Barron Park Donkeys

Adjacent to the playground and bike path in Palo Alto’s Cornelis Bol Park, two local celebrities graze in their pasture: Meet the Barron Park Donkeys. Their history dates back to the 1930s, when Dutch physicist Cornelis Bol left Holland to join Stanford University’s physics department. Bol and his wife Josina settled in the Barron Park neighborhood. Throughout his long-time career as a Stanford professor, Bol planted orchards and collected a small herd of donkeys for his six sons. He offered rides to the neighborhood children on the donkeys, who quickly became community mascots. Upon Cornelis Bol’s death in 1965, the residents of Barron Park rallied together to fulfill Bol’s dream of creating a neighborhood park with the donkey pasture and surrounding land. Bol Park eventually opened in 1974, including a permanent home for the donkeys. While several of the beloved donkeys have come and gone (with their names now memorialized in the park), Bol Park continues to give visitors a glimpse into the area’s bucolic past. Today, donkeys “Perry” and “Jenny” greet visitors at their corral gate. If Perry looks familiar, it’s because he has his own unique claim to fame. Dreamworks used him as a model for Shrek’s sidekick “Donkey.” Every Sunday from 10-11AM, the pair can be found strolling through the park with volunteer handlers. Children are encouraged to deliver fan art and “d-mail” to Perry and Jenny in the pasture mailbox. Donations and funds generated from the sale of donkey fertilizer support their continued care. Visit to learn more

The Death of a Ghost Town

A unique Peninsula town may slip away for good, and its obituary might read like this:

Drawbridge, California, a once thriving town built on wetlands, a Venice in the sloughs at the southernmost tip of the San Francisco Bay where its main street was the railroad track and sidewalks were a channel of wooden planks that rose above the tide to create a floating community, died after a long, lingering battle with relevance. It was 144 years old.

Drawbridge was birthed by train in 1876 to become a community on the Peninsula unlike any other, past or present. Its creator may now become its destroyer as a new proposal for expanding the railway would mean certain destruction.

Nearly a mile long and 80 acres in size, Drawbridge was built as a link through the mudflats and sloughs for the then-new South Pacific Coast Railroad. The train, forever its main and sole artery, shepherded in a community that rose and fell like the daily tides.

Photography: Courtesy of Cris Benton

First was the lonely bridge tender who had to hand-operate the two drawbridges for boat passage. Then came the duck hunters and weekenders. The town flourished as an Old West Mecca that peaked in the 1930s with close to 90 buildings, including a pair of hotels and many waterfowl hunting clubs. With neither government nor law enforcement, the wild town was rife with gambling and bootlegging throughout the first half of the century. But environmental conditions deteriorated, leading to an exodus and abandonment by its last full-time resident before the 1980s.

Drawbridge is now for the birds. Since 1974, it has been a protected habitat for bird restoration. Members of the avian community flock to its muddy and fertile shores where humans are now legally barred from crossing over the two train bridges that bookend the island. Drawbridges no more, the overpasses crossing Mud Slough and Coyote Creek have been replaced a couple of times; Mud Slough is still a swing bridge and Coyote Creek is a fixed trestle bridge.

Nicknamed “Saline City” for its position sequestered between salt ponds, Drawbridge offered an allure for the adventurous and eccentric that resonated for generations.

Today, when the sun disappears behind the Santa Cruz Mountains, a golden hue is cast upon the stiff pickleweed to create a still life picture of serenity. Beyond the calls of the wild geese or the crunch of succulents beneath your feet, the only remaining sound blows in with the wind.

That is, until the thunderous horns from the evening Capitol Corridor commuter train emerge and the modern locomotive rips through the heart of town.

You can sneak a peek of Drawbridge by riding the Capitol Corridor, Altamont Commuter Express, Coast Starlight or passing freight trains. From there, you might catch the yellow and white graffiti image on a decrepit wooden house depicting the town’s unofficial mayor: Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Absent of human presence but enshrined in its history, prints of humanity remain in the roughly dozen structures still standing but slowly slipping into the slough. As part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Drawbridge can be viewed on foot from a vista point at the Mallard Slough Trail Spur, a couple miles from the Refuge’s Environmental Education Center on the outskirts of Alviso.

Photography: Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Traversing across the still-active bridge train tracks onto the protected island is illegal and unsafe. Trespassers on federally-managed land may be penalized with fines. However, perhaps in the spirit of Drawbridge’s lawless past, trespassers continue to skulk onto the island to have their look at this historic oddity.

The ghost town’s appeal ranges from urban explorers to history buffs. Dr. Cecilia (Ceal) Craig is president of the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society and co-wrote the book Sinking Underwater: A Ghost Town’s Amazing Legacy along with Anita Goldwasser in 2018. Ceal leads an occasional historical excursion out to the Drawbridge vista point. (These are now virtual tours with COVID-19 restrictions.) With each tour, interest in the town is resurrected.

“Most questions are about what it was like to live there,” she says. “People try to compare it to their own town—what would it have been like to live in simpler times with no toilets, no septic tanks and the tide coming in twice a day?”

Photography: Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

In the beginning, it was much like how it is today. Quiet and calm. The train only stopped on Sundays in 1876 and the bridge tender occupied the sole building on the island. He’d charge duck hunters half a buck for a night’s stay in his home. Within a decade, local newspapers started to write about the secret hunters’ den and by 1890, construction of other buildings began.

The island was officially christened Drawbridge with a white sand paint sign hoisted at the bridge tender’s shanty as weekenders began to arrive in droves. The Sprung’s Hotel opened in 1900 to accommodate them. It’s speculated that the population reached its height during the 1920s with around 600 people congregating during the weekends.

Photography: Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

But as Drawbridge expanded, so did the surrounding Bay Area. Salt companies began to build levees and drained the marshes. Water pollution from sprouting nearby cities started to spoil hunting and fishing while freshwater became difficult to secure. By mid-century, newspapers began classifying Drawbridge as a ghost town (even though a few residents remained), which attracted vandalism, looting and burning of the abandoned cabins.

In 1979, Charlie Luce, the final resident, pulled up stakes. Drawbridge—Population: 0.

Altamont Corridor Express, a commuter rail service connecting Stockton and San Jose, is proposing adaptations for the railway in the Alviso Wetlands to improve the Central Valley commute. They published their alternative studies report earlier this year wherein three of the four options call for building new sets of railroad tracks through present-day Drawbridge.

“The only way I can see that work is if they take down the buildings,” Ceal says, adding that the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society has already submitted its formal comments on the proposal and that the project has yet to be approved.

However, the modern-day Drawbridge tender isn’t crying doomsday.

“As much as I love learning about it, I just can’t justify saving Drawbridge over having better commuting capabilities,” she reasons. “I would like to do one more deep study on it and take pictures to see what’s there before we close that chapter. As long as there is a way to put those new bridges in that doesn’t hurt the habitat or refuge as a whole, I can’t say, ‘Don’t do this to Drawbridge.’”

Ghost towns are testaments to our inevitable demise. However ephemeral, they celebrate the fact that we did indeed exist. They draw us into their fading light for a glimpse of yesterday and after we return to the present, we’re humbled by the tenuous nature of our own mortality.

f8 Don’t Wait


It all started with a mysterious circle, awash in textures and shades of blue. The date was April 23, 2013, and with her post, Susan Honda Eady set the game afoot. The next day, it was David Hibbard’s turn. He studied Susan’s photo and responded with a rainbow-streaked plate, which then elicited a round blue abstraction from Maude Pervere, followed by Robert Kato’s haunting take on tumbleweed.

“It’s like a game of telephone that you played as a little kid when you whisper something in someone’s ear and it keeps evolving,” explains Patricia “Patti” McClung, of the blog F8 Don’t Wait. However, in this case, no words are spoken—it’s images that drive the day-by-day visual conversation.

Nine photographers. Seven-plus years. 2,500 posts and counting.

Originally connected through photography instructor Brigitte Carnochan, the mostly Peninsula-based tight-knit group met regularly to share, discuss and critique their work. After nearly a decade of collaboration, Dorothy Gantenbein proposed the idea of a daily blog and volunteered to take on the technical set-up. Referencing a camera aperture term, F8 Don’t Wait was born—and has been dynamically growing ever since.

“It can be color or line or shape or texture or context,” Patti further explains, when asked how she selects an image responding to the one before. “Like a dinner party conversation, you can build and continue to develop the conversation, you can go off on a related tangent, you can pick one thing that reminds you of something else or you can change the topic altogether.”

Lengthy post-production is often involved, although quickly-snapped iPhone images also show up. “I don’t know that you can really break the rules,” notes Patti.

On a recent nine-frame zoom call reminiscent of Hollywood Squares or the intro to The Brady Bunch, F8ers discuss the thought process that takes place behind the lens. The blog started with a set rotation of who follows whom and mixes up the order every few years. “Everybody’s visual personality is really distinct,” shares Rachel Phillips.

Sometimes, they say, the evolving theme seems obvious—trees, paths, food or even a mood, like loneliness—but they also encounter real head scratchers.

“Katie’s images have a dreamy aspect to them—they are sometimes ghostlike, ethereal,” offers Maude. “Sometimes Katie sends me for a loop!” adds Susan. “I like experimenting,” Katie Parquet acknowledges.

“I have a whole bucket of ‘Bill made me do it!’ images,” injects Dorothy. William “Bill” Bishop quickly responds, “I treat every F8 contribution as serious art; it’s a big deal for me.” Maude can’t resist a playful jab: “And it feels that way if we’re behind you, Bill!”

The group calls out lifelong photographer Robert Kato as particularly challenging to follow. “He has this way of saying something quite profound,” observes Patti, “that just touches you and gets you thinking about your images and what you want to say.”

“Patti’s images remind me of a memory map,” Dorothy comments, in a nod back to Patti. “And I think of Rachel as a Victorian time traveler; there’s always an element from another era in her work.”

Rachel describes the “delicious panic” she feels when her turn is coming up. “It really expands your visual playground,” she says. “You get to riff on all these images that are so different from your own.”

Tallying up F8’s many benefits is an easy exercise for the group: tuning the eye and exercising creativity, sharing visual explorations in sympathetic company, digging into the archives to unearth forgotten images and capturing shots they wouldn’t have otherwise thought to take. But above all, they say, the blog has deepened the friendship of its members.

“To me, it’s really a miracle group,” Bill reflects, “because we are so diverse and we get along so well.” With everyone nodding in agreement, Dorothy caps it off: “We all admire and  enjoy each other’s work, and I think that holds us together.”

While F8’s intent is to visually communicate with each other, the photographers have also staged two Bay Area “physical world” exhibits that capture their blogging journey. Given that is currently closing in on 450,000 views, there’s clearly curiosity about what they’re saying. With that in mind, PUNCH invites you to meet the F8 team and eavesdrop on a few favorite conversations.


The Beat On Your Eats

Mints & Honey
San Carlos

A hidden oasis alongside El Camino Real in San Carlos, Mints & Honey is a gardenesque departure from the usual coffee shop vibe. Step through their patio and you’ll find yourself greeted by a display of turquoise chairs and a sea of succulents. The menu is equally whimsical; the Butterfly Coconut Mango is the color of a Pacific sunset (100% free of coloring and preservatives) made with mango puree and butterfly pea flower tea. The Rainbow Waffle comes topped with whipped cream and Fruity Pebbles while the Mango & Tajin Toast is a Pain au Levain that hits all the right notes with avocado, mango, tajin, basil and honey. Grab a seat next to the pastel-colored cacti and restrain yourself from snapping too many pictures. 1524 El Camino Real. Open daily from 8AM to 2PM.

Photography: Courtesy of Backyard Brew

Backyard Brew
Palo Alto

Backyard Brew, Palo Alto’s hidden gem in plain sight, is an all-outdoor coffee shop along California Avenue designed for late summer discovery. Dozens of bright, colorful umbrellas provide shade, but don’t let the simple charm of Backyard Brew fool you—they can also make a mean cup of Joe. Their street-style Arabic coffee is filled with refreshing hints of cardamom and the menu features beans globally sourced from the likes of Brazil, Colombia and Kenya. For non-coffee drinkers, the London Fog tea is exceptional with its creamy and not-too-sweet cup flavor reminiscent of the milk tea found in boba shops—sans tapioca pearls. 444 California Avenue. Open daily from 8AM to 2PM.

Photography: Courtesy of Silas Valentino

Saint Frank Coffee
Menlo Park

Save your grande and venti size chart for the gang of coffee chains—at Saint Frank, your freshly roasted cup comes in a single size packing zest and aroma. Named after its San Francisco roots, this micro producer is tucked behind the Menlo Park train station where the easy-to-grab outdoor counter service, with a shaded patio, makes it a breezy escape from the confines of an indoor café. A small selection of pastries—such as an oven-fresh peach Danish —add substance but it’s the internationally-sourced beans from Guatemala, Kenya and Bolivia that cast the lure. 1018 Alma Street. Open daily from 7AM to 5PM.

The Local Backhaus

It’s 4AM when the lights come on at Backhaus.

The bakers arrive, taking bread and pastries that have proved overnight and arranging them carefully in the oven. At 6AM, the front-of-house staff arrive, prepping the espresso machine and stocking the “bread wall” on display behind the register. At 7:30AM, customers rush in, hoping to snag rustic country loaves, pistachio raspberry croissants or apricot and oat streusel scones before they sell out.

Following a time-honored German tradition, co-owners Anne and Robert Moser repeat this ritual daily in downtown San Mateo.

The couple met in Germany, Anne’s home country, in 2006. Robert, a California native, was studying abroad at the time. In Germany, their friendship quickly blossomed into romance and when Robert returned to California, Anne followed, studying in Monterey for two years to receive her master’s degree in translation.

After a brief return to Germany, Anne immigrated to the U.S. in 2013 and the pair got married the following year. In California, Anne found herself missing the bakeries back home, which play a central role in every German household. The inspiration behind the name Backhaus, German for bakehouse, also originates from a desire to create community through bread.

“It’s not so much what the bakery is but what it means for the community,” says Anne. “Bakehouses used to be a separate building in a village or a town that just had an oven in it. That was a place where people in the community got together and they would hang out while their bread was baking.”

Anne’s bread baking journey started with a cookbook: Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson. With no bakeries or grocery stores nearby, she decided to bake her first loaf. “The two of us and my brother-in-law actually ended up just devouring the loaf fresh out of the oven with butter and it was so good,” recalls Anne.

Following the success of her first loaf, Anne dove headfirst into her newfound passion for baking—to the point that she was overwhelming neighbors and friends with her crusty creations. She attempted channeling her zeal into a blog, “A Bag of Flour,” but realized that she really wanted to take her hobby to the next level. “I had talked with friends about how nice it would be to own a café or something like that, but I had never worked in that industry, so I felt like that ship had sailed,” says Anne.

This mindset changed when she discovered an online interview with Josey Baker, a home baker who transformed his passion into a café, The Mill, in San Francisco. “I watched it and my heart started pounding,” she remembers. “If he could do that, maybe there’s a chance that I could do that.”

With feedback from her friends, Anne turned her bread obsession into a bread subscription service with a cottage food license. Robert, who also worked from home at the time, delivered bread to their customers’ doorsteps.

“It sounds very romantic to run a little bakery out of your house,” says Anne, acknowledging that the reality was much more challenging. With only one oven and no mixers in their rental house, Anne could make eight to ten loaves in a day, while still working as a freelance translator. At night, she slept on the couch and had a timer going off every 20 minutes, so she could take each loaf out and put in the next one.

“It happened quite a few times that I was so tired that I wouldn’t hear my timer go off and I would burn a loaf,” admits Anne. “I would wake up too late and pull the charcoal brick out of the oven.”

After five months of running Backhaus out of their home, Anne decided to move their operation to KitchenTown, a commissary kitchen in San Mateo where businesses pay by the hour to use the space.

“It’s a huge step to go from basically no equipment in your home to having an actual bakery,” she says. Anne started going to KitchenTown from 8PM to 4AM, first by herself, and then with Robert. “It was also really nice to be surrounded by other makers; it felt like we were all on this journey together of growing our companies to the point that we could afford our own space.”

With the help of KitchenTown, Anne and Robert brought Backhaus to the Burlingame Farmers Market in October 2016, and then the San Mateo Farmers Market in January 2017. The pair would often work through the night and then sell at the market in the morning. After almost three years at KitchenTown, Anne and Robert decided to open a brick and mortar, with help from their loyal customers through Kickstarter.

As of June 2019, Backhaus sits proudly in downtown San Mateo, serving bread, pastries and coffee to the community. “We never wanted to be a German bakery, but just a bakery with German influence,” says Anne. With a growing team of bakers from different backgrounds, she welcomes their creativity. “It’s still a little bit surreal, and we’re not taking it for granted how the community has embraced us,” says Anne. “I still pinch myself sometimes.”

In return, Backhaus is giving back to the community. “From the start, we’ve talked about supporting causes that we believe in,” says Anne. Backhaus regularly donates leftover bread and pastries to the Samaritan House in San Mateo and has also held fundraisers for the Australian wildfires and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund this year. Anne emphasizes that she is always open to using Backhaus as a platform to raise money for causes that her team feels passionately about.

The menu at Backhaus changes with the seasons, since the team sources local ingredients and makes everything from the jams to the fillings from scratch. Expect to find classics like baguettes, apple turnovers and almond croissants—but also keep an eye out for kouign amanns and maple pecan braids, which Anne cites as one of her favorites.

As for the future of Backhaus, Anne and Robert hope to open a second location when the future of the hospitality industry looks brighter. In the meantime, their experience with sleepless nights is about to serve them well, as they prepare to welcome a baby girl into the Backhaus family in late September.

Reflecting on the creation of Backhaus, Anne is incredibly grateful for the support she’s received from family, friends, customers and most importantly, Robert. For Robert, however, the decision to open a bakery was simple—Anne moved over from Germany for him, so it was only right that he help her bring a touch of her home to the Peninsula.

bake it

Pear & Dark Chocolate Scones


3½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

½ tsp kosher salt

2 tsp baking powder

1¾ sticks butter

1 cup buttermilk

1 medium pear

¼ cup dark chocolate
(60%-80%) chips

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

3-4 Tbl turbinado sugar


• Preheat oven to 350F.

• Wash pear and remove core. Cut into ¼- to ½-inch cubes.

• Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.

• Cut cold butter into ½-inch cubes.

• Option 1: Add dry ingredients and butter cubes to food processor and pulse until the largest butter chunks are the size of peas.

• Option 2: Add butter cubes to dry ingredients and use fingers to pinch butter cubes into thin butter flakes.

• Add pear cubes and chocolate to dry ingredients.

• Add buttermilk and gently mix by hand or with wooden spoon until dough is well moistened but crumbly.

• Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, gently press into a disc shape and cut into eight triangles.

• Transfer scones to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush with heavy whipping cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

• Bake at 350F for 24 minutes until edges are golden-brown and the centers feel firm but springy.

Sicilian Serendipity

Chef Simona Oliveri didn’t plan to become the executive chef of Oak + Violet, the Park James Hotel’s chic farm-to-table restaurant. In fact, when she answered a Craigslist ad for a prep cook to join the restaurant’s opening team in 2018, her goals were modest.

“I wanted to be a part of this community, to have a place to go to work,” says the Menlo Park resident, who emigrated from Sicily in 2017. The idea was to work the morning shift while her son was in school and build a catering business on the side. But things didn’t quite go as planned.

When Oak + Violet’s management got a good look at her resume, they came back with a better offer: the sous chef position. Simona signed on. Three months later, when the executive chef departed suddenly, Simona stepped up, taking on culinary operations for the entire property. Serendipity? Certainly. Not to mention a case of preparation meeting opportunity.

Born and raised in Palermo, Simona learned about growing, cooking and preserving food during weekends and summers spent at her family’s country home. “When I was little, we went to the country house on Saturday,” she recalls, “and Sunday night we’d load the car with olive oil, bread for the week and a big container of fruit.” Everything was grown or made on the property. “I remember summers were spent cooking. We would have a truckful of tomatoes to make the tomato sauce for the next year,” she says.

However, a career in food wasn’t her goal. Simona knew soon after finishing high school that she wanted to be an architect. To fund her education, she worked as a prep cook, server and hostess for luxury yacht charters that traveled to the south of France and the islands around Sicily.

Traveling around Sicily provided opportunities to teach herself about ingredients and train her palate. She was intrigued by regional differences in familiar ingredients and ways in which those ingredients were harvested and used. On days off, she sought out local chefs who generously invited her into their kitchens.

After completing her architecture degrees, Simona went to work for a large firm. Soon after, a friend who was a successful painter asked Simona to cater her exhibit opening. Simona took it on, treating the event like a design project, integrating the food with the exhibit. Her unique approach was a success.

“It also changed everything,” she says. “It was more creative than architecture and a chance to get a connection with people and work with heart. I was able to blend two of my passions.” Word of mouth brought more catering gigs her way. She left architecture and spent seven years building her catering business while emphasizing fresh ingredients, promoting small suppliers and creating memorable experiences for clients.

Leaving her business to come to the U.S. was “really, really hard,” she says, not to mention that “the first year, I was isolated because I couldn’t speak English.” Focusing on what she knew, Simona started Boniface Fine Catering, creating her style of Italian food for private events in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton.

Photography: Courtesy of Nicholas Hui

Still, she was struggling to find her feet here and decided that she needed to be part of a team: “I needed to walk into an American kitchen and see what they do, see how it works here.” Oak + Violet provided that opportunity, and now she’s leading the team. Simona is grateful for the experience and their support. “I love my team. They’re everything,” she says. Acknowledging that she’s in a role that only a small percentage of female chefs attain, she notes, “As a woman chef, you know it isn’t easy. You need to work harder.”

Central to Simona’s culinary responsibilities are menu creation and day-to-day production for Oak + Violet and O + V Courtyard. With an upscale mid-century style, both spaces provide an elegant yet comfortable spot to drink and dine for hotel guests and locals alike. Created by Parisa O’Connell Interior Design, the dining room is decked out with light wood floors and slatted wall panels, warm white walls, barrel dining chairs upholstered in violet velvet and luxe leather banquettes.

Unique touches include the Connemara marble dining bar that gives diners a view of the glassed-in kitchen and a custom cowhide wall design that incorporates the property’s color scheme. (The dining room remains closed while COVID-related health concerns continue.)

The dining room leads to O + V Courtyard, an outdoor space that echoes the interior’s clean-lined design with light wood tables, dark metal chairs with green cushions and a large gas fireplace. String lights hang above the space, creating a cozy ambiance at night. The courtyard’s large cushy couches have been removed, and the space has been redesigned as the hotel’s sole dining area during 2020.

Oak + Violet offers weekend brunch and Monday–Saturday dinner service. The brunch menu includes the requisite Avocado Toast, along with indulgences like Croissant French Toast and Chicken Confit + Waffles. Day drinkers can enjoy a Courtyard Bloody Mary or a choice of four flavors of mimosa. The bar program also includes craft cocktails, a California-based wine list, assorted beers and mocktails.

The dinner menu recently received a creative redesign when Simona partnered with Shelley Lindgren, award-winning co-owner and wine director of A16 restaurants, to create a new food and wine experience for Oak + Violet diners. Dubbed “Sicilian Summer Nights,” the seasonal menu draws from Simona’s culinary roots and Shelley’s passion for Sicilian wines.

Sicilian cuisine, influenced by a variety of cultures—including Arabic, Greek, French and Spanish—relies heavily on seafood and fresh produce, ingredients that are abundant in the Bay Area. Simona wants the new culinary offering to “bring people to another place and provide a bit of an escape,” she says, at a time when leisure travel has been curtailed.

Small-plate highlights include the Sicilian-style Sardine Meatballs, a rustic vegetarian charcuterie board of grilled summer vegetables with dipping sauces and the almost-too-pretty-to-eat Tomato & Burrata Salad with watermelon, pistachios, fresh herbs and edible flowers.

Summery main courses include Seared Scallops and Shimeji Mushrooms, Linguine Trapanese with almond pesto and roasted Branzino with olives, fennel, sweet peppers and romesco sauce.

