| TheUnion.com

Grass Valley hotel embraces local artists

With 53 arts organizations in Nevada County, residents would suspect it’s easy to find artwork.

In October of last year, the Grass Valley Courtyard Suites tried to make that pursuit even easier.

The hotel began highlighting Nevada County artists by holding public receptions of their work at the beginning of each month. For the rest of the month, artist’s work is then kept on display for hotel guests and the general public to view.

Ron Kenedi will be displaying his artwork during April. Kenedi, a Nevada County resident since 1971, first read about the hotel’s plan after reading a Nevada County Arts Council newsletter. The artist said the county does not have a lack of artists, but a lack of exhibits for viewing.

“We are an art colony,” he said. “We have many artists but we don’t have many appreciators and buyers.”

Kenedi’s exhibit for the hotel is called “Well, Red,” and is already present in the lobby, dining area and recreation hall. The theme is meant to emphasize the color red and all of its various interpretations.

“Red is love — cupid. Red spans so ubiquitously,” he said, adding it is emotionally eclectic, striking images of embarrassment, love and hate.

Back in October, the hotel self-designated as an art hotel. The label was meant to piggy-back off the award two Nevada County districts — Nevada City-Grass Valley and Truckee — received in July of 2017 from California Arts Council. The two areas were selected as cultural districts out of 14 statewide.

“We were looking for a way to rebrand the hotel in a way that we could be involved in the community,” said Sara Christiansen, general manager for the hotel.

Kenedi tried to start an arts council for North San Juan when he lived there. Now, he said, the cultural district label has pushed art to the forefront of the conversation in the county.

“I see there are galleries opening up,” he said. “I see art in windows that I never saw before.”

The art hotel label is meant to embrace local artists and share their work as the hotel does not take a commission for what is sold.

“I think (a hotel) is one of the better places to have art,” said Kenedi.

The artist believes other local hotels will soon follow suit, regularly hosting art work of local artists.

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at scorey@theunion.com.

A bite and a pint: Roost and Grass Valley Brewing Company set out to whet appetites

Yin and Yang. Rogers and Astaire. Salt and pepper. There are some combinations that seem to naturally go together.

The next duo hoping to gain local celebrity is the newly opened Grass Valley Brewing Company and adjoining grub pub Roost.

Situated together on East Main Street in Grass Valley, the first post-prohibition brewery in Grass Valley and the local-centric eatery are officially open for business after a lengthy construction process.

The brewery celebrated a soft-opening in July and has already proven to be a popular spot. The opening of the new taproom has added about 50 to 60 seats to the space, in addition to the warehouse which opened this summer.

One of the brewery’s four co-owners, Matt Kinney, said he and his partners are happy to finally be open and see their vision come into fruition.

“It’s been a big relief,” said Kinney. “It took a lot longer and a lot harder work to get here. It was a huge undertaking and bigger than we expected.”

The idea for Grass Valley Brewing was born out of co-owner Tom Rogers’ ability to create an exceptional home brew. His friends and family were astounded that not only was he making beer, but he was making good beer.

“I kept telling him, ‘this beer is better than anything I am getting around town,’” Kinney said. “With Tom, and bringing Mike (Sutherland, brewmaster) on board, I wanted to go into this with a wide range of different types of beer. I was not expecting that the whole range would be excellent beers.”

With taps pouring everything from hazy IPAs to lighter blondes, Grass Valley Brewing is proud of its wide selection of original brews. It announced its newest product, Lost Mine Lager, on Wednesday, describing it as a “light golden lager made with Pale and Munich malts in the traditional ‘Helles’ style.”

Kinney said that the response to the brewery has been a bit overwhelming. He and his partners, he said, are amazed that beer fans have so quickly taken to their product.

“We are lucky that we are still struggling to make beer fast enough, which is a good problem to have,” Kinney said.

“The best compliment that I get from the customers who come here is that this place has a great vibe. And that’s something we can’t create. It’s created among everybody in the community, us and our wonderful employees. The excitement level is still there and I don’t think it’s going to fade away any time soon.”

