Petaluma | Sonoma Magazine BiteClub http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub Restaurant & Dining Reviews for Sonoma, Santa Rosa and the Wine Country Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:41:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/cropped-512_logo-150x150.gif Petaluma | Sonoma Magazine BiteClub http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub 32 32 The 11 Best Dishes at Petaluma’s New Chicken Pharm Restaurant http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/chicken-pharm-restaurant-comes-to-roost-in-petaluma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/chicken-pharm-restaurant-comes-to-roost-in-petaluma/#comments Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:02:47 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37079 Kimchicken sandwich -- fried chicken with kimchee and Korean hot sauce -- at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

A fried chicken feast with sides to crow about at Petaluma's Chicken Pharm

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Kimchicken sandwich -- fried chicken with kimchee and Korean hot sauce -- at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Here’s an idea: Open a poultry-focused restaurant in a town once known as “The Kingdom of 10,000,000 White Leghorns. Seems like a pretty solid idea when you’re smack dab in the heart of the former Egg Capital of the World, where the chick incubator was created a century ago and a poultry pharmacy once treated ailing hens.

Adding to Petaluma’s feathered history is Chicken Pharm, an eatery that pays homage to the deliciousness of a perfectly spatchcocked chicken, and fried chicken, popcorn chicken, grilled chicken and chicken wings. But its the spatchcocked chicken we’re, well, crowing about.

Spatchcocked chicken at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Spatchcocked chicken at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

What’s spatchcocking? Think of it as a roast chicken without much backbone. Literally split open and laid flat, the spatchcock technique is also known as brick or butterflied chicken, exposing the bird to more even heat and making for super crispy skin. Plus, it’s just more fun to say spatchcock, especially around chefs like Adam Mali, a Petaluman heading up the Patio Group hospitality company’s new kitchen.

Once a top toque at SF’s swanky Mandarin Oriental, Mali says the last thing his hometown needed was another fine dining establishment. Instead, he put some local, comfort food twists on the San Diego restaurant group’s first NorCal establishment. So, rather than practicing his culinary tweezer skills, Mali now wears a tee-shirt and an apron while frying chicken, cooking cowboy beans and baking chocolate chip cookies.

Rancho Gordo Beans with Black Pig Bacon at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Rancho Gordo Beans with Black Pig Bacon at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Simple isn’t always so simple, he says. “Making cornbread, seems easy, but it isn’t always,” says Mali during a busy Sunday brunch. Nor is making coleslaw that isn’t too soupy, or too mayonnaise-y, or too vinegar-y, and he’s worked on that for a long while. 

That’s what elevates Mali’s meals. Fried chicken is fried chicken, but the side dishes (cheddar cornbread, Rancho Gordo beans with Black Pig bacon and just a hint of fennel) and bold flavorings (Korean gojichang and kimchee) bring the heart to the Pharm. 

Which isn’t to say that Mali’s buttermilk fried chicken, which is a menu staple, isn’t excellent. But so are about four other comparable versions of chicken waffles or fried chicken sandwiches within a four block radius. We’ve eaten a lot of fried chicken in Petaluma lately, and it’s popular because, hey, who doesn’t like fried chicken? Our stayed crispy even after hours in our fridge when we gave it a late-night taste test again. Fried chicken, however, isn’t exactly a requirement for graduating from the Cordon Bleu.

Speaking to that, Chicken Pharm’s non-chicken options aren’t a menu afterthought. Mali has made it a mission to get his Fallon Hills Ranch burger right, using a range of cuts for a hearty tomato jam-topped beauty. Simpler eaters will like the griddled pb&j with whole grain bread and a side of Clover milk. Vegetarians can get into roasted cauliflower “wings”, clever salads and beer-battered pickle chips. Need a nip with that? Full bar, beer, wine and bottomless mimosas at brunch.

With a family-friend vibe and excellent brunch menu, Chicken Pharm is a great addition to Chickaluma. Come to roost at the former Tuttle Drug store (hence the Pharm moniker), Adam Mali’s menu features comforting roast chicken, spectacular side dishes and plenty of local flavor.

Best Bets at Chicken Pharm

Crispy cauliflower "wings" with Sriracha sauce at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Crispy cauliflower “wings” with Sriracha sauce at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Crispy Roasted Cauliflower “Wings”, $11: I’ve never gotten the whole “dip transport” excuse for using a gristly chicken wing to spoon blue cheese into your face. Spoons actually taste better. So I say ‘where have you been all my life?’ to crispy cauliflower as a transport for Marshall Farms honey sriracha sauce. Way better than a spoon.

Kimchicken, $12: The whole fried chicken paradigm needs disruption, and this is how you do it. Loaded with spicy gojichang sauce, pungent kimchi inside a sweet Hawaiian roll it’s a sweet heat treat.

Cage-free kale, $10: This kale is definintely free range, with shaved carrots, hazelnuts, Bellwether Carmody and a eye-popping turmeric citrus vinaigrette.

Spatchcocked Roasted Chicken, $11/$21: Half a bird is enough for two, but for a family, go all the way. Thyme and sage perfume this roasted bird beautifully presented in a skillet.

Fallon Hills beef burger at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Fallon Hills beef burger at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Fallon Hills Ranch Beef Burger, $13: Thick and juicy, this patty is “whole cow”, meaning it blends different cuts of meat, not just sirloin (and not offal). An 80-20 fat ratio gives it plenty of moistness, cooked medium rare with tomato jam, caramelized onions and a brioche bun. Top 10 burger for me.

Baked Rancho Gordo Beans with Black Pig Bacon, $8: Yes, there is a lot of namedropping going on in this humble cowboy dish, but these two purveyors also happen to be two of the best in the biz. It also happens to one of my favorite bean dishes, with ketchup and tomatoes (mom-style), plus molasses, brown sugar and a hint of fennel.

Petaluma Creamery White Cheddar Mac N’ Cheese, $8: My only caution on this one is to parents, because this version actually tastes delicious, though your kids may disagree. White cheddar brings a some uptown funk to an otherwise suburban blend of cheese and macaroni.

Cheddar cornbread ($6): Yes, if only for the whipped orange mascarpone butter.

Petaluma Slaw, $5: Almost an umami quality, which means not too sweet, not to salty, not too sour, not too creamy. Just right.

Chicken feed dessert with Three Twins salted caramel ice cream, chocolate chip cookies and caramel corn at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Chicken feed dessert with Three Twins salted caramel ice cream, chocolate chip cookies and caramel corn at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Chicken Feed Ice Cream Sandwich, $8: Chocolate chip cookie, Three Twins caramel ice cream, homemade caramel corn, happiness.

Crack of Dawn, $12 (brunch only): Grits are the thing here. They’re surrounded by over-easy eggs, grilled chicken sausage and roasted new potatoes. But the grits, with plenty of butter and thyme are Southern comforting.

If you go…
Brunch Gold: The spot is ultra-family friendly and good for large groups, with massive oak tables, several side rooms and a seasonal patio.

Bringing it Home: Family fried chicken meals (or spatchcocked chicken) are available for pick-up, serving four with two sides, a salad and dessert for $47, making it a wings-down winner for nights when no one wants to cook.

Breakfast tacos at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Breakfast tacos at Chicken Pharm restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Chicken Pharm: 132 Keller St., Petaluma, 707-543-1278 (for pick-up orders), chickenpharm.com. Open 11a.m. to 9p.m. Monday, Thursday; until 10p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday 9a.m. to 9p.m., brunch served until 2p.m. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. 

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Izakaya Kitaru: Japanese Sushi and Small Bites in Petaluma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/izakaya-kitaru-japanese-sushi-and-small-bites-in-petaluma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/izakaya-kitaru-japanese-sushi-and-small-bites-in-petaluma/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 20:53:02 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=35904 Yelp photos of the recently-opened Kitaru in Petaluma

New Petaluma izakaya and sushi: Stay tuned for more.

