MENDOCINO Co., 12/4/22 – Just when I thought it was going to be a quiet week for epicurean news, when it rains it pours — similar to the weather we’ve had this week! Tourism season has wrapped up and it’s a great time to get out and support our local businesses, they need the support now more than ever. Consider buying a gift card or shopping local for holiday food, drink and other edible necessities. Be sure to include an independently owned local business or product in your holiday menu planning, too. Read on for the latest food and drink news in Mendocino County.
A Mendocino Coast store faces burglary after major Bay Area press coverage
The Elk Store in Elk was burgled on Friday, December 4. Co-proprietor Sean Ferrarese posted on Instagram about the self-described “holiday season bummer.” The general store and deli suffered a broken window and the theft of thousands of dollars of merchandise. The store’s antique counter cash drawer was broken. No money was stolen as only a “nominal amount of change” was in the drawer.
This a another blow to the small store, which serves as the primary place in the small town of 208 for sundries, groceries, hand-crafted sandwiches, and other goods. The robbery is bookmarked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which deeply impacted the store and set its future into question.
Just as tourists from the Bay Area began to flock to the coast to escape city life, the Elk Store saw business boom. However, the sudden influx of city folks made the staff feel unsafe and owners Sean and Elise Ferrarese decided to close the store in March 2020. They layed off almost all their staff and suffered a 70% decline in business. The store pivoted, like so many businesses, to serve up take home dinners, offer online sales, and curbside pick up. Today, the store is fully operational again and continues to recoup losses incurred during the pandemic, while fighting through inflation, thin profit margins, and the end of the 2022 tourist season. The Elk Store, like so many coastal businesses, are reliant on tourists for much of its income. “We are bummed,” says Sean Ferrarese, “it’s a hard time of year for small businesses on the coast as it is.”
The robbery comes on the cusp of the Elk Store making headlines in the Bay Area this week.
Food reporter Elena Kadvany wrote an ode to her favorite tuna sandwich in a recent piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. In the article, Kadvany reviews the Tunacado from Joe & The Juice, a Danish coffee chain with locations in the Bay Area. The Tunacado, a tuna “mousse” with vegan pesto, tomatoes and avocado served on cracker-like bread, went viral on TikTok after an influencer posted a video of herself eating the sandwich.
Kadvany, a self-proclaimed tuna fanatic, tried the Tunacado and called it a “one-note experience and doesn’t do the tuna sandwich justice.” Instead, she recommended the tuna sandwich at Lucinda’s Deli in San Francisco as her favorite. More importantly, she gave a shout-out to another tuna sandwich – the tuna melt at the Elk Store. She calls the sandwich an “unassumingly delicious tuna melt, smeared with olive tapenade and oozing cheddar cheese creating a crispy frico on the edges.”
Thankfully, the Elk Store remains open for business. One of the best ways to support them now, and in the future, is to stop by, grab a tuna sandwich, purchase some farm fresh eggs, local meats and wines, and stocking stuffers. You can also donate to a GoFundMe organized by the team at Izakaya Gama here. (707) 877-3544, 6101 CA-1, Elk.
Will our only Michelin-starred restaurant keep its stars?
Monday is when the Michelin Guide announces the latest recipients of its coveted Michelin star. In Mendocino County, we currently have one restaurant with the star treatment: the Harbor House in Elk sports two stars. Chef Matthew Kammerer focuses on unique local coastal ingredients such as foraged seaweed, sustainably raised abalone, and locally harvested seaweed.
This week, the Michelin Guide featured Kammerer alongside fellow eco-gastronomic chefs Nancy Silverton (Chi Spacca) and Kyle Connaughton (SingleThread) and farmer Katina Connaughton (SingleThread) for a brief piece about sustainability. In his interview, Kammerer discusses what seems to be a rather urgent kitchen process that recognizes the importance of not wasting a drop of the special ingredients the restaurant grows. “We grow a lot of our own food now so all we really have to do is not mess up the products.”
The Harbor House restaurant will be closed for the month of January. Highly coveted reservations for the restaurant opened December 1. The five-course lunch menu starts at $90 and the multi-course dinner starts at $265 per person. Try your hand at securing a reservation here. If you can’t, I hear there is a great tuna sandwich down the street.
Anderson Valley sparkling wine served at the White House state dinner
This week, the White House hosted its first state dinner when French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, visited the Bidens. A local sparkling wine, Roederer Estate’s Brut Rose N.V., with its French connections, was served at the dinner, which also showcased a bounty of California-crafted products.
The highly rated, reasonably priced Anderson Valley sparkler ($36) comprises a blend of 56% pinot noir and 44% chardonnay and is crisp, acidic, and has gorgeous notes of strawberries and delicate brioche. Roederer Estate serves as the American outpost of the famed Champagne Louis Roederer, one of the oldest family-owned Champagne houses in France.
According to Roederer Estate’s winemaker Arnaud Weyrich, the White House called the winery seeking how to place an order and what distributor to contact in the Washington, D.C. area. “Our team was pleasantly surprised,” says Weyrich, who has served as Roederer’s winemaker since 2002. He described the team as being “incredibly proud” of the opportunity. “Wine has long served in maintaining friendly diplomatic ties in the White House,” says Weyrich, “Today, we are honored that Roederer Estate played its small part in the long-standing relationship between France and the United States.”
Other regional products served at the state dinner included Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog, a 2018 Newton Chardonnay from Napa Valley, and a 2019 Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon from Knights Valley in Sonoma County.