Sweet indulgences like the Gelo di Melone, a delicate watermelon pudding served with chocolate and pistachios, and the refreshing Lemon Sambuca Sorbet, along with a Dark Chocolate Mousse, make up the dessert menu.

Shelley has selected eight Sicilian wines to pair with Simona’s dishes—a sparkling rosé, three whites, and four rosés. The idea, Simona says, “is to pair each dish with one or two wines,” offering a complete tasting experience. Keeping with the Sicilian theme, several new cocktails have been added to the bar menu, including the tequila-based Palermo Punch, a nod to Simona’s birthplace.

Chef Simona is already thinking about the next culinary journey menu. She’s also considering a project to bring the extra virgin olive oil from her family’s country property to the U.S. But for now, she says, “I’m one hundred percent focused on Oak + Violet. This is everything for me.”

Ask the Architect

The plurality in Heather Young Architects reflects a simple truth that the firm’s principal and namesake encountered across her three decades designing and erecting buildings.

Architecture is a team career. Projects rely on a collaborative effort between the client, consultants, the building planning department, contractors and Heather’s team of fellow architects, designers, marketers plus one faithful IT guy.

With a degree in architecture from Rice University and a masters of architecture from Yale in 1991, Heather explains that she went through school during the era of the star architect: a lone figure who was entirely responsible for a project. She disrupted this model, choosing to structure a business grounded in collaboration when approaching residential and commercial properties.

Prior to establishing HYA in Palo Alto, she was a partner in Fergus Garber Young Architects (the “Y” in FGY). Heather’s projects on the Peninsula include noted commercial spaces like Equinox Palo Alto, 2555 Park and Palo Alto University Club, along with residential work spanning historic home renovations to cottage retreats. She is a champion of green building, a current member of the AIA San Mateo board and previously served on the architectural review board for the city of Palo Alto.

Heather explains that HYA provides the opportunity to explore a diverse range of projects from commercial, mixed-use, multi-family to single-family homes but that the decision to place her name front and center took convincing. “It was 1,000 drops of water on the stone,” she says. “I’d hate to show you our short list of potential names and logos.”

Launched in January, HYA emerges on the Peninsula as the year’s outlier for creating modern and exquisite architecture that’s easy on both the eyes and environment. PUNCH checked in with Heather to learn about her first year at the helm of her own firm, how commercial architecture is adapting today and the way basketball teams and design teams overlap.

Photography: Courtesy of Miki Duisterhof

You’re in your first year after separating from Fergus Garber Young Architects but it wasn’t a Jerry McGuire moment when he said, ‘Who’s coming with me?!’ –you still have weekly lunches with your former partners.

[Laughs] It was a lot less dramatic than that! HYA’s focus is office, mixed-use, multi-family and residential. My two partners, Daniel Garber and Catharine Fergus Garber (they’re married), and I had a great working relationship for 18 years. We realized that the folks supporting them really wanted to do the single-family homes, and the folks supporting me really wanted to do the mix, the broader spectrum of projects. In order to support our staff, we felt that it was probably a clearer identity to have Fergus Garber FGA and Heather Young HYA become separate entities. But we’re in the same building; we’re downstairs and they’re upstairs.

What is a unique challenge when designing for commercial rather than residential?

You’d be surprised how much they overlap. It’s funny, we’re doing more and more multi-family and I think for a lot of people when they think of multi-family projects, they think of a 400-unit development immediately adjacent to CalTrain. Right now, the biggest multi-family project we’re working on is 116 units and the smallest is two.

Photography: Courtesy of Bernard André Photography

When a business asks you to design their building, do you have free rein to build what you want or is it often the case that they have 90 percent already figured out and you’re applying the final touches?

Rarely is it, ‘We’ve got 90 percent figured out, can you finish it up?’ One of the things we’ve been extremely fortunate to have is a lot of repeat clients. It’s not uncommon to get a call saying that they’re interested in a piece of property—what can they do? We explore different scenarios for them to help envision what the project could be.

We are all thinking about how office space and homes are going to change with response to the pandemic. In an office environment, for the last 15 years, the race has been how can we put more people in less space. I think for a lot of furniture makers who make desking systems, when six feet is your minimum proximity and five feet is a benching standard, does that mean they’re going to change their furniture design? They’re probably asking themselves how to make sexy and inviting sneeze guards between every workstation now.

As a child, you built a dollhouse that had electricity—how was your creativity in home design nurtured?

My mother had a design company when I was in grade school and high school. She was designing and manufacturing a number of home goods lines. There was always a sewing machine active in the house, always a jigsaw going and painting happening in the house. I was not much of a girly-girl who played with dolls (I hated them, actually) but the idea of building something and creating it really appealed to me at a young age.

When I was a kid, my family went to a YMCA open house for a basketball league. We listened to the little spiel and I said, ‘Dad, this sounds pretty cool.’ He asked if I wanted to play and I said, ‘It sounds great but I’m a girl.’ And he said, ‘No no no—do you want to play?’ I said yes. We marched over to the YMCA and he asked, ‘Is there any reason why my daughter can’t sign up?’ I was the only girl in the league and it was very fun. I only stopped playing basketball 10 years ago when I blew out my ACL.

I have to give a lot of credit to my dad, who didn’t let me dismiss a desire solely on the basis of my gender. I think that was a big lesson for a 10-year-old.

Photography: Courtesy of Bernardo Grijalva

Before your ACL accident, were you a point guard, shooting guard or center?

I’m almost six feet tall and I’ve always been the center. I loved playing basketball; it’s a team sport and collaborative. I always felt like the best thing I could do was not necessarily to score, but to see the opportunities and to be the glue that fed the ball to that perfect person. Or provide the screen just at the right moment. And I just loved swatting away the ball.

And that’s what we do in the studio all the time; we’re trying out different approaches and ways of thinking about design, form, material and how they come together to find the right shot.

From a woman’s perspective, how has the architectural field changed over the years?

My profession when I started was much more male-dominated and it’s become much more gender-neutral. Typically, I’ve been in environments where there were, by default, a lot of men. At my first job, I was the first woman in the drafting studio. The partner took me aside and said they still had a dress code and that I had to wear a skirt or dress every day. The next day, he asked me to measure an old warehouse and I had to climb up ladders and get on the roof. I did get a special dispensation to wear pants. It’s a changing world.

You’re known for your scarves. How did you come into possession of your first scarf?

I was always in over-air-conditioned buildings, and it was a survival tactic to stay warm. Over the years, I’ve grown to like the comfort of a nice scarf around my neck. Naturally, you end up with more of them. I’m horrible, I wear them until they’re in shreds with no life left.

Photography: Courtesy of Conroy Tanzer

Emotion of Form

Why do you react “eek” to a spider and “ahh” to a flower? What do you feel when you see a ripple in the water? Why do shapes evoke such an instinctive response? And how do you channel that “emotive language of form” into art?

These are questions Yoko Kubrick ponders every day. “I’m so intrigued by the part of our brain that connects with nature,” she says. “It connects to something deep in you, deeper beyond words, beyond thought.”

On a wooden workbench positioned outside her Woodside home, Yoko expertly wields an Italian air hammer, chiseling away small chunks from a block of Colorado alabaster. Against a backdrop of vibrant bougainvillea, her creative spirit seems to channel the intense vibration of the pneumatic tool, as she permanently imprints her vision into stone. “I’ve tried painting and drawing but I get restless sitting still for so long,” Yoko notes, as she shakes out her hands, which will be numb by the end of a day’s work. “I love the physicality of sculpting; it feels like more of me is going into it.”

Yoko’s quest to discover her own unique form of artistic expression has clearly molded her personal journey. Born on the island of Guam to a Czech father and a Japanese mother, she felt an early connection with sculpture as her childhood transported her between California, Hawaii and the Czech Republic. Through encounters with menacing Tiki figures on Hawaii’s Big Island and terrifying gargoyles at Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral, she gained a fascination for the history of sculpture in human culture. “In the old part of town in Prague, every building actually has a sculpture above it,” she points out. “Sculpture plays such an important part in life.”

After living in San Francisco, Yoko’s formative years brought her to the Peninsula, and she graduated from San Mateo High School. While acknowledging her love of art, her father encouraged her to pursue a more practical field, suggesting that she could still maintain a studio practice on the side. Fascinated by human psychology, Yoko merged her interests with a degree in art therapy, which led to working with kids on the Peninsula and in the East Bay. “One of the reasons art therapy is so successful is that image comes out of our right brain, which is the direct route to your unconscious and subconscious,” she explains. “When we talk, when we speak and form sentences, that comes out of our left brain, the rational side of the brain.”

Throughout her career in art therapy, Yoko continued to expand her knowledge and expertise—whether it was working as a studio assistant for acclaimed sculptor Albert Guibara or studying mold-making at The Crucible in Emeryville, stone carving at Palo Alto’s Pacific Art League and photography through Stanford Continuing Studies. When challenging circumstances prompted soul searching for what comes next, she began exploring the question, “What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Ever passionate about sculpture, Yoko consumed biographies: Barbara Hepworth, Isamu Noguchi, Constantin Brâncuși. “I would think, ‘Oh, look at this! How did they make this?’ And the same town kept coming up—the town of Pietrasanta in Italy,” she recalls. Later, while watching a documentary about painter Caio Fonseca, the dots connected again. She listened as Fonseca talked about drawing inspiration from the Tuscan village of… Pietrasanta: “I thought, ‘This is a sign!’ I have to go to Italy. I felt so strongly that I needed to go there.”

Photography: Courtesy of Zeterre Landscape Architecture / Photographed by Christopher Stark

And it was in Italy that Yoko began to fully discover her artistic voice. “I knew I wanted to do abstract because I was so drawn to abstract work,” she says. “For me, it’s the gap between reality and fantasy; it’s that space that allows for the imagination.” With thoughts already whirling about the natural world (“Why do flowers trigger such feelings of pleasure in us?”), Yoko experienced an epiphany while visiting the Borghese Gallery in Rome. After marvelling at Bernini’s Daphne and Apollo, it all coalesced—nature, mythology and the idea of exploring the psychology of aesthetics, what she refers to as the “emotive language of form.”

The Capture of Persephone. Oceanus. Callisto. Vesta. Artemis. These are just some of the gods and myths that Yoko liberates from blocks of Carrara and Calacatta marble. Khloris, the goddess of flowers, emerges as the abstraction of a flower bud, with flowing curves and a strong stem denoting femininity and strength. Marking the continuous progression of time, Kronos appears as three circular forms merging into each other, an abstract figure sitting on the past and diving forward to consume the future.

After studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara, Yoko transitioned into a back-and-forth routine—working from her Pietrasanta studio and then returning to her home studio in Woodside. She also aligned with a professional studio in Pietrasanta, where she taps into Italy’s rich sculpture heritage. “They really sit down with the artist and help them figure out how to execute their projects,” she says, citing her appreciation for the local artigiani. “They have a vast array of large tools and machines that work on a compressor; they have giant saws and drills and things that mill. There’s no way I can do all of that here.”

The fact that Yoko is currently working with softer, easier-to-carve alabaster in Woodside—rather than Carrara marble in Pietrasanta—is a sign of the shifting times. With the current travel restrictions, Yoko set her mind to reframing the situation, viewing it as an opportunity rather than a setback. “I could bring stone here,” she realized, and blocks of Colorado and Spanish alabaster now line her driveway, waiting to be transformed under the artist’s eye. “It’s my first time working in alabaster,” she reveals, as she presses her iPhone’s flashlight against a Spanish slab to demonstrate its qualities. “It’s so translucent, the light will pass through it.”   

2019 brought a flurry of career highlights, including the installation of a commissioned public work, Tides, at San Francisco State University, the creation of six sculptures for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, coverage by Architectural Digest and even a profile in The New York Times Magazine. Yoko describes it as “a cross of luck, drive, wish and serendipity” and was anticipating another momentous year ahead. With exhibits and travel plans now sidelined, she is exploring new themes and projects, while preparing to showcase Nymphaeum/Shell Abstraction at September’s Silicon Valley Sculpture 2020 art fair at Menlo College. And while Yoko is eager to return to Pietrasanta, she also recognizes the complementary blend of her two chosen geographies.

“Italy is grounded in tradition, with its exquisite heritage dedicated to crafts and to beauty,” she reflects, eyeing the next chisel position on the block of alabaster. “All of Silicon Valley is art. Art is breaking out of the old and coming up with a new idea—we have permission to make our dreams come true here.”

Photography: Courtesy of Natalie Schrik

Back on TRAC

When FitTRAC Coaching owner C.J. Easter looks back, he can clearly see how his focus, agility and drive transformed into what he does now—helping others stay accountable with their health and fitness goals. C.J. and his younger brother Kenneth grew up competing in sports in their Foster City backyard. As C.J. acknowledges, “We probably played more tackle football than my mom would have liked.” The brothers had everything they needed to build their athletic skills: a grass lawn, basketball hoop and each other.

Already a fast kid, C.J. added a new component to his athletic ability in high school. “I spurted up around my sophomore year; I kept my athleticism and got bigger,” he recalls. The San Mateo High School Sports Hall of Famer played football, basketball and baseball while excelling in academics. Named Academic Athlete of the Year as a junior, he graduated valedictorian of his class.

When it came to playing college-level football, C.J. chased his dream of becoming a Stanford Cardinal. Stanford coaches expressed interest in C.J.’s athletic ability, but ultimately he was accepted on academics and subsequently invited to participate on the team as a walk-on player in 2005. “I had to hustle, scrap and grind to get myself on the field any way possible,” says C.J. of his time playing cornerback on the Cardinal roster.

As a freshly-minted Stanford grad, C.J. started his own sports performance training camp in 2009. The camp focused on speed training to help student athletes run faster and jump higher, but C.J. found it difficult to coordinate around school and sports season schedules. Just when he was questioning whether his camp was sustainable, the unexpected happened: the parents of the kids C.J. trained asked to be trained as well.

C.J. subleased a gymnastics studio and began offering training for adults, packaged as high-intensity workouts to help transform body weight. Success encouraged him to replicate the training in four locations: Burlingame, Redwood City, Menlo Park and Santa Clara. As the business expanded, C.J. built up his core team, bringing on his brother Kenneth, Darren Moore and John Mack.

C.J. also honed the overarching FitTRAC mission, encompassing training, recovery & nutrition coaching, accountability and community support. Attracting a range of clients—with an emphasis on women between 40-60—FitTRAC’s coaching component comes in the form of motivational and individual support. “The gap that needs to be closed is someone holding you accountable to do it when it’s hard and when life tries to get in the way,” C.J. notes. “Our coaches want to see clients succeed, and not only that, their peers want to see them succeed. We try to rally our community together and make it something bigger than just fitness or going to the gym—it’s like a second family.”

Each FitTRAC client works with a personal exercise coach who teaches fundamental movements and adapts the program to the appropriate fitness level. The coaching includes a personalized nutrition and lifestyle program, geared to tackling unhealthy habits and working toward a realistic goal. “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet,” C.J. points out.

When the pandemic started making news, C.J. and his team anticipated the shelter-in-place order and quickly pivoted to move coaching sessions online. FitTRAC only missed a half-day of training sessions during the transition, and C.J. was gratified to see the majority of clients staying on. “I think we had 75 of our clients on that first initial training session,” C.J. says. “It almost brought tears to my eyes. It was something completely brand-new, and we didn’t know what to expect.”

During FitTRAC’s two-way online group sessions, multiple coaches participate, explaining the exercises, keeping everyone motivated and correcting form.

As health and social justice issues surfaced this year, the FitTRAC family banded together to make a positive difference. Through various initiatives, including a 14-day At-Home Challenge, FitTRAC raised contributions for struggling small businesses, Second Harvest Food Bank and FitTRAC Coaching scholarships for Black women.

FitTRAC’s swift move to virtual coaching sessions is helping boost accessibility—whether it’s new members migrating over from shut-down gyms or former clients living out of the area logging on to reunite with their FitTRAC family. Recruits are even showing up from Southern California, and C.J. is looking to expand throughout the entire state. And while he looks forward to the full reopening of FitTRAC’s physical locations, he sees virtual training becoming a permanent part of FitTRAC’s business model. “It’s convenient,” C.J. says, which translates into clients working out more often. “There’s no traffic, there’s no gym drive time, they get out of bed, turn on their computer and they are working out.”

For those who haven’t found an exercise rhythm yet or who have fallen into unhealthy habits, C.J. advises to be mindful of the current stresses in life. “Be understanding of yourself,” he says. “Just add incremental changes you can stick with to get some positive momentum going and then start to add onto that a little bit at a time.”

Carmel Valley’s Charms

Carmel Valley, just a little over 10 miles inland from Carmel-by-the-Sea, is often overlooked as a Monterey County getaway. But a recent three-day visit revealed its many charms.

The area was once Rancho Los Laureles, a 6,625-acre Mexican land grant given by Governor Juan Alvarado in 1839 to José M. Boronda and Vicente Blas Martínez, extending along the Carmel River.

It changed hands over the years as landowners sold large and small parcels, but a major development effort followed World War II when two brothers created the Airway Village. They planned to sell airplane hangars, and when that venture failed, they sold ranch-style homes instead, in what was to become Carmel Valley Village.

What did thrive was wine grapes, and the Valley was designated as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983. A surprise to many, there are more tasting rooms in Carmel Valley than any other area of Monterey County, mostly notably, Bernardus, Folktale, I. Brand and Joyce.

Photography: Courtesy of Bernardus Lodge & Spa

Enjoy luxury at the Bernardus Lodge & Spa

Vineyards greeted us as we pulled into the Bernardus Lodge & Spa. We’d heard that namesake Bernardus “Ben” Pon was an avid sports car racer who competed in the Dutch Grand Prix, and we couldn’t help but imagine how he handled the twisty turns of the Los Laureles grade that descends into Carmel Valley adjacent to the Lodge.

Born in the Netherlands, Pon became interested in wine when his interest in racing waned. Discovering Carmel Valley, he believed that the area and climate were perfect for making the Bordeaux-style wines he loved. He opened Bernardus Winery in 1989 along with the area’s first tasting room.

The 57-room Bernardus Lodge & Spa opened in 1999; the original 57 rooms were remodeled in 2015 and 14 villas were added in 2016. The onsite vineyard, named Ingrid’s Vineyard after Pon’s wife, was planted when the Lodge was being built.

Photography: Courtesy of Bernardus Lodge & Spa

Pon died in 2019 after selling the Lodge five years earlier but keeping the winery. “He accomplished so much that his obituary requires footnotes, photos, detailed diagrams and addendums,” wrote Mike Hale in the Monterey Herald. “He was ‘the most interesting man in the world’ before Dos Equis turned that quip into marketing gold.”

Pon’s legacy, his zest for life and his attention to detail permeate the property today.

Checking in, we entered our room in the Santa Lucia section of the 28-acre property. It’s large, beautifully appointed and stocked with complimentary Bernardus wine. But that’s not what got the travelling spouse’s attention. “Look,” he exclaimed. “There are two luggage racks!”

Think about it. How many luxury resorts—or hotels for that matter—have you entered carrying two suitcases, only to find one luggage rack? It’s that kind of attention to detail that sets the Bernardus Lodge apart.

The rooms with fireplaces and balconies beg for settling in, but the property is designed for roaming. The expansive manicured lawn features both bocce ball and croquet, along with a putting green. The large swimming pool, we learn, is the one holdover from the somewhat rundown roadhouse that Pon purchased. Think of it as a gift from another era given its length and depth.

Executive Chef Cal Stamenov, who oversees the Lucia Restaurant & Bar, has been with the Lodge since it opened. Seasonal meals spring from the property’s two acres of organic fruits and vegetables, honeybee hives and over 150 fruit trees, along with a half-dozen chicken breeds supplying eggs.

Photography: Courtesy of Bernardus Lodge & Spa

Meals are currently served al fresco on the main patio and the inviting front patio. A cozy Chef’s Table is in the kitchen with initials of its many visitors carved into the surrounding wall, Julia Child among them. Fall special dining experiences include the annual Heirloom Tomato Lunch in September and the Bernardus Tribute Dinner in November.

While we didn’t take advantage of any of the spa services nor the tennis courts, we can endorse the Bernardus Lodge as a bucolic escape to relax and unwind while eating and drinking, especially given the 30-page wine list.

Go hiking or play some golf

Sunny Carmel Valley with summer/fall temperatures in the mid to high 70s makes it a great outdoor destination.

The jewel of the Valley is dog-friendly Garland Ranch Regional Park. Established in 1975 when Southern California businessman William Garland sold 540 acres of his weekend “ranch” at a bargain price, it now encompasses almost 3,500 acres, offering options for hikers at all levels on over 50 miles of trails shared with equestrians. Note: Cyclists are only permitted on the 144-acre Coop Ranch Addition.

It’s possible to take a nice level stroll along the willow-covered banks of the Carmel River, which is a popular inner tube destination for families. But for ambitious hikers, the payoff is the 360-degree views from atop the Santa Lucia Mountains.

That was our choice on New Year’s Day a few years ago. It remains among the steepest hikes that we’ve ever done, gaining 1,600 feet in 1.3 miles up the Saddle Trail. Descending was also a challenge with the first half-mile on the Veeder Trail very steep and the second half-mile a bit less so. With the out and back along the Carmel River, it’s 4.75 miles total.

Photography: Courtesy of Dennis Nugent

On our recent visit, we opted for an uphill hike following the Buckeye Trail, which includes a very good signed nature trail, before intersecting with the Mesa Trail upward to Mesa Pond. We headed down the Waterfall Trail, knowing we were unlikely to see the waterfall in the summer months. The plus: It’s a particularly pretty trail. Total distance is 4.75 miles.

The Park’s brochure cites it as the home to a variety of birds and mammals. We saw some of the former and none of the latter, but the big excitement came when I walked into one of the porta-potties installed at the currently closed Visitors Center. Greeting me was a California kingsnake, which I’m told are fairly rare and that I am “very lucky” to encounter one. The somewhat snake-phobic me did not think so, although I did have the presence of mind to snap a photo.

The golfing spouse encountered no reptiles playing 18 holes at the Pete Dye-designed Carmel Valley Ranch golf course, which opened in 1981 and was redone 10 years ago. It’s a members and resort course with a use agreement with the NCGA that provides a discount on playing fees.

“It’s a par 70, so it’s not particularly long, although a bit challenging,” he reports. “What makes it interesting is that the front and back nine are totally different experiences.” Holes are spread out, he adds, so unless you are a serious walker, especially on the back nine, carts are definitely encouraged.

Visit noted glass artist at Masaoka Glass Design

Glass artist Alan Masaoka’s studio is in Carmel Valley, although his roots are on the Peninsula where he was a classmate of ours at Menlo-Atherton High School.

Becoming an artist was not his goal initially. “My mother always said, ‘You don’t want to be an artist because you’ll never make any money,’” he recalls. Heeding his mother, he studied to be a pilot at the College of San Mateo until he discovered that flying made him dizzy.

No longer in school and with the Vietnam War raging, Alan joined VISTA, a national service program. He trained in Denver before serving in Appalachia. Returning to the Bay Area, he married a local woman and they ended up in Seattle.

“I got caught up in the glass art movement led by Dale Chihuly, who became my mentor,” he says. “I studied with him along with probably the best glass designers in the world. I opened a glass studio accepting commissions for private homes and public art. There were probably more glass artists in Seattle than Murano, Italy, at the time!”

Photography: Courtesy of Masoka Glass Design

Eventually settling in Carmel Valley, Alan creates stained glass art that is contemporary rather than traditional. “When I started showing in galleries, I set up in an unconventional manner, putting port-holes into walls that when looked through, would reveal my glass windows back-lit,” he says.

One notable recent commission was a piece for San Francisco General Hospital called River of Time. “Quite often, I walk along the Carmel River, and it occurred to me that water, with its healing effect, would be perfect for the hospital.” Alan crafted the hand-blown glass with that in mind. “The light comes through the glass and reflects upon the floor,” he says, “so patients and their families can have the experience of walking through water.”