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Yelp photos of the recently-opened Kitaru in Petaluma

Brand new to the Petaluma scene as of summer 2017. Previously Andy’s Sushi and O! Sushi.

212 Western Ave. Petaluma. Open Wed thru Monday for lunch and dinner.

So far reviews are fairly strong, stay tuned for a more detailed review from Biteclub!

See menu here

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New Late Night Eats in Petaluma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/new-late-night-eats-in-petaluma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/new-late-night-eats-in-petaluma/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 19:01:25 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=35889 Poutine at Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma.Copyright 2017 anathea meade. All rights reserved.

Hungry after 9pm? We've got a new spot for post (and during) pub grub.

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Poutine at Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma.Copyright 2017 anathea meade. All rights reserved.

Okay, so we all know the joke about sidewalks rolling up at 9p.m. in much of Sonoma County, but one more spot is now staying open until midnight for you night owls.

Brewsters Beer Garden has announced a weekend menu available from 10p.m. to midnight that includes a hearty burger, chicken sandwich, hot wings, grilled corn and a trio of cocktails including a strawberry margarita and “Balls of Fire” cinnamon whiskey. 

But here’s what really spoke to our inner inebriate in search of sustenance: Poutine. Fries, brown gravy, garlic thyme sausage, Wm. Cofield cheese curds and parmesan. If you’re not familiar with Cofield cheeses, they’re the British cheesemongers that recently moved into the Barlow. The Cofield gents are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their Sonoma County cheese making, currently, so if you’re all about the cheddar, look them up

The Cofield gents are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their Sonoma County cheese making, currently, so if you’re all about the cheddar, look them up at Kickstarter and donate.

Want more late night eats? Click here for another 24 spots open past 9p.m.

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Petaluma’s Thistle Meats Butcher Shop a Cut Above http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/petalumas-thistle-meats-butcher-shop-a-cut-above/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/petalumas-thistle-meats-butcher-shop-a-cut-above/#comments Tue, 08 Aug 2017 18:44:09 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=35797 Charcuterie at Thistle Meats butcher shop in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Chef-owned butcher shop continues Thistle Meats' original mission and adds haute dinners.

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Charcuterie at Thistle Meats butcher shop in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

“I want this to be the best butcher shop in the Bay Area”

In an instant, a drunk driver changed the trajectory of Chef Travis Day’s life.

Though he was nowhere near Petaluma when an impaired motorist plowed into the storefront of Thistle Meats in early 2016 — all but destroying it — little more than a year later, he would officially reopen it to the public.

In mid-May, Day took over the downtown artisan butcher shop from founder Molly Best. It had been a rough year for the business.
The drunk driver had done so much structural damage to the building that it had been “red-tagged” as uninhabitable. Best was forced to sell her bone broth and meats to loyal customers from behind their Petaluma Boulevard shop for months.

When Day’s childhood friend and former Thistle butcher Aaron Gilliam said the shop was for sale, Day pounced. After a two week shutter, Thistle was reborn.

“People were breaking down the door for bone broth,” said Day. “We couldn’t stay closed.”

More than just a butchery, the space has been opened up to include a small seating area serving sandwiches, soups and charcuterie plates that go far beyond deli fare.

The open butcher table remains, and a charming brick patio has become the setting for Day’s monthly Sunday suppers with some of San Francisco’s top toques. Day has kept on the former staff.

“I wanted to buy Thistle because I just love the product. I want this to be the best butcher shop in the Bay Area,” Day said. Continuing to focus on ethically raised meats from local ranches, Day knows his purveyors personally, describing everything from their animals’ feed program to how they are processed.

“Meat tastes bad because of stress to the animal,” Day said. His pork comes from Rancho Llano Seco in Chico where pigs are allowed to forage and wander. Other ranchers he works with include Monkey Ranch in Petaluma (lamb), Stemple Creek and Magruder Ranch for beef, Marin Sun Farms for chicken and Liberty Duck.

With years of study as a salumist and butcher, Day is a chef’s chef — working his way up the kitchen ladder with the kind of intense focus and passion that results in 25 journals filled with business plans and recipes, traveling to 20 countries with his chef’s knives and developing a resume that includes some of the best restaurants in the world. Not that he’d really tell you that. Day and his staff are usually too busy learning Argentinian butchering techniques or describing “secreto” or “secret” cuts of pork.

“I used to cure duck prosciutto in the rafters and stay up until 3 a.m. translating old French cookbooks,” Day said.

“I feel like this is the natural progression.” Part of what Day hopes to improve at Thistle are recipes and its prepared dishes like the simple-but-not-simple Jambon Royal sandwich with Humboldt Fog cheese, wild arugula and mustard aioli; heirloom melon with guanciale, cucumber and Italian burrata; or gazpacho with herbs and pan-fried bread. Each showcases the meat and the techniques of the chef.

Monthly dinners are intimate gatherings that amount to Day hanging with his chef besties that happen to be highly sought-after restaurateurs: Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s (recently nominated as “Best New Restaurant in the West”), Jason Fox of Michelin-starred Commonwealth (August 20) and Christie Peters and Kyle Michaels of Primal and The Hollows, in Saskatoon, Canada (September 10). Details on joining the dinners here.

It’s also a way to make use of 100 percent of the product, because it’s not all filet mignon.

On the open butcher table, there’s a whole lot of, well, it’s hard to say other than its a lot of fat, sinew and meat. It will all find a home somewhere in the case or on the table. Cows aren’t just big steaks, after all. There are organs, gristly bits and fat that need to be utilized.

Day says he reduces the prices on lesser-known cuts and offal (organs) for customers to try.

Some cuts are unique, like the velvet steak, from the heel of the cow. Filets come at a premium.

“I’ve worked for years at restaurants trying to find new creative ways to use products and reduce waste,” Day said. “It all starts with the animals. We pay more for the animals because they are pasture-raised,” he said. “We try to use every scrap and do the right thing for all the farmers.”

If you go:

  • Thistle has daily specials, so you won’t always know what’s on the menu.
  • The shop will continue to source grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and offer a charcuterie program featuring handmade pates, salumi, terrines and other house-cured meats.
  • Day plans to also offer an expanded, new menu of prepared foods including sandwiches, salads and soups, along with marinated and seasoned meat cuts and other local items.
  • We were fascinated with the preserved duck eggs, which look like little apricot gelees. Shaved over sandwiches, they’re divine.
  • There’s also bread from Red Bird and Della Fattoria, local cheeses from Andante and Cowgirl Creamery, honey, bone broth and other local goods.

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Cue the ‘Que: It’s Always Beer Garden Season at Brewsters in Petaluma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/cue-the-que-its-always-beer-garden-season-at-brewsters-in-petaluma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/cue-the-que-its-always-beer-garden-season-at-brewsters-in-petaluma/#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 20:05:21 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=35308 Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

New Petaluma brew and barbecue spot is an impressive addition to the downtown scene. If you can find it.

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Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Just two hours earlier and I’d have been witness to an entire goat splayed over an impromptu pit of bricks and coals at Brewster’s Beer Garden. This ancient style of cooking, using a metal cross, isn’t a sight for everyone, but cooking “asado al palo” —literally meaning barbecued on a spit” — is a Spanish tradition that makes for some of the tastiest grilled meats you’ll ever have.

This is serious pit master kinda stuff, and a far cry from the kind of cooking Chris Beerman, who heads the kitchen at Petaluma’s Brewster’s Beer Garden, was doing at the haute San Francisco restaurant Boulevard, where tweezers rather than Volkswagon-sized barbecues, were the norm.

But at this 350-seat outdoor beer garden in the heart of downtown Petaluma, he’s clearly in his element, frequently roasting entire beasts for the restaurant’s impressive barbecue dishes. Ranging from special goat tacos prepared for Cinco de Mayo, to wet-mopped chopped “whole hog” and smoked lamb, ‘que has clearly become Beerman’s culinary jam since moving from San Francisco.

