class and preparing a menu of Organic Toasted Beet Salad with Oranges, Avocado, Mint & Fresh Horseradish, and Seared Dayboat Scallops with Wild Mushroom Pastina & Herb Salad, as part of Homeward Bound’s Fresh Starts Chef Events at the Key Room in Novato. Thursday, June 22, 6:30pm; $60; hbofm.org.

Kuhn Rikon makes whimsical tools for cooks

Swiss cookware giant Kuhn Rikon, with a U.S. office in Novato, offers a playful, colorful approach to food prep. Photo courtesy of Kuhn Rikon.

By Tanya Henry

Rudy Keller moved to Marin 30 years ago from Switzerland. As a teenager he completed a three-year apprenticeship with the Swiss cookware giant Kuhn Rikon. He was hired on full-time as their export manager and would eventually make his way to the U.S. by way of Greenbrae’s Bon Air shopping center, where he sold the European cookware from 1988 to 1995.

For the uninitiated, Kuhn Rikon is best known for its gadgets designed for the home cook. “We were the first to introduce color—especially on knives,” says Keller, who cites brightly colored garlic presses, peelers and can openers as just a few examples of Kuhn Rikon’s whimsically designed cooks’ tools.

The company’s effort to create ever-more functional gadgets included taking familiar items and attempting to make them fun and easy to use. Perhaps its most recognizable product (it sold 20 million by 2009) is a simple peeler that comes in an array of bright colors, has a wide, easy-to-grip handle and makes peeling carrots and potatoes almost enjoyable! Kuhn Rikon was also an early promoter of healthy cooking techniques. Its “waterless cooking” or pressure-cooker pots “used the food’s own moisture” and “kept the color and health benefits of the food intact.”

Keller says that although Kuhn Rikon was ahead of its time in some ways, it was challenging for a Swiss company to seamlessly adapt to American tastes. “So many things were different here—sinks were bigger and the color palette—even today is very different,” he says.

Keller recently stepped down, but the U.S. office (now in Novato) continues to operate with small marketing and sales teams. In these food-obsessed times, Kuhn Rikon’s colorful and functional gadgets serve as a good reminder to us all that cooking and preparing food are meant to be fun and joyful experiences.

Kuhn Rikon; kuhnrikonshop.com.

Fine catering business Componere sources food from Novato farm

A farm in Novato supplies Componere, a fine catering company, with eggs, kale, radishes, beans, peppers, peas, fruit, almonds and more.

By Tanya Henry

“If you can’t afford a gym membership, own a farm instead,” jokes Tisa Mantle, who along with her husband and two kids live and farm on almost an acre of land in Novato. In addition to providing food for their family, the farm also supplies the couple’s fine catering business, Componere, with a host of specialty microgreens, tomatoes, squash, peppers, fruit, honey and eggs.

“It’s surprising how much food you can produce on a relatively small amount of land,” says Mantle, who had no farming experience until moving to Novato from the East Bay in 2012. “I took some classes at Indian Valley College and started experimenting.”

Now five years later, Mantle cites wasabi arugula and pineapple guava petals as recent items that she planted specifically for special catering events. “We really like to focus on unique ingredients—to differentiate ourselves,” she says.

After Mantle’s husband Ethan worked in some of the country’s most celebrated Michelin-starred restaurants, including Fleur de Lys and The French Laundry, the couple started Componere, which is Latin for “to bring all the parts together.” Since 2004, they’ve been providing catering services for everything from intimate dinners, to wine country weddings to large corporate events.

“For the first four years we did everything ourselves,” Mantle says. But once the couple had their first child, she began shifting her focus from the business side of the company to the farm. Now,  spending her time figuring out what grows best in her Marin microclimate, Mantle is quite happy to be out of the kitchen and in the garden.

Componere; 510/420-0900; componerefinecatering.com.

Food & drink events for a scrumptious summer

It’s farmers’ market season in Marin, which means that it’s time to support our local farmers.

By Tanya Henry

If you haven’t been to Driver’s Market in Sausalito lately, here is a great reason to go: Cheese! Gather around the table in the inviting community store where Laura Werlin, author of six cookbooks about—you guessed it—cheese, will be demonstrating and sampling some of her favorites. She’ll discuss what’s happening on the national cheese landscape, and signed copies of her books will be available. Join the fun (for free) on Thursday, May 25 from 7-8pm. Driver’s Market, 200 Caledonia St., Sausalito.

