MENDOCINO Co., 3/28/23 – This past week’s springlike weather reminded me of what’s to come soon: outdoor barbecues, happy hour on the patio, and the fact that we’re one step closer towards fresh spring veggies on our plates. While just now sunny weather may elude us, there are plenty of restaurants to enjoy and food events to distract us from our weather woes.
Point Arena’s Izayaka Gama celebrates its one–year anniversary
Mendocino County’s only Japanese pub, Izakaya Gama, is celebrating its one-year anniversary on Thursday Mar. 30 with a festive evening of beautifully presented small plates, savory skewers, and lots of sake.
Izakaya Gama, located in the heart of downtown Point Arena, was founded by Elyse and David Hopps, who relocated from Hawaii to the Mendocino Coast to expand their culinary explorations and bring a new restaurant concept to the region. The couple, who have worked in the culinary industry since 2006, both earned their chops in Japanese kitchens.
According to Elyse Hopps, the couple “absolutely fell in love” with Point Arena and the southern Mendocino Coast. They developed relationships within the community and decided to take the leap to pursue their longtime dream of opening up an izakaya, Japan’s version of a tavern, where guests enjoy drinks and small bites, often to unwind after a tiring day. The restaurant’s bar and dining room are beautifully handcrafted with local woods and a natural attention to detail that reflects the Japanese religious concept of Koshintō, which respects all aspects of nature as being divine.
First time guests to Izakaya Gama can enjoy several different types of Japanese dishes, including seasonal items, says Hopps. Izakaya Gama isn’t a place you go to for overstuffed sushi rolls and chicken teriyaki platters. It’s a place to sit back, relax, and catch up with friends and family over freshly prepared small plates and cold beverages.
The concept is similar to a Spanish tapas bar: guests commonly order two to three menu items each and share it family-style. “We are not a sushi bar, so it is really a different experience when you dine with us,” she says. “You’ll find classic izakaya dishes like yamitsuki (cabbage salad, $6) and karaage (fried chicken, $14) along with local offerings like our house salad (Wavelength Farm greens and yuzu sesame dressing) or local fresh fish.” The menu changes regularly based on seasonal offerings.
Guests will also find sushi house staples like sashimi ($18) and miso soup ($6). However, my favorite izakaya dish is kushiyakai, grilled skewered meats and vegetables often marinaded or topped with savory sauces. These dishes are the Japanese version of pub grub. Vegetarians will find seasonal mushroom kushiyakai, and meat-eaters will delight in more traditional offerings of chicken and pork belly. For a splurge, diners can opt for the Knight’s Valley wagyu with Half Moon Bay-grown wasabi ($26).
Izakaya Gama is also known for its extensive Japanese sake list served in handcrafted ochokos, or sake cups, made by Sanny Ceramics of Mendocino. The establishment also has a wide selection of Japanese beers and tea.
To celebrate its anniversary on Mar. 30, Izakaya Gama will offer a special menu with seasonal small bites, grilled meats, and plenty of gluten-free and vegan options. The bar will also offer special drinks and activities to celebrate the occasion. Reservations are highly encouraged, 150 Main St., Point Arena, (707) 485-9232, izakaya-gama.com.
Columbi’s Market & Deli in Fort Bragg set to reopen March 30
Columbi’s Market & Deli, one of the Mendocino Coast’s most beloved corner stores and delis, is set to reopen after extensive building repairs. The building was built in 1940. The deli and store were closed in mid-February for the renovations. According to Crystal Rowley, manager of Columbi’s, the market and deli is anticipated to reopen on Thursday Mar. 30. The deli will be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday. The market will be open 7 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday and 7 am to 8 pm on Sundays. “Please be patient with the staff,” Rowley shared on a Facebook post, “[we’re] glad to be getting back to seeing all of you!”
Anderson Valley Brewing Co. introduces new beer benefiting ocean conservation
Boonville’s Anderson Valley Brewing Company introduced a new beer this week called Coastal Ale that supports the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit “dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network.” The brewery will donate 5% of all gross profit from packaged sales of its Coastal Ale to the foundation. The beer is described as “light bodied with pronounced aromas of tropical fruits and a clean, crisp finish.” The beer is available at the brewery and retailers nationwide. Learn more here.
Ukiah Brewing Company launches staff cocktail competition
Ukiah Brewing Company (UBC) is seeking its next signature drink and is eliciting the help of local beverage enthusiasts to select it. Staff members developed seven craft cocktails, all available at the bar. Guests will vote on their favorite, which will be listed on UBC’s cocktail menu. Competing cocktails include South Passion (vodka, strawberries, passion fruit and lime), Cherry Trace (bourbon, lemon juice, black cherry liqueur, and foaming bitters), and Plantera del Sesso (mezcal, Cointreau, basil, mint and cucumber). The staff cocktail menu is available for a limited time. 102 S. State St., Ukiah, (707) 468-5898, ukiahbrewing.com.
Girl Scout Cookies on sale now
One of the best times of the year for cookie freaks is here: Girl Scout Cookies are on sale! Girls throughout the county are selling cookies to develop entrepreneurial skills and raise funds for their troops, the local Girl Scout Council, and for personal projects or passions: field trips, nonprofit causes, educational goals. You can find where to buy Girl Scout Cookies by typing in your zip code here.
March register round-ups support Willits Center for the Arts and Hospice of Ukiah
For the month of March, shoppers at Mariposa Market in Willits can round-up their purchases at the register to support the Willits Center for the Arts. 500 S. Main St, Willits, (707) 459-9630, mariposamarket.com.
Shoppers at Ukiah Natural Foods in Ukiah can round-up their purchase at the register to support Hospice of Ukiah. 721 S. State St., Ukiah, (707) 462-4778, ukiahcoop.com.
Tickets on sale for Mendocino Winegrowers Expo 2023, April 19
Industry insiders won’t want to miss the county’s premier winegrowing expo on Apr. 19 in Ukiah. Hosted by the nonprofit Mendocino Winegrowers, this year’s expo will include a “state of the Mendocino County wine industry” overview, a trade show, and tips on preparing for this year’s harvest and possible labor shortages. Tickets include breakfast by Schat’s Bakery, a barbecue lunch by Big Earl’s BBQ and featuring wines by CORO Mendocino. Tickets on sale here.
Small — but equally important — news bites
Leggett Valley Market is unable to accept EBT payments through Wednesday, Apr. 5 as the market undergoes ownership transition, 67678 Drive Thru Tree Rd., Leggett, (707) 925-6033.
The farmstand at the Goodlife Cafe & Bakery in Mendocino is open for the season daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., selling local organic produce, bread and foodstuffs, 10483 Lansing St., Mendocino, (707) 937-0836, goodlifecafemendo.com.
The Garcia River Casino’s Black Pearl Grill is no longer offering weekday breakfast. The restaurant will offer lunch and dinner Monday through Friday from 12 to 9 p.m. and breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 22215 Windy Hollow Rd., Point Arena, (707) 467-5300, thegarciarivercasino.com.
Note: Sarah Stierch covers food, beverage, culture, weather and breaking news for The Mendocino Voice. Contact Stierch at [email protected]. The Voice maintains editorial control.