Rule the Roost

Complimenting the suds, the last few weeks have seen the opening of Roost, a joint serving pub-style fare to accompany the taproom’s ales.

Roost’s co-owner Sean Cox has become well-known within the community for his burger and sandwich-heavy menu at his existing restaurant, Jernigan’s Tap House Grill in Nevada City.

When approached by Grass Valley Brewing to create the menu for its taproom, Cox said it seemed like the natural thing to do.

“My first idea was to bring some things from Jernigan’s and build the menu around that,” Cox said. “But that changed as time went on. There might be some alterations and a few additions, but what we have right now will maintain the core of our menu rolling forward.”

“(The brewery) gave us free reign to go through our creative process,” said Roost co-owner Nathan Keys. “We’re really stoked on the quality of everything we use and are trying to create an accessible menu.”

All their meats and vegetables are locally sourced, said Keys, and they work closely with Nevada City’s The Ham Stand to procure sausages and other specialty meats.

Roost’s menu features a selection of burgers and sandwiches, including a Bahn Mi Sammy and the Filthy Burger, topped with andouille sausage.

So far, Cox and Keys said that their fried chicken seems to be the star of the show.

“People tell me, this is the best fried chicken I’ve ever had and then you watch their face light up when you tell them it’s gluten free,” Keys said.

Like their counterparts at Grass Valley Brewing, Cox and Keys agree it is a relief to finally be open and able to share their vision with the people of the community.

“All the pressures of opening are gone but now it’s just setting up protocols and procedures,” said Cox. “It’s been good. It gets less stressful every day.”

“It’s been great working with Sean because he has such a great following and support system from Jernigan’s as well and that has helped us a lot,” Keys said.

Fused together

At the end of the day, the people behind Roost just want the community to enjoy the fruits of their labor while sipping a pint from Grass Valley Brewing. Their dedication to locally-sourced ingredients is a common thread between the two businesses, they said, and the end product is wholly representational of the abundance of creativity and agriculture found in our neck of the woods.

Additionally, Cox is extremely proud of what he, Keys, and their staff have created.

“It’s awesome!” he enthused. “Just the quality of the food and the integrity of the people running the place. It’s a pretty unique menu to the area. There’s really nothing that matches what we do. I think we really nailed it with a unique flavor profile. I encourage people to come out and give it a try.”

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.

Grass Valley’s Cafe Tara offering raw, vegan fare

Nevada County native Justina Dunne admits that although cooking is part of her heritage — her family at one time owned both Peterson’s Corner and Northridge Restaurant — she had not considered food as a career.

But it was during a stint at military school — before she decided against a career in the Air Force — that she found her current path, one that led her to open a cafe focusing on raw and vegan treats in downtown Grass Valley. The long, narrow space most recently was occupied by Brew Bakers, which relocated to a bigger space on East Main Street.

Dunne said she always enjoyed baking and retains fond memories of making chocolate chip cookies after she got home from school. Then, while attending Virginia Military Institute, she got in the habit of baking for her fellow barracks “rats.”

“That’s what was making me happy, making everyone else happy,” she said. “It’s such a fulfilling thing.”

Dunne spent some time working in regional kitchens, but really wanted to strike out on her own.

She spotted the “For Rent” sign on the Mill Street space and took the plunge even though, she noted, there weren’t many restaurants open in the downtown core at the time.

“I had never done raw or vegan food before,” she said. “It’s a real challenge. I had to go all in.”

Dunne researched other vegan bakeries, many of which did not succeed, and worked to figure out how to make vegan treats that were appealing to everyone.

“I would research the ingredients and figure out what I needed to alter,” she said, adding, “I’ve had my fair share of flops.”

The cafe has a mix of raw and vegan offerings, including sandwiches and “bliss bowls,” salads and sweet potato toast. Treats include raw versions of a Reese’s peanut butter cup and kale chips that are dried in a dehydrator.

Dunne knew who she wanted Brooke Preston to serve as chef at Cafe Tara.

“I actually worked for her for a year, at The Green Boheme in Roseville,” she said.

“I feel like people will travel for this kind of food,” Dunne said.

And she has been proven right, she said, adding, “I had someone come down here from Tahoe today.”

