Meat and Greet: Arya Steakhouse

Words by Johanna Harlow

Arya, a Persian steakhouse, takes pride in its roots—evident from the tapestries depicting the poet Rumi’s ancient tales and the winged lion logo inspired by an artifact from the First Persian Empire. But make no mistake, the restaurant’s halal menu welcomes every diner with open arms. Catering to an array of dietary needs and preferences, it ranges from Iranian dishes like tender kebabs to succulent steak to vegetarian and fish options. There are even a few Italian dishes, thanks to executive chef Mike Hashemi’s time living in Florence, Italy. “Everyone finds something that they like,” promises Mike, who owns the restaurant with his wife Fera Hashemi.

While Mike’s domain is the kitchen, Fera presides over the front of the house and oversees behind-the-scenes tasks like marketing and staffing. But this dynamic dining duo unites over a shared vision. “We want to be fine dining, but we want to be fine dining with a personality,” Fera says, smiling at a pair of diners enthusiastically scooping up borani bademjan eggplant dip with hunks of flatbread. Mike nods, “Friendly fine dining!”

After opening Arya Steakhouses in Cupertino and Redwood City, the couple relocated the restaurant to Palo Alto two years ago. “I love the mix of cultures!” Fera says of Palo Alto, pointing out that University Avenue sees a steady flow of Stanford University families and international executives. “Sometimes, standing in the front of the restaurant, I cannot believe we have this many cultures in one place, under one roof.’” Mike wholeheartedly agrees. “You get to talk to them and learn.”

Arya’s interior channels this spirit of camaraderie. “I wanted it to be a cheerful steakhouse and I wanted it to be warm,” describes Fera. “You go to a typical steakhouse and it’s white and black. It’s very dark.” Grounded with earthy tones and accented by golden yellows and emerald greens, Arya is anything but stark. Its old-world charm is enhanced by wood ceiling beams, framed tapestries and rough-hewn stonework reminiscent of a castle.

Obviously, this isn’t the Hashemis’ first rodeo. Mike has opened 10 restaurant locations over the years, six with Fera by his side. With a voracious appetite for learning the industry, Mike spent his younger years training under “very mean, good chefs,” until he felt confident he could make it on his own. He also grew up helping at the family butcher shop and market in Iran. “I was butchering lamb and cow when I was 16 years old,” he notes.

This background has served him well. Expect exceptionally tender cuts of meat at Arya, from the lamb tenderloin kebabs over saffron yellow basmati rice to the filet mignon served with a head of roasted garlic and herb butter melted with a chef’s torch at your table. All steaks are dry-aged and cut in-house, then seasoned with Arya’s custom rub.

They serve Australian as opposed to Japanese Wagyu—a choice some customers question at first, Fera says. That’s because Australian Wagyu is halal, complying with Muslim guidelines for humane treatment of the animal. “It tastes great and is much juicier. And people are like, ‘Oh god, I converted!’”

Discerning diners won’t stop there. Begin your meal with an order of meatballs, tangy from the pomegranate pinot noir sauce—and end with the cheesecake. Arya’s fusion twist on this classic dessert includes a drizzle of honey to complement the tangy filling, a flaky baklava-like crust and a sprinkling of pistachio for texture. It’s “Paris meets Tehran,” Fera describes.

When asked for insights into the food industry, Mike dishes out this sage advice: “Always use the best quality—or you end up spending more to replace it,” he shares. “Use the best quality for anything in your life. Food or anything else! That is why I have the best quality wife.” Beside him, Fera cracks up.

Quality over quantity applies to their decision to dial back from several restaurants to one. The couple wanted more time to support their three children—which meant attending their soccer games, concert performances and figure skating competitions. “We want to make sure we’re there for them when they need it,” Fera says. “If we’re so busy in the business world and we don’t have time for that, then what’s the whole purpose of it?” Mike adds that their guests also appreciate the extra face time. “They don’t say, ‘We’re going to Arya.’ They say, ‘We’re going to see Fera.’ ‘Let’s go see Mike.’”

There’s one more ingredient in Arya’s recipe for success: their tableside finesse. Fera interacts with guests before engaging in some mealtime matchmaking in order to pair them with the right server. “Just from a ‘Hello, how are you?’ I can kind of assess their personality or their day. Are they bubbly? Are they all business? Is it, ‘I don’t want to talk to you.’ Is it a date night?” She’s trained her managers to take a similar approach. “After a while, it’s a gut feeling. I don’t know how to explain it,” she muses. “Intuition.”

And how does she know if they got it right? At the end of the meal, Fera says, “When I see a guest hugging that server at the door, I’m just like, ‘Spot on! Yes!’”

steak out –

Q&A: Tian Mayimin of Little Sky Bakery

The baker/owner behind farmers market-favorite Little Sky Bakery and the new Little Sky Kitchen cafe in Menlo Park discusses school lunches, family favorites and the sourdough starter that started it all.

What inspired you to start baking bread?
I got a starter from a friend’s mom and just started to play with it. I found myself baking so much bread each day, I started to show up on neighbors’ doorsteps with these warm loaves. I was so excited to share them!

Tell us about the first recipe you mastered.
Braided challah. I created a naturally-leavened version of my husband’s grandfather’s family recipe.

Your best advice for someone who wants to get into baking?
Think about the key factors: time, temperature and proportion.

What were your school lunches like as a kid?
I hated my awkwardly-packed homemade sandwiches and always craved the strange cafeteria foods—especially the bright- yellow pizza. Now I know better!

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Relax and have a good time. It really only gets harder from here.

Is there a movie you can watch over and over?
Almost any action movie. I think I’ve watched Olympus Has Fallen more than three times.

Are there any cooking shows that you love to watch?
Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home. Though I also find watching cooking shows a little nerve-wracking because it makes me think about work.

What is your most cherished possession?
The picture of my daughter just after she was born.

Is there a dish that reminds you of childhood?
Baozi—wonderful buns stuffed with meat or vegetables. My family would make what seemed like hundreds of them for Chinese New Year each winter. This is what inspired me to create the stuffed buns we make at Little Sky.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Fried larvae while traveling in the wilds of southwestern China.

What is the dumbest way you’ve been hurt?
I walked into one of the granite columns outside the bakery.

Do you collect anything?
Baking books!

Which ones do you treasure the most?
Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread and Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occasions.

What’s your favorite thing to bring home from Little Sky?
For me, it’s the raisin walnut bread. For my family, it’s the roasted or fried chicken (new at Little Sky Kitchen) and definitely the lox sandwiches—my husband and son are lox fiends.

How do you recharge your batteries after a long day?
Watching TV on the couch with my kids jumping around.

Perfect Shot: Peek-a-Boo Petals

Behind the austere gray columns, a riot of spring color awaits. PUNCH’s Gino de Grandis offers this atypical view of Woodside’s Filoli estate, where the lush landscape’s vibrant daffodils and tulips take a backseat to the historic property’s stately architectural elements. Gino says that rainy or overcast days are his favorite times to explore Filoli, “as it allows the strong saturation of colors to come through” in his photos.

Image by Gino de Grandis /

Calling all Shutterbugs: If you’ve captured a unique perspective of the Peninsula, we’d love to see your Perfect Shot. Email us at to be considered for publication.

Diary of a Dog: Cashew

Well, hello there! I see you’re admiring my outfit. My name’s Cashew and I like to think that I’m the best-dressed dog in Belmont. As a Chihuahua mix, it might be hard to spot me among the bigger pups if I wasn’t sporting a fashionable ensemble. My extensive wardrobe really helps me stand out. I’ve lived with Meg and Sam since I was about four months old, when they rescued me from a not-so-nice start in life that left me anxious and afraid of strangers. Going on two years later, we all agree that I’m thriving. Meg says I am one of the smartest and quickest dogs she’s ever taught, and as a professional dog trainer, she’s something of an authority on the subject. I’m so good that she posts training videos starring me on Instagram and TikTok (@k9_Cashew). I love learning new skills, whether it’s tricks, obedience or agility training. Meg takes me with her to work, where I like to boss around my great big friend, a 50-pound pit bull-terrier mix. I guess you could say I wear the pants in that relationship. My secret weakness is noses—I just love them so much! Let me near your nose and I will cover it in doggy kisses until you make me stop.

Calling All Dogs: If you've got quirky habits or a funny tale (or tail) to share, email your story to for a chance to share a page from your Diary of a Dog in PUNCH.

Guiding the Museum

Words by Sheryl Nonnenberg

Sometimes, your passion takes you far from home, only to bring you right back to where it all started. For Veronica Roberts, a career as a museum curator sent her crisscrossing the country before leading her back to an institution that has always occupied a special place in her heart. Now the director of the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, this Bay Area native couldn’t be happier to have come full circle.

Born in San Francisco, Veronica reveled in the city’s vibrant art scene, especially at the Legion of Honor and De Young museums. “I have an early memory during middle school of getting dressed up in my Esprit clothing and visiting a show of Amish quilts,” she shares with a smile. By high school, she knew that in college she wanted to study art history.

That decision was largely influenced by her grandmother, who lived on the Peninsula and served as a lifelong docent at the Cantor Arts Center. Veronica speaks of her with great fondness, recognizing the impact she had. “She had a great love of learning; when she was active here, she audited over 45 classes!” Veronica marvels. “I am incredibly proud that I followed an interest she had.”

She admits that leaving California to attend Williams College in Massachusetts was difficult but ultimately life-changing. Its prestigious art history program has been a springboard for many high-level curators and museum directors. While there, Veronica realized that her career path had to include not only curating but also education. “My passion is sharing art with a wider audience and making it accessible and alive.”

Finding that she missed California, Veronica opted to return for graduate studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. At the time, she had three living grandparents nearby, all in their nineties. “One of the best things about grad school was the time I got to spend with my grandparents,” she says.

Pursuing a career as a curator requires the flexibility to relocate, so Veronica returned to the East Coast to work her way up from temp at the Whitney Museum of American Art to curatorial assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York—then out west as curator of modern and contemporary art at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas.

During her tenure at the Blanton, Veronica oversaw major projects like the reinstallation of the museum’s contemporary collection while also curating nationally touring exhibitions, including Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser and Day Jobs, which is currently on view at the Cantor. Though fulfilling, she didn’t think twice about applying to the Cantor when she heard of its vacancy.

Why leave the fast-paced, creative role of curator for the heavily administrative responsibilities as the John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center? Veronica laughs and admits the job can be “kind of like playing Whac-a-Mole, solving problems all day long.” She is quick to point out, however, “If you care about the ecosystem of the museum, and culture and art, it is essential that they be well-run.” She feels that her role is really “to see the bigger picture and have a vision that will inspire the staff.”

The Cantor, like many museums, is coming back from a difficult few years of pandemic isolation and staff departures. Veronica has made it a priority to address the “lean staff” by hiring a completely new leadership team. Although several more key positions need to be filled, she believes that the museum has “reset” and is on the right track for the future.

No stranger to university museum politics, Veronica is very familiar with the “bureaucrazy” that comes with the job. But she also points out a key advantage to this setting: free admission. “University museums can take more risks and we can choose shows not based on the gate,” she says of not having to worry about ticket sales. “We have this very lucky freedom.”

Another advantage, she points out, is working with the college-aged demographic. “This is a thrilling age, when you are figuring out who you are and your place in the universe. Museums are a place for critical thinking and seeing other perspectives.” Veronica also hopes that the museum can be a place of healing, acknowledging the rise of mental health issues among young adults in recent years. “Yes, art has always reflected societal changes, but how can the museum also be a place of joy, serenity and connection?”

One thing that has surprised her after two years on the job is the amount of interest that Stanford faculty and staff have expressed in working with the museum. “This is such an intellectually curious campus and community,” she says, adding, “We probably get a request to partner on a project every day—even from faculty in the sciences.” Veronica sees it as an indication of the university’s emphasis on integrating the arts into every field of study. “People are true humanists here,” she notes.

Returning to the Bay Area after many years away has provided a chance to rediscover the artistic hotspots of her childhood and explore new ones. “There is an incredible richness here,” Veronica observes, citing San Francisco visual arts organizations like Creativity Explored, Southern Exposure and the Minnesota Street Project.

Does she feel like she has come full circle? “I definitely do! It’s so crazy to be at an institution that my grandmother loved so deeply. I feel her presence here every day.” Veronica reflects that her grandmother, who had a college degree, didn’t have the same kinds of opportunity her granddaughter enjoys: directing a prestigious university art museum. “I feel very lucky to be here.”

on display –

Landmark: De Sabla Japanese Teahouse and Garden

Words by Andrea Gemmet

A stroll on De Sabla Road in San Mateo takes you through a tree-lined neighborhood of ranch homes with two-car garages. But as you approach the Hillsborough border, one property stands out from all the rest. Instead of a front lawn and a picket fence, the serene lines of a Japanese teahouse peek over the wooden wall, the curbside landscape of carefully placed stones and neatly trimmed shrubbery hinting at the traditional tea garden within. This piece of Peninsula history dates back to the early 1900s and is the last privately owned Japanese garden created by famed designer Makota Hagiwara that’s still in existence. After building Golden Gate Park’s popular Japanese Tea Garden, Hagiwara’s designs were in high demand at the turn of the 20th century, as wealthy Bay Area estate owners ditched formal Victorian gardens and embraced the Japanese aesthetic.

Cover Photo: Eugene Zelenko / Photo: Robb Most

The San Mateo garden got its start around 1902, when Henry Pike Bowie was inspired by his extended trip to Japan, but it really took shape after he sold it in 1906 to industrialist Eugene de Sabla, one of the founders of Pacific Gas & Electric. De Sabla brought in Hagiwara to create an elaborate one-acre garden with waterfalls, a stone Buddha statue and a bridge. As early as 1907, the San Francisco Call reported on society folk attending a “beautiful garden fête” at de Sabla’s estate, El Cerrito. The Ryoku-style teahouse, meant to evoke a rustic farmhouse, was completed around 1909. Only occasionally open to the public, the de Sabla Japanese Tea House and Tea Garden and is one of fewer than a dozen sites in San Mateo County to have earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Equine Acrobatics

Words and Photography by Johanna Harlow / Competition photo by Woodside Vaulters

If you happen to pass by the Woodside Vaulters’ gym, you might hear the steady clunk-clunk-clunk of Hanna Parker warming up. Sitting astride a mechanical barrel called a “movie,” which mimics a horse’s gait, this lithe young athlete swings herself into planks before scissor-kicking into handstands. Observing with a practiced eye is Krista Mack, who oversees the Woodside Vaulters program and acts as its head horse trainer. Nearby, a few horses poke their long velvety noses out of their stalls to watch and whinny.

Vaulting isn’t for the faint of heart. Think gymnastics on horseback. “A balance beam is the same every time,” notes Krista. Not so with a horse. A vaulter must adjust to each horse’s height, weight and gait. A horse’s mood can shift depending on its feeding schedule, the weather or even the full moon. Krista must be discerning in her role as lunger, guiding the horse in circles while the vaulter performs.

Growing up in Woodside, Krista has always been around equine kind. “I remember when I was little, like probably nine years old, we would ride our horses to each other’s houses—and then the horses would hang out while we had playdates,” she recalls. For sleepovers, her pony would spend the night in a guest stall. Krista has worked with the Woodside Vaulters for more than two decades now—and watched Hanna grow from a wee thing clambering around on the barrel to a serious competitor at the international level.

Hanna, a senior at Crystal Springs Uplands School, began vaulting during elementary school and coaching in 10th grade—just like her mother before her. In fact, Hanna’s mom, Isabelle Bibbler Parker, founded the Woodside Vaulters with Hanna’s grandparents and a coach from a previous club. Since 1990, their organization has taught students at walking, trotting and cantering levels (the faster and bumpier the horse, the more advanced the skills needed to stay out of the dirt). Six years after its inception, their club was already thriving, and its vaulters performed alongside the flower-covered floats at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

As the Woodside Vaulters continued to grow, they moved their program to the 270-acre Horse Park at Woodside. “There’s no place like the Horse Park,” Krista says. “We’re so fortunate to be here!” She notes that the ample space has allowed them to build not only two arenas, but also a combined barn and gym. This indoor area gives students a place to warm up and provides shelter for training when rain turns the outdoor ring into a giant mud puddle.

Today, the wispy, white clouds don’t threaten a downpour, so Krista heads out to the arena to warm up Salazar, Hanna’s equestrian partner for the day. After Hanna dismounts, she takes the reins of the conversation, steering the topic to the sense of family she’s found in the vaulting community. “I used to do gymnastics and it always felt like there were the little kids and there were the older kids,” she reflects.

Vaulters not only engage with other age groups, they also raise each other up. “I really enjoy now being one of those ‘big kids’ who gets to coach the little kids,” Hanna smiles. “As I was competing last year, all my little kids would come in and watch me compete. They get to cheerlead, and they get to experience what it might be like in a few years.”

A close-knit community is imperative for vaulters, especially those who pair up to compete pas de deux or with a team of six (sharing a horse in rotating groups of three). “I have always been a team or pas de deux vaulter. I love working with other people,” shares Hanna.

“I love the creativity that it takes to move in a space together.”
Hanna has difficulty describing the close bond she shares with her pas de deux partner Aria Deshpande. “I can’t describe the friendship I have with her,” she says at last. “We learned how to literally breathe together, move together, anticipate each other’s actions.” The two competed together in the Junior World Championships in Flyinge, Sweden, last year, twisting fluidly over and under each other as their horse cantered around the stadium.

Their horse is also a partner, Hanna points out. “As much as I had to learn to breathe with Aria, I’ve really had to learn how to breathe with my horse Calandra. Horses are so sensitive and they can tell when you’re breathing calmly. We did a lot of breath work last year.” Their hard work paid off, and Hanna, Aria and Calandra came in fourth at the championships. “We were .013 away from the bronze medal,” Hanna sighs, “which was a little bit frustrating—but I did get a very killer college essay out of it.”



Does she ever get nervous in the arena? At competitions, sure—but from being on horseback, never. “I do have to work through fears and nerves, but it’s not about being on the horse. That is comfortable to me,” Hanna says. “I could take a nap on a horse any day.”

She explains that the club has taught her horsemanship as much as vaulting. All students are instructed in horse handling as well as grooming, feeding and safety. “If you swim, you don’t hop out of the pool and then go give it a hug,” Hanna jokes. But horses require care—and a showering of kisses. “I never just leave after practice.”

Right before Hanna steps into the arena, she makes a confession. “I don’t ride,” she divulges. Sure, she can stand on a horse’s back or swivel her legs about with acrobatic ease—but only going in circles. “If you told me I needed to ride a horse from point A to point B, I could probably manage it,” she laughs. “I’m hoping I can start to learn.”

horse play –


Vaulting dates back to ancient Roman times and also has ties to bull-leaping in ancient Crete, but the sport reached the United States much more recently. After watching vaulters in Germany in the 1950s, Elizabeth Searle introduced it to her pony club in Santa Cruz County. Northern California has been a hub for the sport ever since. Equestrian vaulting will make its debut at the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane, Australia.

Palo Alto: Downtown Discoveries

Words by Andrea Gemmet

There’s almost always something happening on University Avenue. Downtown Palo Alto’s bustling main drag is lined with busy restaurants, tempting cafes and interesting shops. On weekends and warm evenings, the sidewalks fill with crowds of Stanford University students, wide-eyed tourists and plenty of locals, all soaking up the scene. But that’s not all there is to this city center, first established as University Park in 1889.
Instead, opt for roads slightly less traveled to get a better feel for all that this vibrant area has to offer. Veer onto the side streets, where the crowd thins, window displays beckon and the historic charm of what’s arguably the Peninsula’s best-known downtown really reveals itself.

Cover Photo and Street Photo: Annie Barnett


The 500 block of Ramona Street between University and Hamilton avenues is a great place to start. Its charming Spanish colonial and early California architecture, dating back to the 1920s and ‘30s, earned this block a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Don’t overlook the modest tile-roofed structure at 520 Ramona. Built in 1925 by Pedro de Lemos, a one-time curator at the Stanford Museum, it’s the district’s oldest building and was designed to preserve a majestic old oak tree that was on the site. These days, it houses The Wine Room, an intimate wine bar. Across the street at 533 Ramona, pass under an arched entryway between Denovo Fine Contemporary Jewelry and Marvel Cake (home of the wildly popular spiral croissants) to admire the interior courtyard and tiled staircases of de Lemos’ 1938 commercial building. On the corner of Ramona and Hamilton, elegant wrought iron softens the imposing bulk of the 1927 Medico-Dental Building, designed by notable local architect Birge Clark.

Around the block on Emerson Street, the inviting display windows of Bell’s Books will slow your steps and lure you inside. Perfect for leisurely browsing, the family-run bookstore founded in 1935 offers an impressive collection of new, used and collectible books. A few doors down, the United Nations Association Gift Shop sells an array of handmade fair trade items, with all profits going to Unicef. The colorful and eclectic offerings range from Haitian metalwork crafted from repurposed oil drums and fluffy toy alpacas from Peru to baskets from Senegal, painted pottery from Nicaragua and sterling silver jewelry from Niger.

