River to Sea | Pacific sun



From Petaluma to Pt. Reyes

Petaluma has always been ambitious. As a native, I saw him dream of seceding from the United States of America – looking at you, Lucas and Coppola – and joining Bouger Marin County. Now, with its million-plus-dollar homes dotting the West Side’s alphabetical grid, it’s hard to distinguish Petaluma, on paper, from the more toned towns of its sister county. In person, however, that’s a different story.

This is Petaluma, summed up in a single instant: the local Waldorf-inspired charter school from kindergarten to eighth grade, with all of its hand-knitting and kale beds, shares its land with the park local exhibits, which is why the Drive-Thru “Fair Food” is parked outside the school, selling slushies, hot dogs and fried paeans in the heart of the nation.

Other culinary curiosities include the best Middle Eastern themed food in town available at Swedish Restaurant, Stockhome (stockhomerestaurant.com), unless it’s the best hummus, found at La Dolce Vita Wine Fair (ldvwine.com). These are not so much contradictions as complementary puzzles. Think cantaloupe and prosciutto, who knew, right?

Before going any further, consider this: while this piece may carry a “spot” badge, please do not confuse this effort with, say, the Boston Globethe “Spotlight” investigation team. No investigation has taken place here; this riff is highly subjective, personal and idiosyncratic to the nth degree. It doesn’t reflect any particular interest other than mine and what I found interesting at one point. It is, by definition, extremely incomplete, unbalanced, and overshadowed by my own inclinations and idiosyncrasies.

That is, don’t bother writing a “letter to the editor” to complain about my apparent willful – or more likely “happy” – ignorance of your favorite place. You have better things to do than share a piece of your mind with a writer you will never know; instead, share a piece of your heart with someone you do. Life is too short for hate mail, send someone a love letter instead. Moving forward…

It took a pandemic for Petaluma to finally accept that it has a natural water feature in the form of the Petaluma River, which borders the aptly named Water Street. It is our left bank. It is both our Seine and our sewer. And soon bath – as in French for “bath” – when a controversial public art installation, consisting of 5 bathtubs sculpted on stilts, rises. Before the ‘Bathwatergate’ plots begin, consider alfresco dining along the waterfront. Water Street adjoining restaurants that now have alfresco dining include favorites Cucina Paradiso (cucinaparadisopetaluma.com) with his Cal-Ital lunches – my wife and occasional bohemian contributor Kary Hess and I had a few laughs there with cannabis columnist Jonah Raskin – and the neighbor Wild goat bistro (wildgoatbistro.com), whose killer short rib is a welcome part of their standing menu.

For a European piazza experience with enough wine to keep your mind afloat until the end of Covid, visit the aforementioned site La Dolce Vita wine fair (ldvwine.com) in Theater Square. The pandemic measures led LDV to sit in the plaza, which made the experience even more perfect. The wine list is beautifully organized and well-matched with a rotating range of homemade hummus, soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches and more. Pro tip: LDV is great for a date at any point in your relationship: sip, kiss, sip, kiss. … Everyone does it.

As I walk down D Street Extension into the wilds of West Petaluma, it is a relief to find that the road is smoother than when I was a teenager and that “Hell Driving” through the hills was a rite of passage – I realize now that it was just Darwinism on wheels. The county line falls on San Antonio Creek, which I guess once had a native name that was replaced by a missionary. Saint Anthony was the patron saint of lost and stolen items, including land, it seems.

The elbow joint that connects Sonoma and Marin counties is the Cie Fromagerie Française Marin, alias the Fromagerie (marinfrenchcheese.com). It has picnic tables, a pond, and some sort of floating fowl – I’m not a birder, I don’t play “Name That Duck”. To me, they are all water chickens. It is a perfect stop for motorists and cyclists. If you grew up in these areas like me, the cheese factory was a favorite school trip aside from the funky smell of aged cheese that once permeated the place. It’s over now, and you no longer have to stick your nose into your Izod polo shirt to avoid it. Ironically, I miss the smell now. Double irony: I also wear a mask.

Further west is a striking illustration of the effects of climate change in real time: the mud puddle that was once the Nicasio Reservoir. Where has all the water gone? It never happened due to our truncated rainy season. Fire departments in the region are already alerting citizens to potential fire hazards. Walk past and see if you can spot the vertebrae of the long-parched sea monster, “Nicasio Nell”.

What is the difference between Pt. Reyes and Pt. Reyes Station? Everyone I stopped on the street to ask where we were were tourists and thought they were in Pt. Reyes. I left some there.

The best way to assess a city’s intellectual health is to visit its local bookstore. pt. Reyes Books (ptreyesbooks.com) is, like my Chron His colleague Nick Marino put it: “The Platonic Ideal of a Modern Independent Bookstore,” which means visitors are likely surrounded by connoisseurs of Marin County. pt. Reyes Books is a browser’s paradise and a buyer’s moral obligation.

Since a good book can nourish the soul, pass by for a coffee and a pastry courtesy of Bovine bakery (bovinebakeryptreyes.com) can nourish the body. The beloved bakery has adapted to the times and offers convenient walk-in service, with its usual line of dedicated customers now taking to the streets. In theory, the line could be long enough that you end up across the street at Toby’s feed barn (tobysfeedbarn.com), a “working general store and feed barn that has served the community since 1942,” according to its website. Toby’s offers a variety of fresh, organic produce as well as pet food, hay and grains. Toby’s coffee bar also has a CBD latte for $ 7.25, which in all respects is well worth it.
Also worth doing is traveling the 7.7 miles west to pt. Reyes National Seashore (nps.gov/pore/index.htm), which the National Park Service describes as a “natural sanctuary, a haven of peace.” And, for once, the government is right. You are respectfully invited to have fun with over 1,500 species of plants and animals; but beware, as there is a red flag fire warning in effect at the moment. “Outdoor burning is not recommended” is the understatement of the year. So leave the barbecue at home and enjoy the fresh air.



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