Dunne is looking to build relationships with local farmers, in part so she can hone in on featuring seasonal produce.

“I’m looking to change the menu in October,” she explained, phasing out summer vegetables like tomatoes and phasing in fall items like soups.

Dunne opened Cafe Tara a little more than a month ago with little fanfare, a calculated decision so she could iron out any kinks.

“I wanted a lot of feedback as to what could be better,” she explained. “The whole point of opening a business it to make people happy.”

So far, the cafe is really taking off, Dunne said, adding that being open only four days a week seems to add to diners’ anticipation.

Having three days off is essential to recalibrating the menu, and also allows Dunne and Preston to prep their meal plans.

The food plans, which include probiotic beverages, green juices and smoothies, a main meal and a snack, currently constitute the bulk of their business and is a big time commitment, Dunne said.

“It’s the healthiest thing you can do, in my opinion,” she said. “I’m really happy to support that.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

Cake bakery set to open in Grass Valley’s Nevada County Bank building

Inside the newly refurbished Nevada County Bank building in downtown Grass Valley, there is one still-vacant space.

What little can be seen through the papered-over windows is designed to pique the curiosity of passers-by, with gorgeous vintage-look pendant lights hanging from the ceiling and a mural of giant peonies on the wall.

A relatively small stencil on the front door facing Mill Street, at the corner of Bank Street, provides a pretty good clue as to what it to come: Cake.

The baker behind Cake, Christine Cain, studied pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America and is well-known in Nevada County for her confections. In 2011, she was featured in The Union for her desserts, which at the time were being sold at Back Porch Market.

Cake, at 131 Mill Street, will slant French, with baguettes, brioche and croissants baked daily.

Another daily offering will be canelés — “amazing little magical pastries” from Bordeaux.

“They’re made in little copper molds, which are brushed with a paper-thin layer of beeswax and ghee (clarified butter),” Cain explained. “The mold is filled with a custard and the outside gets caramelized.”

The inside, meanwhile, thickens to the consistency of crème brûlée, Cain added.

And she said, “There will always be cake.”

For lunch, Cain will feature simple, European-style sandwiches. Cake will stay open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and Cain is planning on wine tastings paired with charcuterie (cured meats).

Another French accent that will be on tap at Cake: entremets. Historically, this is a palate-cleanser or bite-size offering served up between courses at formal dinners.

“They’re fancy little desserts you can grab to eat with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee,” Cain said.

This will be Cain’s first storefront.

“I’m so excited,” she said, adding that she is shooting to open the doors at the beginning of October. “We’re waiting for some building permits — it’s a process. We’re hoping to get the green light soon.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

Phased renovation in the works for Grass Valley’s historic Holbrooke Hotel

California Klondike.

That’s the aesthetic mash-up new owner Jordan Fife is shooting for with his planned renovation of Grass Valley’s historic Holbrooke Hotel, with decor ranging from pure kitsch to more authentic pieces and even modern interpretations of a Western theme.

That renovation will roll out in stages, however, with Fife shooting to be done in six months.

The hotel on West Main Street closed temporarily late last week, but Fife said the initial transition will be a quick one and he hopes to be open again by this Sunday.

“Definitely before Labor Day,” he said.

Initially, Fife said, he had simply planned on keeping the Holbrooke open pretty much as is during the beginning stages of his ownership.

“Then we figured, we might as well do it right from the beginning,” he said. “This hotel does have a following and we don’t want to alienate them — but we want to create a product we can be proud of.”

This week, the space will be spruced up with a “deep clean” and some reorganizing, but Fife said customers won’t see any major changes just yet.

“What people will notice first is the menu,” he said. “We are re-doing the bar menu, and we’re planning a temporary restaurant menu with farm-to-table pub food.”

Fife has tapped the expertise of Michael Worth, who has worked with him in the past in Palm Springs, to revamp the offerings at the Golden Gate Saloon.

Worth said the bar will continue to offer an array of mixed drinks and domestic beers, with the addition of local craft beers and a trimmed-down wine list.

He is curating specialty cocktails in keeping with the Holbrooke’s storied past, he said.

