“I first met Ryan and Samantha Ramey of Estero Cafe at the Gravenstein Apple Fair in 2016, the summer before opening Handline. I had never catered an off-site event as large-scale as the fair before and I stretched myself thin just to get all the necessary prep done for the weekend.
When I showed up to Ragle Park in the early morning hours to set up our booth, it became apparent that I had overlooked many important details. Samantha and Ryan lent me bread crates and booth siding, and we ended up trading plates of each other’s food all weekend to feed our staff. I knew right away they were folks deeply connected to their community and helping others while creating delicious food and offering exemplary service at Estero Cafe; they were an obvious choice to include in the Field Guide. From sourcing to seasonality, Samantha and Ryan share an ethos centered on our local food shed and support many of our local purveyors. In each year since that first fair, I make a request to the event coordinator to have our booth next to Ryan and Sam’s, knowing I’ll be in the loving company of good friends.” —Natalie Goble
At Estero Cafe, we serve up classic diner food with a strict commitment to sustainability. In 2017, we were awarded with a Snail of Approval from Slow Food due to our commitment to “good, clean, and fair food”. The Estero Cafe is named for the estuary Estero Americano, just below Route 1 that runs five miles into the Pacific Ocean; we kept the name from the original cafe to celebrate that our ingredients would be mostly sourced from the surrounding region.
Ryan—my husband and Estero Cafe’s co-owner—and I have worked in restaurants most of our lives. Ryan grew up in Sonoma County and attended the SRJC culinary program, while I grew up in New York and worked in Italian restaurants through most of high school and all of college. We met while living in San Diego; he was the executive chef of a Spanish tapas restaurant that managed a two-acre farm where they grew all their own produce and I was part of a growing restaurant group in Little Italy. At the time, we shared a vision of being part of the Slow Food movement while still being in hospitality. We’ve come a long way from our beginnings and in many ways have reached a lot of our goals, but we maintain passion and excitement to grow and evolve in our work!
In 2010, we moved back to Ryan’s hometown of Santa Rosa to pursue our dreams and started our own catering company, Northwest Catering. In 2011, I co-created the Sunday Bodega Bay Community Farmers Market in and Northwest Catering served breakfast and lunch there. Shortly after, we began doing pop-ups at a wine bar in town, then to booking private events, and eventually weddings. It was great, but we really wanted our own brick-and-mortar, so when the Estero Cafe became available, we knew it was the perfect opportunity.
We feel so blessed to be doing what we love. My favorite part of the job is creating and maintaining friendships with our vendors like Stemple Creek Ranch, Worker Bee Farms, and Green Star Farms. On the other end, it is so rewarding to serve our customers food that we are proud of.
As we enter into the last weeks of summer, our long-awaited tomatoes are finally here. We’d love to share with you our simple yet delicious tomato soup recipe that is perfect by itself or along with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich!
Estero Cafe’s Tomato Soup
Yield: 8 bowls
2 oz. clarified butter*
1 carrots, cut into large cubes
1 celery sticks, cut into large cubes
½ yellow onion, quartered
¼ bunch thyme, rough chop
10-12 small- to medium-sized tomatoes
1 tbl. heavy cream
salt and black pepper, to taste
In a large pot, sauté butter, carrots, celery, onion, and thyme until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer 20-30 minutes. Add cream, salt, and pepper and blend in pot using an immersion blender (tip: if you’re using a regular blender, fill up halfway, remove center cap from lid, and hold a kitchen towel over the hole while blending. Blend in batches if needed; this allows steam to escape so there won’t be a soup explosion in your kitchen).
*learn how to clarify butter here!