Photo: Annie Barnett

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the gift shop doesn’t have a single paid employee, confides store manager Caroline Pease. “My friend said to me, ‘You can spare three hours. We’re really short of volunteers.’ That was 30 years ago. She promptly quit, and I’ve been here ever since,” she laughs.


Nestled behind a lush garden, the Museum of American Heritage occupies the historic Williams House at 351 Homer Avenue, across from Palo Alto’s two-acre Heritage Park. Founded in 1985 by Frank Livermore, whose collection of antique mechanical and electrical artifacts outgrew his Menlo Park home, the museum features rotating exhibitions culled from a trove of over 6,000 objects. This spring’s new exhibit, Threading the Past, explores the history of clothing technology, while another room showcases vintage navigation tools of all sizes. Afterwards, browse through curated racks of classic threads at Blue Bin Vintage on Bryant Street, or pick up an exquisite bar at Alegio Chocolate next door.

Photo:  Courtesy of Pamela Walsh Gallery / Chelsea Stewart

For those who prefer art to history, the Pamela Walsh Gallery on Ramona Street is set to host Reclamation, a group exhibition exploring the concept of the female form in contemporary art through a variety of mediums, starting on May 11. One block away, the Bryant Street Gallery’s show Black and White in Color features works by contemporary abstract artist Michael Shemchuk through May 31.

If moving pictures are more your style, take in an arthouse film at the Aquarius Theater on Emerson Street. The two-screen movie house has been showing foreign and independent films since 1969, now with leather seats and larger screens thanks to a 2015 remodel.

After the film, stretch your legs and walk a couple of blocks to Johnson Park, where you can soak up some sun as you stroll past community garden plots, joyfully shrieking children climbing the play structure and pick-up basketball games. With benches, picnic tables and a grassy expanse dotted by shade trees, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy a pastry from Mademoiselle Colette or the signature fish tacos from Sancho’s Taqueria (both on Lytton Avenue near Cowper Street).



For an old-fashioned pick-me-up, the century-old Peninsula Fountain and Grill on the corner of Hamilton and Ramona has long been a favorite destination for a slice of pie or a thick, creamy milkshake.

Photography: Courtesy of Nobu

If you’re ready for a sit-down lunch or dinner, Palo Alto’s downtown side streets have almost too many great options, from white-tablecloth Italian at Osteria and cajun classics at Mardi Gras-themed Nola to Bird Dog’s inventive cuisine. At Evvia Estiatorio, the perennially popular Greek restaurant on Emerson Street, the lemony avgolemono soup whets your appetite for its tender grilled lamb chops, whole fish roasted in a wood-fired oven or hearty moussaka. Head to Reposado on Hamilton Avenue for delicious dishes inspired by the coastal Mexican state of Nayarit along with a long list of tequilas and smoky mezcals.

For an unforgettable meal, sashimi isn’t the only thing that shines at nearby Nobu Palo Alto’s restaurant. Take your time assembling your ideal meal from a tantalizing selection of hot and cold Japanese dishes, from the signature black cod in miso to the only-in-Palo Alto offerings like scallops with jalapeño salsa. The eye-catching Zen garden dessert and this month’s seasonal cherry blossom tea menu—featuring elevated finger-food like the shokupan king crab sandwich—are inspired by spring blooms in the property’s new Japanese garden.

Photography: Courtesy of Nobu

For a real treat, turn your Palo Alto day trip into an overnight getaway by heading upstairs to one of Nobu’s tranquil, well-appointed Ryokan suites, where you can soak away the day in an oversized teak bathtub before slipping between fine Italian sheets for the night. Greet the morning on your room’s balcony, then dig into a Japanese breakfast bento to fuel another day of exploring.

walk & wander –


The Clement  All-inclusive upscale urban retreat.

Cowper Inn  B&B that hosts yoga and meditation classes in its converted hayloft.

El Prado  Stylish boutique hotel with Mediterranean charm.

Blissful Tomales Bay

Words by Sheri Baer

Driving north through Marshall on Highway 1 in West Marin, it’s easy to overshoot the “blink and you’ll miss it” turnoff. With the splendor of Tomales Bay unfolding on the left, the modest Marconi Conference Center sign on the right hardly merits a glance. But traverse the winding uphill road and you’ll discover an idyllic setting with a storied and, at one point, controversial past. Recently transformed into an upscale coastal retreat, the Lodge at Marconi offers stand-alone respite and the perfect home base for exploring the region’s timeless beauty.


Today, visitors flock to coastal West Marin for sweeping views—along with famously fresh air and fresh oysters—but back in the early 20th century, Italian inventor and engineer Guglielmo Marconi discerned a different appeal: the optimal conditions for long-distance radio signal transmission. Credited as the “father of radio,” Marconi developed the historic Marshall Trans-Pacific receiving station here, along with a majestic hotel for staff and visitors. (Interesting side note: after the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, the British postmaster general was quoted as saying, “Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi… and his marvelous invention.”)

Cover Photo: Courtesy of Remy Anthes - Hog Island Oyster Co. / Photography: Courtesy of Brian Ferry

During World War I, the military appropriated Marconi’s transmitters. In the early 1960s, a rehab facility known as Synanon took over the site. Morphing into an infamous cult, Synanon eventually collapsed amid scandal and bankruptcy. The state claimed ownership in the 1980s, turning the property into Marconi Historic State Park.

Now, tucked within the park’s 62 scenic acres sits the newest incarnation: Lodge at Marconi, which opened to guests in late 2023 after an extensive multi-million dollar renovation. Seamlessly entwined with the wooded hillscape, the Lodge is actually a collection of free-standing structures encompassing 45 guest rooms and suites, with a range of layouts suitable for couples, families, corporate travelers and groups.

Here, nature abounds—outside and in—with 3.5 miles of hiking trails and cohesive design elements inspired by the surrounding vistas. Whether you’re lounging in an Adirondack chair or meeting up for a game of cornhole, Lodge at Marconi presents like a destination in itself. Here’s the bonus: You’re also a quick hop down the hill to West Marin’s many iconic attractions.


Measuring about 15 miles long and a mile across, Tomales Bay divides mainland Marin from the Point Reyes Peninsula. To immerse yourself in this scenic inlet, just push off from shore. “Tomales Bay was formed by plate tectonics from the San Andreas fault line,” explains Blue Water Kayaking guide Lori Budish, as she leads a half-day tour from Miller Boat Launch, a short stretch up Highway 1. Paddling towards Point Reyes National Seashore, countless points of interest catch the eye. Hog Island. Pierce Point Ranch. Tomales Point Trail. Tule elk grazing on the hillside. Harbor seals lazing up on the beach. Skimming along the rugged shoreline unveils green sea anemones, bat stars and clams shooting up water from under the mud. And everywhere, birds. “Point Reyes probably has more migratory birds than any other national park in the U.S.,” notes Lori. “And about 45 percent of all California birds can be spotted here.” Blue Water also offers full-day and evening bioluminescence tours, along with kayak rentals.

Given that you’re at the gateway to Point Reyes National Seashore, even a short getaway merits a trip to Point Reyes Lighthouse, appropriately dubbed the windiest place on the Pacific Coast. Every bend in the road and crest of a hill reveals bucolic scenery and dramatic seascapes. From the parking lot, the final half-mile by foot delivers jaw-dropping views of Point Reyes South Beach and the feeling that you’ve reached the end of the world.

If the beach beckons, try Heart’s Desire or Limantour for sandy expanses you can reach by car. In recent years, Drakes Beach experienced an unexpected surge in popularity—with a northern elephant seal colony. The beach is now off-limits but you can catch the wildly entertaining show from the parking lot. Other good viewing spots include the Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock and the South Beach Overlook.

Photo: Courtesy of Remy Anthes - Hog Island Oyster Co.

Given Tomales Bay’s ideal conditions for cultivating and harvesting shellfish, it’s not surprising that the most famous critter here is arguably a mollusk. Book a tour of Hog Island Oyster Farm to explore the fascinating journey from oyster seed to your plate. Follow up with a bite at The Boat Oyster Bar or get take-out from the Hog Shack to put all the shucking and tasting tips into action.

For another tour and tasting opportunity, get ye to Heidrun Meadery. Known as “nectar of the gods” to ancient Greeks, this fabled wine uses honey as its main ferment. “It’s easy to make but it’s hard to make well,” acknowledges Michael Zilber, as he pours from bottles labeled California Orange Blossom and Hawaiian Macadamia Nut. Founded in 1997, Heidrun (named for Norse god Odin’s mead-producing goat) is the only commercial meadery using true Champagne methods to create sparkling mead—appreciably different from any dubious home brews you may have sampled in the past.

Photography: Courtesy of Denise Rocco-Zilber-Heidrun Meadery


Whether you’re relaxing or roaming about, you’ll find a slew of tantalizing options within easy reach. Lodge at Marconi currently offers a coffee bar and grab-and-go market with plans for onsite dining in the works. Heading north on Highway 1, pull over for The Marshall Store, a more-than-one-visit-worthy seafood shack perched right over the bay. Just a stretch farther, Nick’s Cove is a go-to spot for coastal classics. Heading south, meander through charming Point Reyes Station with a stop at Station House Café, a standout farm-to-table gathering place celebrating 60 years. And in Olema, drop by Due West Tavern and Market, with the added perk of a Tesla supercharger station.

Abundant fresh seafood and scenery is an enticing mix, so look for better deals—and fewer folks on the road—off-season or weekdays. But you can always explore Lodge at Marconi’s forested acres or a secluded trail or beach to find blissful escape year-round.




Groovin’ to the Grind

Words by Jennifer Jory

A disco ball sparkles against a yellow ceiling, the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans hangs in the air and canary-colored chairs greet me as I step into a cafe in San Carlos. This is not your monochromatic, subdued coffee shop. Groovy Goose brings a lively and playful twist to the independent, craft roasting genre. After opening in August, 26-year-old owners Nathan and Siera Conte’s passion and learning curve are through the roof. “There is no way to get experience in owning a business,” Nathan confides. “It’s sink or swim—and we are swimming. We are going to do whatever it takes.”
The line out the door on the weekends suggests Nathan’s all-night roasting sessions have paid off. “It’s fun to see people really like the beans and come back every few days,” he beams. With limited kitchen space, Nathan roasts the eight varieties of light to medium-dark blends through the early morning hours. He says bags of beans are flying off the shelf. “There has been no shortage of challenges,” Nathan confesses. “Keeping up with coffee production and making steady, consistent batches is just one example.”

The husband-and-wife team met during a college gap year program at Joshua Wilderness Institute at Hume Lake, California, where they began going on coffee dates, driving over an hour to a cafe to sample their favorite blends. Siera, a veteran barista, convinced Nathan of the importance of the taste of each cup and introduced him to coffee culture. “Siera opened my eyes to compare and realize that quality matters,” Nathan says.

While Nathan and Siera may be young entrepreneurs with a whimsical brand, they are serious about coffee in all of its complexity and are on a mission to make their mark in the roasting world. “Coffee is kind of like wine,” Nathan describes. “There are so many nuances, from growing, harvesting, roasting and serving. I enjoy the detail. When I am roasting, my goal is to perfect the beans, duplicate it and be able to share it. I want people to enjoy quality from farm to cup.” Nathan feels fortunate to source beans from all over the world that come into the Port of Oakland, including countries in Africa, South and Central America. “I appreciate all of the hands that have touched the beans,” Nathan stresses. “There’s a worldwide effort to get a cup of coffee to you.”

The house blend, Golden Hour, ranks among regulars’ favorites, which Nathan describes as having flavors of graham cracker, honey, brown sugar and blueberry in a medium-dark roast. They offer pastries baked fresh daily as well as breakfast and lunch sandwiches made to order. One popular option, the High Roller, comes on a freshly baked English muffin with tomato, pesto, scrambled egg, arugula, prosciutto and crème fraîche. The cafe also offers a variety of fresh fruit smoothies, inventive toasts and creative seasonal drinks such as a lavender honey oat latte and strawberry matcha.

Born and raised in San Carlos, Nathan feels a strong loyalty to the community and benefits from family members nearby who rolled up their sleeves and swung hammers to completely remodel the cafe space before opening. Last summer, the couple took the San Carlos Avenue store down to the studs to transform the property and add a second story. “We worked with a contractor,” shares Nathan. “However, my dad Tony and I ended up doing almost all of the work. My mom Gina and Siera designed the inside.”

Nathan got his start in the restaurant business at Sneakers in San Carlos where he worked his way up to assistant manager and head bartender. “A coworker noticed how hard I was working,” recalls Nathan. “She told me that if I continued with my work ethic, I might own my own restaurant someday and it stuck with me.” Later on, while living on Maui, Nathan and Siera dreamed of opening their own place. Nathan honed his roasting skills, while Siera worked at a nearby craft coffee shop. Returning home to the Peninsula several years later, Nathan stepped into the general manager role at Drakes restaurant, owned by his brother Christian Conte—just a block away from where he would soon open Groovy Goose.

The coffee shop’s walls are vibrant with brightly-colored murals that splash across the walls. Smoothies with playful names like Groovy Greens and Purple People Eater show Nathan and Siera’s desire to add whimsy and a unique branding to their menu and signature roasts. “We love that coffee is approachable for everyone,” Nathan says. “Almost anyone can afford a cup of coffee.” Nathan believes that they are in the business of creating community. “We want to offer a place where people can let their guards down and be seen,” he adds.

With ambitions to open more craft roasting locations, the couple’s dreams fuel a growing business, while managing a growing family as well. Their three-year-old son Theodore, nicknamed Goose, inspired the cafe’s name, enjoys visiting his parents at work with his one-year-old sister Magnolia. “It feels very deeply rooted, being born and raised here,“ Nathan concludes. “I feel I owe the city this. I enjoy serving and it is an honor to be a part of the legacy of this community.”

feelin’ groovy –

The Beat on Your Eats: Italian Restaurants

Pizza, pasta, prosciutto—Italian restaurants with pizzazz.

pausa bar & cookery

San Mateo

If you’re looking for a breather from the Silicon Valley hustle, the stylish trattoria Pausa is the place to hit pause. In the mood for charcuterie? Take your pick of the trattoria’s wide array of house-cured meats and cheeses—but if assessing prosciutto di parma and porchetta, gorgonzola dolce and primo sale becomes too much, you can always go with the house selection. With the monkfish in black garlic puree, pork ossobuco with truffled sheep ricotta gnudi, and a well-loved range of wood-fired pizzas and pastas, you’ll have to come back more than once to truly do the menu justice. 223 E 4th Avenue. Open daily.

Cover Photo: Courtesy of Pausa / Photo: Courtesy of Nadia Andreini

donato enoteca

Redwood City

Benvenuto to Donato Enoteca! While you make a thorough investigation of the menu, order a glass of barolo and the housemade salumi charcuterie board, rows of thinly sliced meat in appetizing rows of pink and red. From there, we recommend heading straight to the fresh, handmade pasta. Whether you opt for the bigoli e coda (braised oxtail with thick comforting noodles) or agnolotti del plin (small ravioli stuffed with sausage, veal and rabbit in a red sauce), you’re in for a treat. For a taste of Chef Donato’s hometown in northern Italy, order the ravioli bergamaschi with wild greens, sunchokes and brown butter. And don’t disregard the wood-fired pizzas! 1041 Middlefield Road. Closed Mondays.

doppio zero

San Carlos / Mountain View

It’s rarely a good move to go to a pizza place and order the pasta, unless that place is Doppio Zero. While you can’t go wrong with one of its top-notch Neapolitan pizzas, like the deliciously simple Bufalina or mushroom-topped Fungo with fontina and goat cheese, it would be a shame to miss out on the homemade pasta. Try the fettuccine in a rich, slow-cooked wild boar sauce, or spinach ravioli plumped with mushrooms and ricotta, served in a fondue truffle sauce. Finish your meal the Italian way, by lingering over a potent digestif of limoncello or amaro accompanied by the house-made panna cotta. 160 Castro Street, Mountain View and 617 Laurel Street, San Carlos. Open daily.

Modern Merger

Words by Loureen Murphy

Just a few minutes’ drive from the Palo Alto birthplace of Silicon Valley sits a U-shaped home resonating with the same innovative spirit. The brainchild of a design engineer, the house features sloping roofs and ceilings as well as polished concrete floors. Glass floor tiles illuminate the great room from below at night and light its basement with sunshine by day. When its present owners stepped into a new phase of life, so did this Crescent Park residence.

Both widowed after long, happy marriages, the longtime acquaintances reconnected, got married on a mountain top and sold their respective homes in favor of buying “our home.” “We felt the process of adapting the home design and furnishings to our taste would be a great adventure in our new marriage,” the couple shares.

Drawn to the 2017 build’s unique style and “beautiful bones,” the newlyweds thought they could work with its existing segmented spaces and ultramodern decor. Yet over time, “they started to understand the house was special on its own,” says Julie Cavanaugh, founder and principal interior designer of Menlo Park-based Design Matters. Having worked for the husband before, Julie proved the perfect match for the newlyweds’ emerging ideas, including an open floor plan.

“The home itself is a sculptural architectural wonder,” says Julie, who retained the contemporary intent of its design by keeping its signature features. The main floor’s Douglas fir ceilings—supported by white spruce posts in graceful offset “Vs”—slope from 12 feet high down to 8.5 feet, where they meet the glass walls. These retractable walls “allow the living and dining areas to become indoor/outdoor,” explains Julie.

Detailed, intense discussion brought all three into harmony on how to elevate the interiors to equal the architecture. “I make sure that my clients have a very, very deep understanding of the approvals that they’re providing and what those results are going to entail,” says Julie. The project included removing a freestanding office that interrupted the sight lines of the L-shaped great room, which now encompasses the lounge with fireplace, dining area, stairs to the lower level, kitchen and family room. “It kind of meanders,” she adds, which reinforces the home’s relaxed vibe.

Both owners stayed intricately involved in the remodeling decisions, and the husband’s mechanical engineering expertise brought technical mastery to many of the infrastructure projects. The couple points out, “The home had no air conditioning, just passive cooling. We added 11 mini-split air conditioning units, which involved opening up the ceiling in virtually every room.”

That done, more work awaited them. Accessed by a staircase between the dining area and kitchen, the largely unfinished 3,000-square-foot downstairs offered ample canvas for the couple’s personal brushstrokes. “So we had the opportunity to design a great living space: media room, laundry and powder rooms, and two additional bedrooms/bathrooms,” they share.

Julie describes their process as “a little bit like peeling an onion, because the house was such a massive remodel.” Once the core supported the overall house design, they then added the visible layers of proportion, textures and colors. They managed it all without changing any existing windows or doors.

Once the 18-month renovation was complete, the homeowners and their two Frenchies opened their doors to family and friends. At a recent gathering with 20 guests, nine of whom stayed overnight, the house’s elegant, low-key versatility was on full display. Guests enjoyed a magic show from the great room, then a cocktail party and watching sports on the TV downstairs. On the top level, caterers made full use of the new kitchen and served from the island. The transformed kitchen made recent guests’ “wow” list with its blue cabinet wall, concealing the fridge and freezer, and new walk-in pantry, replacing an awkwardly situated powder room. Young kids really got into the new furnishings, building a pillow fort from the sectionals.

Polishing off the outdoor area, the owners say, “We created a highly functional space with a new self-contained sculptural fountain, lighting and flower beds to provide a more appealing front entrance.” In their new “happy place,” cocooned by trees and shrubs, the couple and their guests can enjoy entertainment in the grass amphitheater or savor a rooftop view of the evening sky, part of the new seamless indoor/outdoor experience.

Inside, the couple appreciates the art pieces that now decorate their home, from the large wall sculptures to the small, whimsical spirals that cover points where posts once attached to the concrete tiles. “We enjoyed the creative process with Julie,” they say. So much so that she’s set to remodel their mountain home near Vail, Colorado.

Julie echoes the homeowners’ deep satisfaction, saying her goal is to see her clients delighted in spaces that flourish.

Summing up their renovated U-home in just one word, the owners exclaim, “Fabulous!”

uniquely modern –

Craveable Kitchens: SolMateo Kitchen Tour

Words by Andrea Gemmet

For anyone who’s ever wished to get a first-hand look at the latest trends in interior design, six extraordinary homes are open for inspection, thanks to SolMateo’s annual one-day Signature Kitchen Tour on May 3. Now in its 42nd year, this self-guided event running from 10AM to 4PM is a once-a-year opportunity to step inside meticulously remodeled properties in Burlingame, Hillsborough and San Mateo—and all for a good cause.

“We decided to hold the tour earlier than usual this year to help draw attention to the fact that May is Mental Health Month,” shares Nancy Minning, the chair of this year’s fundraising event. For almost 50 years, this volunteer group has used the Signature Kitchen Tour’s proceeds to support Peninsula mental health organizations. SolMateo is proud to be the largest private donor to both the Mental Health Association of San Mateo County and Star Vista Crisis Center, which runs a 24-hour hotline.

