It’s the aroma that hits you first as you walk through the door at Back Porch Market. Owners Debra Hynson and Bryan Frost say people comment daily on the savory scents emanating from their open kitchen.
To those who thought they’d traded gourmet specialty food for small-town charm, guess again. The small shop on Colfax Avenue in Grass Valley carries hard-to-find high quality, artisan-produced meats, cheeses and carefully selected wines, not to mention meals created from scratch for those not in the mood for cooking.
On Thursday, kitchen assistant Ben Avansino was preparing fresh eggplant rollatini, one of the many dishes customers can pick up on their way home. Other winter favorites include lasagna, pork green chili, Polish stuffed cabbage, Julia Child’s beef bourguignon, shepherd’s pie and their signature spaghetti and giant meatballs.
“We offer the right ingredients for people who like to cook and the already-made meals for people who don’t,” said Hynson. “We have the best customers — our advertising is mostly word-of-mouth.”
More than 40 European and domestic artisan cheeses are available, in addition to fresh pasta and specialty meats, such as Spanish chorizo, prosciutto di Parma and handcrafted Fra’ Mani Salumi dry salami.
Two kinds of sandwiches are made daily.
“The sandwiches change according to our whims — we don’t make them to order,” said Frost, with a smile. “They’re so popular that they’re usually gone by 1 o’clock every day.”
The market also offers a vast array of platters “to go” for special events, such as cheese torte, antipasto, crostinis, Tandoori chicken skewers and poached salmon with mango salsa. A sample of salads include Mediterranean orzo, cannellini bean and bacon and blue cheese slaw.
Back Porch Market, which opened in 2006, was a vision shared by Hynson and Frost. Hynson, a retired pension administrator, also has a long history of working in the food industry, including catering, restaurants and a pasta shop. Frost has run several restaurants.
“We wanted to open a small, mom and pop specialty shop,” said Hynson. “We wanted to offer things you can’t find here otherwise. People who love to travel in Europe are excited to find certain foods here.
“But we’re not fancy-schmancy — we offer a lot of sampling. Come in and explore — don’t be intimidated.”
A priority was creating an open kitchen, so that customers had the feel they were “hanging out in the kitchen,” said Frost.
Whether it’s lemon mascarpone cheesecake, a traditional tiramisu or chicken pot pie, customers can watch it all being made right there.
“It’s been rewarding to discover that our vision turned out to be what we’d hoped it would,” said Frost. “We’re happy to know there’s definitely a demand for what we have to offer.”
When Back Porch Market first opened, the two owners found themselves working 12-hour days, six days a week. But finally they’ve been able to carve out a bit more time for themselves, said Frost.
It’s no surprise that their days away from the shop are generally spent exploring food.
Last weekend’s outing? The well-known Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, founded by chef Alice Waters.
“Exploring new dishes is always inspiring,” said Hynson.
“I think it’s fair to say that every year we’ve grown and gotten better.”
To contact staff writer Cory Fisher, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4203.