Here is a quintessential, only-in-Marin experience that just kicked off last week. Not only can you enjoy an outdoor play and music fest atop Mt. Tam [see Theater, page 19], but now dinner and wine in a private grove is also an option. The Mountain Play Association is celebrating its 104th season from May 21 to June 18 with a production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and a second production featuring Jefferson Starship and the musical HAIR In Concert to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival that took place in 1967. Mountainplay.org.

I’ll be honest—I’m not a fan of huge food and drink fests where long lines and hot sun often make for a less than memorable experience. Fortunately, the 36th Annual Mill Valley Wine, Beer & Gourmet Food Tasting bears little resemblance to that. Instead, this well-organized affair—with vendors nestled under the trees in Depot Plaza—is a delight. More than 65 wineries, 20-plus gourmet food products, local restaurants and breweries will be participating. Sunday, June 4, 1-4pm. Enjoymillvalley.com.

Finally, two seasonal farmers’ markets have started up again this month. Fairfax’s market convenes beneath the redwoods in Bolinas Park every Wednesday from 4-8pm through September 27. The Tiburon Thursday Farmers’ Market, on Main Street in downtown Tiburon, is open from 3:30-7:30pm through September 28. With this perfect weather, there’s no excuse not to get out and support our farmers.

Peter Martinelli and Michael Tusk redefine the notion of farm-to-table dining

Peter Martinelli, who runs Fresh Run Farm and partners with Bay Area restaurants, grows more than 30 varieties of carefully selected heirloom fruits and vegetables. Photo by Aya Bracket.

By Tanya Henry

It’s a well-known fact that Marin has been at the forefront of numerous organic and sustainable food producing and farming trends for decades. Pioneering practices for everything from grassfed beef to farmstead cheesemaking to organic vegetable farming have provided a blueprint and model for countless producers around the country.

One name that is synonymous with early organic farming is 54-year-old Marin native Peter Martinelli, who established his Fresh Run Farm in West Marin, near the town of Bolinas, more than 20 years ago.

In the 1940s Martinelli’s grandfather purchased land along Pine Gulch Creek where Martinelli’s father raised cattle and sheep. Eventually the family’s Paradise Valley Ranch was dedicated to artichoke farming until 1983 when another organic farming pioneer, Warren Weber, began leasing the land to grow row crops. Martinelli would work for Weber at Star Route Farms for 10 years learning, in his words, “everything from how to operate a tractor to sales management.”

Twenty-two years ago Martinelli struck out on his own and established Fresh Run Farm on 25 acres of his family’s Paradise Valley Ranch, where he started planting potatoes, beans and pumpkins. Today, he grows more than 30 varieties of carefully selected heirloom fruits and vegetables and has built up a roster of select restaurants that have coveted his organic offerings for their superior taste. Martinelli cites the dark loamy soil and unique coastal Marin climate as key factors in producing his sought-after produce.

“This area is unique in its topography with its hills and south-facing valleys—and it’s on the San Andreas Fault—it has amazing soil,” he says.

One of the chefs who discovered Martinelli’s high-quality greens, potatoes and fresh beans was Sausalito resident Michael Tusk, chef/owner of San Francisco’s celebrated Quince and Cotogna restaurants. The Chez Panisse and Oliveto alum met Martinelli through mutual chef friends and began showcasing his offerings on his California/Italian-focused menus more than 10 years ago. This last year, the long-running partnership became an exclusive arrangement and took the trend of the farmer/restaurant relationship to a whole new level.

It has become a common practice for restaurants to denote where the ingredients on their menus have come from. As diners, we have grown accustomed to learning the names of the ranches, family farms and orchards where the eatery has sourced their eggs, chickens, vegetables and fruit. But this level of recognition for the farmer is a relatively new practice. Though a number of high-end restaurant chefs have relationships with farmers, the model that Martinelli and Tusk have adopted could be a game changer for both farmer and restaurateur.