A full-color tour book is back by popular demand this year and included in the ticket price. Homes also will be open an hour longer, giving guests plenty of time to pore over the finer details in the lovely homes on display. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at Here’s a PUNCH preview of the inspiring design talents and homes included in this year’s event.

R Corner Manor

The enduring appeal of “R Corner Manor,” nestled in San Mateo Park, speaks of a timeless elegance. This 1913 Craftsman-style masterpiece by famed architect Julia Morgan blends history with modern amenities following its 2023 renovation. Step into the front courtyard, where a French limestone fountain is surrounded by herringbone brick pathways. Inside, original stained glass windows and gum wood details evoke a bygone era of craftsmanship. The renovated kitchen boasts marble countertops, Wolf appliances and a seamless indoor-outdoor connection. The breakfast room, adorned with vintage furnishings and cherished artwork, invites relaxed gatherings. The landscaped backyard oasis features a pool, fire pit and luxurious accessory dwelling unit.

All-Electric English Cottage

Nestled in San Mateo Park, this 1920s English cottage seamlessly melds historic charm with futuristic features for an inviting blend of warmth and technology. The robin’s egg blue door offers a modern twist, leading into an energy-efficient sanctuary. White oak floors lead to a sunlit kitchen and dining area, featuring electric appliances and a stunning quartz island. High-tech amenities include automated shades and energy-saving systems. In the backyard, solar water panels heat the tranquil swimming pool, and there’s a smart irrigation system for the landscaping. Eco-conscious features extend to the garage, which is outfitted with electric vehicle charging stations.

Architectural Appeal

Embarking on a voyage through time and design evolution, a 1920s English cottage in Burlingame Park creates a captivating blend of art and modern architecture. A towering glass front window reveals the Omer Arbel 14-piece chandelier, a masterpiece hanging in the two-story entrance. Inside, a mahogany pivot door leads to a sanctuary adorned with commissioned art pieces, like It Girl and Walk on Guy. Stroll through bookcase-lined hallways to find 17-foot-high ceilings with exposed beams, leading seamlessly into rooms filled with eclectic charm. The kitchen and dining areas give off a Mediterranean feel, enhanced by sleek design and Miele appliances. Nana doors open to an outdoor haven with a firepit and Evo grill, decorated with globe planters and modern Doric columns. Every detail in this remodel contributes to an immersive experience that builds a bridge between tradition and contemporary appeal.

Nantucket Colonial

This 1906 colonial-style home, nestled on a quiet street near Burlingame’s downtown, features classic Nantucket architecture, showcased by a cedar shake exterior and landscaped yard. Inside, heirloom pieces create a sense of elegance in the spacious living room, inspired by an impressionist piece titled Normandy 12. Original features like oak floors and flat board trim retain the home’s historic character. A formal dining room is the perfect setting for antique accents and eclectic lithographs, while vibrant wallpaper enlivens the powder room. The renovated kitchen’s eye-catching ochre and teal tones are anchored by a Jeriba blue quartzite countertop. Modern amenities include Sub-Zero appliances and a coffee station. Outside, an expansive backyard with a pool makes for a private retreat.

Spanish Retreat

Built in 1928, this Spanish-style retreat underwent two remodels in a decade to modernize its flow for a family of four while preserving its historical appeal. Completed in 2021, the latest remodel transformed the kitchen into a welcoming space for cooking and gathering. The dining room’s ambiance evokes Restoration Hardware aesthetics with a vaulted, beamed ceiling. The family room, adorned with artwork, offers plenty of natural light and views of the backyard. Cozy corners feature bespoke furniture and playful touches, reflecting the family’s personality. Custom cabinets and a boho-inspired kitchen island anchor the culinary space, which is outfitted with high-end appliances. Outside, a terracotta staircase leads to a spacious deck with a fire pit, a perfect place to relax and enjoy the landscaped backyard.

Hillsborough Haven

A transformational remodel turned this 1975 home into a chic and welcoming haven. Its exterior features a tall entry door with custom seeded glass, while warm alder wood trim and dark brown oak floors create a cozy atmosphere inside. The foyer is adorned with a circular tray ceiling and crystal chandelier. An exquisite powder room boasts a stylish floral wall covering. The tray ceiling in the living room creates a spacious feel, an ideal setting for a grand piano. The formal dining room features a vaulted ceiling and French doors opening onto the deck. The chef’s kitchen is equipped with top-notch appliances and a spacious island. The family room includes a fireplace and a wine cellar. Outside, the backyard offers an array of entertainment options, from an outdoor kitchen to a swimming pool and sports court in a picture-perfect setting.

Petals on Your Plate

Recipes and photography by Paulette Phlipot

With spring in full bloom, flowers are everywhere. But why limit yourself to a bouquet in a vase, when you can put petals on your plate? Adding edible flowers to your dishes and drinks is more than a feast for the eyes. They add a nutritional punch from antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Pansies, violas, nasturtiums, calendula, roses and lavender are standouts with endless recipe possibilities. Many herbs and vegetables also yield lovely, delicious edible flowers, such as cilantro, rosemary, oregano, chives, squash, fennel, broccoli and arugula. Search for them at the farmers market or make good use of any flourishing in your very own yard. Fresh or dried, these colorful delights will enhance the look and taste of your meals. Incorporated into salads, infused into vinegar, frozen into ice, blended into creamy cheeses, baked into treats and even pressed into melted chocolate—their flavors and colors combine in an endless array of possibilities.

When choosing flowers, handle with care, selecting only ones that are safe to eat. Make sure the blooms have not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides. To prepare, trim the stems, rinse them gently in water and let the floral fun begin!

Chocolate petal pops

Chocolate and flowers are a natural pairing—especially enjoyed this way!

Serves 4

Edible flowers (fresh or dried)
2 cups chocolate chips (white,
milk or dark)
½ teaspoon peppermint extract

Lollipop mold and sticks

+ Remove flowers from stems, making sure they are free of debris and completely dry, then set aside.
+ Place a lollipop mold onto a tray that fits in your refrigerator and place lollipop sticks in the mold.
+ Melt the chocolate chips in a double-boiler or heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from heat.
+ Carefully spoon melted chocolate into the lollipop molds. Tap the filled mold onto the counter to get rid of air bubbles and level the chocolate.
+ Quickly and carefully press fresh or dried flowers on top of the chocolate. Using a toothpick can be helpful.
+ Keeping the lollipop mold on the tray, carefully place it into the refrigerator until chocolate hardens, about 40 minutes. Then carefully remove the lollipops from the molds. Enjoy within a day or two, while the flowers look fresh.

Rose + Cardamom Lemonade

A little twist on well-known rose water. Adding a splash to lemonade brightens the color and enhances the flavor. If picking roses from the garden, gather them in the early morning when they’re most fragrant.

¼ cup dried rose petals (or
¾ cup fresh rose petals)
1½ cups water
4 green cardamom pods,
lightly crushed with the
back of a spoon
1 pitcher of lemonade
Lemon blossoms to garnish

+ In a small saucepan, combine the rose petals, crushed cardamom pods and water.
+ Cover and bring the water to a boil, then reduce temperature to low. Simmer with the lid on for about 10 minutes or until the petals have faded.
+ Turn the heat off and let it cool completely with the lid on.
+ Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a glass jar. Add to lemonade and garnish with lemon blossoms. Store jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

No Beans Fava Salad

Fava greens are a fantastic choice for salads, offering a subtle taste reminiscent of fava beans—mildly sweet and delicate. Naturally, they pair well with fava flowers! This recipe is inspired by Cheryl Sternman Rule’s Cucumber-Halloumi Salad.

Serves 4

2 cups fava leaves
3 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon avocado oil
8 ounces Halloumi cheese,
sliced ¼-inch thick
1 cucumber, sliced
Fava and calendula flowers to garnish

2 tablespoons extra-virgin
olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste

+ In a cast-iron skillet, toast fennel seeds over medium heat for a few minutes until they become aromatic. Remove and set aside.
+ Heat the same skillet to medium-high. Add avocado oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom. Place the cheese in a single layer, working in batches if needed. Cook the cheese until it is browned on each side, then set aside.
+ In a large bowl, whisk salad dressing ingredients together. Add fava leaves, sliced
cucumber and fennel seeds and toss it well.
+ Divide the salad into four bowls, adding cheese slices, then garnish with fava and calendula flowers.

Petal Ice Spheres

Turn heads and elevate your cocktail game by swapping out plain cubes for colorful ice spheres.

Edible flowers
Distilled water
Fresh herbs (optional)

Ice sphere mold

+ Boil distilled water, then set it aside to cool. (This will create clearer ice.)
+ Remove the flowers from their stems and rinse.
+ Place flowers into the base of the ice mold. You can also add herbs, if you choose.
+ Pour the room-temperature
water into the ice mold,
covering flowers completely.
+ Place the mold in the freezer until frozen solid.
+ Remove from the freezer and wait a few minutes before removing the ice spheres.
+ Add to your favorite beverages for an elegant pop of color.

Spirited Spaces

Words by Loureen Murphy

Give a girl a classic Mac, a bike, frequent trips to Grandma’s, and what do you get? Blue-striped tigers prowling the walls of a hot pink powder room. Pops of orange peeking out from behind books. Hidden push doors. In short, the bold vision of Peninsula interior designer Jeannine Cranston.

Young Jeannine spent hours on the family’s Macintosh computer, manipulating squares to create floor plans. “I always loved houses,” she says. Artistic and avid, she tackled school projects—and life—full-tilt. The 10-year-old and her friends, bored with their mid-century houses in Moraga, often cycled to a nearby new development, complete with model homes. “We would go to all the open houses and see the different styles,” recalls Jeannine.

But instead of architecture, Jeannine got a degree in fashion merchandising and marketing, only to find low-paying, low-rung jobs after graduation. So she switched to finance, then to corporate event planning. While drawn to event-room decorating, she never envisioned her present business.

Amid a long work hiatus, Jeannine poured her creative energies into bringing up three children, now in junior high, high school and college. A midlife career took shape as she imagined the new contours and contents of each room in a gut-to-studs remodel of their Peninsula home. During the often rigorous process, Jeannine found herself thinking, “This is fun!” When friends oohed and aahed over the results, then asked for her help, Cranston Design Group was born.

Jeannine describes her spirited style as, “Fun: color, patterns, preppy, traditional and a tad formal.” Having seen her work online, most clients come ready to embrace the unexpected. Instead of tepid compliments like, “That’s pretty,” her clients want to hear an excited “Wow! I wish my house was like this!”

The road to that happy place means navigating clients’ feelings, ideas and expectations. Jeannine has them create a mood board depicting their likes and dreams for remodeling or refurbishing, including sight lines, space use, materials, textures and colors. They discuss to what extent clients wish to engage in the process, whether releasing the reins or working hand-in-hand with Jeannine. “Lots of clients want to touch and see the textures and combinations before they’re on the walls and the floor,” the designer explains. She walks them through every aspect before spending a dime on materials. “I have to have a complete vision,” she emphasizes.

One of her many stunning transformations elevated a living room in Burlingame. “It had the most awkward layout I have ever seen,” Jeannine recalls with a shake of her head. It became her favorite remake—a preppy yet cozy blue parlor with cognac leather built-in benches. “We added a floor-to-ceiling built-in bar and wrap-around bench seating with drawers to maximize the space.” Incorporating multiple textures, the room mixes leather, brass, mohair, wools, velvets, and a hide rug.

Hitting the design sweet spot often calls for mingling the old with the new. In the locally dubbed “Hill Mateo” neighborhood, Jeannine has worked on 1920s and ‘30s homes that suffered the wall-busting push for free-flowing spaces in the 1980s. She values an open concept as well as a formal parlor. “I like to preserve the integrity of the home, with its distinctive window frames, mouldings and solid, decorative doors,” she notes.

In a 1924 Georgian Colonial in San Mateo, Jeannine retained the original powder room fixtures, including the candelabra wall sconces, light switches and door handles, creating a lively fusion of classic forms with bright, whimsical wallpaper.

Respect for old homes and their contents came straight from her grandma, a keen antiques collector. “I always loved going over to see all her wonderful pieces. I think that is why I integrate antiques into new designs,” Jeannine explains. In a recent project, she incorporated the client’s heirloom dining room set, including table, buffet and china cabinet. No vintage furniture? No problem, says Jeannine. Even with contemporary furnishings, visual gems like antique silver tea sets and candelabras can shine as timeless accents.

Jeannine revamps her own home as her family life changes. With the oldest off at college, the designer transformed her daughter’s old bedroom into a tropical guest room. Palm branches climb up the wallpaper, while the green-painted bookcases and ceiling add to the vibrant ambience. Contrasting orange Hermès boxes enliven the dreamy decor.

Jeannine herself dreams of opening a brick-and-mortar design store, creating a sort of personal paradise close to her San Mateo Park home. There, clients and other designers could explore a collection of materials and hard-to-find accessories as well as get inspired to envision new looks for their spaces.

In the meantime, Jeannine continues to infuse clients’ Peninsula homes with buoyant patterns, colors and textures. She encourages those who prefer starting small as they consider making big changes to try “a crazy powder room.” Her sense of play has serious intent. With a record of delighted clients, she says, “I love to push people out of the box a little bit and not be so safe.”

Peppy Patterns –

Things with Wings

Photography and words by Bob Siegel

Bound by gravity, humans spend most of their lives in a two-dimensional world defined by the surface of the earth. Not surprisingly, people have always had a fascination with the world of winged creatures who can take to the air at a moment’s notice, adding a vast third dimension to their domain. From angels to airplanes, humans have long imaged what it would be like to take flight.

Cover Photo: Even when our winged friends come to rest, there is no assurance they will linger, especially when approached by a curious onlooker or an eager photographer. Here with its intense gaze and bright red gorget, an Anna’s hummingbird stares down the photographer.

The American white pelican, seen here in breeding plumage, is one of the largest birds of North America—far bigger than its cousin the brown pelican. Found throughout most of the U.S. and Mexico, the white pelican can often be spotted along the Peninsula wetlands bordering the bay. The protuberance on its upper bills signals that this is a breed adult.

Although I have never had one land on my shoulder, the presence of the Western bluebird is uplifting. Found year-round in the Bay Area, Western bluebirds seem largely unperturbed by the presence of humans and will often pose for a photo. Males are more brightly colored than females. Like American robins, Western bluebirds are members of the thrush family.

The ubiquitous Asian lady beetle is the fourth most frequently photographed creature on iNaturalist with over a quarter of a million images. As the name implies, this lady beetle is an exotic species and a highly successful invader on the Peninsula. Like many lady beetles, its bright orange and black coloration advertises its presence with the implied warning: “Do not mess with me.” The use of common colors among noxious species is known as Müllerian mimicry.

The barn swallow has the distinction of being the most widespread perching bird in the world. Because of its fast and erratic behavior, the possibility of catching a swallow in flight requires a combination of patience and luck. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the right equipment. Barn swallows can also be seen lined up on wires or peering from mud nests in the overhang of buildings and other structures.

As spring rolls around, the blue-eyed darner can be spotted in the wetlands of the Peninsula. Like many dragonflies, this darner provides a number of gifts to the avid photographer: bright colors make them easy to spot and visually appealing, they often return to the same perch (even when they initially flee from intruders) and they periodically hover in midair, as if inviting pictures.

Unlike many owls, the burrowing owl is diurnal, making it much easier to photograph—if you can find it. Standing very still and camouflaged by earthy backgrounds, they are easy to overlook—until you catch a glimpse of those piercing yellow eyes. Highly attentive to aerial predators, when their gaze turns upward, you can often spot a hawk flying overhead.

In addition to being a microbiology and immunology professor at Stanford, Palo Alto’s Robert David Siegel is a docent and avid wildlife photographer who teaches courses in photographing nature.

The Beat on Your Eats: New Dining Destinations

Words by Johanna Harlow

New dining destinations in divine spaces.

izzy’s on the peninsula

San Carlos

If you’ve eaten at Izzy’s in a previous decade, it’s time to revisit this old friend. After Cinderella-like renovations, this steakhouse has transformed into a dark and dreamy lounge with lamps illuminating every table and lining the bar. Since you’re at a steakhouse, you’re probably not here for the chicken. Try filet mignon, perfectly cooked to order and served with a sinful and silky herb butter (or your choice of other sauces). This is best accompanied with a side of Izzy’s Own Potatoes—served au gratin, with buttery layers highlighted by the gentle tang of cheese—and maybe something from the novelette-sized wine and spirits list. If you’re feeling cheeky, order the Notable Harlot, a cocktail with vodka, vanilla, passionfruit and lime, served with a bubbling rosé sidecar. 525 Skyway Road. Open daily.

hurrica restaurant

Redwood City

For seafood that will sweep you off your feet, head to Hurrica. Docked right beside Westpoint Harbor, the restaurant overlooks a fleet of yachts, including its namesake, the sleek Hurrica V, a boat boarded by actor Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby. Diners savor bites of chili crisp-topped tuna sashimi while moon jellyfish drift by in the restaurant’s enormous tank. There are no bad choices on this carefully-crafted menu, but the whole hearth-roasted dorade on a bed of tangy fried rice is the creamiest fish you may ever taste. In warm weather, try the refreshing house-cured king salmon served with chilled soba noodles, crunchy curlicues of cucumber and pops of cold roe. Stick around for the Michelin-worthy desserts and the artful interior, which includes copper wire fish and curved woodwork mimicking the hull of a boat. 150 Northpoint Court. Open daily.

che fico parco menlo

Menlo park

Bold both on and off the plate, Che Fico boasts funky tropical wallpaper, a flashy red ceiling, chandeliers like dragon fruit and shelves upon shelves of potted plants. The handmade pasta—from the gnocchetti to the tortelloni—would gain any Italian grandmother’s nod of approval. Meanwhile, the seared octopus with a citrusy tomatillo salsa verde and an herb medley of mint, basil and marjoram is a complex dish that finishes differently than it starts. For a sharable showstopper, try the vongole in crosta with Washington manila clams and ‘nduja butter baked inside a pizza dough shell. It’s cut open at your table in a cloud of steam and drenched in lemon juice. Expect meals at Che Fico to linger decadently on in typical Italian fashion with the Wagyu ribeye and roasted chicken taking an hour to prepare. 1302 El Camino Real. Open Tuesday through Saturday.

At Home in Meyhouse

Words by Elaine Wu

At first glance, a physics degree or decades of experience in the tech world doesn’t sound like a recipe for making a successful restaurateur. Omer Artun and Koray Altinsoy, the owners of Turkish fine dining restaurant Meyhouse in Palo Alto, would disagree. It’s that love for both science and food that ushered Omer into his career as executive chef. As for Koray, his business acumen and corporate experience have made him the ideal guy to manage the day-to-day operations, overseeing a swanky dining room that invites diners to linger over sea bass and sips of Sauvignon Blanc. “There’s a clear division of responsibility and together it makes the whole thing work,” Omer explains.

A passionate home cook, Omer ran his own software company, but after hours he poured his energy into researching and experimenting in his kitchen. Then a friend suggested he try hosting a pop-up dinner. “I started doing them every two months and they became very popular and sold out within minutes,” the chef recalls. “That was my first foray into people actually paying for my food.”

In 2018, after 10 sold-out dinners, each one serving 18 themed courses to 150 guests, he partnered with his friend Koray to start a small restaurant. “I came from a tech background, but I love food as well,” declares Koray, who had helped his wife’s uncle open a restaurant in San Francisco. “Omer and I decided to start with a small space in Sunnyvale. It became super successful and within a few months we were profitable.”

When they opened their second Meyhouse location in August of 2023, however, they decided to dream big. The Palo Alto location is more stylish, sophisticated and contemporary than its Sunnyvale sister, while maintaining what Meyhouse is best known for: a warm, communal vibe. The Palo Alto restaurant includes an intimate back room for live jazz performances on Thursday nights and weekends.

With dishes ranging from gilt-head sea bream and salt-cured Atlantic bonito to grass-fed lamb and Turkish tartare made with tenderloin, Meyhouse’s interior mirrors its surf-and-turf menu. The restaurant pairs leafy plants, earthy wood accents and dark green upholstery with a display of fresh fish by the entrance that’s echoed in the striking artwork above the bar. Omer, a gifted ceramist, created the plates and bowls to evoke the ocean’s floor (he also made the dozens of pendant light shades and the dramatic tiles on the host stand).

The restaurant’s concept comes from the word “meyhane” which means “wine house” in their native Turkey. It’s a place where friends linger over small shareable plates of food and glasses of wine while enjoying good music and great conversation. It’s a concept that differs from the Turkish kabob houses more commonly found in the U.S. “The food, the decor, the music, the vibe, everything is part of the total experience,” asserts Koray.

