Wojicki Wisdom

Words by Sharon McDonnell

A leading American educator, journalist and mother, Esther Wojcicki calls it like she sees it. “The number one problem with children today is that too many have no problem-solving skills,” she asserts. “They’re catered to all the time.”

Esther, a champion of student-centered, experiential education, is the founder of Palo Alto High School’s Media Arts Program, the biggest high school journalism program in the U.S. “Journalism is a front-row seat on life,” she says. A teacher for 40 years, until 2020, Esther is also the co-founder of several education nonprofits. Author of How to Raise Successful People and Moonshots in Education, she speaks frankly about education and childrearing, logging travel to Dubai, India, Austria and South Korea.

Born on New York’s Lower East Side to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Esther grew up near Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. She married Stan Wojcicki, the former chairman of Stanford’s physics department, in 1961. Now 81, Esther is the mother of three accomplished daughters: Anne Wojcicki, the CEO of 23andMe (and the ex-wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin), Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube and Janet Wojcicki, a UCSF professor of pediatrics.

Nicknamed the “Godmother of Silicon Valley” (Google was founded in Susan’s garage and home), Esther also has a fun-loving, irreverent side. She first ran into her husband-to-be, literally, while sliding down a staircase in a cardboard box in her dorm at UC Berkeley. She’s the sort of teacher whose students made a T-shirt showing a graphic of her stomping on the administration building—and another that said, “In Woj We Trust.”

It’s fair to say that Esther can always be trusted to provide thought-provoking insights.

Can you describe your child-rearing philosophy in a nutshell?
I have a five-concept model: trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness. Parents should encourage their children to be independent, self-starting and empowered. I sent Susan and Janet to the store next door to buy bread alone at age five and four when we lived in Geneva, when Stan worked at CERN. If kids get whatever they want, they never struggle or understand the real value of pursuing something, and don’t develop their creativity and grit.

“Grit” is important to you. Why?
Call it drive, ferocious determination, resilience and passion, with a dose of self-control and patience: grit helps develop coping and problem-solving skills for the rest of your life. A study of the top 35 Fortune 500 companies found that 57% were founded or co-founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. Adversity can build automatic grit—either you succumb to your circumstances or you fight tooth and nail to overcome them, which makes us stronger. The silver lining of poverty is grit…you have no choice but to use your creativity. I’m not arguing for imposing trauma or suffering on children, of course. But grit is a teachable skill.

Kids should be part of the family team and help out, not just expect the parents to do everything for them. I strongly suggest all teens get jobs, no matter the family income. There is no better way to learn how the real world works. My daughters were called the “lemon girls” since they sold lemons from a neighbor’s tree as kids, babysat and worked at a restaurant. I started working at 14 at a weekly newspaper in Sunland-Tujunga. If we give children the opportunity to figure things out in high school on a regular basis, they will be ready for the adult world.

What’s your view on “helicopter parenting?”
I call it “snowplow parenting,” clearing all obstacles in their way. It doesn’t teach kids that setbacks are a necessary part of life, they grow up terrified to take risks, and in the work world, expect everything to be handed to them and can’t handle criticism. Overprotective parenting has resulted in a generation of kids who don’t know how to do anything for themselves, let alone overcome fears, challenges and failures. You learn from your failures and develop a sense of mastery. Learning comes when students are willing to take risks.

Travel and education were your top priorities when you raised your children. Can you explain?
Seeing the world is the best education children can have, beyond temporary jobs. It broadens their thinking about what’s possible in this world. My daughters’ travels as teenagers and adults taught them a lot about culture. When Anne took the Trans-Siberian Express through Russia and visited my mother’s hometown in Siberia, I didn’t hear from her for months. Susan lived in India for a year after college. When Janet was teaching social anthropology in Johannesburg, she took me to a clinic in Soweto, where I met many of the young mothers there. Meeting someone’s mother is a great honor in their culture, so the women prepared a yummy feast for me. It was the most powerful Mother’s Day I ever had!

How should parents view their children?
See your child as an individual with his or her own opinions, interests and purposes. Encourage them to pursue their fascinations, set their own goals and be an expert in something, which makes them feel good about themselves. Parents tend to define goals for their children solely in terms of their own interests and experience—and project their fears and anxieties onto their children, especially when it comes to less familiar career and life choices.

How did your high school journalism program operate?
I spent 36 years running my classroom as if it was a professional newsroom. For our many student publications, students were tasked with real-world responsibilities and experienced real-world consequences. They sold ads in downtown Palo Alto at the start of each semester, came up with story ideas, decided who to assign, and, if they missed the printer’s deadline, had to pay a penalty and fundraise to do so. They chose topics like student depression, the Parkland school shooting in Florida, poor teacher performance. I was their “guide on the side,” not a “sage on the stage.”

Do you have a favorite quote?
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited.” —Plutarch

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Fresh Direction: Rococo & Taupe

Words by Sophia Markoulakis

Keith Quiggins doesn’t like the word “trend” when referring to interior design. “I prefer the term ‘direction’ because trend tells me, ‘OK, this is going to be here for a hot minute,’” he explains. “Direction infers that this is where design is going.” Keith, owner of the luxury kitchen and bath design firm Rococo & Taupe, had just returned from Paris Design Week when we chatted, and since it takes a couple of years for European design trends to make their way here, he should know how the future looks.

Keith stresses that international shows like Paris Design Week and Milan’s Salone del Mobile are intentionally avant and meant to push boundaries. His Menlo Park showroom on Santa Cruz Avenue is where he captures his stylistic impressions through kitchen vignettes and samples of the latest appliances, cabinet hardware, plumbing fixtures and surface materials. Undoubtedly, his clients depend on him to prognosticate design thinking. “When you have a showroom, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what people are asking for and still be inspirational. People will walk in and say, ‘Oh my, I’ve never seen this anywhere else,’ and I’ll say, ‘Well, yes, because I just saw it two months ago in Milan.’”

When Keith opened his kitchen and bath showroom almost 10 years ago, he picked Menlo Park, in part because of its proximity to high-end homes and construction projects, and he notes that 75% percent of his clientele reside within a five-mile radius of the showroom. Being a Mountain View resident, he could have established his business farther south in Saratoga, but admits that Menlo Park ultimately won out simply because there were no other design showrooms on the street at the time. Today, he is a founding member of the Menlo Park Design District, a one-stop community of over 20 downtown shops, galleries and designers.

In June, Keith is planning a 10-year anniversary party for his showroom, but the milestone is just the latest for this designer who has worked in the home design and construction field for more than 30 years. “We do whole-house remodels, but our main focus with the showroom is kitchens and baths—the two rooms that people think are the most important in the house.” Since the pandemic, Keith points to another growing category: cabinetry for home offices, entertainment centers and wine rooms. “Outdoor kitchens have also been very popular as people continue to split their time between work and home,” he adds. “I’ve done more outdoor kitchens in the last two years than I did in the previous seven.”

The name Rococo & Taupe refers to Keith’s aptitude for working with a wide range of styles. “I display multiple styles in the showroom, and I wanted a name that speaks to that. Rococo references the 18th-century ornate French style and taupe is a very modern and versatile color. Many people come in and say, ‘I totally get it.’”

As an avid cook, Keith is drawn to kitchen design. He switches up the display kitchens in his showroom about once a year and each reflects his talent for blending high-end materials and appliances with efficient workspaces that are meant to be used and not just admired. One of his favorite workhorses in the kitchen is a galley sink that functions not only for cleanup but also for prep work. For cooking, he’s not a fan of double ovens, preferring convection and steam instead. “There’s nothing better for a loaf of French bread than a minute or two in a steam oven to freshen up its crust,” he quips.

Keith is also very excited about invisible cooktops powered by induction technology. Installed underneath a solid surface such as granite, you’d never know a cooktop was there until you place your pan on that exact spot and start cooking. “It creates a cohesive, easy-to-clean surface and maximizes counter space,” he says.
The showroom also presents bathroom vignettes as luxe and modern as their kitchen counterparts. “The primary bath is an oasis away from the kids,” Keith observes.

According to a recent Pinterest Predicts report, oversized walk-in spa-like showers are in and built-in bathtubs are out. Keith concurs and says, “I still do a lot of freestanding tubs, but I’ve taken out more drop-in tubs than I’ve ever put in.” He explains that he’s also doing a lot of bathrooms that reflect the client’s desire to age in place. “Often, we’ll drop the floor in a shower, so there’s a curbless entry and add a bench inside,” he says. “We also do an extra-deep medicine cabinet with hidden outlets inside for personal care appliances.”

What you won’t see in Keith’s showroom are any white kitchen vignettes. He admits that it can be a little risky in his line of work to forgo the ever-popular white Shaker look, but it’s not what he does. “I want to create spaces that are unique while addressing the client’s aesthetic,” he says. Right now, he’s drawn to rich, saturated colors like terra cotta, wine, emerald green and navy blue that play nicely with warm neutrals like, well, taupe. The colors work really well with highly-veined statement slabs that are not only installed on countertops but also function as a backsplash. As Keith sums up, “Our clients don’t want to come in here and see anything that they might have seen when they were running through Home Depot looking for a toilet lever.”

Woodside’s Independence Hall

Words by Dylan Lanier

At first glance, Woodside’s Independence Hall appears quaint yet unremarkable. With simple white panels and a rustic blue door, the building reveals little indication of its rich history. Built in 1884, the structure emerged as the Woodside community began to rapidly grow. Where sawmills once flourished, small cattle ranches, farms and vineyards took their place—as did wealthy families from San Francisco who constructed country estates in the area. Independence Hall was originally erected a ways down from its current Woodside Avenue location. It also spent nearly eight decades at Albion Avenue. During its Prohibition days as a dance hall, the building was closed for “rowdiness.” Luckily, 23 years later, it regained respectability and reopened as Scout Hall. In 1972, the land beneath the property sold and the building moved back to its original location. Finally, in 1991, it moved next to Town Hall, where it currently stands after a complete restoration. Today, the site is used for town meetings and events, providing room for lectures and serving as the starting point for Woodside’s annual Fun Run and May Day Parade. Providing Woodside residents with an enduring public space to gather and connect, Independence Hall remains a shining example of the Peninsula’s many hidden historical gems.

Beat on Your Eats: Seafood

Words by Johanna Harlow

the sea by alexander’s steakhouse

Palo Alto

A fine dining destination like The Sea by Alexander’s Steakhouse is sure to make a splash with gourmets. You might be tempted to load up on the complimentary (and highly-addicting) lobster biscuits, but pace yourself. The seared scallops, a favorite among diners, is served with a striking kabocha-ginger velouté sauce and crowned with confit chestnuts and microgreens. The Lobster Rocks with almond purée, truffle and mitsuba also rate high on the list. And you can expect everything from the miso-marinated black cod to the steamed abalone to come delightfully plated—in fact, photos of past delicacies are exhibited on the walls much like abstract art. 4269 West El Camino Real. Open Tuesday to Sunday.

kincaid’s fish, chop & steakhouse


Don’t be crabby… Order the lobster at Kincaid’s, a classy locale with ample windows overlooking the Bay. Be it blended into a bisque with crème fraîche and fresh herbs or served as tails alongside fingerling potatoes, you’re sure to enjoy your carefully-prepared crustacean. There’s also the coconut shrimp and New England clam chowder to consider. Can’t decide between entrees? Order more than one for the halibut. Finish off your meal with a smooth scotch or whiskey flight. 60 Bay View Place. Open daily.


San Mateo

Every experiential diner should have San Mateo’s Seapot on their foodie bucket list. Those unfamiliar with the concept of hotpot might be surprised to find a stovetop built into their table. It’s the diner’s happy job to select which ingredients go into the soup stock simmering before them. Not sure where to start? Not to worry, Seapot has taken this concept a step further by adding a conveyor belt to the mix. Fresh ingredients—from king crab legs to abalone, enoki mushrooms to bok choi—parade past your booth. So grab whatever strikes your fancy. 1952 South El Camino Real. Open daily.

Wines by the Glass

Words by Johanna Harlow

Truth: Pondering the wall of wine at the store can be a daunting endeavor. What the heck makes a liquid “dry?” What gives it “legs” and “body?” How is a merlot different from a malbec? What separates syrah from sangiovese? After squinting at poetic descriptions of tasting notes, many call it a day and grab the closest bottle with an eye-catching label.

“The industry has gotten more over-the-top confusing over the last couple of decades,” recognizes Joe Welch, co-founder of In Good Taste Wines. “There are many different wines out there: thousands of labels, thousands of varietals. That’s a scary thing!”

But it doesn’t have to be. “We want to be a gatekeeper for the industry, to help usher in new customers,” explains Joe, who grew up in Palo Alto. It’s why In Good Taste delivers tasting flights with six to eight single-glass servings of first-class wine to your doorstep. The objective? To help you “find what you love—and feel more confident doing it!” Joe summarizes.


The company’s mission statement, “Making wine more accessible and less intimidating for the everyday drinker,” speaks to this emphasis on approachability. As does their selection of varietals. “We want the wine to be as true to the region and the grape as possible,” Joe states. “Because then you’ll know, ‘Do I like a Napa merlot? Yes or no?’ The days of opening a full bottle of wine only to realize you don’t love it are over.”

In Good Taste takes into account both vintner and vineyard. “I think almost every wine has a story—whether it’s who made it or where it’s from,” Joe muses. “It is such a personal product and such an emotional product… Very often you can find some really fun tidbits or information to share with people.” He pauses, then adds, “What we try not to do is force a story on a wine that doesn’t have a story. Sometimes, a wine’s just a good wine!”

Joe’s own story is quite the tale. After graduating from Palo Alto’s Gunn High School, Joe spent two years in the military. While working at Twitter, he completed his education at Stanford—then aided early-days DoorDash in launching its services across major cities including San Diego, Seattle and Toronto. “It was the Wild West of food delivery,” he recalls. Following that, he contributed to the exploration of “the final frontier” at SpaceX.

But what next? “I knew I’d bopped around a bunch, so I had to pick my next move carefully,” Joe relays. “You can’t just keep jumping around forever.” Wine seemed a natural fit. “I’d been around wine my whole life,” he says, recounting early memories of his dad and grandpa buying vineyard grapes and making wine in their basement—or the bathtub. “Wherever they could,” he laughs.

Joe also recognized wine’s enduring market opportunity. “Pretty much every alcohol drinker eventually moves towards wine as they get older,” he remarks. “Nobody opens up White Claw for dinner. Wine’s been part of society for thousands of years. It’s not going anywhere!”

To cement the concept, he joined forces with Los Altos native and fellow Gunn High alum Zach Feinberg. “We knew each other from high school and we were friendly, but we weren’t super close—which actually really helped from a founder relationship. It’s dicey starting a company with your best friend.” The two had also worked alongside each other at DoorDash. “I knew he wouldn’t quit,” notes Joe. “I knew he was competitive. And he knew the same thing about me.”

After testing out a monthly consumer subscription model, the partners pivoted to selling to hotels. Zach’s knack for networking came in handy. He’d attend conferences—then beeline it for the bar, chatting with everyone in line. And if he didn’t make the connections he was hoping for… “He would walk to the bathroom, dump his drink out and then get back in line,” Joe chuckles.

Even so, the first three years were admittedly tough. And then the pandemic hit. With the shutdown of the hospitality industry, the partners decided to return to the consumer model, offering one-time orders “to keep the lights on” until the chaos blew over.

The concept exploded. “It was kind of right place, right time, right product. People were looking for experiences at home and we sold tasting flights of wine,” Joe explains. They were also early to the virtual tasting game, gaining fast recognition as an industry leader. “I think our record was 12,000 virtual tastings in one month,” Joe marvels. They created a wildly popular wine advent calendar for the holiday season to close their banner year.

Today, In Good Taste partners with award-winning winemakers Matt Smith and Neely Ashley to source wine from well-known regions both domestic and abroad. “We tried to craft each brand around a style of customer or a style of wine,” Joe says, explaining that their Unprecedented line delves into regional Northern California wines. “You’ll find your big, bold Napa cabs, your buttery chardonnays, your bigger merlots,” he informs. Then there’s Pluma (Spanish for “feather”). “There’s gonna be zero sugar in any of those. All really dry, really fresh summer wines.” And don’t forget the Wild Child selections. “It’s somebody who wants a little bit more adventure, who wants to get off the beaten path,” says Joe, who identifies most with this category. In fact, Joe served a Wild Child vermentino and nerello cappuccino at his wedding this past year.

Reflecting on fond memories at In Good Taste, Joe pinpoints the little moments. “It’s at the end of a long day at the warehouse,” he describes. “You’re tired. You’re not drinking out of a fancy glass. You’re probably finding a plastic cup. And you’re just sitting around talking about what you just did for the last eight hours—reconnecting, relaxing. For me, that is heaven.”

Catch a Flight


Oodles of Noodles

Words by Johanna Harlow

Ramen’s reign as the Bay Area’s Japanese noodle of choice will go unchallenged no longer. Enter udon—ramen’s plumper, chewier counterpart. “Udon has been the stepsister to ramen,” chuckles noodle virtuoso Jerome Ito. “Now, udon is starting to shine more and people are learning more about it.”

Jerome explains that traditionally, both styles feature signature dashi broths. “Ramen, you’re getting these rich, thick flavorful broths—which are great, but on a daily basis, they’re very heavy,” he says. “Udon has always been a little more subtle.”

And he should know. As founder and executive chef of Taro San Japanese Noodle Bar in Palo Alto, Jerome and his team press, stretch and cut long slabs of dough through a Shinuchi noodle machine as hungry guests watch on. From the pot, a sensuous swirl of cooked noodles find their way into hot brothy baths or come to rest on mats with cold broth served on the side. No naked noodles here, each dish comes accessorized with toppings—ribeye beef or seared duck breast, daikon radish and tempura flakes.

By no means a newcomer to the culinary scene, Jerome previously worked as head sushi chef at Mountain View’s Bushido Izakaya, then at Google, overseeing a team of 60. He also founded Go Fish Poke while his wife was pregnant with their first child. Five locations, three kids and five years later, Jerome began to noodle on another concept.

Since the beginning, the women in Jerome’s life have played pivotal roles in shaping this chef’s culinary career. “Funny enough, I was inspired because of a lack of Japanese cooking,” he recounts of his childhood. “My mom’s very much, ‘Get it done and bang this meal out.’ If you’ve seen Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals, that’s her… I grew up on a lot of spaghetti.” As a fourth-generation Japanese-American, Jerome was hungry to embrace his culinary heritage.

But really, it’s Linh Tran-Ito—his encouraging foodie wife—whom he credits most for his success. “She’s my tester,” he relays. It was Linh who set the idea for Taro San in motion after gifting her husband a couple’s udon-making class with Japanese chef and author Sonoko Sakai for Father’s Day. That experience (and his young daughter’s voracious appetite for the world’s most slurpable dish) prompted travels to Singapore and Japan to train at the Yamato Noodle School.

His entire family flew out to support him. After Jerome wrapped up class each day, his mother watched the kids while he and Linh set out to conduct noodle research at local restaurants. The two paid close attention to dining room aesthetics, scribbled field notes on dishes and snapped plenty of pictures. “We ordered a lot… The whole table would just be bowls of udon!” Jerome laughs. And to cover the most territory possible, they never returned to the same place twice. “When we travel, it’s gonna be the last time we ever eat there,” he affirms.

After returning to the States (with eight suitcases full of Japanese dishware and cookware), Jerome and Linh began fleshing out the menu. Of the entire process, Jerome singles out this stage as his favorite. “It was the countless nights of testing recipes for Taro San with my wife,” he nostalgically recalls of the after-hour sessions in the Go Fish Poke kitchen. “She was the biggest critic and support for developing the entire menu top to bottom.”

When Jerome secured a location at Stanford Shopping Center, the dream crystallized into reality. He and Linh designed a minimalistic yet sophisticated Japanese-Scandinavian interior for the restaurant—the kind of space that engages from the front entrance mural depicting Tokyo and Osaka landmarks to the eye-catching wood-slat design on the back wall. Fresh flowers adorn every table.

When the restaurant opened its doors at the beginning of 2019, Jerome focused more on traditional udon. However, his culinary curiosity began to spin out dishes with innovative twists. “How thin can I make the noodles?” Jerome asked himself. “How thick?” “Why do I have to stick to such traditional broths?” “Why can’t I do ramen broths with udon noodles?” “Can I make a less-heavy ramen broth?”

Beside typical udon noodles, Taro San offers thinner, more delicate tsukemen-style noodles as well as hearty, hand-cut pasta similar to inch-thick Italian pappardelle. “We’re using all Japanese ingredients and we’re still using very traditional Japanese techniques—but we’re just going outside the box,” the chef emphasizes. Or, perhaps more fittingly, outside the bowl.

This attention to quality has spurred Jerome to serve thinner noodles with cold dipping broths on the side (like in both the duck tsuke and zaru udon). Heat and an extended time in broth cause sogginess, particularly with the tsukemen style. “It’s a very delicate noodle,” he explains. “It breaks apart very fast.”

Don’t even get Jerome started on the inferior quality of frozen udon. “Once you try fresh udon, it’s like, ‘Whoa! Totally different game!’ You get the chewiness, you know?” For this reason, Jerome also sells uncooked noodles for customers to bring to their own kitchens. “My kids are pretty particular about their udon,” Jerome smiles. “My daughter says, ‘No, I don’t want the store-bought dry one.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve created a monster!’”

A maestro with textures, Jerome composes dishes for your tongue to ponder. Take the comforting tori udon, which contrasts attention-grabbing, crispy chicharon with the softer textures of tender chicken breast and thigh, chewy noodles and cooked spinach. Jerome also takes great care with his vegetarian California rolls, mimicking the texture of crab through trumpet mushrooms and adding the perfect cucumber crunch.

Perhaps most impressive is his truffle udon. The dish marries thick, hand-cut noodles with a medley of mushrooms, each with their own subtle differences in flavor and consistency. Slivers of coveted truffle are joined by shiitake, eryngii (king oyster mushroom) and wood-ear as well as petite clusters of shimeji and enoki. The creamy sauce makes it decadent without sitting heavy in the stomach.

Perpetually cooking up ideas, Jerome, the family man and restaurateur, will continue to put remarkable food on the table. “What makes chefs amazing is their creativity! Otherwise food would be very boring and one-dimensional,” Jerome observes. “Let’s push the limits!”

Get to slurping


Getaway: Bridge to Benicia

Words by Sharon McDonnell

What’s the previous capital of California and former home to the world’s largest ferry? It’s the state’s third oldest city with a quirky camel-related history to boot. Here’s one more hint: With one of the Bay Area’s biggest artist communities, this town also boasts a baker transplanted from The French Laundry.

