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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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’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 ($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.
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 ($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.
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.
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.