Having tasted some of the very best — and very worst — barbecue that Sonoma County has to offer, I give Brewster’s high marks for flavor and technique. When it’s been a good long while since we’ve had a barbecued rib that actually fell off the bone without the use of a knife/hacksaw/gnawing, Brewster’s was a welcome relief; with smokey, saucy pork that acquiesces like a Georgia peach in August. As not to create a civil war among ‘que-thusiasts, Beerman makes a solid Texas-style beef brisket, St. Louis style pork ribs and even smoked Korean short ribs.

And even though there are also smoked beets, smoked wings, smoky pork belly, a smoky mezcal cocktail and smoked tea leaves, don’t bank on Brewster’s just being a barbecue spot.

Beerman, who was also exec chef at SF diner Citizens Band and donut-mecca, Pinkie’s Bakery, puts both skillsets to work making modern comfort classics that include his signature onion ring-topped mac and cheese, fried chicken sandwich and chocolate brownie sundae.

“You should come see our garden sometime,” he says, between running back to the open kitchen and a smoker with a perfectly lacquered ham hock he occasionally peeks at. At his Petaluma home, he’s growing some of the restaurant’s produce, while sourcing the rest of the menu from local farms, ranches and producers including Filigree Farms, Alchemist Farms, Marin Sun Farms, Nicasio Valley, Stemple Ranch and the darlings-of-the-moment, CHEVOO goat cheese made with Aleppo-Urfa chili and lemon.

The infused olive oil chevre stars in the smoked beet salad ($11), with frisse, mustard greens and walnuts, with the olive oil also serving as an ingredient in the dressing. A must order.

Other favorites

Pork Belly with Cheese Curds: What could be a hot mess on a plate comes with two large pieces of crispy belly, Romesco sauce and fluffy Beecher’s Cheese curds. The snap peas on the bottom serve as a tasty foil to all the decadence.

Fried Chicken Sando ($14): The best fried-chicken sandwich, probably ever. Crispy-yet-juicy chicken, slab bacon, melty goat cheddar, garlic mayo, Della Fattoria bun. Eat quickly so as not to require sharing.

Beer cocktails: On a hot day, there’s just about nothing tastier than a beer. But add, say, pear cider to a crisp pale ale ($7, Pear Pressure) or a nitro cold brew to coconut porter ($9, Surf Bro) and you’ve got an afternoon made for bocce and bluegrass (both of which are featured at the sprawling garden).

Cocktail cocktails: Seasonal cocktails with a side of obsession. Beverage director Alfie Turnshek can talk for hours about how he infuses buttered popcorn into rum for his “Cineplex” ($9), which is a take on rum and Coke with a movie theme. Or the mole bitters, made with chocolate and cinnamon in the Petaloma ($10), made with tequila, mezcal, grapefruit and lemon-lime soda. Big city cocktails with a small town prices (nothing over $10). There’s also a huge selection of craft beers on draft from near and far, including Anderson Valley, Henhouse, 101 North and Bear Republic.

Brownie Sundae: Usually strictly kid-stuff, this grown up version has Valrohna chocolate, Three Twins ice cream, graham crumbles and more chocolate on top. Doesn’t have to be nearly this delicious, but is.

If you go

The space is immense, with a plethora of picnic-style tables. Great for a group, or if you’re interested in being social. A bocce court for grown-ups and a kids’ area to let the tots go nuts. Brunch served on Saturday and Sunday. Abbreviated lunch menu starts at 11:30 a.m. and goes until 5 p.m when the larger dinner menu emerges. Kids menu with chicken fingers and other tasty kid grub. Dogs welcome. Weekly music events Friday through Sunday regularly; every other Thursday is Bluegrass and Bourbon.

Know that: This busy restaurant can get crowded, and service can range from enthusiastic to dismissive depending on the time of day and staffing. Plating can also get a little haphazard when the kitchen is really humming. Parking can also get tight, but there are several overflow lots. Finding the restaurant is tricky, since there’s not much signage from the street.

Overall: Brewster’s Beer Garden is a new go-to beer garden with room for the whole family (including Rover), great barbecue and a top-shelf chef. Reasonably priced cocktails and plenty on draft make it doubly delicious.

229 Water St. North, Petaluma, 707-981-8330, brewstersbeergarden.com. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 to 10p.m., midnight on Friday and Saturday.

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Overnight Success for El Roy’s Mexican Grill in Petaluma Was Anything But http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/elroys/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/elroys/#comments Wed, 03 May 2017 20:34:56 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=35130

From humble beginnings, Yvette Vega and her brothers are creating a Mexican food empire in Petaluma

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The Marin County dump isn’t exactly the kind of spot budding restaurateurs often see as being ripe for opportunity, but for Yvette Vega and her brothers, the busy San Rafael waste and recycling hub had plenty of hungry customers eager to see their humble taco truck each day from noon to 3 p.m. Part of their route through Marin in 2004, the young siblings typically worked 100-hour weeks hawking tacos wherever they could find a place that would let them stop for a few hours.
But Marin Sanitary was the stop that put them on the map.

“Our gasoline was that we saw the struggles of our parents.”

“It was most of our business,” recalled Vega, 29, who now sits in the brick-and-mortar restaurant, El Roy’s Mexican Grill in Petaluma, she co-owns.

Opened in 2016, the restaurant is just part of the growing El Roy’s empire that also includes three taco trucks and a thriving catering business. The popular eatery also will have a permanent hub in the Block, a soon-to-open Petaluma food truck court. Voted the “Best Taco Truck in Sonoma County” by Press Democrat readers in 2014 and 2015, Vega, a second-generation Mexican-American, still can’t quite believe how far she’s come in the past 12 years.

“We never thought we would have any of this. We’re just so grateful to even have a restaurant,” she said. “We just want to see where it will take us from here,” said Vega, who is one of the “three jalapeños” of the El Roy’s logo — the other two are her brothers and restaurant co-owners Roy and Fernando Cabrera.

These days, the young mother lets employees do much of the heavy day-to-day lifting while she manages the restaurant’s finances, permits and catering. But she also serves as cashier, dispatcher, cook or whatever else needs to be done as the business continues to expand. Opening the restaurant on a Friday morning, she pulls chairs outside and checks on the kitchen before sitting down to chat.

Though their fleet of bright orange trucks and cheery restaurant may seem to be an overnight success for newcomers who line up for their sopes and tacos in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, Vega said the welcome wasn’t nearly so enthusiastic in the early days, before food trucks became downright trendy.

“When we first started, people didn’t want a food truck on their property. We got a lot of pushback. We were turned down a lot,” she said. “They thought we were one of the ‘roach coaches,’ and that was the stereotype. Back then, that’s what people thought of food trucks,” Vega said. She admits that now, “there’s everything out there,” from questionably run operations to higher-end trucks with chef-types making gourmet burgers. For El Roy’s part, they’ve focused on keeping the quality high, prices low, and word-of-mouth advertising from happy customers to keep their operation growing.

“We knew we could be clean, quality, fast, efficient and priced well,” she said.

“I want my kids to do what they want to do … No limitations. That’s what my parents came to this country for.”

A customer, seeing Vega, shared the description she and a friend have come up with: “We call it cheap and cheerful, or CC. We love it here,” she said. Which is exactly what Vega has worked for with the restaurant.

Hailing from the city of Celaya, in the southeastern Mexican state of Guanajuato, Vega said her father once owned a taqueria and brought his recipes to America — the basis of many of El Roy’s dishes. To support his family, he worked in landscaping and Vega’s mother cleaned houses, using food to bring the family together on weekends. Vega credits the constant hard work of her parents that fueled Vega and her brothers to succeed in their own lives.

“Our gasoline was that we saw the struggles of our parents. Every vacation, we learned that you better go to summer school if you don’t want to spend the summer cleaning houses or working with dad,” she said, laughing.

Brief visits to Mexico to see family were precious, however.

“We went once a year for four days, we drove the whole way. You keep all of those great memories,” she said.