Time’s up: It’s Benicia, a small waterfront town of 28,000 on the Carquinez Strait across the bridge from Martinez, a mile off Interstate 680, where history and art collide. Founded in 1847 on land owned by General Mariano Vallejo, and named for his wife’s middle name (it was supposed to be Francisca, her first name, but Yerba Buena’s decision to rename itself San Francisco scuttled that plan), Benicia was incorporated in 1850. Thanks to its location on the main water route from San Francisco to the gold fields past Sacramento, the town grew rapidly in the 1850s into a rowdy port packed with saloons.

Strategically located between both San Pablo Bay and Suisun Bay, Benicia became a military outpost. But when the Army base closed in the 1960s, its Arsenal was sold to the city and reborn as affordable artist studios.
The camels? Dozens of camels were employed by the government to patrol and deliver mail in the Southwest, especially the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. The US Army camel corps’ last animals were auctioned off in 1864 in the buildings where the Benicia Historical Museum stands today.

What to Do

Downtown Benicia’s historic district features about a mile of specialty shops, restaurants and galleries on and off First Street, plus charming Victorian homes and cottages. And public art, like the sculpture of Neptune’s Daughter—a girl holding a pelican—on the shore walk. First Street ends with a palm tree-lined promenade on the strait, marked by benches, a fishing pier and the Southern Pacific Railroad depot, a mustard-colored building now home to the Visitor Center, where the train ferry once docked.

Pick up a historic walking tour brochure here, which includes mid-19th-century houses and the State Capitol, a stately brick building used when Benicia was the capital of California. Also, take in the 27 colorful ceramic sidewalk tiles, created by local artist Guillermo Granizo, that depict elements in Benicia’s history, like the Solano, the world’s largest ferry, which first hauled the Transcontinental Railroad across the strait in 1879 to Port Costa (and carried trains until 1930), and Jack London, who began writing here.

Galleries include the Art Glass Gallery, primarily featuring work by owners Peter Stucky and Dana Rottler, who were Palo Alto High School teaching assistants in its glass art program; the Plein Air Gallery, an artists’ co-op of landscape painters; and the 621 Gallery, displaying abstracts and landscapes by local artists. Once home to 34 antiques shops, Benicia now has just a few left. Steffen Collection features mostly china and Depression-era glassware sets, 200-year-old books and oak armoires, while Antiques on Main has lots of military memorabilia and jewelry.

In the Arsenal District, about a mile east of First Street, Arts Benicia holds exhibits, art classes and artist talks year-round in a majestic white parquet-floored 1860 mansion, once the Army commander’s residence. For example, artist Hampton Deck, who studied the craft of marbled paper in Istanbul, has taught classes in the nearby Arsenal building—which also houses artist live-work studios. Arts Benicia hosts Open Studios in June.

Nearby, the Benicia Historical Museum on Camel Road, located in four 1850s redstone barns that housed the camels, tells the history of Benicia and hosts concerts and talks. Beloved by Victorian home owners, Bradbury & Bradbury—which sells hand-printed wallpapers in Victorian, Arts & Crafts and Art Deco styles—stopped offering tours of its Arsenal District factory but has an online shop at bradbury.com.

Where to Eat

Amore Bistrot, located at the Inn at Benicia Bay and owned by a couple from Milan, serves Italian specialties like lasagna pesto and gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. On Thursdays and Saturdays, Happy Hour stars wine or an aperitivo with a small plate. At One House Bakery, head baker Hannalee Pervan, who baked bread for The French Laundry and worked at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery on the pastry and bread teams, serves yummy croissants, bread loaves and sandwiches (like chicken brie arugula pesto on ciabatta) using whole-grain flours and no artificial stabilizers.

Bella Siena, located right on the water, serves Italian-American specialties like saffron pappardelle with shrimp, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and tomatoes in a shrimp bisque sauce and veal scaloppini in a lemon caper white wine sauce. First Street Taphouse, Mare Island Brewery’s full-service restaurant, serves a healthy NorCal twist on jambalaya as a special: shrimp, garlic sausage and microgreens in a citrusy vinaigrette. For seafood in a onetime sea captain’s home on the water, Sailor Jack’s is the spot for flash-fried tender oysters with remoulade sauce or pan-seared halibut. There’s outdoor tented seating in warm weather, and occasional winemaker and beermaker dinners off-season.

Extend Your Stay

Inn at Benicia Bay, located in an 1854 Victorian house with a newer addition and only a half-block from the marina, has a lovely parlor packed with dozens of books plus coffee, chocolates and tons of magazines and brochures about Benicia. An Italian breakfast is included, featuring bomboletti (mini beignets with Nutella or cream fillings) and a cornetto with jam, plus yogurt with granola and Italian coffee.

Shorelight Inn is located right on the rock-lined shore walk, and its deck and two balcony suites offer lovely water views. Striking stained-glass in the Union Hotel, built in 1880, features one of a bear (after the Bear Revolt, when California briefly declared its independence from Mexico) and a callout to 1853-1854, when Benicia was the state capital.

Day by the Bay


Automotive Artist

Words by Kate Daly

Every month, James Caldwell takes his “current fun car” for a short spin to Cars & Coffee, an event he attends at Coffeebar in Menlo Park so he can schmooze with fellow car lovers. He describes his silver replica of a Porsche 550 Spyder as “simple” and “accurately depicted,” except that it’s fashioned from fiberglass instead of having a hand-formed aluminum body.

The convertible is a two-seater with just enough room for James’ gear, a Sigma fpL mirrorless digital camera. Yes, he’s there to talk shop with other collectors, but he’s also there to capture images and find clients for his automotive portraits business. One clue: the paint job on his Porsche features his website, JamesArtist.com, and his logo that’s inspired by an enamel hood ornament.

The car motif carries into the contemporary house he designed for his family in West Menlo Park. Large paintings of classics hang on the walls including comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s black Porsche 993 GT2. James spotted the car at a Porsche event, took a bunch of photos and went on to make a portrait.

James caught another famous TV personality’s eye with what he calls his “self-promoting” tote bag. Walking around the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Jay Leno recognized the yellow Duesenberg on the bag and invited James to appear on Jay Leno’s Garage. James bundled up a handful of his 30”x40” canvases to display during the segment, and the host enthused over what great gifts they would make. That was nine years ago, and James is still grateful for receiving such positive publicity from a credible source and “big fan.”

James has exhibited his work in New York and Miami, but given that shipping large art can be a logistical challenge, he prefers driving to locations such as Las Vegas and the Monterey Peninsula to showcase his talent. He has had a booth at the Pebble Beach Concours for about 10 years, and since 2014 has created the poster that VIPs receive at the Concorso Italiano during Monterey Car Week. Last year’s poster was particularly popular: a stylized close-up of the Ferrari horse emblem.

How did the 2000 industrial design graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design end up painting cars? James credits his father, architect and painter Jim Caldwell of Woodside. (Note: They are both named after James’ grandfather, James Emott Caldwell, who owned Caldwell’s General Store, the predecessor to Roberts Market in Woodside.)

“I’ve always been interested in drawing and painting,” explains James, “and my dad was interested in cars; he had stories about his first cars driving across the country and Europe.”

After college, James was doing welding and fabrication at a vintage race car shop in Redwood City when his father asked him to take an evening art class at Stanford to critique the father’s teaching technique. “Because we worked together so well,” James says his father also brought him into the architectural side of the business to make drafts on computer as opposed to by hand. When his father encouraged him to do a joint painting exhibition, James remembers, “I chose cars.”

That was in 2007, and cars have been James’ artistic focus ever since, except for designing his house with his father’s input. Modern furnishings complement his automotive portraits and his father’s landscape paintings decorating the walls. The neatness of James’ residence dramatically contrasts with his studio, a messy space in Redwood City where he spreads out his acrylics to work on multiple canvases at the same time. He uploads his photographs onto a computer monitor set up next to his easel so he can zoom in on the details.

“I’m very picky about the general proportions,” he says, “but the smaller details I choose.” James ticks off examples: He never paints every spoke in a wheel, a headlight in the foreground has more detail than one towards the back and his backgrounds tend to look looser and more impressionistic.

When he paints figures, they are intentionally vague. The one time James painted a portrait of the owner was for a memorial piece honoring Martin Swig, a Bay Area legend known for collecting vintage cars and founding the California Mille, the 1,000-mile classic car tour. James especially enjoys the commission experience. After the owner picks out a setting with a personal connection, “In the best-case scenario I get to ride in the passenger seat,” he grins, “and then choose the time of day that brings out the best reflection.”

Lately, James has applied a deeper focus to photography. “I feel like the photograph itself can be the art, whereas before it was the reference for my art,” he shares. He’s exploring printing out large photographs on metal, which would drop the purchase price point down from the thousands into the hundreds. For a man whose first car was a Honda Del Sol, James’ taste and craft continue to evolve because he’s clearly, pun intended, driven. “I really love the car world,” he affirms. “It’s not just artistic—it’s exciting to just be a part of it.”

Warm Welcome: YogaSix

Words by Sharon McDonnell

Mention the word “yoga” and it may bring to mind young, thin and incredibly agile people doing outrageous configurations with their bodies. Or perhaps a wise sage sitting cross-legged on the floor in hours of seated, still meditation. Yoga has come a long way, baby, and is no longer just in the realm of the flexible or devout. Which is perfectly fine with Audrey Ryder and Toni King, owners of the newly-opened YogaSix studio at the Stanford Shopping Center.

Highly-regarded fitness professionals, Audrey and Toni are also lifelong athletes. Audrey rowed for Stanford and has been a distance swimmer as well as a springboard and platform diver. In addition to being a TRX and swimming instructor, Toni holds a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Both women are certified personal trainers and run their own concierge corporate fitness and private training company, Tonik Fitness. With the onset of the pandemic, demand for their services exploded. So what made them want to take on the challenge of owning a yoga studio, almost always a high-risk business venture?

“It’s our passion,” explains Audrey, “and we wanted to create a community.” Both women began practicing yoga as a way to deal with the inevitable stress and damage caused by years of running and rowing. They first practiced at home, using online videos and then began to realize they were incorporating aspects of yoga (movement with breath) into their own teaching. Audrey noticed how yoga could be infused into her swim classes. “Yoga is a huge body of knowledge, tradition and work,” she observes. “There is a crossover between it and many sports.”

Both women became certified as yoga instructors and began to think seriously about opening their own studio. They decided to find a franchise opportunity that would allow them to teach but not have to worry about the myriad administrative details required. When Audrey and Toni learned about Xponential Fitness, a San Diego-based global franchise group of boutique fitness brands, they were attracted by YogaSix’s “not elitist, not exclusive” approach, which offers “a fresh perspective on one of the world’s oldest fitness practices.”

“YogaSix wants to create an environment that is energizing, empowering and fun,” notes Audrey, adding, “Everyone knows they probably should do yoga, but not everyone does—So why? What are the barriers?” She points out that the YogaSix philosophy centers around how everyone can find a place in one of the six types of classes: Yoga 101, Restore Yoga, Slow Flow, Hot, Power or Sculpt and Flow. Taught in heated rooms, there is no Sanskrit, no chanting or meditation, staples of most yoga studios. “We are not disrespecting the tradition,” Audrey explains. “We just want to make it accessible to everybody.”

Toni elaborates, “All of the class instructions are concise and clear, and every class is taught with the beginner in mind—all levels, even the power class.” Nodding, Audrey demonstrates by folding forward and touching her toes. “This is yoga,” she says, and then lifts to a halfway point. “But this is also yoga.” More advanced cues are layered on for the experienced yogi, but as Toni emphasizes, “People don’t feel bad if they are not doing the advanced version.” Students are encouraged to find their own level and instructors who resonate with them. Audrey laughs, “There are no gurus. The student is in charge and ultimately decides.” Toni agrees: “We teach people to trust themselves, to know their own bodies.” And what about the common yoga block: “I don’t do yoga because I am not flexible.” “Are you too dirty to bathe?” exclaims Toni rhetorically. “That’s why you do yoga!”

Audrey and Toni acknowledge that it was a big pivot to take on a new business at the beginning of a national health crisis. When their first studio opened in 2019 in Mountain View, they were mired in COVID restrictions. Luckily, online classes allowed them to maintain a full schedule and keep staff working. Their second studio in Oyster Point is located in a biomedical park and offers lots of private sessions for the employees there. The pair have licenses to build six studios in their territory, which runs from South San Francisco to Mountain View. “It took courage to change our lives in this way, but we learned a lot,” smiles Toni. “Sort of like getting an MBA.”

The Stanford location currently offers 29 classes per week, both in person and online, with plans to add more. When asked if there are discernable differences between the three studios, Audrey tactfully responds, “We love them all like our children.” Both women say they have noticed an increased desire for evening classes, probably due to the changing nature of how and when people work. In response, they will hold classes at 9:00PM. “People can practice and then go home and get into their pajamas,” laughs Toni.

Ultimately, Toni and Audrey hope to build a community at the Stanford studio where, as they describe, “You don’t have to fit in because everyone belongs.” Watching as yogis linger after class to introduce themselves to one another and share comments about their experience is the ultimate and best feedback. “It’s a chance to connect with your body,” affirms Audrey, “but what will make you stick with a practice? If you enjoy it, if it is fun and if you can be with people who also enjoy it.”

Choose your Practice


Perfect Shot: A Moment of Reflection

As Palo Alto’s Ashly Edwards Huntington walked through Atherton after a recent splash of rain, she recalls being overwhelmed by how vibrant everything looked and how wonderful everything smelled. “And then…” she notes, “I stepped into this massive puddle! When I looked past my soaked jeans, I was pleasantly surprised by a gorgeous reflection of the sky.” Capturing this Perfect Shot reminded Ashly that even frustrating mishaps can lead to delightful discoveries.

Image by Ashly Edwards Huntington / @aehgallery

Diary of a Dog: Luna

Yes, I am genetically a dog but it’s my cat-like qualities that led me to my Menlo Park domicile. It’s been 11 years since I came to live with Paul and Jennifer, and their kids, Natalie, Rachel and Devin. Cat people to the core, Jennifer and her mother had seven felines between them, but middle-child Rachel was determined to add a canine into the pack. After identifying the 50 “most cat-like” breeds, Rachel carefully vetted and screened to reveal a single, mom-satisfying candidate: the Japanese Shiba Inu. Bred not to bark nor rudely sniff people’s crotches, Shibas are known for being small, smart, fiercely independent—and handsome. True to my quasi-feline heritage, I’m likely to greet you with studied indifference. If I deign to further our acquaintance, I may take a seat by your side. That’s your hint to scratch between my ears but don’t expect a return lick or a lean. I am quite content to stare out a window all day judging passersby and their more provincial pets. Aloof I may be, but I’m clearly adored. And you can credit my superior virtues for successfully opening a doggy door into a cat-obsessed home.

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

Peninsula Peacemaker

Words by Sharon McDonnell

Woodside’s Rhonda Brofman Gessow is a peacemaker. “Let’s find a common thread,” she espouses. “Let’s find something that benefits both parties.” A retired criminal defense attorney who practiced in Atlanta for 12 years, Rhonda always knew she wasn’t cut out to be a prosecutor. “I never wanted to have a negative impact on someone’s life,” she explains. “I wanted to help the person who needs to be lifted up, and ensure they received their rights under the Constitution.”

A New York City native, Rhonda attended Emory University Law School and recalls being assigned to support the prosecution in a case involving a teenage shoplifter. “I felt so bad for the girl and for how the community failed her,” she says. “I didn’t want to add anything bad to the trajectory of her life.”

Over the course of her legal career in Atlanta, Rhonda went on to become a partner at Kadish, Davis & Brofman, the editor of The Georgia Defender and co-author of a criminal law book. She also met her husband, Jody—and when Jody’s job in real estate development moved them to the Peninsula in 1989, the couple embraced Woodside’s rural culture. “I love walking out the door and hiking for miles,” says Rhonda, whose favorite spots are Wunderlich and Huddart Parks.

Shifting focus, the active mom paused her career to raise three kids and support the local community as a Woodside school volunteer. Her own favorite book as a child? To Kill a Mockingbird. “I loved Atticus Finch,” she says, “and named my son Jeremy after his son—the idealistic and protective older brother who must cope with injustices of the court system.”

Tapping into that early inspiration, Rhonda seized the opportunity to apply her legal expertise and passion for restorative justice by earning a certificate in mediation. According to Rhonda, criminal defense law is “exciting and interesting,” but she describes mediation as a more natural calling. “It fits my skills and is open-ended,” she says. “Law is more about winning, and mediation is more about finding common interests and viable outcomes that may work better for both parties.”

For 15 years now, the former defense attorney has worked as a volunteer mediator for the San Mateo Juvenile Mediation Program—an initiative that brings crime victims and offenders together to discuss how to make things right. To date, Rhonda has spoken to over 1,000 young offenders and mediated hundreds of cases from theft to sexual assault in a program that serves as an alternative or supplement to juvenile detention.

While meetings are confidential, Rhonda describes a typical scenario. A teenager breaks into a car and damages it. Through the mediation process, the teen may learn that its owner had to take public transportation until the car was fixed, adding extra hours to his commute, and spent hard-earned money to repair the car, which possessed major sentimental value, and the two may agree on restitution.

“The person harmed is able to express his or her feelings, learn more about the motive behind the offense, get directly involved in the justice process and sometimes receive monetary compensation for damages,” she summarizes. “The teen hears that his or her actions have significant consequences and hopefully gets a better understanding of how the other person was affected.” Rhonda relays that anything both parties agree to is possible. “In some instances, they’ve even exchanged contact info and the teen landed a mentor,” she adds.

Given her peacemaker nature, it’s no surprise that Rhonda has also volunteered for 15 years for the San Mateo-based Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, where she mediates disputes among adults, and more recently for Creating Friendships for Peace, an organization that promotes understanding between teens from divided communities.

“It’s important for individuals to not only listen to others, but to also use active listening skills to make sure the other person knows he/she is being heard,” she notes. “I also help them identify how they usually deal with conflict: Some of us avoid it, some compromise, some are more forceful in their positions. It’s helpful to be self-aware of your conflict style.”

In addition to being a peacemaker, Rhonda strives for periodic resets in her life. “I have taken on a big new challenge every 15 years,” she shares. “It keeps things interesting.” Drawn to music, Rhonda always enjoyed writing lyrics to popular song tunes for loved ones’ birthdays. With extra downtime in the pandemic, she applied herself to composing original songs on her guitar—from studying music theory to writing melodies and chord progressions. As it turns out, some aspects were surprisingly relatable. “Writing lyrics is not that different from writing a legal brief,” she smiles. “In a song, you have a hook you’re writing to and everything leads up to that.”

The newbie songwriter is already drawing attention. Her songs, “Wild, Wild Best” (a country song about getting out of a rut and looking for new excitement in life) and “Weight of the Ink” (about how to find comfort when a loved one is in harm’s way), won 2021 and 2022 Great American Song Contest awards in the lyrics category. Her first song, “You Are the Star,” is a tribute to military families whose children endure holidays, birthdays and milestones without the parent who is serving our country. Its touching words reflect her own experience: her son has served in the military for 12 years. Rhonda produced the video, which can be seen on YouTube.

As Rhonda balances her volunteer work and time with her growing family that includes three grandkids, the question is, “What will she write about next?” Given her reflective and thoughtful nature—which serves her in both mediation and songwriting—the lyrics are sure to resonate.

Essay: Reading Lists

Words by Sloane Citron

At the beginning of each summer during my childhood, my dad would drag me to the Amarillo Public Library. Built in 1905, the magnificent building was the former home of Lee Bivins, who was said to be the largest individual cattle rancher in the world when he died in 1929. Had you placed me there in the dark, with my eyes blindfolded, I could have told you where I was, so distinctive was the library’s musty smell of paper.

I had to check out five books, the maximum. I tried to find subjects I liked, but once those books were at my home, I had no interest in opening any of them. I was on vacation, the sun shining, baseball playing and the promise of the summer ahead of me. I had no interest in reading a book of any kind.
It wasn’t until I was almost 30 that I discovered the absolute joy of reading, and I have the book Kon Tiki to thank for that. Gripping and exciting, I could not put the real-life adventure down, and in the process, I found a genre that spoke to me. I learned that books take us to places we cannot go.

Over the years, I have read thousands of books, almost all of them in the adventure/travel/survival genre. I have read just about every book written about Alaska (and yet I have never been there). A great read, for me, is a book I simply can’t stop reading, that captures my attention and won’t let go. I have tried my best to read James Joyce and William Faulkner, but my heart’s not in it, and when I make the effort, I’m reminded of the childhood summer days when my dad commanded me to read.

It’s a bit of a challenge to find new titles, but I have my method. I go to Amazon, which has the best site for suggestions based on books I have selected or previously purchased, and then I do my best to buy these books locally. Sometimes, Amazon is my only choice, but mostly I’m able to buy from our local stores.

This past summer, as I mentioned in a previous essay, I was given the book, S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. Given that it was a historical tome, I had my reservations about diving in. And truth be told, I almost gave up after the first 20 pages. But I’m glad I didn’t, because once I was invested, the book completely captured my attention. It was truly magical to read—engrossing, entertaining and educational.

Around the time I was finishing that book, my sister Shelley, who lives in Chicago, sent me The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, about the incredible World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. Again, I could not put this book down and again, I was highly entertained and surprised that I did not know about this extraordinary exposition, truly one of the most spectacular events ever held in the United States.

What was spellbinding, having read these two books in succession, was that in the late 19th century, we were still fighting the Native Americans in turf wars on the Texas Plains and in another area, we were building the most impressive edifices known to mankind.

Perhaps more important to me personally was that—after 30 years—I have discovered a new genre, which is a good thing, since they don’t seem to publish enough adventure books to keep me from reordering ones that I have already read.

I’ve told my family and friends of this reading breakthrough, and now I have been blessed with several new books, including The Aye-Aye and I: A Rescue Journey to Save One of the World’s Most Intriguing Creatures from Extinction, which is a fabulous story about animals in Madagascar, where, unbelievably, some 90% of all plant and animal species are only found on the island nation. And the intriguing The Mosquito Bowl, a great look at brotherhood during World War II.

I have a small wooden table with three drawers next to my bed where I store my books to be read. I’m like a truck driver always in need of gas, most content when his tanks have just been topped off. Except my gas is books, and if my drawers are not overflowing with titles that I am excited to read, I get panicky.

My Dad’s love of literature and books and those mandatory trips to the Amarillo library—done to try to infuse that love within me—showed me that there must be something special in books. Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of an especially wonderful read, I pause and take a moment to recall the library’s musty cooridors, grateful to have had a father who cared enough to push.

A Traveler’s Treasure Hunt: Photography

Words by Sheri Baer

Colorful boats perfectly reflected along a canal in Burano, Italy. Tannery workers processing leather in dye pits in Fez, Morocco. A pair of Gentoo penguins squawking in Antarctica. Each image teleports you to a distinct, far-off place, prompting curiosity and careful study.

“For me, photography is really a treasure hunt,” remarks Bill Scull, a Los Altos tech executive who successfully merges art with a lifelong passion for travel. “I love trying to capture images that tell the whole story in one image—about a culture, about a person, about a scene.”