“There’s so much history to this hotel, what I love about it is its resilience,” Worth said, citing its resurrection from the ashes after two separate fires as the inspiration for “When the Smoke Clears,” a cocktail with a smoky mezcal base.

The “Miner’s Little Lady” will feature bourbon, agave, a ginger syrup and lemon, exemplifying a drink menu he calls “fun, easy and accessible, but interesting.”

Creating a brand

Fife also is in the midst of a major renovation of Nevada City’s iconic National Hotel after purchasing it this spring — but has had to pivot somewhat to get the Holbrooke back up and running as quickly as possible.

“There’s no breathing room,” he said, citing the desire to be considerate of the local market. “We can’t have this hotel closed. I want to keep this as short a transition as possible. It’s an incredibly short turnaround.”

The hotel’s transformation will be carried out in stages.

Fife plans to start renovations at the Holbrooke immediately, he said, starting with the Purcell House in back of the main building.

“Once that’s done, we’ll start on the upstairs rooms, moving down,” Fife said. “The bar, lobby and restaurant will be last.”

One of the changes the hotelier is most excited about is the restoration of the saloon.

The bar used to span the entire length of the building, Fife explained, adding that he plans to restore that aspect, taking out the double doors that currently mark off the “library” to create one large bar and restaurant with courtyard seating. Live music will still be on tap, with Fife hoping to book a regular Sunday band.

The registration desk will be removed and that area will turn into a communal “hang-out” space with board games and musical instruments available.

“Guests will check in at the bar,” Fife said, “We’ll give them a glass of whiskey.”

This week, all the Holbrooke employees are in training, Fife said.

“We retained most of the old staff and added some new members,” he said. “We are still looking for some additional employees. We’re building a team, we’re trying to institute brand standards and really exemplify who we are as hoteliers.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

Stand by your ham: Specialty meat market to open in Nevada City

In a chilly, windowless room, carefully monitored to maintain a temperature of exactly 55 degrees and a humidity level of 75-80 percent, Jason Jillson is showing off his edible wares.

Hanging from a series of metal racks — each with a weight capacity of 300 pounds — is an array of various sausages, some which will remain there to cure for a period of weeks or months.

Jillson is in the final days of preparation before he opens The Ham Stand, a specialty meat market which will offer the aforementioned sausages in addition to cured meats, smoked meats, sandwiches, and — eventually — fresh pasta.

“We’ll have deli meats (such as) mortadella, salami,” Jillson said. “There’ll be bacon, there’ll be brisket and other pre-made barbecue items, and other things that just require a reheat. We’ll have six to eight different types of sausage and then some more traditional European salamis and cured meats.”

The Ham Stand, located on Zion Street in Nevada City, will open its doors Tuesday, an event which has been a long time coming for Jillson.

Jillson signed the lease on his shop location in July 2016 — nearly two years to the day before his opening date. He became incorporated in January 2017, and with a heavy dose of determination and hard work, is eager to share his product with Nevada County enjoyers of meat.

A self-taught butcher and curer, Jillson is by no means a novice. He earned a graduate degree in culinary instruction, a six-year program that set him on a long path of preparing and sharing food with the public.

He worked for the Fairmont hotel group, working in the property’s kitchens in Chicago and Boston. He was then enlisted to help launch the eateries of the chain’s Dubai location.

Eventually he moved to California and worked in catering before deciding to take the plunge and open a butcher/meat shop that would showcase his talents and use his passion for creating specialty meats.

Local meat-lovers won’t need to wait until The Ham Stand’s opening day, however. Jillson said he’ll be setting up shop at Nevada City’s Summer Nights market tonight as well as the Thursday Night Market in Grass Valley. There, he said, he hopes to make better acquaintances and perhaps partner with local ranches to use their product in his own shop.

Currently, Jillson is sourcing meat from ranches in Chico and Penn Valley.

In many ways The Ham Stand is filling a niche that has been missing in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area for some time.

While locally-raised meats are commonly found in area farmer’s markets, there has been an absence of a specialty meat and butcher shop for a number of years.

Jillson said he has heard many good things about PJ’s Meats, a butcher that was located behind S.P.D. in Nevada City for over 40 years before closing a few years ago.