We encourage a visit to Alan’s studio/gallery (13766 Center Street, Suite G2) for a friendly chat and to see what he’s working on. Back on the Peninsula, if you stroll down Vine Street in Menlo Park, you may spot one of his pieces gracing a fellow M-A grad’s home

Diary of a Dog: Brando

If you’ve got anything to say to me, I’m all ears! My name is Brando and I’m a Berger Picard, also known as a Picardy Shepherd. You can spot a Berger Picard a mile away thanks to our erect ears that stand four to five inches tall. We also have dark eyes and tons of facial hair. Some say our shaggy eyebrows, beards and mustaches make us look like true Frenchmen. Although I was born in Wyoming, my rare breed originates from the French region of Picardie, which is what caught the interest of my family. I live with Nathalie, Cyrille, Felix, Sebastian and Elvis the cat, and Nathalie was born in Picardie, so we share a common trait. (Although her ears aren’t nearly as big as mine!) My family knows that I’m very intelligent, but sometimes I make it difficult for them because I like to throw in my ideas on what I should be doing. I’m a very independent dog and I’m stealthy as well. Every night I sneak into a room, steal a shoe or sock and leave it in the middle of our living room. Just because. When I’m not snoozing on my back at home, my family and I love to hike Pulgas Ridge together. They keep me well exercised, which is exactly how Berger Picards like it. If I’m not hiking, then you’ll find me being happily chased by other dogs at my playgroup, which is aptly named “For Sniffs and Giggles.” Follow me @Brando_Le_Berger_Picard on Instagram to keep up with my adventures on the Peninsula.

Working on the Railroad

The lonely beige building at the south end of the Menlo Park Caltrain parking lot holds a secret. Its plain white windows are covered from the inside. An unassuming green placard on the front door is the only hint as to what lies within. “Welcome to the West Bay Model Railway Association,” reads the sign in plain yellow type.

Typically, this door is only open to the public on the second Saturday of the month, when the club reveals its masterpiece: a double-decker model train layout in a 1,200-square-foot room. Complete with bustling cities, pristine farmlands and cascading rivers, the layout mimicks the scenery actual rail passengers view every day as they traverse the country. Every detail is accounted for, down to the individual building windows portraying vignettes of everyday life.

“You want to hide these little Easter eggs so that they surprise people,” says Mark Drury, WBMRA member and manager of its website. “That’s part of the joy of the hobby; when you create something this involved, people can see the layout 20 times but when they visit the 21st time, they see something they didn’t notice at first. Those are sprinkled all over the layout.”

The immense detail in the layout reflects the unadulterated passion that WBMRA members have for model trains. Since 1947, the club’s layout has united adult model train enthusiasts living on the Peninsula. For some, model trains are nothing more than a passing childhood hobby. But the 85 WBMRA members remain staunchly committed to the craft.

“Trains are there no matter where you are: big city, small city or out in the country,” says Clyde King, club president. “Having this building was sort of a draw for people, because you have a fixed place to go to.”

The association’s older members saw the Peninsula at the height of its railway hub days as a part of the Northwest Pacific Railway. Clyde remembers growing up in Menlo Park during the transition era, when both steam and diesel train engines shared the tracks from the 1930s to 1950s.

Clyde explains that model train enthusiasts are particularly drawn to replicating that era in layouts, as they can mix steam and diesel engines while preserving historic integrity.

“I want to model what I see,” he says. “People sort of grow up in a certain time—I was a transition guy. I saw the last of steam and the beginning of diesel. I saw 40-foot, 50-foot box cars, short tankers and all that.”

Clyde is a builder at heart, and joined the club in 1967 because it gave a purpose to his building. Not only will Clyde customize model train cars built from a kit, he also constructs and paints his own train cars from scratch.

“If something looks interesting to me, I don’t care what timeframe it is, I’ll build it,” Clyde says. “To me it’s art.”

Clyde also initiated the club’s layout redesign six years ago. He notes that the old layout was visually appealing, but it lacked the operational capabilities of the new layout seen today.

“It was a Christmas tree layout,” he says, dismissively.

Mark Drury adjusts the station house.

The “highlight of the hobby,” as Mark puts it, and the main activities for the WBMRA are the club’s operating sessions, where members team up to complete tasks on the layout as if they were in charge of a real train. One shift during a session might involve dropping off lumber, picking up passengers or exchanging oil tank cars for box cars on a side track.

“There is some competition,” Mark reveals. “It goes unspoken a lot of the time, but sometimes if we finish our shift an hour before another team, and clearly we did a better job, we may lord it over the other team if we’re feeling like it.”

These operating sessions also demonstrate how high-tech the hobby has become. The club uses custom software to allocate specific train cars for each operating session. The trains are remote-
controlled with devices that resemble TV remotes—only with three times the amount of buttons. The control room section of the club houses a maze of wires and electrical boxes. Many WBMRA members have day jobs in tech, so this kind of planning is second nature.

“A lot of people would think it’s an old man’s hobby,” says Mark, who works in the technology sector himself. “Our membership is pretty well mixed and diverse. We have young people all the way through retirees.”

Clyde King uses a remote to run the trains.

The WBMRA has several members in their twenties, an encouraging sign for what some might presume is a dying hobby. Mark takes pride in seeing the generations of families visiting during the club’s open houses. Seeing how people bring both their grandparents and their children reminds him of the universal appeal of model trains.

“It’s really fun to be a part of that and to reminisce,” he says.

Clyde and Mark both refer to their model train involvement as a hobby. But seeing Clyde, Mark and the rest of the WBMRA membership’s obsessive commitment, one would be excused for thinking this was a full-time job.

“It’s an escape from reality,” Clyde says. “I think that’s what hobbies are for, anyway.”

Perfect Shot: Byrne Open Space Preserve

Nestled within a hillside in Los Altos Hills, the 55-acre Byrne Open Space Preserve offers a spacious pastoral setting with grazing horses, a barn complex, huge California oak trees and gorgeous sunset views. Photographer Tom Wagenbrenner captured this Perfect Shot while scouting potential compositions during a particularly vibrant late afternoon golden hour. “I really liked the way the trees framed the barn area,” he recalls, “but only when the sun dropped into the trees, creating the lens flare and filtered sun rays, did it feel like the scene really started to pop.”

Image Courtesy of Tom Wagenbrenner /

Making of a Maverick

It was a few minutes after 5PM on October 17, 1989, when Jeff Clark, the Half Moon Bay local who’s often found in the water, had a hunch that led him to surf his first wave on the pavement.

He was rolling up power cords following a carpentry job in Atherton when his instincts kicked in, as they do when he’s straddling his surfboard waiting for his ride behind the wave breaks.

“My feet are sensors, like the rail of a surfboard,” Jeff explains. “I feel it coming and I say to my friend Mark: ‘Earthquake!’ His car started jumping side to side, literally doing the moonwalk down the street. We’re standing on the street with waves moving us.”

After the seismic shift, Jeff and Mark raced over to the 40-foot brick wall they had recently completed expecting the worst, but it was fully intact. Not-so-lucky brick gate pillars and fences lay splattered across the street. The Bay Area emerged from the Loma Prieta earthquake as Jeff, the big wave rider, dashed west on Highway 92 back to home, back to the ocean.

Photography: Courtesy of Jay Headley

A lifetime in the water bred an intuition with the natural world that’s provided Jeff with a holistic perspective. It exudes from his casual demeanor, softened by the ocean-blue eyes he reveals after removing his Oakley shades.

Seated outside one of his two surf shops in Half Moon Bay during a recent hazy afternoon, Jeff produces a half-eaten stick of beef jerky from his pocket and peels the plastic back. He was already in the water that morning and after checking the weather report (by analyzing and peering into the ocean), he’s considering a few more hours before suppertime.

Jeff symbolically exists within the fray between the ocean and the land but he’s the first to tell you that life is not some beach.

“I am extremely open to insight through impression and being in tune with one’s presence and body. We know what’s going on all around us but we just don’t have conscious access to that power. The more you work on the other, the more available it becomes,” he says, before turning his attention to the sea.

“There are times out at Mavericks when I’ve been in situations and I can’t tell you why, but I just start paddling. Then 30 seconds later, when I’m on the wave, that’s when I can tell you why. There are things that if you open up to the possibility of intention or foreseeing, it’s there.”

Photography: Courtesy of Laurence Beck

It is perhaps similar to how there are certain people who become so entwined with their geographical areas that their presence is constantly present, like a fog horn hidden behind the blinding August brume.

Jeff is eternally linked to Mavericks, the world-famous surfing spot outside Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay that he’s credited with establishing. However, he’s quick to shift credit of its discovery to his childhood Little League coach Walt von Hauffe, who would take Jeff and his teammates out to the Point to ride small waves. If Walt introduced Jeff to Mavericks, then it was Jeff who shared the massive wave breaks with the masses.

Jeff is the oldest of four, born to parents who met at a church picnic at the beach in Half Moon Bay. His father and grandfather are carpenters (his grandfather was the president of the carpenter’s union in Redwood City) and Jeff continues the craftsman tradition, designing surf equipment like a specialized life jacket for surviving big wave blowouts and cutting-edge prototypes for fins and boards. In the past, he was a union carpenter by week and would shape boards on the weekends.

Jeff’s inaugural run on Mavericks is now the stuff of local lore: In 1975, when he was 17 and about to graduate from Half Moon Bay High School, Jeff paddled out to Mavericks along with a friend who hung back, famously telling Jeff he would, “Call the Coast Guard and tell them where I last saw you” if disaster struck.

Jeff surfed, returned to shore and would ride Mavericks by himself for the next 15 years before surfers worldwide caught wind and began pilgrimages to Half Moon Bay for their chance at the breaks.

Mavericks is legendary for having the largest waves in California, due in part to unique underwater rock formations and ideal weather conditions. During the winter season, after a strong storm in the northern Pacific Ocean produces a reckonable force of energy, waves at Mavericks can tower up to 60 feet.

“You don’t go against it—you ask, ‘How can I play with this dragon?’” Jeff expounds and points to a nearby telephone pole for height reference. “It’s unreal; you take all of your knowledge and training and then test it in that one moment. You’re never more alive or in the moment than when you hit your feet on a giant wave.”

Photography: Courtesy of Jay Headley

Jeff organized a big wave, invitation-only contest from 1999 to 2016 called Titans of Mavericks. Competitors from Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Santa Cruz and beyond would race to Half Moon Bay each winter as soon as Jeff signaled the 48-hour heads-up that the waves were reaching ideal conditions. The last event was held in February 2016 after the World Surf League took over but Jeff has every intention of returning by himself later this year when the winter winds return.

The image of Jeff surfing Mavericks is immortalized on a mural outside Cunha’s Country Store in downtown Half Moon Bay. The big wave appears throughout the community; turn right onto Princeton Avenue en route to the Point and even the architecture of a newly constructed apartment resembles a barreling wave. Such an inundation of symbology is not lost on its pioneer.

“Now it’s a cliché thing to call your business ‘Mavericks,’” Jeff says of his hometown. “Everybody wants to call themselves ‘Mavericks Beer.’ It’s just funny to watch people jump on the bandwagon and have Mavericks be their call tag.”

He cracks a smile, flashing great white teeth. “I should get 10 cents for each use,” Jeff says in jest.

At age 63, Jeff sets the bell curve for what a sexagenarian can physically accomplish and endure. Scroll through his Instagram and you’ll find clips of him enjoying his latest passion: windfoiling, similar to windsurfing but using a surfboard with a hydrofoil extending beneath the board that causes it to hover over the water’s surface. It’s the latest in a long lineage of surface water sports and Jeff has spent the last few years mastering it.

“First there was surfing then windsurfing then kitesurfing, kite foiling and then stand-up paddleboarding came along. Now people started putting foils on surfboards to try to ride waves,” he muses. “When you’re using the wind, you’re independent of the water. A lifetime in the water has helped me to know where that energy is. It’s learned.”

Back at the surf shop, a young customer strolls in searching for specialized T-nuts used in a foilboard. The patron asks if Jeff has been out on his board recently. It’s small talk but there’s nothing short when talking Mavericks.

“I went out to Rio Vista yesterday—have you done the wing thing yet? The small wings…” Jeff’s voice dissolves as the two disappear into the store.

In the lot behind the shop, the white masts of a Laser sailing dinghy beat endlessly against the wind while the bay’s fog horn blasts from a distance. It’s the heartbeat of Half Moon Bay, repeating every eight seconds, and the bellowed blow, like a royal fanfare trumpet, accompanies Jeff throughout the motions of his day.

Out of the Kitchen

Two of my best friends and I came up from Claremont McKenna College to go to graduate school at Stanford: Jeff Nelson in engineering, Mark Stott in journalism and me at the business school. Jeff found us a sweet three-bedroom home on Waverley Street in downtown Palo Alto. And there we were, three 22-year-olds, all set for a great experience living independently for the first time, except that we had no idea how to feed ourselves.

Since I had gone to Andover prior to Claremont, I’d been running a tray down a food line for a good part of my life, taking the slop that was given, most of it rarely rising to the level of edibility. Perhaps that is why food meant little to me; maybe after all those years of mediocrity and endless peanut butter sandwiches and little boxes of stolen cereal, I just lost interest.

After my first couple of weeks on Waverley living off of Trix and Captain Crunch, I discovered the food that would become my staple: Top Ramen. Back then, you could get 10 for a dollar at Safeway. It hasn’t gone up in price too much since then and the taste hasn’t changed either. The boys and I agreed that one night of the week we would take turns making a real meal for the three of us, and that we would sit down and eat together in proper fashion.

Now sometimes, the definition of that “real meal” got a bit iffy and the person cooking that night might be called out. Inevitably, the one called out would be me for making something like plain spaghetti while putting two types of bottled Ragu sauce on the table. But Mark and Jeff would make excellent meals, proud of their work, and we ate well on their nights. Of course, just being 22, at Stanford and on our own was really all we needed to feel great about the world, good food or not.

Once a week or so we might order a pizza or go downtown to grab some food, but most of the nights, I lived on Top Ramen or cold cereal. There were days when I had cereal and milk for all three meals, and that was just fine with me. Since I have a strong aversion to cooking, boiling the water for Top Ramen and stirring in the packet of flavoring was at my limit.

Fortunately for me, after Stanford I moved in with the woman who would become my wife, and she loved to cook, so for many years I was off the hook. I ate well. But after the kids grew up and she dove into a demanding career, it was once again my job to make sure that I ate enough calories every day.

So I’m back to my Stanford days, trying to figure out how to feed myself, still detesting the idea of doing more in a kitchen than boiling water. I have tried a few items to cook and not only do I find the process endlessly unappealing and torturous, I’m bad at it. I guess that would be the expected result of doing something you detest. Ironically, all four of my children love to cook, proving that this must not be a gene-related matter.

My goal in feeding myself is to get something palatable in a bowl in the shortest amount of time. And thus the reemergence of the ever-delicious Top Ramen. I buy it by the caseload and have it three or four nights a week. I know, I know. Way too much sodium. But two minutes of boiling the water and two minutes of cooking, and, voila! Dinner.

I used to make salads several nights each week and ate the same salad for ten years, but finally my tolerance for it plummeted. I have found a rather painless new way to eat decently. Trader Joe’s has these wonderful bags of cut-up vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (all of which I love). I put a bag of these into the microwave with a frozen TV dinner like Fettuccini Alfredo (amazingly, always on sale for something like “5 for $10”), and five minutes later I pull them out, mix them into a bowl and I’ve got a somewhat edible dinner.

I realize that I’m not an evolved food person. I like routine and consistency far too much. Change is an anathema to me, and I hate leaving my comfort zone. I know that I’m missing out on a lot of great food and accepting a certain melancholy mediocrity because of these traits, but if you have them, you understand how hard it is to escape them.

So as I settle in with my ten-thousandth bowl of steaming Top Ramen, the TV tuned to Jeopardy, I sit savoring the delicious flavor and the soft noodles, happy in the sameness that gives me comfort and fills my stomach. And keeps me out of the kitchen.

Landmark: Gamble Garden

Gamble Garden was previously easy to overlook. Driving by on Embarcadero Road, the Palo Alto garden was hidden by an assortment of trees and a short green fence. Since 2019, a new watershed garden at the corner of Embarcadero and Waverley by designer Richard Hayden invites visitors into the little patch of horticultural paradise—2.5 acres, to be precise. The Edwardian-style house, where Gamble Garden is located, was built in 1902 and was once home to Edwin Gamble, the son of the co-founder of consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. The three-story house was constructed for $6,039—the equivalent of about $180,000 today. Elizabeth Frances Gamble, one of Edwin Gamble’s four children and only daughter, returned home after attending college and discovered her passion for gardening. Upon her death in 1981, Elizabeth left the Gamble property to the City of Palo Alto. Today, over 300 volunteers continue to nurture the estate, where many families, artists and even dogs visit every day. Be sure to wander each path in the garden—there are plenty of hidden gems. Visiting is free. Check for updated guidance and hours.

No Drinking Allowed! Prohibition on the Peninsula

While 2020 will be remembered for introducing a pandemic lexicon all its own, look back 100 years and the local talk ran to rum runners, prohis, bootleggers, speakeasies and moonshine. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 18th Amendment becoming law, banning “the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” From 1920 to 1933, the wild and unruly Prohibition Era profoundly impacted life across the U.S. With the help of the San Mateo County Historical Association, PUNCH turns back the clock—capturing the lingo, the local legends and the lawlessness—to better understand how this infamous period played out on the Peninsula.

Caper (slang): A robbery or other criminal act.  

While the 18th Amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale and transportation of “intoxicating liquors,” the ownership and home consumption of alcohol was still legal. Peninsula residents had the year between the ratification of the amendment and when it went into effect on January 16, 1920, to purchase a supply of alcohol to enjoy when the country went “dry.” The millionaires of the area made sure the wine cellars of their great estates were fully stocked. A portion of W. M.

Fitzhugh’s Menlo Park cellar included 141 cases of imported whiskey and 68 cases of wine, brandy and champagne.

The Ocean Beach Hotel, Miramar

What is now the Miramar Beach Restaurant was originally designed and built as a Prohibition speakeasy—complete with revolving kitchen cabinets and other secret compartments for hiding illegal liquor. The upstairs of the Ocean Beach Hotel served as the Bordello. Running the show was a red-headed madam named Maymie Cowley, aka “Boss,” and the roadhouse was raided numerous times for illegal liquor, gambling and prostitution.

When Prohibition started, thieves met the demand for alcohol by “capers” burglarizing the wealthy. In late February 1920, S. W. Morehead lost two cases of gin, two cases of whiskey and 10 gallons of wine from his Portola Valley home. Posing as laundry wagon drivers and gas meter readers, one gang stole $20,000 worth of liquor in the first six weeks of Prohibition. In a famous caper, a gang of nine robbers held Julien Hart’s Menlo Park household at gunpoint for several hours on March 2, 1922. One robber told a hostage, “We believe that this liquor should be put in general distribution, so that everybody gets a chance at it, and not let the rich have it all to themselves.”

As Prohibition continued, robbers targeted more than the wealthy. Hijackers stole alcohol seized by law enforcement agents and hooch smuggled by bootleggers. In December 1924, a Pescadero gang stole a $20,000 cache of whiskey hidden by bootleggers. The bootleggers invaded Pescadero and roughed up the residents until the missing liquor was found.

Courtesy of the San Mateo County Historical Association

On the Lam (slang): Evading the police.

“San Mateo County is the most corrupt county in the state.” This assertion from the Hillsborough mobster Sam Termini in the 1930s reflected years of Peninsula residents disregarding laws on alcohol and gambling. The 18th Amendment made the manufacture and sale of liquor illegal. Enforcement was difficult in San Mateo County where large parts of the European immigrant population believed drinking was a right. Other residents viewed Prohibition as an opportunity to make money or have some fun. Women joined the men drinking, smoking and gambling in illegal speakeasies or bars. Rum runners used the foggy coast to smuggle Canadian whiskey from off-shore ships. Throughout the county, everyday folk made moonshine.

The National Prohibition Act, known as the Volstead Act, made the Bureau of Internal Revenue of the Treasury Department responsible for the enforcement of Prohibition. The Treasury Department’s Prohibition Enforcement Unit had about 3,000 agents nationwide. They were known as “prohis.” In San Mateo County, these agents patrolled the beaches watching for rum runners and raiding stills. The Prohibition Enforcement Act, known as the Wright Act, made California police officers responsible for enforcing Prohibition laws. Many local police departments were small and not prepared for the demands of Prohibition. For example, South San Francisco had only four officers to police a community of 3,000 people. Despite numerous raids, the county was considered one of the “wettest” in the state.

SS Palo Alto, Aptos

Visitors to the Seacliff State Beach fishing pier near Aptos are always intrigued by the mostly-submerged remnants (now artificial reef) of the SS Palo Alto, a concrete tanker built during World War I. In 1930, the retired vessel was transformed into a docked party boat known as “The Ship,” with a casino and cabaret above deck—and one of Santa Cruz County’s most notorious speakeasies down below. Big bands of the day, including Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, played in The Ship’s Rainbow Ballroom.

Moonshiner (slang): One who makes homemade alcohol.

The 18th Amendment prohibited the manufacture of alcohol. All over the Peninsula, residents disregarded this law. Some European immigrants saw no need to discontinue making the beverages they were used to drinking. At a time when legitimate jobs paid 25 dollars a week, some found the money to be made by moonshining to be appealing. An experienced moonshiner could make a gallon of whiskey for 70 cents and get a return of 50 dollars at a speakeasy. Small distilleries flourished. Most were found in the basements of private homes. It was easy to get started as a moonshiner. Recipes could be found at local libraries. Ingredients such as grapes, hops, sugar, barley and yeast could be purchased in stores. Local newspapers advertised where one could buy equipment such as steam boilers, condensers and copper pipe needed for a still. Larger stills were hidden on farms or in local businesses.

During a 1924 raid on a San Bruno area ranch, the prohis uncovered a wholesale moonshine plant that possessed 5,000 gallons of mash and a double distillery that produced 125 gallons a day. In 1931, authorities discovered that the J. R. Soda Works in South San Francisco operated one of the biggest distilleries in California. Owned by the South San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, a spur line to the Southern Pacific Railroad was built at the factory’s loading ramp, which allowed it to supply alcohol to most of the Western states.

Some moonshiners were less skilled than others. Inexperience in production could lead to moonshine that was dangerous to one’s health. In 1921, Harold Johnson brought suit against three Portola Valley moonshiners claiming that their grappa had caused him a temporary loss of eyesight.

Moonshiners discovered that improperly run stills exploded. In 1928, a barn was destroyed when a 600-gallon still exploded in El Granada. Explosions such as that one drew the attention of authorities, leading to the confiscation of liquor, mash and equipment.

Rum runner (slang): A person bringing prohibited alcohol across borders.

With American wineries and distilleries officially closed, people saw a chance to make a fortune by smuggling alcohol. Rum runners filled their ships with whatever alcohol was in demand, especially Canadian whiskey. Many of the rum runners that anchored along the San Mateo County Coastside came from British Columbia. United States jurisdiction extended three miles, and later twelve miles, from shore. Large ships with illegal whiskey would anchor just outside the jurisdiction area on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coast, forming Rum Rows. From the Rum Row off San Mateo County, the alcohol was unloaded into coastal boats.

Some Coastside residents incorporated rum running in their daily jobs. One El Granada fisherman remembered taking his boat out in the afternoon to meet a small freighter that could carry 100 cases of alcohol from Canada. He could order a load of whatever he wanted—vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon or Old Crow—and be back to El Granada with his load in three hours. Often, the coastal boats landed in secluded coves. Bootleggers paid Coastside boys $100 to unload boats and load the bootleg onto trucks. While some of the liquor went directly to Coastside speakeasies, much more of it went to San Francisco.

Dry Times in Palo Alto   

When it comes to the prohibition of alcohol, the city of Palo Alto holds the Peninsula’s “driest” honors. Back in 1886, when Leland and Jane Stanford set out to found a university, they approached the town of Mayfield (now the area of Palo Alto’s California Avenue) about closing its saloons. After being turned down, they founded their own dry college city, Palo Alto (including downtown University Avenue), which legally banned all intoxicating liquors within a mile and a half of campus. Mayfield kept the liquor flowing, only to be annexed by Palo Alto in 1925. Up until, through and even after Prohibition ended, Palo Alto stayed the course—with the local government forbidding the sale of alcoholic beverages. In the 1930s, nearby East Palo Alto in San Mateo County stepped up to meet demand, and the area was nicknamed “Whiskey Gulch” by Stanford students who frequented its popular liquor stores and bars. The 1.5-mile ban officially stayed on the books for decades—and it wasn’t until 1971 that downtown Palo Alto served its first legal cocktail.

