A Weekend in Mendocino

Today we invite you on a road trip to Mendocino, in Northern California, with TofC contributor and super friend, Ingrid Pankonin. Ingrid is the owner of Miel Cooking, a cooking company based in Oakland, California. Whether cooking an elegant private dinner at the home of a Countess in Piedmont, Italy, designing a custom kitchen garden, or cooking a casual lunch at your home among family and friends, she always amazes and inspires with her delicious food and infectious laughter. She rules.

I was heading up to get out of the city for a few days and visit a handful of my homies who live throughout Mendocino county, so I thought I’d document my path – many nooks of goodness await us in the Anderson Valley and beyond!

My friend Ryan invited me over to cook dinner with him at his beautiful property outside of Philo; his kitchen is housed in a converted trailer and he has a kick-ass grill.  Ryan used to own a restaurant in San Francisco and is a great friend with whom to geek out on food.  He suggested we put some lamb on the grill, so I picked up a leg, whipped up a little harissa and yogurt sauce and hit the road with the cooler and surfboard!

First stop – Boonville: I always like to get a coffee at Mosswood Market and have a goat cheese and chorizo empanada, or a chocolate chip Danish.  They close early, so for an afternoon pick-me-up, head a couple of doors down to Paysanne, the little ice cream and sweets shop.

Also not to be missed, sandwiched right between those two: Farmhouse Mercantile.  This combination general store/home décor shop/local goods pantry is unlike any other small-town shop I’ve ever seen, with a well-curated selection of Northern California goods.  Some standouts: gorgeous burl-wood bowls and plates by Boonville resident Jim Gibson, inlaid wooden rolling pins by Tom McFadden, fallen-wood cutting boards made by coastal woodworker Gary Wandry, apple products from Bates and Schmitt/The Apple Farm (who also co-own the Mercantile), and stunning table linens and aprons by Suzan Topales, whose atelier is in the back of the shop.  They also carry basic kitchen tools, Schott Zwiesel wine glasses, and the Marseille soap in glass bottles from Compagnie de Provence, among countless other treasures.

The next stop was the Navarro Vineyards tasting room – I always end up buying a lot more wine than I mean to!  I tasted most of what they were pouring and left with a few bottles of their dry Riesling and Grenache Rosé. They make delicious Pinot Noirs and Alsatian varietals, and also are one of the only wineries to sell the perfumed juice from wine grapes like Pinot Noir and Gewürtztraminer.

I made it up to Ryan’s and took a quick tour of the garden, which is not only taller, but more extensive, each time I visit!  With glasses of rosé, we fired up the grill, pounded some mint and garlic for the lamb, and set to work prepping the rest of dinner – farro with scallions and butter, grilled ribbons of zucchini from the garden, and chocolate cake some friends brought – yumtown!

The next day my friend Lindsay and I drove out to the coast to have a surf. Mendocino is a lovely town with lots of art galleries and shops, a great little museum, and a great natural foods store housed in an old church, Corners of the Mouth.  Small, windy conditions at Big River beach Mendo forced us north, but not before stopping for coffee at Moody’s.  We ended up in the water at Blue’s beach, north of Fort Bragg, and what a beautiful day!  The stunning Mendocino coast can be cold and wind-whipped and brutal, but it was warm and relatively calm, and we had the best time, just us and a couple of other people in the water.  Passing a man casting his net for surf smelt, as well as people camping on the beach, we headed back south and inland to our friend Max’s house for dinner – lentil dahl, rice, and gingery roasted baby bok choys – a perfect post-surf meal.  We went home and hit the hay, exhausted and happy.  

The next morning, after coffee from Thanksgiving Coffee Company (based in Fort Bragg), I jumped in the car to go home – a little sad to leave beautiful Mendocino and my friends there, but looking forward to my next visit and something new to discover!

Here are some tips for what to do and where to go in the Mendocino area:


         Boonville hotel

         The Apple Farm in Philo

         Hendy Woods in Philo


         Mosswood Market in Boonville - (707)895.3635

         Farmhouse Mercantile in Boonville

         Gowan’s oak tree in Philo – a roadside produce stand

         Corners of the mouth in Mendocino


         Navarro Vineyards in Philo

         Roederer in Philo – Sparkling wine producer

         Anderson Valley Brewing in Boonville

         North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg

         Wine events – Anderson Valley Winegrower’s Association
         Not-So-Simple Living Fair, Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Boonville Beer Festival
         Swim in the Navarro River – wherever you can!  Ask a local!