The struggles of her family also helped her see a way through the bad times.

“When obstacles come your way, you have to find solutions. You can’t just stop and take days or weeks to think things through while everything is still moving. I learned that if you can’t do things one way, you have to find another,” she said.

But her biggest obstacles weren’t the 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. hours, dating her now-husband while working on the food truck (“Our dates were to Costco for supplies,” she recalled) or taking in just $18 for a full day’s work.

“Being a Latina, there are a lot of stereotypes of staying at home and taking care of the kids, and your husband taking care of you,” she said.

Vega hopes that her children, 6 months and 4 years old, will have an easier path to fulfilling their potential.

“I want my kids to do what they want to do … No limitations. That’s what my parents came to this country for.”

Related Images:

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Petaluma’s Drawing Board: A Menu for Anyone, Everyone http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/petalumas-drawing-board-a-menu-for-anyone-everyone/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/petalumas-drawing-board-a-menu-for-anyone-everyone/#comments Thu, 23 Feb 2017 03:39:19 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=34456

Vegan, vegetarian, ominivore: Everyone can come to the table at Petaluma's Drawing Board

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It’s not every day that you find vegan smoked carrot lox and cashew cream cheese on a menu next to roasted bone marrow. But at a culinary moment when diners want a combination of the familiar and exotic; decadent and healthy; conventional and sustainable, Petaluma’s Drawing Board feels like a roadmap to the future of dining.

Ironically, the future looks a whole lot like the past, here, with a focus on ancient grains, fermented and foraged foods, Middle Eastern spices and cuts of meat that utilize the whole animal including lamb belly, duck, chicken livers and the aforementioned marrow bones.

Bone marrow at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Bone marrow at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

“This is food that fuels rather than just fills you,” said Rosie Wiggins, co-owner of the downtown eatery. The 26-year-old, who heads the front-of-house operations and designed the space, struggled with chronic illness for years. She claims a more wholesome diet improved her condition.

Sitting in a sunny window on the corner of Kentucky and Washington streets in downtown, the industrial-chic space could hold its own in San Francisco. On a busy weeknight, the restaurant is a cross-section of Sonoma County: Older couples, families, millennials cocktailing at communal tables, and friends out for a shared bite at the bar. Already, word is out on Drawing Board, as place where everyone can find something to suit their dietary wants and needs.

Mixologist Jennifer Grossbard is a whiz at creating seasonally inspired cocktails that are truly unique. Heather Irwin/PD

Mixologist Jennifer Grossbard is a whiz at creating seasonally inspired cocktails that are truly unique. Heather Irwin/PD

Billed as “seasonal new American,” the restaurant relies predominantly on the diets of the world’s longest living cultures along with ancient food preparation techniques. “Minimally processed ingredients, rich in phytonutrients, often showcasing heirloom varietals, sourced locally – without sacrificing flavor,” Wiggins said. Even the cocktails follow the theme — woodland fantasies with spruce, spirulina, and even porcini mushrooms as ingredients from mixologist Jennifer Grossbard.

Westucky cocktail at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Queen Bay cocktail at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Chef/owner Ariel Nadelberg, an alum of several high-profile San Francisco and Brooklyn restaurants, showcases the old-is-new cooking with carefully orchestrated dishes, each a small work of art incorporating different colors, textures, flavors and design elements. As pretty to look at as to eat, they’re ephemeral edibles Instagrammers capture to torture followers.

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Aventurine Cocktail at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Granted, nothing is labeled with “vegan” or “vegetarian” or “gluten-free” warnings, leaving staff to guide diners when needed, or, just let a meat and dairy-free dish like carrot lox — one of our very favorite dishes of the night — turn into a happy discovery for omnivores.

Veggie burger at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Veggie burger at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

“We want to satisfy all types of diets without being dogmatic,” said Nadelberg, who sees the project as nourishing both body and community.

It’s important to us that everything has a story, and align with brands whose moral compass aligns with ours,” said Nadelberg. “We’re sourcing primarily from small local farms, reaching out to the little guys who do it right. We want to put them on a pedestal.”

Duck cassoulet at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Duck cassoulet at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Which is all great, but maybe a little precious? After all, pushing the boundaries of how we’re eating out isn’t a new idea, especially in Sonoma County.

Here’s the difference: Drawing Board, with it’s under 40-owners, are looking toward the future of restaurants, where everyone can come to the table together, regardless of diet, with food as nourishing as it is beautiful and delicious. Let’s call it mindful eating for the masses.

Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Drawing Board’s Best Bets:

The menu is divided into small plates, entrees, snacks and sweets, with nothing over $20 and most dishes hovering between $11 to $18; snacks are all under $8 and desserts are all $9.  The menu is highly seasonal, so don’t be disappointed if these items aren’t available. Our visit in the depths of winter was eye-opening, with plenty of warm, filling dishes. However, we’re pretty confident you’ll be impressed with the bounty of whatever season they’re celebrating.

Smoked Carrot Lox ($11): We weren’t all that excited about smoked carrots and cashew cream cheese until the first bite of this incredible vegan dish. Nadelberg is a fan of her smoker, putting everything from beans to carrots in, adding a flavorful quality reminiscent of meat. And while you wouldn’t be fooled in a blind taste test with the real deal, Drawing Board’s version is a feast for eyes and senses, with smoky, creamy flavors on hearty, Sonoran wheat bread.

Charred sweet potato at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Charred sweet potato at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Charred Sweet Potato ($12): You pretty much can’t eat any healthier than this. Smoky sweet potato meets Beluga lentils (named for their resemblance to caviar), labnah (Middle Eastern creamed cheese), harissa and ghee (Indian clarified butter). Tell your doctor about this one, and you’ll get extra nutrition points.

Chicken Kofta from Drawing Board Restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Chicken Kofta from Drawing Board Restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Grilled Chicken Kofta ($12): Moist, ground chicken meatballs with Middle Eastern spices, yogurt, pomegranate molasses, and mint. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Shepherd's Pie Charred sweet potato at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Shepherd’s Pie Charred sweet potato at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Shepherd’s Pie ($18): A mash of slightly sweet root vegetables atop braised lamb shank. You’ll never eat a hamburger version again. More than enough for two to share, which is exactly the point, here.

Duck Cassoulet ($18): Smoked heirloom beans, perfectly cooked, with the usual suspects (duck, bread crumbs), guest starring lamb belly (instead of bacon) and kale. Not quite a stew-like as we might expect, but equally delicious.

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Forest Floor cocktail at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

BBQ Veggie Burger ($16): Veggie burgers are never a favorite, because, well, it’s nothing like a juicy, rare hamburger. But Drawing Board puts a valiant effort into creating a flavorful, thick patty made with grains, beans, raisins and herbs; topped with tomato chutney, pickled red onions and vegan cheez. The omnivore version is made with Sun Farms Grassfed Beef.

Sheep Yogurt Panna Cotta ($9): A bit tangier and sheep-ier than cow’s milk, but perfect with charred blood orange.

Westucky cocktail at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Westucky cocktail at Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD


Specialty Cocktails ($12):
We’ve had seasonal cocktails made from some of the best mixologists in the known universe, so saying these crafty adult beverages are not-to-be-missed isn’t just flattery. Our favorite was the Queen Bay, with rum, lime, bay laurel Falernum (a sweet syrup), dry caracao and pecan orgeat that’s the essence of winter spice with a Caribbean kick. Also incredible: The Forest Floor, made with cognac, Carpano Antica (sweet vermouth), Creme de Cacao and porcini amontillado (sherry flavored with porcini mushrooms). Oh. My. Goodness. Fascinating and delicious with a candy cap mushroom flavor.

Where: 190 Kentucky St, Petaluma, 707-774-6689, tdbpetaluma.com. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 5p.m. to 12a.m., closed Monday and Tuesday.

A reader postcard after this story was printed. And my response.

A reader postcard after this story was printed. And my response.

