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Tanya Henry

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Supporting the wineries and winemakers of Marin

When it comes to refreshing summer sipping, rosé is hard to beat.

By Tanya Henry

Marin County is known for many things—but wine isn’t one of them. A couple of regions further north share that singular notoriety. However, there are a handful of great wines that are either made with grapes from Marin, or by winemakers who live or work here. I haven’t included them all, as some have such a small production that their wines are virtually unavailable, or they source their grapes from far-flung locales. Most of the wineries highlighted here produce rosé—and it’s a good time of year for enjoying the pink stuff!

Brooks Note Winery produces pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot blanc and rosé with grapes grown on its two West Marin Vineyards: Chileno Valley Vineyard and Azaya Ranch Vineyard. Its crisp 2016 Brooks Note rosé made from pinot noir grapes is especially delicious; brooksnotewinery.com.

Husband-and-wife team Tom and Mary Stubbs planted chardonnay and pinot noir grapes in 1996 on 600 acres just inland of Tomales Bay. Today, the couple sells their small-production, Burgundian-style wines to wine lovers via their website and winery, Stubbs Vineyard; stubbsvineyard.com.

Three types of wines, including a rosé, chardonnay and pinot noir are produced at Skywalker Vineyards. Skywalker’s rosé, though on the pricier side, is a well-balanced example of not too much fruit or floral; skywalkervineyards.com.

My personal favorite winemaker/genius and longtime Bolinas resident is Sean Thackrey. He now makes his wines in Forestville, but they are still like no other. His Pleiades XXIII Old Vine Red Blend is legendary, and his Fifi Rosé with tropical notes and bright red hue makes for summertime perfection; thackreyandcompany.com.

West of Temperance winery uses grapes that come from all over the state; however, it all started with two guys in Stinson Beach. In fact one of them worked with Thackrey for many years before he launched West of Temperance. Obscure and Rhone varietals, along with syrah and sangiovese are what this winery is all about. Production is small and mostly mail-order/online, but it’s growing; westoftemperance.com.

Tia Lupita hot sauce honors home cooking

Hector Saldivar, who grew up in Northern Mexico, recently launched Tia Lupita (“Aunt Lupita”) hot sauce, using his mother’s famous recipe. Photo courtesy of Hector Saldivar.

By Tanya Henry

‘Make hot sauce great again’ is the hashtag that Hector Saldivar uses to promote his brand new product that launched just four months ago. The Tiburon resident, originally from Monterrey, Mexico has bottled his mother’s beloved spicy recipe and named it Tia Lupita. The condiment’s label—which features a hand-drawn image of a woman with a pink curler in her hair, glasses and a big smile on her face—brings a fresh sensibility to a category overcrowded with hyper-macho images.

“If you look at the hot sauces on supermarket shelves, they all have pictures of the devil, flames or raging bulls. I wanted to lighten it up and bring in a different side—mom’s home cooking,” says Saldivar, who describes how his mother would send her hot sauce from Mexico to remind him of home.

Even though Tia Lupita is a new venture for Saldivar, he’s no stranger to the food industry. He spent his career working for distributors—initially in Sacramento as a territory sales manager selling soft drinks. He moved on to Nestlé, focusing on emerging markets and expanding Hispanic brands. Eventually he went to Diamond Foods. Along the way he learned about distribution channels, supply chains, cost structure and so much more that would all become invaluable when he set out on his own.

“Our model started out online—direct to consumer,” explains Saldivar, who was surprised by the instant success. “We were selling 12 bottles daily for the first three months.”

With so much interest, Saldivar decided to take his product to Woodlands Market—where “they gave him a shot.” Soon he was selling a case every week. From there, Driver’s Market in Sausalito, Mollie Stone’s and others quickly followed.

Saldivar is clearly excited about his product and thrilled by its early success, but for him it’s about much more than simply selling hot sauce. “Peel the onion one more layer; it’s not only a product that is my own, but it’s also a tribute to my mom.”

Tia Lupita; tialupitahotsauce.com.

