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Mushroom Harvest in Northern California

As a photographer, I get to spend many of my days documenting things that are new and captivating to me. It’s a big bonus to an already awesome job. Mushroom hunting has always seemed interesting to me, and when the time came to choose a new subject for the walls of Peter Lowell’s I knew exactly what I wanted to feature. Luckily for me, it was mushroom season. Dylan and Tyja Taube, two Sebastopol locals who grew up mushroom hunting with their father up in Mendocino, were kind enough to let me tag along. I joined the brothers on 3 different hunts, spread out over a couple months. Mushrooms flush at different times of the year, so this way we were able to capture a variety of local mushrooms as they bloomed. Our first hunt was for porcinis. I meet up with the boys and we set out before dawn. The crisp morning air and wet forest sets the perfect scene. The forest is quiet and still but the guys, with their experienced eyes, move …

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Satsuma Harvest

Sonoma County is packed with hidden orchards and Natalie and I find great joy in sussing them out. Every year we return to our favorites for their seasonal fruits. Last year we discovered a 30 year old citrus orchard tucked quietly behind El Molino High School in Forestville. The prize of this orchards is the Satsumas, which ripen on the trees to a perfect pitch of sweet and tart. The evolution of flavor of the Satsuma from the moment it’s picked to when its bought in a store up to 2 weeks later can be stark. The acid drops of precipitously, leaving a flat sweetness in its wake. With this in mind, we make sure to eat them as we pick them, using them at Peter Lowell’s and Handline as quickly as possible. Self control is impossible.    

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Alberigi Vineyards Pinot Noir Crush

Harvest started early this year, as it seems to have for the last several vintages. Every year I make sure to visit a few of the wineries we work with to make sure they aren’t adding any funny business into their wine. This year we were lucky enough to have Dawn Heumann along to capture the process. On the morning of August 26th we visited Eric Sussman, of Radio Coteau, at Alberigi Vineyard for harvest. Later we joined the winemakers back at the winery to see the grapes being destemmed and moved into tank for fermentation. Check out the process below. It’s sort of hard to believe that sweet pink grape juice turns into seductive Pinot Noir.  

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Late Summer Harvest at Two Belly Acres

A few weeks ago, on an overcast, late summer morning, our photographer Dawn and I headed out to our farm, Two Belly Acres. We were there to catch up with our farmers, Vince and Logan, and see what the harvest was yielding them. The answer was pure summer. Tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, sweet peppers, padróns, shishitos, ground cherries, pickling cucumbers, and summer squash.  

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Sunchoke Soup with Roasted Mushrooms & Dungeness Crab from Terrapin Creek

Andrew Truong, friend of Peter Lowell’s and co-owner of the highly acclaimed, Michelin-starred restaurant Terrapin Creek in Bodega Bay, was kind enough to share this recipe for a delicious sunchoke soup that’s easy to make at home. Ingredients: 8 oz sunchokes 2 oz shallots, sliced ½ oz garlic, sliced 2 tbsp butter 2 tsp kosher salt ¼ cup dry white wine 2 cups water ½ cup heavy cream Garnish: Dungeness crab meat Roasted Pioppini mushrooms Lemon juice Extra virgin olive oil Chives, chopped Instructions: 1. Clean the sunchokes in water to remove any soil. 2. Cut into quarter size pieces, toss in oil, and roast in a 350F degree oven until golden brown. 3. Melt the butter in a pot. Add the shallots, garlic, and salt to the butter and cook until lightly brown. Turn down the heat and cover the pot with a lid to continue cooking. 4. When the onions and garlic are soft, turn up the heat and add the white wine. Cook until the wine has evaporated. 5. Add the water …

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Local Honey Producer Paradox Farm

Dawn Heumann, our fearless photographer, and I recently spent some time observing beekeeper David Benefiel (our honey supplier) at his Sebastopol property Paradox Farm (David and his wife are both physicians). We had originally planned for Dawn to document only the act of inspecting the hives, which involves smoking them so that the bees become docile. But as soon as we arrived at the farm, David informed us that there was a change of plans. A huge mass of bees had gathered near the top of an apple tree in what David said was the first swarm of the season. To remove the swarm, David put on a mask, a white jacket (bees are attracted to dark colors), climbed up a ladder, and sprayed the swarm with sugar water. He then took a bucket and shook the tree so that the swarm would fall into the bucket. He also used his gloved hands and a soft bee brush to get most of the remaining bees into the bucket. The last step involved dumping the bucket …

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A Visit to Green Star Farm

It was a beautiful early spring day in rural, southern Sebastopol, and slowly driving down a long driveway there were chickens to my right and sheep to my left. The grassy fields were a lush, dark green. It was idyllic. At the end of the driveway I parked my car, got out, and took in the fresh, breezy air. After briefly taking in the scenery, I was warmly greeted by Marc Felton and shortly thereafter Sarah Silva, co-owners of Green Star Farm, a picturesque animal farm on 47 acres of pastureland that supplies eggs to us at Peter Lowell’s. The farm is divided among several sections of pasture, each housing a number of different animals, including chickens, hogs, goats and sheep. The chickens, numbering somewhere in the neighborhood of two thousand, are the heart of the operation. With about 400 to 500 per flock, the birds live in mobile coops that are frequently rotated from one section of pasture to another. Sarah and Marc mentioned that they’ve been making the transition from wooden to metal …

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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 …

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Skin Contact Winemaking with Donkey & Goat’s Tracey Brandt

On my way through Berkeley I arranged to drop by Donkey & Goat Winery for chat with Tracey Brandt about a wine I fell in love with this year. My interest was specifically in a 2014 Ramato Pinot Gris from a Biodynamic vineyard in Anderson Valley. Ramato is an Italian skin-contact style of wine making that uses the Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris grape, similar in style to “orange” winemaking but specific in it’s varietal. To me this wine perfectly demonstrates the incredible allure of natural wines. It’s at once totally surprising and incredible approachable. As a winery they are committed to Natural Wine making and after nearly 15 years of making wine they seem to have really honed their ability to coax out uniqueness while accepting the inherent mystery in each wine they make. Before the interview we went into the cellar to taste through the 3 parts of her 2015 vintage Pinot Gris. From left to right we have 8 hours on skins (after being foot stomped), 2 days on skins and 6 days …

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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) …