Though this is a fine dining establishment, the last thing Omer and Koray want to serve is pretentious dishes. “We serve bold, clean flavors. This is ‘real’ food, meaning you can dip your bread into your dish, take big bites and really enjoy it,” Omer says proudly. “I wanted to do the best version of traditional dishes using the best ingredients and execution techniques possible. A lot of the dishes we serve here you can find in Turkey.”

Popular menu items include the steamed Turkmen dumplings, grilled octopus, olive oil-braised artichoke bottoms with poached shrimp, and kopoglu (a layered appetizer of eggplant, yogurt, peppers and garlicky tomato sauce). “All of the items on our menu have been carefully selected to represent different cooking styles and cuisines from different parts of Turkey,” Koray explains. “Everything is unique.”

It’s said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. For Omer and Koray, that certainly seems true. “In the restaurant business, you get real results immediately: when you see the reactions on the faces of our customers while they’re tasting our food,” Koray says. “Omer and I love that. If you don’t, it’s hard to be successful.”

Settle In –

Q&A: Dog Sherpa Hollie Crower

The self-described “dog sherpa” from Menlo Park talks about her big career change, the time a pooch came to her rescue and how she wrangles the pack.

What inspired the switch from teaching to dog walking?
I developed a neurological condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia, which caused my vocal cords to spasm. Over the course of 10 years, I slowly lost the use of my voice and can only whisper now. I started out by doing group walks and now offer off-leash group outings for my business, Whole New Pooch.

How do you communicate with the pack?
I use hand signals, body language and a whistle. Dogs prefer visual signals to auditory cues anyway.

What’s the car situation like with all those puppy passengers?
I have mats, pads and towels everywhere!

What’s guaranteed to make you laugh?
A carefree, goofball dog who is running free and living his best life. Silliness! Physical comedy!

Do you have any phobias?
Not doing something because I’m afraid.

What’s a wild story from the job?
Early on, I got lost on a pack walk in the redwoods. After about an hour of tramping around the mountain, I turned to a Labrador and whispered, “Henry, take us home!” Within 10 minutes we were back at the car.

How many pets do you currently have?
I have zero pets. My husband is allergic to dogs!

What’s a gift you received that you’ll never forget?
My mother bought me an SLR camera when I was a young teen. Recently, I launched my own phoDOGraphy business and set up a studio in my garage.

How do you handle dogs showing aggression?
I am a big advocate of positive reinforcement. The whole alpha dog training movement was based on wolf observations, which dogs are not. I want dogs to come to me for support, not because they fear me.

Growing up, what was your favorite children’s book?
The Velveteen Rabbit.

What’s an interesting fact about you that surprises people?
Having vocal issues is an advantage, not a hindrance. The dogs (and my kids) are much more responsive to a calm demeanor. I am less able to self-escalate now.

What dog breed most resembles your personality?
Maybe a flat-coated retriever. I like to be busy and have a job, but I’m pretty easygoing.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done at work?
When I was still doing group leash walks, I continued to take out the dogs after I broke my foot and needed a knee scooter. I’d have them all on leash in front of me like Santa with his sleigh.

What work task do you look forward to the most?
Releasing the hounds!!

Picturesque Petaluma

Words by Sophia Markoulakis

Petaluma is a town with multiple personalities. Visitors willing to make a detour on their way to Sonoma County’s wine country will find a community that’s rooted in history yet focused on progress. Historic buildings hum with cutting-edge eateries and boutiques, while cultural attractions marry its agricultural past with modern art and innovative public spaces. It’s just one of the reasons why Petaluma has so many Peninsula transplants—the small-town charm lures both young couples looking to raise a family and recent retirees wanting to stay within reach of San Francisco. Spend a weekend here and you’ll find yourself planning your next trip to Petaluma before you’ve even checked out of your room.

Best Bites

There’s no shortage of fantastic food options in Petaluma. Several restaurants have San Francisco pedigrees like Table Culture Provisions and Pearl Petaluma. Restaurateurs Roberth and Andrea Sundell, who operated Pläj in San Francisco for 10 years, decided to bring modern Scandinavian cooking to Petaluma in 2018 with the opening of Stockhome on Western Avenue. “We fell in love with Petaluma the first time we drove through. We also wanted to raise our kids in a small town,” Roberth says. Stockhome’s menu, infused with Middle Eastern influences, pays homage to the Swedish capital’s contemporary cuisine.

Last spring, Julio Ortiz and his brother Jorge realized their dream of opening a restaurant in the town where they grew up. Since then, Quiote, their unassuming spot on Kentucky Street, has elevated the area’s Mexican dining scene. “Even though we serve dishes from the entire Mexican Republic, my family is from Jalisco, and the Jalisco dishes on the menu come from my mom,” he says of mother Gloria, who splits her time between the kitchen and the dining room. “It’s been fun to work with her and explore my roots through the food we serve.” Don’t miss Gloria’s mole, which is served over chicken enchiladas.

Stop & Shop

Petaluma remains an antique shopper’s destination but as the town changes, so have the tastes of its residents. As a result, you’ll find a wide range of stores, selling everything from vintage furniture and estate jewelry to modern furnishings and clothing you’d find in stylish L.A. or London boutiques.

The 1920s-era Vintage Bank Building on the corner of Petaluma Boulevard and Western Avenue is an exceptional example of neo-classical revival bank architecture. From 1995 to 2022, the building housed antiques dealers. Today, it’s occupied by the unique gift shop Au Thentic. Pop in to admire the building’s magnificent interior and leather goods.

A block away, stop by Avinage Wine Shop, run by husband-and-wife team Damien Carney and Shree Starkman, for Old World wines. Carney also stocks his favorite minimal-intervention labels from nearby vineyards. As a former wine buyer, he hand-picks each bottle and has a popular centerpiece table with wines priced at $25 or less. On the “Table of No Regrets,” find stellar selections from France, Italy, Spain and California.

Maude Rare Finds on Western Avenue carries bespoke and vintage clothing, home goods and children’s items in an ethereal space. Around the corner on American Alley, Pennyroyal offers a highly curated assortment of housewares, like locally made ceramics and leather goods. Home cooks should head over to Sonoma Spice Queen on 4th Street for hard-to-find spices, custom blends and gifty food items.

Gardeners won’t want to miss Baker Creek Seed Bank on Petaluma Boulevard, the place to plot out your late summer or fall garden with specialty seeds.

Hunting for European antiques? Head to French Salvage Antiques, just a couple of blocks from the main shopping district. Owner Laurie MacDuff carries an impeccable assortment of French country and provincial items.

Wine Tasting

Even though wine country is right on its doorstep, few visitors think to look for tasting opportunities in Petaluma’s vineyards. The area’s new Petaluma Gap AVA—which spans over 200,000 acres from Bodega Bay to Sears Point at Highway 37—aims to change that. Cheryl Quist, executive director of the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance, says the AVA is the only one defined by wind patterns. “Our signature wind and fog has a profound effect on grapevines, with smaller berries and thicker skins, producing richly textured and deeply flavored wines that have caught the attention of collectors and enthusiasts.”

Pinot noir is the predominant varietal grown here, with three-quarters of its crops devoted to this finicky grape. The rest is split between chardonnay and syrah. With tasting rooms like Brooks Note and Adobe Road downtown, plus Keller Estate and McEvoy Ranch offering tours and tastings nearby, you’ll have plenty of options to sip and swish.

For a unique experience, head just outside of Petaluma to Panther Ridge, where owner Suzanne Farver will guide you through her Sonoma Mountain vineyard and a tasting of award-winning pinots in her private residence. Farver, an avid art collector, has artwork displayed in her home and among the vines.

Settling In

Downtown landmark Hotel Petaluma is centrally located and a great choice for enjoying the commercial district’s shops and restaurants. Designed by San Francisco architect Frederick Whitton, the five-story Mediterranean-style structure has been the most exclusive spot to stay since the 1920s. In addition to updated rooms, guests can enjoy in-house oysters from The Shuckery and Barber Cellars’ tasting room and cheese shop.

Looking for somewhere else to lay your head? The Hampton Inn Petaluma, situated on the east side of downtown, is a fun option. The property, formerly the Petaluma Silk Mill, manufactured sewing products and silk threads for almost a century before it was transformed. BPR Properties retained the building’s Georgian Colonial Revival exterior and kept period touches in guest rooms, along with artifacts from its former life in the common areas. Those looking for something a little more unconventional should turn to the Metro Hotel & Cafe, a boutique property filled with antiques and the option to stay in Airstream trailers or a two-story cottage.

With memorable restaurants, charming shops and a selection of great vintages (of both the wine and antique varieties), pretty Petaluma has a lot to offer the weekend visitor.

hit the town –

Landmark: Sharon Heights Estate

Words by Dylan Lanier

Menlo Park’s Sharon Heights is one of many charming Peninsula neighborhoods created by carving up a sprawling country estate. Its origins are somewhat less idyllic than its current contours might suggest. The money for the Sharon Estate came from the notorious Gilded Age mining tycoon William Sharon. Elected to represent Nevada, William was deemed one of history’s worst U.S. senators due to his reluctance to actually travel to the Capitol and participate. His busy love life was the subject of a scandalous lawsuit brought by his mistress and breathlessly reported on in the newspapers. William’s son and heir Frederick enjoyed San Francisco high society with his wife Louise Breckinridge before the couple relocated to Paris for almost 20 years, where they developed a taste for the era’s pick-me-up of choice: cocaine.

Returning to the City after the Great Earthquake of 1906, Fredrick hastened to join his elite peers and develop a luxurious weekend retreat. He hired New York architect George Kelham to design the ultimate country estate on 600 acres in what is now West Menlo Park. The Sharon Estate’s redwood-shingled “cottage”—a precursor to the planned main house—boasted lavish gardens, tapestries from Europe, an elegant ballroom and eight butlers, according to Menlo Park: Beyond the Gate. Frederick’s cocaine addiction probably contributed to his untimely death in 1915 at age 56, dooming plans for the main house, which was never built. After Louise’s death, the sprawling estate was eventually sold. In 1957, developers Duncan McDonald and Mark Radin conceived a plan to subdivide the property into a residential community, complete with a shopping center and a park surrounding an artificial lake. So if you find yourself strolling through the peaceful streets of Sharon Heights, consider its opulent early days and the Nevada silver mines that funded its transformation from rolling countryside to a playground for San Francisco’s elite.

Diary of a Dog: Milton

You know how some dogs have such an amazing sense of direction that they can find their way home, even if they get lost hundreds of miles away? When they show up months later, people say, “What a smart dog!” I, too, have an incredible mental map of my own, but I credit my stomach more than my brain. Without fail, I can guide my human family (whether they like it or not) to the most delicious locations in Menlo Park and Palo Alto. That nice house with the dog treats near Draeger’s Market? Check. The Ace Hardware in Palo Alto that thoughtfully provides fallen popcorn? Check. And my favorite place of all, Mademoiselle Colette, which has the most scrumptious croissants? Check. I like to start my food-finding missions early. My humans don’t need to bother with annoying alarms, because I helpfully bop them on the head with my paw well ahead of time, to let them know the sun is up and I’m ready to scour the streets for yummy treats. You might even call me a connoisseur, although I am not so snooty that I won’t help clean the floor beneath my baby brother when he eats. Anything for family!

Calling All Dogs: If you've got quirky habits or a funny tale (or tail) to share, email your story to for a chance to share a page from your Diary of a Dog in PUNCH.

Life in the Fast Lane

Words by Johanna Harlow

If you’ve ever watched motorsports, you may have pictured yourself behind the wheel of a sleek, sexy stock car, effortlessly cruising the track’s turns. Not so fast. It might look like a breeze, but NASCAR racing drivers like 19-year-old Jesse Love know better.

“Nothing’s more physically exerting than running a full race on a really hot day,” the Menlo Park native acknowledges. “It’s hell on your body.” These speed machines can match the G-force that astronauts experience during liftoff. And then there’s the heat factor. The temperature in a car can easily soar to 120 degrees Fahrenheit—170 degrees by the floorboards. Drivers commonly lose 5 to 10 pounds in sweat during a race. Now imagine trying to make split-second decisions at 200 MPH, over several hours. It’s why Jesse starts each day with heat tolerance training, welcoming the morning at 5AM with cardio and weights in a sweltering 120-degree room.

While other kids played with Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars, Jesse took the driver’s seat early. As a kindergartner, he recalls hanging out at a Mountain View race shop with his Uncle Tony, whose two daughters raced in quarter midgets (think go-karts but with four-wheel suspension). “Then I got into Antonia’s purple quarter midget,” Jesse recalls. That was all it took. After winning his very first quarter midgets race at the wee age of five, Jesse continued competing—racking up countless wins, including multiple state and national titles, all before he reached age 10.

Then Jesse started strapping into stock cars. Full-throttle ahead, he moved to North Carolina at 15 to further his career, that same year dominating in the ARCA Menards Series and becoming the youngest driver to win a title. He now competes full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and drives the No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

Though racing may be physically taxing, Jesse estimates it’s only 30% of the battle. “There’s a lot of pressure involved,” he shares, mentioning that one of his mental coaches, Akshay Nanavati, is a Marine veteran—and the first polar explorer to undergo a solo sea-to-sea ski crossing of Antarctica with no sled or dogs.

Jesse must be bold on the track, taking calculated risks, managing stressors and reacting to the unexpected. He must dart into narrow gaps with the kiss of a bumper—because even a moment’s hesitation will close that window of opportunity. He must also make peace with crashing, which in motorsports isn’t an “if,” but a “when.” “I’ve flipped probably a dozen times,” estimates Jesse, adding with a note of neutrality, “The flips don’t always hurt the worst because stuff’s flying off your car, and you’re dispersing energy.” Hitting dead on the wall is more brutal on your body—even with the car’s head-and-neck restraints. “I wreck a lot less now than I did then when I was trying not to wreck,” he reflects. “You just kind of get in a zone.” And when the inevitable happens? “You just hop on out and live to race another day.”

A strong Christian, Jesse credits a faith-driven frame of mind for keeping him grounded in the wake of national recognition. “I’m racing for someone bigger than me,” he shares. “Being connected with God and treating people the same, whether they’re from Park Avenue or a park bench.”

He also cites his father as a strong influence. Jesshill “Duke” Love drove in quarter midgets himself in his youth, competing alongside his racing pal Jeff Gordon. Though he later pursued a career in law in Redwood City rather than continuing down the racetrack, Duke shaped his son’s integrity and driving style. “You change a lot,” Jesse reflects of his racing approach, “but your core values of how you’re going to race, how you’re going to let people race you, what your driving style is, what kind of car (tight, loose, however that is)… how I like to drive now was ingrained in me when I was raised by my dad.” He follows up, adding, “The most important advice that my dad gives me has nothing to do with racing at all. It’s all about life.”

Whenever he can, Jesse tries to spend time at the shop where mechanics disassemble, replace, install and adjust every part of his car. “I’m a big believer in being available and showing people that I care,” he says. “I want my guys at the shop to know that I’m gonna work really hard for them. And when that happens, they’re gonna work harder for me as well.” It takes a village to raise up a racing driver and Jesse’s crew chief, car chief, shock, engine and tire specialists, engineers, shop team and pit crew keep him on track.

With a racing nickname like The Hammer, it’s unsurprising that Jesse takes such a dogged approach to growth. “There’s a million things that you can do to just move the needle 1% forward,” he says. If that means poring over data, working with the simulator, attending countless pre-race meetings or watching 16 hours of film from Daytona until his eyes fatigue, so be it. “Even if you look at five hours of data and you find one thing that can help you go faster, we would all give our right thumb to find a tenth of a second,” Jesse states.

“I’ve qualified by a thousandth of a second—and I’ve been beaten by a thousandth of a second.” The young driver’s gaze drifts as his thoughts turn to the road. In his mind’s eye, he’s already hugging the turns and zipping down the straightaways of his next race. “I try not to focus on what any other driver does,” he shares. “I try to just focus on what I did today and what I can do tomorrow that was better than today.”

Stovetop Studies

Words by Johanna Harlow

Everyone loves a cooking grandmother, keeper of the family recipes, master of her craft. With no need for cookbooks, she learned from countless hours leaning over stovetops, dispensing judicious pinches of this and splashes of that. If you aren’t lucky enough to have one of your own to learn from, don’t despair. Nearby, you’ll find grandmas willing to ladle out lessons to a new generation of home cooks.

Which is what brings me to a hilly neighborhood in San Carlos. I’m on a quest for kimchi. But I won’t be learning this well-known Korean dish of tangy fermented cabbage in a typical cooking class. For a start, it’s the first one I’ve taken in my socks. And I’m not slicing veggies on a stainless-steel countertop in a commercial kitchen, but on a sturdy wooden table in a room with family photos and funky abstract art. Not under the direction of a polished culinary school graduate, but a venerable Korean grandmother who effortlessly eyeballs rather than measures her ingredients.

Grandma Moon Soon Choi stands at the head of the table and instructs me and five other students in Korean while her daughter Kelly Choi translates. We dutifully chop scallions on our bamboo cutting boards. Close by, there’s a tub piled high with pickled Napa cabbage heads, an amber bottle of fish sauce, freshly ground garlic and ginger, large Korean radishes, a jar of salted shrimp and a bright bowl of chili flakes (sun-dried by our instructor out on her deck).

Moon Soon is one of the Grandmas from Around the World, a cooking series hosted by The Moonlight Collective. The San Carlos organization offers “authentic and intimate experiences guided by locals right around the corner” with Kelly serving as one of its co-founders.

Kelly met Moonlight Collective co-owner Maggie Wang through a Facebook group for San Carlos moms back in December. Maggie posted about her interest in creating a platform to unlock intimate, hidden experiences in private spaces—and Kelly, who’d started a similar concept in Taiwan, sensed a kindred spirit. “So we met over coffee and we were getting goosebumps because we have the same vision, the same idea of what we wanted to achieve!” Kelly recalls. Two meetups later, the pair had become business partners.

Their cooking classes range from pasta-making with an Italian chef to rolling out cookie dough with a French-trained pastry chef. Other events include flower arranging, candle making and wine tasting. “We want to unlock the local talent,” explains Kelly, adding that they refer to their teachers as “guides” and participants as “explorers.”

The aim of a Moonlight Collective class goes beyond teaching a new recipe or skill. “It’s not: go in, do X, Y, Z, and then you leave,” emphasizes Kelly. “It’s more around creating intimacy… How do we create moments of connectivity where you meet with your neighbors?”

And there’s certainly an air of camaraderie as the other students and I pull on gloves to mash the kimchi mixture, then rub the bright red paste into cabbage leaves. It’s messy and therapeutic, like only squishing something between your fingers can be. As we finish, Moon Soon whips up a few dishes on the stove, juggling three burners like it’s child play, while Kelly brews some tea. We all sit down to feast family-style, lingering over kimchi jeon pancakes, cups of tea and good conversation.

Kitchen Cozy –

Mix it up – more cooking classes

Sur La Table
For culinary creations that are simply the chef’s kiss, Sur La Table won’t let you down. Tucked into Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village, this cookware and cutlery shop offers lessons in classic French cooking as well as cuisines from around the world. Imagine yourself at a Parisian bistro while you simmer coq au vin in chicken stock and chardonnay, then whip up buttery pommes puree with chives. Or envision coastal Spain as you sauté shrimp in sherry and garlic while stirring up a hearty chorizo paella. Meanwhile, the sweets seekers among us can master lavender-sugared palmiers and chocolate-frosted eclairs. Sur La Table classes also come with discounts on everything in the store—so stock up on ramekins, pasta makers and cutting boards.

Taste Buds Kitchen
Looking for a place that will embolden even the most hesitant home cook? Cut your teeth at Taste Buds Kitchen in Palo Alto. In a space lined with sparkling work tables and chrome racks laden with stainless-steel mixers and stockpots, you’ll feel like a pro in no time. Tie on a lime-green apron, roll up your sleeves and try your hand at rolling sushi or assembling empanadas. Taste Buds Kitchen also offers lots of family-friendly classes to inspire even the littlest bakers and chefs.

If industrial kitchens give you performance anxiety, get comfy with Cozymeal, a platform that partners with local chefs in cities across the U.S. Vetted chefs often host classes in their home kitchens, giving some intriguing insights into the cabinets and silverware drawers of the pros. Don’t tell us you’re not curious about what brands chefs stock in their own knife blocks and if they prefer cast-iron or carbon steel cookware. Since Cozymeal instructors hail from all kinds of backgrounds, you may find yourself pan-searing the perfect steak with the author of a best-selling cookbook or learning knife skills from a former Michelin-starred chef. Cozymeal can also arrange for teachers to come to you, if you prefer a night in.

Palo Alto Adult School
If one-session classes leave you feeling like you’ve only just skimmed the surface, take a deep dive with the Palo Alto Adult School. A course might include six sessions on cooking healthy meals that don’t sacrifice flavor or a four-part series on Indian dishes tied to seasonal festivals. That being said, single sessions are also available. Return each quarter for new ways to expand your culinary repertoire.