         Big River Beach in Mendocino
         Lots of other beaches – Mendocino to Westport and beyond…

Text and photos: Ingrid Pankonin

White Chocolate Raspberry Mille-Feuilles with Liz Downey in Santa Barbara

When visiting my hometown of Santa Barbara, CA, earlier this year, I had the pleasure of making a delicious signature dessert with Liz Downey in the Downey's restaurant kitchen. Located on State Street, Santa Barbara's main thoroughhfare, Downey's has been an institution since it opened it's doors in 1982. Using locally sourced ingredients and only the freshest produce available, Downey's is taking full advantage of one of the best growing regions in the world. As a loyal member of the Santa Barbara community, it's always been a source of confusion to me as to why the majority of restaurants in the area do not cook using all the incredible products from the local farms and producers. Only a handful of them do, and Downey's is at the top of the list.


This rich white chocolate and raspberry dessert, developed by pastry chef Jeff Hausz is a favorite at Downey’s Restaurant. What  makes it so distinctive is the method of baking the puff pastry circles under weight so the stay thin but retain their fluffy layers - John Downey, head chef


61/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 lb top quality white chocolate chopped
3 cups (12 ounces) fresh raspberries plus a few for garnish

Quick Puff Pastry:

4 cups all purpose sifted flour
1 T salt
6 1/2 sticks ( 3 1/4 cups) of european style (like Plugra brand) butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup of chilled water

Sifted powdered sugar for dusting. 
Parchment paper
pastry bag with flat tip
2x 18 x 26 inch large baking sheets
9 inch round cake pan (for pastry cutting guide)

In medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups of the cream to a boil and turn off the heat. Add the white chocolate and let it sit until the chocolate is melted, then stir until blended. Cover and refrigerate until firm and cold, at least overnight.

If making homemade Puff Pastry, please refer to the bottom of this post for the recipe, otherwise you may use your favorite high quality store bought puff pastry (make sure it's made with real butter!).

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the puff pastry in half and roll each half out to 1/8 inch thickness. Roll each piece of dough roughly into a 12 inch circle. Cut 2 rectangles of baking parchment to cover an 18x26 inch baking sheet. Line the baking sheet with one piece of paper and place the pastry circles about 1 inch apart on the lined pan. Place the second piece of paper on top of the pastry and a second baking sheet on top of that. Place tiles, bricks, or heavy cookware on top to hold the sheets together.  Bake in the preheated oven until golden about 10 minutes. The pastry circles will bake up very thin, but will still produce many flaky layers. Let cool completely.

Place a 9 inch round cake pan on one circle and cut around it with a sharp paring knife to trim the circle. Repeat with the second circle; wrap each securely in plastic wrap. (The pastry also may be frozen, before trimming, for several weeks. Thaw in the refrigerator, and heat in a 300 F oven for 5 minutes, let cool completely before proceeding.)

TO ASSEMBLE: No more than 3 hours before serving (to prevent the pastry from becoming soggy), stir the remaining 3 cups of the whipping cream with the chocolate mixture until well blended. Whip until stiff peaks form. If you do not have a electric mixer, you can do this by hand with a whisk. You will have about 9 cups for the filling. Transfer some of the filling to a pastry bag with a plain tip.

Pipe a single layer of the chocolate mixture on one pastry circle, leaving a 1 inch margin around the outside of the circle. In this space, pipe a 2 inch high wall of white chocolate. Place raspberries on the outside of the wall, pressing, tightly so they will adhere to the wall. Cover the wall neatly and completely. Spread the remaining berries on top of the pastry inside the wall. Cover the berries with the rest of the white chocolate mixture, smoothing the top. Place the second pastry circle on top and press down gently with a cake pan to adhere the two parts; stop when the sides bulge just slightly. Refrigerate for 2 hours before service.

When ready to serve, dust the top generously with powdered sugar and garnish with a few additional raspberries. Cut into wedges with a serrated bread knife.



Don't be alarmed at Liz's large portions and restaurant grade mixer, this recipe is in fact scaled down for you !

1. Sift together the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.

2. Add chilled, diced butter and pulse three to five times, until the butter pieces are about the size of lima beans. Add water to the mixture and pulse again about three times. Invert the crumbly mass onto a lightly floured work surface.

3. Using a rolling pin and bench scraper, shape the mass into a long rectangle. Use the bench scraper and carefully flip one third of the rectangle toward the center. Then, flip the other end to the center, like folding a business letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees.

4. Reshape and roll the dough into a rectangle. Repeat the folding and rotating process three more times for a total of four turns. If the dough becomes soft or sticky during this process, immediately refrigerate until firm.