His goal, he said, is to offer the same friendly and thorough service with an emphasis on cured meats and sausages, and to teach people not only how to use his products but to understand where they come from and how they are made.

“I want people to know how their meat is made,” said Jillson. “I want them to know the processes and requirements of making the food that they eat. I want folks to understand what it takes to make a good product, and why that’s important.”

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@gmail.com or 530-477-4231.

Grass Valley’s The Center for the Arts launches OnTheGo series

The Center for the Arts will shutter its iconic building in historic downtown Grass Valley for the next six to eight months during an extensive renovation.

But its programming will not suffer, and instead will shift to a host of other venues such as the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Grass Valley Elks Lodge, the Foothills Event Center and the Don Baggett Theater at Nevada Union High School, according to the organization.

On Tuesday, the arts organization hosted a launch party for its The Center OnTheGo series in one of those venues — 998 Plaza Drive, which will serve as the center’s temporary box office and new gallery/event space. Executive Director Amber Jo Manuel and General Manager Kimberly “Pepper” Pepe explained details of the $4.3 million renovation, which is expected to wrap up next spring.

The Plaza Drive space, donated by Lance Amaral, is showcasing an art exhibit, “North of Somewhere,” featuring local artists including Ryan McVay, Chantelle Goldthwaite, Jarod Kane, Ron Jermyn, Valerie Messervy Birkhoff and Brynn Farwell.

The more, the merrier: Make Local Habit/Kiya’s Naturals expand to Nevada City

Aria Griffis and Kiya Rios have made an impression on downtown Grass Valley with their unique, dual-purpose, often whimsical storefront, Make Local Habit and Kiya’s Naturals.

Recognizing an unfilled niche in the landscape of Nevada City retail, the two opened their second location on Commercial Street in February.

The stores have enjoyed a partnership that has spanned a number of years. From their first post on West Main Street in Grass Valley, the duo have watched interest bloom among their customers who recognize the shop simply for what it is: a store featuring all locally made goods, lovingly crafted by artisans and craftspeople.

The Kiya’s Naturals side of the business finds Rios upcycling children’s clothes to create new fashions, along with handmade toys.

“We’ve been thinking about it for a little while,” said Griffis of the expansion, “and the space became available. There isn’t anything like it in Nevada City as far as the children’s piece. We’re two stores in one. (Rios) offers children’s items and I offer handmade local pieces. We felt like we’re filling a niche.”

Griffis said they are still offering the same entities but the vendors in Nevada City will differ a bit from those in Grass Valley. Everything, she said, is still locally handmade but not the same items because the details in the artistry can vary. She adds that Kiya’s kids’ clothing will always be one-of-a-kind.

“I think just the fact that we have so many things made locally draws people in,” said Griffis. “We are locals supporting locals.”

Make Local Habit’s Nevada City location is now open at 241 Commercial Street.

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.

Penn Valley’s Blue Cow Deli’s new owners are inspired to build upon an already successful menu.

Food has always played a big role in the lives of Sarai and Gabriel Simning.

For Sarai, organic farming and raising her own meat became a passion after moving to Nevada County from her native city of Sonoma. Gabriel had been farming since he was 20 in Wisconsin, where he worked at a number of large commercial biodynamic farms. He also started his own CSA and eventually became the national produce sales coordinator for the farmer-owned company, Organic Valley. He then went on to culinary school.

As young adults, both were drawn to the culture and lifestyle of Nevada County and met by chance at Foggy Mountain Music in Grass Valley.

“Neither of us are musicians,” said Sarai, with a laugh. “But we just started talking and didn’t stop. We had to move outside. We both felt as though we’d known each other before.”

Now a couple for the past 10 years, the Chicago Park duo has become regularly involved in disaster relief by preparing nutritious food for as many as 2,000 people at a time. Under the umbrella organization United Peace Relief, their “Rough and Ready Relief Kitchen” has worked on site at the likes of hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. In fact, they have recently bought and custom designed a trailer, which now serves as a “disaster kitchen,” and can be transported anywhere people are in need.