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[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

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Petaluma’s Slamburger Beats Bun-Meat-Bun Burger Boredom http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/petaluma-slamburger-beats-bun-meat-bun-burger-boredom/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/petaluma-slamburger-beats-bun-meat-bun-burger-boredom/#comments Wed, 08 Feb 2017 21:36:31 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=34363 Shroomaluma burger at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Petaluma's Slamburger features a variety of delicious hamburgers ranging from the usual cheeseburgers to ahi tuna, mushroom, lamb, vegetarian, gluten-free and more.

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Shroomaluma burger at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Maurice Mikel has spent years trying to create the perfect hamburger. Call it something of an obsession for the Jordanian immigrant, who recently opened Petaluma’s Slamburger.

Inside the bright fast-casual spot it’s hard to pick just one of his creations: The menu ranges from ahi tuna with wasabi mayo and tamarind, to a lamb burger with garlic aioli and olive chimichurri, to a straight-up burger with all the fixings, hot dogs, and even a kale salad.

One thing they all have in common, however: Big flavors. Influenced by the aromatic herbs and spices of his homeland and an obsession with juicy American burgers, Mikel is on an epic quest to become Northern California’s ultimate burgermeister.

Lamb Slam burger at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Lamb Slam burger at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

“Most burger places are just meat, lettuce, tomato and ketchup, but I wanted to add something unique to get people’s attention and curiosity,” he said.

“I love burgers,” said Mikel, whose favorite menu item is the “Cheese Slam” with sharp white cheddar.

“I was so sick of fast food that’s all commodity meat full of hormones. I want to change the habit of fast food meaning junk food,” he said. “I just didn’t want to feed my kid that,” said Mikel, who has a 16-month old son.

Happy customer at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Happy customer at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Add in plenty of kid-friendly options at the Petaluma restaurant, from stripped-down burgers to hot dogs, and shakes; a solid beer and wine menu ; French fries with an egg on top; beer-battered pickles and a very non-carnivorous Kale salad with candied walnuts, clover sprouts and lemon vinaigrette, and it’s not hard to see how Mikel’s Slamburger wouldn’t be ripe for franchising. Which is exactly what Mikel is hoping to do.

“My dream is to make this a Northern-California based chain,” he said.

Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

First, however, he’s working to perfect the concept. Just two months after opening, Mikel is already tweaking the seasonings on his Lamb Slam, trying to get customer costs down and constantly assessing what’s working on the menu and what’s not. When we met up with him one morning, he brought a still-warm lamb patty that was light-years better than the one we enjoyed the day before.

“See better, right?” he asked. Right.

Frickles and aioli at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Frickles and aioli at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Sourcing from nearby Mindful Meats, one of the first beef companies to be certified GMO-free and organic.

“More than 70 percent of our food is organic, and all of our food comes from good sources,” said Mikel, who is also making the buns and fries in house.

Using high-end meats and organic ingredients, however, adds to food costs. Some Yelp customers have been vocal about $10 to $15 cost for some of the more elaborate burgers (plain and cheeseburgers are $7 and $7.50), which don’t come with fries included (they’re $2.65 extra, meaning you still could get a Slamburger meal for under $10, which is rare in Sonoma County.)

Ahi tuna burger at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Ahi tuna burger at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Mikel takes to the web to answer customer concerns frequently and said he plans to cut prices by at least 20 percent since renegotiating his vendor contracts. Though we thought the prices were well in line with other fast-casual restaurant menus, and our bill was $66 for three premium burgers, two sides, a salad and two soft drinks. Even though we’ve paid far more for less quality; you can’t make everyone happy.

Serving more than 200 people a day in their first 60 days of business, it seems the word is getting out, and Petalumans are trying out the new Theater District burger spot. Mikel still isn’t satisfied, however, as he continues to work on his Slamburger concept. “Happy people are our ambassadors,” he said.

Consider us very happy ambassadors.

Best bets at Petaluma’s Slamburger

Slamburger ($7 ): Nothing but a simple cheese-less burger, which can be swapped out for turkey, chicken or veggie patties. Lettuce wraps and gluten-free buns are also available.

Shroomaluma ($10.50): Cremini mushrooms, lettuce, Swiss, peach bbq sauce, tomato, house pickle.

Lamb Slam ($13): We usually aren’t huge fans of lamb or olives, but both work perfectly on this tasty burger.

Ahi Burger ($15): Wild tuna, ginger wasabi mayo, lemongrass-tamarind glaze, pickled red onions, wontons.

Slam Fries at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Slam Fries at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Slam Fries ($5): What, what? A hearty plate of fries smothered with garlic aioli, red onions and a fried egg. The egg yolk could have been a bit runnier for our tastes, but otherwise, delish.

Cajun Brussels Sprouts ($5): Healthy-ish? Who cares.

Kale salad at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Kale salad at Slamburger in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Kale Salad ($7.50): Shaved Parmesan, clover sprouts, candied walnuts, Granny Smith Apple, watermelon radish with lemon vinaigrette. A perfect foil for an order of Beer Battered Frickle Bites ($4).

Slam Dog ($8.50): Bacon wrapped dog with caramelized onion, Slam Sauce, scallion.

Slamburger is at 5 Petaluma Blvd. South, Petaluma, 707-658-1845, theslamburger.com. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

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Snap up French comfort cuisine at Crocodile Restaurant http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/crocodile-restaurant-petaluma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/crocodile-restaurant-petaluma/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2016 04:55:44 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=34101 Panisse with roasted vegetables and herbed fromage blanc at Crocodile Restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

French cuisine with a unique point of view at Petaluma's Crocodile Restaurant

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Panisse with roasted vegetables and herbed fromage blanc at Crocodile Restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

You won’t be hard-pressed to find French culinary traditions or French-trained chefs in just about every restaurant in Sonoma County. But finding a decent boeuf Bourguignon or panisse north of San Francisco? Bonne chance.

Fortunately, both are on the menu at Petaluma’s Crocodile Restaurant — recently opened in the downtown theater district — along with other French classics including crispy pumpkin croquettes, cheesy Gougeres, house-made charcuterie and steak frites with a distinctly Gallic accent.

French cuisine with a unique point of view at Petaluma's Crocodile Restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD

French cuisine with a unique point of view at Petaluma’s Crocodile Restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD

“It’s French comfort food,” said Moire Beveridge, co-owner of the restaurant. She and husband/chef Michael Dotson recently moved to Sonoma County from the South Bay, where they owned a popular Scottish gastropub. Now, they’re turning their attention to France.

“Both my husband and I had a deep love for the French lifestyle and food,” said Beveridge, a native of Scotland. “My family and I used to rent homes in France during the summers and spend months at a time living as the French did,” she said of the fresh ingredients, time-honored culinary traditions and passion for good food.

French cuisine with a unique point of view at Petaluma's Crocodile Restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD

French cuisine with a unique point of view at Petaluma’s Crocodile Restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD

“It also held a place in my husband’s heart as he trained in France when he was just starting out as a young chef. There is something elegant yet unpretentious about French cuisine…the techniques are not obvious, and although they can be time-consuming, the results are classic and simply delicious,” Beveridge added.

But Dotson is far from a purist, dotting his dishes with spices and culinary influences from North Africa, the Mediterranean and India. In the restaurant’s small, open kitchen, a shelf holds dozens of his favorite seasonings, from piment d’esplette to fennugreek, coriander and alderwood smoked sea salt. “I’m rooted in classics, but became fascinated with Marseille,” Dotson said of the southern French port, where the cuisines of North Africa, Spain, Italy and the Mediterranean commingle.

French cuisine with a unique point of view at Petaluma's Crocodile Restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD

French cuisine with a unique point of view at Petaluma’s Crocodile Restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD

You’ll see those spices in dishes like Pumpkin Croquettes ($7), bite-sized balls of sweet pumpkin and breadcrumbs sitting in a pool of creme fraiche and chermoula (a pungent Moroccan herb sauce) or Baby Carrots ($7) with pomegranate and muhammara (a Turkish pepper dip).

