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Locavore

Dreams on the Half-Shell:  Saltwater Oyster Depot 

By Robin Carpenter

I’m going to tease you through this story with the reward of my salty and ecstatic experiences of the new Saltwater Oyster Depot at the end of Part II. I don’t normally “do” restaurant reviews and I try to focus on our local community and our food and what impacts our foodshed. Therefore I’m telling you the story of an amazing place, dream and meal in that order.

We are blessed to live in a perfect oyster-farming environment that produces some of the most delicious oysters in the world. Luc Chamberland’s dream to showcase our local bounty has come true with the opening of Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness looking out at Tomales Bay. He’s dedicated to honoring the efforts of those who grow and gather our food and welcomes local foragers, farmers, community members and visitors to experience our beautiful place on the planet through celebrating our bounty.

A compelling aspect of Saltwater is their unique partnership with Pickleweed Point Community Shellfish Farm, founded by Luc. He started Tomales Bay’s first community oyster farm as a grassroots organization to allow and encourage local community members to be involved in the farming of oysters and to teach underserved youth about oyster-growing in the area and that oysters are a valuable sustainable food source. Pickleweed Point has hosted over 250 students at the farm and soon Saltwater will begin welcoming middle school children from Pickleweed Point CSF into its kitchen to teach them how to prepare oysters and other farmed shellfish raised in Tomales Bay. These children will have seeded, grown and harvested the Pacific Oysters prepared in Saltwater’s kitchen. This is a living example for the children of sustainable farm-to-table food delivery systems and the important role that oysters play in the ecosystem.

As someone who writes about food and loves beautiful local food, I’m frequently faced with the  juxtaposition of eating bites of “food economics reality sandwich”  while tasting foods only the privileged could ever taste. At Saltwater the combination of “I’m doing good in the world by supporting Saltwater” combined with their stunning food/wine/beer offerings brings a bit of peace to my internal conflict.

I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Alabama and when it comes to oysters I’m considered a “subject matter expert.” We knew what terroir was long before it was applied to wine. We had wild harvested oysters of the Crassostrea Virginica variety and knew the difference in taste between a brisk, briny Bayou la Batre oyster and a muddy Coden oyster by the time we were six. At Saltwater, your taste around oysters will be quickly refined as mine were as a child. They have boutique oysters like  Scott Zahl’s Marconi Cove Pacific oyster which are small, creamy and sweet and are served with a touch of horseradish and a squeeze of lemon. My other boutique favorite was the small Hog Island Virgincas - salty and tart and like a mini, refined version of my beloved Gulf Coast oyster. Local oyster heaven continues to float across their menu with Preston Points and  Drakes Bay Pacifics which are always my “go to” oyster for remembering life back home and for their fresh ocean taste.

Stay tuned for the rest of the Saltwater story where I’ll wax rhapsodic about dishes like their local halibut ceviche with Serrano chile, mint and spring zucchini, the roast quail with Lacopi farms gigante beans and braised lettuces or the star of my meal the Drakes Bay small oysters perfectly fried on top of a strawberry/shallot salad with chipotle cream sauce.

Next week innovative offerings to visitors for picnics, the wonderful wine shop they have created and more.

In the meantime visit them at 12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Inverness, California every Thursday-Sunday from 11am – 8pm.

 

 

Pie in the Sky West Marin Style

By Robin Carpenter

 

As promised last week I’m sharing the cornbread and pie winners from the West Marin Senior Services’ Western Weekend Chili Cook-off on Sunday June 3. The 2012 Cornbread winners were Martha Procter for first place, Patrick Fontenot in second and Susan Cunard took third place. A special congratulations to Susan Cunard who took first place in the “Meat Chili” category and third in “Cornbread” this year. You can check out last week’s story for a cornbread recipe and we’ll relate Martha’s, Patrick’s and Susan’s cornbread secrets in a special local grains and corn story later this summer.

Cornbread warms my heart, but I dream of pie as we head deliciously into summer - rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries and other delightful pie filling possibilities are making appearances at local farmers markets, grocers and in CSA boxes and the blackberry bushes are blooming away. The 2012 Western Weekend Chili Cook-off pie winners share some secrets about their pies, working with the seasons and how to conquer your crust-making fears. The first place winner is Linda Caramagno with her “Family Apple Pie” – a double crust classic. Loretta Farley came in second place with another double crust delight her “Inverness Blackberry Pie” and I was honored to place third with my “Mammaw’s Southern Pecan Pie.”