Perfect Shot: Bridging the Gap

Photographer Gino de Grandis was out hunting rainbows when the more prosaic landscape behind him caught his eye. A fleeting moment of sunlight burst through the rain clouds and illuminated the evening commuter traffic on the Dumbarton Bridge. He immediately swiveled his tripod in the opposite direction and aimed his powerful telephoto lens at the ephemeral image. “I was lucky to capture the golden light on the bridge,” Gino recounts. “Getting soaking wet was a minor thing after having witnessed such splendor.”

Image by Gino de Grandis /

Calling all Shutterbugs: If you’ve captured a unique perspective of the Peninsula, we’d love to see your Perfect Shot. Email us at to be considered for publication.

Q&A: Greg Kuzia-Carmel of Camper

The chef-owner behind Menlo Park’s Camper and Canteen restaurants dishes about his strangest meal, celebrity encounters and the real reason he got into cooking.

What drew you to the culinary world?
I started working in restaurants when I was 14 as a means
to buy a car and fund a snowboarding hobby.

Tell us about the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten.
Ants, at Noma in Copenhagen, while 10 feet away from Jamie Lee Curtis.

When you’re not at one of your own restaurants, where do you usually go?
Our family likes to load up the car and head to Dad’s Luncheonette in Half Moon Bay for burgers from our buddy Scott Clark. The menu is small and you can (and rightfully should) be tempted to order one of everything.

Most memorable night at your restaurant?
We’ve had our fair share of interesting celebrities, but nothing will top the night Conan O’Brien traipsed through our dining room, chatting it up with guests and staff alike.

What is the dumbest way you’ve been hurt?
I threw out my back carrying a Caja China (suckling pig oven) at one of our staff holiday parties. Take note: If your age begins with a number three or higher, ask for a hand when lifting stuff.

What’s your favorite pasta shape?
Hand-rolled pasta from Liguria called trofie. My wife and I stayed in a portside town called Camogli, where we had these made by grandmothers in a rustic, seaside family restaurant.

What are people always surprised to learn about you?
I grew up snowboarding and narrowly missed pursuing a life in that industry.

Is there a dish that has a fond memory attached to it?
In the summer, we feature a sweet corn-filled agnolotti pasta that’s a bit of a retrospective to my times working at Per Se and Quince. Ours features corn from Webb Ranch in Portola Valley.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done?
Sold all of my belongings, packed a duffel bag and moved to Spain.

What do you collect?
Analog, mechanical things. I like watches, cameras and old Porsches—so mostly things I cannot afford! But I appreciate their craftsmanship.

Do you have a favorite food-related film?
Big Night. One of my mentors, Gianni Scappin, was the film’s culinary consultant and we had the opportunity to cook with its star, Stanley Tucci.

How do you recharge your batteries after a long day?
Walking our geriatric shelter dog Heath while listening to a podcast. (Shout-out to Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway from Pivot. Free meal on me if you are ever in town.)

Do you have a personal motto?
The journey is the reward. It’s been printed on every one of our menus at Camper since Day One.

Perfect Shot: Lonely as a Cloud

One fine spring day, the weather was sunny with a chance of meatball clouds. That’s what Menlo Park photographer Jennifer Fraser thought when she spotted an unusually round cloud hovering above a similarly rotund boulder while walking with a friend through The Horse Park at Woodside. She dubs this image her “meatball cloud shot,” liking how its odd contours add a surreal note to the vivid hues of the flourishing landscape. “Spring in our California hills is such an intense season of super-saturated green that I always have to ‘desaturate’ my finished images to make them more credible,” she says.

Image by Jennifer Fraser /

Calling all Shutterbugs: If you’ve captured a unique perspective of the Peninsula, we’d love to see your Perfect Shot. Email us at to be considered for publication.

Diary of a Dog: Josie

As a purebred Whippet, the breed with the fastest acceleration, you think I’d be in too much of a hurry to get to know you, but really, I’m happy to meet just about everyone. There’s a cute little kink in my tail that kept me from competing in dog shows, but my sweet personality won over Steve and Cheryl, who adopted me as a companion for their older Italian greyhounds. Thanks to my gentle disposition, they soon got me certified as a therapy dog. Now I get to meet all sorts of new people while visiting high schools and nursing homes. When I go to libraries, children like to practice reading books to me while I listen patiently. When I’m not working, I like to sit on the sofa and request that someone join me for a good snuggle. (I’ll admit, there may be whining involved.) And if someone’s in bed, I will be right there with them, to make sure they don’t get lonely. Cheryl says I sleep in the craziest positions, but I’ll have to take her word for it. I suppose there might be some photographic evidence on my Instagram: @josiejowhippetgirl. That’s not to say I’m lazy. I vigorously protect my home in San Mateo from squirrels. My speedy lineage mostly comes out when it’s mealtime. I zoom and ricochet all over while my food is prepared. But once I’ve eaten, I’m ready to relax and cuddle again.

Calling All Dogs: If you've got quirky habits or a funny tale (or tail) to share, email your story to for a chance to share a page from your Diary of a Dog in PUNCH.

Magic Man

Words by Johanna Harlow

Interested in a little magic? Robert Strong poses this question to a table of strangers at a restaurant. They assess this newcomer a moment before slowly giving their consent. But as Robert holds out a wad of cash, turning Washingtons into Benjamins, they uncross their arms and lean in. By the time he’s started making cards disappear, the wariness has melted into warmth. He leaves the table having gained a few new friends.

“Magic changes people,” Robert observes as he moves away. “They behave like nine-year-olds who’ve just discovered that there really is magic in the world. I love that change: from being skeptical, ‘Why would I want to watch this?’ to, ‘You gotta see what I saw!’”

Robert has lit up audiences in all 50 states and 45 countries. “Kids’ birthday parties, schools, fairs, festivals, colleges, universities, comedy clubs, cruise ships,” he ticks off on his fingers. What’s more, he’s appeared on Penn & Teller: Fool Us, given a TED Talk, served as an artist in residence for the Smithsonian and carved out a niche for himself performing at Fortune 500 companies.

He’s even performed for two presidents. “Very different,” Robert chuckles of his two visits to the White House. “For George Bush Sr., they took apart all my stuff, put it through the X-ray machine, searched under my car—and for Bill Clinton, they’re like, ‘Oh, you check the missiles at the next gate. Just kidding. Come on in!’”

Robert’s first encounter with magic occurred at the age of 12 when a street performer’s act held him spellbound. “Time stood still. It was like, ‘This is the thing,’” Robert recalls. “A switch flipped in my brain. I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’” On a mission, Robert learned his first few tricks from a podiatrist who shared an office building with his father, then improved his sleight of hand at Tannen’s Magic Camp. “Every waking hour was reading and studying and training.”

Then came his first gig. “It was a kid’s birthday party, walking distance from my house,” Robert reminisces. “It was a 10-minute show and I got paid $10. I was like, ‘A dollar a minute? This is it!’ I took that $10, bought another magic trick and kept going.” These days, youthful audiences aren’t his focus. “You don’t have to win them over,” he shrugs. There’s something more gratifying about converting adults from cynics into believers.

As Robert developed as a performer, he took up improv comedy. He recalls a particularly memorable evening sharing the stage with the late Robin Williams. Of everyone performing, “I was by far the youngest and least experienced,” he recalls. So he asked the other entertainers if they’d like to warm up first by spitballing about current events and pop culture. All but one said no. “Robin Williams, who was in person very soft-spoken and gentle, very thoughtful, he said, ‘I’d like to warm up.’” Everyone changed their tune and joined in. “He took care of everybody! I learned so much from him.”

As Robert looks back on his journey, he reflects, “I used to love the trick. Then I loved the laughter. Then I fell in love with the fact that, with magic, you get connection.” He credits his success to taking an audience-first approach and avoiding one-size-fits-all routines. “The thing that differentiates me from other magicians is not the tricks, not the pickpocketing, not the juggling. It’s that I really personalize the experience,” he concludes. “That’s become my calling card.”

For the past two decades, he’s brought that talent to corporate gigs. It starts with doing a 20-minute culture interview in advance of every performance. “I ask things like: What’s unique about your company? What are your goals? Who’s your competition?… What’s funny about your company? What is the gossip at the water cooler that everyone likes to complain about?” If the head of the company is known to pop up unexpectedly, Robert has the CEO appear during his show. If everyone drinks LaCroix, or the corporate softball team gets a tad too competitive, he’ll weave in a joke about it. “The illusions that I create are never the same,” he says. “I want them to ask, ‘Does he actually work here?’”

It’s also Robert’s job as CMO (“Chief Magic Officer,” he jokes) to inspire business teams. “If you want to create a culture or an experience for a customer that feels like magic, you do a lot of work that’s invisible,” he explains. “I give examples of magic tricks that I perform that take a lot of prep work that you don’t see. When it works, it feels like magic. It’s instant. You don’t see the thousands of hours that went into getting it right.”

He shares this lesson and others in his book Amaze & Delight: Secrets to Creating Magic in Business (“And it should be ‘and Life, Too,’” Robert comments). He co-wrote it with David Martinez, a former marketing professional who quit his job at Apple to become a full-time magician.

“Magicians will see things from other people’s points of view, put themselves in their perspective,” Robert says of his empathetic approach to magic. “The high you get, the hit that you get from entertaining other people, bringing joy to other people, will be more than what they receive.”

To watch Robert work his magic at The Guild in Menlo Park or other venues around the Bay Area, check out his website:

Landmark: Folger Stable

Words by Dylan Lanier

The Folger family may be best known for its popular brand of instant coffee, but it developed a more elegant kind of “grounds” in Woodside. In 1902, the eldest son of Folgers Coffee’s founder, James Folger II, purchased 1,500 acres in Woodside for a summer estate. He was one of many prosperous San Franciscans who built elaborate second homes on the lower Peninsula where they would spend summers enjoying the warm, sunny weather. While opulent mansions were abundant in those days, his remarkable horse stable set the Folger estate apart from the rest of the herd. Designed by Arthur French Brown Jr. in French baroque style, the original building featured 16 tie-stalls, a carriage room, living quarters—and some say it was even outfitted with chandeliers and a marble fireplace.

In 1955, the Folgers sold 940 acres to Martin and Muriel Wunderlich, who used the stable to board their horses until they donated the entire property to the County of San Mateo 19 years later, creating Wunderlich Park. While years of deferred maintenance took its toll, the down-on-its-luck stable got new life thanks to a $3.3 million renovation project in 2010. Now the Folger stable serves as a public boarding facility, and enthusiastic equestrians take their horses over to the riding ring or up along the surrounding trails, which are also popular with hikers. The main house is gone, but the stable, along with the carriage house, blacksmith barn, dairy house and stone walls, form the Folger Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. So fuel up with a cup of coffee and spend some time in a world of shiny saddles, stirrups and tree-lined trails, right off of Woodside Road.

The Beat on Your Eats: Irish Pubs

Words by Johanna Harlow

Raise a glass to St. Pat at these charming Irish pubs.

alhambra irish house

Redwood City

There’s nothing like soda bread and stout on a fine spring day. If you’re in Redwood City, find your way to Alhambra Irish House, an earthy establishment with exposed brick walls and wood plank floorboards. That old-school atmosphere alludes to a storied past: a theater and saloon once stood on this site in the 1900s, and wiley outlaw Wyatt Earp once frequented it. Nowadays, guests happily quaff Kilkenny and tuck into hearty shepherd’s pies with ground beef and veggies, served in a rich gravy and topped with a creamy mash. Whether you’re fancying a cocktail or a cold one, this pub comes through. For a mixed drink in keeping with the spirit of the holiday, try the Dubliner (Teeling Irish whiskey mixed with Grand Marnier, Punt e Mes vermouth and orange bitters). Return for live music and line dancing lessons. 831 Main Street. Open Wednesday through Monday.

molly o’s

San Carlos

For a grand time over a glass of Guinness, pay Molly O’s a visit. In addition to a spacious layout and upstairs seating, this San Carlos gastropub goes modern with contemporary chandeliers and intricate green tilework behind the bar. The envelope-pushing menu dishes up Cal-Mex Irish fusion (think burgers with Irish bacon and quesadillas with corned beef) alongside more traditional fare. Try the sturdy Irish stew loaded with Guinness-infused beef, veggies and potatoes alongside potato skins and a tumbler of Jameson. Sláinte! 1163 San Carlos Avenue. Open daily.

fiddler’s green


Top of the mornin’ to ya! Fiddler’s Green greets the day with traditional Irish breakfast foods like black and white pudding, baked beans, bangers, grilled tomatoes and potato bread. If you’re there for a drink, choose from plenty of pale ales, IPAs and pilsners—or warm up with a splash of whiskey in your Irish coffee. Stained glass windows, parchment-colored walls and a wooden sign hanging out front add old-timey charm, so top up your glass and settle in for a spell. 333 El Camino Real. Open daily.

A Greek Welcome

Words by Johanna Harlow

Step into bustling Barbayani Greek Taverna in Los Altos and find yourself transported. The blue shutters and faux balconies brimming with bougainvillea recreate the seaside homes of Santorini—while wicker chairs and woven pendant lights enhance the Mediterranean atmosphere. A bust of Poseidon, god of the sea, watches over guests dining on linguine with lobster cooked in ouzo. Outside, on a patio etched in string lights, an occasional burst of flames appears as orders of saganaki with kefalograviera cheese are pan-fried at tables.

At the heart of this getaway from the everyday you’ll find Allen Isik. The taverna’s executive chef/co-owner (and interior designer) circulates the dining room alongside his servers. “I make sure everything is okay in the kitchen, then I’m jumping on the floor and going to every single table, asking about their experience,” Allen says. “That way, I’m seeing who is finishing their plate.” If someone’s food is barely touched, “I can change it right away… I have to make sure everybody leaves this place happy!” This commitment to hands-on hospitality embodies the spirit of this establishment’s namesake: Barba Yani (Uncle John, in English), whom the restaurant’s website describes as a “black-bearded innkeeper with a smiling face. From hearth to bedding, he tended to every need.”

To breathe life into this concept, Allen teamed up with co-owner Dino Tekdemir. The partners in hospitality oversee a dining trifecta that includes Anatolian Kitchen in Palo Alto as well as Naschmarkt, with locations in Palo Alto and Campbell. “Three years, three restaurants,” Allen says with a sense of wonder.

Barbayani, the newest addition to the family, is a throwback. As it happens, Allen’s parents inherited a Greek taverna from his grandfather in Istanbul. Growing up around the kitchen—a world of sizzling stovetops and spinning dinner plates—taught Allen many lessons. He recalls one piece of advice passed down by his dad: “If you don’t throw away your food from yesterday, then you’re going to throw away your guests,” Allen recites.

“Everything needs to be fresh!” Quality ingredients are also key to the restaurant today. “Our oregano and all the spices come from Greece,” he notes, their octopus pulled from the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Many of Barbayani’s wines—including the smooth and acidic Gavalas Santorini and Meden Agan (reminiscent of pinot noir, but richer)—came from lush vineyards cultivated in the cradle of Western civilization. “We made a couple deals with the wineries,” Allen notes. “I was in Greece just a month ago.” Those who’d prefer cocktails with a Greek twist should order the Mykanos Lemontini or Apollo Cooler, both spiked with anise-flavored ouzo.

Those seeking distinctive dishes will welcome the octopus on a bed of baby arugula with roasted bell peppers, drizzled in red wine vinaigrette. Or the wild-caught fumée salmon marinated in Greek-style beet and pesto sauces.
A true standout is the lavraki, a whole sea bass. The initial salty lemony zing of the crispy skin gives way to the subtle flavor of fresh fish—appreciated all the more as diners take their time flaking delicate forkfuls off
the bones.

You’ll also find the traditional taverna staples like plevrakia (lamb riblets in a garlic and lemon vinaigrette), beef souvlaki with tzatziki yogurt sauce and spanakopita (briny feta and spinach layered between crispy phyllo sheets). Not to mention classic desserts like flaky baklava and creamy galaktoboureko with semolina custard.

Traditional Greek tavernas aren’t just eateries, but places brimming with music and dancing. “We’re going to start live music every Monday,” promises Allen, who wants to bring the sounds of bouzouki to the streets of downtown. “I want to bring some life here!”

Back in the present, Allen watches diners devour his dishes. “Always, my dad would say, ‘I’m not your boss. Your guest is your boss. I’m not paying your salary. They are paying your salary.’” He gives a satisfied nod. “When I see my plates empty, it gives me happiness.”

aegean eats –

Sweet Tradition

Words by Elaine Wu

For those in the know, Romolo’s Cannoli in San Mateo is the go-to spot for the crispy, creamy classic. Owner Joseph (Joey) Romolo Cappello’s little shop is known for its authentic Italian treats filled with everything from the classic vanilla cream topped with pistachios, nuts or cherries to seasonal flavors like limoncello, pumpkin, hazelnut and tiramisu. But what you won’t find is any industrial-sized kitchen machinery. Joey insists on making everything by hand. “When I see a cannoli that’s been made by a machine, I instantly know,” he declares. “But when I see handmade cannolis, they look like little butterflies to me. I can tell.”

Originally started in 1968 by Romolo, his now 91-year-old Sicilian grandfather, Joey took over the business 15 years ago after what he affectionately calls a good deal of guilt-tripping from his 86-year-old grandmother, Angela. “My ‘Nonna’ is a beautiful, thoughtful woman and a good listener, but she also has a magic about her,” he claims. “She says when I was a baby, she used to rub mascarpone and rum on my gums to calm me down and then do a spell on me that would draw me back to her later in life. And it worked! I’m the only one in the family who was meant to do this.”

Growing up, Joey’s destiny wasn’t always clear to him. “I was a chemical engineer, worked in the music industry, produced concerts and festivals, and dabbled in real estate. I’ve tried it all and I have no regrets,” he declares. “When you let go and realize a choice has been made for you, you make the best of it. It’s been a real blessing.”

Romolo’s started out specializing in ice cream, but in the late 1970s and ‘80s, it became mostly a wholesale business, supplying spumoni ice cream wedges to some of the most famous Italian restaurants along Fisherman’s Wharf. In the 1990s, food trends shifted and the shop’s handmade cannoli began to take off in popularity. “Those little cannoli shells are fried, hand-filled and take a lot of time to make,” he explains. “We chocolate dip the inside of the shells so they stay crunchy twice as long as an undipped shell. And we fill them when you order them so they stay fresh.”

Everything from their cannoli cream fillings to their ice creams and cakes are made in-house from scratch. Joey insists on doing things the old-fashioned way, remaining true to his grandparents’ desire to keep their Italian heritage alive. “We haven’t changed a single thing,” Joey says proudly. “These recipes are thousands of years old. They’re so simple, but the customers who come here depend on us to make things as close to what they’ve known from their own families. It has to be as good as that, if not a little better.”

These days, large catering orders keep the business going. But Joey admits that longtime customers who stop by infrequently are his favorite people to serve. “We have corporate accounts and regulars, but the true, devoted customers see us only once or twice a year for an extremely special occasion,” he says. “Every day, there’s a customer who comes from afar who’s looking to reconnect with their past through these Italian desserts. It’s very special.”

Joey says he’s proud to continue his family’s legacy of quality and authenticity at a place that’s become a local institution. “It’s a special little seed. It’s not like a formula that anyone else can follow. It only works here, in this little spot.”

Candied Citrus

Joey uses finely ground citrus peel in the creamy filling of his cannoli. Here is his grandmother’s recipe, which can be used as a garnish or to flavor whipped cream. He works purely from memory, no measurements needed.

+ Peel off the rind, excluding the white pith, of as many lemons and/or oranges as you’d like. (The more, the better.) Cut the peels into quarter-inch slivers.
+ Put the slivered citrus peels into a cold-water bath and soak for about three hours. Drain, then repeat the process twice to remove the bitterness.
+ Place the drained peels in a large saucepan and cover with granulated sugar. Simmer on low for about an hour.
+ Remove pan from heat and let cool. Drain the peels and spread them out on a flat, dry surface, such as a rack, allowing for plenty of airflow and rotating occasionally until dry (about two days).
+ Store in a jar at room temperature. The dried candied peels can be used as a garnish or finely chopped in a food processor.

Blooming Good Hikes

Words by Linda Hubbard

There’s a show taking place on the Peninsula—and it’s all yours for free, or nearly so. Thanks to the winter rains, wildflowers are springing up all over our local nature preserves. A kaleidoscope of color sweeps the landscape with sunset orange California poppies, the yellow and white petals of tidy tips and spiky stems of purple lupine. Now—while skies are likely to be clear, ahead of summer’s fog—is a great time to lace up your trail shoes or hiking boots and see them up close.

For a bounty of blooms and scenery that puts a spring in your step, visit these four parks offering distinct experiences, from a good ramble to more strenuous outings. A gentle reminder for visitors: take photos not flowers. Leave plants and wildlife undisturbed so that everyone can appreciate them.