He also has a sense of humor with his cuisine, filling his classic puffed cheese Gourgeres ($7) with the distinctly American pimento cheese; or serving frites (fries) with “Pyrenees” ketchup, a combination of Heinz ketchup and piment espelette, a Basque chili that was popular in his former restaurant. “People wanted their Heinz,” he said. So they doctored it up to be a bit more homemade, in the tradition of making everything at the restaurant, even if this one happens to be semi-homemade.

Pumpkin croquettes at Petaluma French restaurant, Crocodile. Heather Irwin/PD

Pumpkin croquettes at Petaluma French restaurant, Crocodile. Heather Irwin/PD

More traditional dishes, like panisse, are rare finds north of San Francisco. Made with chickpea flour and water, panisse is a bit like polenta, creamy on the inside, and usually fried and sliced into pieces. Here, the creamy carrot panisse is sliced into a pie wedge served with root vegetables and herbed fromage blanc (a sort of cream cheese). The sauce is far more complicated, as are most French sauces, and Dotson winces as he tries to explain it. “The base is broth,” he says, meaning two different broths, in addition to walnuts, chili, vanilla beans, mushrooms and muhammara. Our best suggestion? Just eat it. Don’t try to figure it out.

Steak frites at Crocodile Restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Steak frites at Crocodile Restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Also worth a try:

Steak Frites: Okay, so steak frites is on just about every bistro menu in the county. But most of the time the beef is pretty unremarkable. We love Crocodile’s version, with beefy hangar steak and maitre d’Hotel butter (a compound butter with herbs). Fries are served with celery root remoulade and Pyrenees ketchup ($25).

Charcuterie board at Crocodile Restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Charcuterie board at Crocodile Restaurant in Petaluma. Heather Irwin/PD

Charcuterie: We love the trend of charcuterie boards, but too many restaurants have tried their hand at this, and should be stopped. Immediately. For the love of god. Because deli salami isn’t charcuterie. Here, the true charcuterie board is comprised of house made rabbit pate, duck pate and chicken liver mousse with wholegrain mustard, pickled veggies, Revolution bread and crackers. $6 each, or $18 for all three.

Macaroni au Gratin: Creamy shells with melty, gooey St. George cheese. This doesn’t try to be anything but classically delicious ($8).

Macaroni gratin at Petaluma French restaurant, Crocodile. Heather Irwin/PD

Macaroni gratin at Petaluma French restaurant, Crocodile. Heather Irwin/PD

Mushroom Roasted Chicken Breast: The wife of a chef can be picky, as Beveridge admits, but this chicken dish is one of her favorites. “There are mushrooms placed under the skin of the chicken before it is roasted and it always comes out juicy and tender. It also has a Parisian Gnocchi and Brussels sprouts with the chicken just drizzled on the plate,” she said. “It is comfort food at it’s finest,” said Beveridge, ($19).

Boeuf Bourguignon: So we never got to try this one, but judging from the hours of work Dotson puts into this, it can’t help but be good. During lunch service, Dotson disappeared frequently into the back to build the flavors of this classic French beef dish made with red wine-braised filet mignon, pearl onions and house made egg noodles, $19. Give it a try and let us know…

Burger, of course: The French don’t do hamburgers, they do brisket burgers. This one comes with green peppercorn mayo and fries, $12.

Caramel pot de creme at Petaluma French restaurant, Crocodile. Heather Irwin/PD

Caramel pot de creme at Petaluma French restaurant, Crocodile. Heather Irwin/PD

Caramel Pot de Creme: Think pudding with a pedigree. Rich, creamy, smooth, unbelievable caramel pudding with espresso whipped cream and coconut shortbread cookies, $9.

Wine, beer, cider: Beveridge has spent months creating a fascinating wine list of both Old and New World producers. That means small local wine, beer and cider makers along with boutique producers from France, Belgium and the U.S. Spend some time paging through it, because there are plenty of wines by the glass, exotic beers and even some fun sour beers and ciders. Free corkage on Mondays.

Gougeres at Petaluma French restaurant, Crocodile. Heather Irwin/PD

Gougeres at Petaluma French restaurant, Crocodile. Heather Irwin/PD

Something you’ve never had: One of the disappointments after opening, said both Beveridge and Dotson, was the lack of interest in some of the more unique dishes like sweetbreads, duck and bone marrow. Both the duck and sweetbreads have been taken off the menu, but may return as specials. The roasted bone marrow with snails, garlic butter and mushrooms is worth trying, even if you’re a bit squeamish, for its buttery, rich taste.

Moire and Michael with their daughter inside Crocodile restaurant in Petaluma.

Moire and Michael with their daughter inside Crocodile restaurant in Petaluma.

And the name? “We were sitting down to a regular family dinner with my daughter and my parents talking about the name and we began talking about French dining experiences in general,” said Beveridge. “My father mentioned that his best French dining experience had been at Au Crocodile in Strasbourg many years ago,” she said. It turned out that her father had dined at the restaurant at the same time Dotson had trained there. “We took our inspiration from that moment,” said Beveridge.

Crocodile Restaurant, 140 Second St., Suite 100, Petaluma, 707-981-8159, crocodilepetaluma.com.

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Secret Cronut Find: Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/secret-cronut-find-bright-bear-bakery-in-petaluma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/secret-cronut-find-bright-bear-bakery-in-petaluma/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 19:23:04 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=33469 Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma features luxe pastries, cronuts, croissants and morning buns in Petaluma. Photo: Heather Irwin/PD

Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma is a secret find that only locals know about.

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Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma features luxe pastries, cronuts, croissants and morning buns in Petaluma. Photo: Heather Irwin/PD

The buzz about this incredible little bakery got out fast, as news of cream-filled cronuts (a cross between a croissant and a donut that’s too decadent not to eat), morning buns and fresh breads made the rounds.

Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma features luxe pastries, cronuts, croissants and morning buns in Petaluma. Photo: Heather Irwin/PD

The Cronut: Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma features luxe pastries, cronuts, croissants and morning buns in Petaluma. Photo: Heather Irwin/PD

Bright Bear Bakery isn’t easy to find, but a pilgrimage is worth the effort, as long as you’re early. The chickpea scramble with sweet potatoes and harissa (vegan) is great no matter what your diet, and a breakfast focaccia with ham egg and cheese is perfect when paired with a chocolate croissant, luxe cream cheese danish and cranberry scone. And did we mention their twice-baked croissants? These little beauties get stuffed with lemon curd and strawberries, then rebaked for a crispy, buttery sweet treat.

Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma features luxe pastries, cronuts, croissants and morning buns in Petaluma. Photo: Heather Irwin/PD

Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma features luxe pastries, cronuts, croissants and morning buns in Petaluma. Photo: Heather Irwin/PD

You’ll go overboard ordering here, but when exactly have your co-workers turned up their noses at fresh muffins and coffee?

2620 Lakeville Hwy., Suite 350, Petaluma, 707-291-1018, facebook.com/brightbearbakery.

Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma features luxe pastries, cronuts, croissants and morning buns in Petaluma. Photo: Heather Irwin/PD

Bright Bear Bakery in Petaluma features luxe pastries, cronuts, croissants and morning buns in Petaluma. Photo: Heather Irwin/PD

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Oyster Girls Opening Petaluma Restaurant http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/oyster-girls-opening-petaluma-restaurant/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/oyster-girls-opening-petaluma-restaurant/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 21:22:47 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=33103 Oyster Girls are opening a brick and mortar restaurant in Petaluma summer 2016. PD File

Oyster Girls are opening their first brick and mortar restaurant in Petaluma this summer. See what these fun-loving sisters have in mind.

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Oyster Girls are opening a brick and mortar restaurant in Petaluma summer 2016. PD File

It’s the first brick and mortar for the Oyster Girls!