Both Linda and I made pies that are traditionally made in the fall as the apples come in and nuts are harvested, but if you squirrel away a large stash of nuts every fall or freeze/preserve your favorite fruit filling you can have these treats year round. In my conversation with Linda, we talked about how so many of us are intimidated about making pie crust. I asked if she had any tips and as it turns out she does have a unique family secret for making her crust and she was generous enough to share the fact that it was a few tablespoons of Sprite or Seven-Up.

Linda walked me through the process of making her award winning Family Apple Pie. “Basically I use what my family has always used. My mother and grandmother and all of us have always been bakers and it is something I grew up doing. For my double crust I start out with 2.5 cups of regular flour, one teaspoon of salt, ½ cup of softened butter and ½ cup of softened shortening. I have a hand dough cutter that I use to cut the butter into the flour until it is crumbly. My secret that I learned from my mother is to use about six to eight tablespoons of cold Sprite or Seven-Up to moisten the dough to the right consistency. This is where I sort of wing it to get to the point that I know it is good. I divide the dough in two and roll out two disks for the crusts. One disc goes into the bottom of the pie pan and after you put in the filling lay the other one on top and then crimp the edges together with your fingers.”

Most of the time Linda is making her apple pies from the apple tree in her yard, so this year she made some alterations to her filling.  “I bought eight small apples which I peeled, cored and cut and placed into a bowl.  In another bowl I mixed 1 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of flour, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. I poured this mixture over the apples and let them sit while I was making the dough. Normally I put this filling into the pie without cooking, but this year I was worried I was short on time so I precooked the apples for first time ever. I don’t know what kind of a difference this made to the flavor because I dropped the pie off to the contest whole and didn’t get to taste it!”

I asked her if she was able to cook it with a little less time and she said maybe 10 to 15 minutes less. She normally cooks her pie for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes at 350 degrees in a convection oven. At about an hour she checks for a golden brown look to the crust. I asked her what type of pie pan or dish she uses and she said, “I normally use a glass pie dish, but this time I used a metal pan which would also cook a bit faster, so I guess I did everything differently than I normally do – I’m just going to have to do it again with these changes and see if it tastes really different.”

We talked a little bit more about crust and she said, “Normally you think of two parts flour to one part butter/shortening but I use more flour so it is more like 2.5 to 1 and another secret is that teaspoon of salt, do not leave it out or your crust is tasteless.”

Loretta Farley’s ‘Inverness Blackberry Pie” filling was also a bit ahead of the season and made from blackberries she had gathered last year. Her award winning pie is a testament to the fact that if you properly freeze your berries you can have that iconic taste of summer all year round. Her advice is, “Wash them gently and try not to break them open and then make sure they are really dry and then freeze.” Her recipe for her filling is also simple advice, “Put enough blackberries into the crust until they come up almost to the top of the pie pan edge. Sprinkle a little sugar and flour across the top of them and place cut dabs of butter on top of the berries.” She did note that once the berries have been frozen they release more juice into the pie so you might want a little extra flour for thickening.

Talking with Loretta reminded me so much of the women in my family who baked – simple instructions that asked you to be intuitive and attentive. When Loretta first started baking she used lard, but as it became increasingly difficult to find she switched do a solid vegetable shortening that she keeps chilled and works with while it is cold. “I take enough shortening the size of a fist, but remember that I have a small fist. Then I add a bit of salt and a couple of cups of flour and I start to cut it together and I just know by how it feels if it is good.” I asked her if she uses a pastry cutter and she laughs, “Well in one of our moves it was lost so I just keep it simple and use two knives to cut the pastry by moving them crosswise.” She also adds a bit of ice water in at the end to make consistency right. I asked her if she had other pies she liked to make and she said, “Nothing fancy, mostly blackberry and apple pie. I’ve found that if you can make some of the baking basics like a good pie crust or chocolate chip cookies that’s what counts when you’re feeding teenage boys.”

Loretta Farley is also a Point Reyes National Seashore Park Ranger and I asked her what the prospects were for blackberries this year. Loretta says this should be a big year for blackberries in West Marin, “There are tons of flowers right now on the blackberry bushes right now and if we have primarily warm weather for the next few weeks I think we’ll be picking our first ripe blackberries my mid-July.”