Rather than making deliveries to multiple restaurants and hauling his kale, beans, pumpkins and strawberries by truck to local farmers’ markets in the wee morning hours, Martinelli now has an exclusive agreement to only provide his organic specialty produce to Michael Tusk’s two restaurants.

“This partnership allows me to be on the land and focus on the crops where I love to be,” says Martinelli, who works closely with Tusk to educate him about the types of crops that are best suited for the region.

“Peter gives me a reality check on what is doable,” says Tusk, who recognized the opportunity to build something meaningful for both parties. “I saw the freshness in the ingredients, but also this amazing historical background—it seemed like a great starting point to do something new and different.”

On a recent sunny morning, Tusk and 10 of his kitchen staff members and servers visited Martinelli’s farm to help plant more than a dozen different varieties of potatoes. The opportunity for the restaurant staff to physically plant the food they would ultimately be preparing and serving in the fall and winter brings them not just closer to the source—but directly to it. And as anyone who has ever sunk their hands into cool, dark dirt knows—the connection is powerful. Creating that proximity and connection for people who prepare food not only makes for a more informed staff, but quite literally redefines the notion of farm-to-table restaurant dining.

Though staff won’t make it to the farm weekly, they will be invited to participate in plantings, harvests and even occasional lunches throughout the year. During peak season—between June and October, “we pack the restaurant van twice a week” Martinelli says.

While this exclusive partnership allows Martinelli to spend more time on his farm, it allows Tusk more time to be out of the kitchen and on the farm. A revamped greenhouse will allow them to do starters year-round and in response to proposed upcoming menus, a full range of crops including tomatoes, peppers, cool-season vegetables, lettuces and broccoli have all been planted on what Martinelli refers to as the farm’s “bottomland 25 acres.”

“Our real goal is to take advantage of our mild seasons and grow year-round,” says Martinelli, who is also planning on perennial crops that can take as many as five years before they begin producing.

A sampling of some of the items recently showcased on the San Francisco restaurant menus include fiddlehead ferns, fava beans, rose geranium and lemongrass at Quince. The more casual sister restaurant next door featured a wild nettle sformato, fava greens and Roman broccoli.

With this new chapter unfolding, Martinelli still finds time for the important causes he championed so many years ago. He continues to advocate for the preservation of local family-scale farming in Marin, and in the fall of 2014 the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) purchased a conservation easement protecting the Martinelli family ranch forever. Though he is pleased, Martinelli hopes to see more family farms and ranches in the greenbelt surrounding the town of Bolinas preserved as well.

For now, thanks to Martinelli and Tusk’s partnership, select restaurant dining just got fresher and more informed. No longer will a simple farm or orchard name on a menu suffice; instead, a plate of pristine microgreens, heirloom carrots and edible flowers presented by a server might very well have been planted and harvested by that same server. He or she can now tell Martinelli’s Fresh Run Farm story firsthand: The crops personally planted, what will be harvested next and when they will appear on the menu in various dishes. It’s a meaningful connection, and insatiable foodies will undoubtedly eat it up.

Clearly the bar has been raised. Perhaps more restaurants around the country will adopt this model and truly close the loop from farm to table. It wouldn’t be the first time that Marin would be credited with designing a forward-thinking model that would change the world.

“Chefs are the best people to give feedback on taste, flavor and texture because they know food,” Martinelli says. “It pushes the farm in different directions.”

BottleRock, on top of great music, offers foodie experiences

Music fans flock to BottleRock for the tunes, while foodies head there for the wide array of food and drink offerings.

By Tanya Henry

Let’s not kid ourselves—the main attraction at Napa Valley’s BottleRock is the music. This year’s impressive lineup includes Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Foo Fighters and Maroon 5, among many others. That said, the culinary talent that will be gracing a Williams Sonoma-sponsored stage also features some heavy hitter A-listers like Martha Stewart, Spain’s celebrated José Andrés and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.

Concertgoers who were lucky enough to get tickets to the sold-out, annual extravaganza will be treated to three days of music, culinary entertainment and cooking demonstrations galore. Even mash-up performances by musicians paired with star chefs will be on the menu. Here is what to expect from the celebrity chef-focused Culinary Stage: Ayesha Curry and Top Chef’s Michael and Bryan Voltaggio, chef Roy Choi, chef Adam Richman, chef Duff Goldman, Top Chef  Hubert Keller, Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino, Top Chef Richard Blais, Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustards Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship runner-up and Napa middle schooler Justice Faustina. The festivities will be emcee’d by Foodie Chap Liam Mayclem of KCBS.