The Shuckery is slated to open at the newly-restored Hotel Petaluma later this summer. The 54-seat oyster bar and restaurant is being spearheaded by sisters Aluxa and Jazmine Lalicker, best known as The Oyster Girls.

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Their traveling oyster bar has been a Bay Area fixture since 2007, with the two often dressed in formal attire with special utility belts around their waists holding oysters, caviar or shrimp in stainless steel buckets as part of the entertainment.

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The fun-loving sisters say that customers can expect swift shucking lessons and a menu inspired by East Coast transplant, Chef Seth Harvey. The sisters are calling the restaurant “the first seafood restaurant in downtown Petaluma” and plan to include local purveyors like Tomales Bay Oyster CompaLavenderndar Hill Honey, First Light Farm, Singing Frogs Farm and SF’s TwoXSea for their coast to coast seafood menu.

More details as the opening gets closer.

Happy Holidays from #theoystergirls ! #oystergirls #oysterrovers #passedapps #fanfrancisco

A photo posted by The Oyster Girls® (@theoystergirls) on

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Secret spot for Chinese barbecue in Petaluma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/secret-spot-for-chinese-barbecue-in-petaluma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/secret-spot-for-chinese-barbecue-in-petaluma/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2016 23:06:33 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=33083 Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

Chinese barbecue in Petaluma features huge chunks of roasted duck and pork, rice in an out-of-the-way location you'd never know about.

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Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

Fantasy Hong Kong Style BBQ isn’t for everyone, but it is for anyone who is desperate to find authentic Chinese roasted duck, roasted pork belly, honey pork, and spare ribs cut to order.  This is true Chinese barbecue.

Hidden away in a former Round Table pizza, diners are greeted by lacquered roast ducks (heads still on) hanging on hooks in a glass case. The Chinatown similarities extend to a hunk of pork belly, ribs and a few, uh, unrecognizable items hanging by hooks or in steam trays (which turn out to be beef cartilage and pig ears).

Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

Though the menu can be daunting, it’s easiest to just ask what’s good, and do the bbq special: Two meats, rice or noodles and then enjoy the show as the chef hacks slices of meat with a giant cleaver with the adeptness of a sushi chef. For about $14, you’ll get a massive plate of food that could easily feed two. Possibly three.

Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

The roasted duck, with crispy skin and five-spice, is the best we’ve had anywhere in the North Bay, and the honey pork is sweet without being cloying. And though many high-end chefs charge a fortune for pork belly, you’ll get a huge portion with crackling skin and moist, lush fat that would cost five times as much elsewhere.

Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

Fantasy Restaurant Hong Kong Style BBQ in Petaluma features huge cuts of roast pork, duck, spare ribs and more. Heather Irwin/PD

Suffice to say this is an off-the-beaten-path find that’s only been open a few months, and can only survive if more folks find it. We were stoked for some chicken feet, but the chef said he’s recently taken them off the menu for lack of interest. 

There’s a buffet with more typical Chinese offerings like lemon chicken, fish, fried rice and veggies, all made fresh. Plus, fried peanuts if you’re a fan.

Fantasy Hong Kong Style BBQ: 1520 E. Washington St., Petaluma, opening 10:30a.m. to 9p.m. daily.

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Quinua Cocina: New Petaluma Peruvian Restaurant http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/quinua-cocina-new-petaluma-peruvian-restaurant/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/quinua-cocina-new-petaluma-peruvian-restaurant/#respond Mon, 22 Feb 2016 18:56:57 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=32354 Quinua Cocina Peruana has opened in Petaluma.

Authentic Peruvian dishes at this new Petaluma Peruvian restaurant

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Quinua Cocina Peruana has opened in Petaluma.

Quinua Cocina Peruana, a new Peruvian restaurant in Petaluma has opened.

We went for a quick scouting trip this week to check out the menu (slightly unfair after being served a home-cooked Peruvian meal by local chef-instructor Olenka Orjeda this week) but ended up being very impressed.

cocina_peruana_petaluma_1Though Olenka’s warning of “no red peppers on real Peruvian ceviche” rang in my mind (there were red peppers on the ceviche), the mixed seafood ceviche at Quinua was a nice balance of pucker and brine with mussels, shrimp, white fish and squid.

Quinua Cocina Peruana has opened in Petaluma.

Quinua Cocina Peruana has opened in Petaluma.

We’ll be heading back with Olenka in tow soon, but meanwhile, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Thursday from 11:30a.m. to 3p.m. and 5-9p.m., on Friday and Saturday, dinner runs until 10p.m., and on Sat/Sun, the restaurant stays open all day, starting at 11:30a.m..

Closed Monday. 500 Petaluma Blvd. South, Petaluma, 981-7359, quinuacocinaperuana.com.

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Sonoma County Barbecue Scene is Smokin’ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/sonoma-county-barbecue-scene-is-smokin/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/sonoma-county-barbecue-scene-is-smokin/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 23:00:59 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=31646 Burnt Ends at Sauced Barbecue Smokehouse in Petaluma, California. Heather Irwin.

BBQ has finally found its way to Sonoma County. For reals.

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Burnt Ends at Sauced Barbecue Smokehouse in Petaluma, California. Heather Irwin.

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi's 1906 in Sonoma, California. The new menu features Cal-Tex bbq from chef Ari Weisswasser. Photo Heather Irwin

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi’s 1906 in Sonoma, California. The new menu features Cal-Tex bbq from chef Ari Weisswasser. Photo Heather Irwin

The new Sonoma aroma might just be wood-smoke and brisket.

Throughout Sonoma County, barbecue restaurants are popping up like gophers on a golf course. Turn around and another chef is touting his burnt ends and secret sauce. It’s become something of an obsession in a county where grilling has traditionally meant ahi burgers and tri-tip.

Part of the reason: Live-fire cooking is a hot trend, along with American comfort food and, maybe most of all, it’s the opposite of tweezer-perfect haute cuisine that has ruled Wine Country for years.

Ribs from Terry’s Southern Style Fish and BBQ in Rohnert Park. Heather Irwin for the Press Democrat.

Ribs from Terry’s Southern Style Fish and BBQ in Rohnert Park. Heather Irwin for the Press Democrat.

“Barbecue comes from a humble place,” said Brad Barmore, co-owner of KINSmoke, which recently opened in Healdsburg. “You can live high on the hog at lots of places around here, but what about the humble cuts? That’s what barbecue is about.”

But are they getting it right?

That’s the question we asked when sampling a handful of newcomers, along with some of the tried-and-true standbys. The results were mixed, because true ’cue is both art and science, and notoriously difficult to do in a restaurant environment with fixed costs, the need for accurate timing and space constraints for large smokers (not to mention expensive equipment to deal with air pollutions from the smoke). Barbecue waits for no man on a warming table, and spending 16-plus hours on a single brisket isn’t the height of efficiency in a restaurant environment.

So, with sauce on our faces and ribs stuck in our teeth, we’ve picked the best of the bunch and one stand-out fave for Sonoma County BBQ.

Interior of KINSmoke BBQ in Healdsburg, California. Photo: Heather Irwin

Interior of KINSmoke BBQ in Healdsburg, California. Photo: Heather Irwin

KINSmoke: Top Pick

With a “non-denominational” approach to regional barbecue, Barmore’s new restaurant features everything from St. Louis style pork ribs and Texas links to Alabama white sauce, Carolina mustard sauce and Texas brisket. But what makes his restaurant (co-owned with business partner JC Adams) unique? It’s all good, including the sides, probably the best in the county with lines out the door.

Barmore ate his way through Texas barbecue spots before opening KinSmoke, stopping at Franklin BBQ in Austin, the mecca of barbecue-dom. His wife’s family owned a barbecue restaurant for generations in Oklahoma, which is where he got the recipe for his secret sweet sauce. The potato salad is a Pennsylvania-Dutch recipe from a server at Barmore and Adams’ Windsor bistro, KIN.