The Coast Guard was responsible for catching rum runners by sea, but only two Coast Guard cutters were stationed near the San Mateo County Coast. Often, the fast, well-armed ships of the rum runners evaded and outran the Coast Guard ships. On shore, law enforcement and bootleggers engaged in violent confrontations. In 1923, federal agent W. R. Paget led a raid against an operation at Año Nuevo Island. Armed with sawed-off shotguns, the agents fought a gun battle until the bootleggers ran out of ammunition. Even when law enforcement managed to catch bootleggers, judges gave light sentences. In South San Francisco, Officer Augustine Terragno pulled over a car for running a stoplight. He discovered 25-gallon containers of alcohol. Terragno reported that “all the judge did was fine him for running the light…worse, I was told to haul all the booze back to the Buick!” After that, he did not bother to stop bootleggers.

Speakeasy (slang): An undercover bar; an illegal drinking establishment.

Speakeasies on the Peninsula numbered in the hundreds. High-class speakeasies in hotels and restaurants provided fine food and entertainment, along with moonshine and bootleg whiskey. Located in barber shops, grocery stores, cigar stores and soft drink parlors, many “speaks” were much smaller. A password granted access to a small back room with a bar and perhaps some card tables and slot machines. Customers paid 50 cents a shot for moonshine and up to two dollars for whiskey.

While women rarely entered bars before Prohibition, everyday “dames” frequented the speakeasies. In addition to being regulars, there were “whisper sisters,” such as Maria Mori, who helped her husband operate a speakeasy at the Sanchez Adobe.

Speakeasy owners obtained their alcohol from several sources. Some proprietors, such as Manual Bernardo at the Beach Inn near Half Moon Bay, had their own stills. Also on the Coastside, both “Boss” John Patroni at Princeton and Jack Mori at Mori’s Point had private wharves near their speakeasies for the delivery of whiskey. While law enforcement agents did raid speakeasies, the raids were often unsuccessful. As members of the local community, the police officers often had good relations with speakeasy proprietors. Some law enforcement agents were known to have a drink at local speakeasies, and sometimes notify owners of upcoming raids. If a raid was successful, the usual sentence for the proprietor was a few months in county jail and fines up to $500. Small fines did little to discourage people from repeatedly breaking the law.

Repeal: The end of Prohibition.

President Herbert Hoover called Prohibition “a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose.” However, instead of reducing crime, Prohibition increased it. In their selling of alcohol, gangsters set up nationwide networks. There was a general disrespect for the law, even among previously law-abiding citizens. During the 1930s, it became clear that Prohibition had failed to stop alcohol consumption. Additionally, as the Great Depression progressed, officials saw economic reasons to end Prohibition. A legal flow of liquor could be taxed. As he campaigned to be President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that it was “time to correct the ‘stupendous blunder’ that was Prohibition.”

Repealing the 18th Amendment, the 21st Amendment was ratified on November 7, 1933, and Prohibition officially ended on December 5, 1933. Locally, the repeal of Prohibition was marked by parties including the Drunks Dinner at Filoli in Woodside. William and Agnes Bourn, the owners of Filoli, “being sober” and infirm, did not attend, but Ida Bourn hosted the festivities for 20 prominent guests. Not everyone was happy about repeal. Earning $10,000 a week as a bootlegger, G. William Puccinelli of San Mateo called Prohibition “the greatest law that ever was.”

Get Your History Fix

A more detailed account of Prohibition on the Peninsula can be found in the Winter 2011 edition of La Peninsula at To dig deeper into SF Peninsula history, visit

Sea Foragers

The intertidal zone marks the series of moments when the ocean reveals her secrets in a deep minus tide. At Princeton Harbor by the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club, in the fogged-in grey of early morning light, Kirk Lombard already has his gear ready and his family in tow. He reminds his seven-year-old son, Django, how to hunt for clams. “Look for the deep holes where you can see a slit,” he advises. “That’s a mouth.”

Kirk points to a spot that would slip by the untrained eye. Django stomps hard and a shocking spurt of water flies up. “That’s where we dig,” he says confidently. Inserting his clam tube around the small hole, Django begins to suction the horse neck clam to the surface. He then presses his body to the wet sand and reaches in, pulling out the most unlikely of creatures. Its long neck protrudes from a wide, hard shell. “You can treat it like sushi,” Kirk’s wife and business partner, Camilla, explains, “or it makes a really great chowder.”

Courtesy of Dana L. Brown

A little ways down the rocky, seaweed-strewn beach, their five-year-old daughter, Penelope, is doing her own foraging, taught by her father over many family excursions like this one. She proudly holds out a ghost shrimp, its see-through body shimmering in her hand. For this busy family, with a thriving Community Supported Fishery (CSF) business built on delivering sustainable seafood around the Bay Area, these are the precious moments when they connect to the wonders of the sea that have held them in thrall since childhood.

Originally from New York City, Kirk spent his boyhood summers with his grandfather in Santa Cruz, who fished for steelhead trout in the San Lorenzo River and nurtured Kirk’s love for foraging and fishing. Camilla grew up on the beaches of Santa Barbara as a surfer and junior lifeguard. Fate brought them together at the Odeon bar in San Francisco, where Camilla was bartending while she went to law school and Kirk’s band was playing. “On our first date Kirk took me to a beach in Pescadero,” Camilla recalls. “I had my French easel and I was painting while he was foraging for monkey-faced eel. It’s a nice metaphor for our ability to do our own things together.” Now, they’ve grown their compatibility and shared love of art, music and sustainable seafood into the business that supports their varied passions and makes use of their diverse skill sets.

Courtesy of Dana L. Brown

Kirk began his career as a supervisor for the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, where he learned the elements of responsible fishing and built relationships with fishermen throughout the Bay Area. When he got laid off, he had more time to devote to his love of poke pole fishing and gradually learned the art of foraging some of the ocean’s less popular residents, like night smelt and horse neck clams. Descended from a long line of performers—his grandfather was an opera singer, his father performed on Broadway and his mother took voice lessons from Ethel Merman when she was a girl—Kirk has a powerful singing voice and plays the tuba, the harmonica and a homemade one-string. He started to wonder if he could put his unique skill sets of performing and foraging to use. “I was an actor in New York and I’d performed in many bands, but I was also passionate about the creatures in the intertidal zone,” Kirk reflects, as he peers out to sea. “What I really liked was communicating with the public and I began to experiment with giving walking tours. As soon as I started taking people out, I saw that this was going to work.” Kirk officially launched a series of foraging walking tours in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, which led to his book, The Sea Forager’s Guide to the Northern California Coast.

The financial demands of a growing family dovetailed with a real need he observed during his tours. Dusting off his hands, Kirk explains, “At the end of all my tours, people would always say, ‘This is really interesting, but I don’t have time to do this myself. I want sustainable seafood, so what do I do?’” Kirk began to formulate the answer to that question. When his friend Kenny Belov, who runs a wholesale fishery, TwoXSea, at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, offered him space to work and seafood he could source to his exacting specifications, Kirk started a Sea Forager CSF based on the model of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) used by farmers. And Kirk ensured that the seafood didn’t just come with vague reassurances about sourcing and sustainability. Every fish provided by Sea Forager includes details about the boat, the captain and where the fish was caught.

Courtesy of Dana L. Brown

Kirk’s workload ramped up so quickly that he couldn’t manage it alone. The time to create “a mom and pop fishmonger business,” as Camilla refers to Sea Forager, had arrived. “Seven years ago in February I quit my job, in March we had a baby and in August we started Sea Forager,” she recounts with a laugh. Kirk handles the fish and deliveries. From their Moss Beach home, Camilla takes care of customer service, marketing and event management, as well as singing and playing accordion in the Sea Forager official band, The Fishwives. It’s been a whirlwind time—that’s included the birth of their two children.

While many businesses have struggled during quarantine, Sea Forager has boomed. The increased demand for local products prompted the hiring of more workers to help Kirk process and deliver the seafood for their CSF. “People want to connect with their local food sources, whether it’s their local farm or their local fishermen,” Camilla points out. “I think, frankly, with COVID-19 people don’t want to feel like they’re going too far out of their geographical zone to source their food and it’s great to feel like they’re supporting their local community.” Even with this added pressure for locally sourced fish, Kirk and Camilla have remained committed to their specific brand of sustainability, which includes some creatures that their customers may not be used to preparing and eating.

Kirk and Camilla are intent on educating customers about why they need to add variety to their seafood diets and about how to prepare the fish they provide. Sea Forager has lively social media feeds where customers share recipes, and they host events where customers can interact with each other and the fishermen who provide their meals. They realize that everyone likes salmon, and they provide it, but they also sprinkle in some sea critters that may need more explanation. Camilla leans forward to clarify their mission, “In the context of the CSF, we turn people on to a lot of seafood they wouldn’t necessarily know what to do with—like night smelt, anchovies and sardines. This is all part of the push to get people to eat lower on the food chain, so they can have less mercury themselves but also have the benefits of the nutrients that seafood has to offer instead of always going after the fillets.” Kirk nods in agreement, adding, ”The small silvery schools of fish are the ones we should be eating if our primary concern is the continuing health of the ocean.”

Though Sea Forager events are temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, they look forward to restarting that part of their business when safety permits. In the meantime, their Facebook and Instagram feeds continue to provide customers with clever recipes and a deep sense of community. “We have a lot of love and a lot of people who feel connected to us,” Camilla says, pushing a strand of blond hair from her face. “Our greatest marketing tool is our customer base.”

For now, with the intensity of his schedule, Kirk doesn’t have a lot of time for the foraging that started it all. When he seeks out a low tide these days, it’s usually with one of his children, and more often, it’s about catch and release. He treasures the quiet moments when he can pass on his love of the intertidal zone and its creatures to his young children. Even in the hectic pace of days, both Kirk and Camilla find a deep-seated gratitude in what they’ve been able to create together. “We love Sea Forager,” says Camilla, smiling widely into the salty ocean wind. “It’s afforded us a life of being here—it’s the most you can ask for.”

Courtesy of Sea Forager

Singing in the Sun

Penelope Joye pauses to better reposition herself under the shade. The fresh-faced entrepreneur who hails from Australia is seated in the backyard of the Atherton home she shares with her family during a recent early afternoon. As she talks, the sun shines directly above.

“I’m always very aware of the sun,” she says. “Hence, the umbrellas.”

Nestled in Penelope’s hand is an elegant bamboo handle that extends upwards to reveal a vibrancy of color and design in the style of African wax prints. Attractive to the eyes and fanciful like a garnish in a tropical drink, the umbrella also serves as a protector from nature’s harsher elements.

“Can you name an umbrella brand?” she asks, rhetorically. “I want to be the brand you can name.”

Japarra Umbrellas, its name referencing both an Aboriginal word describing the cycle of life and the French word parapluie, meaning umbrella, is Penelope’s answer to a tasteful—rather than topical—sunscreen. It has the timeless sophistication of a stylish parasol with the all-weather defense of a vigorous umbrella, coated with a nanotech polymer to withstand rainwater.

Furthermore, the independent company is the summation of a career spent supporting other people’s businesses. Penelope worked extensively in investment banking before transitioning into corporate speech writing. But with Japarra Umbrellas, she strikes out on her own with a product she’s designed, manufactured, promoted and will soon personally ship to customers across the country. It’s a business of her devotion.

“It resonates with me personally; I grew up in the Australian sun where I had many sunburns as a kid and had skin cancers removed. I know it’s totally avoidable. Yes, it’s a consumer product but it’s actually doing something good and helpful,” she says, breaking into a smile. “Now, my whole family thinks I’m officially obsessed because I try to talk about packaging at the dinner table.”

Raised in Sydney by her mother who ran a restaurant, Penelope was exposed early to business operations by helping her mom keep the restaurant’s books. She demonstrated an advanced aptitude as a child (a grade school teacher advised Penelope’s mother that she was too young to be reading The Thorn Birds) and started her first company, a stamp business, during her senior year of high school.

Penelope studied law and economics at the University of Sydney before moving to New York City to work in investment banking. Thus began a life in motion, and she reckons she’s had a dozen relocations around the globe. She returned to Australia to become a founding principal of a financial services company and met her now-husband Karim in Sydney. The couple have three children, all born in Australia before the family moved to Tokyo.

“That’s where I first noticed umbrellas used for the sun,” Penelope says. “I was aware of the need to protect your skin but it wasn’t until we went to Japan that I saw both men and women using umbrellas in the sun. The problem in Japan is that their umbrellas are all black or plastic. I was using the black, standard ones and my skin was getting better. But I couldn’t find any nice-looking umbrellas. The idea was germinating.”

After she and her family moved to Singapore, Penelope noticed more umbrella usage but her umbrage for their unsustainable methods propelled her to further explore the idea. “The problem with nylon is that it’s considered disposable. A lot of umbrellas end up in landfills and they’re nasty for the environment,” she says. “I started thinking that I could do something better, brighter and more colorful.”

She traveled to a trade show in Hong Kong to meet with manufacturers and found a group to do the prototypes. Driven by her love of the radio show “How I Built This” on NPR, Penelope started with a small run to ensure that the bamboo handles and steel ribs that open the umbrella were reliable and in vogue. Because cotton is not waterproof, she personally applies a non-toxic spray similar to a Scotchgard to each umbrella by hand, using a polymer to bind with the cotton and prevent water saturation.

Each step of the way, Penelope learned insights such as the differences in international freight prices and how to brand herself on social media after taking a course at Stanford. She explains how her entrepreneurial ambition was also an opportunity to provide her children with first-hand experience in running a business.

“I wanted to show them a good, strong female role model,” she says. “I’ve involved them a lot in the process, like when I set up the LLC. I want them to understand business.”

Upon moving to the Peninsula, Penelope noticed a difference in how sun protection shifts from country to country. In her native Australia, many parents adopt a “no hat, no play” rule, which isn’t always the case for children roaming under the California sun. Beyond the occasional use by movie stars such as Audrey Hepburn or Nicole Kidman, parasols are somewhat obscure across Western culture.

A walking personal testimonial for Japarra, Penelope is often spotted with an umbrella strolling the Atherton streets or hiking local trails (The Dish and Windy Hill are personal favorites) with the family’s Rhodesian ridgeback named Sydney. And an umbrella is always perched above her head when she watches her son play tennis.

She believes Americans will embrace using an umbrella in the sun if it’s viewed as a fashion item or a go-to accessory. Ultimately, Penelope hopes that Japarra is regarded as something traditional done in a new and sound way that has clear health benefits.

“This is an investment in skincare. Women spend so much money on creams but the minute they go out in the sun they might as well throw it all away,” she says. “With Japarra, the per-use investment was compelling and the prints are creative. And at the same time, it appeals to me on the investment side—you are investing in yourself.”

Coastside Vibes

They don’t want to be in the Silicon Valley bubble for their entire lives” is how Half Moon Bay resident Jennifer Glynn describes her typical “very laid-back and relaxed” neighbors. “They want their off-time to be real off-time.” Jennifer notes that Half Moon Bay’s mix of artsy types, techies and families creates a coastal community that’s very different from the Peninsula’s Bay side: “Where else can you take a break and walk to the beach with your kids and go surfing?”

Combine Half Moon Bay’s easy access to Silicon Valley with the increasing flexibility to work remotely, and Jennifer isn’t surprised to see a steady influx of Peninsula workers heading over the hill. For anyone who has dreamt of living (or having a second home) at the beach, buying a property coastside is just the first step. The newer crop of arrivals have a modern set of requirements for their seaside abodes.

“The coastal lifestyle is active and relaxed. We find that most homeowners love the idea of forgoing a formal dining room to accommodate a home office, music studio or game room,” explains Jennifer. “Designing by the beach almost always includes a spot for surfboards, boogie boards and wetsuits—along with an outdoor shower.”

If Jennifer sounds like she’s given living on the coast a lot of thought, it’s because she has. Not only does Jennifer live there, she is married to a man whose family has been in Half Moon Bay for generations. She also co-founded Space10 Interiors, an award-winning design firm with a special flair for doing innovative coastal projects. The firm does everything from decorating to new construction to full house remodels.

“We take into account the relaxed outdoor lifestyle that draws people here, and we incorporate that into living spaces,” says Jennifer. “We use a lot of natural materials and textures, a lot of local art and craft pieces and we make sure that our designs are really livable.”

Space10’s other founder, Barbara LaVigna, describes their clients as wanting a beach town vibe fused with the kinds of quality touches found in a primary home. “It is the custom details made from natural materials or crafted by hand that make our designs feel luxurious and inviting,” she says.

Before meeting Barbara in the Cañada College design program, Jennifer worked in marketing and events. And while Jennifer is a native Californian, Barbara grew up in upstate New York and Boston and worked in tech before settling in Portola Valley. She describes having an early affinity for the West. “I always knew I wanted to come to California,” recalls Barbara. “I fell in love with the idea of living and being in nature and near the ocean—the general aesthetic, the art, the architecture. I really fell in love with outdoor living.”

The number 10 in Space10 Interiors is a nod to the Tenth Street Studio Building, built in New York City in 1858. “It was a place designed for architects, artists and craftspeople to collaborate at the dawn of American architecture,” says Barbara. That maverick way of thinking put Greenwich Village on the map as a destination for artists, and it informs Space10’s design philosophy.

Barbara points to the many unique aspects of the firm’s coastal design work.

“There’s a lot of texture we use here on the coastside that we don’t necessarily deploy in our other projects. We use glass, metal, lots of nubby fabrics,” she says. “Finishes can be a little bit reflective of sand or pebbles or wood. You walk down the beach and pick up sea glass, rocks and driftwood—they’re all very common materials that you can literally find anywhere here, and so we try to represent them in our designs.”

Another important factor is light. “When we walk into a home, we are constantly taking into account the direction of the ocean, which means the direction of the type of light that you get in each space,” explains Jennifer. “There are a lot of reverse floor plan homes, meaning that the main living space is on the second floor and the bedrooms are on the first floor. That’s something unique to this area, to take advantage of some kind of view, whether it’s a view of the valley, a view of the water or a view towards the water.”

“We also take into consideration fire pits, heat lamps and heated seats and floors,” adds Barbara. “Those are the types of functional things that people really appreciate and that help them to live outdoors for longer periods of time.”

Barbara and Jennifer think through every detail, including how the windows and doors play into airflow, a critical calculation to mitigate blazing afternoon sun. “Living on the coast can be somewhat like living on the water,” says Barbara. “The conditions can be hard on a house. And so we are really good at selecting specific materials and finishes that are not only beautiful, but durable and can withstand the environment here.”

That means constantly hunting down marine-grade materials when it comes to lighting—whether it’s metal finishes that will hold up over time or specifying cedar overleaf wood. There’s also a heavy reliance on outdoor fabrics. “Outdoor fabric technology has come a long way,” says Barbara, “and it looks just like luxurious indoor fabrics, except it’s highly durable and cleanable. There are a lot of outdoor rugs that can be used in interiors, and we often use vinyl wallpaper, which can still have the textural feel of beautiful grass cloth or jute, but we’ll do it in a vinyl so that on the moisture standpoint it has durability. It really holds up.”

For projects on the coast, Space10 emphasizes the use of colors found at the beach or in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains.

“Our designs are much more nature-inspired here than our projects elsewhere,” notes Jennifer. “We use things that patina; that’s the best way I can describe it, things that will age—a very kind of Northern California way of seeing things, a more organic palette.”

What you won’t see is the typical kitchy beach decor you might find in other parts of the country. “Much more quiet and much less fussy” is how Jennifer sums it up. Barbara agrees, reflecting, “As partners, we embrace this collaborative spirit to create warm, modern spaces.”

The Beat On Your Eats

limon rotisserie

Limon Rotisserie is a Peruvian staple in downtown Burlingame and its menu has something for everyone. For an appetizer, choose from their various ceviches (paired with taro chips, of course) and a wide range of empanadas. For your main course, the lomo saltado is a traditional Peruvian beef stir fry and a customer favorite. If you’re in the mood for something a little less traditional, order the truffle mac and cheese. As restaurants begin to reopen, Burlingame Avenue is closed to traffic between El Camino Real and California Drive from Friday through Sunday to allow for outdoor dining. In addition to limited seating inside the restaurant, Limon offers special seating along the sidewalk and on the avenue.
1101 Burlingame Avenue, open Sunday to Thursday from 11:30AM to 10PM; Friday and Saturday from 11:30AM to 10:30PM.

Palo Alto

Visit California Avenue any time of day and you’re bound to see a line snaking out the door at Zareen’s. Don’t let that line scare you—the Peninsula’s best Pakistani and Indian food is well worth the wait. Absolute must-haves at Zareen’s include the chicken cemoni samosas and the chicken tikka masala paired with sheermal, a heavenly, slightly sweet flatbread with hints of saffron. As restaurants begin to reopen, California Avenue is closed to traffic between El Camino Real and Birch Street to allow for outdoor dining, although Zareen’s has its own patio as well. When you visit, remember to grab a cup (or two) of their complimentary masala chai.
365 California Avenue, open Monday to Friday from 11:30AM to 9PM; Saturday and Sunday from 11AM to 9PM.

Courtesy of Milagros

Redwood City

It might be impossible to have a bad time at Milagros. This vibrant Mexican restaurant not only serves delicious cocktails and food, but also offers one of the largest (and most beautiful) outdoor patios on the Peninsula, now extended onto Main Street. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a summer evening out. When you go, be sure to pair their Milagros margarita with the salsa trio, featuring their salsa roja, tomatillo salsa and charred pineapple salsa and the chicken mole enchiladas, although you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Milagros is part of “Eat, Sip and Be in Redwood City,” which closes certain streets to allow for outdoor dining until September 30.
1099 Middlefield Road, open Wednesday and Thursday from 4PM to 9PM; Friday and Saturday from 12PM to 9PM; Sundays from 12PM to 8PM.

From Georgia with Love

In addition to soups, stews and salads, Georgian cuisine has “a lot of food you eat with your hands,” says Tamari Authentic Georgian Cuisine owner Shalva Dzotsenidze.

Take, for example, khinkali, pleated soup dumplings filled with meat, vegetables or cheese. When trying one for the first time, Shalva recommends that “you hold it from the top and take small- to medium-sized bites first—and then you slurp the juice.” He acknowledges that it takes a bit of practice. “Once you get more experience, you get the bites and the juice together,” he says. “You figure it out.”

Khinkali, which might remind you of xiao long bao (Chinese soup dumplings), is having a moment on social media these days, as is the much-Instagrammed acharuli khachapuri, a boat-shaped bread filled with cheese and topped with a soft egg. However, there’s much more to Georgian food than these two social media darlings.

Georgia has a rich history of cuisine and hospitality, and thanks to the Georgian government’s push to open up tourism in the past decade, the country’s cuisine has caught the attention of travelers, diners and food media. Given Georgia’s location in the Caucasus region, at the intersection of eastern Europe and western Asia—a culinary crossroads, if you will—you might imagine that the country’s cuisine is similar to Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern or Asian food.

And while at first glance you might see common threads, Georgian cuisine is something all its own. Garlic, fresh herbs, blue fenugreek seeds, dried marigold petals, spicy ajika paste, walnuts and pomegranates are just a few of the ingredients used in traditional Georgian cuisine.

Shalva opened Tamari—named for his daughter and grandmother, as well as for Queen Tamar who ruled during Georgia’s Golden Age in the late 12th century—in February 2020, just two weeks before the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place orders went into effect. (Talk about timing!)

But Shalva is no stranger to taking on challenges or rolling with the changes; he grew up under the Soviet regime in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, and as a young adult, he participated in the movement for independence from the Soviet Union.

In 1989, Shalva left his hometown to live with cousins in Oni, a town in the mountainous Racha region of western Georgia. There, he had his first experience running a restaurant.