Memorable moments from years past include Iron Chef Morimoto teaching Snoop Dogg how to roll sushi, and Top Chef Michael Voltaggio showing off his liquid nitrogen savvy to prepare waffles.

Plenty of food and drink from Northern California’s best chefs, restaurants, wineries and breweries will also be on hand. Napa favorites including Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ, La Toque and Angele, among others, will be serving up their local fare. Marshall’s Nick’s Cove will be representing Marin County, and local wineries and breweries will have their own designated area in which to serve adult beverages aplenty.

Now in its fourth year, BottleRock continues to raise the bar on the quality of food and drink that music lovers can enjoy while rocking out.

BottleRock; May 26-28; bottlerocknapavalley.com.

Fisher’s Cheese and Wine to fill a hole in Marin

Kiri Fisher, owner of The Cheese School of San Francisco, will soon bring her cheeses and wines to her new business in Larkspur. Photo by Mia Nakano.

By Tanya Henry

In many ways a cheese- and wine-focused shop seems long overdue in Marin. With a handful of world-class cheesemakers right here in our county, it’s rather surprising that nothing currently exists that showcases and celebrates these producers all in one place.

Slated to open at the end of May in Larkspur Landing’s Marin Country Mart, Fisher’s Cheese and Wine is the brainchild of Kiri Fisher, owner of The Cheese School of San Francisco. Five years ago, the Bay Area native partnered with the late Daphne Zepos, a celebrated chef, cookbook author and renowned cheese aficionado to open the school on Folsom Street in the Mission District. To say that Fisher learned her craft from the very best is an understatement.

“The goal of the store is not to make it a heavy cheese experience,” says Fisher, who has been testing the waters and meeting potential new customers for the last few months at the Saturday Farmers’ Market. We want to educate, and offer our favorite international cheeses with local produce and wines.”

In keeping with the upscale vibe at Marin Country Mart, Bay Area architect Wylie Price is guiding the project. Fisher refers to her shop’s aesthetic as “Scandinavian whimsy,” and hopes to achieve an understated, utilitarian look. On top of the retail component, she will offer tastings, classes, hands-on cheesemaking opportunities, catering services and a café.

“Cheese is an expensive and complicated product—it needs some education around it,” Fisher says. And while cheese will be the star of the show, charcuterie and wine will also be in the mix.

Fisher is bringing some of her staff from The Cheese School over the bridge, but cheese lovers take note—she is looking for staffing help. To learn more and to follow her progress, visit fisherscheese.com, or follow them on Instagram @fisherscheeseandwine.

A roundup of food & drink parties and classes

Share good food, drinks and conversation at local, upcoming food & drink events.

By Tanya Henry

Don’t let the seemingly relentless rain keep you cooped up inside. Here are some enticing food-focused classes and dinners that will inspire you to get out of the house.

I always get excited when I learn about wineries that feature female winemakers. Ferrari-Carano happens to be one of them—and Mill Valley’s Piazza D’Angelo has invited Sarah Quider to be a special guest as part of their Winemaker Dinner Series. Mark your calendar for Wednesday, May 3 at 7pm to enjoy delicious, award-winning Ferrari-Carano wines paired with the restaurant’s four-course dinner of regional Italian favorites; $85 per person; 415/388-2000.

Copita Tequileria y Comida in Sausalito is turning five this month. To commemorate the milestone, they’ve planned multiple fiestas (all of them include tequila, of course!) Help them celebrate at one or all of these upcoming festivities, including an Agave Girls get-together on April 25, an Anniversary Party and Margarita Duel on April 30 and a Cinco de Mayo party; copitarestaurant.com.

Join Chez Panisse chef and cookbook author Cal Peternell at Left Bank Restaurant in Larkspur for a Cooks with Books lunch event on Sunday, April 30 at noon. The accomplished chef has followed up his acclaimed, Twelve Recipes with his newly released, A Recipe for Cooking that takes home cooks to the next level; $115 per person; bookpassage.com.  