Larkspur’s Posie offers wildly inventive ice cream flavors

Posie, Larkspur’s hip ice cream shop, uses all organic ingredients and even accommodates gluten-, dairy- and nut-free diets. Photo courtesy of Posie.

By Tanya Henry

This week, Posie, the uber hip, chef-owned ice cream parlor in downtown Larkspur, will mark its first year in business. With flavors like Grass Fed and Rose & Rhubarb, Posie is not your mother’s ice cream shoppe.

Black chalkboards with chunky, Scrabble-like lettering denote the store’s offerings, and the sleek open space boasts both a counter with stools and a communal table. Plenty of glass windows, high ceilings and white wainscoting give the room a modern, stylish vibe.

Owner Kyle Caporicci, San Anselmo resident and pastry chef, brings his considerable culinary acumen to his new gig. His résumé includes stints at San Francisco’s Campton Place and Michelin-starred Commis in Oakland. He knows his way around the kitchen—and it should be noted that along with cones, Posie’s menu also includes several baked sweets and a couple of sandwich and salad options, including a grilled cheese sandwich for kids.

But it’s summertime and it’s the ice cream that steals the show here. Twelve different flavors are offered daily, and customers can opt for house-made, gluten-free cones or compostable cups. The Grass Fed flavor includes wheat grass and olive oil. I know—those do not sound like ingredients that should be anywhere near an ice cream cone, but quite remarkably they work. The Pink Panther combined marshmallow, raspberry and strawberry, and was a bit cloying for my taste. Two other flavors stood out as unusual and tasty: A Blueberry Magnolia and a #1 Dad that boasted steel-cut oats.

Along with wildly inventive flavors, Caporicci prepares his ice cream base and pasteurizes it in-house. He says that this gives him creative control to adjust the base for every unique flavor. Since the range of ingredients can vary from rhubarb and fresh mint to violets and olive oil, I imagine that there is a fair amount of tweaking involved.

Prices are high, but then again, not all ice cream is created equal. And quite often these cones boast fresh-from-the-farmers’-market ingredients.

Posie, 250B Magnolia Ave., Larkspur; 415/891-8395.

Slurp away at Tam Tam Ramen

Tam Tam Ramen offers Asian dishes with a California/Whole Foods sensibility. Photo by Tanya Henry.

By Tanya Henry

Tam Tam Ramen is the brainchild of Whole Foods Markets and their longtime sushi-producing partner Genji. Together they rolled out their fast casual ramen shop in January in Mill Valley’s Alto Plaza Shopping Center.

Vibrant green walls juxtaposed with large menu boards heavy with graphics, Japanese characters and ingredient descriptions fill the bright space that was previously home to Smashburger. Seating in multiple configurations including benches, booths and two- and four-top tables dot the high-ceilinged room. Notably, a large refrigerated case situated directly where diners line up to place their orders is filled with intriguing drink selections from canned rosé wines, to sake to various cold teas.

With a tagline that reads, “slurp your noodles,” the menu offers up to six options, from the signature Tam Tam ramen prepared with a tonkotsu broth, to lighter versions with chicken, miso and veggie broths. Interestingly, calorie counts are included with dishes that range in price from $8.99 (the veggie) up to $14.99 (a truffle snow crab bowl of a pork and dashi broth, crab legs, noodles and white truffle oil).

Though it’s all about the ramen here (even the clever logo features chopsticks and Mount Tam), small bites are also an option and include bao sliders, grilled edamame, wonton nachos and gyoza.

The items that stay as true to their origin work the best here, whereas the veggie ramen, at a mere 590 calories, lacked backbone and flavor. Fortunately there are “extras” that can liven up the offerings. Fort Point beer and Golden State Cider are available on tap and come at a discounted price during Tam Tam’s regular happy hour from 3-7pm. Tam Tam currently does a brisk takeout business, but with summer here (and extended hours, to 9pm), perhaps diners will linger over the bowls of noodles.

Tam Tam Ramen; 731 E. Blithedale Ave., Mill Valley; 415/381-3008.

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.

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