Patti Bess: Sharing food unites us
Over the last year, the pandemic made takeout food our only option, but it just doesn’t measure up to sitting in a new environment and someone else serving the dinner. I will never again take that for granted.
This past sunny week I wandered down Mill Street. It is alive with conversations and people strolling without the noise and intrusion of traffic. Like many folks, I’ve been so happy to leave home and have somewhere to go. Maybe, in the next few weeks, we’ll even go to the movies and eat popcorn!
One of the things I am proud of in our community is the many restaurants/businesses that are not homogenized corporate enterprises. We are lucky to live in a county where the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. Rather, struggling to stay alive.
This past sunny week was perfect for munching along Mill Street and escaping my chores at home. Spring was waking up, and it seemed that the city’s restaurants were, too. With so many folks having had their shots, we could get out again, wearing our masks. Balmy afternoons on Mill Street, early mornings on the street. Keeping the traffic off Mill Street as a permanent situation, I think, will have wonderful benefits for our community. Better shopping, for one, escapism that it used to be before everyone took to the internet to get their needs met in minutes.
A great place to start in the morning is Fable Coffee at the corner of Mill and Neal streets. I’m not sure what the difference is, but their coffee is absolutely the best.
Across the street is a fairly new business called Corvus Bakery. Owner, Laura Kofler, opened in January 2020. Surprise! Bad timing. “The good thing,” she said, “about last year was that I learned to readjust quickly and often. It was a steep learning curve.” Laura previously baked for Matteo’s in Nevada City.
I am not a fan, usually, of pastries and sweets, but Laura does some remarkable “gluten free” baked goods. Don’t assume because they are “more healthy” that they lack flavor. Her carrot cake ranks up there with the best of the best. Corvus also offers savory dishes and soups for an easy lunch in a quiet, sunny location.
Walking into Cake, another great bakery on Mill, the décor reminds me of shopping with my grandmother years ago in the Midwest. Christine Larkin and her husband, Phill, took over the bakery last August in the midst of the shutdown. Their chef, Debbie Jensen, trained in French patisserie at the California Culinary Academy and then lived and worked in Europe for 10 years. Besides delightful pastries, they have fresh made baguettes and lunch options including Debbie’s delicious quiche variations.
Sergio and and his wife, Yelena, opened their first Sergio’s Caffé in downtown Grass Valley in 2002, bringing with them 25 years of restaurant experience. They remodeled and moved into their larger location in 2014. Their outdoor patio and extended tables in the street are the perfect place to enjoy made-from-scratch Italian food and watch all the goings on along the street.
Across from The Bookseller, Meze serves simple, quick, Middle Eastern cuisine utilizing produce and meats from our local farms. Born in South Africa and raised in Israel. Alon and his wife, Tal, moved to Grass Valley to raise their three girls. Their food booths at various events and street fairs were wildly popular, so they opened they own place.
If you’ve never been a fan of hummus or falafels, this is the place to try them. Their recipes marry the subtle flavors in perfect combinations with lots of options for vegetarians. The tables out in the street are spaced at a safe distance and always bubbling with conversations.
Even Gary’s Place across from the Del Oro Theatre has some excellent pub grub these days. Part-owner Laura Spinella does much of the cooking. Their flat bread pizzas are flavorful, and she makes a respectable clam chowder. They acquired an air fryer that makes snacks without all the additional oils.
And there’s more on Main Street. Cirino’s will reopen in mid-May. The Holbrooke Hotel and Golden Gate Saloon recently finished a lavish remodel and already requires reservations on weekends.
Actually, what I enjoyed most while wandering on Mill Street was the sound of families/friends laughing and telling stories at tables nearby. Because, more than great taste and good nutrition, sharing food together feeds the soul and unites us like no other activity.
Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author from Grass Valley.
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