In Bill’s case, it’s a creative quest that’s taken him all over the planet—nearly 100 countries to date—from Cuba to Croatia, Ghana to the Galapagos Islands, Patagonia to the South Pacific. Originally from the East Coast (with a childhood that included extended stays in the Marshall Islands), Bill first embraced photography as an engineering major at MIT. “I needed a creative outlet to balance out the highly intense engineering curriculum,” he recalls. “I love the act of photography because it causes me to be very tuned into my environment.”

Stanford Business School brought Bill west and the “spectacularly better weather” and business culture kept him here. In 1984, he settled with his family in Los Altos, eventually pivoting from a career in tech marketing and strategy into executive coaching, which includes mentoring social entrepreneurs and business founders in Africa and South Asia.

Balancing family and career with excursions, travel lectures and commercial assignments, Bill continues to click away. As to what catches his eye, what triggers the snap of the shutter? “A face could be amazing or a reflection. There’s the way colors work. I’m very attracted to human artifacts, human clutter,” he says. “Clothes on the line, shoes at the doorstep, coats on the rack, pots and pans in the kitchen.”

That shared human experience is the basis for connection, he explains. And the act of travel—engaging with different places and cultures—is what makes headlines from distant parts of the world feel less abstract. “When you’ve been there, it’s even more personal,” Bill points out. “The reason I like to take pictures in unfamiliar cultures is that it’s such a discovery for me. If you pay attention and are quick, you can capture those magical moments, those perfect moments—and pass along what it is that was there.”

Bill’s Travel Photo Tips

  • Always be looking for shots. When you really look around, you’ll notice things consciously and subconsciously that tickle your imagination: shapes, lighting, leading lines, shadows, reflections, colors, people, markets, street vendors. Experiment!
  • Tell a story. Use your photos to tell a story about the place and people you are visiting. Identify what is unique about their lives and create images that capture that sense of place.
  • Ask permission. Before capturing street portraits, ask permission. How would you feel if someone popped up in your supermarket and repeatedly snapped your picture?

  • Plan ahead. Research your destination, read about its history and search for images. That will spark your imagination and inspire a shot list. Refer to the shot list as you plan your daily adventures.
  • Take lots of pictures. The only way to improve is to take lots of photos. Take multiple shots of the same scene using different exposures, angles or framing—then choose the best to edit.
  • Keep it simple. Less is more. Discern the primary subject and spend a few seconds just before you press the shutter to tidy up the framing, excluding distracting elements and including important ones. Make sure the space around the primary subject is balanced.

Elevate Art Menlo Park Exhibit

Walgreens Storefront • 643 Santa Cruz Avenue
A collection of Bill Scull’s photography curated to encourage passersby to stop and learn how engaging images are created. elevateartmp.org

Broaden Your World


Perfect Shot: Wild Weather Frenzy

A veteran storm chaser for 18 years, PUNCH photographer Gino De Grandis’ assignments typically take him to wild weather places like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. “Who would have expected this here?” he says of the recent “atmospheric rivers” that pummeled the Peninsula. Hired by San Mateo County to capture extreme weather shots and storm damage, Gino pulled over near Pillar Point when he saw hundreds of frantic seagulls circling and squawking. “The crashing high surf stirred up the algae and created a feeding frenzy,” he says. “In the break of bad weather, I also encountered unexpected beauty.”

Image by Gino De Grandis / luiphotography.com


Appetite for Words

Words by Johanna Harlow

Immigrant, chef, author. For Menlo Park’s Donia Bijan, these first two identity markers weave intrinsically into the third. The Last Days of Café Leila—Donia’s novel about a woman named Noor and her return to her family’s restaurant in the beautiful but brutal city of Tehran after spending most of her adult life in the Bay Area—is flavored by Donia’s own experiences leaving her birth country on the eve of the Iranian Revolution as well as her culinary education and decade-long run heading Palo Alto restaurant L’Amie Donia.

Like your character Noor, you moved to the U.S. as a student. Can you tell me about that experience?
I came to America in 1978, on the cusp of turning 16. When you’re that young, you’re more resilient. But later, when my parents immigrated, I never stopped to ask them, “What was it like to lose your homeland?” At 16, I was self-involved and thinking, “Do I have the right jeans?” So in my writing, I’m asking the questions I wish I’d asked: “What was it like to start from nothing?” “What was it like to build a whole new life in a new place?” I will probably always write about exile and homesickness in different contexts because those questions are not resolved. I want to keep exploring them.

How was working in the restaurant industry?
Restaurant work is like war. You’re always on, you are likely to get wounded and you’re under tremendous pressure all the time. You run from fire to fire. There is very little contact with the world outside the restaurant. My husband always teases me: “Oh yeah, this song came out when you were in ‘The Cave.’” I have no idea about pop culture between 1986 to 2004 (when I closed L’Amie Donia). I was sucked into the vacuum of the restaurant world.

So what kept you coming back?
Oh, I was in love with it. The intensity. The pressure. Ultimately, you fall in love with what you’re cooking. You have this love affair with the dish. Each time you make it, it’s the first time. It’s a high because when you fall in love, you’re swept off your feet—but then you have to say goodbye. It’s like a Casablanca moment because that dish belongs to somebody else who’s paid for it, and you send it away and you’re left longing for someone else to order it. And it happens again and again and again. It’s indescribable.

You returned to France later in your career to further hone your culinary skills. How was that?
I worked for three months at different Michelin restaurants. After a few weeks, the chef would say, “All right, you’ve seen everything here. Do you want to go work for so-and-so? He’s near Provence.” Or, “He’s in Milan.” And I would get on a train with my knives and show up. At one stop, I remember the owner of a laundromat loaned me an iron for my uniforms. Until then, I’d been putting them under the mattress to smooth them out. Every night, after service, as if in prayer, I knelt by my bed and ironed my chef’s coat and trousers. Those are the memories that really stick with me because it felt like I was having a religious experience. I was a monk, and this was what I had to do to reach the next level.

In the past, you’ve compared making menus to poetry. Can you unpack those similarities?
Composing menus combined my love of writing with my love of food. The idea for a dish would come to me from one ingredient. I waited for it, and it arrived in the form of a sprig of lavender or an apple. I used the analogy of poetry because poems distill an experience. One dish can capture the essence of fall. And so I saw each dish as a little haiku, that would sort of transport you into the season. You’d be like, “Concord grapes… October… Of course!”

It reminds me of character development—the inkling of an idea and how it expands.
I never thought of it that way, but you’re right! So often someone will stop me on the street and say, “Rabbit! I always ordered that rabbit dish.” It was like they were talking about a person they looked forward to seeing every time they came in. And how each time it was a little different, but essentially the same. I closed L’Amie Donia in 2004, and people still stop to tell me how much they miss a certain dish.

How is restaurant work in contrast to writing?
I thought I was a hard worker and a very disciplined person.But writing—sitting down at a desk and being still and stringing words together—is so much harder than cooking for 200 to 300 people a night! A good day is when I can feel the characters in the room with me and we’re writing this story together. They’re guiding me and saying, “Do this. Don’t do that.” “I want to go here, not there.” And my job is to listen. A bad day is when they don’t show up and the silence is deafening.

In your book, food is linked with family as well as culture, community and memory. Why is that?
In my world, they’re inseparable. I think in many homes, the kitchen is sort of the epicenter, the heartbeat. I loved spending time with my mom in the kitchen. A lot happens there. You’re being nourished in so many other ways than just with food. The word in Farsi for stomach and heart is the same. Maybe that’s a subliminal thing in my head. They’re always connected.

How did you create the characters of Café Leila?
I had these three people—the father, the daughter and the granddaughter—as this triangle in my head for a good two or three years. I would hear the three of them knocking on my window. “We’re still here! What are you gonna do with us? We’re still interested in this project.” And I would be like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Then I opened the door an inch and let one of them in. They were almost fully formed! To this day, I wonder where they came from.

Do you have a good support system backing you?
It was my husband [the artist Mitchell Johnson] who encouraged me to submit my writing. He has been a champion believer from day one. Each day, his parting words as he walks out the door to go to his studio are, “I can’t wait to read your book.” Every writer should be so lucky.

I know you’re working on a new novel. How have you seen your writing evolve?
I learned that a novel has the potential to feel like a home. When someone comes to your house, you don’t leave them standing on your doorstep. You invite them in for tea! Early in my writing, I wasn’t letting readers inside. You’ve got to let them see the raw emotion. It’s okay if the pillows aren’t arranged perfectly on the couch or the flowers in the vase are half-dead. A real person lives here. So open your heart and let ‘em in!

Essay: Looking Back Home

Words by Sloane Citron

Recently I was given a job that I did not relish, a challenging one if you are sentimental and nostalgic like me. While such traits yield a certain warmth and retrospect, they make looking forward somewhat arduous.

We are, apparently, since I was not made part of the process, going to remodel our home. We built our house in 1996, raised four children there, harbored four dogs and a multitude of pets, hosted several adult children and their spouses, and now have seven grandchildren bouncing off of anything that can be bounced off of. The home shows the patina of one well-lived-in. Since the marks, gouges and damaged windowpanes (think BB guns, golf balls and rocket projectiles) remind me of the happy times when my children lived here, I’m content with how things are. Change has always been anathema to me.

Our four children, two boys and two girls, occupied three bedrooms growing up. It would have been four bedrooms, since we were designing the home, but our oldest son Josh, to his everlasting credit, wanted to continue to share a bedroom with his little brother, Coby, despite his seven-year seniority. The girls were excited to not share a bedroom.

Although the three older children are now married with their own homes and children, and our youngest owns his own home in Tel Aviv, their rooms look every bit like they have gone away for a weekend. There are posters on the walls, dresser tops lined with trophies and toys and closets filled with their possessions.

But now it was my responsibility, somehow, to empty out the rooms, eliminating, if you will, the physical memories of the short years which constituted that wonderful time in my life when I had my whole family in the loving embrace of these walls and roofs and safety.

My kids have done little to help me in this chore. I would have liked them to figure out what they wanted to keep, what was memorable, so that I would not make any mistakes. When my own father cleared my room when I went off to prep school, he threw out all my yearbooks and other cherished goods. The trauma of that still haunts me and I don’t want to revisit that on my own children.

But they have given me little choice. I know they are all terribly busy with careers and their own responsibilities and have little extra time in their weeks. Somehow, I think they trust me, since they know with my nature I would err on the side of caution and not randomly discard their childhood treasures.

I tackled Ari’s room first, pulling everything out of the closet, from under the bed, inside the drawers and in an armoire. My daughter has always been better at acquiring things than getting rid of them. Squirreling goods away at her childhood home was a safe middle ground. After a couple of hours, I had things narrowed down, though I must admit there were some items that I had no idea what to do with, such as my mother’s fur coat that she had given to Ari 20 years ago.

Next, I went after Tali’s room (now claimed by her daughter, Liav, when she sleeps over) and had an easier time of it. I had given her fair warning that I was going to give away everything in her closet since the last time she had looked in there was prior to her giving birth to three children. Since she and her husband Sam have been together since they were 16 years old, it was fun finding the keepsakes of their relationship from Menlo-Atherton High School through Stanford and UC Berkeley.

Finally, the boy’s room, the real tearjerker for me since so much of myself was wrapped up in it. There were small baseball bats from their first Giants games, a signed Steve Young poster on the wall, a little basketball hoop and ball from when we played countless hours at night. You get the idea.
After I had completed the task of clearing out the kids’ rooms, I carefully placed all their belongings in plastic containers from Target. Since Coby is fully ensconced in his home in Israel, I’m going to take his belongings with me on my next trip.

With our dog, Chase, recently passed and now the emptying of these rooms, I guess I must face the reality that the beautiful life I had raising these kids in this home is over, nothing but memories left. For many, it is a wonderful fresh beginning, but for some of us, it is a tearful goodbye. But I’m lucky. My grandkids are plenty destructive and I’m sure in no time there will be gouges, marks, perhaps even a broken window or two, creating new memories to cherish in our remodeled home.

Our Wild Side: My Backyard

Words by Robert David Siegel

How far do we need to wander to find our wild side? Certainly, it can be thrilling to travel the globe in search of new wonders. However, it can be quite remarkable to discover nature in our own backyards. This realization came to me while traveling in the Galapagos. I wondered what I might see closer to home—if only I paid attention and looked more carefully.

The dark-eyed junco is ubiquitous and not at all shy. We have found them nesting in our bushes and flowerpots. Adept hunters, these passerines find plenty of insects to munch on and feed their young.

Safely ensconced in our houses, many of us are oblivious to what goes on in our yards at night. With a light in hand, we may discover that the nocturnal bioscape changes dramatically. Seeing these secretive denizens is one thing; capturing their images is quite another. Fortunately, raccoons may move slowly. Just don’t get too close.

When the junco nests are close at hand, it is a fascination to watch the progression from the placid eggs, to the gaping maws of begging chicks, to flight-competent adolescents as they first take wing!

Spiders, like this spotted orbweaver, garner my admiration for their remarkable architectural skills, but also for preying on mosquitos and other pesky insects. Orbweavers make marvelous photographic subjects that can often be captured from every direction.

It has become relatively common to see a wild coyote or turkey in our open space parks. But imagine finding them coming up your Peninsula home driveway. I have seen both. The turkey gave me plenty of time to grab my camera and snap a shot. The coyote did not.

Famed for their epic, multi-generational migration and their gaudy don’t-eat-me coloration, monarch butterflies will often flit through the yard. If you are lucky, you may find some monarch caterpillars munching on the milkweed.

After a quiet swim in the pool with his partner, this mallard takes to the wing, while noisily announcing his departure. As humans impact more and more of the environment, birds like mallards have figured out how to take advantage of this encroachment.

In addition to being a microbiology and immunology professor at Stanford, Palo Alto's Rober David Siegel is a docent and avid wildlife photographer who teaches courses in photographing nature. web.stanford.edu/~siegelr/photo.html

Chocolate Evangelist

Words by Esther Young

Pragmatic and generous, Panos Panagos refuses to preach about bean origins or soil acidity when visitors enter Alegio Chocolaté in Palo Alto for the first time. Instead, he offers a taste of 100% pure cacao from the African archipelago of São Tomé and Príncipe. “Hold it in your mouth for 32 seconds,” he instructs. As it melts, revealing no bitterness, he tells them, “You’ve never had chocolate before. This is the real thing.”

But before you try for yourself, a friendly note: partake to taste, not to eat. Moreover, it also might just ruin chocolate for you. Pretty soon, you’ll realize you’ve been tasting vanilla as the base flavor in mainstream chocolate. The additive is used globally to mask bitterness—or worse yet, lack of flavor altogether.

How can that be? Panos, Alegio’s lively host, explains: “Blame not the chocolate, but the bean.” A defective bean produces bitterness, he clarifies. According to Panos, most of today’s cacao trees are modern hybrids—more productive, but less flavorful. However, the trees in São Tomé and Príncipe have benefitted from three conditions in the last 200 years: human inaction, monkeys in action and one agronomist who played with the combination.

According to Panos, when Portuguese explorers came upon São Tomé and Príncipe around 1470, they found abandoned islands rich with cane sugar. After importing cacao trees from Brazil, the islands became one of the biggest producers of cocoa by the early 1900s, but went quiet once more when the British Parliament abolished slavery. Indigenous monkeys continued to enjoy the cacao plants, sucking out the white creamy pulp, discarding the pods and spitting the beans back out. The cacao trees—aided by this natural seed dispersal and the island’s humid equator-based climate—flourished.

These tropical plants fascinated Claudio Corallo, an Italian-born coffee producer (and Panos’ future business partner) who moved to the islands after war conditions in the Congo (called Zaire at the time) pressured him to leave his home of two decades. In this new setting, Claudio’s curiosity became piqued by raw cacao.

Rather than fixate on the “bean-to-bar” process (an often quipped phrase referring to the conversion of cacao beans to chocolate bars), he took a step back, to encompass soil-to-bar. By refraining from tilling the land, Claudio preserved the island’s rich soil. That led to a discovery: Although the plants produced less than most suppliers, they delivered more flavor to the final product. And that meant they didn’t require other ingredients to mask the bitterness.

This unconventional approach is the reason that Panos, Claudio’s longest-running business partner and his only U.S. distributor, holds court in the Palo Alto shop each day. Although some might be satisfied with the industry standards of vanilla-, lecithin- and milk-infused concoctions, for the chocolate curious and culinary adventure seeker, it’s well worth a step aside.

Signposts appear around the shop with handwritten notes that point venturesome tastebuds towards “slightly reckless” or “faintly dangerous” versions of Alegio’s offerings. With a tantalizing menu ranging from bars studded with pepper and sea salt crystals, rose muscat grapes and crystallized ginger to raw cocoa nibs and roasted beans (“for those who love the purity of flavors”), there’s something for every chocophile.

Panos shares the backstory as you experience and peruse the menu resulting from Corallo’s quest. “He is on a personal crusade to produce the purest possible chocolate that history nearly wiped extinct,” relays Panos. “And he takes no shortcuts.”

Panos first heard of Claudio through a Zimbabwean journalist in the 1980s. While working together in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, “She told me the story of the ‘Italian Indiana Jones’ who was living and working in one of the most isolated parts of the Congolese jungle,” he recalls. Twenty-five years later, after an impromptu cold call, Panos met the character who had captured his imagination.


“We walked single-file through tall and short trees in the rainforest vegetation for hours,” Panos recalls of their first meeting on the island. That evening, they settled in the kitchen of the abandoned plantation home Claudio had restored. “I realized that this guy is my distant cousin who got lost in the middle of the jungle!” Panos likes to joke.

Though not related by blood, both were realists who disregarded fluff and flattery. As they sat in the kitchen long into the night, Panos told Claudio that the chocolate he made was misunderstood. “What you make, this is Rolls Royce,” Panos asserted. Claudio’s eyes lit up. The chocolate maker was not a businessman but through Panos, he could bring chocolate in its pure form to the world.

After initially opening Alegio in Berkeley, Panos realized that nearly a quarter of his customers (including Steve Jobs) were driving from Silicon Valley to visit his shop. Relocating to Palo Alto in 2013 turned out to be a sweet decision, boosting both local demand and Alegio’s online customer base, thanks to the flow of people in and out of the area for business and travel.

“I’m the evangelist of chocolate. Claudio is the demigod,” Panos proclaims back on Bryant Street. It’s why he delights in offering first-time visitors these conversion moments—a revelatory taste that melts elegantly on the tongue.

A Gloriously Wild Ride: Tyler MacNiven

Words by Johanna Harlow

No restaurant fuels the imagination (and appetite) quite like Buck’s in Woodside. Welcoming guests at the front door, a six-foot Lady Liberty holds an ice cream sundae “torch” aloft. A Mona Lisa in a cowboy hat and a mounted bison in a sombrero hang on the walls, while a sizable Pegasus, an astronaut and a pack of flying nuns dangle from the ceiling. Under your feet, the patterned carpet is embroiled in crocodiles. Drawn to this hub of creativity, the innovative minds behind Tesla, Hotmail, PayPal, Netscape and eBay came here for their early meetings, pitching groundbreaking ideas over bacon and French toast. But what if you grew up here? What sort of impact might long-term exposure to a place like Buck’s and its unconventional atmosphere have?

You’ll have to ask Tyler MacNiven, second son of Buck’s founder Jamis MacNiven. “This is definitely like a living room for me,” Tyler shares as he passes a 12-foot unicycle and a shark painted with Hot Wheels flames, before folding his long legs into a booth seat. “I was pouring coffee here when I was 12.”

After circulating through a myriad of jobs at the diner—serving, bartending, managing, kitchen duties—Tyler recently took over the running of Buck’s (and several more restaurant ventures) with his two brothers.

But catch your breath now, because there’s more—much more. Tyler has also filmed documentaries in Japan, Iran, Cuba, Mongolia and India. He cameoed in an iconic Hollywood film. And he won a million dollars with his teammate on Season 9 of The Amazing Race, a CBS reality game show. Buckle up for the tale of Tyler’s gloriously wild ride.


When Tyler was introduced to his first camcorder at 18, the two became inseparable. “I started making movies with my younger brother during the summers when I’d come home from college,” Tyler recalls. “We had so much fun making movies and laying down soundtracks and playing different characters.” Boisterous memories were forged as the two gallivanted through the woods in cowboy outfits during the making of action-packed old Westerns, along with the occasional thriller or comedy.
While studying politics at UC Santa Cruz, Tyler gave stop-animation a try. The first, a vignette of people walking various appliances around the block by their power cords, was followed by a second that portrayed a character’s budding romance with his computer. “When the computer unfortunately suffers a tragic demise, the floppy disc retains all the memories they had together,” chuckles Tyler.

For his next project—an epic battle of computers versus television sets—Tyler procured his cast from a bountiful junkyard. He recruited a number of friends and fellow filmmakers to move these scrappy “warriors” in a heroic charge—before falling on each other and grappling in mortal combat.


After graduation, Tyler set out with backpack and handycam to make a five-month, 2,000-mile pilgrimage from one end of Japan to the other. He chronicled his trek from Kyuˉshuˉ to Hokkaidoˉ in a travel documentary titled Kintaro Walks Japan. “Kintaro,” meaning “Golden Boy,” tips its cap to Tyler’s wild blonde curls—all the more conspicuous when he’s looming head-and-shoulders taller than the dark-haired locals around him.

Though sometimes he pitched camp, Tyler encountered countless strangers who invited him back to their homes for the night (perhaps swayed by the local newspapers, and later TV channels, that covered Tyler’s story). “I kept saying, ‘If you give yourself to the journey, the journey will give itself to you,’” he shares of what turned into 60 homestays. “I said, ‘Japan take me.’ And Japan just embraced me.”

Though communication was limited, the camaraderie between traveler and hosts was unmistakable. “They would cook me an incredible meal—and often they would bring out a bottle of sake that they’d been holding onto for some time,” he reminisces. Frequently, he found himself passed around to meet parents, kids and grandparents. Even the neighbors would get invited to meet the crazy foreigner.

Despite the glowing news publicity, Tyler found it difficult to find a distributor for his documentary upon his return to the States. Undeterred, he burned 1,000 DVDs, hawking copies in San Francisco and at the family restaurant. The guerilla tactic paid off and his film found its way onto the Google Video streaming platform as well as into a few film festivals (getting voted “Best of Fest” by audiences at the Santa Cruz Film Festival). For a month, international travelers aboard American Airlines also watched Kintaro in-flight.

Emboldened by his success and ready to encounter another country in a non-traditional way, Tyler filmed I Ran Iran. But the documentary was cut short after only 100 miles. “The Iranian people were so gracious,” Tyler insists. “Unfortunately, the Iranian government wanted to use the run as a political stunt… I wasn’t there to do that.” Undeterred, Tyler set off to document himself hugging a thousand Cubans—then wrestling 100 Mongolians.