While we are waiting for those blackberries to ripen I want to remind everyone that The Point Reyes Farmers Market will be opening on Saturday June 23rd at 9am at Toby’s Feedbarn in Point Reyes Station and will feature a wonderful coastal strawberry grown by Peter Martinelli of Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas. In the meantime you’ve got lots of crusty advice so be adventurous and fill those crusts with our wonderful local bounty and practice for next year’s pie contest!

 

 

 

Playing the Iron Piano: Margaret Grade and Daniel DeLong Return to the Kitchen

By Robin Carpenter

 

For weeks West Marin has been tantalized with the prospect that Margaret Grade and Daniel DeLong of Manka’s would be purchasing the Olema Inn which closed several weeks ago. Grade and DeLong have confirmed that they are teaming up to breathe new life into the historic Olema Inn. The name will be changing and they haven’t decided at this point whether or not they will keep “Olema” as part of the new name. According to County records, they purchased the property for $1,650,000, from the bank that foreclosed on the property in August.  

The biggest question in my mind has been whether or not it will resemble the iconic Manka’s restaurant which burned down in 2006. Famous for their five course prix fixe menus that were poetic odes to our local food and the folks who grew, raised or foraged it; Manka’s was a serious money commitment to enjoy one of their elaborate and exquisite meals. I can attest to the fact that the Manka’s experience was magical. As the first Christmas I was going to spend without my son loomed in front of me I couldn’t stand the thought of taking out our decorations or shopping for a tree without him. At that time I didn’t live in West Marin and my husband asked if there was anything that might make Christmas bearable. I suddenly thought of how beautiful Manka’s would look and imagined their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus would transport me above my sorrow and that coupled with a few long hikes might be the cure. My husband was generous enough to indulge me and it worked.

George Clyde of KWMR news spoke with Margaret Grade and discovered the details of their new venture. “Our plans are to reopen the Inn and do it in a way that’s really welcoming and in our case a lot of fun. We are going to open in the early afternoon and bridge that little gap of time where people like Daniel and I turn to each other, not having kept a good inner clock, and say let’s go eat lunch. We assume that it is going to be more suited for a person who wakes up late and stays up late.  So we imagine for now anyway opening in the early afternoon and extending our hours into the night so that we’ll be serving sort of midday lunch, small plates and dinner.” 

In comparing the cuisine at Manka’s to their new venture, Grade explained, “It truly is a roadhouse that dates back to 1876. You know it has a history of being a watering hole and having its doors open to all comers and we’re hoping to vivify that. I think it’s going to be distinctly more casual than it has been and possibly in that way more welcoming and from our perspective creating more of a sense of daily celebrations. We’re not doing a prix fixe menu; we’re actually doing a very simple menu in some ways as compared to what we were doing at Manka’s. It’s such a different location and with a different history and sense of place. The intent isn’t to obligate people to a long, lingering meal – you could come in and have a simple bite of food and something to drink … whatever your mood is.

 

The former Olema Inn’s rooms are a far cry from the quiet, secluded accommodations with fireplaces at Manka’s, but obviously enchant Grade with their difference.  “There are six rooms, I really love the combination, I love offering the opportunity for people to eat and drink to their heart’s desire and then just roll up to bed. They are rooms at a busy corner and they are going to be sitting right above a busy establishment and I think we are going to try to take advantage of that rather than try to mask the fact. The rooms are going to be simple much more cleaner lines, very simple appointments, places where you can breathe, but welcome all the sounds that come to you because there are quite a few.”

 

There won’t be much in the way of remodeling, mostly refining and making their mark on the place according to Grade, “I think we are going to in a quiet way put our own imprimatur on it, sort of interpret it through our eyes, but there’s not a lot that we’re going to be doing. There are some things we have to do. We are being required by the county to bring some things into compliance, but we’re trying to do that quickly. I guess some of that is that we’re just so eager to start cooking and it’s been so long since we have, so I suspect it’s going to be in the next couple of months.”

 

And don’t forget that Manka’s is still open only for lodging. According to Daniel DeLong the more casual restaurant at the former Olema Inn will allow them to stay busy cooking and feeding folks while they continue to wait for Manka’s to rebuild after its 2006 fire. He feels that having the two properties, one more upscale and one more casual will make a great combination. Grade stated that “We’re just really excited to be back as we say in our little business, playing the iron piano in other words back in the kitchen. We just really love to feed people and so our hope is that they come.”

You can hear George Clyde’s interview with Margaret at www.kwmr.org in their news section.

 

Finding Pete

By Grace Rogers, Ph.D.