5. After four turns, wrap the dough in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the dough at least 45 minutes or until firm.

6. After the dough has been refrigerated for 45 minutes, unwrap it and discard the plastic. Keep your work surface and rolling pin well floured. Press down on each of the four sides of dough to seal its shape.

7. Start with the rolling pin at the center. Roll away from you. Return to the center and roll toward you. Repeat the folding and rotating process of the dough two more times.

8. Wrap the finished dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate to make sure it is well-chilled before baking. Quick Puff Pastry keeps refrigerated up to three days or frozen for several months.

*The white chocolate should be top quality, made from cocoa better, do not use white coating chocolate or any product that lists palm oil.

Downey's features Liz's beautiful plein air paintings of local landscapes, like this one of the Santa Barbara coastline

1305 State St.
Santa Barbara, CA

t: (805) 966-5006

Recipe courtesy of Downey's Restaurant, however we adjusted their Puff Pastry recipe for scale

Belize Diary Entry #3

Here is Simone Rubi's last diary post on Belize. She will also put together a nice round up of her experience for a future post that will include photographs and stories which will reflect upon her experience as a whole.

Belize Days 5 & 6

Belize is full of ornaments. Mayan symbols and philosophy, orchids and their faces, jewelry-like fruit hanging from trees, blooms, and conch shells. I really love orchids when they are found in the wild. Every time one presented itself on this trip, it felt like a cue. A sign. A signal.

Coffee roasted and grown at The Hidden Valley Inn. Typical morning beverages. 
Mango, guava, coffee, water. Boom

 Pork "Pipil" tacos. Pipil is pork that has been roasted underground for a whole day 
until it melts in your mouth

 Organic farm at the Ka'ana boutique hotel

A beautiful stop in the jungle. Homemade food right by the river. The grandmother of the cook there is really into plants and animals so the garden is fantastic and I got to hang with baby ducks.

A platform in the middle of the jungle. I imagined a yoga retreat or music performance here.

The Mayans use corn as the base for a lot of their foods. I like how the Ka'ana used corn as the base for the sweet corn colada. A spin on a piña colada.

Guatemalan textiles

Good design

Mayan embellishments

A very typical Belizean soup. Split pea and pig tail. I ate this with a jalapeño infused tequila cocktail. Needed the spice!

 A peaceful room at Ka'ana.

Mahogany is a native tree in Belize. To see mahogany used everywhere was special. The British loggers came and benefited from this. Today, there is a specific limit to how much you can cut to keep the practice sustainable. There are also teak and cedar forests as well.

 A typical meat pie. Kind of life chili inside.

Plantain chips perfectly salted from the side of the road

 Mamey fruit. The texture is similar to avocado...the taste is in between papaya and mango.

Belize Diary Entry #2

"Hol Chan" , Little Cut, the coral reef where we snorkeled
Mineral rich red soil roads take us to more paradise lands
Belize it: Days 3 & 4

The magic lies in the people and nature here in Belize. With English as a main language, I can be funny and also understand the local humor. I've asked tons of questions on what locals eat and compared that food with what I've been served. I've come up with some really interesting conclusions which I'll post on my last post on Belize to come later.

I've become fast friends with much of the staff and nature guides at the place where I'm currently staying - The Hidden Valley Inn in the Pine Ridge Reserve. It's absolutely stunning. It's located on miles of jungle mixed with pine trees and waterfalls. The food that has made me the happiest has actually been in what's also the freshest. I've been amazed at all the juices, so I'll include a few pics of those. A coconut cake with a fine texture and toasted flavor, and some fish dishes with subtle sauces. The fish is so fresh here and lobster season just started so I've been mainly ordering in that direction. The disappointment has been in their lack of using the local and fresh ingredients in a more healthy way. Or using something like orange Fanta soda to make a orange reduction sauce for a dessert. Lots of condensed milk (where I think they should be using their delicious coconut milk) even though they have access to dairy from the Mennonite community who farm here and provide the country with lots of products. I've been endlessly fascinated with the history here and the blending of cultures.

Mountain Pine Ridge in the Cayo District of Belize
 A "Soursop", Guanabana, shake and an insanely good pineapple and lime juice

I'm off to Belize City today for the launch party of "Flavors of Belize." On the way, I'll be stopping in villages and hopefully getting my hands on some of "recado" or "anchiote" which, all the locals say is used to spice and season all the meat and fish with. Here's hopin!

The Victoria House on the island of San Pedro
One of many waterfalls in the nature preserve in Mountain Pine Ridge
"Xunantunich", Mayan ruins

Text and photos: Simone Rubi

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