This last project was inspired by Tyler’s discovery that nearly everyone in Mongolia is down to grapple. “Men, women… Doesn’t matter what age, wrestling is the national sport,” he explains. “What a really interesting way to figuratively and literally embrace a culture by going out there and challenging them to wrestling matches.” The project morphed into Wrestling Mongolia, an adventure comedy that Tyler made with friends. “Don’t watch it,” Tyler laughs.


Of course, there’s also Tyler’s most publicized endeavor: his time spent as a contestant on The Amazing Race in 2006. On the reality television game show, Tyler (along with his teammate and friend BJ Averell) tackled countless problem-solving tasks and physical challenges as they made their way across 10 countries, 36 cities and 59,000 miles.

It wasn’t long before the shaggy duo earned themselves a team nickname: The Hippies. “You know what the definition of ‘hippie’ is?” Tyler asks. “Someone with long hair who’s having more fun than you!” He adds that long before his UC Santa Cruz days, his parents instilled that free spirit. “It was already deeply ingrained in my DNA. There’s hippie all the way down to the nucleotides,” Tyler declares. (Coincidentally, after the race, Tyler would cameo as a thieving hippie in The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith. His precious minutes of screen time include stealing Will’s equipment and dashing off in flared pants.)

That easygoing manner by no means discredited Tyler and BJ as fierce competitors. “Let’s have a good time and win,” the duo agreed. But who wouldn’t go all in with a $1,000,000 incentive on the line? “That’s a motivator—especially when you’re 26, working at your parents’ restaurant!” Tyler quips. “I had $900 in my bank account.”

Fun was always in the mix, Tyler insists—even when they endured the tedium of digging through 117 sand dunes for their next clue in sweltering Oman, or raced with a ripe 30-pound swordfish on their shoulders to a market in Italy, or cut their tongues while eating a heaping bowl of crispy crickets in Thailand. “You can’t always control what happens to you,” Tyler notes, “but you can control how you respond to it.”

And when they won, the tougher tasks made their victory that much sweeter. “When I think about The Amazing Race, it feels like going to an amusement park,” Tyler marvels. “Was getting on that roller coaster challenging? It was nothing but exhilarating.”


After the show, Tyler invested a chunk of his winnings toward his film career. “But I wasn’t able to really work the business angle of that, nor did I want to,” he concedes. Around this time, his attention shifted to what his brothers Dylan and Rowan were up to back in the restaurant biz. “They were really growing as leaders and as members of the community,” Tyler recalls. “They were learning so much and being challenged in these really interesting ways and carrying on our family tradition. And I just kind of got envious of that.”

Deciding it was time to return to his roots, Tyler teamed up with his brothers. Today, they oversee four San Francisco restaurants (including West of Pecos, a Santa Fe-inspired eatery) as well as Pizzeria Deluna (a concept that partners with hotels to serve gourmet pizza to guests). Tyler also co-founded Sunbasket, a healthy meal kit delivery service that now sends out hundreds of thousands of meals every week.

Of course, the brothers also run the fantastical restaurant that started it all: Buck’s. “Growing up in Buck’s showed me that you can have fun while doing whatever you’re doing,” Tyler reflects. He recalls testing out an electric roadster in the parking lot that would one day become an early model for Tesla, and he can point to the exact table where Sabeer Bhatia pitched the idea for Hotmail. “[Sabeer] wrote on a napkin ‘Free Email’ and slid it over to [venture capitalist] Steve Jurvetson. He looked at it and said, ‘Yes, let’s do this!’” Tyler recounts. He adds, “Being a young kid, I didn’t really understand the larger context of what was happening. I remember feeling like it was totally normal.”

And that’s why returning to this synergetic setting felt so natural. “Many of the folks who come in are people I grew up with, and the parents of the people I grew up with, and the kids of people I grew up with,” Tyler says.
Though Tyler might not film as much these days, he still makes time for the occasional passion project. Take his espionage-themed “save the date” wedding video made with his then-fiancé, now-wife Kelly. It’s a pun, Tyler explains. What if “save the date” didn’t mean reserving the day, but rescuing it? To free their “hostage” date, Tyler and Kelly ensnare bad guys using a wedding veil for a net, set off a wedding cake explosive device and distract the enemy with a bouquet toss (the cronies can’t resist the urge to tackle each other for it). “We wrote the whole thing within ten minutes,” Tyler remarks. The video has racked up more than a million views.

Though Tyler’s father, Jamis, never pursued a cinematic career, Tyler says he admires his father’s knack for captivating a crowd at Buck’s. “My dad always said he was in the entertainment business. That man—he’s a magical carnival. He brings the circus to town!” Tyler shakes his head with a grin. “I’m a subdued version,” …claims the man wearing a shirt abloom in poppies… with ladybug buttons down the front.

If Tyler has learned anything from returning to his roots, it’s this: Discovering new places doesn’t require a plane ticket. “I found that being in the restaurant business is kind of like reverse traveling in a way. Instead of going out to see the world, open the doors and the world will come in to see you,” smiles Tyler. “There’s definitely a small-town feel here for sure. And also a big-world feel since people from all over the world come here.”

As Tyler reflects on coming full circle, his eyes drift to neighboring diners—conversing over coffee cups and swapping stories over sausage links as Lady Liberty and the sombrero-wearing bison watch on. “If you have an appetite for humanity,” he muses, “this is a great business.”

From the Ground Up

Words by Lotus Abrams

The first thing visitors tend to notice when they arrive at a new home tucked into a cul-de-sac in a 1950s neighborhood of Hillsborough is that there’s something different about the walls. Minimalist and dense like concrete yet softer and more organic in appearance, the distinctive walls are crafted from rammed earth, a method that has been employed for thousands of years (the Great Wall of China was built using this technique) and is seeing a resurgence in modern, eco-friendly construction. The home is the first rammed-earth project for San Mateo-based TRG Architecture + Interior Design, owned by architect Randy Grange and interior designer Leslie Lamarre, a husband-and-wife team who utilize many organic, natural and sustainable elements in their projects.

TRG’s client was motivated to purchase the Hillsborough property because of its proximity to the homes of some of his close friends, but the original house was inefficiently sited and would have been difficult to remodel to achieve his desired indoor-outdoor aesthetic. Instead, he opted to build his dream home—a calming antidote to busy life. TRG helped him realize his vision.

“The client came to me with some images of houses that he liked with concrete walls that are inside-outside, and also some masonry walls where the wall goes from the outside to the inside and becomes an interior finish,” recounts Randy. “I suggested the rammed earth because it provides the same effect yet is warmer, earthier and more environmentally friendly.”
Rammed-earth walls are made from soil pounded or “rammed” at very high pressure. The material is eco-friendly, as dirt is a renewable resource, while cement produces high amounts of CO2 during the manufacturing process. The high thermal mass of rammed-earth walls also effectively slows down heat transfer between the inside and the outside, keeping interior temperatures stable.

Prior to this home, there had only been one other rammed-earth project in Hillsborough, but TRG sailed through the approval process. “The design review board loved it, and the building department was so cool about it, so it wasn’t the challenge I thought it was going to be,” remarks Randy, who teamed with CBW Construction on the project. TRG also relied on an engineer and a rammed-earth specialist in Sonoma to ensure everything went as planned during construction. “The rammed-earth walls were the first thing that went up,” Randy says. “It took a couple months more than you would normally spend upfront, but then the house went together just like any other house.”

The new 5,270-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath home features 18- to 24-inch-thick walls (versus the typical 10 to 12 inches for cement), which not only make the home structurally sound, but also create a dramatic contrast to the glass window walls. The house takes full advantage of the site, too, with a staggered footprint that follows the curve of the road, and the design employs horizontal lines that complement the neighborhood’s existing ranch homes.

Adding a soothing element to the design, a series of intimate Zen gardens designed by Keith Willig Landscape Architecture are strategically placed outside the home. “When you walk through the house, you’re always in contact with one of the rammed-earth walls that are coming in from outside as well as glass, so it created space for these little Zen gardens,” Randy notes. “You really don’t walk more than 10 or 15 feet inside the house without seeing another one of the gardens.”

In addition, the home’s entrance features a raised ipe wood bridge over a Japanese rock garden punctuated by an ancient olive tree. The rest of the property and the pool are surrounded by gentle berms created from dirt excavated during the construction process and filled with native grasses and drought-tolerant plants. The home is also equipped with solar panels discreetly located out of view.

Inside, the rammed-earth walls set the tone for the interior design, and Leslie worked with the client’s own interior designer to ensure everything came together. “The home has a quiet palette so as not to take away from the predominant element of interest, which is the rammed-earth walls,” she says. Wide-plank timber flooring is used throughout, and the second-floor office captures a small view of the Bay. The gourmet kitchen features Henrybuilt cabinets, and a modern chandelier from Stickbulb hangs above the dining room table. “It’s minimalist with a flare,” summarizes Leslie.
Now solidly grounded in his new neighborhood, the client is thrilled with the result. “He had a vision about what he was looking for,” Randy affirms. “He especially loves the heaviness of the walls.”

Realize a Vision: trgarch.com

Diamond Dazzler

Words by Kate Daly

As a young girl, Katie Anderson remembers eyeing an aquarium in a pet store and being way more interested in the bejeweled treasure chest resting in the gravel than the colorful fish. Decades later, her own family has three dogs, some chickens, turtles and a guinea pig running around in Atherton, the same town where she grew up, but she is still drawn to jewels, as the name of her business confirms: Katie Anderson Diamonds.

“I have always loved jewelry, the design element, the sparkle element,” she says. “I come from a family of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, so I wanted to create something of value.”

Katie chose diamonds, thinking they would appreciate and people would appreciate them. After selling about 10,000 pieces to date, she figures she has brought a lot of sparkle into people’s lives.

“I want to be your village jeweler,” she explains, and yet the texting that takes place during her design process enables her to have clients all over the world. Some customers even buy for the year: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthday, anniversary and holiday gifts.

Katie started taking orders for Valentine’s Day back in November. The most popular requests were tennis bracelets, tennis necklaces, earrings and monograms in a style she describes as “timeless, clean, traditional and elegant.” A recent inquiry led to the unique ring she fashioned around a black opal she sourced in Australia.

Katie smiles when she recalls creating her very first piece: a simple diamond pendant that inspired friends and family in the community to place orders with an 18-year-old.

At the time, she was a senior at Menlo School and headed to Stanford when she won a $10,000 award from a national dyslexia association. Using the check as seed money, she walked into the jewelry mart in San Francisco and found “a wonderful man who must have been bored,” because he spent a lot of time sharing his knowledge. Today, almost 20 years later, she says, “He’s one of my buyers; we buy directly from families who have been in the diamond business for hundreds of years.”

For her metals, Katie buys directly from her “magical team of manufacturers in LA,” and only sells stones certified by the Gemological Institute of America, which numbers gems and tracks chains of custody. She sells all organic diamonds, nothing grown in a laboratory. Katie also doesn’t see the necessity of paying the high prices that flawless D diamonds command when those rated E, F and G provide “enough quality” for rings, and H diamonds with some inclusions or characteristics can work well for earrings.

Buying direct allows Katie to offer a unique business model—selling pieces at cost. “There’s no middle man,” she shares. “I don’t take an income and make no profit. We pay for labor and materials and then taxes. Everything is made in California.”

A few years ago, Katie started her Brilliant Heroes program after a retired Navy Seal asked her to design a $500 engagement ring. Having family members of her own in the Navy, she was moved to offer him more than a band with a small stone. “We’re going to get you two carats, and I’m going to cover this,” she told him. “It’s the least I can do to thank you for your service.”

That decision led to a system whereby clients who can pay a suggested 10% more than cost end up donating it to help fund the 10% discount she gives to service members, first responders, nurses and teachers.

Since Katie doesn’t advertise, most clients find her via word-of-mouth and contact her through her website, katieandersondiamonds.com. It serves as a lookbook, not a shopping site. She keeps little inventory on hand and might create a limited edition of 10 pieces; otherwise, she designs on demand.
For an engagement ring, for example, Katie will ask her client about diamond shape, cut and color preferences, metal choices, ring size, timeline and budget. She probes to find out how involved the bride wants to be. “Young people need to remember a proposal is about a marriage and not the ring,” she underscores.

The design process begins with exchanging sketches, photos and CAD (computer-aided design) drawings back and forth. The next step could be using a 3-D printer to make a mockup in wax so the bride can try on the piece to see how it looks, fits and feels. Katie takes pride in designs that “use as little metal as possible to make the stones sparkle.”
She views diamonds as dazzling gems that can be worn every day. Her own diamond wedding band features one pink, one yellow and one blue diamond to honor her three young children. She currently has no engagement ring, she admits, because she keeps upgrading and selling it.

Meanwhile, Katie has started a new venture on the side. When things quieted down in 2020 and she found herself at home in June with her venture capitalist husband and kids, the little ones asked for a bedtime story about Christmas. Katie turned it into the recently published children’s book, Holly Holiday and the Christmas Forest. And she has another one, Happy Birthday Holly Holiday, coming out this spring. Spoiler alert: it’s not about the diamond tiara Katie once designed for a 16-year-old’s birthday. That’s a whole other story.

The Art of sparkle: katieandersondiamonds.com

Lindenwood Gates

Words by Dylan Lanier

Today, the Lindenwood gates mark the entrance to an upscale Atherton neighborhood filled with lush greenery and elegant homes. The gates also tell a story of the past, reaching back to the California Gold Rush. James C. Flood, born in 1826 in New York City, traveled to San Francisco in 1849 and eventually carved out a name for himself in the mining world, amassing a fortune rumored to have once been the largest in California. He purchased a 600-acre tract of land in Atherton and set to work constructing a sprawling network of houses and gardens, including a crowning 44-room mansion named Linden Towers. James C. Flood initially built a white picket fence to enclose the property, but his son, James L. Flood, replaced the fence with brick walls and the now iconic iron gates in 1908 after gaining control of the estate. Until his death in 1926, James L. Flood always kept the gateway to Linden Towers open so that all members of the community could admire its architectural grandeur and stunning grounds. After Flood’s death, his second wife, Maud Flood, deemed the property a bygone relic, auctioning off its furniture and ordering its demolition in 1936. The estate was subdivided in stages into 488 current homes, most of which sit on one-acre parcels. However, the gates remain standing—a symbol of the Peninsula’s vibrant history, emblazoned with the initials “JCF” to commemorate the Flood family’s legacy.

APPtitude for Art

Words by Sheryl Nonnenberg

In 2012, Caroline Mustard’s son bought her an iPad for her birthday and suggested she use it to return to drawing. A native of Cornwall, England, Caroline holds degrees in Fine Art from the University of Brighton and had a career in art direction and scenic painting in Hollywood in the 1980s. She took a break from creative endeavors after moving to the Bay Area, but the gift of the iPad proved to be a pivotal event in her art journey.

It’s not hard to imagine how revelatory the iPad was to the former painter. Here was a device that could answer any question, play music, translate languages and map a destination. Opening an app called Paper, Caroline drew a zebra and became hooked. “I was so excited—I showed it to everyone,” she recalls. “I have always loved anything to do with computers, and soon I became obsessed with making art on my iPad and iPhone.”

Little did she know that what began as experimentation would result in a second career as a digital artist. In 2013, Caroline’s zeal for creating art using technology motivated her to co-found the Mobile Art Academy, a hub for artists using the medium. She also discovered a passion for teaching and has become well known for her classes at Palo Alto’s Pacific Art League and, since the pandemic, on Zoom. Her motto is a call to arms for anyone who has toyed with the idea of making art: “Digital is democratic—everyone can be creative.”

Sitting down with Caroline in the office of the Atherton Art Foundation, it’s easy to see why her classes are so popular. She exudes a joy and enthusiasm for art and art history that is positively contagious. As she shares tales from her artistic past, she refers to examples of her art on her phone, visually documenting the journey of how her personal style has evolved. From that first zebra to complicated layering of photography and drawing, using ever more sophisticated applications, Caroline is always learning.

What she did not foresee is how much she would love teaching. She explains that she began teaching children to use their iPads for making art at the Los Altos Christian School. From there, she launched into providing instruction for various municipal recreation programs in Menlo Park and Los Altos. She found her way to the Pacific Art League, which was initially interested but not sure if a digital art class would garner enrollment. But a major exhibition of iPad art by British artist David Hockney at the de Young Museum in 2013 soon changed that perception.

For Caroline, the exhibition was a transformative experience. “Hockney is my go-to artist,” she explains. “I have loved him since the ‘60s because he is always exploring and he loves the history of art. I agree with everything he says.” Seeing the large-scale work that Hockney had done in his native Yorkshire, Caroline recognized the potential of the digital medium—and what it would require to master it. “I saw that I needed to work hard and get my art out there,” she says.

Caroline created a website and her digital art began to attract interest. Following a show at the Pacific Art League, she participated in a group show at Art Ventures Gallery in Menlo Park and a large-scale solo show at the Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto. She is quick to explain, however, that courting gallery affiliations was never a priority for her. Sharing her passion for digital art with others is her main motivation. “Teaching is symbiotic for me: I can earn money and I love to teach,” she says. “I get inspired by teaching and I have to stay ahead of my students. It makes me work!”

Caroline’s teaching—and her conversation—is peppered with quotes from famous artists whom she admires. “All of my classes are steeped in art history,” she laughs. Discounting the old adage about how art teachers are failed artists, she cites Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, both of whom were teachers. When asked if she has encountered any prejudice against digital art, she nods but then quotes Picasso: “Artists break rules.” And as to how working on her iPhone and iPad has kept her work vital and innovative, she cites another favorite artist, Wayne Thiebaud. “He said, ‘I think of myself as a beginner. Sometimes that’s the whole joy. If you could just do it, there’d be no point in doing it.’”

One thing Caroline has noticed while teaching adults is the lack of ability to draw. She attributes this to the lamentable demise of art education in schools and also the trend of not teaching basic drawing skills to art students. This is integral, she believes, in making art because “drawing is looking.” The good news, however, is that it is a skill that can be honed through practice on a ubiquitous device: the iPhone. “Digital is drawing, you are just using different tools,” Caroline says, adding that she sketches all the time, using Procreate Pocket on her iPhone. Whether on a bus, in a park or at a café, she is constantly observing and drawing. Has anyone ever noticed her attentive regard? “Never!” she exclaims. “I call it ‘stealth drawing’ because people don’t even know I am doing it.”

Perusing the iPhone work on her website carolinemustard.com, one can see a variety of subject matter, from autumn leaves to a still life of fruit to a cellist holding his instrument. These sketches, created using her finger as a tool, sometimes make their way into paintings and always are boldly and brightly colored. “Color is my passion, and I could never understand it as well without digital,” she explains. With the mobility provided by the iPhone, Caroline has the ability to record everything—and anything—around her. While living in Mountain View, she was inspired by the many bicycles she saw on the Google campus. Google Bikes is a fascinating study of color and line, capturing motion in the style of the Italian futurists. It was purchased by the interior design department of the company and now hangs in their bicycle building. “Capturing what I see, that is what my art is about—memory,” she muses.

Caroline is now working on a series about San Francisco, which began with an iPhone sketch of an empty storefront near Russian Hill. This work will entail what she refers to as “drawing fusion,” using both traditional media and digital. Clearly a proponent of the idea that art is around us, everywhere, Caroline also feels strongly that “our phones let us see things we can’t see otherwise.”

The advent of digital technology rekindled Caroline Mustard’s love for art, and by sharing her knowledge and talents with others, she finds fulfillment. “I can get people to create art who never thought they could,” she reflects with wonder.

To purchase books and find more information about online and in-person workshops, visit thejoyofdrawing.org

Going Loco Moco: Brunch Spot

Words by Elaine Wu

Those who believe you should never mix work with your personal life have never met Chad and Monica Kaneshiro. It’s precisely that blended partnership that has led to the success of their popular breakfast & brunch spot. This husband and wife team are rarely apart, teaming up as chefs and owners of the recently relocated Morning Wood restaurant in San Mateo. When they’re not working together in the kitchen, they’ll often be trying new restaurants or grabbing a drink while brainstorming fresh ideas for their menu. “Most of our research is from our own experiences eating out,” says Monica.

After shuttering Morning Wood’s original San Bruno location in 2020 after three successful years in business (it has since turned into Diamond Head General Store, a Hawaiian brunch spot run by Monica’s mom), the restaurant moved to its new, roomier San Mateo space in late 2022. Gone are the massive two-hour-long waitlists for walk-ins that plagued their original restaurant. Morning Wood is now reservation-only (9AM to 2PM), though limited walk-ins are sometimes accommodated on weekdays. “We wanted to get rid of the long lines because we started to feel bad about the wait times,” notes Monica. “We also wanted a space with a patio.” What remains unchanged, however, are the bold and eclectic Asian-fusion dishes that people have come to know and love.

Both chefs have lived and worked in professional kitchens most of their lives. Monica’s family owned and operated various restaurants in the Bay Area, so it felt like a natural step for her to go to culinary school before working in kitchens like The Village Pub in Woodside and True Food Kitchen in Palo Alto, where she met her future husband.

In 2000, Chad moved to the Bay Area from his native Hawaii hoping to find more culinary opportunities after working in restaurant kitchens since he was a teen. He rotated through all aspects of running a restaurant while working for the Straits Restaurant Group in management and as an executive chef. After years in the industry, the couple realized they’d had enough of working for other people. “We just wanted a place where we could make a decent living, cook what we wanted and not work until 1AM every night,” explains Chad.

Morning Wood’s brunch menu combines “French technique, Hawaii roots, Korean boldness and Japanese sensibility” with culinary creativity. “I’m not expecting any food awards or to get rich doing this. We’re realistic,” remarks Chad matter-of-factly. “But we still have high standards.” That appetite for excellence means they still do things the hard way, preferring to tackle the kitchen prep and cooking themselves, day in and day out. But spending so much time together also feeds their mutual sense of competition. “We get along great, but we are total opposites,” confides Monica. “We will start bouncing ideas off of each other and then try to one-up the other. That usually ends up making a recipe even better.”

The result is a menu that reflects the dishes they themselves would want to eat. Items change daily according to supply and, frankly, how the chefs are feeling that morning. Their playful experimentation means French toast might be deep-fried in corn flakes and panko breadcrumbs then slathered in bacon jam one day—followed by popping boba and fresh strawberries the next. “Our portions are generous because that’s how we like to eat,” Monica relays. “And we like bold flavors. There’s nothing subtle or muted about our food.”

Customer faves like the mochiko chicken and waffles (served lately with adzuki bean and black honey syrup), loco moco (their version of the Hawaiian rice, meat and gravy breakfast staple, currently made with prime rib) and mochi pancakes (ranging in flavors from matcha to pineapple) will usually remain on the menu in one form or another.

To maintain the integrity of each dish, they opt to limit customer modifications and food allergy accommodations. “Everything we put on the plate has a purpose,” Chad asserts. “Those are the flavor combinations we envisioned. It’s very personal.”