“We were the first generation of entrepreneurs in Georgia,” he says. He and extended family members rented a government-owned restaurant and converted it into what he calls a “resort-style restaurant” that included a bakery and farm. Always seeing himself “more in the West,” Shalva immigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s, landing first in New York City with friends before soon making the cross-country trip to Palo Alto, where he now lives.

It was another two decades before Shalva returned to the restaurant business, becoming a partner in San Carlos’ Agora Greek & Mediterranean Cuisine restaurant in 2018. When the partnership ended, he retained the restaurant space on San Carlos Avenue and moved forward with a plan to open an eatery that celebrates his homeland. “It was always in my mind,” he says, “to do a Georgian restaurant because we have such wonderful cuisine that I would like to share.”

He wants Tamari to be a place where cultures connect.

Shalva began the work of creating the restaurant that would express his love for the food and culture of his homeland in mid-2019. He considered hiring a designer to remake the restaurant’s interior, but opted instead for a simple approach and handled the work himself. Tamari is a family-run business, and the interior incorporates details that reflect his homeland. His children’s names are written in Georgian lettering on walls painted in pastel colors associated with Queen Tamar, and a Georgian-style balcony sits above the bar area. Tamari’s outdoor dining space has a half-dozen small tables that can be combined for larger parties.

Authenticity remains a priority for Shalva, particularly when it comes to the food. “Authentic to me means the same food I grew up with, the food my grandmother was cooking,” he says.

His grandmother played a big role in his life; while spending time in her kitchen during his childhood, Shalva learned about the dishes that are so important to his Georgian heritage. His grandmother’s specialties included bazhe, a walnut and garlic sauce, typically served with chicken and eggplant dishes, both of which receive a nod on Tamari’s menu.

Maintaining authenticity required sourcing Georgian-style serving dishes, such as wooden boards and clay pots, as well as Georgian wine and ingredients including unique spices and tkemali, a wild sour green plum used in a traditional lamb stew called chakapuli. Because some ingredients and wines aren’t available in the U.S., Shalva had to find distributors who could import what he needed.

He also brought in a Georgian chef to help develop the menu and execute the recipes. Rather than focus on a single region’s cuisine, they selected popular dishes from areas throughout Georgia, with an eye on creating a balance between meat- and vegetable-based plates. In addition to offering menu items that are, as he says, “as close as possible to the taste you’d experience in a Georgian restaurant in Georgia,” Shalva wants his guests to experience dining in the Georgian style.

“We don’t have appetizers, and we don’t have main courses. We have small plates, big plates, hot plates, cold plates,” he explains, “and we always eat family-style.” The idea is to order an assortment of dishes from different categories on the menu and enjoy a bite of this and a bite of that with your beverage of choice. “You let your palate decide what you want to eat,” notes Shalva.

Dishes to try include any of the regional khachapuris, mtsvadi (Georgian shish kebab), pkhali (vegetable pâté of spinach or beets), khinkali and a tomato and cucumber salad. Lobio, a stew of pinto beans, is a traditional dish of Racha and suitable for vegetarians, as are most of the small hot plates and sides.

The restaurant’s beverage offerings include an international wine and beer list, along with soft drinks, coffees and tea. Wine plays a significant role in Georgian culture, as grape cultivation and fermentation date back 8,000 years in the nation’s history.

“What is unique about Georgian wine is the variety and also the wine-making style,” Shalva says.

The modern style uses steel tanks or wood barrels for fermentation, and the traditional style involves placing the grapes in a big clay dish called a qvevri and burying them underground for fermentation. Drawing minerals from the soil, qvevri wines often display both fruit and mineral characteristics. If you’re a wine drinker, don’t miss out on trying a Georgian wine with your meal for an authentic experience—and don’t hesitate to ask for a recommendation. Shalva completed the sommelier program at Campbell’s International Culinary Center and is a certified sommelier.

A Georgian dining experience, Shalva says, “is friends and family members relaxing and dining,” enjoying “good food, cooked with love.” With Tamari, it seems that he’s got it figured ou

Born to Bake

Weaving through clusters of customers at the Burlingame Farmers Market eventually leads to a booth with a milky white banner depicting dual crisscrossing whisks to mark the spot. The canopy is minimally decorated with earth tone linens draped over the table while some sunflowers poke out of a mason jar. It’s all to give focus to the goods at hand.

In the middle is Lizzy Detert, vending her home-baked cookies, bars, banana bread and other sweet treats just as she’s done here every Sunday morning since the spring of 2018. And as the morning fades with the seasonal fog, so will her offerings. Lizzy consistently sells out at every farmers market and today’s flow of customers suggests that it won’t be any different for Busy Lizzy‘s Baked Goods.

The baker has her ingredients for success (she’ll intentionally under-bake just a tad to create soft and chewy bites that last well past the oven withdrawal) and the San Mateo native has been cultivating her kitchen craft since she was the same height as her apron. Her peanut butter balls, M&M cookies and coconut cakes were staples at family events and holiday parties while growing up.

Lizzy’s pure passion for baking, coupled with an entrepreneurial drive encouraged by her family, meant that she was born to bake.

“Instead of cartoons, I was watching the Food Network,” she recalls with a smile. Her affinity for the channel continues every Saturday when she tunes in to her favorite program, The Kitchen. While explaining the show, she crosses her fingers in aspiration to one day become a guest on the variety cooking show.

This isn’t some half-baked ambition; her gooey goods are too delicious to deny and handmade from scratch with organic butter and sugar.

Lizzy’s offerings shift with the seasons and she’ll bake with warm flavors such as nutmeg in the winter or create a funfetti cake for grad season. For Father’s Day, she presented “The Dad Bod Box” containing several sugary delights. But her crowd favorites—chocolate chip, s’mores and cookies ‘n’ cream cookies­—always remain on the menu.

Her father is her lead taste tester, providing honest and blunt feedback, and Lizzy will also ask loyal customers for their thoughts. She debuted cinnamon rolls on a recent Sunday and a frequent patron named Barbara gives her a glowing review with a suggestion for adding raisins. Lizzy nods with the recommendation as she bags her order. As she didn’t attend culinary school, she says this is how she learns best.

In lieu of the traditional pastry and baking school route, Lizzy graduated from Texas Christian University where she studied psychology, nutrition and business. She fondly recalls her time in Fort Worth, Texas, where she found inspiration in the regional cuisine such as the Coca-Cola cake from Cracker Barrel.

“I tried to recreate it,” she grins. “Southern home cooking is so popular now and Texas inspired me to find recipes that feel like home. Whenever I decorate a cake, I’ll warn that I don’t do any piping when I ice it. I try to make it homier. I say the flavor is the best part and I know that you’re going to get it in this cake.”

As for other purveyors of sweets, Lizzy praises SusieCakes and says the peanut butter and jelly cookies from Neiman Marcus are her all-time favorites. (She reveals that her least-preferred baked goodies are apple and peach pies.)

Following graduation, Lizzy worked for her father’s chemical engineering company before deciding to take her baked goods to the farmers market, first as a hobby before turning it into her full-time career. “It started off on a whim (or a whisk),” she quips. “And I said, ‘Let’s see where I can take it.’”

Lizzy’s mother ran a business working with boutique hotels in San Francisco and her grandparents worked in local real estate. She explains how this background paved the way for Busy Lizzy’s.

“Both my parents and grandparents started their own companies and I grew up with that entrepreneurial spirit,” she says. “It holds me to a higher standard because all of them have been so successful. It’s in me and I’ve grown up with it.”

Her heritage is baked into every cookie since Lizzy uses an ice cream scooper and two spatulas inherited from her grandparents. She reaches over to grab the scooper for her dough behind the table in her market booth. “This one has stuck with me through thousands of cookies,” she declares.

Lizzy uses her parents’ kitchen in San Mateo but business is rising. Her products are sold at several Caffé Central locations throughout the Bay Area and her cookies are available at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Café in San Francisco. She’s now in the process of relocating Busy Lizzy’s into a commercial space at Preston’s Candy & Ice Cream in Burlingame, where she’ll both bake and sell out of a business she’s frequented all her life.

“Ever since I could remember, I used to get an ice cream cone at Preston’s with my dad and we’d sit at the same bench,” she says. “It hasn’t changed since I was little and it’s a little blessing to bake there.”

When she’s not baking, Lizzy runs almost every day. (“I exercise to enjoy the treats I make,” she laughs.) She was on the golf team in high school and continues to play with her boyfriend, Trevor.

A lifetime of baking gave Lizzy a second nature so that she can tell by sight if the dough lacks a pinch of flour or butter before placing it into the oven. Her intuition (and finished product) makes her an authority on baking for friends during quarantine. Her best advice is always the timelessness of patience.

“When my mom sees me in the kitchen getting really overwhelmed, she’ll remind me to take a deep breath,” Lizzy says. “If you’re not showing the recipe that you care, it’s not going to be beautiful.”

When the Horse Whispers Back

A quick trip over 92 followed by a left on Skyline and I see the turn-off for Woodside’s Ciara West Equestrian (CWE). Bay Area riders come to this 145-acre facility for horse boarding and training, and indeed, I spot several heading out on the property’s panoramic trails.

I am also here to see a horse, but I’m anticipating a very different experience: Equus Coaching, quite simply, life coaching with horses.

Standing by a 50-foot-diameter round pen, CWE founder Steven Ciarametaro introduces me to the equine mindset—which is shaped by horses being both prey and herd animals. “There are two questions horses are always asking themselves,” he says. “Number one is ‘Am I safe?’ and the other is ‘Are you in charge or am I in charge?’

Steven goes on to explain the history and main principles of Equus Coaching. Back in 2006, renowned life coach and ‘horse whisperer’ Koelle Simpson founded the Koelle Institute for Equus Coaching based on a horse’s intrinsic ability to provide direct and honest feedback. Drawing from her own experience, Simpson recognized the potential in naturally-skittish horses to be four-legged guides to deeper insights. “We work with horses because horses are very sensitive to their environments,” Steven says. “Through evolution, they’ve been able to protect themselves by being acutely aware of what’s going on around them.”

As Steven talks, I check out Sparrow, a 1,200-pound former police horse who appears to be hanging out contentedly in the pen. A mare in a nearby pasture neighs. Suddenly hyper-alert, Sparrow’s ears twitch up and whip toward the sound. I learn that if I watch Sparrow’s ears, I can see where his attention is—and what it means when he drops his head, makes licking and chewing gestures and expels loud gusts of air. “You can see he’s releasing tension. He’s relaxing a bit with us,” Steven interprets. “Koelle refers to Equus as the language of horses.”

Equus is a relatively new language for Steven, who also happens to be fluent in seven human ones. Recently certified as an Equus Coach, he previously spent nearly 20 years in the Silicon Valley tech world focused on software training and certification. While still working full-time, he rediscovered riding, which led to buying his own horse and then taking over the Woodside facility in 2015 to launch his own boarding and training business. A few years into it, the Koelle Institute contacted Steven about holding local Equus Coaching workshops at CWE. Intrigued by what he saw happening, he also connected with a workshop student, Nina Clarke Ericson, a Palo Alto-based clinical psychologist who specializes in life, leadership and dating coaching.   

“I’ve always loved horses,” says Nina, “and when I found out about Equus Coaching, I literally cried. I thought, ‘Wow! This is the perfect marriage of two of my greatest passions: helping people and horses.’” Nina received her Equus Coaching certificate through the Koelle Institute’s one-year program and immediately followed it with the Master Facilitators certification, which equipped her to conduct group sessions. She bases her Equus Coaching practice at CWE, meeting clients here several times a week.

“This is not therapy, but you can go deep,” Nina says, citing issues ranging from death, divorce and depression to work transitions, overeating and empty nests. “Clients learn to identify and express authentic feelings and that’s reinforced by the horses,” she says. “My preference is to do almost all my work up here. It’s experiential learning, so it’s very powerful; it gets into your brain better.”

Steven explains it this way: “The horses are truth-tellers—they tell you what you need to know. When your outer reality is aligned with what you’re feeling inside, that’s when the horse feels a connection with us. It’s the same thing they’re looking for within their herd, and the horse reacts in a way that’s immediate and visceral. You feel it as much as you see it.”

After the initial briefing, I watch a demo with Nina. Sparrow eyes her as she enters the pen and approaches her with curiosity. Nina greets the horse by blowing air off the back of her hand directly under his nostrils. Sparrow inhales Nina’s breath and exhales deeply in response. They commune for a bit and then Nina starts walking away. Sparrow notes her movement and begins to follow.

Stepping out of the pen, Nina gestures that it’s time for me to go in. “Do whatever you want,” she counsels.

I don’t want to be too aggressive since we’ve barely met, so I stand a distance away and look directly at Sparrow, willing him to come to me. A piece of hay catches Sparrow’s attention. Another horse whinnies, and his ears flick in that direction. I smile warmly at him, trying to look appealing. Nothing is happening. I can feel my smile becoming forced, even desperate. Minutes go by.

Nina checks in. “What do you want to do?” she asks me.

“I want to interact with the horse,” I respond, feeling dejected. “Then why aren’t you?” she questions. “I don’t want to impose on him,” I reply.

Nina thinks on this. “Why don’t you go up to him,” she suggests, “and if he doesn’t want to interact, he’ll tell you.” So I approach Sparrow, greeting him with the same exchange-of-breath I saw Nina demonstrate. Sparrow exhales his tension with an audible sigh. I start to pet him, and soon he is nuzzling my shoulder.

Nina and I talk about what just happened, which causes me to reflect on the many times I’ve hesitated—didn’t introduce myself, stake a claim or make a request—for fear of putting someone else out. “The way we do anything is the way we do everything,” offers Nina, quoting a favorite saying of life coach Martha Beck. Through this one simple interaction with Sparrow, I know exactly what she means.

“What does that feel like when you make a decision that really fits—that’s coming from your heart, your gut—rather than what you think you should do?” Nina queries further. I register the feeling so I can remember it. In a later session with Steven, I greet Sparrow differently. I know what I want, and I act on it. And when I walk away from Sparrow, occasionally glancing back with a confident smile, I hear the gratifying sound of him clip-clopping behind me.

A bit later, my PUNCH cohorts—publisher Sloane Citron and managing editor Silas Valentino—arrive at CWE, so we can better understand what happens in a group session. After going through individual briefings and sessions (Sloane is matched with a mare named Rosie and Silas with Odey), we watch as the pens are reconfigured into a 120’ by 60’ arena. Nina gives us the lowdown on herding—how we’ll set goals and work together as a team to move the horse around obstacles. “You will not be able to talk to each other; you can only communicate non-verbally,” she explains. “We use this for families, couples and executive teams—it shows how you communicate with each other, but it’s also a really fun bonding experience.”

Nina and Steven demonstrate first. Sparrow, who is now rested, responds readily to their tight movements and gestures. Our first turn in the arena doesn’t go so well. Silas isn’t quite following directions. I wave my hands in exasperation. After attempting to intercede, Sloane steps back and becomes an observer. When we break to discuss, we talk about how our behavior maps to office dynamics—how we naturally fall into certain roles and what we can do to better align as a team.

When we try again, we watch each other closely for cues and start gesturing more effectively. Sparrow responds to our uptick in confidence. We get him to maneuver around a barrel and trot up the side of the arena. Eyeing a barrel in the far corner, I point to it with clear intent. We each move into position, but it looks like Sparrow is going to cut the barrel just short. With a surge of collective energy, we somehow divert Sparrow’s direction, who makes the intended turn at the very last second. Words burst forth: “We did it!”

“Sometimes this just sparks a realization and then you know what to start working on,” Steven comments as our session wraps up. A final question comes to mind. “Is this easier if you’re a horse person?” I ask, thinking regular riders must have an inherent advantage. Steven shakes his head. “When you’re riding a horse, the horse can’t not react,” he responds. “Here, you’re asking the horse to interact and giving the horse the opportunity not to—that’s the really powerful thing.”

Our destination is clear. Spend four nights at idyllic Nick’s Cove on Tomales Bay. And, for a bit of adventure, explore new places along the way. It adds up to the perfect road trip, full of twists and turns and surprising discoveries.

Being Peninsula people, Stinson Beach is not much on our radar. But the 90-minute drive north marked it as a perfect lunch spot. We pick up Highway One in Marin County, dropping down first to scenic Muir Beach before heading north along the coastal area of Mount Tamalpais State Park. Turnout spots along the way provide easy access to Tamalpais trails, but we traveled onward, enjoying the expansive views.

Courtesy of Jackie Greaney

Given our weekday timing, we were a bit surprised to find the streets of Stinson Beach packed with cars and lots and lots of bodies filling up the sand. But we were there for sustenance, not for sun, and quickly happened on Parkside, a three-in-one business that includes a cafe, snack bar and bakery. While the outdoor patio at the cafe beckoned, the swiftness of the snack bar won out. Fish and chips, naturally.

Parkside re-entered our lives later that day when we stopped at a market in Point Reyes Station and bought some Parkside granola. It ranked as some of the best that this granola, fruit and yogurt breakfast eater has spooned into her mouth.

After leaving Stinson Beach, Highway One straightens out a bit, and we roughly follow the San Andreas Fault as it makes its way northward. The epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake was in the town of Olema and today you can walk the half-mile “Earthquake Trail” from the Bear Valley Visitor Center to a picket fence now separated by an 18-foot gap in two sections.

Arriving at our Oasis

When we get to Nick’s Cove just north of the tiny hamlet of Marshall, it looks much like I remembered from a first visit in 2008. Its history predates its current iteration as an upscale inn. Originally a fish shack and roadhouse, the development of Nick’s Cove took place in the 1930s and was composed of buildings built on land as well as on five pilings over Tomales Bay. Today, five cabins stand on those pilings.

Nick’s Cove underwent a major renovation in 2007 by noted San Francisco restaurateur Pat Kuleto, and in 2011, new owners did additional remodeling. Maybe that’s why I was pleasantly surprised by the elegance of our room, named Fly Fisherman. It is one of the seven cabins on the east side of the highway, and while you can’t hear the surf breaking under you as you can at the bayside cabins, you can sit on your front porch and get an expansive view of the bay.

Courtesy of Jackie Greaney

A nice leg-stretcher is a walk to Nick’s adjacent farm and garden called The Croft. It’s a lovely terraced area planted with vegetables that you can enjoy with your meal and home to some egg-laying chickens. Tables are scattered throughout the area, beckoning guests for morning coffee or an evening glass of wine.

During our stay, lunch and dinner were offered as take-out or room service, and the menu was more limited than usual, but very ample. (A continental breakfast is brought to your room each morning in place of what was once the standard full breakfast.) Outdoor tables dot the pier that extends 400 feet out from the restaurant.

Nick’s Cove is well known for its great food and we concur, it’s all-in-all fabulous. Favorite menu items included the very tasty roasted half Petaluma chicken and a particularly juicy burger. Note: The restaurant at Nick’s Cove is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11:00AM to 9:00PM; no reservations accepted.

Taking to the Water

Kayaking on Tomales Bay is popular, and there are local outfitters that provide guided and non-guided trips taking off from Miller’s Landing, adjacent to Nick’s Cove. We had brought our Eddyline kayaks, a 12-foot Skylark model named Kermie and the newly-purchased 15-foot Sitka XL dubbed Nu Blue. (Yes Nu, not new, a play on my spouse’s last name.)

It’s best to hit the water in the morning as winds pick up in the afternoon. The tide was particularly low the morning we launched, which meant navigating through some sandy mud that has a tendency to capture feet ankle-deep and not let go!

Courtesy of

The bay itself is filled with eel weed, which is a bit tricky to paddle through but not impossible, and it is easy to spot weed-free channels. Bird life is plentiful with one island chock-a-block with hundreds of birds. Keeping them company were dozens of sea lions lazing in the sun. As we paddled close to see them, they barely lifted their heads.

Kayaking on Tomales Bay may not be the best choice for first-time paddlers as navigating the channels and eel weed takes some doing. It is probably best to go with a guide who can give pointers along the way and talk about the area’s natural history.

Exploring Tomales Bay State Park

Exploring the land is as worthwhile as exploring the sea, and we headed across the bay to Tomales Bay State Park for a good four-mile hike. Parking at Heart’s Desire Beach (which gets very, very crowded; go early to find a parking place), we hiked up the Johnstone Trail, walking under a tree canopy that felt like being in a tunnel.

Connecting to the Jepson Trail and starting downhill, we came upon a virgin stand of Bishop pines located in the Jepson Memorial Grove. A cousin of the Monterey pine, they require fire to open their cones, which disperses their seeds. That makes them uncommon along the coast.

Courtesy of Jack Gescheit

A lovely aspect of this hike was the number of wooden platforms and bridges we encountered, undoubtedly in places where wet weather makes the trail soggy. For bird fans, we spotted many egrets and blue herons, who went about their business unconcerned with the human company. In sum, it’s a hike with it all: good workout, good views, good flora and fauna.

A shorter hiking alternative is Millerton Point, also part of Tomales Bay State Park but on the west side of the Bay. The North Pacific Coast Railroad arrived here in 1877, which allowed local dairy farmers and ranchers to speed fresh goods to markets.

This was also where vacationers heading to Inverness disembarked; they were then ferried across the bay. Oyster farmers set up around the point in the early 1900s. You can still see the oyster farms in the distance while walking the trails, some of which follow the old railroad path.

Discovering a Very Special Winery

Wine and Marin County are not usually associated. And that’s part of the charm of Stubbs Vineyards, which sits in a pretty-as-a-picture valley amidst a menagerie of animals. Think of it as an imaginary place that just happens to be real!

We discovered Stubbs because Nick’s Cove has two of its wines on the menu, and we tried both the Ellen Redding Pinot Noir (2017) and the slightly more expensive Stubbs Pinot Noir “Estate” (2017). An email to owner Mary Stubbs yielded an invitation for a late afternoon visit.

Courtesy of Stubbs Vineyard

Getting there is truly part of the journey as the Marshall/Petaluma Road twists and turns and rolls up and down. The good news is that there is hardly any traffic, so the scenery can be enjoyed while driving.

Mary’s husband Tom, a descendent of English farmers dating back to the late 1800s, purchased 1,200 acres in the early ’80s, of which 600 remain in their hands. The vineyard is comprised of four acres of Chardonnay and a little over six acres of Pinot Noir.

Mary explains that both varieties are well suited to the cool climate and the clay-loam soil of the area. A good year, she says, produces 2,500 cases. We enjoyed tasting both varieties on a deck next to an Airstream trailer. Both wines are Burgundian in nature with just a hint of California sneaking through. In non-pandemic times, Mary rents out the lovely Gatehouse via Airbnb.

We didn’t see any of the Mangalitsa pigs that roam the Stubbs land, but we did spot Ankole Watusi cattle. There are also llamas on hand to keep the sheep safe from coyotes. One could spend hours here roaming this wild and other-worldly nook that, in reality, is quite close to Petaluma.

Back to the Real World

When we awake the next morning, the wind is howling, a sign that it’s time to head back to the Peninsula. We bid a final goodbye to Tomales Bay with a stop at the small town of Dillon Beach near the mouth of the bay. Surfers frequent the beach of the same name but not on this cool, breezy day. Interesting side note: Part of the beach is private, the only private beach in all of California!

Diary of a Dog: Henry

Hey there! Look closely, and you can find me in this mop of curly hair. The name is Henry. I’m a one-year-old mini Goldendoodle growing up here on the Peninsula. Jill, John, Parker and Reed are the best family that a golden boy could ask for. Even though I’m only 17 pounds, I have a ton of energy. My family always takes me on morning runs along the trails at Stanford University. I love meeting new people and playing with other dogs. If you see me, feel free to ask to give me a belly rub. In the middle of the street or walkway? No problem. I’m always happy to oblige. Sometimes my family takes me on a long drive and we end up finding cold white stuff. I love running around in it, the more the better. When it gets warmer the white stuff is gone, but that’s fine with me. I get to hike with my family, and I’m always in front, so I can run up and make sure the trail is safe for them. When I come back they know that everything is okay up ahead. Getting out is great, but everyone has been at home a lot more lately. It has been the best time! I get to hang out at home and practice my signature doodle sploot. I love all the extra belly rubs and attention that I’m getting, but I’m going to need a haircut soon. What’s taking them so long? All this hair is making me hot! Oh well. Gotta go. I hear running shoes and my leash being pulled out.

