Feeding a Passion—New Owners for Blue Cow Deli
February 16, 2018
By Destiny Bradt
The Blue Cow Deli has been a welcome presence of downtown Penn Valley for the past several years. Its steady flow of clientele attests to the quality of fare and the genuine "hometown" service locals have come to know and appreciate. Recently, the deli has undergone a change…a change of ownership, with previous owner Sara Laurin passing the baton of entrepreneurship to husband and wife team Gabriel and Sarai Simning.
The purchase of the deli would not come as any surprise to those well acquainted with the Simnings. Both their work with Family and Friends Relief Effort (FFRE) and their agricultural lifestyle attest to their passion for feeding others and for preparing nutritious food with only quality ingredients. Opening a restaurant had been a long-held dream.
As volunteers for FFRE, Gabriel and Sarai were responsible for setting up and operating commercial kitchens in areas impacted by natural disasters. They provided meals on a large scale for both victims and disaster relief teams. They were also responsible for setting up food distribution tents and emergency pantries for those in affected communities, providing for more long-term, practical needs. Through both donations and their own funding, they traveled together to serve in many areas affected by hurricanes and flooding, including hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and more recently in Houston, Texas, with Hurricane Harvey.
Much of Gabriel's life has revolved around the food industry. A native of Wisconsin, he became intrigued by organic agriculture at a young age and moved from busy Milwaukee to rural Viroqua to pursue a life in farming. He apprenticed with a number of cutting-edge biodynamic and organic Midwest farmers and soon started his own CSA farm. In time, Gabriel came to realize the difficulty of supporting a family with a career in produce farming.
To better provide for his three children — Kalyja, Nicoya and Gideon — he chose employment elsewhere, working for the well-known, Wisconsin-based company Organic Valley National Produce. A bio-organic farmer by trade, Gabriel's position as the national produce sales director was a natural fit, enabling him to represent farmers from all over the country. It was this job that eventually brought him to Grass Valley/Nevada City.
On settling here, Gabriel developed an interest in ranching, raising and processing his own chicken, pork and beef. He also began volunteering with FFRE and enrolled in a highly-acclaimed culinary institute in Sacramento to "brush up on his technique." Eventually, he began to search for an outlet for his passion and expertise. It came in the form of The Blue Cow Deli.
Laurin allowed the couple to work in the restaurant six weeks prior to the purchase, providing the opportunity to become familiar with the clientele and to develop a feel for the daily routine. It made the transition especially easy and allowed the Simnings to discover what the customers would like to see.
"What we heard repeatedly," says Gabriel, "was to not change a thing."
With that in mind, the Simnings made it their mission to make the food "more healthy, organic and sustainable without the customer noticing anything, other than the existing menu getting even better."
Gabriel is especially excited to incorporate his personal passion for bone-broth soups. Additionally, he is planning on broadening the wine list (adding product from local wineries), bringing in new beers, more organics and more local products. Beer will soon be available on tap in the afternoons.
Following the transfer of ownership, the Simnings closed the deli for three weeks for remodeling. With a significant amount of help from Sarai's mom, Shera, and her fiancé, Jerry, the layout and décor was transformed to better reflect their tastes and personalities. The warm, earthy tones of the walls accentuate the beautiful rural masterpieces of local artists and friends. The flooring and counter have been refinished and new tables and chairs assembled.
The kitchen was redesigned for maximum productivity, creating a streamlined system in which orders could be delivered even more efficiently. There are still plans for transforming the "Milk Room" into an espresso bar, with "grab and go" food and some baked goods.
"It was a big family endeavor," says Sarai. "my mom and her fiancé played a huge role in seeing the remodel and the launch become a reality."
Both Gabriel and Sarai want to express their heartfelt gratitude for the help, and for Sara Laurin's support and assistance during the sale of the deli.
"Our goal for The Blue Cow Deli," says Gabriel, "is for it to become a local expression of Penn Valley's own cutting edge of country. We want to be a hub for the local community."
Having reopened Jan. 5, 2018, we look forward to all the good food and good times The Blue Cow Deli will bring.