Unquestionably, a meal from the Kaneshiros comes straight from the heart. “We want people to come to our restaurant thinking they’re a guest in our home,” affirms Chad. “We want them to be full and happy.”

Trip to the Past: San Jose Outing

Words by Johanna Harlow

If San Francisco is your default destination, it’s time to get better acquainted with our neighbor to the south. San Jose—home to California’s first state capital as well as the world’s first radio broadcasting station—offers some riveting adventures for the inherently curious.

For serious and casual history buffs alike, consider indulging in an educational day trip to the renowned Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Or History Park—with its spacious grounds featuring homes of eras past as well as the Arbuckle Gallery and its fascinating collection of artifacts.

So grab your daypack, then travel back in time (and down Highway 280) to these memorable spots and corresponding eateries.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Showcasing the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on the West Coast, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum rivals the likes of the Metropolitan—and the drive takes less time too!

After making your way around the Afterlife Gallery—inhabited by striking sarcophagi, eerie embalmed human and animal mummies and miniature models of ancient temples—you’ll find your eye drawn to a cave-like opening flanked by two pillars. Is that… the entrance of a tomb?

Embrace your inner Indiana Jones as you enter this rocky maw and descend its sandstone steps into the lifelike replica of a pharaoh’s burial site. The experience will engage the littlest to the largest explorer with several underground chambers as well as shadowy walls painted with reliefs and etched with hieroglyphics.

When you emerge, peruse the museum’s other exhibits dedicated to daily life, alchemy, religion and rulers. As you learn about this country’s formidable pharaohs and its elaborate ancient burial traditions, take time to appreciate the expansive collection ranging from finely-detailed amulet necklaces to hulking stone reliefs.

When you exit the museum’s brass doors, don’t leave before swinging by the garden. The museum’s grounds, once farmland, cover nearly an entire city block and feature Egyptian architecture, several courtyards, ponds and a labyrinth. For more outdoor exploration, walk down the street to the Municipal Rose Garden where All That Jazz, Teasing Georgia, Paradise Found and 186 more rose varieties with equally delightful names have taken up residence in its plentiful planter beds.


Don’t return to the 21st century for lunch. A short hop away, iChina—an upscale, two-story Cantonese restaurant at Westfield Valley Fair—boasts an opulent space inspired by the ancient imperial palaces of East Asia. You’ll certainly feel like royalty surrounded by regal hues of gold and turquoise, art deco detailing, lanterns and botanically-patterned ottomans.

With a team of internationally-recognized chefs, many with Michelin-star backgrounds, it’s hard to go wrong with an array of handmade dim sum stuffed with roasted duck and pumpkin, har gow (shrimp), Wagyu beef and other delectable fillings. Other specialties include wok fried rice noodles with prawns and scallops as well as steamed sticky rice with Chinese sausage and shiitake mushrooms. Afternoon tea is also available with bites both savory and sweet. Think raspberry rose lychee mousse and jasmine peach macarons.

History Park +
Arbuckle Gallery

For a local history lesson, set your course for History Park, a 14-acre site replete with 32 original and reproduction homes, businesses and landmarks.

Though you are welcome to ride the trolley (on weekends) and tour its paved streets on your own, walking tours will give you in-depth insights into the architecture, people and events linked to these historic grounds. Offered every Friday at 1PM, the tour will give you the inside scoop on the print shop, 19th-century doctor’s office, ‘20s gas station, migrant farmworkers’ cabins, blacksmith shop and many other historic buildings around the park.

After the tour, head in the direction of the 115-foot-tall Electric Light Tower to find the park’s Pacific Hotel, a reconstruction of an 1880 guest house along downtown’s South Market Street. After polishing off a scoop of mint chip at the hotel’s old-fashioned ice cream parlor, duck into the Arbuckle Gallery next door. The gallery highlights Silicon Valley’s innovative spirit as well as everyday lives and interests through an eclectic assemblage of artifacts. With curiosities and treasures ranging from vintage motorcycles and music boxes to model steam engines and toy robots, you’re bound to learn all kinds of fascinating tidbits. “Every object tells a story,” a sign at the gallery attests.


You’ll have worked up an appetite from all that walking, so go refuel at nearby Olla, an eye-catching Mexican restaurant right down the street from San Pedro Square Market. Whether you enjoy tamales or carne asada, ceviche or chicharrones, this restaurant covers all the staples. But if you’re looking to narrow things down, Olla makes a mean chicken mole enchilada with rich and smokey mole poblano, crema and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. For the taco aficionado, consider ordering either crispy avocado (topped with cabbage, cilantro and a drizzling of chipotle crema) or baja fish—both folded into satisfying house-made tortillas. Toast your prickly pear margaritas to a day well spent, then dunk cinnamon sugar-dusted churro bites into cajeta caramel dipping sauce.

Make sure to linger after your meal for a few pictures. With Dia de Los Muertos-inspired wallpaper decorating one wall and vintage movie posters of Spanish films brightening another, you have plenty of vibrant backgrounds to commemorate your eventful day in San Jose before heading home.

Diary of a Dog: Toby

Listen carefully to my bark and you’ll hear what I’m actually saying: “Top of the morning to you!” That’s my favorite greeting, given that I’m originally from Limerick County, Ireland. When I came to live with my Menlo Park family—Nick, Alex, Luke, Rebecca and Cal—they called me Toby because they thought it sounded like a fitting name for an Irish-born Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. That was back in 2017. I’ve always been snuggly, but in 2020, I started hearing myself described as an unofficial “emotional support pup.” Everyone seemed to be home a lot that year, and I was ever so happy to sit on a warm lap and binge-watch Netflix shows for hours. (Extra bonus: Rebecca would scratch my belly at the same time.) My other favorite pastimes are chasing (but never catching) squirrels and playing with my best friend Bodie, who’s an Australian shepherd—except when he steals my toys. Although I have a comfy dog pad, at night, I “army-crawl” my way under the big bed when it’s time to sleep. My family can’t quite understand this habit, but you see, I’m always putting their comfort first. I actually snore quite loudly so when I’m tucked up tight like that, I’m not as likely to keep them awake. That guarantees that when I woof, ‘Top of the morning to you!’ to start a new day, I’m always met by a happy smile.

If you’ve got quirky habits or a funny tale (or tail) to share, email your story to hello@punchmonthly.com for a chance to share a page from your Diary of a Dog in PUNCH.

The Beat on Your Eats: Romantic Restaurants

Words by Johanna Harlow

If the way to the heart is through the stomach, woo your date with these romantic restaurants.

porta blu

Menlo Park

Sure, nothing beats an idyllic trip overseas, but Porta Blu is the next best thing. Upon entry, this coastal Mediterranean restaurant sets the scene straight away with striking floor-to-ceiling depictions of European streets. Further enhancing the atmosphere: a palette of soft, sophisticated neutral colors and striking gold and blue accents. With Spanish, French and Italian ingredients and an emphasis on sea-centric dishes, the restaurant serves up Dungeness crab, prawns and sea bass. For land lovers, the kitchen offers wood-fired flatbreads and ribeye. Conveniently located within the wonderfully boutique Hotel Nia, feel free to make a night of it and book a room. 200 Independence Drive (Lobby Level). Open daily from 6AM to 2PM and 4PM to 9PM.



Is there anything quite so romantic as Italy, home of Venus and Saint Valentine? Wine and dine your date at Northern Italian restaurant Rocca. After the rosemary-speckled focaccia bread, consider some rotellini di melazane appetizers (oven-baked eggplant rolls stuffed with marinara and cream sauce, ricotta cheese and roasted garlic). As for a main dish to share with your main squeeze? Feed your date bites of the farfalle gratinate—butterfly pasta adorned with porcini mushrooms, prosciutto, chicken and decadent cream. Like Rocca’s other noodle dishes, this one contains house-made pasta. Your special someone will be further impressed by the decor: fleur-de-lis ceiling tiles, a mural of the Italian countryside, table candles and balcony seating. That’s amore! 1205 Broadway. Open Sunday from 4PM to 9:30PM. Monday through Saturday from 11AM to 2PM and from 5PM to 10PM.


Palo Alto

For a place that puts as much care into dressing up your plate as you put into selecting your date night outfit, try ROOH, a progressive Indian restaurant that champions traditional flavors. Spice things up with an order of chili rolls, then partake in well-loved dishes like the chicken malai tikka (blanketed in a creamy sauce with a dusting of pistachio dukkah) and the prawn ghee roast (tossed in byadgi chili paste masala and topped with pickled ginger and a crispy thatch of vermicelli noodles). ROOH matches artful food with stunning mixology. The blush-colored Goa Cooler with pisco and Pimm’s is a prime example; pop the cream-colored bubble on top and watch dry ice smoke spill over its sides. As for the ambiance? Velvet green chairs and a brilliant red chandelier bring bold splashes of color to the room. 473 University Avenue. Open Monday through Thursday from 5PM to 9:30PM. Friday from 5:30PM to 10:30PM. Saturday from 11:30AM to 2PM and 5:30PM to 10:30PM. Sunday from 11:30AM to 2PM and 5PM to 9:30PM.

Chiseling a Legacy

Words by Johanna Harlow

In a warehouse near Candlestick Point, Greek figures intermingle with medieval dragons, busts and big cats. While half-finished works await, chunks of stone and a powdering of rock dust on the floor show the layers shed by sculptor Manuel Palos’ stony creations—the archeological representation of a lifetime of work.

This afternoon, Manuel—his shirt the color of brick, his beret a shade of sandstone—considers a partially-molded woman on his worktable. “It’s not just jumping in. You’ve got to talk to them first,” Manuel explains as he holds the figure’s gaze. “My goal is to make a connection with each piece that I work on. This allows me to feel their energy and it guides me on how they want to be created.” Gently cupping her clay hand, Manuel finesses her fingers with a tiny wooden paddle. “Some days, they may not want to be touched, so I step away and work on something else. They let me know when they are ready to work together again.”

With over half a century of work under his chisel, Manuel’s handiwork can be found throughout the Peninsula, San Francisco and Mexico. He’s done it all. Bronze, marble, stone, clay. Classic, modern, art deco. Historical preservations, ornamental pieces, figure work. Commissions for doctors, lawyers, educators and politicians. And the 85-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. “Any item, any style, whatever they want—I’ll do it,” he promises.

Though Manuel welcomes all projects, he prefers figurative to decorative work. “I respect both,” he insists, but “figures are more meaningful than just a leaf. They’re more challenging.” When someone commissions the artist for a portrait, the process is personal. “First of all, I like to talk to the person and look in their eyes,” he shares. “Their smile… The way they laugh and talk… That’s the first thing I capture.” He then takes photos of his subject in different poses, both playful and serious. “That’s how you start to get the figure: the personality,” he observes.

It’s a fascination that has enthralled Manuel since childhood. “When I was a kid, my brother and I used to make little figurines in clay,” he recalls of his youth growing up in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. “We used to sell them for pennies.” This afforded the boys luxuries like candy and trips to the cinema. “We didn’t have to ask Papa for money to go to the movies!” he chuckles.

Manuel’s smile reveals a scar. Carved from lip to chin, he received it from a harrowing car accident that killed a dear friend. “I was lucky,” Manuel shakes his head. “I had a lot of work to do yet.”

And he set out to do it. In his late twenties, Manuel moved from Southern California to San Francisco to work as a moldmaker on the reconstruction of the Palace of Fine Arts. Back then, sculptors were in scarce supply in the City, the artist reflects. “We were working with people from different countries because they couldn’t find anyone here.” Many connected with the project through an ad in an international publication, flying from far-off places like France, Spain and Italy to offer their services.

Not long after joining the team, Manuel found himself elevated to assistant to the sculptor, aiding with scrollwork and colossal figures. “I learned how to work in that scale,” he notes. Surrounded by talented artists, Manuel thrived. “I learned from all of them,” he says. When they gave him advice, he listened. “They told me, ‘Manuel, you’re good at this. You should go to Italy. We are old already and we can’t teach you more.’”

To date, he’s taken more than 30 trips to perfect his craft—at workshops in Pietrasanta and Carrara and by soaking in the presence of the Masters. “That was a dream,” he reflects. “I saw the best there.” He cites Florence as his favorite Italian city, but adds that he discovered inspiration all over. “Everywhere you go, you see art!”

After recreating a fleet of 13-foot eagles to perch atop the Pacific Telephone Building (the tallest building in SF at the time), Manuel was hired to remake six larger-than-life mythological figures for the domed roof of the Legion of Honor museum—no easy task. “I was scared at the beginning, you know?” concedes Manuel. “Sometimes at night, I’d ask, ‘What am I doing? What am I doing?’ But then the next day, ‘Let’s go!’”

Over the years, Manuel’s Peninsula projects have ranged from planters for Stanford Shopping Center to hand-carved detailing and stonework for private residences—most impressively Hillsborough’s Chiltern Estate. For this luxurious castle-esque mansion, Manuel crafted interior arches and columns as well as eight chimney stacks designed to look like pillars. In Woodside, the Family Farm club commissioned Manuel to create a striking bronze stork.

Other memorable projects include additions to the famed Neiman Marcus rotunda in San Francisco and the Veterans Memorial Building in Berkeley. Manuel’s work is so prolific, in fact, that the mayor recognized him with his own San Francisco day on August 11 (Manuel’s birthday).

Another claim to fame for Manuel: the massive stone dragon fireplace he crafted for Nicholas Cage back in the ‘90s. When the shaggy-haired actor first showed up to wander the warehouse, Manuel had no idea who the man was. “I thought he was a hippie,” Manuel laughs. So when Cage requested a dragon to put above his fireplace, Manuel assumed he was kidding. “I’m gonna play his joke,” the artist remembers thinking. “I said, ‘No, I have a better idea! Why don’t I give you a big, big dragon—then you put the fireplace in the mouth!” Cage, a fan of all things Goth, enthusiastically agreed—and when Manuel received the check, he finally realized the guy was serious. The result was a fearsome 13-foot-tall creature, all claws and spikes and teeth. Manuel is currently babysitting the 4.5-ton beast while its owner moves into his new place.

Beyond his original work, Manuel also has a penchant for preservation. Frequently, he restores (or recreates) crumbling historical elements for public buildings, homes, parks and other sites. Also a collector, Manuel’s antiques range from a Victorian-era limestone griffin to a 16th-century marble nativity scene salvaged from a church in Tuscany. Manuel points out cracks in the nativity scene that he will soon seal with epoxy. “They told me that after World War II, many art pieces were broken or damaged,” he notes. “But look at the details!

His ongoing pet project involves a series of colossal Mayan molds bequeathed to him by the late Joan Patten. Back in the ‘60s, Manuel learned of this intrepid sculptress and her efforts to track down Mayan ruins in the jungles of Guatemala, preserving them with massive latex molds. At the time, she was the only person authorized by the Guatemalan government to make reproductions of these ancient works.

“She was looking for someone who had expertise in sculpting and moldmaking to assist her with the restoration of the molds,” Manuel explains. “Joan knew that I had the same vision as her in preserving these beautiful treasures so that future generations can benefit and learn from them.” These giant inscribed slabs, some over 20 feet tall, are weighty with history. “It’s a whole world up there,” Manuel describes, tilting his head at an ancient prince with a headdress of resplendent quetzal feathers.

“We want to give them a proper home,” adds Manuel’s daughter, Alejandra Palos, who manages her father’s studio and is a sculptor in her own right. Both father and daughter hope to see replicas displayed at universities and museums. “I mean, their home is here. But we want to give others the opportunity to really see them and to experience them,” Alejandra shares. “Scholars can learn from them and classes could be held about them.”

Looking to the future as well as the past, Manuel instructs the next generation of sculptors at his San Francisco and Puerto Vallarta studios. Both beginners and more advanced students are welcome. “Visualize your final creation and take the necessary steps to get it done,” he advises sculptors of all levels. “It can be frustrating at times, when it may not be going how you would like it to. That’s why it is so important to build a relationship with your creations.”

But don’t misunderstand: Manuel isn’t passing off the torch. “I’m still alive! I’ve got a long way to go,” the octogenarian asserts with a youthful grin and a determined glint in his eyes.

Set in Stone – manuelpalos.com

Rediscover Half Moon Bay

Words by Sharon McDonnell 

Given that Half Moon Bay is less than an hour’s drive from our Bayside communities, it’s easy to take our backyard neighbor for granted. But this small coastal haven of 12,500 people is blessed with an outsized share of attractions. In addition to a charming downtown packed with dozens of artisan shops, beautiful sandy beaches (including the crescent-shaped arc that inspired its naming), clifftop ocean views from walking trails, fields of wildflowers in spring and towering redwood preserves, it’s also home to Mavericks, the location of the world-famous big-wave surfing contest.

Looking to make a day of it—or several? Whether you’re walking or biking beaches like Dunes, Venice, Francis, Poplar or Ross’s Cove, buying fish straight off the boat at Pillar Point Harbor, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, playing golf at an Arnold Palmer-designed course, or reveling in Zen-like calm at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Preserve, you’ll find no shortage of enticements. Steeped in history, Half Moon Bay continues to evolve, so here’s a sampling of new discoveries and beloved standbys to explore.


The new local artist collective, Ocean Blue Vault, showcases an eclectic mix of works including paintings, sculpture, glass, photography and textiles. Opened in 2022 by David Oliphant, founder of Ocean Blue Real Estate next door, the gallery’s collection changes seasonally with a dozen or more artists featured at a time. Thanks to a recently added annex space, Ocean Blue Vault also presents rotating solo exhibits. Currently on display: captivating landscapes that appear to be photographs, but upon closer inspection are AI-augmented art created by Daniel Ambrosi.

Jupiter & Main is a men-centric gift shop whose tagline is “unique goods for extraordinary people” (think cocktail-related fixings and books, wool shirt jackets and flannels, outdoor-related items, body care products and cookware). Woven into Jupiter & Main, you’ll also find the Kevin Henney Gallery. If you’re on the lookout for fine art landscape photography, you’ll appreciate the perspective of a sixth-generation coastsider. Jupiter & Main’s sibling, Juno’s Little Mercantile, a home décor shop which opened in June across the street, sells pillows, candles, interior design books and French gift items. A fantastic selection of African art, furniture and jewelry, from carved wooden Dogon doors from Mali to beaded masks from Ghana, can be found at Jungle Traders.

Alma & Bee is the most unusual nail salon you’ll ever see: relax in plush armchairs (with a glass of wine) for all-natural manicures and pedicures or foot baths with herbs and oils from its on-site garden, then browse the vegan handbags with glossy surfaces and suede-like interiors, jewelry and accessories up front. Garden Apothecary offers skincare and wellness products and teas made from botanicals, plus free workshops for garden geeks and tea tastings.

The Harvard Neighborhood Market, a fair featuring local artisans, apparel, jewelry, skincare, spirits, treats, eats and live music, is held on second Saturdays on Harvard Street in Princeton-by-the-Sea, a small village five miles north of Half Moon Bay.


Since opening in 1997, It’s Italia is acclaimed for its brick-oven pizzas, three styles of house-made gnocchi and Old World-style interior with rustic stone walls. Owners George and Betsy Del Fierro recently leased the longtime location of Main Street Grill (and Original Johnny’s before that) on Main Street two blocks away, and plan to reopen it with an American diner breakfast and lunch menu (plus Italian specials) in April as Johnny’s. The teal-colored booths (and floor mosaic of a chicken) are a nod to the town’s maritime and farm heritage.

Founded in 1927, Half Moon Bay Bakery offers pastries and yummy artichoke pesto bread stuffed with big artichoke pieces, Parmesan and mozzarella. Café Society is a coffeehouse with live jazz on Friday nights. The decor includes photos of jazz greats and an extraordinary painting of a dolphin composed of hundreds of musical notes by local pianist, painter and poet Mauro Ffortissimo. Vinoteca, a cozy, moderately-priced wine bar with outdoor patio seating, serves an international wine list plus Mediterranean snacks, empanadas and cheese plates. For wine tastings from Northern and Central California’s top vineyards, of mostly Italian grapes, visit the Barterra Winery tasting room.

Along the coast on Capistrano Road, La Costanera offers contemporary Peruvian cuisine in a show-stopping setting, a glass-walled, two-story 10,000-square-foot building overlooking Pillar Point Harbor. Specialties at the upscale restaurant include a selection of cebiches (marinated in lime juice, aji rocoto and cilantro), traditional Pervuvian skewers and Peruvian-style paella. On Highway 1 (Cabrillo Highway), Sam’s Chowder House, a casual seafood eatery whose dog-friendly patio overlooks the ocean, is famous for its lobster rolls (called one of the five best sandwiches in America by the Today show) and clam chowder. Since 1993, Mezza Luna is a favorite for Italian fine dining with ocean views in Princeton-by-the-Sea. A new sushi spot, Hangetsu Sushi, combines Kaiseki cuisine with Omakase sashimi, sushi and other delicacies.


At Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, a beloved spot for craft beers and casual waterfront dining, dig into Portuguese fisherman’s stew (recipe courtesy of co-founder Larry Mendonca’s grandfather), fish tacos, fish and chips and burgers. It’s also a place for wine sippers (a mostly California list) and thinkers (free lectures on the environment, social change and other topics). Hop Dogma Brewing serves up craft beers in its cozy taproom with a side of stand-up comedy (shows on the last Friday and second Thursday of each month), and since opening a year ago in Princeton-by-the Sea, Blue Ocean Brewing has won rave reviews for its tasty range of beer styles. Three locals—a fishing boat captain and two tech guys—own the small taproom, which also has harbor-view outdoor seating.

extend  your stay

+ The Ritz-Carlton Luxury blufftop spa resort overlooking the Pacific ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/california/half-moon-bay

+ Oceano Hotel & Spa Casual coastal elegance with a waterfront setting

+ Half Moon Bay Inn Recently renovated historic property on Main Street halfmoonbayinn.com

Eye for Textiles

Words by Sophia Markoulakis

Creating a textile design brand is a gutsy undertaking, even for an interior design veteran like Menlo Park’s Sarah Boyden. After a successful 35-year career in residential and commercial design, Sarah recently embarked on a new artistic and professional endeavor as a textile designer. “There is no manual for this type of business,” she says of her new venture, a pursuit she affectionately describes as her “labor of love.”

Sarah’s enthusiasm is palpable, and she sees a touch of destiny in the switch. “I was wrapping up projects so that I could retire my business,” she recounts, “and I pulled out drawings of motifs and flowers that I had made years before while traveling to visit my son in college.” The pandemic slowdown allowed the time and space to rekindle her passion for the medium, and in October 2022, Sarah simultaneously closed Sarah Boyden Interiors and opened Sarah Boyden Home.

One of the pillars of interior design, textiles (fabrics, rugs, wallpaper, upholstery) comprise pretty much anything woven that tells a story through pattern, texture and color and creates a specific feel or emotion. Sarah credits travel with being a creative catalyst, and her knowledge of European textile history influenced her aesthetic when she was running her interior design business. “Like most designers, I was constantly on the hunt for new textiles,” she notes. “I think that many interior designers dream of having their own textile line, and I’ve thought about it for many, many years, but I’ve always been too busy.”