Enid Pearson-Arastradero Preserve

Ten and a half miles of trails loop up and around a nice mixture of oak woodland and grassland. This City of Palo Alto-owned, 622-acre preserve is at its greenest in March—and punctuated with wildflowers. It’s named for former City Councilwoman Enid Pearson, who was instrumental in passing the 1965 ballot measure that prohibits Palo Alto from selling any park land without voter approval.

Set your sights on a number of good hilly loops, or take an out-and-back trail along Arastradero Creek for gentler terrain. First-time visitors may be surprised to encounter so much wildlife so close to suburbia. You’re likely to spot wild turkeys and deer, and may even catch a glimpse of a coyote or bobcat disappearing into the purple needlegrass and blue wild rye.


+ The main parking lot has an interpretive center and is located at 1530 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto
+ Terrain is packed gravel with a few rocky sections
+ Open to hikers, cyclists, equestrians and leashed dogs
+ Restrooms located at the parking lot
+ Find more information and a trail map at

Photo: Courtesy of Robb Most

Bedwell Bayfront Park

Longtime residents may remember when Bedwell Bayfront Park was a landfill before it was capped in the 1980s. Covering 160 acres, the dog-friendly park shares some of the same attributes as Arastradero—there’s water and wildlife, but of a very different sort, specifically shorebirds drawn to its salt marshes along the San Francisco Bay that surrounds it on three sides.

Popular with bird watchers and kite flyers, it’s also a picturesque place to spread out a picnic blanket and watch the clouds. Walkers can take a relatively flat 2.3-mile trail around the perimeter. Bedwell’s interior trails are hilly with some good up and down pulls for those seeking more strenuous activity, along with breathtaking views across the Bay.


+ The park is located at 1600 Marsh Road, Menlo Park
+ Terrain is mostly unpaved dirt
+ Open to hikers, cyclists, and leashed dogs
+ Restrooms located at the first paved parking lot
+ Find more information at

Photo: Courtesy of Frances Freyberg

Edgewood County Park & Natural Preserve

Driving along Highway 280, you can catch a glimpse of the showcase that permeates Edgewood Park in the spring—not just a sprinkling of wildflowers but also carpets of colorful blooms like goldfields and purple-blue lupine.

What makes its wildflower display unique is its serpentine soil, which inhibits invading non-native plants and allows well-adapted natives to thrive. Keep an eye out for the telltale flutter of the white, black and orange wings of the rare Bay checkerspot butterfly. The species thrives at Edgewood, where its caterpillars fatten up on a diet of California plantain and owl’s clover.

Covering 467 acres, 10 miles of trails wind along its woodlands and grasslands. There’s a bit of climbing, but it’s fairly gentle, and the trail surface is free of rocks and other potential ankle-twisters.
For a quick jaunt and easy access to the preserve and its 550 varieties of plants and wildflowers, park along Cañada Road just south of Edgewood Road and enter the park via the Clarkia Trailhead.


+ Main parking lot is at 10 Old Stage Coach Road, Redwood City
+ Terrain is dirt
+ Open to hikers and equestrians; no dogs or cyclists
+ Restroom in the picnic area near parking lot
+ Find more information and a trail map at

Photo: Courtesy of Frances Freyberg

Montara Mountain Trail

On clear spring days, the butt-kicking Montara Mountain Trail provides glorious views out over the Pacific Ocean. Just over two miles in length, the elevation change surges 1,174 feet. Those not keen on making the full ascent can circle back on the Brooks Creek Trail.

Along the way you’ll weave through a towering blue gum eucalyptus forest, pass large granite rock formations and encounter the unique Montara manzanita, a shrub with tightly bunched blooms that only grows on this mountain.

The trail is part of the 1,052-acre San Pedro Valley Park located in the northernmost part of the Santa Cruz Mountain range. It’s also home to Brooks Falls, the tallest waterfall in San Mateo County, dropping 207 feet off of Montara Mountain—and mostly visible after a significant rain.


+ Located at 600 Oddstad Boulevard, Pacifica
+ Terrain is dirt; lots of switchbacks
+ Open to hikers and equestrians; no dogs or cyclists
+ Restroom at the visitors center
+ $6 entry fee
+ Find more information and view a trail map at

Beyond the Boardwalk

Words by Sharon McDonnell

If all you know of Santa Cruz is the boardwalk, it’s time to refresh your notion of this beach town and veer off the tourist track. With a bookstore that also houses a natural wine bar and a high-end Thai restaurant, as well as a flower shop that doubles as a café and chocolate bar, the area hosts an array of multi-tasking hybrids. Why limit yourself to just one thing? And if your visit coincides, as mine did, with UC Santa Cruz’s Monster Festival—where scholars explore cultural and literary monsters from Greek mythology to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—all the better. Thanks to its free talks, readings and an exhibit of women comic book artists at the Museum of Art and History, I came back marvelously informed. Santa Cruz 2.0 is wonderfully whimsical and weird.

Cover Photography: Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez / Photography: Courtesy of Philip Lima


Craving books and a bite? Bad Animal is the place to go if you have an appetite for fiction, poetry, philosophy, rare books or the occult. “It’s one of our best-selling sections—Santa Cruz has a lot of people interested in this stuff,” says bookseller Nick Pillsbury. It’s also the place for superb Thai food from a chef with a pedigree from Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos, a wine list that roams the globe from Slovenia to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and a soundtrack from the 1960s and ‘70s. Restaurant-in-residence Hanloh’s chef Lalita Kaewsawang has wowed guests since late 2022 with Thai specialties like shrimp red curry with pineapple and apple.

A block away on Cedar Street, you’ll find charming Gabriella, an Italian-inflected, European-style restaurant. Delighting diners since 1992, it sources its food from organic farms like Live Earth, Dirty Girl and Rodoni. Owner Paul Cocking always sits at the same table, pours wine and chats with guests. Butternut squash ravioli—embellished with sliced apples, goat cheese and pumpkin seeds in sage with brown butter and honey truffle oil—were so perfectly creamy, crunchy and sweet that I’ve tried to replicate the dish at home. Another enticing choice is Copal for Oaxacan Mexican food, which serves four different types of mole and mixes up mezcal-based cocktails.

Photography: Courtesy of Cat & Cloud

For a laid-back town, Santa Cruz has an astounding variety of places to get caffeinated. At florist Flower Bar, pick out bouquets while sipping on lavender and rose lattes made with Ritual coffee. Its other offerings include Feve artisan chocolates, pastries, sandwiches and wine. Roaster 11th Hour Coffee sells plants, food and coffee equipment in a roomy café with wood-slab tabletops. It also has a cocktail bar and hosts pop-ups for fried chicken, dumplings and ramen on its large, umbrella-shaded patio.

Other spots to grab a cup of joe include Cat & Cloud, a coffee roaster with pink-and-teal décor. Owned by award-winning baristas, it’s grown to three locations in the city, plus one in nearby Aptos. Santa Cruz serves as home base for Verve Coffee Roasters, which also has a popular Palo Alto location. Midtown Surf Shop & Coffee Bar serves cups of Verve to those seeking surfboards and swimsuits.

Photography: Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez

What to do

Buzzing with caffeine? Walk it off along West Cliff Drive, a beautiful place to bike or stroll. Its scenic promenade above the bay and boardwalk includes tributes to surfers and ocean-lovers, along with the Surfing Museum in a brick lighthouse. Pick up a set of wheels from Santa Cruz BCycle, a new e-bike sharing program with stations scattered throughout the city and the UC Santa Cruz campus.

Architecture buffs will enjoy a stroll along a two-block stretch of Walnut Avenue, with its mostly Victorian houses from the late 1800s to early 1900s, and Ocean View Avenue for its Victorian mansions. Keep an eye out for 20 conservation-themed murals around the city, created for the Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans project in 2021. If you feel the call of nature, Wilder Ranch State Park, four miles north of downtown Santa Cruz on Highway 1, offers 34 miles of hiking, biking and horse trails through oak-lined meadows and redwood ravines.

Photography: Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez

Beloved annual festivals include Sailboat Races on Wednesday nights from March to October, the Open Studios Art Tour in October, which features over 300 artists county-wide, the Sea Glass and Ocean Art Festival in November and the Clam Chowder Cook-Off in late February, starring both amateur and professional chefs.


When you’re ready to call it a night, check out West Cliff Inn, a white 1877 Victorian offering panoramic views of Monterey Bay from half of its 10 rooms, as well as porches with rocking chairs. Breakfasts may feature an artichoke, spinach and feta frittata, while the civilized custom of afternoon wine and cheese is observed in its seafoam-painted parlor. My cheerful yellow room, its bay window overlooking the sea, featured framed watercolors of shells and coral, and a marble-floored bathroom with a spa tub.

Photography: Courtesy of Tory Lorance Weiss

The sprawling Chaminade Resort & Spa boasts hilltop views overlooking redwood and eucalyptus forests and 156 rooms in orange-roofed Spanish Colonial-style villas. Guests enjoy access to two outdoor hot tubs and pools (all with majestic wooded views), plus tennis and pickleball courts, a spa, Himalayan salt sauna and three miles of hiking trails. The View restaurant serves multi-course dinners with local wine pairings April through October and hosts live music six nights a week.

Marriott’s Hotel Paradox, a contemporary-style, 170-room hotel just a 10-minute walk from downtown, emerged from a renovation in October with a forest theme. With a toppled tree trunk for a front desk, the lobby features gnarled benches hand-crafted from entire teak tree roots and 11 tree trunks. Savor honey from the hotel’s rooftop beehives at Solaire Restaurant + Bar, where tastings and talks are offered by Santa Cruz Bee Company.

“Normal is just a setting on the dryer,” a thought-provoking sign on my floor proclaimed—a fitting motto for a trip to delightfully offbeat Santa Cruz.

Cruz Over –

Looking Sharp

Words by Johanna Harlow

It’s a gallery dedicated to the art of steel. Enter Perfect Edge Cutlery in San Mateo—a knife and sharpening shop—and behold Baldwin Blades with birch, maple and walnut handles. Meglio metal etched with swirling Mayan symbols and coiling sirens. Damascus steel with layers rippled like tree rings. Here, even the less flashy knives assume masterful shape and form. Unwielded, these functional beauties await the call to action on the cutting board.

“Our job is to know everything about every one of these knives,” says Tara Ransfer, a self-proclaimed knife nerd who runs the business with her father, Mike Solaegui. From Messermeister to Miyabi, Kai to Kikuichi, Tara knows them all.

Mike’s interest lies in the sharpening side of the business, in returning blades to their intended purpose of slicing and dicing at a rapid staccato beat. He offers this service at the shop—evident in the whir of the sharpening blade in the back room—but also takes out their mobile truck, making rounds to restaurants ranging from mom-and-pop to Michelin-starred. They’ve serviced Google’s numerous campus cafes, the Michelin-darling French Laundry in Yountville, Madera in Menlo Park, and many a Marriott and Hyatt hotel kitchen, among countless others.

And with the motto, “If it has an edge, we can do it,” they hone more than knives, caring for the blades of immersion blenders, kitchen shears and food processors. “They need somebody they trust to do a good job. That’s us,” Mike states. Tara nods her agreement, “Knife sharpening is a skill the same way learning to cook is a skill.” By both sharpening and selling knives, the duo has gained a deeper understanding of this kitchen essential. “Neither one tells the full story,” continues Tara. “If the heat treatment is off with one of the knives, sharpening will tell you which one.”

Mike, once a butcher like his father, understands the value of an effective tool. “My grandfather was the first person who set me up with a tri-stone sharpener to just mess around with,” Tara recollects of her after-school visits to the meat shop.

Now celebrating Perfect Edge’s 30th anniversary, father and daughter continue to steer customers to the right knife through a series of questions. After all, the two-inch paring knife, while great for peeling apples, isn’t up to fileting hefty tuna like the three-foot maguro bōchō blade. “We want to know what you’re going to cut on,” Tara notes, “what you’re going to use the knives on, how much maintenance you’re going to want to do, how much experience you have in using knives.”

Your answers might very well determine where your knife originates. Always on the cutting edge, Mike and Tara’s business became one of the first to sell game-changing Japanese cutlery in the Bay Area. This was back in ‘98, when German knives reigned. “I think it’s fair to say that the Japanese knives were coming in sharper than the German and American-made knives,” Mike says. “It’s harder and more flexible, so you can make it thinner.” Later, celebrity chef Rachael Ray popularized Japanese knives by brandishing her favorite santoku on 30 Minute Meals. “Every time she would talk about it on her show, we would sell 24 or more that week—easily,” Tara recalls.

That doesn’t mean everyone should get one. If you’re used to manhandling your blades, you’d be best served with something more durable. Tara holds up a supple santoku. “You get that in a bone—even on the woody stem of a piece of rosemary—hit that just wrong, and you can chip that edge.” She indicates a German chef’s knife. “This is a little more forgiving in the average person’s hands.” American manufacturers are also stepping up their game of late. “One is not better than the other,” Tara stresses, adding, “Picking the right one for its purpose is ultimately going to give you the best result.”

They also need to know if you’re looking for a reliable workhorse or the luxury experience. “You’ll hear a lot of analogies with cars when knife people talk,” Tara chuckles. Mike points out a Dragon Storm santoku: “Toyota Camry.” Then indicates the wider blade of a Running Man Forge bunka: “Porsche.” “If you want to go four-wheeling, you’re not going to select a Ferrari to do that,” Tara reasons.

With authority forged from decades in the field, the duo also brings their own knives to the table. Like their Dragon series, a line tailored for home cooks and professional chefs alike that blends Japanese and European knife-making traditions. “We design it, we spec it, we pick all the materials, we do the prototype,” Mike explains. “Then we approve the manufacturer’s preliminary production, make corrections, approve it.”

They’ve also carefully considered cost, ensuring their designs are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also affordable for professional chefs. Tara cocks her head at a gyuto chef’s knife with a resplendent redwood handle. “They won’t be beating that up in a 12-hour shift on the line, you know?” That’s why she and Mike tasked themselves with finding an answer to the question: “How much of a knife can we give them for under $200?”

And the pros came. Tara recalls the time the head chef at the Ritz Carlton called at 10:30 in the evening to ask if he could bring over his pal, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, for some late-night shopping. “So yes, I had intoxicated chefs in the store after hours,” she laughs.

Back in the day-to-day bustle of the shop, the afternoon sunlight hits the room—and everything glows. Mike and Tara look content among the bristling shelves. “I can have hours-long conversations about nothing but knives,” Tara declares.

Fun Fact: “Almost all culinary knives descend from weaponry,” notes Tara. Take Japan’s Kikuichi Cutlery, which originated from a 13th-century swordsmith, supplying Nara’s warrior monks with samurai blades. Think about that the next time you’re doing battle with an obstinate pineapple.

chop chop! –

Quiet Luxury

Words by Sheri Baer

Sheltered by a lush canopy of stately redwood and fragrant bay laurel trees, the gently curving block presents like a storybook oasis in Menlo Park. Slowing your roll comes naturally here—whether you’re walking a dog, pushing a stroller or pausing for a chat. Not surprisingly, when a highly-accomplished couple came across a charming single-level home for sale, they recognized an idyllic setting for raising a family.

Within the passing of a decade, their footprint expanded to include three school-aged children and a dog. What didn’t change was this couple’s devotion to their picturesque neighborhood. When a property two doors down (and nearly double the lot size) serendipitously went on the market, they seized the opportunity to build their dream house—on the street of their dreams.

“They were very organized in how they chose their team and the process,” describes Linda Sullivan, the principal of Sullivan Design Studio (SDS), who initially met with the couple in September 2019. Working with a project manager, the Menlo Park clients ultimately tapped SDS, CKA Architects, Wescott Construction and Keith Willig Landscape—all based in Menlo Park. “It coincidentally turned out to be a local venture,” notes Linda. “Something about this project felt very personal and special, and the teamwork was incredible.”

Over the next three and a half years, as their kids shot hoops just a curve in the road away, their future home emerged from the ground up. Although much larger—three stories and nearly 12,000 square feet—the new structure folded seamlessly into the tranquil scenery around it. “Quiet luxury” is Linda’s descriptive catchphrase. “They had a clear vision and trusted us on the design,” she explains. “The design mimics their personalities. They’re very understated, humble people, so the design isn’t loud, yet it’s still very detailed and the materials are very luxurious and specific to each space.”

Attracted to European style, the couple also wanted to honor the family’s Asian heritage, which is reflected in the architecture and carried into the interiors. SDS senior designer Yoko Kato appreciated the challenge—and the way the blended influences ultimately delivered the desired effect. “You have to capture the essence, not so much the specific elements,” she says. “You have to study really hard to see what works together. We mixed the styles and then put them in a modern way.”

Step into the home, and that’s immediately conveyed. A defining feature in the front entry is custom wood paneling, laser-cut in the shape of the client’s Japanese family crest, or kamon. “She had a kimono with the family symbol,” says Yoko, “and we incorporated that motif into the screens in the entry hall.”

Another priority: durable and highly livable spaces. “They didn’t want a room that was hands-off; every room is conducive to having kids around,” Yoko says. “They wanted each room to have a specific vision but then we needed to make it cohesive.” To achieve that goal, the design team leaned into the use of color and wall coverings, including nature-related themes such as leafy patterns as well as beach, mountain and water elements. “They weren’t afraid of having a lot of colors and texture and patterns in a room,” relays Yoko, “but the overall palette is a muted, very soft pastel color.”

In the dining room, the wallpaper evokes a water or mountain feeling—in a color that’s also soft and serene. The design team proposed an “amazing” light fixture, which they felt grounded the space. The homeowners agreed. “They loved it,” recounts Linda. “It has that earthy element but very light and natural—it felt a lot like them.” The furniture reflects a more simple, European style. “We wanted to highlight the light fixture as a focal element,” she adds. “Everything else works as a backdrop.”

The soft palette extends from the dining area into the living room, a two-story-high space featuring a grand piano with a balcony above. “This room has so many different elements but the fireplace is a focal point,” says Yoko. “We didn’t want to make it too loud because there are so many furniture pieces and the room itself is already impressive.”

The primary bedroom also evokes serenity and calm: flowing, soft drapery, a floral-patterned wall covering, a comfy window seat overlooking the backyard with San Francisquito Creek just beyond. “The bedroom has a lot of pattern but then the color itself is very muted and feels comfortable and cozy,” Yoko says.

When move-in day arrived, there was no need for sad goodbyes. The family’s favorite winding street—albeit a different address—once again welcomed them home. The in-laws settled into the old house, creating easy back-and-forth access for grandparent time. And whether they’re enjoying a backyard barbecue, a piano recital in the living room or ping-pong in the basement, “It comes down to quiet luxury,” Yoko summarizes. “Everything is toned down and relaxed.”


Flower Power

Words by Sheri Baer

“Let me show you the world in my eyes…” The synth-pop beat of Depeche Mode infuses the studio space on Old County Road in San Carlos. Attired in a paint-splattered black work jumper, Ramona Stelzer twirls about, channeling the pulsing electronic energy of a band she’s loved since the ’80s. Along with her morning cappuccino, dancing plays an intrinsic role in her routine. “The music inspires me,” she explains. “My body has to move before I can start.”

When she’s ready, Ramona approaches a massive blank 60 x 72 inch canvas. First comes charcoal. With quick gestures, a sketch takes form, loopy black lines suggesting petals, filaments and stems. “I’ve been told you cannot do this, that it smudges, but I don’t care,” she says. “I use the smudge. I even go in with my hand and smudge it more.”

Nearby, a full to bursting cart holds the tools of her trade. Buckets, plates and scrapers. Speckled cans of spray paint. Golden Fluid acrylics with names like pyrrole red, chromium oxide green and ultramarine blue. Small and medium brushes, but mostly large chunky ones. Ramona dips, lays down big sweeping brush strokes and dips some more. Time suspends, and when she steps back for a pause, she unconsciously wipes her hands, creating a Jackson Pollock effect on her jumper. “Painting on a large scale is my passion,” she describes. “It’s a dance where my entire body moves, expressing feelings and thoughts through layers and colors.”

What emerges on canvas can be loosely described as floral abstractions. Enter Ramona’s studio—and the mix of big-scale completed works and canvases in progress smack you in the senses. And while the eye conceptually processes flowers, what’s being conveyed is the “timeless beauty found in the ephemeral nature of existence.”

“So here’s the thing,” Ramona clarifies. “People think I paint flowers, but I’m not painting flowers. I paint humans.”

Like flowers, she expands, humans are simultaneously delicate and strong: “We are beautiful, resilient and powerful beings, capable of blooming even in the face of adversity.” And it’s that tightly held belief, gleaned from her personal journey, that inspires her art.

Raised in the Black Forest region of Germany, Ramona confides that she had a “very challenging childhood,” which drove her need for a creative outlet. After an intensive apprenticeship, she became a hairstylist in a prestigious salon, which also held art shows. “I always saw myself as an artist, too, because doing hair is art,” she smiles, recalling the intricate hand painting involved in a balayage highlight.