On Thursday, May 4 at 6:30pm in Homeward Bound’s Key Room, North Bay native Gabi Moskowitz, a popular blogger at BrokeAss Gourmet, will share some of her secrets and a tasty menu for budget-conscious foodies. Her blog climbed to national acclaim with a series of recipes, all based on ingredients costing $20 or less. Moskowitz will talk about her culinary passions and the genesis of her show, Young & Hungry, now in its fifth season, and her latest book, Young & Hungry: Your Complete Guide to a Delicious Life, will be available for purchase; $60 for the dinner; cookingschoolsofamerica.com.

Box Trot Gifts combines local products with thoughtfulness

Kathryn Tjosvold, founder of Box Trot Gifts, carefully curates local products for her heartfelt boxes; succulents add an original twist, and a refreshing change from cut flowers. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Tjosvold.

By Tanya Henry

Everybody loves a best-kept secret. That feeling when you stumble upon something so special and so sweet that part of you wants to keep it all to yourself, yet you know the world would be a better place if you spread the word. So, you heard it here first—Box Trot Gifts.

Marin native Kathryn Tjosvold’s business crafting beautiful gift boxes filled with succulents and expertly selected specialty items is less than a year old, but budding.

“I’ve always loved making gifts for people—that steered away from typical, generic gift boxes,” Tjosvold says. “I think including succulents adds a unique touch.”

Tjosvold grew up in Corte Madera, attended Redwood High School and earned a teaching credential at Dominican University. When she graduated, she decided to put the classroom on hold, and instead got married, had a baby and began making the boxes.

Along with doing extensive research on mostly locally made, high-quality food and beauty products, Tjosvold took cues from her mom’s passion for succulents. Her boxes are crafted from distressed woods and galvanized tin, and organic, natural products await recipients.

Tjosvold hasn’t quit her day job working for her dad’s winemaking software company, but she does find time to make deliveries in Marin and fill orders from her San Anselmo home—complete with a potting shed

Kathryn Tjosvold’s potting shed. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Tjosvold.

straight out of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and plenty of open space for seasonal sales and special events.

A variety of available boxes include everything from chocolate, caramel corn and wine, to bubble bath and luffa sponges. Boxes can be ordered and picked up by appointment, or delivered.

Box Trot Gifts; 415/891-2113; boxtrotgifts.com; boxtrotgifts@gmail.com.

There’s a lot to love at Fairfax’s new Tamal

Anyone who counts agave-based spirits as their drink of choice will likely find a favorite at Tamal.

By Tanya Henry

Fairfax is arguably the liveliest town in Marin—especially after dark. Virtually every night of the week, there is live music, movies that let out after 10pm and nightcaps for the thirsty. And now, tequila and mezcal have been added to the mix by way of Tamal, a Mexican-themed restaurant that recently opened in the space long occupied by The Sleeping Lady.

Most notably, the space has been transformed. No longer dark and crowded, the room boasts sleek wood tables and booths, juxtaposed with off-white walls and flooring, giving the restaurant a clean, contemporary feel. Along with seating for nearly 50 inside, Tamal boasts an outdoor patio that is slated to open in the next couple of weeks.

Tamal will make tequila lovers happy. More than 10 different margarita cocktails include everything from shrubs, to cola syrup to toasted coconut, and a house margarita, prepared with blanco tequila, lime and orange-infused agave, is a winner.

Bay Area chef Steve Jaramillo—who spent time in some well-known East Bay kitchens, including Lalime’s in Berkeley and Fonda in Albany—was tapped to head up the kitchen at Tamal.

Antojitos—or small plates—priced between $9 and $18, range from salad options, to crudo and ceviche to hot items like carnitas, chile rellenos and Devil’s Gulch quail served with a green Oaxacan mole and rice. The carne asada tacos include marinated skirt steak with charred serrano chile salsa served with housemade tortillas.

By the look of the early crowds, Fairfax’s hot new place appears to be a welcome addition. Surprisingly, families with kids of all ages also seem to be flocking to the bar-focused eatery, and have no doubt discovered the lemon limeade and hibiscus soda options.

Tamal, 23 Broadway Blvd., Fairfax; 415/524-8478.

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