A Virginia native, Sarah has spent the majority of the last 30 years living on the Peninsula. Her brand embraces that duality: Southern roots and California lifestyle. “I love both coasts,” she affirms. “I do what I call the ‘bicoastal bop’ and visit home often to see family and friends. Virginia grounds me.” Sarah’s Menlo Park home is her lab, and the mix of family heirlooms, modern furniture, art and plein air paintings create a perfect backdrop for her textiles that are prominently displayed through window and pillow coverings. Her style is a mashup of Southern sensibility, elevated bohemian and classically eclectic. Talking about her love of color, Sarah quips, “I’m not a gray or beige girl.”

Sarah combines her knowledge of what customers want with her own eye for blending colors and shapes to create whimsical yet classic designs. “There are wonderful fabrics out there, but for me, it was a way to use my skill [drawing] that I learned long ago when I worked for a commercial architecture firm and to pair it with this creative expression that had been simmering on the back burner,” she says.

Sarah’s introductory lineup includes fabric and wallpaper designs ranging from bold florals like “Abloom” that are inspired by antique French Chinoiserie to linear patterns like “Chainlink” that reference great fashion houses like Hèrmes and Gucci. The bold, geometric pattern “DeeDee” is named after her mother, who was known for her needlepoint artistry. “My mom was the needlepoint queen,” Sarah says, “and this design is an homage to one of her original patterns.” Each can be ordered in a different color, and designs are created for layering with Sarah’s other patterns.

Starting with the sketch of an idea becoming the inspiration for a pattern to the transfer of that pattern onto a fabric, it’s a laborious process that can take anywhere from weeks to months. Once Sarah decides on a design, she plays with different color stories to decide how many each will have. Each pattern is grounded in a background color. Her florals, for instance, are composed of different color variations depending on the background. Sarah works with different mediums when determining these color stories.

“Sometimes, I use paint chips or fabric swatches. Sometimes, I paint the patterns in different color variations to determine which color combinations will work together and ultimately sell,” she explains. The completed designs are then digitized and printed on 100% Irish linen.

Even factoring in Sarah’s deep connections with design colleagues and showrooms, the leap hasn’t been easy. “I feel fortunate to have found a few kind, wonderful people who helped guide me and introduced me to the right people, like the woman who takes my designs and digitizes them for production,” says Sarah.

With her company still in its infancy stage, Sarah is actively pursuing designer showrooms and interior designers. “All I need is one influential designer to use a couple of my designs for exposure and to get traction,” she says. “I’m really trying to take care of the interior design community before I branch out into direct sales.” Currently, Sarah’s textiles can be ordered through an Atlanta showroom, Travis & Company.

Sarah’s next creative expedition: India, where she will learn the ancient art of block printing, a tedious task that requires hand-pressing color-dipped blocks onto fabric with focused precision. Her itinerary includes stops in Agra and Jaipur, among other historic textile cities. “Hopefully, soon after my return, I’ll have new designs to add to my inventory inspired by my most recent trip abroad,” she says. “Being in a place that is so uniquely different from where you live is very inspirational.”

weaving stories – sarahboydenhome.com 

Brave New Design World

Words by Lotus Abrams

Each new year brings the opportunity to examine the way we’re living and take a fresh approach where needed—and that extends to our surroundings at home as well. San Carlos-based interior designer Emily Kates says that clients are especially ready to head in new directions as we enter 2023. “For a while, design was very safe. It was like there was a formula for every space,” Emily notes. “But now, people are ready to push the envelope a bit more. We’re seeing an increasing use of organic shapes, asymmetry and interesting textures and finishes.”

Emily grew up in Portola Valley and started her interior design career working at a large firm in San Francisco after completing the interior architecture and design program at the Academy of Art. After working her way up to design director, however, she decided to move back to the Peninsula nine years ago to start a family, as well as her own practice—and she hasn’t looked back. Going solo has allowed Emily to take a more personal, collaborative approach to working with clients. It’s a strategy that’s clearly resonating, as she recently opened her own studio in downtown San Carlos to accommodate her flourishing practice. “When I started my business, the idea was to take on fewer projects to allow me to be fully engaged from end to end,” Emily says. “I do my own CAD drawings, and I’m there all the way through to turnkey, so I oversee all the ordering and installations.”

This hands-on approach keeps Emily at the forefront as home design trends and clients’ interests continue to evolve. A big driver of trends is social media, which she credits with democratizing the world of design by providing a platform to showcase new ideas, products and raw materials to a broad and increasingly informed audience. And in the year ahead, the influx of inspiration need not be applied solely to primary spaces like kitchens and living rooms.

“It used to feel like design was reserved only for certain people and grand areas of the home,” Emily says. “Now, people are looking at every aspect of the home as equally interesting, including spaces that were historically more utilitarian like closets, laundry rooms and mudrooms.” A pop of color, bespoke wallcoverings, distinctive lighting or unusual flooring materials might appear overwhelming in a primary living area but add interest and a welcome dose of the unexpected in smaller spaces—a practice Emily refers to as “jewel boxing.” “You now have the opportunity to be a little braver with things you might be too hesitant to try in a larger space,” Emily says.

For a recent project Emily completed in San Carlos, an arched doorway, patterned wallcoverings and an Egyptian built-in chest of drawers with a wood top transformed the primary bedroom closet, which was carved into former attic space. (Page 91) “It’s now an incredibly charming, beautiful gem of a room,” she says, adding that the arched doorway was repeated in the entryway for the primary bath. “The space would have felt so different if we’d used regular white doors instead.” In the primary bedroom, Emily covered the wall behind the bed in Holland & Sherry paperback linen: “It’s subtle, so the eye doesn’t necessarily catch it at first, but it provides this kind of warmth in the room versus using just paint, and it gives some sound attenuation because the room has a big, vaulted ceiling—it just feels so elegant.”

Another trend Emily sees emerging this year: clients are beginning to shift away from letting durability dictate their decisions about materials. “For a period of time, durability was the word of the day, but what that meant was that everyone was using man-made stone and performance fabrics, and people were rejecting a lot of beautiful natural materials because they’re not always going to look the same as they do on day one,” she says. “Now I’m seeing a return to an aesthetic where things don’t have to remain absolutely perfect, and it’s allowing the reintroduction of materials like soapstone, marble and softer woods.”

For a project in Hillsborough, Emily used a stunning slab of Grigio Perla marble for the bar countertop, a material many clients would not have chosen in recent years, given that a bar is an environment prone to exposure from acidic liquids. “It will calcify and show rings, but we loved the depth and liked that it would age like a beautiful leather,” Emily explains.

For Emily, the evolution of design trends has allowed her to expand creatively—a win for both her practice and her clients. “I’ve always loved classic design, but I like to keep things fresh in a way that’s relevant to today’s living,” she shares. “At the end of the day, seeing clients’ genuine happiness when they experience their homes and what we’ve all been working toward—that’s why I do this.”

fresh perspective – emilykatesdesign.com

Landmark: Fox Theatre

A confluence of Moorish and Gothic architectural influences, what’s now Redwood City’s historic Fox Theatre opened its doors on January 2, 1929. Ellis John Arkursh, a civil engineer from Chicago who moved west to work on the Panama-Pacific Exposition, articulated his vision in the structure’s majestic design. Originally called the New Sequoia Theater, the venue offered an elegant setting for viewing motion pictures, further enhanced by a stately pipe organ and a projected display of clouds and stars on the ceiling.

After being purchased by the Fox West Coast chain, the theater continued to welcome movie patrons until 1950, when a partial ceiling collapse forced a closure to make repairs. Reopened with great fanfare four months later, the renamed Fox Theatre expanded into live performances, with artists like Etta James, BB King, Neil Young and Melissa Etheridge making appearances over the years. Inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, the live entertainment and rental venue now consists of Fox Theatre and Club Fox immediately next door. Acquired by new owners in 2017, the property maintains its starring role as a downtown Redwood City hub for public and private events.

Photography: Robb Most / Historic Photography: Courtesy Archives Committee Local History Room

Parisian Perfection

Words by Christina Chahal

“When you go to any city or village in France, you will encounter a very nice place to shop and a very nice terrace to have a pastry and coffee. It’s hard to find that experience in the Bay Area and I am surprised, since it’s always beautiful and shiny outside.”

Such was the observation-turned-inspiration of Laurent Pellet, the Lyon, France native behind Maison Alyzée. His authentic French bakery and cafe opened first in Mountain View and more recently in Burlingame.

“I want to create the feel of a high-end French pastry cafe and have people come in and say, ‘Wow, this is like Paris!’” notes Laurent, a former business executive who, with his wife Jelena, an electrical engineer, moved to Silicon Valley in 2011. As their lives and family expanded in Menlo Park, they kept thinking about a concept to share the traditional elegance of France with their friends and neighbors here on the Peninsula.

“I like beautiful things, I like art, I like design,” asserts Laurent. “My thoughts were, we have such knowledgeable people around and they are very clever. They are just waiting for a unique type of product to come to them. Pastry is art. Pastry is infinite art in terms of creation.”

By “unique,” Laurent means only the highest quality. He offers the most refined French pastries and breads—croissants, baguettes, cakes and other desserts—he can provide, in addition to a few savory light lunch items such as quiches and croque monsieurs. In order to accomplish that goal, he and Jelena assembled a team that understands what they want to achieve. They rely on the talent of master bakers from some of the top French pastry schools, two of whom have been assistants to one of the Meilleur Patissiers, the best pastry maker named annually in France.

“When I speak to my chef, I tell him, ‘There is some beautiful product that I want to make,’ and he’ll say, ‘They only have these in Michelin star hotels.’ And I say, ‘Fine,’” explains Laurent. “We source only the best ingredients, the best chocolate, nuts, butter, flour. I don’t compromise because I care about them being good.”

Customers who may be new to handcrafted French pastries initially indulge in something familiar, such as Maison Alyzée’s signature chocolate cake tart. “I have never seen one of our chocolate tarts left uneaten,” declares Laurent. He explains that people may start with chocolate, but then he’ll guide them to a more unconventional dessert like the Harmony, a sophisticated delight created with a praline crust, dark chocolate brownie, milk chocolate mousse and dark chocolate ganache, all made with luxury Valrhona French chocolates.

“The Harmony is a complex dessert because it’s more interesting, with the opposition between chocolate and the praline crust,” notes Laurent. “It’s beautiful from a design point of view with its shiny dome.”

Those who are already familiar with fine French pastry will be pleased to find the Maison Alyzée version of French classics like the mille-feuille, puff pastry prepared with French butter and vanilla cream. Or the Paris-Brest, a pâte à choux (or puffed dough) prepared with almond and hazelnut cream.

Laurent describes his pastries as being low on sugar, in fact as low as possible. “If you put in too much sugar, it will be sweet but not necessarily good,” he points out. “We try to make it more modern and more light.”

Part of the Maison Alyzée experience is learning about the structure and ingredients of the desserts. When Laurent meets a customer, he tries to explain what each pastry is all about and share his enthusiasm for what makes it special. “It’s not about selling a cake,” he says. “It’s about sharing because I care. It’s not a mercantile but a philosophy.”

That philosophy extends to the decor, such as lighting, tables and accessories sourced directly from France. Laurent and Jelena went to great lengths to infuse elegance into the space, so that whether you’re in the Trocadero neighborhood of Paris enjoying a pastry with a view of the Tour d’Eiffel or on Burlingame Avenue enjoying the California sun, it will be the same table, the same chair, from a long-standing, handcrafted furniture company in France. “Of course, the beautiful desserts and the cakes make people feel special most of all and I want customers to feel special,” notes Laurent. “I explain to the team, this is how I see the Maison Alyzée brand: elegance, refinement and style.” Jelena nods in agreement, adding, “When people walk in and they have a huge smile, we know we are doing something right.”

Moreover, Laurent and Jelena really appreciate how the local community has encouraged them on their way to becoming small business owners. “It’s nice to be in an environment where you feel supported,” reflects Laurent. “For a European, it is really something unique the way that people here like to help, to reassure you in what you’re trying to achieve.”


Distillery: Catch a Jettywave

Words by Johanna Harlow

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to savor a Sunday sunset than with seagulls, skewers and a Sea Hugger cocktail at Jettywave Distillery and Swell Lounge. This nautical-themed bar in Half Moon Bay draws Pillar Point Harbor seafarers and sandy beachgoers alike. They come to clink glasses of “top-shelf moonshine,” peek into the distillery where the magic happens, cozy up by the fire pits on the sprawling garden patio and appreciate the flowers and herbs plucked for food and drink.

“We wanted to do something that was like a beach club in terms of its relaxed manner, but something that was upscale and safe,” shares David Westendorf, one of the five co-founders behind the distillery. He sits across from Tanya Slye at a blue Cypress table that pays tribute to a matching one on Tanya’s deck—the spot where they first concocted the idea. The friends partnered with David’s wife, Mishelle Westendorf, Lucy Gillies and a silent fifth partner to bring the project to life.

“It was over lots of conversations,” recalls Tanya. And a few anchoring factors were clear from the start. The five agreed that the harbor deserved to be a destination rather than a stopping point on the way to Mavericks, downtown Half Moon Bay or Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. They envisioned a lifestyle business and being able to ride their bikes or paddleboards to work along the coast highway. “Our joke is pedal, paddle, peddle,” relays David. “Peddle, as in sell our goods here.”

They also knew they wanted bourbon in the mix. “We’ve shared many a cheer, a toast, a story over a good bottle of bourbon,” David notes. “It’s a canvas unlike many of the others where there’s a lot of tradition and a lot of creative freedom.” He explains that what Jettywave refers to as “moonshine” is a young bourbon; “Two or three or four years from now, you can say, ‘I knew you when you were a kid!’”

Using three hand-forged stills, Jettywave’s distillations include bourbons, whiskeys, gins and vodkas. Continuing to elevate their game, they recently welcomed aboard new Head Distiller Blake Kelleher. “We’re not doing it the same way that they do it back in England or Kentucky,” says David. “And that innocence is helping us forge new pathways.”

Though the distillery has only been open since May 2021, their drinks are already making waves. Their California Botanical Gin not only won Best Gin in Sunset magazine’s 2022 International Spirits Awards, but also earned best of show, scoring a killer 98 points.

Credit goes to Tanya and her flair for flavors: “I approach it like I do cooking. What flavors do I like to have together?” And she finds inspiration everywhere. “I’ll be eating something or smelling something and I think, ‘Ooh, this would be great,’” she says. “So I have a whole library of little flavors—and then I can mix and match.” Tanya’s flower-forward gin couldn’t be more fitting given that she also runs a botanical, succulent and floral design business called Tanya Slye Designs.

Over in the more recently launched Swell Lounge area, Executive Chef Jose Luis (simply “Chef” to those at Jettywave) matches the exceptional spirits with worldwide-fusion bites. “I’m his biggest disciple,” declares Tanya, who first encountered Chef’s cooking during his stint running Café Gibralter, which received Michelin Bib Gourmand recognition.“His food is unbelievable,” she adds. “It’s very unexpected flavor. It matches so beautifully with our own philosophies.”


Working out of a small outbuilding, Chef makes do with limited kitchen space and equipment. But as a culinary veteran seasoned with four decades of experience (two running his own restaurants), he’s up for the challenge. “All I have is a rice cooker and a grill and a barbecue,” he explains. “You’ll be surprised with what I can do with that.”

All of Chef’s dishes are layered masterpieces to be appreciated and explored with the eyes and the tastebuds. Consider his South African Bobotie, a favorite of both David and Tanya. The dish is flecked with bright colors—purple-blue bachelor button flowers from the garden, orange carrot slivers, yellow saffron—and combines ground beef curry, apple and raisins with coconut rice. “It’s like a hug for your innards,” Tanya describes. And like all Chef’s dishes, you might think you’ve pinpointed the dish’s flavor—until that next bite questions your assumptions.

Even vegan fare—like the grilled turmeric cauliflower skewers and Julia’s Salad—leaves mild-mannered veggie dishes in the rearview mirror. “A vegan dish shouldn’t be lacking flavor,” Chef asserts. “You should be able to pick up herbs and spices and vinegars.” Carnivores will want to try the tender beef skewers—ginger, soy and sesame giving an Asian twist to the dish. “We have this Vietnamese coriander. It grows like crazy here,” Chef explains. “The idea came from that plant.”

The planter beds are full of ingredients that enhance Jettywave’s offerings, Tanya points out. Everything from rosemary to nasturtium flowers, sage to cilantro. “Talk about garden to glass,” Tanya smiles.

As for the best cocktail/food pairings? “Everything with everything,” Tanya laughs. But twist her arm, and she’ll recommend the Offshore Sunrise with hibiscus-infused vodka along with the mesquite-grilled king salmon coated in a Jettywave moonshine glaze. As for David? “Harbor Master’s Old Fashioned with anything Chef is a perfect ten,” he declares. “To me, it’s a home run.”

A gin-uine good time – jettywave.com

The Joys of Otherhood

Words by Sharon McDonnell

Lisa Van Dusen defies easy categorization. A social change agent and civic leader for decades, she’s also an executive/leadership coach, an SV2-Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund partner as well as a lifelong practicing artist. After moving to Palo Alto in the mid-’80s, Lisa launched Palo Alto Online for Palo Alto Weekly, the first newspaper in the world to publish its entire contents on the web in the early 1990s, and hosted its First Person video interview series, spotlighting local social innovators, frequently before their influence was widely recognized.

Currently, as executive director of the Palo Alto Community Fund, Lisa works to narrow the inequality gap between the haves and the have-nots in our local communities. Her eclectic accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed. Among other honors, she was named a Woman of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

When I see ‘occupation’ on a form, it still makes me shudder,” she says. “There was never a box for me. I always checked ‘Other.’” Initially viewing that as a weakness, over time, she came to see it as a strength and an ability. Out of that realization came “The Joys of Otherhood,” Lisa’s TEDx talk espousing the benefits of embracing different disciplines, skills and experiences.

“To work on the big challenges and problems in our world, we can’t operate in silos—we need people, like me, to cross-pollinate and weave the parts together,” observes Lisa, who also serves on the board of an NGO and as an advisor to a venture fund that invests in women-led startups. Proud to always be a square peg in a round hole, Lisa, who doesn’t accept givens and whose worldview is a breath of fresh air, offers a dose of inspiration and motivation as we kick off a new year.

Malcolm Gladwell says of “connectors” in his book The Tipping Point, “By having a foot in so many different worlds, they have the effect of bringing them all together.” The word fits you to a T.

I naturally collect and connect a wide range of people, resources, organizations and ideas. I try to be human glue, be a finder, connect the dots.

Given the January time frame, what are your tips on a reset or reinvention?

Do more of what you love, and see how to integrate that into the rest of your life. My ‘walking meetings’ are an example: If someone says, ‘Let’s have coffee,’ I say, ‘How about a walk?’ Wish big. We often have a failure of imagination. We don’t let ourselves nurture our dreams. Taking small steps to reach something big is OK—think, ‘What’s the next step?’ Plant seeds and see what grows. What you give attention to really grows.

What are some practices that sustain you?

In the morning, I try to meditate, draw, write and exercise. Making art—for a wide range of outlets—everything from cards for friends to film and book illustrations. I have a Free Little Art Gallery in front of my house, where people can contribute, take or just enjoy art, including my own. Hiking—we are so fortunate to live on the Peninsula. Foothills Park in Palo Alto and the Hamms Gulch Trail on Windy Hill are two favorites. Gardening—my husband and I have a plot in the community garden at Eleanor Pardee Park. I also believe in the ‘joy of others’—I meet and talk to people every day, wherever I am. I get so much out of conversations with people I wouldn’t normally cross paths with.

In your TEDx talk called “The Joys of Otherhood,” you tell a wonderful anecdote about how when you were 10, your teacher assigned both a science project and an English project. But you combined them both, to resounding success. It seems to foreshadow your later life—can you explain?

I wanted to create a play about the Scopes trial, where Darwin’s theory of evolution was challenged, instead. The teacher said yes, so I recruited students from different grades to be part of it, and I cast myself as a reporter so I could use my reporter’s notebook as a prompter because I had a hard time memorizing my lines. So in many ways, that experience was a revelation and a high point of my childhood. I could combine my various interests into one project, and I didn’t need or even want to do it by myself. I’m still not good at memorization—but it’s worked for me. In fact, I’ve been happily doing improv classes and workshops for more than 25 years.

Does your life have any operating principles?

My lens in the world is both broad and narrow. There’s a hawk view, seeing things from 30,000 feet up; a chicken view, seeing things on the ground; and a hummingbird view, where I spend most of my time, traveling between elevations and different perspectives. I’m high-touch, playful and straightforward. Humor is big for me—as in taking my work seriously but not myself. I see the elephant in the room. If people say something I know isn’t true, I feel compelled to call it out.

Is there a book that particularly inspired you?

Uncommon Genius: How Ideas Are Born. It’s interviews with 40 MacArthur “genius” award winners is a window into people’s life paths that weren’t traditional paths, the breadcrumb trail.

Do you have a motto?

Carpe diem! I also love Margaret Mead’s quote, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.’

Check ‘Other’ – lisavandusen.com

Winter Wonders

Words  by Linda Hubbard

Cool and breezy winter days can make for great hiking—especially if they pack the extra punch of only-in-winter sights as these three hikes do. So, bundle up and enjoy!

Año Nuevo State Park: elephant seals

Viewing the elephant seals during their annual migration to Año Nuevo State Park on the coast is an only-in-winter treat that spans December through March. Getting a front-row view requires three to four miles of hiking—moderate with varied terrain including sand dunes. During elephant seal breeding season, there’s plenty of action. The day we visited we saw a bit of male fighting, mating attempts, lots of babies and scattered jostling and sand spraying.

The docent told us that the seals don’t eat or drink anything while they are ashore, living off blubber and stored-up moisture. The males can weigh up to 5,000 pounds, which is a figure that’s hard to wrap the mind around. To make reservations for the Elephant Seal Guided Walks, visit reservecalifornia.com or call 800.444.4445. Tip: If possible, go before 10AM during the week to avoid the many school groups.


+ Bring hooded rain gear, a warm jacket, layered clothing and sturdy walking shoes plus water for drinking on the trail.
+ Photography is permitted; staying 25 feet from the elephant seals is firmly enforced.
+ Baby strollers are not permitted for safety reasons. Families may use them for the first .9- mile walk to the staging area but must leave them there for the rest of the tour.
+ No food is allowed on the tour, but you may picnic in designated areas before or after the guided walk.

Pescadero State Park: Fungi

In winter, a hike down to Pescadero Creek is not only beautiful with its mix of old-growth and new redwoods, it’s also filled with an amazing variety of mushrooms, which photographer Robb Most stumbled upon thanks to a stroke of serendipity a few years back. The official name for the 7.5-mile hike is Towne Fire Road to Brook Trail Loop. There are lots of switchbacks and an elevation gain of 1,594 feet, making it moderately challenging.