After marrying and having two boys, she first applied paint to canvas in 2002, producing more realistic renderings of flowers that led to her first solo exhibit. As the years passed, Ramona launched her own hairstyling business, while continuing to paint and showcase her work to German and Swiss collectors. Then, in 2011, a major plot twist: the chance for her husband to relocate to Silicon Valley with a German software company. Speaking limited English, the family settled in Palo Alto. “All of a sudden, I knew nothing. I understood nothing,” she recalls. “It makes you so humble.”

Ramona signed up for ESL classes through the Palo Alto Adult School at Cubberley Community Center. As her sons did their homework, she applied herself to her own lessons, eventually returning to hairstyling to reconnect with people and immerse herself in English. When the 2020 lockdown shuttered her business, she rediscovered her art, trying different themes inspired by her own and former clients’ life experiences. “At some point,” she recounts, “I realized, ‘I have to paint flowers again. It’s calling me.’ That’s how I found my way back.”

This time, everything flowed in an abstract way. “Sometimes I look at my work and think, ‘Did I do this?’ I can completely let go. It’s so free. It just comes out of me,” she says. With the family resettled in Redwood City, Ramona initially worked in a converted bedroom before earning studio space in the Palo Alto Cubberley Artist Program. “I swear, I cried when I went to the same parking lot where I went to school to learn English,” she says. “To be there as an artist in residency felt like a full circle after 12 years.”

Now fully committed to her art career, Ramona revels in the daily creative dance. “If you trust and just start walking,” she observes, “all of a sudden doors open up.”

Actively embracing social media to reach collectors worldwide, she’s been profiled in a German docu-series, had her work spotlighted in Vanity Fair UK and garnered exhibitions at the San Francisco Art Market, the International Art Museum of America in San Francisco and the Salon International d’Art Contemporain in Paris. Represented by the Mash Gallery in Los Angeles, Ramona’s work is included in a gallery exhibit captured by the Netflix series Selling Sunset. And, from a private studio space in San Carlos, her large-scale pieces continue to blossom into distinct floral stories: Seasons of Existence, Petals of Light, Begin to Bloom Again, and her newest series, My Dancing Flower Garden.

After feeling “boxed” by German culture (“Everything always has to be perfect, so it’s hard to take a risk or try something new.”), Ramona relishes the spirited nature of the Peninsula. “Moving here was the best thing that could ever happen to me,” she reflects. “I feel like I was meant to live here.” That positivity, “enduring hope,” she calls it, shines through in her paintings, and it’s not surprising that her once-fledgling English has evolved into poetry. Capturing the essence of her work, she writes, “Within a challenging life, her wings take flight, strength whispers softly in petals of light.”


May 4 & 5 • 11AM-5PM
285 Old County Road • Studio #3 San Carlos
(and by appointment) 


Discover Los Altos

Words by Johanna Harlow

Sleepy Los Altos is stirring. This tranquil town rooted in an agricultural history of apricot orchards and idyllic summer cottages is blossoming into a lively destination. Home to the world’s first consumer flying car showroom and birthplace of Apple (AKA Steve Job’s garage), it has seen its share of innovation but maintains its small-town charm with scarcely a chain store in sight. The downtown hosts a number of charming events, like First Fridays and a pet parade every May featuring residents’ dogs, cats, chickens, turtles and even worms.

Fancy Fare

With a thriving foodie scene, Los Altos boasts a bounty of fantastic restaurants. ASA serves upscale American fare in a sophisticated space where schools of metal fish swim across its rippling, textured wallpaper. Start with a craft cocktail and ruby-red slices of satisfyingly marbled jamón ibérico while you strategize mains. Try the Argentine steak, thick and tender with an understated chimichurri sauce, or the coq au vin, a half-chicken braised in a rich red wine so tender the first bite will make you melt.

Photo: Sara Scroggins / Cover Photo: Courtesy of State Street Market

Perhaps you’ve already heard the buzz about State Street Market, a food hall for elevated street bites. With something for everyone, diners choose from smashburgers and salads to ramen and ravioli to curry and kebabs. Live music and merlot flow on “Wine Down Wednesdays,” when Murdoch’s Bar sells bottles of vino at half-price. If you prefer a sit-down dining experience, check out its anchor tenant, Cetrella, serving Mediterranean and California coastal cuisine.

Tableside travelers will love the hot new Greek spot Barbayani Taverna down the street. Its whitewashed interior with brilliant blue accents and wicker lights whisks guests off to the shores of Santorini. Or sample an array of small plates at sushi spot Sumo Japanese Restaurant, which sends food sailing down a conveyor belt in little gondolas.


+ Aurum: Innovative Indian cuisine in a brightly-colored space.

+ Pho Cabin: Cozy up to piping hot bowls of soup in a woodsy interior.

+ Hiroshi: Luxury omakase restaurant serving rare ingredients.

+ Urfa Bistro: Classic Mediterranean food in a dining room adorned with tapestries.

+ State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria: Run by a family of pizza enthusiasts. Winner of World’s Best Non-Traditional Pizza.

+ Rustic House Oyster Bar: Seafood in a rustic-chic space.

+ Red Berry Coffee: Homey coffee shop featuring local artists and live music.

+ Amandine: Swanky cocktail lounge with travel-themed drinks.

Shop Talk

Time to hit the shops. If your meal inspired you to whip up your own culinary masterpiece, stock up on cast iron pans, cutlery and culinary gadgets at Cook’s Junction. But if you’re more ardent about fashion than filet mignon, enter Alys Grace, a cheery women’s clothing boutique full of floral dresses, velvet blazers and swishy satin skirts.

 Photo: Courtesy of Cranberry Scoop

For accessories to match your new ensemble, stop by Smythe and Cross Fine Jewelry. Offering elegant pieces shimmering with jewels for the ladies, they also stock suave cufflinks and Tateossian leather bracelets for the gents. For a different kind of stone, His & Her Rocks sells a geologist’s treasure trove of citrine, agates and crystals as well as wooden animal sculptures imported from Bali.

For the kids, find toys and stuffed friends at Cheeky Monkey or that next great read at Linden Tree Books. Plant parents will want to stock up on pots and ponytail palms at Chinelo Design, while those looking for stationery and seasonal home décor should find their way to Cranberry Scoop, a local institution since the 1970s.

Wonder & Wander

Take time to engage your artful side at MADSEN, a collaboration between sculptor Oleg Lobykin and Byington Vineyard & Winery. You can sip chardonnay and admire Oleg’s organically shaped stone sculptures, but in Los Altos, art flourishes outside gallery walls as well. Downtown features a number of murals, so you never know when you might turn a corner and encounter giant peonies or monarchs the size of people.

 Photo: Courtesy of Christian Pizzirani & Los Altos Stage Company

How about a performance? Let Los Altos Stage Company entertain you with one of their latest productions. The 99-seat Bus Barn Theater is the kind of intimate venue that allows the audience to truly enter into the world of the characters. You can take in nature’s show at the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve with six acres of trees, observation decks and a rose garden.

If you’re interested in learning about the town’s past, let Los Altos History Museum fill you in. It’s a great way to find out about the many inhabitants who’ve called the region home—from indigenous peoples and Mexican land grantees to early California settlers and apricot growers. The property also boasts a preserved windmill and the J. Gilbert Smith House, a historic Craftsman-style farmhouse turned gallery.

Photo: Courtesy of Enchante Hotel

Stay a Spell

Want to make a weekend of it? Enchanté Boutique Hotel doesn’t offer cookie-cutter rooms. Instead, each abode at this French chateau-inspired destination has a personal touch. With themed rooms ranging from Madame Curie to Marie Antoinette, Musique de l’Opera to Tour de France, the hotel curates artifacts to match. Expect framed sheet music, old world portrait paintings, tapestries, a myriad of chandeliers and exceptional attention to detail. Campagne One Main, the Napoleon-themed bistro and bar downstairs, displays handpicked artifacts from the French military including an authentic bicorn hat. Hotel guests recieve a complimentary glass of wine and appetizer plate in the evening and a made-to-order breakfast each morning.

Family First Design

Words by Loureen Murphy

To create beautiful, family-friendly homes for her Peninsula clients, interior designer Cathie Hong draws on years of art lessons along with her experiences as a mom with four children. “My understanding of light and darkness, balance of positive and negative space, gradients, colors, layering of objects and use of scale are all skills I honed,” shares Cathie.

Recently, she helped three local families reinvent their spaces. “We ask them all kinds of questions about how they live and like to function, about color palettes, materials, cleanability, durability and kid-friendliness,” Cathie says. She also asks homeowners to share their “pain points,” whether it’s lack of storage, awkward setups for bathing children or something that’s just plain ugly.

Portrait Photo: Courtesy of Photoflood Studio

As a shy Bay Area girl, Cathie expressed herself with a brush and acrylic paints growing up. When life offered her a larger canvas in the form of her first home, it reignited her creative energy. Cathie started studying interior design and taking on projects around her friends’ homes. Their frequent referrals soon filled her artistic hands. “It snowballed really fast from there,” she recalls.

“I like a home that’s simple, organized and calm,” says the designer. Cathie Hong Interiors (CHI) has graced the Peninsula with its distinctive work in Midcentury, Japanese, Scandinavian and Japandi styles. She describes Midcentury as a bit bolder in color and form, Japanese as spare and serene, Scandinavian as more playful, Japandi as fusing aspects of the latter two.
Yet clean lines, natural materials, muted colors, natural light and low profiles don’t make for cookie-cutter looks.

For one Los Altos family, every time they opened the front door, they faced a huge, white block fireplace. Once Cathie removed the unused behemoth, the living room, dining room and kitchen flowed together into one open space. But a massive island with a cooktop dominated the kitchen. It was so big, the owners couldn’t reach its center to clean up cooking spills and oil splatters. Moving the cooktop to the wall and altering the island created an airier, more usable area, says Cathie. And adjusting the kitchen and powder room’s footprints allowed the creation of a true walk-in pantry, tucked behind a “secret” cabinet door.

The primary bathroom in this Belmont Hills home features scenic views of the Bay Area through windows on all three walls of a double-shower curbless wet room.

Cathie says CHI’s clients tend to need more storage space in mudrooms, bathrooms and playrooms. Her solution? “Adequate built-ins,” she says. “Built-ins are functional, but also are an opportunity to add unique design details with the style of cabinetry, color or choice of wood.”

For a San Carlos couple, their hillside home’s unfinished basement, accessed through a separate outside entry, didn’t feel like part of the house and had turned into a giant catch-all. After calling in CHI, the basement gained a new entrance, lots of storage, a mudroom and a new guest suite. They increased communal space by adding a family room with a projector screen and a wet bar, all connecting to the back patio for easy indoor-outdoor access.

This midcentury home in San Carlos underwent a significant upgrade with a white oak bifold door opening onto an outdoor patio, as well as a wood-slat oak railing that connects the new finished basement to the existing main floor.

“They were thinking about kids hanging out downstairs, watching TV, grabbing soda and snacks from the fridge, then going outside to play,” Cathie says. “They love having the extra space now.”

She notes that a life transition—having children or accommodating aging parents—often tips the scales for a remodel or a rebuild. In Palo Alto, Cathie’s design helped a couple completely rebuild the woman’s childhood home to provide multi-generational living space for both her parents and her family of six.

For a young family with a home nestled into a Belmont hillside, that transition point came as the couple anticipated having more children. They hired Cathie to rebuild the house, creating an open floor plan and a new third story with bedrooms and baths for children. The kitchen, located on the middle story, opens to the backyard via a new glass door. “Now they can easily host people in that indoor-outdoor space,” says the designer.

CHI chose a lighter hue of blue (Benjamin Moore Templeton Gray) on the basement level, which has less natural light, and opted for a deeper blue on the main floor.

To enhance the home’s San Francisco Bay views that had been limited by the old layout, Cathie created a nearly full-glass wall and multiplied windows throughout the home. Warm whites and gray tiles as well as fixtures with satin brass and matte black finishes, balanced the minimalist style. And the timing was perfect: as soon as the remodeling project finished, the couple welcomed their third child.

A self-defined work-at-home mom, Cathie says she still picks up her kids, now between the ages of 5 to 12, helps them with homework and makes dinner. “When I started my business, I didn’t want it to take away from what I prioritize, which is my family.” Her family-first approach doesn’t detract from building business relationships, but strengthens them. “Because a lot of my clients are young families, there’s a sense of camaraderie,” she shares.

But what satisfies Cathie the most comes when she makes a return visit. “It’s so rewarding seeing clients living in the spaces that we’ve designed. It makes me really happy to know I’m not just making their house pretty, but I’m improving their whole lifestyle.”

family room –

In Stitches

Words by Johanna Harlow

There’s a significant amount of abstraction in flying—after all, you’re hurtling through the air in a metal tube at 30,000 feet. The familiar landscape becomes a surreal patchwork of shapes and colors through that plane window, a little like a massive, earthy quilt. Artist Linda Gass captures that feeling in her map-like “stitched paintings,” textile artworks that contemplate water and land-use issues in California and the American West.

Though the Los Altos local also works with glass, Linda has an obvious soft spot for textiles. “They tend to have a comforting feeling to them,” she describes. “We’re used to wrapping ourselves in them. We sleep under them.” Her intricate designs are fashioned by drawing with the sewing machine, guiding the fabric with her hands while controlling the speed of the needle. Averaging a mile’s worth of thread per year, tiny stitches coalesce into textured patterns that reflect the environment—rolling grasslands curve and loop, rows of crops form neat lines, rivers and oceans coil and ripple.

The highlight is the water, not just in texture but in color. Through silk painting, Linda commingles an ever-changing blend of aquamarine and turquoise, cyan and seafoam. She traces her aquatic interest back to her mother. Linda recalls her mom warning that if she didn’t finish her salad, it would rain the next day (a superstition from her mother’s own childhood in stormy Luxembourg). But the threat didn’t carry the same weight in Los Angeles, with its stubborn lack of rain. “We have all these lush green lawns and swimming pools,” Linda remembers thinking. “If it doesn’t rain here, where does our water come from? I had no idea. You know…it comes from the tap!” Later, she was shocked to learn that none of LA’s water came from local sources.

Linda’s enthusiasm for maps also started at a young age. The artist’s face softens with nostalgia when she speaks of hours spent whirling her Rand McNally globe. “I’d play this game where I’d spin the globe, and I’d close my eyes and put my finger on it, just to see where it landed,” she smiles. “Mostly, it landed in the ocean because it’s mostly water. Which also left this big impression on me of how much of our planet is water. It was this process of discovery.”

As a student at Stanford University, Linda cultivated her interest in sustainable living. “I lived in a co-op house where we ate vegetarian,” she notes. “We did recycling, we didn’t use paper napkins with our dinners, we baked our own bread and granola…all those good hippie things!” Today, her advocacy-fueled artwork has been shown at Institute and Museum of California Art, and the Oakland Museum of California. It features in publications like American Craft, Bay Nature and KQED Arts as well as a National Geographic publication on unusual maps. One is even on the cover of an environmental science textbook.

One of Linda’s favorite pieces, included in a solo show at the Museum of Craft and Design, is also a very personal piece. The stitched painting, Severely Burned, reveals the crippling damage of the Rim Fire in the Tuolumne River Watershed through an artistically rendered vegetation burn map. Linda has regularly visited and backpacked in Yosemite National Park dating back to eighth grade, when a week-long class trip taught her to appreciate the area’s ecosystem, from its plants and animals to the glaciers that carved its valley.

And she witnessed the fire in person. “There was this cloud—like one I’d never seen before,” Linda says, recalling the unsettling horizon she saw out the bus window. “It was this cauliflower in the sky. It was not a rain cloud. And the underside of it…the whole cloud was gray. There was no white.” The fire burned so hot it had created its own weather, condensing the moisture from the atmosphere into an unnerving pyrocumulus cloud. Linda vividly recollects the flurry of ash later falling like snowflakes, some crusting on her camera’s zoom lens.

Although her work wades through some harsh realities, Linda takes a surprisingly gentle approach. “I use the lure of beauty to look at the hard environmental issues we face—rather than make artwork that may be more ugly, like the subject matter that I’m dealing with, that people might not want to look at. Or live with.” Visually pleasing images make unappetizing truths a little more palatable. “Otherwise, they might want to stick their heads in the sand because it’s overwhelming.”

It’s an artistic choice that reveals her hopes for the restoration of natural beauty. Catching a bird’s-eye view with Linda reminds us to aim higher and choose to thoughfully steward the planet we all inhabit.

Common threads –

The Beat on your Eats: French Restaurants

Words by Johanna Harlow

firehouse bistro


Entre vous to Firehouse Bistro, a place dedicated to “a modern interpretation of classic French comfort food.” The chef here specializes in the ocean’s bounty, so make sure to sample the ahi tuna tartare with avocado, pan-seared salmon or Dungeness crab cioppino. There’s also a tantalizing seafood risotto studded with jumbo prawns and scallops in a decadent mushroom garlic sauce. Located in Woodside, the cabin-like Firehouse Bistro is encircled by trees, with hardwood floors and a ceiling to match. Artwork featuring rural scenes hangs from its walls. 2991 Woodside Road. Open daily.

bistro vida

Menlo Park

Go bold at Bistro Vida and opt for the outdoor seating, where a heated patio outfitted in billowing red curtains sets the stage for a memorable meal. If rain drives you indoors, retreat to a snug table with a steaming bowl of French onion soup. One of the most-ordered items on the menu, this hearty beef broth with country bread is blanketed in a generous layer of gooey gruyère cheese and is just the thing to combat the chill. So is the boeuf bourguignon with hearty chunks of beef stewed in red wine with pearl onions and baby carrots. Or sink your teeth into the filet au poivre, blanketed in a heavy cream sauce and balanced by the bite of coarsely cracked peppercorns. 641 Santa Cruz Avenue. Open daily.

la boheme

Palo Alto

Looking for a little piece of Paris on California Avenue? Devoted to the French classics, this Palo Alto restaurant is known for buttery escargots, sandwiches loaded with tender duck confit and mussels bathed in a creamy Roquefort blue cheese sauce. Savor your meal with sips of kir royale, the blackcurrant of the crème de cassis complementing the crisp champagne. As for dessert? Find well-loved classics like crème brulée and soufflé, as well as the harder-to-find île flottante, a meringue island floating on a lake of crème anglaise. Just like the opera of the same name, this restaurant hits all the high notes. 415 California Avenue. Open Tuesday through Sunday. Live jazz on Fridays.

Passage to India

Words by Sharon McDonnell

For a culinary tour through India that will tantalize your taste buds with layers of spices and surprise you with unexpected ingredients like oysters, asparagus and burrata, there’s no need to leave the Peninsula.
At ROOH in Palo Alto, the goal is “to change your perception of Indian food and also show strong women in India,” says Anu Bhambri, who owns the restaurant with husband Vikram Bhambri.

The couple loves to eat out, but when they returned from frequent visits to their homeland, they were dismayed that Indian restaurants in the U.S. seemed to lag years behind. “About 20 years behind,” according to Anu.
“We want to show the exciting diversity of food of contemporary India,” she says. So instead of serving just north Indian or south Indian food, ROOH showcases the stunning variety of regional dishes, from Mumbai to Goa, Hyderabad to Gujarat.

The initial menu was cooked up by Sujan Sarkar, second-place winner of Food Network’s Chopped and Times of India’s 2016 “Chef of the Year.” ROOH’s current executive chef is Apurva Panchal, a former chef de cuisine at Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai who’s cooked for former President Barack Obama.

A must-order on the small plates menu is dahi puri, six fried semolina puffs with avocado, tamarind and onion, topped with yogurt mousse and raspberry pieces. Tangy, creamy, sweet and spicy, it’s an irresistible street food in Mumbai. “I lived on dahi puri in India,” says Anu, who recalls her mother making it. “I’d eat it every day.”

While pork isn’t often on the menu in Indian restaurants, ROOH’s small plates include barbecue pork ribs with pomegranate sauce, as well as duck seekh kebabs with mixed berry chutney and potato tikki chaat, a crunchy fritter. For a strong starter, try the barbecue oysters, topped with melted Amul cheese, a cult favorite in India that’s made from buffalo milk in Gujarat.

Entrees range from a tandoori portobello mushroom with popcorn sauce to soya chaap curry featuring meat-like soybean nuggets and vegetables in a creamy yogurt-based turmeric sauce, to pistachio chicken sheekh with almond sauce and beetroot. Desserts include a version of tres leches cake with mango, coconut mousse and jelly.

Bar manager Roger Gomez created the cocktail menu, using a flavor wheel that helpfully groups drinks and their ingredients by the six ayurvedic tastes: sour, sweet, pungent, bitter, salty and astringent. The Mumbai-born Gomez offers a Vasco Hi Ball that contains feni, a spirit distilled from cashew apples that’s made only in Goa. Mango puree, melon, makrut lime, vodka and egg white star in his Ratnagiri, named for an Indian city famous for Alphonso mangoes.

