New year’s resolutions always have been my thing. Sure, I fail every year, miserably, like most of us. But it never dampens my enthusiasm for trying to lose that 10 pounds, exercise more and cut back on processed food.
This isn’t about those kind of resolutions. It’s about setting intentions for how I’d like to eat at home and in restaurants this year. Hopefully, these will inspire you to not worry about diets or restrictions and instead engage with the amazing bounty ripe for the picking in Sonoma County.
Without further ado, here are my 2023 resolutions. What are yours?
When I was growing up, my mom thought Lawry’s salt was an exotic seasoning. The few spices and herbs we did have in the house were so desiccated they turned to dust before imparting any flavor. Sure, dill, rosemary, curry powder and onion salt are pantry workhorses, but it’s harder to incorporate less-familiar flavors — saffron threads, sumac, cardamom — with any consistency.
Try: SouthPaw Seasonings, made in Santa Rosa, offers creative blended seasonings that take the guess work out of cooking with spices (southpawseasonings.com). Sonoma Spice Queen Wind McAlister recently opened a new Petaluma spice shop featuring organic, hand-crafted spice mixes (Oaxacan Mole BBQ Rub, Anju Indian Chai Spice Mix, Moroccan spice mix and Thai Curry), as well as dried herbs and artisanal salts. 9 Fourth St., Petaluma, 707-776-7678, sonomaspicequeen.com
Eat more plant-based meals
Meat-centric meals are a simple standby, but I’ll trade a bland piece of chicken for a big bowl of roasted or wood-fired vegetables any day.
Try: Indian cuisine often features meatless dishes that are full of flavor, and spices. Winter can be a tough time for yummy fresh veggies, but learning to incorporate farm market root vegetables is a goal.
Spend money on good meat
Cheap, industrially raised meat is just that. Locally raised beef, chicken and pork have more flavor, and though they’re also pricier, they’re worth the expense. One option is to get a delivery subscription, like that from Panizzera Meat Co., with meat delivered to your doorstep (3905 Main St., Occidental, panizzerameatco.com). Sonoma County Meat Co. sells locally butchered pork, chicken and beef; so does Victorian Farmstead Meat Co. in Sebastopol.
Return to restaurants
Trying a restaurant in its first weeks or months of operation is exciting (and my job), but seeing its menu evolve is something I rarely have time to do. My goal in 2023 is to return to 30 restaurants I haven’t been to since their opening.
Be more (and less) adventurous
I’ve turned down few dishes in the last 16 years working as a Press Democrat restaurant writer (I had to draw the line at fish eyeballs). But I want to explore even more. The Taco Chronicles I wrote about last year for Sonoma Magazine gave me insight into the complexity of this beloved street food. In 2023, let’s take some deep dives into other international cuisines together.
At the same time, I tend to avoid certain menu items like chicken or steak in favor of more flashy fish or vegetarian dishes. Yet good roasted chicken or perfectly cooked steak can be a revelation.
Order dessert first
Life is short. Make sure you always have room for its sweetness.