Author: Laura Montoya


Four Barrel Grows Organic in Kenya, One Farm at a Time

Last Fall, over lunch, I got to sit down with two of Four Barrel Coffee’s three owners, Jeremy Tooker and Jodi Geren.  We crammed ourselves into a little ramen shop down the street from their Valencia cafe during the lunch rush — my computer on my lap, huge bowls of steaming noodles and glasses of cold beer filling our small table; we sipped, slurped, they talked and I typed.   My time with them was very inspiring, and I left with my proverbial cup significantly more than half full. The range of what Four Barrel is doing well is vast.   They offer a product beautiful in flavor and in the quality control of its sourcing, their standards of hospitality are impeccable (I’ve never visited such a fantastically hip coffee house that is so inclusive in its welcome), and the somewhat unspoken heart of Four Barrel’s work is that it endeavors to serve the whole rather than the individual.  The spirit of their mission has just the right amount of rebelliousness to buck the status …


Tostadas:  A Visual Taste of Handline’s Upcoming Summer Fare

Last month, our friend and photographer, Dawn Heumann spent the morning with Two Belly Acres farmer and chef, Natalie Goble to capture the simple summertime beauty of building tostadas, an upcoming menu item for Handline Restaurant, soon to open this summer.  Get inspired with the visuals and then get cooking!  With the warm weather we’ve been having here in Sonoma County, it’s not too early in the year for this kind of fare. Heat your oven to 275 degrees and put the fresh tortillas directly on the rack. They should be nice and crispy within an hour, flip them once during the baking process.  Presoak your beans the night before you plan to make tostadas.  Check out the Local Food Matters blog for PL’s Chef Joe Zobel’s awesome bean recipe!  This is a meal to prepare for the family, building your tostadas can be a great way to engage the kids in the dinner making process! They are a great option for vegetarians but could easily be augmented to include your favorite grilled meat. For the slaw, …


Wild Mushroom Chili with Backyard Chef and Co-Owner, Daniel Kedan

Our photographer, Dawn Heumann, and I had the pleasure of visiting Daniel Kedan, Chef and Co-Owner of the Backyard restaurant in Forestville recently.  While the rain came down outside, Daniel worked his culinary magic in the kitchen, sharing one of his cooking secrets with us while preparing a large pot of incredible Wild Mushroom Chili (you won’t believe it’s Vegan!).  As Daniel talked about how the hard frost and abundant rainfall of our Northern California winter has affected his seasonal/local menu he was quick to champion the wild mushroom and the local heirloom bean, specifically the lovely locally grown Rio Zappe bean featured in this recipe.  If you are not a farmer growing your own beans, these are the farmers he loves that are growing them for you: Tierra Vegetables, Foggy River Farm, Green String Farm, and the Giving Gardens Project.  So gather your beans, your Black Trumpets and/or Chanterelles, pour yourself a glass a crisp cider or a pale ale, and get cookin’! 1 lb. Rio Zappe Beans (substitute with Pinto Beans if you cannot find these) …


End of the Year Kiwi Harvest and Preserves

Peter Lowell’s is one of very few restaurants that serves kiwi preserves with your breakfast toast.  It has become a trademark of sorts.  I personally had never tasted kiwi preserves until I started eating at PL’s.  The reason we do this is not only because the preserves are insanely delicious, but also because we are blessed by a bountiful crop of them every winter at Two Belly Acres, the restaurant’s farm out off Green Valley Road. Last year we missed the harvest due to a late frost followed by an extreme spike in heatwave temperatures that basically fermented the fruits in their skins!   So this year we were extra careful to watch the weather and the ripening stage of the fruit.  The result was tremendous.  Our photographer, Dawn Heumann, spent a couple of mornings with Natalie Goble, our Two Belly Acre farmer, capturing the harvest and the making of PL’s delicious preserves.  Enjoy the visual process and come in and eat breakfast soon!