Courtesy of Hessler-Sunwoo Family

Espionage He Wrote

Before taking his first sip, the spy novelist praised the barista.

Barry Eisler arrived by bicycle with a helmet full of hair and ordered a small coffee from Saint Frank, a bijou café he had just discovered near the train tracks in his adopted town of Menlo Park. He cheerfully commended the staff for the pleasant set-up and then paused to soak in the scene.

When you’re a creator of worlds (or a career novelist), every new arena is subject to being fodder for an unwritten plot.

When he’s writing about a specific location in our shared world—bars, restaurants, judo and jiu-jitsu training academies, streets and alleys—Barry insists on precision for these scenes, often snapping pictures of the European door handles and checkered bathroom tiles that grip his attention to later ensure accuracy while writing.

If mistakes occur even after exhaustive scrutiny, there’s a perennial page on his website updated with mindful corrections and annotations, where he’s rectified errors like inaccurately-described refrigerators in a Trader Joe’s beer aisle or the precise suffering that an exsanguinating chest entails.

Such a meticulous process produces novels weighty with detail; so much so that The New York Times describes Barry’s fastidious prose as “kind of nerdy” in a glowing review of his 2016 novel Livia Lone. His principal character is the anti-hero John Rain, who has appeared in 11 espionage novels and counting, as the assassin for hire who operates by his own personal code. The series has garnered praise from Keanu Reeves and Elizabeth Warren for its immersive mystery adventure with comprehensive hand-to-hand sequences in martial arts.

The books are also damn fun to read. Barry objectively composes stories using a particular writer’s commandment; quoting T. S. Eliot, Barry explains how “the giving famishes the craving” or how he grounds readers in his world by prudently revealing information for each who, what, when, where and why.

“This is what I need to ground you in the story,” he explains. “I have to nourish you with something every sentence. Every piece of information is used to seduce you out of your daily life and into the story—how am I going to get you to pay attention? I famish to make you hungry for more.”

While writing his first book during the 1990s, Rain Fall (later retitled A Clean Kill in Tokyo), Barry and his wife of 30 years, Laura Rennert, a literary agent and fellow author, were living as expats in the Japanese capital.

He was well underway with a storied career, graduating from Cornell Law School in 1989, spending three years in a covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations before becoming a lawyer specializing in technology for an international law firm.

But Barry was tacitly saturating in interests he describes as dry kindling awaiting a spark. From reading arcane research like the puckish body disposal book Be Your Own Undertaker or hearing the Japanese pianist Junko Onishi perform at the Club Alfie to earning his black belt at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo, Barry simmered in his curiosities.

His fire to write ignited one night on the subway platform at Ōtemachi Station. An image flashed before his mind of two men trailing someone down an alley. He started asking himself questions—Why are they following him?—before forming answers: It’s because they’re assassins. Well, he thought, then who hired them?

Each question and answer framed the next, nourishing a story with an appetite and a bite.

“Every answer you get, you subject to those questions. Then it turns out there’s a mirror image phenomenon. When I teach a class on openings, the best example I’ve come across is The Key to Rebecca,” Barry says, of the Ken Follett bestseller.

“It begins with: ‘The last camel collapsed at noon.’ It’s not everything because if I give you everything, you’re not famished. That sentence suggests that it’s probably a desert. Sand dunes. Okay, I’m starting to see it. What’s it about? Well, tell me this: Is what’s happening good or bad? The word ‘last’—it sounds bad. This guy is in trouble. Think of all the things you’re beginning to realize. My question now is, ‘Who is this guy?’ There’s a lot of craft in the balance between telling you and nourishing without telling too much.”

Barry is a natural teacher, both for himself and with students. He’s taught classes on technology licensing at Santa Clara University School of Law and often instructs writers in courses or at seminars. Sometimes he can’t help himself from pausing a movie he’s watching with his daughter to point out a storytelling technique.

Teaching is as sacred as anything for Barry and he recalls a moment of clarity while training at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo. He was struggling to nail the triangle chokehold when a senior student came over and swiftly repositioned Barry’s left arm from the side to the back of his opponent’s neck. It was a three-inch difference to complete the move that took only seconds to learn but left Barry struck.

“I remember walking home from training that night thinking about this guy,” he says. “He had trained for over a half-century and then came over to me to impart some wisdom for free that had taken him all that time to learn.”

Barry stops short of calling himself autodidactic because he says it’s too broad of a term, but he admits an adept ability to be his own teacher. While wrestling in high school in Milbourn, New Jersey, Barry read whatever he could find to enhance his ability on the mats.

During his undergrad years at Cornell, Barry’s blend of interests for geopolitics, martial arts, escape intervention and forbidden knowledge led him to apply to the CIA. One of the tests was a geopolitical and history exam and to prepare, he would bounce an inflatable globe while lying on his bed to constantly quiz himself on Botswana, Paraguay and every corner of the world. He left his exam feeling confident but second-guessed himself on who was the then prime minister of Australia.

“When I got back to my apartment,” he says, “I called the Australian embassy to ask who their prime minister was and the voice on the other end in a thick accent said, ‘It’s Bob Hawke, mate!’”

Barry scored a 50 out of 50.

His experience in the CIA suggests an insider’s perspective for his novels of espionage with characters working for government agencies, but Barry is quick to brush that aside, often joking that the CIA is a malfunctioning bureaucracy or “a post office with spies.” He’s more interested in the facts that lie in bare view.

“Most of what’s secret about the CIA is already available,” he reasons. “How do I know the CIA is intent on influencing and infiltrating the mainstream media? John Brennan, the former director, is an analyst on MSNBC. Half the staff on cable news are retired CIA.”

Since publishing his first book in 2003, Barry has released a new title nearly every year. His John Rain series, and the more recent series centered on the heroine Livia Lone, are released to international fanfare. A bar in Osaka, Japan, that Barry wrote about in his first book, often receives mail from readers looking to connect with the author.

“What’s nice about getting older is that I’m not jealous of other people. There are writers who are galactically better than me,” he says, before breaking into a smile, “but no one else can write these stories. And if I wasn’t born, these stories never would have happened

Underwater Aperture

When Joel Simon was 11 years old, a glass Coca-Cola bottle washed ashore at his feet. “Hecho en México” read the label. This well-traveled bottle had ridden the waves north, up the California coast, and was funneled by the tides to Alamitos Bay in Long Beach.

Joel imagined the marine life that the bottle must have seen along its journey: a pod of bottlenose dolphins gliding effortlessly along the surface, highlighter-orange Garibaldi damselfish patrolling their reef territories and a giant squid amid a nighttime feeding frenzy.

Although the bottle was unable to speak, Joel still found a way to unlock the marine theater. Using some rubber bands, a belt, an old bicycle valve and a rubber hose, 11-year-old Joel fashioned a homemade breathing apparatus out of the bottle. It could only hold enough air for three breaths, but the apparatus gave Joel a newfound liberation underwater.

“Being able to essentially stay underwater with this Coke bottle for about six minutes,” Joel recounts, “I had every bit of thrill that I’m sure the Wright brothers did, even if they’re only 18 feet above and I’m only 18 feet below. This was a real adventure into a new realm for me.”

Joel’s childhood ingenuity and unbridled passion for the aquatic world has carried on into his adult life. The Menlo Park resident has been photographing underwater life for over four decades and managing his snorkeling tour company, Sea for Yourself, for the last 25 years.

He now finds his joy in the familiar, whereas most divers and snorkelers find it in the unexpected. “For the truly attentive and the truly alert,” he says, “all is familiar and all is new.”

Growing up in Long Beach, Joel regularly swam, surfed and sailed in the coastal waters. He remembers diving around the old bridge pilings in Alamitos Bay with his homemade scuba gear, enamored with the barnacles, starfish and anemones enveloping the underwater columns. By age 16, he had upped his equipment and training, becoming a scuba-certified snorkeling camp counselor at the YMCA on Catalina Island while volunteering for various marine biology research projects.

But it was not until the early 1970s that Joel first had the idea to photograph the depths below. Today, waterproof cameras are abundant but back then, underwater photography was specialized and arcane.

So Joel had to pull off another feat of ingenuity: He built his own plexiglass, waterproof camera housing system.

“The thrill of being able to take your own pictures underwater was an amazing extension of the intrigue of that marine environment,” he says.

Marine life appears alien to terrestrial-centric human eyes—Joel’s photography style leans into that unfamiliarity. His most captivating photographs are known as macro images: Intense close-ups of patterns or textures of aquatic organisms that blur the line between abstraction and reality.

“For the most part, this is exactly how the camera saw them,” Joel says. “I’m not doing any special Photoshop.”

Joel has three primary tenets for underwater photography. First, he says that people must feel comfortable in the water, adapting to currents, pressure and temperature changes. Second, they should know the limitations of their snorkeling or scuba equipment.

Finally, and for Joel this is the most important, people should learn about the aquatic ecosystems they enter—not only to figure out the best photography opportunities, but also to respect the well-being of the organisms.

“I do firmly believe that snorkeling is one of the most benign ways that people can interact with a wilderness environment,” he says.

Following his father’s advice of “Do what you love and do it well,” Joel searched for a way to turn his love for the sea into a career. After moving to the Bay Area to attend Stanford University, he worked with Peter Voll to establish the Stanford Alumni Association’s Travel Study program. Joel says he was the “pseudo” director of aquatic trips before branching off to start his own snorkeling-specific travel company, Sea for Yourself.

“My goal is to provide an infrastructure that allows people to visit and literally immerse themselves in a wilderness environment in a way that gives them comfort and confidence that might not otherwise be accessible to them,” he says. “That’s really important to me.”

Over the company’s many years of operation, Joel and his colleagues have led educational trips to prominent reef environments such as Fiji, Palau, Bonaire and the Great Barrier Reef. He’s also guided several groups to Tonga to snorkel with humpback whales. Joel says the baby whales behave like puppy dogs, curiously swimming up to the snorkeling group with playful energy.

Joel emphasizes that he wants the trips he leads to be more than just snorkeling—he wants the group to leave enriched with knowledge and respect garnered from the local culture. For instance, he once gifted a local lobster fisherman in Mexico a bottle of rum in exchange for the fisherman’s stories from the sea, passed down from the fisherman’s father and grandfather.

“I always want to be respectful of the environments we visit,” Joel explains. “Whether it’s the terrestrial coastal communities or the marine environments.”

Over his many years of travel, Joel has noticed changes in the communities he visits. With cellular technology now connecting many of these island habitations to the world economy, marine environments that were once resources have become commodities.

But Joel is comfortable with the sea changes. Beyond the local communities, he notices large, year-to-year fluctuations in reef ecosystems. Since the reefs withstood a millennia of extinction events, he’s confident that these environments will persevere past human-induced climate change. Joel says even visiting a reef at different times of the day produces a variance of experiences for the observer.

“You could go to one channel, for example, during what’s called a slack tide when there’s not a lot of water movement and take a look around, but when you come back two hours later and there’s more of a current flying, you’ll have an entirely different experience,” he notes. “The dynamics of the underwater community are oftentimes really contingent, if not dependent, on the tides and the currents. If you had just visited a place one time, you’d never know about that.”

Joel’s perspective and photography of life beneath the waves offer a glimpse into the otherwise unforeseen world. The images stir up intrigue that helps those of us on dry land become further interested and more attentive to marine ecologies.

“When we can talk and communicate both about the strengths and the vulnerabilities of marine environments, those images provide a connective tissue,” Joel says. “And if they can be visually intriguing simply from a point of aesthetics, that’s all the better.

Perfect Shot: Crescent Iridescence

Los Altos resident Seema Mehta was walking the Stanford Dish trail one early morning, gathering her thoughts over the recent sudden passing of her mother, Indumati. As she turned her gaze eastwards, this Perfect Shot of a full arch of a rainbow revealed itself. “It wasn’t raining where I was, yet this rainbow presented itself to me boldly and magnificently,” Seema says. “It felt like a magical moment.”

Image Courtesy of Seema Mehta

Too Much TV

I saw a headline for TV shows that were being taken off the air, and when I clicked on it, I discovered that I’d never heard of a single one of them. With 200 networks and a zillion streaming services, producers are churning out new shows like the Fed is printing money. Like the stars in the sky, there are just too many to count.

How all these channels and shows make money is a mystery. There are only so many eyeballs out there and they keep getting divided by more and more programming. Soon, there will be a show for each and every living American. Mine will be called The Confused Aging Jew, and you’ll find it appropriately on the Lemon network.

Now that we’re limited in our entertainment options, we’re watching more television than ever. And it was a ridiculous amount to begin with. I was brought up to think of TV as evil and mind-destroying, and I remember that my dad would not allow us to watch certain shows that he deemed reprehensible, like The Beverly Hillbillies and The Munsters. I somehow survived.

There does seem to be a good number of excellent TV shows on now, and I’ve read how prominent film actors who have tired of the ambiguity of film work are proclaiming their passion for television and the opportunity to have a constant job doing quality work.

Despite this acclaim for television today, I remain somewhat embarrassed to discuss what I watch. Though I seem to be spending more time in front of the set, announcing this to others still seems like an admission of intellectual defeat, a negative stain on the quality of my lifestyle choices. I’m ashamed that I am watching any television at all, frankly, thinking that instead in my every off moment I should be reading Shakespeare or studying Torah.

Most of us would have a bit of disdain for someone who watches 10 hours of TV a day, so just where is the cut-off on the number of hours…two, three, even four, that is acceptable? At what amount do you go from just watching a bit of TV to becoming an intellectual twit who wastes his life away in front of the boob tube, as we use to call it in my home?

I can’t watch TV during the day, unless it is a sports show on the weekends. There’s just something about having the TV on when the sun is shining that inhibits me from turning on the set. If I’m not working, I go find a chore to do, and I have an endless number of them on my list. I’d feel creepy and weird turning on The View (which I’ve never seen) or a rerun of Mad Men.

Recently, in our regular rather large family gatherings (there are 14 in my immediate family now), I notice that we are often discussing our personal TV-watching. I admit that it’s fun to compare notes and, best of all, to hear about new discoveries of shows “that we should absolutely be watching.”

I readily take suggestions and give them a shot. But, like an all-you-can-eat buffet, if I’m not hooked after a couple of bites, I’m ready to move on. I tend to go more for the dramatic, well-written shows like Mad Men, Ozark or Better Call Saul. The only reality show I watch is Alone. Still, I’m a “half-watcher,” meaning that I always have my laptop open and on, and while a show is playing, I’m also reading the news or watching “Jack Nicklaus’s 50 Best Saves” or seeing how they make truck tires. I can watch a show and then have no idea what it was about.

There is only one show that I fully engage in: Fauda. If you don’t know this Netflix show, it’s about an undercover unit of the Israeli special forces engaged in battle with Hamas. While it is absolutely the most gripping show I’ve ever seen, the real reason I can’t have my laptop open is simple: subtitles, and fast ones at that.

TV has come a long way in my lifetime of watching. We started well, went through some sketchy years and now have some pretty decent dramas. I recently watched the first episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Beautifully written, funny and sentimental, Aunt Bee and Andy are still charming, and Opie steals your heart. Even with the 10,000 programs that have followed in its place, it’s still the best show on the boob tube.

Cozzolino’s Family Farm

On the Bay side of the Peninsula, it’s difficult to imagine that the area was once peppered with ranches, dairy and vegetable farms and large orchards spreading southwards towards San Jose. Now, most agricultural pursuits are coast-side, including one family farm with deep Peninsula roots.

Alex Cozzolino and his wife Sharon started their floral farm in a deep and narrow canyon off of Highway 92 in Half Moon Bay in 1970. They continue to be involved along with son Tony and his wife Stephanie, who are the more hands-on members of the family now.

Alex grew up in Millbrae, where his dad Sandino farmed daisies on a hillside now dotted with houses, following a tradition of floral farming that came to the Peninsula in 1884 when the Enomoto brothers of Redwood City grew the first chrysanthemums in America. In the decades that followed, flowers emerged as San Mateo County’s most important agricultural crop.

Like the Enomotos before him, Alex expanded his daisy business to other flowers, initially growing cut flowers to sell at wholesale markets in San Francisco and eventually expanding to shipping flowers all over the country to major grocery chains.

Today, Cozzolino’s floral business is retail-oriented. The 15 varieties of flowers brought to market seasonally include tulips, ranunculus, anemone, daffodils, lilac, sunflower, lavender, dahlias, alstroemeria, iris, calla lily, hydrangea and sweet william.

“But we’re also transitioning to food,” says Tony, citing English shelling peas, lettuces, Swiss chard, kale and cilantro. “As a family, we’ve eaten lettuce grown by my father for years. He started growing more greens with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Tony, sometimes accompanied by Stephanie, with Alex pitch-hitting from time to time, attends three farmers markets a week along with an additional seasonal one. Sharon oversees Cozzolino’s Farm Stand on Highway 92, a couple of miles inland from Half Moon Bay, selling not only their own farm produce, but also products from nearby farms such as honey, almonds and strawberries. The stand is surrounded by an additional 13 acres that will one day be farmed.

In addition to flowers, Tony brings potted plants to the farmers markets for home gardeners, always dispensed with a few helpful planting tips to boost the odds of success. The Cozzolinos are known especially for their 30 varieties of tomato plants but they also sell herbs and vegetables.

“Growing up, I was always involved with the farm stuff,” says Tony. “My brother, sister and I would work a few hours here and there. In high school and college, I started doing the farmers markets.”

Flowers remain their bread and butter, although when we visited Tony and Stephanie, Tony had just planted pumpkins in one of the larger fields on the 40-acre property; these he sells wholesale as well as retail.

Over a dozen varieties of pumpkins with multiple colors, shapes and sizes make their way to the farmers markets leading up to Halloween. There’s also a Half Moon Bay pumpkin patch, partnering with neighbor Pastorino’s Farm, with seasonal offerings like gourds, Indian corn and mini hay bales.

“We also design and decorate entryways and lobbies for hotels, restaurants and fall weddings,” Tony notes, “and we even got to do one for the Warriors!” Local schools also put in requests for pumpkin patches. “They’ll call and say, ‘We want 200 Sugar Pies,’ and we set them out on the lawn for the kids.”

Following in the footsteps of grandfather Sandino, who ran a tree lot in Millbrae some 50 years ago, Tony and Stephanie opened a Christmas tree lot next to the shops at Spanishtown in Half Moon Bay in 2013. The tree lot has a selection of noble firs, grand firs and Nordmann firs along with wreaths, garland and mistletoe.

Stephanie and Tony met at San Francisco State and got married in 2012. She describes herself as a suburban girl gone country. “I fell in love with the property and thought, what a great place to raise a family,” she says. “I love working with my husband and growing things that are good for people to eat.”

Stephanie has found her niche in chickens, more specifically, their eggs. “We have 800 chickens—10 different breeds—the reason we have so many breeds is that we’re known for our selection of mixed colors in each dozen we sell,” she explains. “They are free-range chickens, although Tony built a nice barn for them to go into at night. We still lose about 40 chickens a year to raccoons, coyotes and bobcats.”

Tony is quick to add that they have no roosters. “They’re super mean,” he says. “We buy one-day-old chicks and raise them here.”

Farming is not without challenges, and as Tony points out, most are timeless: “There’s lack of water and too much water, and lack of sun and too much sun. Every year is different. We’re situated in a little micro-climate. It can be foggy in town and 70 degrees here in the canyon.”

Tony credits Stephanie with being the entrepreneur of the family. A case in point is the Cozzolino’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) produce box she started up soon after the shelter-in-place order took effect on the Peninsula. Orders for weekly delivery are taken online, with contents varying by the month. “We deliver within 15 miles of Half Moon Bay,” shares Tony. “We ring the doorbell and walk away so you know it’s there.”

Farming is a daily and demanding activity for Stephanie and Tony. “The beginning of the year is heavy with flowers and greenhouse starts, and the spring brings pumpkin planting and flowers and organic herbs,” Tony says, noting that September is harvest time for the pumpkins.

The time between Christmas and mid-January brings a bit of respite. “Once the tree lot sells out,” Tony says, “we spend time with my family and Stephanie’s family.”

Stephanie chimes in: “That’s our time, time to get away and do a bit of traveling.”

At least until the next cycle of farm life begins.

Fresh Off the Farm

Cozzolino’s Farm Stand
12599 San Mateo Road, Half Moon Bay

San Mateo Farmers Market
Lower Hillsdale lot at the College of San Mateo
Saturday, 9:00AM to 1:00PM

Menlo Park Farmers Market
Downtown Menlo Park between Crane and Chestnut Streets
Sunday, 9:00AM to 1:00PM
San Carlos Farmers Market

700 Laurel Street, San Carlos
Sunday, 10:00AM to 2:00PM

Note: Check individual locations for current status updates.

Herbalist by the Sea

Once upon a time, near a cozy little cottage by the sea, there was a garden where flowers bloomed impossibly bright, bountiful greenery stretched up to the sun and even the smallest, seemingly most insignificant weed felt nurtured and welcome. Carefully tending the patch of land was a woman steeped in the knowledge of wild edibles and medicinal plants, living in harmony with the birds, butterflies and ladybugs drawn to this teeming, vibrant space.

This may sound like the start of a fairytale, but it’s actually an apt description for the natural landscape created by Suzanne Elliott just north of Half Moon Bay. Twenty years ago, when she first moved into her 1940s-era El Granada home, the neglected front yard of the half-acre lot was strewn with car parts and debris. “I dug the whole thing up and transformed it into a garden,” she says. But not just any garden. Here, amid a mix of wild plants, garden herbs and planter beds, surrounded by fragrant lavender, chamomile buds and lemon verbena, Suzanne practices and shares the ancient art and science of herbalism. Under the brand “Woodsorrel,” she teaches classes and workshops and sells her own products, drawing on recipes and traditions forged centuries ago.

Floral Studded Salad

Flowers and herbs just make me happy! It’s hard not to want to use them for all the meals I serve. It’s so much fun to see the smiling faces of my guests when I present a colorful salad graced with vibrant edible flowers freshly plucked from the garden. Don’t limit their use to just salads—I sprinkle them over many dishes before serving. Fresh leaves of mint, basil and nasturtium can be torn or coarsely chopped and added to the mix for an extra punch of flavor!

Walking out on a guided tour through her garden, Suzanne gestures to the eye-popping visual opus of lush living things. “All of these plants are here for a reason,” she says. “There’s that saying by Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘What is a weed? It’s a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.’ I think we’ve been brainwashed to think that having weeds in your garden is a horrible thing. Probably 85% of what’s in my garden has a purpose.”

Suzanne points to a patch of tufted tall green blades, bearing tiny glints of seeds. “See this tall grass?,” she asks. “This is called wild oat and this makes an amazing tea. It gets really sweet because of the starches, and it’s also really rich in minerals and calcium.” She leans down and picks a few long, skinny pods off another plant. “This is wild radish,” she notes. “This is where our radishes come from; you want to catch these seed pods when they’re really green and tender—they’re delicious.”

Wild mustard. Mallow. Yellow dock. What the eye disregards as weeds is revealed in a new light as Suzanne moves from one patch of greenery to another. “People tend to not gather wild foods because they don’t know where to begin,” she says. “I don’t separate weeds and garden plants; they’re all plants to me. They’re all part of the whole world of food and medicine.”

It’s a world that started intriguing Suzanne at an early age. Growing up in Pacifica with her parents and three siblings, she credits her mother with teaching her the practical skills that serve her to this day. “I remember learning everything—how to fold clothes, how to make the bed; she had me in the kitchen cutting things up and using a knife,” she says. “She didn’t coddle us. She was very loving but we had to learn how to stand on our own two feet and I had a lot of responsibility as a young person.”

Suzanne enjoyed cooking and took over making the family meals. While she was still in high school, she started working at Half Moon Bay Nursery, where she learned to pot plants, make cuttings and design arrangements like hanging moss baskets. Suzanne made a point of never turning down an assignment. “I would say, ‘Sure, I can do it!’ and that’s been my motto since I was a young person,” she says. “The nursery helped build a foundation when it came to planting and learning how to grow; I also got really interested in herbs while I was there.”