The Towne Fire Road goes near the Sierra Club’s Hikers Hut—closed for repairs this January—but you cut off and go through a field to get to the Brook Trail Loop. Take the loop counter-clockwise down through the redwoods to see the fungi. The walk back up is less interesting but still beautiful. If you head out in the morning, you’ll encounter a picnic table right about lunch time that overlooks a lovely valley.


+ Open to hikers, cyclists and equestrians; no dogs allowed.
+ Park in adjacent Sam McDonald Park ($6) and take the trail to the south.
+ Opens at 8AM; seasonal closings are posted.
+ Restrooms onsite at San McDonald parking.


Like the fungi, we owe the secret of hibernating ladybugs to photographer Robb Most, who accidentally came across them, not knowing that one of his frequent trails was also their winter hideaway. Fun fact: Ladybugs hibernate in groups and they are referred to as a “loveliness” of ladybugs. Ladybugs hibernate where predators aren’t likely to reach them and away from harsh winds where temperatures remain above freezing.

The trail down to the ladybugs starts at Stevens Creek Trailhead on Highway 35 (Skyline Boulevard). The Grizzly Flat Trail is on the east side of the parking lot and goes down a fire road for 1.8 miles to Stevens Creek. It is quite steep, so not for the faint of heart. The ladybugs Robb discovered are just before you reach Stevens Creek. Look and photograph them but do not disturb them in any way. Going back up the 1.8 miles is challenging. For a longer loop, take the Grizzly Flat Trail to Table Mountain Loop, which is 7.6 miles and passes the ladybugs.


+ Open to hikers, cyclists and equestrians; no dogs allowed.
+ The parking area is located approximately three miles south of Page Mill Road.
+ There is a large map of the area at the parking lot.
+ Open from 8AM until sunset.

Band of Dads

Words by Sheri Baer

Call it rock ‘n’ roll kismet. The setting: a Grammys-themed school fundraiser in 2006. Karaoke is the main event, and a Menlo Park dad dressed like Tom Petty steps up to the mic. “This guy in a top hat and tails is belting out these songs and I’m like… oh my gosh!” recounts Rich Johnson, who had coincidentally shown up as Tom Petty’s Traveling Wilburys bandmate Bob Dylan. As it turns out, the standout vocalist is Rich’s Menlo Park neighbor, Jeff Bird.

For Rich, it was akin to Simon Cowell spotting the X-Factor. “Guys, guys, look what I found!” the bass guitar player raved to Rod Scherba, Allen Weiner and Roger Inman. After connecting over a shared passion for music on the sidelines of a CYSA soccer game in 2004, the group had been regularly jamming in garages. They successfully recruited Jeff (lead singer and guitar), who later looped in another neighbor, Scott Wachhorst, for keyboards and vocals. “We knew then that we had the pieces we needed to form a band,” notes Rod. “It was never for profit,” emphasizes Jeff. “It was mostly to be around friends—so fun, friends and philanthropy.”

And that’s been the ethos of The Members, Menlo Park’s now-legendary rock ‘n’ roll cover band, since the start.

Musically-inclined Menlo Park dads—that’s the common thread. Professionally, they run the gamut with titles like neurosurgeon, law professor, commercial real estate developer and biotech VC. While juggling young kids and demanding careers, they met up for chilly late-night garage practices—grateful for supportive wives. “It was frenetic, there was always something going on, right?” remembers Allen, who learned to play a drum kit in junior high. “I’d be having a stressful day, and I’d often stop and think, ‘Oh, is tonight band night?’ If it was band night, you knew you’d get to hang out with your mates, act a little juvenile in a way that you don’t get to in your day job and do something that you really love—make music.”

Since their official debut at an elementary school picnic, The Members have gone on to master a repertoire of more than 300 songs. They’ve taken the stage at local venues like Pioneer Inn, Freewheel Brewing Company, Club Fox and Menlo Park’s latest live performance space, The Guild. Always a popular draw, they’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through school and community fundraising events.

As gig followed gig, the dad band watched their collective gaggle of kids progress from learning to read to leaving for college and beyond. They marked milestone birthdays and graduations together. And then, one huge, heartbreaking loss: the death of their bandmate, Roger Inman, from diabetes complications in 2020. An audio business executive, Roger not only contributed rhythm guitar, percussion and vocals, he also equipped the garage band to deliver professional-quality sound. “The reason The Members exist is because Roger Inman deemed it so,” reflects Rich. “Losing Roger was like losing a family member,” shares Scott. “We think of him every time we play.”

At a recent performance at The Guild to benefit the Ravenswood Education Foundation, blue, purple and magenta spotlights illuminate the stage. Jeff’s clear voice carries out over the crowd, “She’s got a ticket to ride, She’s got a ticket to r-i–i–ide but she don’t care…” as the rest of The Members chime in, “My baby don’t care… My baby don’t care…” to wrap up the familiar Beatles hit. “That’s an original song,” Jeff quips with an impish grin, after the applause settles. “I’m glad you like that. We’ve got more sing-alongs tonight.”

While they occasionally quibble about song selection, The Members all agree on the genre: classic and current rock ‘n’ roll. Van Morrison. Green Day. The Eagles. Elton John. The Rolling Stones.Counting Crows. Tom Petty. “We started out playing the music that we had grown up with and that we’d listened to and that we loved,” explains Allen. “We also like John Mayer, Train—more contemporary songs—because they’re a little more technical and you can play with them,” continues Jeff. “And you get a real buzz when you get it right, ‘Wow, that just felt fabulous!’”

As a cover band, The Members say they strive for a high degree of fidelity to the original, although they’ll look for ways to add subtle personal touches. “We want people to feel, ‘That’s a song I know and I like that song,’” says Allen. “Our theory is that it makes people think of times when they were partying and maybe it makes them want to dance.”

That’s certainly the case at The Guild, where the dance floor is packed—bodies swaying, arms waving—as the set list unfolds in a back-to-back sequence of crowd-pleasing favorites. “I absolutely love it when the whole band is clicking,” describes Rod, who plays lead guitar. “Allen’s laying down the beat and holding us together. Everybody is singing—Jeff, Rich and Scott have got their beautiful harmonies going—and I can lay down a tasty solo.”

That communal buzz ratchets even higher every October 31, when The Members play their signature Halloween Block Party. What began as a simple offering for the neighborhood kids evolved into an epic “everyone is welcome” event drawing hundreds of neighbors and friends. Set up in Rich’s West Menlo garage (decked out like a haunted castle), they play in costumes—the Warriors, Ted Lasso, even Boris Johnson—amid hay bales, pumpkins, kegs of beer and homemade pizzas, for five-plus rockin’ hours.

When the house directly across the street sold, “We were in the disclosure package,” smirks Rich. “They had to acknowledge that they knew there was a big block party there. When you’re in the land registry, you know you’ve made it. We’ve left our mark.”

Having become bandmates in their early 40s and 50s, The Members now tally their ages as late 50s and 60s. (Jeff’s 60th celebration included a Tahoe performance at Sugar Bowl.) “We cherish each time we’re able to play at a venue, and even the times we just practice in the garage,” sums up Scott.
How long can they keep it going? “I get a kick out of seeing people like Lyle Lovett tour or when The Stones or Springsteen play,” observes Allen. “You can play music for a really long time.”

Back on stage, to the accompaniment of hands clapping and feet stomping, The Members break into the chorus of “Drift Away,” singing, “Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock ‘n’ roll…”

Perfect Shot: Into The Mist

Palo Alto’s Ashly Edwards Huntington frequently walks the Stanford Dish but on this particular day, the view ahead made her slow her stride. “The sky was stormy and ominous,” she describes, “and then I noticed rays of light piercing through the clouds.” After taking in the scene for a few seconds more, Ashly snapped this Perfect Shot: “To me, this represented a poignant promise of hope amidst darkness.”

Image by Ashly Edwards Huntington / @aehgallery



Diary of a Dog: Milo

Eyes may be the window to the soul, and mine are pretty expressive, but I can say a whole lot more with just a flick of my ears. I’ll explain in a bit, but first, let me say how happy I am to be kicking off another year with my family in Menlo Park. Back in 2021, I was being fostered through Copper’s Dream Rescue when I had a “meet and greet” with Anna and Gus. They were instantly drawn to my sweet, earnest face and brought me home that very same day. Thinking I was a Jack Russell mix (not a stretch given my coloring), they named me Milo, after the terrier in the movie The Mask. Funnily enough, when they did a DNA test on me, they discovered I’m 0% terrier and 100% mutt (including Shih Tzu, Chihuahua, Dachshund and Pomeranian). So, back to my ears. It didn’t take long for Anna and Gus to realize that I use them to communicate what I’m thinking. I have four different positions. When I’m walking and focused, I hold my ears flat against my head. When I spot a squirrel, my ears move instantly forward, which means, “Go!” I love food more than anything, so when I smell a yummy scent or hear words like “breakfast,” “lunch,” “dinner” or “hungry,” my ears perk straight up and I tilt my head to one side for good measure. And finally, when I’m sleepy, my ears hang down gently—with just a slight perk. You see, I always try to stay just a tiny bit alert. Who knows? Someone might be taking a bite of an apple and offer to share it with me.

Essay: Comanches and Me

Words by Sloane Citron

“There, under the piece of mud, I think I see one,” I shouted to my friend, Donny Sadler, who was digging near me. I scraped at the wet earth, malleable but still hard, and slowly pulled out the arrowhead. It was a beauty—all points in perfect shape and clear markings on the carved flint.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was holding perhaps an arrowhead from the last Comanche band—essentially, small family groups—led by Quanah Parker, the first and only true Comanche leader, though he led a mix of defeated and compromised bands who were making their way to the reservations onto which they were forced.

For generations, the Comanches, actually a disparate tribe of individual bands with no real leaders, roamed the Texas Panhandle plains, finding food, refuge and safety in the canyons unique to this region.

The vast, mostly treeless area comprised of grasslands is on a high, flat plateau. And yet, suddenly, there are deep canyons (known as inverted mountains) carved by ancient rivers and their tributaries. The most famous of these is the spectacular Palo Duro Canyon, second only to the Grand Canyon in size and grandeur. Other canyons dot the landscape, breaking up the monotony of the endless expanses.

This is where I grew up, in Amarillo, a 30-minute drive from Palo Duro Canyon and from another, smaller canyon—simply called “The Canyon,” where my family had built a small cabin in the early 1960s. My father, a surgeon, joined the Korean War effort, and was sent to Japan for two years. While there, he developed a fondness for the architecture, and so when it came time to build a getaway for weekend retreats, he constructed it in Japanese fashion. The whole structure rested on stilts, one side for living with a small red bridge connected to the sleeping quarters. In the front, mounted on a large wooden structure, was a large Japanese gong, which could be heard throughout the canyon and was used to gather us children for meals and bedtime.

At the time, several of the local doctors developed small cabins here, drawn to each other, the natural beauty of the canyon, a small creek running through the middle of it and the rudimentary nine-hole golf course at its center. Of course, we children loved it out there. We climbed the hills, built rock wall forts, lit fireworks, explored old Indian caves and fireplaces, caught fireflies, watched lightning storms, swam in the shabby community pool, went creek fishing with long bamboo poles, played kick-the-can late into the night and, best of all, hunted for arrowheads, especially after a good rain.

Last summer, I spent some time in an adjacent canyon where our longtime family friend, Trudy Klingensmith Kraft, still owns the cabin her parents built more than 60 years ago. It’s a stunning spot where conversing, hiking and discovering are the key activities. She showed me her numerous arrowheads, points and flints, from a lifetime of collecting. Trudy raved about the Pulitzer Prize finalist and epic New York Times bestseller Empire of the Summer Moon, which examines the rise and fall of the Comanches and the famous Quanah Parker.

A hard book to put down, it paints an accurate picture of the struggle between the native tribes and the American destiny of millions of settlers coming to claim their piece of the open Plains territories. Neither side could claim moral victory, as there was torture, extreme violence, destruction and brutal killings on both sides during the four-decade war for control of this part of the American West.

What was of particular interest to me was that much of this mayhem happened in and around the canyon that I had hiked, explored and loved as a child. The burned-out caves we found were used by the Comanches; the long-hardened paths were traveled on by their horses as they sought the last of the buffalo; and, most of all, their thousands of arrowheads littered the ground, once resting on top of their handmade shafts, shot and lost in an effort to kill game, other natives and settlers.

To me, as a kid, they were simply something we hunted for, found with great regularity and collected. Until I read this enlightening book, I didn’t have a true understanding of the historical significance they held. As a sentimental man who keeps things because of the places they return me to, I knew that my arrowheads were someplace in my home, but where? I wanted to see them in a new light, caress their flinty edges and feel their sharp points, imagining their history. After a long search, I discovered my lost treasures tucked behind some books in my bookcase. I pulled them out and was transported not only to my childhood, but now, as well, to the time of the Comanches who fought in vain to hold their place on the Panhandle plains.

The Beat on Your Eats: Fireplace Restaurants

Words by Johanna Harlow

Hearths worth leaving home for… fight the chill with these fire-cozy restaurants.


Menlo Park

With its arching brick exterior, the fireplace at family-friendly Amici’s pays homage to the iconic stone oven working hard in its kitchen. The tradition of brick-baked pies is a pillar of East Coast-style pizzas and their thin, golden crusts (which were championed by the area’s early Italian and Sicilian immigrants). Choose topping combos inspired by Philly, Boston and New York or travel back to the motherland with pizzas devoted to Milan and Sicily. Furthering the Italian atmosphere, Amici’s presents an indoor trellis beside brick flooring to transport you to a Mediterranean piazza. 880 Santa Cruz Avenue. Open Sunday to Thursday from 11:30AM to 9PM; Friday and Saturday from 11:30AM to 10PM.

the village pub


It’s winter in Woodside and The Village Pub is at its coziest. This high-end eatery (Californian cuisine with a French/Mediterranean twist) boasts not one, but two fireplaces. Settle next to the grand fireplace by the bar. Or visit the wood-burning stove separating the dining room and the kitchen like a miniature window. Watch bread heat over the embers—or the chef at work behind it. Holding one Michelin star for the past 12 years, this establishment melds gourmet seasonal fare with artful presentation. Like the honey-glazed duck breast with bruléed black mission figs and pain perdu. Or the almond wood-grilled imperial Wagyu rib-eye accompanied by crispy potato rosti. Make sure you save room for beignets! 2967 Woodside Road. Open Monday to Thursday from 5 to 9PM; Friday from 11:30AM to 2PM, 5 to 9PM; Saturday and Sunday from 11AM to 2PM, 5 to 9PM.

los altos grill

Los Altos

With its low-lit glow of Edison bulbs and lamps, in additon to dark wood accents, Los Altos Grill is a snug affair. And it’s made all the more pleasant by the wood-fired grill in the corner. For a meal as hearty as it is satisfying, dunk French dip sandwiches of thinly-sliced prime rib heaped high on a toasted French roll in au jus broth. Also worth checking out are the fire-roasted rotisserie chicken with tabbouleh and pan-roasted salmon with pomme puree. Come spring, you’ll want to come back to watch grilled artichokes cook over open flame—before being ferried to your table, hot and sizzling. 233 3rd Street. Open Sunday to Thursday from 12 to 9PM; Friday to Saturday from 12 to 9:30PM.

10 Fresh Ways to Give Back

Compiled by Sheri Baer & Melissa Typrin

The holiday season is all about giving. Whether it’s giving gifts, money or time, the mindset is thinking about others. But it’s always good to remember that help is needed throughout the year. Here on the Peninsula, there are countless ways to volunteer, whether you’re looking for a one-time event or an ongoing commitment. Even better, with a little effort, you can find a worthy cause that directly taps into your skills and interests. Continuing PUNCH’s own holiday tradition, here’s our annual sampling of fresh ideas to get you inspired. For more opportunities, check out volunteermatch.org

Save Senior Pups

Although puppy love is undeniable, back in 2007, Sherri Franklin set out on a mission to “make senior dogs sexy.” She founded Muttville to save the lives of dogs that were considered “unadoptable” for no other reason than they were older. Since then, Muttville has become a model for animal rescues, with more than 10,000 dogs going to loving homes rather than spending their last days in shelters. Muttville rescues anywhere from 15-25 senior pups each week from across the Bay Area and beyond. In addition to fostering dogs while they wait for adoption, there are numerous ways to contribute—whether it’s creating adoption videos, staffing outreach events or transporting pups. Volunteers are asked to commit to at least three hours a week for a minimum of six months. See muttville.org/volunteer for all the ways you can help.

Shoot Pro Bono

If your favorite place to be is behind a camera lens, ProBonoPhoto offers a way to donate your expertise to support worthy causes. Founded by retired scientist and biotech executive Jack Owicki, the service acts as a clearinghouse—matching up volunteer professional and advanced amateur photographers and videographers with Bay Area nonprofits engaged in community service, social justice or environmental advocacy. After managing volunteer photography for the Bay Area Women’s Marches in 2017, Jack heard photographers saying they’d like to do more. Whether it’s large events, publicity photos, headshots or photo essays—an Earth Day tree planting, 9/11 memorial or a vigil for peace in Ukraine—ProBonoPhoto prioritizes clients who are not well funded enough to pay for professional photography. A fast mid-range zoom lens typically works well, and for indoor events (where flash isn’t allowed), you’ll need a camera with high ISO capability. To see if you’d be a good fit, visit

Be a Sport (Coach)

Did playing a sport make a difference in your life? Then volunteering as a coach might be a slam dunk for you. Between local YMCAs, youth organizations and public schools, opportunities abound with training frequently provided. At the Palo Alto Family YMCA, the youth basketball league team coaches are 100% volunteer-driven. If an overhead smash is more your style, the East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring Academy (EPATT) needs coaches for the next generation of players. EPATT is a free youth education program that serves K-12 students in under-resourced communities. As a volunteer coach, you’ll teach students the basics of the game, with a focus on fun, teamwork and sportsmanship. In tandem with academic tutoring (another volunteer opportunity), students learn how they can up their games both on the court and in the classroom. For more information, email tennis@epatt.org or visit epatt.org/get-involved

Give Nature a Boost

What we appreciate and love, we protect. That’s the premise of Environmental Volunteers, a local nonprofit dedicated to educating Bay Area kids since 1972. If you’re passionate about science and nature, this is your chance to lead hands-on programs designed to inspire the future stewards of Earth. After starting with a few schools in Palo Alto, the program now reaches 10,000 students in 70+ San Mateo and Santa Clara County schools with its cutting-edge science curriculum. Engage with small groups in a classroom setting—through games, experiments and even animal encounters. There’s also a need for community and outreach volunteers at the EcoCenter in Palo Alto or as a Foothills Park Trail Ambassador. Other opportunities include helping with after-school programs, guided walks and event staffing. No experience is needed and training sessions are provided on a rolling basis.
Visit environmentalvolunteers.org or email volunteer@environmentalvolunteers.org for more information.

Engage your Green Thumb

Willing to get your hands dirty? Then get ready to dig in! Volunteers are needed all over the Peninsula. Take your pick: school, garden, park or historic house? At Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills, volunteers pitch in to work in the field alongside the farm crew or sign up to join the “Dirty Knees Brigade” at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden. Also in Palo Alto, the Museum of American Heritage needs garden volunteers to help with watering plants, weeding, transplanting and fertilizing. Through San Mateo County Parks, volunteers and staff work at different locations each week—teaming up to clear trails and restore native habitat, whether it’s invasive plant removal or planting native vegetation. Pick your favorite path, then check websites to explore volunteer opportunities.

Talk Up Your Town

Become a hometown hero by preserving the history of your own community. You’ll find no shortage of ways to get involved. Head over to the Los Altos History Museum, which explores the area’s rich heritage and how the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” evolved into today’s Silicon Valley. Opened in 2001, the museum will be launching a new immersive, multimedia permanent exhibit in 2023 and is looking for docents comfortable with high-tech, interactive elements. Just across the courtyard, ambassadors are also needed to welcome visitors to the landmark J. Gilbert Smith House, which has been refurbished to replicate a 1930s farmhouse. Learn how to get involved at losaltoshistorymuseum.org. Meanwhile, in San Carlos, you can volunteer to become a “Villager” docent at the Museum of San Carlos History. Beyond occasional museum duties, Villagers collect and safeguard San Carlos memorabilia and help out with annual events including Hot Harvest Nights and Home Town Days. Look for more details at sancarloshistorymuseum.org

make time for kitty cats

If you consider yourself a cat person, why not make some meow time? By joining the team of volunteers at Palo Alto Humane Society, you can make a difference to the lives of cats in our community. Two hours a week is all that’s required to bring food to feral cat colonies in parking lots, backyards and bushes. Or, help out with TNR (trap, neuter and return) of homeless and feral cats. Volunteers are needed to drive them to clinics and house them overnight while they recover from surgery. If you can make a short-term commitment (four to eight weeks), consider fostering a litter of homeless kittens or an adult cat until a permanent home can be found. Training, support and supplies are provided—just be ready to play, feed and cuddle. Find out how to get involved at paloaltohumane.org or email pahs@paloaltohumane.org

Provide Compassionate Care

Do you enjoy art, music, poetry or reading aloud? Perhaps you’re a good listener or speak a second language. Those are just a handful of ways you can provide important emotional and social support to hospice patients and their families. It can even be as simple as taking a short walk or running an errand. San Mateo County’s first hospice program, Mission Hospice & Home Care, is an example of a nonprofit organization that welcomes volunteers willing to share their special training and interests or even a friendly pet. Providing end-of-life care in San Mateo and northern Santa Clara counties, Mission Hospice says musicians are especially in demand with patients frequently asking if someone can sing, play an instrument or just listen to music with them. Direct care volunteers make weekly visits to homes, nursing facilities or wherever patients live. Volunteer hours are flexible, depending on the needs of a patient’s family and your own schedule. See how you can help in a meaningful way at missionhospice.org/volunteer

act on your interest

Do you revel in drama (or comedy or musicals)? The Peninsula theater community is always eager for helping hands—whether it’s a youth production or Silicon Valley’s leading professional nonprofit theatre company. In the case of the latter, TheatreWorks presents year-round performances in the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts and at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. If you have evening and weekend availability, consider helping out as an usher or concession volunteer, which also lets you see the show for free. Hospitality volunteers assist with special events, from opening night parties to annual galas. As a resident volunteer, you can also donate your time to TheatreWorks’ offices on a regular basis. Additional perks for your work: attending final dress rehearsals, special discounts and an invite to the annual “Thank You” party. Register online at theatreworks.org or reach out to volunteers@theatreworks.org

Spread some library love

Do you fondly remember library time as a kid? Here’s your chance to help foster a lifelong love of learning in others. California consistently ranks near the bottom for school library funding nationwide. The mission of Access Books Bay Area is to level the literacy playing field for K-8 students in low-income schools by providing access to high-quality, culturally relevant books and transforming neglected school libraries into inviting and comfortable places to read. Check in regularly for immediate ways to help out such as painting wall murals or processing and delivering books for local school libraries, classrooms and free book boxes. You can also directly contribute by running a book drive to collect books and donations or donate books through the nonprofit’s Amazon wish list. Go to accessbooksbayarea.org or email books@accessbooksbayarea.org to discover all the ways to get involved.