MH Bakery hits its stride in Marin County

A few days ago, I woke early and drove the scenic hour and fifteen minutes to have my coffee in Marin at MH Bakery.  For those of you that don’t know, MH provides Peter Lowell’s with that open crumb structure, hard crust sourdough Country Loaf that we serve with our soups, appetizers, and with simple good extra virgin olive oil.  MH bakes & delivers their overnight-ferment sourdough to us three times a week and we are better for it.  It’s the kind of bread that needs nothing added to it to be completely satisfying and delicious.  With “New-Wave Artisanal Bread” only growing in popularity, MH has truly arrived on the scene as one of Marin County’s most celebrated bakeries. Along with my coffee, I got to sit down with co-owner & baker, Devon Yanko, to catch some of her and her husband, co-owner, and baker Nathan Yanko’s story.  It begins with a love story that comes with a penchant for Ultra Running.  For those that don’t know (and I didn’t until I met Devon), Ultra …


Global Student Embassy Youth brings the community together

Last month, the Global Student Embassy rallied many of its student participants, its staff, its Board of Directors, and about 200 of its supporters to gather at the Barlow in Sebastopol for one of its tri-annual “Cultivating Change” dinner fundraisers.  I got to catch the story of the evening in part by being there as the Food Coordinator helping the flow of dinner service and later I also sat down with Kate Crigler, GSE’s Development Manger and co-organizer of the event.  I left our time feeling incredibly inspired. For an organization whose mission is to “develop community leaders through action oriented environmental education” their fundraisers do not fall short in reflecting the heart and the integrity of their goals.  This year the students arrived early onsite to set up needed infrastructure, to set and make beautiful the tables that all would be eating at, they welcomed the guests, served them appetizers, provided complete dinner service at the tables, told their heart-felt stories of their experiences with GSE, and then stayed late to clean up the …


Autumn Family Harvest out at Two Belly Acres

One early November morning just last week, our Two Belly Acre farmer, Natalie Goble, and her family headed out to the farm for the weekly harvest and we sent Dawn Heumann, our friend and photographer, to capture the moment.  With the persimmon foliage aflame in crimson reds and fiery oranges and the early morning light to catch the dew, it was a very beautiful and bountiful morning.  This time of year we’re harvesting fennel, pineapple guava, persimmons, herbs, arugula, kale, and various varietals of winter squash.  We’ve retired some of the summer beds with good nitrogen-fixing cover crop, and the beds planted in late September for winter harvest include cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, rapini, leeks, and garlic to be harvested next summer.


PL’s 8th Anniversary Farm Dinner

After the Peter Lowell’s staff spent a full day out at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center participating in a team-building day-long immersion, we spent the following day celebrating not only the rigorous interpersonal work we’d done but also the 8 year-long arc of the restaurant’s success.  We were feasted with handmade El Molino Central tortillas, slow roasted pig and Steelhead fish, stewed black beans & crispy slaw prepared by our chefs Joe Zobel & Natalie Goble.  We sipped on Ghostwriter Chardonnay and Folk Machine Pinot Noir — both in the family of Hobo Wines in Santa Rosa, and fun was had by all!  


Ryme Cellars Finds a New Home Amongst Friends

Last month, I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Ryme Cellars Winemakers, Ryan and Megan Glaab, at their winery just north of Healdsburg, CA. With the early grape harvest that hot & dry California weather delivered this year, winemakers all over the state have been racing to harvest and press the grapes before the late summer sun made raisins of the fruit. It was amidst such a flurry of grape pressing that Lowell Sheldon, of Peter Lowell’s Restaurant, and I arrived on the scene. All parties were hard at work, checking temperatures, tasting the pressed juice, and standing on the lip of the grape vats pressing the grapes by hand with a long metal instruments. There was much to do, yet none were too busy to welcome us warmly; a generosity of spirit often found amongst people who do what they love for a living. To tell Ryme Cellars’s story is to share a bit about love. Ryan and Megan met and fell in love while working for Australia’s Torbreck Winery, and while …


The Best Chicken in Town

It’s 12:30pm in the afternoon at Peter Lowell’s on a Monday when I finally have the opportunity to sit down with our Head Chef, Joe Zobel, to talk chicken.  Yes, CHICKEN — personally, one of my most favorite foods (when done right) and one that Joe features regularly on the menu at PL’s.  A native of New Mexico, Joe has been based out of the North Bay area for the past decade.  He attended culinary school in San Francisco, worked for a number of talented chefs, and met the woman he would later marry.  Looking to get out of the SF grind, he took a job as Head Chef at a new Sonoma County restaurant.  Although the job didn’t turn out to be the dream job that it appeared to be, he was hooked on the lifestyle of sun, local farms, ranches, and wineries.  After working there for a year and with a baby on the way, his interest was piqued when he learned that Peter Lowell’s was searching for a Chef de Cuisine to …