Baked Goods & Desserts

I love to experiment with unusual uses of herbs and edible flowers to create unique flavor combinations. Savory and sweet work well together. Try adding a tablespoon or two of finely minced herbs (such as thyme or rosemary) or flowers (such as rose geranium leaves or lavender flowers) to your favorite shortbread, sugar cookie, scone or cake recipe. For an extra special touch, press a fresh edible flower onto each cookie before baking or garnish a frosted cupcake or cake with colorful blossoms.

When Suzanne graduated high school in 1976, she received two life-changing books: one on Shiatsu massage and the other on herbs, Jeanne Rose’s Herbs and Things. Both resonated deeply with her—she went on to receive her certification in Shiatsu therapy and immersed herself in herbal knowledge, attending Heartwood College in Santa Cruz and studying with renowned experts like Michael Tierra and Rosemary Gladstar. “I thought I could be an herbalist who does intakes with people and helps them with their diets and ailments,” she says. “But I realized I would rather teach people how to be healthy. I really like to share what I know.”

Starting with a class on making herbal cosmetics, Suzanne expanded her offerings to include a variety of workshops and events, along with her signature eight-month course, “Herbal Ways for Women.” Held in a “living classroom” stretching from her own garden and a prolific green divide in her street to nearby coastside discoveries, she takes a hands-on approach, teaching students the art of foraging and how to use the abundant natural bounty around us. “I don’t just use wild plants—I also use garden plants and herbs in non-traditional ways that people don’t think about,” she says, “like rosemary, for instance; you can bake it into cookies, make it into a tea or put it in vinegar.”

To keep things intimate, Suzanne purposely limits “Herbal Ways for Women” to 10 students, with each month following a seasonal theme. Topics include wild foods cooking, a comprehensive study of medicinal plants, herb garden gastronomy, botanical skin care and herbal medicine making. “My approach is food first and then layer it with the use of herbs,” she notes. “We learn to make tonics, tea blends and medicinal tinctures. The beauty of herbal medicine is that each plant contains dozens of healing properties as opposed to a single action.”

Whether students are whipping up Wild Greens Frittata, Floral Studded Salad or Creamy Mallow Soup, Suzanne also aims to expose the taste buds to new experiences. “When you go to the store, everything is geared to a certain palate, whereas in the wild, things have stronger flavors. That’s because they’re in their natural state; they haven’t been changed or manipulated,” explains Suzanne. “We learn about plants by tasting them, smelling them and touching them. It really helps to expand your repertoire of flavors.”

Fresh Tips from Suzanne

Sample edible flowers: Viola, pansy, calendula, day lily, nasturtium, dandelion, lavender, scented geranium, geranium, borage, arugula, sweet violet and fragrant roses.

Sample herbs: Chives, society garlic, thyme, rosemary, basil, sage and mint.

Sample wild plants: Wild radish, wild mustard and fennel.

Note: Be sure your edible flowers have not been sprayed with pesticides. To wash: Fill a bowl with cold water and carefully swish the flowers in water so as not to bruise them. To dry: Take each flower at its base and gently shake off excess water.

In addition to teaching classes and workshops, Suzanne also fills her days concocting Woodsorrel herbal delicacies and handcrafted body and bath products. Tucked behind her cozy cottage is a shed-like structure she refers to as her herb room or apothecary. Folders and binders overflow with recipes and instructions, and shelves are stacked with dozens of glass canning jars, bottles and canisters. Homegrown rosemary and thyme are here, along with more exotic-sounding ingredients like wild mugwort and mallow root. “About half of these plants I gather wild,” she says. “I try to forage and grow as much as I can because it’s just better quality and it’s fun.”

Artfully packaging her wares, Suzanne sells to wholesale clients and at seasonal pop-up marketplaces she co-hosts with Half Moon Bay ceramic artist Catherine Henry. Herbal libations might include elderberry rose cordial, ginger vodka and figgy brandy. There’s triple rose moisture cream, wild mugwort oil and Turkish soothing bath salts. Any fruits that come her way transform into fanciful marmalades and jams. “I like to add different flavor elements,” Suzanne says. “For my apple jellies, I will use rose geranium or lemon verbena or sometimes lavender with rose hips and rose petals.”

Over rose geranium scone bites and steaming mugs of “Cottage Garden” tea blend sweetened with homegrown stevia, Suzanne talks about the rhythm of life as an herbalist. “I follow the seasons and every day I’m out there gathering something,” she says. “The whole experience of being out in nature is so healing. Herbalism is a lifestyle, really. I do it because I can’t not do it. It comes from a place deep inside of me.”

Suzanne acknowledges that maintaining a garden that welcomes the wild requires a lot of upkeep but the effort both fuels and feeds her. Looking out over the splashes of dandelion, Queen Anne’s lace and flowering tree mallow, she recognizes so many familiar friends, along with some surprising new ones. “I have a hand in it but nature plays a big part,” she reflects. “A lot of the plants that have grown here I’ve planted but many of them have just appeared—it’s kind of like a magic garden.”

Which seems apropos for this fairytale-like setting by the sea.

Garden to Glass

Whether muddling, garnishing or infusing, use the flavors and colors from your garden to enhance and balance your summer cocktails. PUNCH photography director and food editor Paulette Phlipot spotlights delicious concoctions you can make at home or order from your favorite local establishments. And be sure to check out Paulette’s book picks for even more ways to bring your garden into your glass!

Vina Enoteca
Vina Enoteca is a full-service Italian restaurant and bar located at the Stanford Barn in Palo Alto. Bringing the rustic charm of Italy to Silicon Valley, Vina Enoteca currently has a range of offerings including outdoor dining, curbside pick-up, delivery, Zoom wine tastings and cocktails to go.

Pineapple Tommy’s Margarita

Created by: Vina Enoteca mixologist Massimo Stronati

A refreshing twist on a classic margarita using fresh ingredients and fresh basil.

Serves 1

1⁄2 oz lime juice

1⁄2 oz agave syrup

2-3 basil leaves

2 oz pineapple tequila*

Large ice cube

In a shaker, shake lime, syrup, pineapple tequila and two basil leaves. Strain and serve in a double old fashioned glass with a large clear ice cube. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf and pineapple.

*Pineapple Tequila

3 cups blanco tequila

1 fresh pineapple

Air-tight container, like a mason jar

Remove the skin and core the pineapple, cut it into chunks. Place the pieces into an airtight container like a mason jar and cover with tequila. Seal the container and place in the refrigerator for at least one week. For a hint of smoke, grill the pineapple prior to soaking. When ready to use, strain the tequila.

Welcome to the Peninsula’s neighborhood bar! Located in Burlingame and specializing in craft cocktails, Barrelhouse boasts one of the largest selections of beer, wine and spirits you’ll find locally—with charcuterie and a carefully curated cocktail menu available for patio dining and to-go orders. 

El Jardin

Created by: Barrelhouse co-owner Juan Loredo

Serves 1

1 1⁄2 oz blanco tequila infused with
serrano pepper*

1 oz melon, cucumber,
cilantro purée/juice

3⁄4 oz agave

1⁄2 oz lime juice

1⁄2 oz  lemon juice


Add all ingredients into shaker and shake with ice. Double strain into glass filled with ice.

*Place 1⁄2 serrano peppers (including seeds) into a 750ml bottle of blanco tequila. Infuse for two days. Strain peppers and seeds.

Honeydew, Cucumber and Cilantro (puree/juice)

Save the rest for later.

2 1⁄2 lbs honeydew melon, cut into one-inch pieces

1 English cucumber, peeled and cut into pieces

1⁄3 cup (packed) cilantro

3 Tbl fresh lime juice

La Bodeguita Del Medio
Taking inspiration from the legendary original in Havana, La Bodeguita del Medio in Palo Alto offers neighborhood hospitality combined with a vibrant Cuban influence. Currently providing outdoor dining and a to-go menu based on the availability of fresh seafood, meat and local produce, La Bodeguita also offers cocktails, beer and wine for purchase with meals.

The Mojito

Variation created by: La Bodeguita del Medio co-owner Michael Ekwall

The classic Cuban cocktail… when made properly it is excellent and refreshing! Along with the daiquiri, this is probably the most famous cocktail from Cuba.

Serves 1

12 clean mint leaves (picked higher than a dog’s legs!); smaller stems are okay

1 tsp bar sugar

Add to a tall collins glass, gently muddle to release the essential mint oils, then add the following ingredients and gently remuddle to stir:

1 1⁄2 oz Bacardi Limon Rum (For a mojito with a bit more flavor kick, I like Plantation 3 Star Rum.)

1 oz Mojito Mix (This is a bar mix that we make daily with 1 part fresh lime juice and 2 parts fresh lemon juice.)*

3 oz sparkling water

Finish with crushed ice.

Hint: If you don’t have crushed ice at home, use a kitchen utensil to break down cubes in a bag.

*The classic Mojito uses only lime juice, but we taste-tested about 20 different recipes when we opened and our citrus mix was the clear preference.

Pink Martini

There are plenty of occasions that call for a fun, flirty pink drink, so here is a classic, reinvented with a dash of fruity strawberry gin.

Serves 1

2 1⁄2  fl oz Lola & Vera Strawberry Gin, or similar strawberry-forward, fruity pink gin

2 tsp dry vermouth

Lemon zest, to garnish

Ice cubes

Put a martini glass in the fridge to chill. Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes, shake sharply and strain into the chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon zest and serve immediately.

Rosie Lea

Is it a classy cocktail? A refreshing sweetened tea? Or a fun drink perfect for an afternoon tea party? Yes, yes and yes.

Serves 4

4 fl oz Beefeater London Pink, or
similar strawberry-forward,
fruity pink gin

2 fl oz triple sec

11 fl oz cranberry juice

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime

4 lime slices, to garnish

Ice cubes

Add the gin, triple sec, cranberry and lime juices to a large clean teapot or a jug/pitcher filled with ice cubes. Stir well and pour into tea cups or tumblers, garnish each one with a slice of lime and serve.

Nasturtium Collins

Throughout summer and into the fall, nasturtiums grow out of control in the garden at Midnight Apothecary, so I feel no guilt about harvesting huge amounts to keep a semblance of order. They not only look glorious but they also taste wonderful. Both the leaves and flowers have a pepperiness that works particularly well with rum and tequila. We use Nasturtium Rum made with golden rum, not just for its flavor but also for the dramatic amber color you get once it is diluted against the yellow, orange and red flowers.

Serves 1

1⁄2 oz  Nasturtium Rum*

1 oz   Ginger Syrup**

1⁄2 oz  freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 oz  soda water

Ice cubes

*Nasturtium Rum

Many flowers look fantastic but taste insipid. However, nasturtiums are bold in appearance as well as flavor. The sweetness of the molasses or sugarcane juice in rum needs a punchy, spicy flavor to team up with, and the pepperiness of nasturtium is ideal.

Makes approximately 1  pints

Enough nasturtium flowers (about 40) to fill the jar loosely

1 liter bottle of golden rum, 80 proof/40% ABV

1 quart wide-mouthed, sealable jar, sterilized

Sealable presentation bottle(s), sterilized

Gold rum is a good halfway house in terms of flavor and price, but if you are feeling flush, splash out on a good-quality rhum Agricole (agricultural rum) from Martinique. Made exclusively from sugarcane juice, it is almost clear and bursting with natural flavor.

Once your infusion is ready, a fresh nasturtium flower will look stunning in the finished cocktail and, if you eat the whole blossom, you’ll get the sweetness of the nectar alongside the spiciness of the pepper. The leaves are also deliciously peppery.

Pick over the nasturtium flowers and remove any wildlife. Pack the unwashed blossoms gently into the jar and pour the rum over the top, making sure the flowers are completely covered. Seal the jar, upend it gently a couple of times, and leave in a cool, dark place. The pepperiness takes a while to really work in this infusion, so check after seven days and wait a maximum of three weeks—certainly no longer.

Strain the infusion into a wide-mouthed pitcher, then funnel into the sterilized presentation bottle(s) and seal. Store in a cool, dark place and consume within six months.

**Ginger Syrup

This syrup will come in handy, not just for your cocktails, such as the Nasturtium Collins, but also for a variety of gastronomic delights like marinades, stir fries and desserts.

Makes approximately 1 pint

2 cups superfine (caster) sugar

2 cups water

2. oz fresh ginger, fairly thickly sliced

1 Tbl lemon juice or 80 proof/40% ABV vodka (optional)

Sealable presentation bottle(s), sterilized

Place the sugar and water in a nonreactive pan and slowly bring to a boil. Add the ginger and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the ginger steep for another 10 minutes.

Strain the syrup into a wide-mouthed pitcher and then funnel into the sterilized presentation bottle(s) and seal. Store in the refrigerator and consume within two weeks. A tablespoon of lemon juice or high-proof vodka added just after removing the pan from the heat will increase the shelf life of the syrup for up to a month

From Wild Cocktails from the Midnight Apothecary: 100 Recipes Using Home-Grown and Foraged Fruits, Herbs and Edible Flowers
By Lottie Muir • CICO Books, 2019

From Pink Gin: More than 30 Pink-Hued Cocktails
Ryland Peters & Small, 2020

Landmark: Hanna House

An architectural gem on the Stanford University campus, Hanna House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1936. Professor Paul Hanna and his wife Jean, both specialists in progressive, early childhood education and architecture enthusiasts, asked Wright to design an affordable home that would suit their growing family. Coming out of the Great Depression, Wright was pursuing a new vision for elegant, moderately-priced homes for the American middle class in a style that he called ‘Usonian’ (U.S. of North America). The Hanna House is considered an important example of Wright’s Usonian architecture, although, over time, the project grew well beyond ‘Middle American’ in size and expense. Wright patterned the layout for Hanna House entirely on the repeating hexagonal forms of a beehive, which led to the home’s nickname, “Honeycomb House.” Six-sided shapes and 120-degree angles are echoed in concrete patterns in the floor, custom furnishings, outdoor terraces and water features. As the first of Wright’s structures with no right angles, the Hanna-Honeycomb House has become widely recognized as an innovation in spatial planning and a turning point in Wright’s career. The unique design of this glass, redwood and brick home offered organic openness and flexibility, allowing for easy expansion and reorganization as the family’s needs changed over time. The Hannas occupied the home for 38 years and in 1975 donated the property to Stanford University. After sustaining significant damage in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the house underwent a complex 10-year restoration process. Original drawings, photographs and documentation can be viewed at

A Personable Touch

It’s not unusual for designer Ashley Canty to shoot a text message over to a former client after spotting a painting or side table for sale that would perfectly complement their home. The founder and principal designer of Interior Solutions Designs in Burlingame is known for preserving her work relationships and generating new ideas, even when a project is over.

“I recently saw a piece of art and sent a message to a Palo Alto client. I told her, ‘This is beautiful and it reminded me of you,’” Ashley says. “I know their home, style and price point values. It’s knowing all those things and letting the client know that you’re always available. I don’t mean that in a sales pitch way, but just because you’re done, doesn’t mean you turn off that project.”

Ashley’s home projects tend to naturally grow over the years, as in what may have started with a simple paint job and cabinet replacement could easily expand into a full two-story remodel. Ashley says that a majority of her clients prefer a more hands-on approach with a lot of back and forth in choosing each detail. It’s during these phone calls, emails and texts that a unique friendship is forged.

“My hope is not to come in, do the job and then move on,” she says. “People refer us or move into bigger homes and it’s an ongoing relationship. Every five years, if people are in the same home, there’s a major adjustment and change. It took a few years to understand that this business is repeat business.”

For 20 years, Ashley’s firm, Interior Solutions Designs, has guided Peninsula homeowners through the process of creating the home of their dreams. Her clients are spread across the region, living in ranch homes or starter homes, with various goals that might include installing a marvelous three-story cluster pendant light or designing a bonafide man cave—with vinyl records and guitars adorning the wall.

A recent project in Menlo Park doubled in size when two clients, who are related, ended up moving next door to each other. Ashley was working with a client on a three-story modern Spanish custom home when his brother moved in to the house on the left. Ashley worked with the siblings to design the ideal large family compound. It’s a picturesque set-up where the two backyards are shared with a gate; over 20 close relatives gather for dinner on summer nights and one house has a pool while the other has a large grass yard.

“I treat my clients optimistically. Anything they want or need, I want to make them feel that it’s doable,” Ashley says. “And I want their style to be the most important feature in the space. It shouldn’t look like my space, but their space with my twist.”

Interior Solutions will take on projects with all flavors of design—modern farmhouses and homes with a Mediterranean or Spanish style—however, Ashley is personally drawn to the timelessness of transitional design.

She notes how the all-white look and the California open plan with airy rooms is currently fashionable and popular on the Peninsula. “On every block in Menlo Park, you’ll see four houses with modern lighting out front and steel windows,” she says. And when brainstorming ideas, Ashley is always conscious to remain true to the space; after all, you wouldn’t stick an ultra-modern shower inside a classic Victorian.

The house Ashley shares with her husband and three-year-old daughter in Hillsborough is a ranch-style home filled with timeless antiques that she’s collected over the years. But she’s not immune to absorbing inspiration from her clients. “Every job I do, I end up falling in love with that style,” she says. “In my house, I have an antique table and Art Deco chairs with dark red velvet that I got from H.D. Buttercup.”

Nesting and building homes have been Ashley’s passions since she was a toddler in San Francisco, going with her mother to the fabric shop she owned or joining her carpenter father at construction sites. (He would pay her a dollar for every nail she collected off the floor.) She continues to love the smell of construction sites to this day.

Ashley’s first job was in clothing and retail, where she excelled at visual arrangements and designed window and wall displays. She took interior design classes through UC Berkeley and, after launching a company that provided professional organizing, Ashley noticed that every client needed help with designs.

She launched Interior Solutions Designs in 2000 and quickly learned the dynamics of running a design firm. “Twenty-five percent is actually designing. A large amount is managing projects and when the items come in,” she says. “Designers are really artists. You have to pull yourself back and treat it like a business. I think because I worked in retail management, it gave me a lot of great guidelines and standard operations procedures. Every line in the contract is from an experience I had before.”

With her two decades in design, Ashley’s success isn’t just in her ability to track down the perfect cluster pendant light. She’s careful to create an open working relationship with her clients to design a home that satisfies both of their visions.

“It’s important that we’re all honest and there are veto rights. My client, their spouse and I will all have veto rights,” she says. “I always tell my clients that I don’t live here and that it’s my job to take in your taste, your style and your house’s style and then point out that if you make this change, it would help tie this whole room together.”

Peninsula Pitmasters

Barbecuing is an exercise in patience.

We wait for the summer when the backyard becomes a kitchen and then we wait by the grill with smoldering anticipation. Any barbecue pitmaster, a term of respect for someone who is skilled at the trade, will tell you how a little morning preparedness ends in chews of approval later in the day and that time is the secret recipe for achieving a tender and smoky finish.

A key distinction between grilling and barbecuing is time. We grill hamburgers and hot dogs, smaller meats that are cooked over direct heat and ready in minutes, not hours. But for the large cuts like ribs, brisket, pork butt and whole pigs, to ensure the meat is cooked all the way through, it demands a process of low temperature with a slow cooking time inside a smoker.

This suggests a laid-back lifestyle within barbecuing, which is perhaps why pitmasters and barbecue restaurateurs are often so warm and easy to learn from. Joshua Regal from Belmont’s Saucebelly and Jon Andino, co-owner of QBB in Mountain View, represent a new generation of barbecuing on the Peninsula, having both launched their businesses in the last few years.

Their menus pay tribute to the past with ties to Armadillo Willy’s, a pillar for local barbecue since the 1980s; Joshua is a former pitmaster who learned under the founder John Berwald whereas Jon’s first pitmaster for QBB was a former manager at the local chain’s Cupertino location.

Saucebelly and QBB may differ in how they run their operations and in the taste of their brisket, but both barbecue joints share a common appreciation for taking the time to smoke the meat to a level and standard you can put your pride in.

“The magic for me is in time and wood,” Joshua says. “Barbecue is done when it’s done; you can’t force it to be ready.”

“My opinion with cooking, in general, is that so much is about the preparedness,” Jon adds. “It’s about getting all your components ready—having the seasoning already mixed and the meat set out so that once you put it in the smoker, it’s time to crack open a beer.”

Saucebelly Finds A Home

Joshua and Laura “Red” Wilson launched Saucebelly in 2018, first as a pop-up operation that would appear at establishments such as Timber & Salt in Redwood City or St. James Gate in Belmont. Following several pop-up events at the ECR Pub in Belmont, Saucebelly recently took over its food program. It’s now open for takeout Tuesday through Sunday starting at 5PM and closing when sold out, a common timetable in the barbecue world.

Joshua is ecstatic to now have a permanent space to experiment and further offer his barbecue, which pulls certain inspiration from his roots in Charleston, South Carolina.

South Carolina barbecue is a serious practice—the state’s constitution even spells out specific guidelines for how a restaurant can publicize its barbecue menu. (You can’t have the word “barbecue” on the marquee unless using a wood fire pit. Or you’ll face a fine.) Joshua prepares a Carolina pulled pork complemented by a side of acidic vinegar to create an umami flavor and he’s very specific about the precise wood type he’s burning.

He’ll start with oak to get the fire hot and once it’s burning, he’ll switch to a hickory wood to smoke his pulled pork. When working with ribs or million-dollar bacon, he’ll use an applewood instead. “The wood seasons the meat more than anything,” he says, and cites Lazzari Fuel Company in Brisbane as his source for these various firewoods.

Joshua uses an 84” Lang BBQ Smoker with a deluxe warmer to smoke Saucebelly’s menu of smoked brisket, pulled pork and Danish baby back ribs. It’s a 17-foot-long smoker that maxes out at 400 pounds of meat and is all hardwood, no gas assistance. Controlling the temperature of the firebox is crucial while barbecuing (holding a steady 200 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit) and you want to put the meat on when the fire is burning down from its peak heat. It requires a lot of focus but it’s what separates a casual barbecue from the serious stuff.

“You have to work it—it’s all about fire maintenance. Anyone can flip on a Traeger,” Joshua says, of the popular home grill. “Those are great products if you have three kids and have to constantly walk away from the thing.”

The number of hours required to properly smoke the meats—tenderness occurs as the collagen melts into gelatin—varies with the size of the cut and quantity but Joshua recommends up to 10 to 12 hours for brisket and pork. (Sometimes he’ll ignite a fire as early as 3AM if he has a monster, 17-pound brisket to prepare.) The dedication and hours are always worth it when he sees a customer react with pleasure.

“Everybody has a preconceived notion of what barbecue is,” Joshua says, “and it’s my job to exceed that expectation.”

QBB Reinterprets BBQ

When Jon Andino and his business partner Kasim Syed, who owns Palo Alto Brewing Company, envisioned QBB (Quality Bourbon & Barbecue) in 2016, they were looking to fill a barbecue-sized pit in Mountain View dining.

“Castro Street was mainly Asian cuisine and the place we took over was Pakistani food,” he says, chuckling. “We took over and did the furthest thing from that with a place focused on pork.”

QBB’s menu has the usual barbecue favorites along with salads, mac & cheese and their crowd-pleasing cornbread muffins served with brown sugar maple butter. Their barbecue rub is a simple but effective mix of salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika and chili powder.

The restaurant uses two smokers in its indoor kitchen: a Cookshack SM160 electric smoker they purchased from Armadillo Willy’s and a Southern Pride SRG-400 gas smoker. That means they can cook up to 560 pounds of meat at a time, which is rare but not unheard of when a large catering order comes in.

QBB has over 160 bourbons on its shelf ready to sip and it’s become a hub for local whiskey lovers to explore the craft, even during the shelter-in-place order when they’ve offered shots of bourbon to go alongside a 66% discount on drinks. During the pandemic, QBB launched a community fund with a no-questions-asked policy for feeding frontline workers that has fed over 600 people.

And while the mouthwatering menu features chicken and sausage links, Jon says that two items reign supreme: “Brisket and ribs are like chocolate and vanilla to an ice cream place,” he says.

Flinging the Frisbee

It’s well-rounded fun that’s brought to the beach and is a frequent flier on college campuses, but with a little extra structure, throwing the Frisbee reaches new heights in disc golf. Whether it’s a family outing or with a group of friends, this exuberant outlet is a chance to get outside—and leave worries aside—as long as you keep your cool if you botch a hole and double bogey.