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sliders from Rossis 1906 in Sonoma, California. Heather Irwin

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sliders from Rossis 1906 in Sonoma, California. Heather Irwin

“I’ve wanted to do this forever,” said Barmore, sitting at a thick wooden table topped with a roll of brown paper towels and a six-pack container of the restaurant’s five signature sauces. The sauces represent the United States of barbecue, from Alabama’s mayo-based white to South Carolina mustard, North Carolina vinegar, KC sweet and a California-inspired espresso barbecue sauce. Texans, of course, would rather eat their 10-gallon hats than slather sauce on a good piece of beef.

What sealed the deal: When ordering brisket at the walk-up counter, there’s a choice of lean or fatty. Too often local brisket is far too lean, missing the unctuous reason for eating it in the first place. That and the ribs are never boiled (a restaurant trick to cook the meat faster), but smoked for hours and hours and hours.

Brussels sprouts at Rossis 1906 in Sonoma, California

Brussels sprouts at Rossis 1906 in Sonoma, California

“Barbecue can’t be based solely on time,” said Barmore. It’s done when it’s done.

A few hints, if you go: One of the best things about KINSmoke is also the worst. Owners aren’t afraid to run out of the daily allotment of barbecue. Rather than over-preparing and leaving the meat to dry out all day, you’ll have to make another choice when brisket runs out . So go early, and be willing to make a compromise.

Grilled items include a coffee-rubbed porterhouse ($30) or coffee-rubbed KIN Burger ($11). Go light on the sides (most are $3-$9), and get a single serving to try as many as possible: mayo-y potato salad, Granny Smith apple horseradish slaw, macaroni salad, baked mac and pale ale hush puppies with cajun remoulade, sauteed sprouts, spiced sweet potato tater tots and stellar sweet cornbread ($1.25 each). They’re all excellent.

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi's 1906 in Sonoma, California. The new menu features Cal-Tex bbq from chef Ari Weisswasser. Photo Heather Irwin

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi’s 1906 in Sonoma, California. The new menu features Cal-Tex bbq from chef Ari Weisswasser. Photo Heather Irwin

Tables are mostly community-style, but (here’s a worst kept secret), you can also eat at the bar. No desserts, but a stellar beer and wine list that runs a full page, from PBR to MacPhail pinot noir and Seghesio zinfandel. 304 Center St., Healdsburg, 473-8440, kinsmoke.com, open daily for lunch and dinner.

Terry’s Southern BBQ

Back in 2005 I had a moment with the peach cobbler at Terry’s Southern Style Fish and BBQ. This gritty barbecue spot along one of the grittier sections of Santa Rosa Avenue was a mecca for fall-off-the-bone ribs, hush puppies, catfish and Momma’s Boss Sauce, but it was the ridiculously uncomplicated plastic bowl of cooked peaches and sugared crust that made me fall hard. There was no fussiness with pedigreed peaches (I’m fairly sure they were canned), French butter or organic, fair trade sugar. Just a bear hug of warm, steaming deliciousness tossed ungracefully on the table with a side of bent silverware. But then, like a bad boyfriend, Terry’s disappeared without so much as a goodbye. I dallied with other desserts, but it wasn’t the same. Now, 10 years later, they’ve re-opened with the mostly the same menu, just as good as ever and peach cobbler that’s just as wonderful as I remembered it. Ribs are tops, and sides are scrumptious if you’re a fan of sweet ‘que. Expect a wait.  5979 Commerce Blvd., Rohnert Park, no phone number.

Burnt Ends at Sauced Barbecue Smokehouse in Petaluma, California. Heather Irwin.

Burnt Ends at Sauced Barbecue Smokehouse in Petaluma, California. Heather Irwin.

Sauced

Burnt ends are the unicorns of West Coast barbecue. They’re nearly impossible to find, but if you ever do, hold on for dear life (and don’t tell anyone else). They’re a small cut from the point of a smoked brisket and are cooked within an inch of their life to render out the fat and collagen. Tender, crispy, wonderful. Most local spots don’t make enough brisket or use a slightly different cut (or tri-tip), making them so rare. Sauced has burnt ends so tender you don’t need teeth. Not to mention you can also get them in a sandwich (in limited quantities, $14.99) We’re also in love the loaded sweet potato with pulled pork, bacon, sour cream, chives and pretty much the kitchen sink of other goodies ($17.99-$19.99) and hush puppies with peach chutney, honey butter and bacon ($9.99). Plus beer, wine and plenty of whiskey for washing it all down. 151 Petaluma Blvd. South, Petaluma, 410-4400, saucedbbqandsprits.com.

Pecan pie at Rossi's 1906 in Sonoma, Californa. Heather Irwin

Pecan pie at Rossi’s 1906 in Sonoma, California. Heather Irwin

Rossi’s 1906

Glen Ellen Star Chef Ari Weisswasser spent nearly a month in Austin learning the fine art of barbecue and has brought that back to Sonoma’s Rossi’s 1906 with a brand new menu. Working with owner Max Young, they’re calling it “Texas barbecue in a California context,” featuring authentic Texas BBQ with a Cali twist, like brisket and oysters. But its the brisket that Weisswasser has really put his heart and soul into. Appetizers include sausage links, brown butter corn muffins, crispy pig ears with nacho cheese, and chicken fat fries with malt vinegar salt and lemon. Clearly not for the calorie conscious. In addition, look for decidedly non-Texan pork ribs, turkey, veal-base BBQ baked beans, mac and cheese and collards. For dessert: Pecan hand pies and assorted ice cream. Did we mention the nacho cheese crispy pig ears? Yah, get those. 401 Grove St., Sonoma, open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. 343-0044, rossis1906.com.

You might also like…

Juicy Pig: Recently-opened in Guerneville, with lots of promise from Chef Ruben Gomez. 16440 Fourth St., Guerneville, 604-7120.

BBQ Smokehouse: Excellent southern barbecue from a well-studied master. Great roadhouse location, 6811 Laguna Park Way, Sebastopol, 829-3277.

Pack Jack: This old school barbecue restaurant was resurrected from the ashes several years ago and remains a favorite. 3963 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol, 827-3665.

BBQ Ribs at Sweet T's in Santa Rosa, California. Photo: Heather Irwin

BBQ Ribs at Sweet T’s in Santa Rosa, California. Photo: Heather Irwin

Sweet T’s: Barbecue is just one of the decadent Southern foods that make this a Santa Rosa favorite. 2097 Stagecoach Road, Suite 100, Santa Rosa,

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Brewster’s Beer Garden Coming to Petaluma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/brewsters-beer-garden-coming-to-petaluma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/brewsters-beer-garden-coming-to-petaluma/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 19:38:25 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=30440 Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster's Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.

SF Restaurateur, Chef planning Brewster's Beer Garden in Petaluma. The large-scale eatery and beer garden will have a riverfront view, craft brews and barbecue

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Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster's Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.

Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster's Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.

Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.

Permits have been signed and work is set to get started on Brewster’s Beer Garden in downtown P-town. We’ve just gotten word from owner Mike Goebel that he’s planning a pretty ambitious space that will include a large restaurant with a beer garden (natch), bocce ball court, kids playground area and bar. “The site was phenomenal,” said Goebel by phone.

Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster's Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.

Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.

“I like the people and the culture of Petaluma, and it’s nestled in with cool historic buildings right on the river,” he said of the now-parking lot near Buffalo Billiards on Petaluma Blvd North. Goebel is the owner of several bars in San Francisco and the restaurant, Mamacita.

Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster's Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.

Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.

He’s tapped Chef Chris Beerman of the popular SF comfort food restaurant Citizens Band (also Boulevard, Conduit) to head the kitchen, which will focus on “barbecue influenced” food and local craft brews.

Goebel hopes to create a family-friendly space that includes the possibility of bringing in dessert food trucks or coffee carts to add to the experience. “I want something cool and  different, we think this is a really sweet opportunity,” Goebel said.

Expect between nine months and a year to opening.

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