Anu and Vikram had 25 years of combined experience working for Microsoft before they started Good Times Restaurants group with chef Sujan. (Fittingly, when asked to name his favorite cookbook, Sujan cites Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s first chief technology officer.) Anu acts as chief operating officer, while Vikram handles expansion, finance and legal matters.

When the couple wanted to open ROOH in SoMa in 2017, their San Francisco landlord was reluctant to lease to them because the pair had no experience owning a U.S. restaurant—so they flew his manager and a consultant to see their family’s restaurants in India. “They were totally blown away by what we do,” Anu beams.

San Francisco’s ROOH went on to earn a Michelin star, and was followed by locations in New Delhi and Columbus, Ohio, with the Palo Alto restaurant opening in early 2020.

“My parents thought I was crazy to leave tech,” Anu smiles. But their years at Microsoft powerfully influenced the couple, from their restaurant website featuring alluring photos and customer reviews to measuring performance with KPIs (key performance indicators) for everything from the cost of ingredients to identifying trends among best-selling items.
Learn fast, fail fast and adapt to change are all lessons learned from their time working in tech, she says. “We constantly change our menus: every three to four months, we add several dishes, and every six months, we do a major overhaul. We keep things interesting, so guests don’t know what to expect.”

Their exuberant decor matches this mantra. Jewel-like colors adorn ROOH’s living room-like interior, from emerald chairs to ruby red velvet banquettes accented with patterned pillows. The maroon-patterned walls hold photographs of India and a 16-foot-long mural of a modern Indian woman adorned with jewelry and flowers. Two faux mango trees stand right inside the doors, just like the front porch of an Indian house, says Anu.
With a name that means “soul” or “spirit” in Hindi, warm and vibrant ROOH keeps Palo Alto diners coming back for more.

Soul Food –

Turkish Delights

Words by Elaine Wu

Elif Uzun’s definition of a perfect cafe isn’t the ubiquitous big chain coffee shop. “My father was a literature teacher, so I read a lot of poems and writings by Turkish writers,” she recalls. “They were always coming together in coffeehouses to have intellectual conversations or write their next poems. People come together in cafes in Turkey—lovers, writers, families. I wanted that vibe to be accessible here.”

Those memories served as the inspiration for Oklava Cafe on University Avenue in Palo Alto. Launched in June of 2023, Elif and co-owner Aziz Aslan had their fair share of issues before even opening their doors. The cafe’s narrow space and long walls proved to be a challenge to decorate. And heavy rains in early 2023 during the eatery’s construction wreaked havoc. “Water was pouring from the ceiling. Everything was ruined two weeks before we were to open,” she recalls. “But I envisioned myself here. I couldn’t give up and pick another space. I saw the pictures on the walls before I even hung them up. It was so personal for me.”

Originally from the Turkish capital of Ankara, Elif studied engineering and worked in management for Turkish Airlines before moving to Palo Alto eight years ago with her husband to start a mobile gaming company, where she is now the art director. “We like the energy in Palo Alto. It’s similar to Turkey,” she says. “It’s also a walking city. I like being active and the lifestyle here matches mine.”

So it was natural for Elif to want to bring the culture of her homeland to her adopted hometown. “There are not a lot of cozy cafes with an attention to detail and a European feel around here,” she shares. “That’s the kind of place I was craving. It was our motivation for opening this place.”

Elif may be a first-time restaurant owner, but her goals for the cafe were clear: stay authentic to the food and culture of Turkey, create a cozy vibe and make sure it was all artfully done. “I love art, design and making things beautiful,” she says happily. “Aziz handles the day-to-day operations, but I had to sit down and decide what to serve on the menu, how to serve it, the design of everything, like the boxes and the logo. I love the details.”

Oklava Cafe boasts an impressive selection of Turkey’s two most popular desserts: baklava, a classic and labor-intensive pastry made of 40 layers of phyllo dough and traditionally filled with pistachios and honey; and Turkish delights (or lokum), a jelly candy flavored with everything from grape or pomegranate juice to rosewater and dried fruits and nuts. In order to offer customers 20 different varieties of each dessert, they decided to have the delicacies made fresh by a popular store in Istanbul and shipped directly to the cafe. “It gives us the opportunity to share a lot of variety with people and use authentic Turkish ingredients and recipes,” Elif says. “Otherwise, it would be hard for us to keep up.”

With so many choices, Oklava Cafe’s expansive display case is visually stunning, full of treats of different colors, shapes and variations. “Baklava and Turkish sweets connect me to my history, my family and happy times when something is being celebrated,” she says fondly.

Other items on the menu include Turkish coffee, borek (a cheese-filled pastry), pide (a pizza-like flatbread) and Turkish bread pudding. A beautiful breakfast platter comes with sesame-covered simit, a bread similar to a pretzel, that’s served with clotted cream and honey, olives, tomato and cucumber salads, plus cheese, Turkish pastrami and a hard-boiled egg.

“With the food, I wanted to keep it authentic and exactly like they serve it in Turkey,” Elif explains. “There are no extra flavors or special changes for the American palate.” She also plans to make additions to the menu, including more lunch-focused fare, to accommodate their all-day operating hours.
Despite the challenges, Elif’s dream of creating a lovely, comfortable space reminiscent of what she grew up with has finally come true. It wasn’t just something she wanted for the community, but also for herself and her family. “There are always obstacles with everything, but it paid off. All that hard work turned into something good. That’s the important part.”

Where Learning Takes Off

Words by Johanna Harlow

While more compact than the Smithsonian’s sprawling National Air and Space Museum, the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos comes alive with more than 50 aircraft and spacecraft. Within its hangar, gliders, helicopters and airplanes are parked in careful rows. Others hang from the ceiling—the tilt of their wings suggesting that, any moment now, they’ll plunge into a series of swoops and spins. This flight of fancy is fueled by the drone of planes taking off and touching down at the San Carlos Airport next door.

“We focus on California’s contributions to aviation—the Bay Area in particular,” explains Jon Welte, Hiller’s president and CEO since last May. “We connect people to advances in aviation that have happened right here.” The museum features replicas and real aircraft from the 1860s to the present day, but World War II is one era you won’t find represented much. “That’s just not our main theme,” says Jon, pointing out aircraft from that time tend to be on the heftier side and he’s perfectly happy not to have to find space for them. “There are other museums that tell that story, and tell that story very, very well.”

If you’d like to learn about the origins of flight and daring pilots, drones and other aeronautic innovations, this is the place. The collection’s large planes will leave you adequately awestruck—especially the Boeing 747 and the first Grumman Albatross to have flown a single-purpose mission to circumnavigate the globe. You’ll also stand in the shadow of the massive jet-black Boeing Condor, with a wingspan longer than an Olympic-sized pool.

A lofty collection like this one doesn’t happen without someone extraordinary. In 1998, the museum took off under the guidance of Stanley Hiller Jr., who founded Hiller Aircraft Corporation in 1942. As Jon enters the hangar, his first stop is a replica of the aviation entrepreneur’s canary yellow XH-44 “Hiller-Copter.” “This was his first helicopter. He built it in an auto repair shop in Oakland,” Jon says, adding, “He was the first test pilot for most of his aircraft, starting with the XH-44. So he designed it, he helped build it and he flew the thing.” And at the age of 18! Hiller’s career took off from there. “The factory that he set up in the late 1940s was located on Willow Road down in what, today, is Menlo Park—quite close to the Facebook campus.”

The ’40s to the ’60s gave rise to some delightfully odd contraptions housed nearby. These include the questionable rotorcycle, a “foldable helicopter” that’s little more than a seat attached to rotor blades, and the madcap Hiller Flying Platform, “the closest design to mimic a magic carpet.” There’s also the Hiller Hornet, with ramjet engines mounted to its blade tips. “This works almost like a Fourth of July pinwheel,” quips Jon.

But Jon’s favorite historic aircraft is the Travel Air found in the Women in Aviation section. It belonged to Louise McPhetridge Thaden, a contemporary of Amelia Earhart. Jon maintains that Louise was the more accomplished of the two. “She needs more attention,” insists Jon, a pilot himself who started flying at 13. “I think if you look at the races that they both competed in and the various records that they each set, Louise Thaden was the more successful pilot—but she wasn’t married to a publicist, so her story wasn’t put out quite as well.” In fact, she set an endurance record in this very plane in 1929. “A truck would drive along underneath them and match them and then they would take fuel up to refuel the aircraft!”

The aviation museum recently marked its own big milestone. “We just celebrated our two millionth visitor coming through the doors,” cheers Jon. He adds that Hiller sees roughly 120,000 visitors per year, with around 10,000 of them coming with school field trips.

The museum offers plenty of hands-on experiences for its young visitors. They can crawl into cockpits, toss parachuters into a miniature wind tunnel, work on engineering and design projects at the Invention Lab or operate quadcopters at the netted Droneplex. On weekends, they can also test their mettle at the Flight Sim Zone, where many a Boy Scout has earned an aviation badge. Under the instruction of real pilots, aspiring aviators take a virtual flight across the Bay, learning to navigate and land their aircraft with rudder pedals, yoke and throttle.

For those who want to make their mark on a plane—quite literally—there’s Hiller’s “very non-historic, non-glamorous” Cessna Cardinal. Visitors cover it with washable-paint handprints in a rainbow of colors. “It’s glorious,” Jon grins. Except for that one time when permanent paint accidentally got used. “That was not my favorite month with the Cardinal,” he admits.

When they’re not covering it in handprints, kids can climb into the Cardinal’s cockpit, manipulate its controls and flip its switches. “It’s unusual to find kids who haven’t been on an airplane ride today. But the experience of flying is very, very insulated from the actual aircraft,” Jon observes. After all, when you board at the airport, you’re traveling through a jet bridge that deposits you straight into a row of airline seats. “You don’t really experience the aircraft even when you’re inside of it. Whereas going up to a small airplane and touching it—that is a very revelatory experience for even older kids and it makes aviation concrete in a way that just going to the airport, and even flying on a modern jetliner, isn’t. So that airplane is very near and dear to me.”

Jon’s own penchant for planes took off at a young age. Not only was his father a flight instructor, but his elementary school was near the main runway of the Long Beach Airport. “Pacific Southwest Airlines was still around,” he reminisces, “and I vividly remember standing on the playground and watching the planes, each with a friendly smile painted on the front, fly past during recess. It never got old.”

Why do kids gravitate to these winged machines? “Transportation in general is cool! It’s something that’s going to go somewhere,” Jon remarks. “Anything that moves is going to be neat for kids. The fact that it flies just adds to that excitement.”

Events are abundant at Hiller Aviation Museum. Holiday festivities include a “leaping leprechaun” skydiving onto the airstrip on St. Patrick’s Day and a helicopter pumpkin drop and Haunted Hangar at Halloween. “We’re going to drop foam footballs for the Super Bowl,” Jon says. The space also gets rented for private events, hosting many a corporate Christmas party, wedding reception and bar mitzvah. “School dances, we get a lot of those,” he notes.

Hiller also collaborates with the San Carlos Airport to host an annual Runway Run in April, which sends joggers from the museum down the airport’s taxiways and runway. And then there’s the Biggest Little Air Show, another partnership with the airport. “It really is little because the aircraft are primarily radio-controlled models,” Jon notes. “But it’s really big in that some of the things that these aircraft are able to do are spectacular.”

Hiller Aviation not only draws crowds, but also community. It’s propelled by Jon and his tight-knit, full-time staff of 10, along with 200 airplane-loving volunteers, nearly half of whom are high schoolers. Volunteers serve as docents, assist with the summer camps and join the crew to restore and rebuild donated aircraft or make full-scale replicas of famous ones.

As Jon completes the tour, he spreads his arms wide, calling attention one last time to the hanging fleet overhead. The rickety wood-framed gliders and the sleek modern jets not only signal aviation’s evolution, but also look expectantly toward its future. “It’s a pretty neat place,” sums up Jon with a boyish grin.

Q&A: Zookeeper Lee Harper

The Palo Alto Junior Zoo’s animal care specialist and ambassador shares the wildest thing she’s ever done, why she loves a certain tortoise and what goes on after all the visitors go home.

What’s your favorite zoo animal name?
Aigon, the one-eyed raccoon, pronounced “eye-gone.”

So what really goes on after-hours? Any animal hijinks?
One early morning, I found all six flamingos going round
and round the hand-washing station, keeping the automatic sprayers activated. Those rascals even figured out how to
open the elevator.

What traits make for a good zookeeper?
A good zookeeper needs to enjoy interacting with humans as much as animals. We are there to share the love for these animals and to create generations of humans who will care to protect them in their natural world.

Who has your vote for cutest animal couple at the zoo?
Without question, Violet and Fern, the African spoonbills. Those two girls are like ladies you would like to sit down and have tea with.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve had to do for your job?
Early in my career at the zoo, I was by myself and had to give medication, by injection, to our especially large snake. You have to just straighten your spine and do what needs to be done.

Where are your favorite go-to spots on the Peninsula?
True Food Kitchen at Stanford Shopping Center and The Market at Edgewood. We get our produce for the animals there and they have wonderful food to enrich the zookeepers.

What do you consider a must-do on your bucket list?
I’m living the dream.

What’s new at the zoo these days?
We’ve been incubating ibis and hand-raising them. It’s been thrilling to raise the babies from eggs and then be involved in training them.

How do you recharge your batteries at the end of the day?
A long drive home, along the coast. I live south of Half Moon Bay, near San Gregorio. Then diving into a pile of purring felines when I arrive home.

We understand you have a soft spot for Edward, the African spurred tortoise?
Oh Edward! I love him too much! There’s a communication I feel with him that runs so deep in my heart.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done?
Pulling up a huge alligator from the bottom of a deep pool while doing a life-check in the middle of winter.

What’s something people are always surprised to learn about you?
That I used to fly on a wire, like Peter Pan, for a living. I was employed doing character work in film, commercials and live events for the majority of my life.

Do you have a personal motto?
Leap and the net will appear.

Landmark: Doubledecker Bus

Words by Johanna Harlow

You might be familiar with Cameron’s Pub in Half Moon Bay as “that place with the double-decker bus out front.” But how exactly does a Bristol bus end up on the California coast? Built across the pond, this cheery red giant was designed to be just short enough to pass beneath the arched bridges of the English countryside. First shipped to the States to service Lake Tahoe tourists, it ferried folks from the casinos to the Tahoe Queen moored in Zephyr Cove. Cameron Palmer, whose pub celebrates all things British, repurposed it as a dining area for his smoking customers. “When it eventually rolled into Half Moon Bay, we had a whole bunch of people that were eagerly awaiting it with a pint in their hands,” he says. The bus fits right in with the pub’s other icons of English culture, from the shepherd’s pie and pasties on the menu to the life-sized figure of a King’s Guard, black London taxi and red telephone box. Over its colorful, century-long history, the pub building served as a house of ill repute as well as a mess hall and officer’s quarters during World War II. It’s seen escaped convicts from San Quentin, and Al Capone’s sister ran slot machines downstairs. The Hell’s Angels reportedly once rode their Harley Davidsons right through the front door and up to the bar. More recently, the pub has hosted some illustrious English actors. Gerard Butler stopped by regularly during the filming of Chasing Mavericks and on one memorable karaoke night, Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe belted out the lyrics to Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” amid hoots and hollers from the regulars.

Paw Patrol

Words by Johanna Harlow

Wrongdoers beware: those who underestimate K9 Elvis will soon be singing “Jailhouse Rock.” When this Belgian Malinois and his handler Officer Jason Chice are on the scene, it’s only a matter of time before they track down their quarry.

“We’ve been partners since 2020,” says Jason of the San Mateo Police Department K9 Unit. Back in elementary school, Jason recalls a friend’s father showing up with his canine partner for a class demonstration. The memory stuck with him. “The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do working for a police department was be a K9 officer,” shares Jason, who previously worked as an ambulance driver.

As a dual-purpose patrol dog, Elvis’ skillful performance results from hundreds of hours of training with his handler. “Criminal apprehension is his primary focus,” Jason explains. This includes practice with decoys: courageous men and women clad in protective bite suits willing to face the sharp end of a dog. Dual-purpose K9s don’t just protect police officers. They learn to track people. Some can find guns, while others, like Elvis, sniff out drugs.

But before any of this, Elvis hung out at home with Jason and his family, which includes six other pet dogs. “It’s building that bond like you would with a regular dog,” Jason says of this foundational training. “They get to know who feeds them. They get to know who’s taking care of them… It’s them knowing that, ‘Hey, I can rely on you. You’re part of my pack now.’” He adds, “I don’t think a lot of people know that. They’re part of our family. They’re part of our lives. He is truly a partner.”

So what does a typical day on the job currently look like for these two? “I don’t know if there’s anything ‘typical’ at work,” laughs Jason. But the day always starts with getting into uniform, as both handler and dog suit up in bulletproof vests. Jason and Elvis then head out to keep vigil over the east side of San Mateo. “We’re just on regular patrol like any other officer. The only difference for us is when there are alarm calls.” Whether it’s a burglary or an assault in progress, a stolen vehicle or officers in an altercation, Jason and Elvis are dispatched to the scene.

“There are days where we are going from one end of the city to the other all day long,” Jason says, his upbeat attitude revealing no signs of fatigue. “On an ‘easier day,’ we’ll just patrol our city.” That includes keeping a presence at Bridgepointe Shopping Center: “That way, we deter any thefts from there.”

What truly makes Elvis an asset to the police is his powerful nose. Here’s how Jason describes it: “When grandma’s cooking an apple pie, you smell the apple pie. That’s all you smell. When a dog walks into the room, they smell everything separately. They have 300 million olfactory receptors. They piece everything out: the sugar, everything that’s gone into the crust, the apples, the cinnamon. And they do that in a split second.”

Except instead of dessert, they’re sniffing out drugs and guns. Some K9s are trained to detect gunpowder and gunshot residue, while drug dogs like Elvis can sniff out specific chemicals found in the big four: methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy.

Jason holds up a plastic bone infused with a component of an illegal substance. He attaches it to the underside of the charred and smoky precinct barbecue, an odiferous object for a sensitive pooch. Yet, when Elvis comes on the scene, it takes him less than a minute to beeline for the bone.

Once, on a tracking assignment, Elvis and Jason were called in to locate suspects who’d abandoned their car, split up and fled on foot, with officers muddling the scent. The outcome? “He found all three,” Jason reports.
Jason also oversees the San Mateo K9 unit’s nonprofit, which helps fund the purchase of new dogs, medical bills and care for retired K9s. What keeps the officer’s eye on the ball, or rather the job? “It sounds cliché, but one reason that I got into this line of work is to go out there and help people and make a difference.”

As for Elvis? It’s all a big game. When he stays on task, he’s rewarded with his favorite ball and plenty of treats. “Whether they’re using their nose, whether they’re apprehending someone, it’s all fun for them,” Jason notes with an affectionate scratch behind his Malinois’ ear. “When they’re working, it’s playtime.”


Like many Peninsula police departments, San Mateo partners with Redwood City’s Trident K9 Consulting, which handles K9 selections, mostly through breeders in Europe, as well as the training of dogs and their handlers. Temperament-wise, “They kind of match what we look for in an officer,” notes Jason. As for breeds? Typically, Jason sees Belgian Malinois and German shepherd recruits. However, other pups do make the cut. “I’ve been to places and seen a standard poodle used as a dual-purpose K9… I’ve seen pit bulls, I’ve seen Dobermanns.”

Support hotshot hounds –

Perfect Shot: Before The Dawn

Early risers, who throw off their blankets and brave the pre-dawn chill to venture outside, get to see things the rest of us lie-abeds don’t. For Palo Alto photographer Brian Krippendorf, a morning walk along Shoreline Lake in Mountain View offered this stunning view during the “blue hour” just before sunrise, as the deep, rich colors of the brightening sky are refracted on the rippling surface of the water.

Image by Brian Krippendorf / @briankrippendorf

Calling all Shutterbugs: If you’ve captured a unique perspective of the Peninsula, we’d love to see your Perfect Shot. Email us at to be considered for publication.

Diary of a Dog: Riesling

At 75 pounds, I am larger than your average Golden Retriever, which proved problematic for my first owner who lived in a very small San Francisco condo. Luckily for me, Sheryl and Lane invited me to live with them in Menlo Park. Now I have a yard for chasing squirrels, and we go on long walks around the neighborhood and in Portola Valley. I am not much interested in the other pups I encounter, but I have yet to find a human I don’t want to meet, greet and, if possible, sit on. It seems I was born to be held and cuddled, and if you stop petting me, I will nudge your elbow until you begin again. If you visit my house, I will be on your lap before you know it, so just settle in and enjoy. I am almost 10 years old and, like the wine I am named after, I just get more golden and sweet every day.

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