Feast and Gather offers up weekly meal delivery for the food conscious | TheUnion.com

Feast and Gather offers up weekly meal delivery for the food conscious

Laura Petersen
Special to The Union

When she needs cheering up, Shanan Manuel goes to the kitchen.

She enjoys cooking a meal from scratch for people. She honors each ingredient of the foods she combines, often with elaborate results, packing taste into each bite.

"It's my art. I really love flavor and color. All of it matters," said Manuel.

Now, the personal chef and caterer is offering up local, seasonal and organic weekly meal delivery through her catering business and Commercial Supported Kitchen (CSK), Feast and Gather.

Beyond a great tasting meal, Manuel believes it is important to educate folks about how food choices affect bodies and the planet. Whenever possible, she uses produce, meats and dairy that have been grown and raised by local farmers and ranchers.

"We create an entire culinary experience that nourishes both our clients and our community," states her website.

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Manuel plans meals on Fridays and cooks on Tuesdays for clients who get weekly menu choices by email. People can choose from full and half menus including entrees, salads, sides and dessert. Or customers can select different soups.

A recent menu showcased entrees such as: Baked Salmon with Lemon and Herb Butter and Stuffed Sweet Potato with Cilantro Chicken and Red Cabbage Slaw. There was soup: Ground Turkey and Cabbage with Savory Bone Broth and a Slow Cooked Spicy Black Bean and Lime.

She composes salads: Dino Kale Caesar with Roasted Sweet Potato Croutons and Avocado sides: Steamed Greens with Garlic and Balsamic and Roasted Beet Stacks with Herb Chevre and Toasted Walnuts. For dessert, she offered Mini Salted Chocolate Ganache Tarts with Hazelnut and Coconut Flour Crust.

Manuel bases her cooking around the healing gut teachings of Weston Price Nourishing Traditions with elements of Paleo, lots of vegetables, no wheat, sugar or dairy. She makes a point of using local produce by subscribing to a CSA at Mountain Bounty Farm and supplementing the box with organic, local ingredients from BriarPatch Co-op.

Born in 1976, Manuel grew up on a farm with goats and chickens in Calaveras County, where her "hippie radical" dad grew everything the family ate.

"My parents sent me to school with a thermos of goat milk. At the time I thought my dad was such a food Nazi," she remembers.

But that childhood spent living close to nature and food shaped her. Right out of high school, Manuel began working at Tutti Frutti Farms in Santa Barbara where Julia Child was a regular patron of the farm's market stand.

Manuel would work at the farm for eight years and in 2005, helped to create and design an indoor farmers market with owner Chris Cadwell, featuring local producers, artisans, gourmet foods to-go and weekend barbecues.

During that time, Manuel was the featured "Heirloom Tomato Farmer" filmed by PBS during an "Outstanding In the Fields" farm to table dinner at Coleman Farm in Carpenteria. She went on to assist in many more "Outstanding In the Field" events throughout California.

The immensely popular high-end roving culinary experience set in a farm or garden setting attracts locavores who like the idea of a restaurant without walls.

After starting "Nourish Bay Area," a soup delivery service in San Francisco, Marin and the East Bay Area, Manuel worked as a chef at a number of retreats including the farm and home of Café Gratitude owners in Vacaville.

Then she discovered Nevada City.

"I really needed to get back to a small town and I just loved it here," she said.

About a year ago, she changed her catering business name from Sierra Farm to Table to Feast and Gather.

She selectively caters farm weddings, women's retreats and more, never compromising her deeply seeded food beliefs.

Don't expect Feast and Gather to provide a cheap meal for 200 people.

"We've become so disconnected to our food. We have a responsibility," she said.

Manuel raises chickens at home. She taught cooking classes using gleaned food to homeless families through Salvation Army and the local food bank. She works with Sierra Harvest.

Manuel and wild food author Alicia Funk of Living Wild often collaborate and the two are organizing the upcoming dinner fundraiser for Sierra Seeds featuring internationally recognized, The Sioux Chef.

For the last two years, Manuel prepared foods for the Seed Swap at the Banner Grange. Last weekend she cooked at Harbin Hot Springs for the women's HoneyRoot Retreat.

At Nevada City's underground food club, Polly's Paladar, Manuel was the chef behind "Dining in the Dark" where everyone ate fried chicken and waffles with sage maple syrup and orange honey butter, blindfolded.

Many know Manuel as the menu creator behind the wildly popular open-air dinner on Commercial Street in downtown Nevada City. The dinners sell out in five hours.

"I think it's the beauty of it. People want to be at the table," she said.

Learn more at: http://www.feastgather.com/

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at laurapetersen310@gmail.com or 530-913-3067.

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