“Doing this for people is one of the best feelings in the world,” said Gabriel. “There are so many stories that still bring me to tears.”


Another dream Sarai and Gabriel shared was one day owning their own cafe, and a year or so ago they began their search for the perfect place. When they heard the Blue Cow Deli in Penn Valley was for sale, they were intrigued.

“It looked cute in the pictures,” said Sarai. “So we came down here the next day.”

Longtime owner Sara Laurin was ready to move on to a new life chapter, but knew she had created a successful business model. Upon learning of a possible change in ownership, the first thing customers would tell her was, “Tell them not to change anything.”

“Sara was great — we were able to overlap and learn from her,” said Gabriel. “I worked with her for two months and Sarai came in six weeks before we took over.”

In December of 2017, the Simnings officially got the keys to the Blue Cow Deli.

“The first thing we set out to do was figure out how to make things better without changing much,” Gabriel said. “My first task was to make service faster. Then we bumped up our beer selection and began offering wine by the glass. We also switched to organic chicken and greens.”

Eager to add his own culinary flare to the menu, Gabriel — whose Italian grandparents passed down a love of food — has made the daily specials his own domain. According to regular customers, he “knocked it out of the park” when he introduced the “Notorious F.I.G.,” featuring marinated tri-tip, caramelized onions, melted brie, fig spread and fresh arugula “paninied” on a ciabatta roll.


The menu, which Gabriel describes as “California contemporary with a Southwestern flair,” boasts popular sandwiches such as The South County, which includes roasted turkey, bacon, provolone, onion and tomato with chipotle mayo on a toasted ciabatta roll. The Yuba includes cold salmon, lemon dill aioli, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, and red onion, also on a toasted ciabatta roll. There are vegetarian options (Madame Penn’s Veggie) as well as hearty sandwiches for meat lovers, such as the Pentucky BBQ Pulled Pork and the Blue Cow Carnitas Torta. Also popular are the grilled paninis and signature salads, all of which can be enjoyed on their dog-friendly patio.

“Really there isn’t any one thing we could remove from the menu,” said Sarai. “They’re all really popular. We get orders of everything off the menu just about every day. I love feeding people — it feels good to serve people from all walks of life. I love seeing the employees from the local hardware store, the gas station and grocery store who have been serving me all these years. Now I get to serve them.”

“This has been a lifelong dream — I saw a vision of this years ago when I was going to culinary school,” said Gabriel. “I’d stop here in Penn Valley to carpool with classmates and remember saying, ‘Someday I’m going to own my very own restaurant.’”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.

A little creek goes a long way: Wolf Creek Trail opens

A one-mile stretch of trail along Wolf Creek has opened for public use.

The creation of the trail was made possible through the efforts of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance, the City of Grass Valley and various other public and private property donations and easements. It is the first phase in a series of planned trails along Wolf Creek that call for pedestrian bridges over Little Wolf Creek and Wolf Creek.

On Saturday, Grass Valley Mayor Howard Levine, along with members of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance, led the first group of hikers along the trail.

Animal artwork provided by Grass Valley Charter School students helps to mark the way of the trail, which begins at the Grass Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant, 556 Freeman Lane, and ends at the Wolf Creek Commons co-housing at Freeman Lane and McKnight Way.

The trail passes the portion of Little Wolf Creek where a massive sinkhole formed in January of 2017, and runs along a portion of the service road made during the repair process.

“We don’t own the sinkhole property as of yet,” Mayor Howard Levine said to attendees of the hike. “We’re negotiating with the property owner. We’re very close on the cost of the land.”

The Wolf Creek Trail continues beyond the Little Wolf Creek sinkhole property, then follows a service trail created during the homeless camp clean up in the summer of 2016, which was the impetus for the creation of the Wolf Creek Trail.

City officials hope providing public access to Wolf Creek will keep people from creating encampments in the Wolf Creek drainage.

“We pulled 10,000 pounds of trash out of there,” Mayor Levine said about the 2016 camp cleanup. “And hundreds of needles.”

Members of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance will be maintaining the trail and have already begun building portions of trail that travel closer to the creek.

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez email efunez@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4230.