Published June 7, 2012

 

Finding Pete has indeed been my experience of understanding the remarkable life story of Ronald Peter Marsden. While I knew and admired Pete (as he more recently asked to be called) for about 30 years, I never fully grasped the richness of the treasures he selectively kept hidden. Yet with each person I have talked with about him since his death February 2nd at the age of 68, our conversation has illuminated further treasures and let us all know him more fully. I still have much to learn. What was apparent to all was his devotion to kids, his courage, his strong sense of integrity, his acceptance of what life had dished out to him, his kindness, his pride, his determination, his connection to animals domestic and wild, and his loyalty to his valley and his “second home” church community. 

Pete, initially known as Ron, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on April 2nd, 1943, living there until he was about nine, when six of his family boarded a Greyhound Bus for California. There they joined Pete’s step-father and uncle, who had gone ahead a month earlier to find work. As Pete loved to play and joke around it is easy to imagine the atmosphere in the bus. Fortunately for the women, there was a “cowboy” aboard for much of the trip who kept Pete and his two young cousins entranced with adventure tales of the west. 

Pete was born with both front and back brain tumors and neurofibromatosis, a condition which eventually led to the small but prominent bumps on his face and hands. When he was around three, doctors operated on the frontal tumor, apparently leaving the one near the back of his skull in place. Both were reportedly benign. Various of his optic structures did not function normally, resulting in serious visual processing difficulties and increasingly limited vision. During his childhood his mother, and later he himself, would repeatedly brace for his expected death before the next five years were out. When he was around 20 he told his mother ‘I’m tired of doctors, I’m going to live my life to the fullest, and leave the rest to God.’  

His idea of living his life fully included working with the county to establish an identification system for people like himself who could not physically drive and needed to hitch-hike for transportation; obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Social Work from Humboldt State University; working with teens; participating in sensitivity programs such as letting preschool children touch the tumors on his face and hands; participating in nearly all programs and leadership positions of his local church; holding season tickets to the Golden State Warriors; taking the ferry to see the San Francisco Giants; exploring San Francisco; connecting with friends and members of his family through a range of books from Stephen King to Albert Camus; giving of his own meager belongings if that was the only way he could give a niece or nephew a Christmas present; running a nighttime jazz program on San Geronimo Radio (before KWMR days); being a dedicated dog walker and hike; and so much more. I am still waiting to understand more fully how his legally blind eyes could read as much as they did. 

Pete often heard people of all ages make comments about him, or point at a face many found difficult to look at, or physically and obviously avoid being in proximity to him. People who might be with him were often more upset than Pete himself, who would simply say “It’s okay, they just haven’t seen anyone like me before.” But even so, accepting his physical challenges, especially his height, was indeed hard work for him and he rarely let on how much he did struggle inside. When teased he might “throw a hissy fit,” grind his teeth, say nobody would miss him — “I’m short anyway”— put his hands in the air shaking with frustration and walk away grumbling, and more. It breaks one’s heart to think on it. 

At Pete’s memorial service on February 12  at the San Geronimo Community Presbyterian Church (his “second home”), the crowd of attendees oveflowed into the adjacent Edie Robinson Room. One speaker commented, “Pete, if living well is measured by how much others love and care for you, you succeeded indeed!”  

(Much of the information included in this profile came from interviews with family and friends in preparation for a children’s and an adult biographical book. Additional information and/or clarification is welcomed by the author who can be reached at 415-662-2388. Thank you.)

 

Pete Mardens face n small hands050.jpgPete Marden and small hands 049.jpg

Pete Marsden at the San Geronimo Preschool during sensitivity training. Photo by Margaret Krauss

 WELCOME! West Marin Review is an award-winning literary and art journal published by Point Reyes Books and friends and neighbors. In 2010 the West Marin Review was the only literary and arts journal to merit recognition at the prestigious New York Book Show, and Volume 2 of the Review caught the eye of editors atMarin Magazine, where it was included in Marin Magazine’s 2010 Editors’ Choice.
West Marin Review - Current IssueVOLUME 4: This year’s Review features art, poetry, prose, and music, and draws from contributors both local and from across the country. The new issue includes contributions from poets Robert Hass and Jane Hirshfield, journalists Mark Dowie and George Clyde, essayist and novelist Susan Trott. Art by Susan Hall, Claudia Chapline, West Marin’s school children and Tomales High School art students, among many others, round out the issue. 
 students, among many others, round out the issue. 

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