A favorite dive bar closes in Fort Bragg
The beloved Terri’s Tip Top Lounge was sold and closed last month. Like many folks, I’ve spent a fair share of evenings at the Tip Top having a drink or two, playing pool, and bombarding the jukebox with my favorite songs. One thing I can say about Terri’s Tip Top, even as a non-resident of Fort Bragg, when I was at the Tip Top, I was always welcomed with open arms and felt part of a unique, diverse community of drinkers, dancers and wanna-be pool stars. What happens next? I’ve already heard rumors of renovations and “gentrification” as one of my social media followers called it. The Beermuda (or Boozmuda) Triangle now shifts to the Milano, Welcome Inn, and the Golden West Saloon. Here’s a little David Bowie to help you cope with the changes.
Philo restaurant launches new “Supper Club” menu
The Wickson, the newest iteration of the restaurant space at the Madrones in Philo, has launched a new Supper Club menu. Chef Jason Azevedo presents his Iberian-inspired cuisine in a casual, cozy environment complete with a wood-fired oven and patio.
The new Supper Club menu comprises a 4-course meal for $48. The first menu, which starts this weekend, features a starter of house-baked bread, olives and giardiniera; a choice of butternut squash soup or chicory salad; a main course of cataplana, a Portuguese dish of halibut, clams, chorizo, potatoes, tomato and lobster broth, or smoked chicken & dumplings; and dessert of apple & persimmon crumble. An optional pasta course for $18 is also offered. This week it’s ouvo raviolo, large ravioli filled with ricotta and herbs, topped with an egg, and served with foraged chanterelle mushrooms, leeks and pistachios. A perfect fall dish.
The new multi-course offering is served in addition to the Wickson’s eclectic menu, chock full of small plates primed for sharing as well as hearty dinner entrees. The Supper Club menu at the Wickson is offered Friday through Sunday, 5-8 p.m., (707) 895-2955, 9000 Hwy 128, Philo.
Fort Bragg Food Bank acquires new building to expand food supplies for hungry families
The Fort Bragg Food Bank announced that it purchased a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Willits this past October. This triples the Food Bank’s food storage capacity. The new warehouse will include refrigeration systems to store fresh produce, dairy and meats. It will serve as a hub for all county emergency food and will provide fresher food and faster distribution to inland partner agencies including the Laytonville Food Bank, Willits Community Services and other food pantry locations. The Food Bank’s work wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of donors. Learn more about the Food Bank and how to donate here.
Non-perishable and canned food donations needed in Covelo and Willits
Tri Counties Bank is seeking canned food and non-perishable food donations for the bank’s annual food drive. The food drive benefits the Salvation Army throughout Northern California. Last year, the bank collected 80,000 pounds of food across the region and hopes to meet that goal again. Folks can drop off donations at Tri Counties Bank locations in Covelo (76405 Covelo Rd.) and Willits (255 S. Main St.). Donations are accepted now through December 23.
Good Farm Fund’s Winter Feast returns to Redwood Valley, December 6
Tickets are on sale now for the Good Farm Fund’s annual winter fundraiser to benefit the fund’s small farm grant program. The event features a farm-to-fork meal using ingredients from over twenty local farms and ranches, and local beer, wine, and craft cocktails. The evening also includes live music by the Clay Hawkins Duo, gift baskets filled with local foodie products for sale, and a raffle. Tickets start at $50. Learn more about the event here.
Celebrate the Noyo Food Forest at Dinner in the Grove, December 9
Each year, hundreds of Mendocino Coast youth learn about, grow and access sustainability grown, garden-fresh food from the Noyo Food Forest, an outdoor garden education center located at Fort Bragg High School. The food grown at the Forest is served at local schools, the Fort Bragg Food Bank, and at Redwood Coast Seniors. To continue its work, Noyo Food Forest invites the public to Dinner in the Grove.
The fundraiser for the Noyo Food Forest offers a night of crafts, food and fun at Mendocino Grove including wreath-making and hot toddies, appetizers, a special holiday cocktail, and a winter feast of coq au vin, potato leek and wild mushroom soup, greens, warm apple upside-down cake, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. There will also be live music and a raffle. Friday, December 8, $75 per person, 4-8 p.m., Mendocino Grove, 9601 Hwy 1, Mendocino. Tickets on sale here.
A whiskey and gin tasting not to be missed in Mendocino, December 13
Mendocino Spirits is teaming up with Floyd & Connie’s for a holiday-themed evening of food and drink. Crispin Cain, distiller at Mendocino Spirits, will guide guests through whiskey and gin tastings paired with savory food from Floyd & Connie’s. Tickets required. 21 and over, $75, 5-8 p.m., The Waiting Room, 961 Ukiah St., Mendocino. Buy tickets here.
Small — but equally important — news bites
The following restaurants are closed for holiday breaks: Egghead’s in Fort Bragg is closed through December 15. The Bluebird Cafe in Hopland is closed through December 14.
Drew Family Wines is closing its tasting room in Philo on December 4. The pinot noir producer will be launching private tastings at its Elk estate starting in 2023.
Have food or drink news you’d like me to consider for inclusion in my weekly news round-ups? Email me at [email protected].
Sarah Stierch covers food, beverage, culture and breaking news for The Mendocino Voice. Contact Stierch at [email protected]. The Voice maintains editorial control and independence.