Perfect Shot: San Mateo City Lights

Having called San Mateo home for 25 years, photographer Gino De Grandis shares one of his favorite views from the Laurelwood Shopping Center neighborhood near Highway 92. “It took some preparation to succeed in what I had envisioned,” he says of this Perfect Shot, which was captured as a seven-second exposure with a 400-millimeter lens. “I’m always hoping to get a clear, windless evening. That’s when I can get stunning reflections of light in the calm waters of the Bay.”

Image by Gino De Grandis / luiphotography.com

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

Elevated Style

Words by Sheri Baer

Cover Photo: “Tons of natural light,” the clients requested. Dimitra quickly assessed that the original exterior elevation was designed with four smaller windows—two on the upper level and two on the lower level—with a balcony separating the windows. “To maximize lighting on all three floors, we changed the elevation by adding three much larger floor-to-ceiling windows on the facade of the home,” she shares. “The clients could look at their 100-year-old oak tree with filtered sunlight coming through. The floating staircase was an important design element as we didn’t want to compromise the large windows or the view of the oak tree.”

When Peninsula-based interior designer Dimitra Anderson received an inquiry about a new build in Menlo Park, she had just started her second design firm, Dimitra Anderson Home. Prior to that, she had spent the last decade with a former business partner and built a thriving design firm along with an exclusive furniture line.

Launching a second design firm with a new focus and brand was no easy feat. To put a strong foundation in place, Dimitra recruited a team with top-notch project management and technical skills. “I am a creative at heart,” she notes, “and it was important to build a team that could support me and my clients.”

Dimitra took a more modern approach when considering the interior architecture of the home. “We added shiplap around the fireplace in the great room and the same shiplap detail was mimicked on the outside kitchen. We painted the shiplap a charcoal gray in both places and added rift white oak built-in cabinets on either side of the large fireplace,” she says. Since the furniture floats in the space, Dimitra notes the importance of selecting pieces with interesting views, like the wood detail on the back of the sofa. A final touch: adding bifold doors to maximize the indoor/outdoor feel of the space. “We didn’t want the house to feel fussy and it was very important that the design remain timeless with a modern feel,” she summarizes.

In the case of the Menlo Park project, the clients had owned the property for 20 years and loved the neighborhood. Rather than moving, they decided to build their dream home on the same site that harbored fond memories of raising their two children. They had already engaged architect Greg Miller and contractor Sean Supple; however, they wanted to elevate the project and needed someone with a sharp design sensibility.

Specializing in new builds and extensive remodels, Dimitra Anderson Home eagerly embraced the opportunity to get involved during the schematic stage of design. “It’s so important to get the right team in place early when building your dream home,” advises Dimitra. “Whether we’re tweaking layout, cabinet design or window size, it’s much easier on paper than during construction.”

In the basement media room, a Bahia Mosaic handmade tile in a cobalt crackle and milk glass was used for the built-in bar with white oak stain-grade shelves injecting warmth into the design. “We added a Phillip Jeffries geometric wallpaper to ground the room,” shares Dimitra, “and a board-form concrete detail was used in the basement wells to give the concrete walls visual interest.” Steel barn doors separate the media room from the gym. “The furniture we specified for the project was for the most part neutral with a hint of pattern in each space,” she explains. “We carried citron yellows, blacks and blues throughout the house for a cohesive look.”

When Dimitra came on board, she quickly rolled up her sleeves and began red-lining the schematic design of the house along with designing the interior elevations. Custom built-ins. An intuitive kitchen layout. Extra office space. Two powder room additions. Even an ADU to expand the home’s square footage. Tapping years of experience, Dimitra applied her designer’s eye to maximize the property’s potential. “We went through a thoughtful process to make the home unique and as livable as possible,” she recounts. “Nothing is cookie-cutter—every room tells a little story.” The result: a stylish new home that celebrates a family’s roots and an exciting new chapter ahead.

Diary of a Dog: Jewels

You’re likely wondering how I came to have such a fancy name. My new family thinks it’s because the beautiful spots on my ears look like gems but they don’t really know for sure. What is for certain is that I was well-loved (and well-fed) before Kim and Steve adopted me. Back in 2020, when my original family in Modesto couldn’t keep me any longer, they drove me to the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA because they knew I could stay as long as it took to find me a new home. And that’s exactly what happened. After I was featured as the “Dog of the Week” in the local paper, Kim and Steve instantly recognized the jewel (or Jewels) that I am and brought me back to Los Altos. Back then, I was considered a nine-year-old “senior” dog—admittedly on the chubby side. I recently turned 12 and I’m in better shape than ever. I’ve trained Kim and Steve to walk to our local pet supply store. Despite the free treats I’m always given, I’ve managed to slim down thanks to our daily outings. Talk (or bark) about a win-win! I also get exercise through backyard squirrel patrol duty. I may waddle when I walk, but I sprint like a puppy when I need to remind those pesky varmints who’s in charge. Still, I’m a lady at heart. Not only do I have gems on my ears, I’m also known for my delightful fragrance. When Kim and Steve smell my herbal scent (and see my green face), they know I’ve been up to my other favorite pastime: rolling around in the rosemary bushes.

Picture Perfect Point Reyes

Words by Sharon McDonnell

Known for rocky dramatic headlands, vast stretches of beaches and teeming tidepools, Point Reyes is a long-recognized California treasure. As of 1972 (and officially marking 60 years), it’s also the only national seashore on the Pacific coast, a rare designation that puts the West Marin coastal area under the oversight of the National Park Service. Whether you’re seeking thunderous wave-crashing vistas or solitary havens for contemplation, you’ll find 80 miles of protected shoreline here—along with a charming rustic-chic town ready to serve as homebase.

Down by the Seashore

Abundant with birds and wildlife, scenic attractions include Point Reyes Beach North (aka North Beach), Point Reyes Beach South (aka South Beach), Tomales Bay and Alamere Falls, one of just two tidefalls (a waterfall that drops directly into the ocean) in California. For a calm, sheltered cove, check out Heart’s Desire Beach, a family-friendly spot tucked into Tomales State Park.

As you’re heading to the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, at the western-most point of the headlands, keep an eye out for “North District Operations Center” signs. This is where you’ll find a Point Reyes signature stop (and photo op): the famed Tree Tunnel, created by Monterey cypress trees planted in the 1930s. Make sure to venture to the end—the tunnel leads to a white Art Deco-style building, the RCA Coast Station (call sign KPH), which helped relay news of the attack on Pearl Harbor to ships across the north Pacific.

Gateway to Natural Bliss

In a town of under 1,000 people in deeply rural West Marin, just off Highway 1, it’s remarkable to find a restaurant beloved for almost 60 years, a bookstore revered for over 50 years, a barn/multi-purpose venue open for nearly a half-century—and a mix of enticing shops, bakeries and eateries clustered within about five blocks on one main street. This is Point Reyes Station, considered the gateway to Point Reyes National Seashore.

Less than a two-hour drive from the Peninsula, the town is seeking an additional distinction: official International Dark Sky Reserve. If its application is successful, Point Reyes Station will join the ranks of only two dozen elite stargazing destinations worldwide. Beyond stellar skies, there are plenty of other reasons why this tiny town has been adored by so many for so long.

Sights & Shops
(and Sounds)

The heart of Point Reyes Station is, without a doubt, Toby’s Feed Barn. It’s the only animal feed barn you’ll ever find that also houses an art gallery, yoga studio, gift shop, coffee bar, grocery store and all-organic farmers market, which was famously visited by Prince (now King) Charles in 2004. Weddings, concerts and plays (A Christmas Carol in December) also take place here. “I love the idea of a commons—people coming together. I always wanted to run a community center,” says owner Chris Giacomini of Toby’s, which began in 1942 as his family’s animal feed business.

Across the street from Toby’s, wander into Vita Collage, an upscale shop for highly-curated home décor, jewelry, art and fashion. Many artists make the Point Reyes area home, and during Point Reyes Open Studios, a twice-yearly event, they open their studios to the public. (Artists also book appointments year-round.) Tom Killion, known for his colorful Japanese-inspired woodcut prints, mostly of Northern California, and books like California’s Wild Coast: Poetry, Prints and History, is among them.

“I’ve been all over the world. I don’t think anything is as beautiful as Northern California—especially the Sierra and the coast,” says Killion, who has (of course) exhibited at Toby’s, holds a doctorate from Stanford in African history and lives a mile from downtown in Inverness Park.

For gorgeous black-and-white photographs of coastal Marin, such as awe-inspiring shots like Starry Night at Drakes Beach on the national seashore or Mount Vision Moonrise on the Inverness Ridge, head to Marty Knapp Photography Gallery. A coastal Marin resident for 40 years who also sells books and notecards of his work, Knapp says he has “a love affair with the beauty of the place and wanted to express it in photography.”

You can admire that star-spangled night sky during stargazing walks, held the week before the new moon, and full-moon hikes, both led by Don Jolley, a retired science teacher, who identifies the constellations and spins stories about Greek myths and medieval times.

Founded in 1969, Point Reyes Books has held hundreds of author talks and readings, making the tiny town a frequent stop on Northern California book tours. A young couple who worked at San Francisco’s Green Apple Books now own it.

Nothing illustrates Point Reyes’ identity as a rural town more than the sound you hear every day at noon: a loud rooster crow, followed by an equally boisterous cow moo. “It’s George Lucas’ gift to the town,” says Giacomini, who explains that the Star Wars director’s huge Skywalker Ranch is a 20-minute drive away. Lucasfilm provided the recording, and a loudspeaker, synchronized with a clock atop the Old Western Saloon, delivered its moo debut in 1984, drawing national headlines.

Where to Stay

Two miles from downtown Point Reyes Station, with panoramic views of the Olema Valley and Mount Wittenberg, Inn at Roundstone Farm offers five guest rooms on 10 acres. The owner, a retired scientist, cooks breakfast daily—like an egg, spinach and cheese frittata or French toast with a marmalade/cream cheese filling—and joins guests at the table to chat. Just down the road, Olema House offers luxury lodging with 24 rooms, including two cottages, that are furnished with sophisticated flair. A vast outdoor garden space can fit up to 150 people, while the Garden Table, surrounded by grape clusters and gnarled branches, can seat 12, making the resort a popular spot for weddings and meetings. At the Black Heron Inn, three rooms in a wood house, all with separate entrances, offer sweeping views of the Inverness Ridge through huge picture windows and from the deck with its Adirondack chairs.

Where to Eat

At Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, located up a steep hill with a panoramic view of Tomales Bay, enjoy a delectable tasting of award-winning cheeses including Original Blue (bold-flavored, super-creamy, peppery finish), Toma (buttery, creamy, grassy finish), Toma Truffle (with black truffles imported from Italy) and Bay Blue (a milder blue, salted caramel finish), accompanied by figs, apple slices and dark chocolate. The dairy is owned and run by four Giacomini women, whose father, Bob, is Chris’ cousin.

Heidrun Meadery, located on a 16-acre wildflower farm a mile from downtown Point Reyes, serves sparkling honey-based wines made from flowers pollinated in various regions from California to Hawaii. Flights of both mead (dry, crisp, not sweet) and honey are offered.

Beloved since its 1964 opening, Station House Cafe offers farm- and sea-to-table locally-sourced food, ranging from Thai-style steamed mussels in coconut milk and shellfish stew in roasted pepper-tomato broth to Marin Sun Farms beef burgers. Standouts at its casual sibling around the corner, Side Street Kitchen, include Asian-inflected local rock cod and roasted chicken with a choice of chimichurri sauce, curried yogurt or salsa verde.

Adjacent to Olema House, Due West Tavern serves yummy corn chowder with plump fried oysters, a bacon & oyster po’boy sandwich and chicken panzanella salad, among other dishes. At Brickmaiden Breads, take your pick of an apricot-pecan scone, olive oil cake or ficelle bread and settle in for a lovely interlude next to a lavender bush in the back garden.

Seaside Escape


Secret Art of Seuss

Words by Esther Young

Walk past this brightly-lit Menlo Park gallery, and the playful illustrations and zany mythical creatures of Dr. Seuss immediately catch your eye. There in the window: bronze statues of Horton gently cradling Whoville, the fluffy mustached Lorax and Yertle smugly grinning at the top of the turtle heap. Should the child at your side (or in your heart) tug at you to explore, you’d be well served to follow the nudge.

“What we have is some very iconic imagery that hits people emotionally,” Elisa Spurlin sums up. As the keeper of Peabody Gallery & Framing—and the stories their collections tell—she greets the power of nostalgia every day. “You can hear through the windows,” she says of the glass-walled gallery on a street corner. “You can hear the grandparents saying, ‘I read that one to you.’ And the kids going, ‘Horton! Lorax! Look, Daddy, the cat!’”

As one of a select few authorized U.S. sellers of the artwork of Theodor (Ted) Seuss Geisel, Elisa recognizes that most visitors know Dr. Seuss through the 44 books he wrote and illustrated for children. “If we get an opportunity to talk with them about the broader scope of his work,” she says, “then they fall in love with the whole concept of the man and his talent.”

Delightful as it is to interact with the curious and imagination-driven, Elisa never planned on becoming an art vendor. As business partners, Elisa and her parents, Adrian and Sharon Thornton, ventured through the worlds of small and large business ownership alike before purchasing five FastFrame stores in the early ‘90s.

Their walls displayed framed posters showcasing their primary service: custom picture framing. But customers who brought in posters hesitated to pay the full price, and Elisa and her parents could see why. It’s hard to reconcile investing in a $200 frame for a $25 poster. “The value’s askew, so we got into art initially as a way to reduce that delta,” Elisa recounts. Bit by bit, art collecting drew them further in, and their FastFrame franchises began to feel more like galleries.

As small business owners at heart, Elisa and her parents decided to focus on one store and sell the rest. To better connect with art publishers, they added “Peabody Gallery” to their franchise name, honoring the fluffy five-pound Maltese that came to work with them each day.

While attending the art expo at New York’s Javits Center in 1997, Elisa heard intriguing rumors of a Dr. Seuss collection. She spent two days searching the expansive convention hall for the iconic Seuss characters. “I remember reading the books,” she says. “I just love Horton. He was always my favorite.”

When she finally tracked down the exhibit, she discovered an unlabeled posthumous debut, including “secret” works painted for the artist’s own enjoyment, never seen in books. “He was an artist who played around with styles,” Elisa learned. “His widow wanted the world to see the bigger talent that he had.” On the opposite panels hung paintings featuring the Peanuts characters. These were not by Charles Schulz, but Tom Everhart, the sole individual authorized by Schulz to paint his characters. Enchanted by their whimsical, childlike qualities, Elisa recognized the future direction of Peabody Gallery.

After Peabody became an authorized dealer, Elisa and her parents began pulling in wider price points of artwork, including originals from other artists. They chose not to renew their FastFrame contract and turned their focus to growing their family-owned business and brand.

Although Peanuts and Dr. Seuss artworks are always on display, once a year, the Peabody Gallery runs a themed show dedicated to Seuss. This broader exhibit of his imagination, unbound by medium, rewards visitors with stories they never knew about the renowned author and illustrator. His works are broken into four categories: illustration art (limited-edition reproductions), bronze sculptures, secret art and sculptures done between 1929 and 1939, dating to Seuss’ advertising career.

“His first book didn’t come out until 1941,” Elisa offers by way of context. “Sport hunting was big back then, and he didn’t like that.” Inspired in part by an oil company’s ad campaign, Seuss created The Collection of Unorthodox Taxidermy as an alternative. These fantastical creatures—hand-painted resin mounted sculptures—include warnings to boaters. Like the devilish shark-toothed Sludge Tarp (encouraging you to clear sludge buildup… or else) and the pudgy Powerless Puffer (promoting proper preparation to avoid losing engine power mid-sea).

Elisa’s parents retired in 2020, so she’s embracing the role of Peabody’s primary storyteller. She enjoys watching the evolution of understanding—the journey from curiosity to collector. “People’s first reaction when they know nothing about it is that it’s for kids’ rooms,” she notes. “Dr. Seuss made the rhyming and the illustrations for here,” Elisa gestures with her hand to the height of a child. “But the message,” she says, placing a hand on her heart, “is for here, as an adult.”

She cites The Lorax as an example. “The Lorax is all about taking care of the environment and how one person can make a difference.” And then, there’s that much-beloved friend-to-all elephant. “Horton is all about ‘Don’t discriminate,’” she observes. “Everybody’s got a voice. Even if they’re not very vocal, they’ve got a voice. Listen, seek out, try to hear it.”

That’s why Elisa isn’t surprised that the gallery’s biggest Seuss collectors don’t even have kids. “Art is emotional, art is personal, and they just feel a connection,” she says. With her daughter now a high school senior, Elisa especially appreciates the way the gallery promotes engagement with all ages. “A lot of Seuss galleries are in tourist areas,” she says, “but we’re a community gallery. Like a neighbor, Dr. Seuss is always here.”

meet the cat in the hat – peabodygallery.com

A Lifelong Ride: Spring Down Equestrian Center

Words by Jennifer Jory

In the heart of Portola Valley, well-groomed horses prance around an arena in a postcard-like setting. After instructing six riders with laser focus, Spring Down Equestrian Center (SDEC) owner Carol Goodstein walks her five rescue dogs and then prepares for a full slate of training classes in the afternoon. “I love what I do and it’s my passion,” she beams. “I feel fortunate that I do what I really enjoy.” With a quick stride and the energy of someone half her age, Carol presides over the three-acre ranch that preserves a family-like atmosphere and a slice of equestrian life on the Peninsula.

Married at 19 to her late husband Stan, Carol studied at San Francisco State before switching to an accounting program to help Stan in his new venture, which became the 13-store mattress chain Slumberland. They soon had two children: first Gary, then Lori. Stan, also an animal lover, enthusiastically supported their purchase of Spring Down in 1984, and while he had other interests besides horses, he always gave in to adding more horses and dogs over the years. “When my husband decided to get out of the sleep business, I had six horses,” she recounts. “We bought Spring Down and it all blossomed from there.”

Carol’s rescue poodles crowd Spring Down’s office, which is staffed by young riders who share her passion. “Horses became my second love after dogs,” she relays. At just seven years old, Carol started riding and taking lessons in San Francisco at Stanyon Stables. After a fire destroyed the property in 1944, she moved to St. Francis Stables on Arguello Street. “It was a lot of fun in those days,” she remembers. “I spent a lot of time riding on the beach and in Golden Gate Park.” Carol also enjoyed Lowell High School’s after-school riding program, where she ran the end-of-the-year horse show. Until just recently, she led Spring Down riders on horse excursions from Golden Gate Park to the beach so they could experience the same ride she cherished growing up.

When Carol is not teaching one of her 50 weekly riding lessons, her mission to safeguard horse property on the Peninsula keeps her busy. Her commitment runs so deep that this year she pledged the (mortis causa) donation of Spring Down to the San Mateo Horseman’s Association, an organization founded in 1940 to support the local legacy of horsemanship. “I don’t want horses to disappear from this area,” she stresses. “People are selling their property and moving out of California. I want Spring Down to stay horse property.”

Carol’s generosity and commitment to her goal of maintaining open space and equestrian life on the Peninsula began nearly 20 years ago. In 2000, she sold the front six acres of Spring Down to the town of Portola Valley with the directive that it could never be developed. With her recent pledge, Spring Down will continue serving the community and offering lessons and camps for riders in perpetuity.

“This is what God put me on Earth to do,” Carol believes. “To save kids, horses, dogs and cats too. It is just my thing.” She explains that when young people are going down the wrong path, horses and the discipline of riding can play vital roles in correcting their direction. “When a horse needs you,” she says, “you respond to it and the horse responds as well.” Carol underscores a horse’s keen ability to read human emotions and sense a nervous rider. She teaches students to breathe deeply and relax and says that when this happens, it transforms the rider and their relationship with the horse.

In 1982, Carol jumped into professional riding and showing at events at the Woodside Mounted Patrol grounds and in Gilroy and Carmel Valley shows. ”I wanted to have fun,” recalls Carol. “I didn’t like the competition or the attitude. Everyone hated or loved their horse by the end of the show and I didn’t like that.” Her experience translated into a philosophy that teaches riders to view horses as companions rather than competitors.

“Anyone can come here and learn to ride,” she says. “You tell us what you want to learn and we will teach you.”

An animal lover at heart, Carol emphasizes education and teaches riders how to bond with horses, to spot what triggers a horse and how to get a horse back on the thinking side of its brain. “Most of my horses have been my pets,” she shares. ”I have a little different attitude here and everyone has fun. The people who ride here just want to be around horses. They want the connection and we provide it.”

Reflecting on life at Spring Down, Carol summarizes, “This is home to a lot of people. The minute they drive in, they’re family. My property manager Manuel came with Spring Down and our head groom Francisco has been here longer than me.” Carol confirms that the legacy she hopes to leave is for the Equestrian Center to continue its hundreds of weekly lessons and camps for generations to come. She credits Spring Down for countless personal lessons in patience and humility and laughs, “Just about the time you think you know it all, the horses teach me there’s more to learn.”

Get Ready to Ride – springdown.com

Landmark: Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Words by Sheri Baer

“It’s lit!” That’s what they first said about Pigeon Point Lighthouse on November 15, 1872—and it’s still true in 2022 as this iconic Peninsula landmark celebrates its 150th anniversary. Standing at a majestic 115 feet, the light station is the tallest tower (tied with Point Arena) on the West Coast. Originally called Whale Point, the headland was renamed Pigeon Point to honor the ship “Carrier Pigeon” that ran aground here in 1853 en route from Boston to San Francisco. Built to guide vessels safely through the foggy, treacherous coastal waters, Pigeon Point Lighthouse originally signaled mariners with a 2,000-pound Fresnel lens that delivered the illumination power of 500,000 candles. Perched on a cliff about five miles south of Pescadero, the white brick structure served its duty—and became a popular tourist attraction. However, over time, the lighthouse fell into disrepair and was closed to the public in 2001. Using an automated LED beacon, Pigeon Point continues to be an active Coast Guard navigation aid, and at Pigeon Point’s Fog Signal Building, visitors can view exhibits and artifacts including the tower’s original Fresnel lens that’s on display. The structures at Pigeon Point’s base also put out the welcome mat after being converted into Hostelling International vacation rentals. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a California Historical Landmark, the famous tower is finally getting a new lease on “light.” In 2021, the California State Legislature approved full funding to complete an $18.9 million restoration project.

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