Jim Challas has a loftier view of disc golf—it’s his favorite sport. When he first discovered it, the only two disc golf courses available in the Bay Area were a pair of barren fields outside San Jose and Berkeley that were more often used as illegal garbage dumps.

This was in the mid-1970s when disc golf emerged as a funky recreational pastime that was easy to pick up and play but difficult to master. The sport has since adapted significantly; Jim and his friends used to make their disc golf baskets using chicken wire, only to watch people who didn’t know about the sport treat the baskets as barbecue pits. Today, the targets have become more robust and center around a pole with several chains linked up like a tulip to catch the disc before it falls into the collection basket.

Stretching from the Peninsula to the South Bay, there are now five disc golf courses available for public use. Four of these courses belong to the Silicon Valley Disc Golf Club, an organization Jim founded in 1997 that has grown to about 200 members. The fifth course belongs to the Redwood City Elks Lodge that oversees an 18-hole disc golf course near the Emerald Hills Golf Course.

Golf and disc golf are intrinsically linked in that they function essentially in the same way: You play 9 or 18 holes, begin on a tee area and the player with the lowest total cumulative score (strokes or throws) is the winner.

In disc golf, however, golf clubs are exchanged for discs of various sizes and subtle designs. The driver disc, used to tee off and fly the farthest, has a beveled and sharp edge, whereas the putter, thrown when you’re close to the basket, is much more rounded or with a deeper rim. Jim’s favorite local shop for purchasing discs is Helm of Sun Valley in either San Mateo or San Jose.

The origins of the sport reach back to “Steady” Ed Headrick, considered the Father of Disc Golf, who patented the Frisbee in 1966 as an employee at the toy company Wham-O. He would later design the Disc Golf Pole Hole (the basket target) and help to install the first-ever official disc golf course at Oak Grove Park in Pasadena in 1975. The Professional Disc Golf Association was established the following year, which Jim would join and later serve as a commissioner.

When Jim founded the Silicon Valley Disc Golf Club in 1997, his intent was to help establish the first local course. The Hellyer course in San Jose’s Hellyer County Park sprouted out of an empty field where club members had to first remove garbage, mattresses and 84 automobile tires before plotting out the course. It’s a hilly location with rolling fairways and the club planted 100 or so toyon bushes alongside sycamore and oak trees. Prevailing winds from Highway 101 add an extra element of challenge to the course’s nine holes.

The club’s next course, Parque De La Raza, was established in 2007 after members raised $10,000 to cover costs. Two more courses followed: Kelley Park in 2015 and then Cupertino’s Villa Maria in 2018 in Stevens Creek County Park.

With four courses, the club is now focusing on maintaining their conditions and nurturing their annual league as opposed to building another course. “I don’t think there are any more viable sites in Silicon Valley with parking, bathrooms and land that’s adaptable for a course,” Jim says. “There’s no room anywhere. I think we’ve maxed out.”

Jim says that club members include all types of locals: dentists, car mechanics, contractors and Starbucks managers. And while it’s largely comprised of 20- to 30-year-olds, he says there’s no lack of “seasoned citizens” who come out to throw. Club league play is on Tuesday and Friday nights from April through September, along with monthly tournaments every second Saturday of the month.

As July heats up and further social restrictions thaw, disc golf shines as a viable, all-ages activity for groups seeking a local outdoor escape. Silicon Valley Disc Golf Club courses are open to everyone—just show up and play. As Jim likes to remind any newcomers: “Disc golf is just a walk in the park.”

Jim’s Tips for the Perfect Throw

+ Create a back-foot to forward-foot motion.

+ Have your side to the target and keep your arm level.

+ Don’t let your wrist go below the shoulder. (If you drop below
the shoulder, the disc will go from right to left.)

+ Snap your wrist at the end to put a spin on a disc. It’s a
gyroscope; when it spins faster, it’s more stable. With less
spin, Mother Nature will take it and toss it where it wants to.

+ Throw into the wind.

+ Spin it hard. It’s like pulling the cord to start up a lawnmower.

Drive-In Time

Looking back on her childhood in Foster City, Alicia Petrakis fondly remembers her favorite place to be on a warm summer night. “I grew up going to the Burlingame drive-in,” she says. “My parents had a Ford Gran Torino station wagon and we’d put our sleeping bags in back.” The drive-in tradition held strong through Alicia’s years at San Mateo High School: “We’d go in big groups—that’s how we connected with our friends.”

Alicia is now the co-owner of San Mateo’s Three restaurant and the chef/owner of Par 3 at Poplar Creek Golf Course. That sweet nostalgia came flooding back as she processed the isolation and limitations in the time of COVID-19.

The Burlingame gathering spot closed years ago, and with Par 3 uniquely situated with plentiful parking and expansive green space, Alicia recognized an opportunity to reinvent the Peninsula drive-in experience.

With a dual aim of bringing people together in a “way they feel comfortable” and supporting the restaurant’s loyal staff, Par 3 is presenting “Drive-In & Dine Out Summer Movie Nights.” Serving an upscale retro-inspired menu (think juicy burgers, milkshakes and homemade caramel corn) along with artisan cocktails and craft beers, the pop-up drive-in gives guests the option of in-car dining, patio seating or pre-showtime picnicking on the grass. “Our community really needs this right now,” notes Alicia. “We had to be creative in order to do this safely and respectfully, and we’re checking all the right boxes.”

Visit to see upcoming shows, purchase movie tickets and pre-order dinner online. As for showtimes, there’s no guesswork there. In true drive-in tradition, the show comes on when the sun goes down.

On The Road Again

San Francisco Bay water gently laps against the Peninsula’s shoreline. Life teems in these wetlands. Snowy egrets loom tall over scurrying black-bellied plovers as both bird species poke between grasses and mud for crustacean snacks. The Palo Alto Baylands is just one destination in the Bay Trail’s network of relatively flat gravel roads providing recreational access to 500 miles of shoreline around the San Francisco Bay, perfect conditions for a bike ride.

As you pedal over bumpy shore-hugging roads, feel the reverberation of the gravel, hear it grind and crunch under your wheels, become immersed in the journey. Riding a bike, you’ll cover more ground than you would by foot and in more detail than you would by car.

“When you’re on a bike, you experience the world through all of your senses,” says Jeff Selzer, general manager of Palo Alto Bicycles and E-Bike Annex. “That little butterfly flies right alongside you for a few hundred yards—you get to look at it and you see it. Whether you’re six or sixty-six, you can get out there and enjoy the experience.”

Courtesy of Cyrus Behroozi

Jeff has biked much of California, several U.S. states and in countries around the world. Weather, road safety and the variety of landscapes found on the Peninsula set it apart from all other cycling destinations. “This truly is a cycling nirvana,” he says.

When Jeff attended college in San Luis Obispo, he biked gorgeous coastal routes but says it became monotonous. “Here, we’ve got a lot more diversity,” he enthusiastically points out. “We can ride over the Dumbarton Bridge or bike the Baylands. You can ride up to Mt. Diablo, ride over Mt. Hamilton and back down or you can stay on this side and go over Skyline and out to Half Moon Bay or to San Francisco and back or out to Santa Cruz. It’s just a widely diverse and beautiful place to ride.”

Even-keeled sheltered shoreline and the rise and fall of Santa Cruz Mountains’ winding passes illustrate the range of cycling routes available on the Peninsula. Beginners to elite athletes can find routes to suit their needs, whether looking for a physical challenge or a leisurely scenic ride. Jeff notes that often, “You can do both of those starting from the exact same spot” on the Peninsula. “The diversity of terrain, the diversity of access to a safe road to ride on, is almost unparalleled.”

Back when Palo Alto Bicycles opened in 1930, bikes were an integral mode of transportation. Bikes facilitated kids getting to and from school, delivery people moving goods and the general population’s mobility during WWII under gas and rubber rationing. Jeff attests that the way people use the bike has changed over the years as dirt roads have become paved, and heavy bike frames have become sleek and lightweight. These improvements opened up cycling routes to the Pacific Coast that wouldn’t have been attempted in the ’30s and ’40s. And while people still commute on their bikes, riding is more commonly viewed as a recreational experience.

Courtesy of Cyrus Behroozi

That’s especially true now, given the constraints and restrictions on other activities and hobbies. Rainer Zaechelein, owner of Menlo Velo Bicycles in Menlo Park, is seeing all kinds of cyclists come in—new and veteran riders and both road and mountain aficionados. “It literally took a pandemic to get more people on bikes,” says Rainer. “The industry has been trying for more than 20 years to accomplish this. The exciting part is that we are seeing a huge increase in new customers who want to get out of the house and enjoy time with the family and people who don’t feel comfortable with public transportation, riding their bikes instead to get from point A to point B.”

Thankfully, safer road conditions for bike riders and the arrival of well-engineered e-bikes have opened up road cycling to a wider population. For example, Jeff cites SUVs being left in the garage as more families hit the road on bikes, even investing in e-bikes with a trailer. “They’re not getting into a car. They’re loving the fact that they are outside,” Jeff says. “It’s fresh air for them; it’s fresh air for the kids. We’re starting to see a societal change with how people are viewing and using the bicycle.”

Three young kids in tow? No problem. That’s where the e-bike comes in. With the added assist, it’s possible to pull greater weight and travel further distances than would be conceivable on a regular bike. And, Jeff is quick to assure, riding an e-bike is not cheating. “Ninety-five percent of the e-bikes I sell, the only way the electric motor kicks in is if you push down on the pedal. You have to actively be engaged in the activity of cycling in order for it to work.”

If it’s been a while since the last time you rode a bike, there are a few things to keep in mind when getting back out on the road. The first, Jeff says, “You’re going to be sore. It’s a new activity.” Just like any other physical activity you take up, you have to give your body time to acclimate to the movement. The second thing to remember is when sharing the road with cars, “Assume that you are invisible.” Make sure drivers see you at intersections, and you see them before you go through, even if you have the right of way

Peninsula Cycling Resources

Cognition Cyclery
66 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
903 Castro Street, Mountain View

Menlo Velo Bicycles
433 El Camino Real, Menlo Park

Palo Alto Bicycles
171 University Avenue, Palo Alto
365 Alma Street, Palo Alto
(E-Bike Annex)

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition
Get plugged into the Peninsula cycling community with a free family biking guide and tips for popular routes and where to ride in Silicon Valley.

San Francisco Bay Trail
Head to the Bay to access San Francisco Bay Trail’s 500 miles of bikeable trail running through Peninsula counties.

Diary of a Dog: Wooshi

No matter where life takes me, I’ll never forget where I started. Everytime I hear my name, Wooshi, I remember my humble beginnings as a stray, abandoned puppy in Wuxi, China. I used to hang out in the parking lot of this Cirque du Soleil-style theatre. That’s where I first saw Chris, the associate artistic director for the big show happening there. I went out of my way to catch his eye. I could tell that he noticed me, and I caught his attention the next day too. By the third day, Chris took time to rub my tummy and play with me. And before I knew it, he was scooping me up. “Trying to figure out what to do” is what he texted his husband, David, along with a photo of me. All it took was another hopeful puppy-eyed look, and Chris knew the answer. He moved from his fancy hotel to an Airbnb so I could stay with him. And with the help of a Chinese vet, he flew me back with him when he returned home to Half Moon Bay. Now I live at the beach with Chris, David and Blake, an 18-year-old rescue from Muttville. Everyone says it was destiny that Chris found me because I’m quite the performer. With zero training, I love to spin around and walk on my hind legs. I like to think that’s what drew me to the Wuxi circus—and my new life with my forever family on the Peninsula.

Hot Summer Reads

There are four perfect seasons for reading a book; however, summer always seems to invite an extra pull to the pages. PUNCH asked the erudite staff at Kepler’s Books for their favorite picks—with Peninsula or regional ties—for kicking back on a hot summer day. Book buyers Aggie Zivaljevic and Caitlin Jordan, along with store manager Amanda Hall, share a few titles that are just the companions you’re looking for to take you away.


Boats on the Bay
By Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrated by Grady McFerrin

A Sausalito resident, Jeanne Walker Harvey has written a gorgeous Bay Area book about the different types of boats we have on our waters. It has stunning and original artwork with a color palette that is both striking and soothing. I am always in awe of people who can paint the world in different colors than what I see and have it feel truer than the original sight. The colors and lines that Grady McFerrin uses mirror the feeling of seeing these familiar, beautiful boats after a long absence. This book is a celebration of those beautiful aquatic vessels that make the San Francisco Bay Area the special place we love so much. Boats on the Bay, a 2018 Golden Poppy Award Winner for picture books, is a staple book for any Bay Area family and a perfect gift for those longing to come back.  
   — Caitlin Jordan

Dragon Hoops
By Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang has been a favorite of mine for a while now. There is nothing he has written that leaves me anything less than awestruck—Dragon Hoops is no exception. It’s an inspirational story of the men’s basketball team at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland. They were having a season that looked like they could finally make it to the California State Championships. Gene, a computer science teacher at the school, never had any interest in sports but he soon became deeply invested in the coaches and players, their stories and their chance at winning State. I gasped, cheered, cried and laughed throughout this book! I was so immersed in their journey and wished to never come up for air. The action-packed, history-packed literary graphic novel of local history is perfect for sports fans, anyone wanting an inspirational story or just any reader looking for a book to absorb them into the pages. — Caitlin Jordan

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth
By Daniel Mason

Daniel Mason hails from Palo Alto, and his previous novel, The Winter Soldier, is on my list of favorite books of all time. And now, I’m just as smitten with his latest book of short stories: A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth. What a wondrous collection, bursting with longtime and faraway yarns, richly woven with philosophical and scientific details. Although we find ourselves in the realm of historical fiction, every story resonates deeply with today’s reality; a mother fighting for her child suffering from asthma, a lonely telegraph operator in the midst of the Amazon jungle seeking connection, a bug collector desperately waiting for a letter from Charles Darwin. The title story portrays Arthur Bispo do Rosario, a schizophrenic man in an asylum, who makes art out of found objects. Similarly, writers are collectors of human lives, registering our short passage upon the earth, making us see how strong our connections are and how we’re all touched by love and loss. Reading this book is like opening a treasure chest, each of the nine short stories belongs in an imaginary museum of historical curiosities. — Aggie Zivaljevic

Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life
By Lulu Miller

The book was inspired by Lulu Miller’s personal journey to understand how to persist in the midst of chaos. This masterful book is impossible to classify; it’s part science, part biography/memoir, part psychological thriller, part self-help manual, interweaving personal and scientific elements in a dazzling way. It’s about David Starr Jordan, a founding president of Stanford University who devoted his life to studying fish, and how he recovered from losing his life’s work in the San Francisco 1906 earthquake. What Miller does is astonishing: She painstakingly makes a historical reconstruction of his life—from his enchanting boyhood full of curiosity, making maps of stars, collecting and classifying thousands of fish in his youth and becoming a taxonomist expert; to building the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory on the Monterey Peninsula during his Stanford tenure; to his involvement in covering up Jane Stanford’s mysterious death by strychnine poisoning and finally to being a supporter of eugenics in his old age. What connects all of these threads is Miller’s inquisitorial mind to understand Jordan’s childlike “shield of optimism” and what made him veer off the course. And yet, the most significant discovery she makes is about the invisible threads of human connection that keep us bound to each other—possibly the very secret of how to stay defiant and hopeful. — Aggie Zivaljevic

Alta California: From San Diego to San Francisco, A Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State
By Nick Neely

In Alta California, Nick Neely travels one step at a time as he ambitiously sets out, on foot, to walk the historic El Camino Real from San Diego to San Francisco. In retracing the 650-mile trek, Neely draws stark comparisons with California’s past and its current state of affairs. This is a truly unique and intimate portrait of the King’s Highway, filled with little-known histories and great attention to detail. — Amanda Hall

The Last Train to London
By Meg Waite Clayton

The book is based on a true historical figure, a Dutch woman named Geertruida Wijsmuller or Tante Truus (Auntie Truus), who saved the lives of more than 10,000 Jewish children at the outset of World War II. She organized children’s transports known as “Kindertransport” from Nazi Germany and Austria to the Netherlands, Great Britain and other countries who would take them. Palo Alto’s Meg Waite Clayton was inspired to place her book in pre-war Vienna after visiting an exhibit there with items from suitcases carried by children, including their toys, picture books and hairbrushes. She imagined mothers combing their children’s hair one last time before sending them to a great unknown, hoping they’d be safe. The other two central characters of this moving historical novel are teenage Jewish playwright Stephan and a mathematical prodigy Zofie-Helene who’s Christian, and what happens when their young friendship and love become forbidden. It’s even more poignant that this courageous woman who didn’t have children of her own became a savior of so many. — Aggie Zivaljevic

Perfect Shot: Filoli Garden

Photographer Frances Freyberg captured this Perfect Shot at Woodside’s Filoli Garden in spring 2019. With Filoli closed during the tulip season this year, Frances looked forward to Filoli’s daily Instagram updates showing off the latest blooms. “Now that Filoli is once again open to the public,” Frances says, “I’ve been enjoying the spectacular roses and the late peonies in person, and I look forward to watching the summer garden grow and change.”

Visit for visiting hours and to reserve tickets. 

Image Courtesy of Frances Freyberg Photography /

A Curious Professor’s Path

Settled down for an interview on opposing benches near Stanford’s Littlefield Center, there would seem to be few obvious distractions. Someone less attuned would only note two women pushing strollers nearby and the occasional buzz of groundskeeping in the distance. But for Robert “Bob” Siegel, there’s a whirl of activity happening in this seemingly quiet space. Mid-sentence, he halts to observe, “Look, there’s a swallowtail butterfly!” The conversation picks up again, and then another interjection: “That’s a scrub jay on that bush.” And while the intent of the chat is to learn more about Bob, there’s a secondary steady flow of insights. “That plant with the red flowers over there is a pomegranate,” he says, gesturing across the adjacent pathway. “Most people walk by and never even notice that there are pomegranates growing all over here.”

Bob clearly isn’t most people.

And while a naturalist talk is an unexpected side bonus, the agenda for this meet-up is to understand how a kid from South Florida goes on to earn five degrees, including a PhD and an MD, ultimately becoming a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University and a leading expert resource on viruses—most recently, COVID-19. But interwoven into that story are other overlapping interests including published nature photographer, photography teacher, docent and intrepid explorer of seven continents.

It’s all a bit overwhelming to process. “One thing leads to another,” Bob explains, with a shrug.

Looking back on his childhood in Florida, Bob views himself as a “generic product of the ’50s.” Out of his Leave it to Beaver-like beginnings, he gleaned a passion for science and nature. “In Florida, you went to school,” he says, “and then you spent the rest of your time outside.” Inspired by his father, a salesman in a camera shop, Bob developed a calling for photography, capturing images from the 1964 World’s Fair with an Instamatic camera. When it came time for college, Stanford University beckoned. “California was kind of the promised land, even for kids in Florida,” he reflects.

As a psychology major mostly by default (“At some point I looked at my transcript and I had more psychology than anything else.”), Bob discovered that he could take upper-division biology classes without the prerequisites. He followed a Stanford BA in psychology with an MA in education and then worked as a Stanford Human Biology teaching assistant and substitute high school teacher while he figured out what should come next. “It was sort of one step and one step and one step,” he says. “There was no grand plan and there still isn’t.”

However, there was one constant—biology kept piquing his interest. “It was a time when people were learning how to sequence DNA and when recombinant technology was first being utilized,” he recalls. “I got very excited, and I decided that I would pursue a PhD in molecular biology.”

Drawn to the outdoors, Bob declined Ivy League offers and followed his gut to the University of Colorado, where he reconnected with his future wife, Wendy Max, a former Stanford classmate also pursuing her PhD. In the process of completing his graduate studies, Bob found that he didn’t feel at home in the lab, so he applied to medical school, a decision that returned him to Stanford. “My first quarter of medical school, I was finishing up my dissertation and teaching chemistry at Stanford, and in the middle of the quarter, I flew out to Colorado to defend my thesis,” he recounts. “It was a very busy quarter.”

Bob didn’t start out with the intention to teach. “Teaching found me rather than me finding teaching,” is how he explains it, ticking off examples like being asked to take on a 270-student Biology of Cancer lecture class as a graduate student. “On the first day of class, there was a lot of noise and they were all talking to each other. I belted out, ‘CANCER!’ and there was silence in the room, and then I began citing statistics about cancer. I realized that you can have that many people paying attention to you—it was quite addictive.”

Thinking back, there are clearly flags marking Bob’s intended path, such as his habit of writing up syllabi “just for fun.” Intrigued by human virology, he proposed a class called Humans and Viruses, which he first taught in 1983—and still teaches to this day. “I think the best way to learn anything is to teach it,” he says. “When you teach it, you become hyper-aware.” Through his years in medical school (during which Bob and Wendy welcomed the first two of their three boys), he continued teaching and finally concluded that he had no desire to become a clinician. “I actually found that teaching was way more rewarding for me,” he says. And as for the arduous academic journey that led up to this decision?  “All the things that I did contributed to what I do now,” he responds.

“I tend to want to jump in epic places—it’s just this feeling of exuberance. I learned early that you want to kick your legs up because it makes you look like you’re higher.”

As a professor (teaching) of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford (in addition to other appointments), Bob’s responsibilities have spanned running the medical school’s pre-clinical infectious disease curriculum to teaching a course entitled, Measles, Sneezes & Things That Go Mumps in the Night.  For the Viruses in the News class he inaugurated in 2014, Bob’s focus is as timely as it gets—tracking and following major outbreaks from Ebola and Zika to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not surprising that his phone is now ringing constantly. Whether it’s TV, radio or newspapers—the San Francisco Chronicle or CNN—Bob finds himself on speed dial for commentary and insights. He also produces a steady stream of opinion pieces, his takes or “rants” on what’s happening.

“In a bizarre way, it’s like I’ve been training for this my whole career,” he says. And while doctors, researchers and public health officials are being tapped for their particular expertise, Bob is also clear about the role he plays. “With the coronavirus, I consider myself to be a science educator,” he says, “and that’s what I focus on. A lot of times they’ll call me up not for a quote but to educate them about a certain topic—like antibody testing or contact tracing—and so I’ll actually teach a mini-class on the phone.”

The recipient of numerous awards, including Stanford’s highest teaching honor, the Walter J. Gores Award, Bob extends his teaching philosophy to every subject he tackles. “A lot of people confuse teaching and lecturing,” he points out. “My goal as a teacher is not to just be a distributor of knowledge because you can go on Wikipedia. My role has to be something more—it has to be to inspire students, to explain it in a way that they couldn’t get anywhere else.”

Over time, Bob’s passion for teaching enveloped his other interests—his fascination with biology resulted in docent training and leading tours at Año Nuevo State Park and Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, his zeal for travel translated into leading educational programs on six continents and his love of photography and the outdoors led to a popular Photographing Nature course. “You need to be able to see the big picture and the little picture and to see all different things,” Bob tells his students. “You need those lenses in your mind. What you bring to photography, what you bring to observation, is this whole set of skills of how and where to look.”

Bob has trained his powers of observation through countless adventures and NGO work. His travel logs comprise everything from doing fieldwork on malaria and HIV in Papua New Guinea and East Africa to scuba diving with hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos, sand boarding in Chile’s Atacama Desert and photographing long-nosed proboscis monkeys in Malaysia.

“My goal every time I do a tour at Año Nuevo or Jasper Ridge is to get applause at the end. That means that people appreciate what happened—that they’re taking away more than just a pile of facts.”

Having photographed all but three of 44 orders of birds, Bob was set to head off on sabbatical in spring 2020, which included plans to check New Caladonia’s kagu and New Zealand’s kiwi off his list. The COVID-19 outbreak sidelined his travels. Tracking the developments in Wuhan, he published an opinion piece in late January warning of the potential health threat and the critical need to stop the outbreak in Asia. “This wasn’t on everybody’s radar screen,” he says, “but the virus wonks knew that there were deadly diseases lurking out there.”

Sitting on the bench by Stanford’s Littlefield Center, Bob feels the familiar buzz of his cell phone. He glances down at the screen and murmurs a mental note to return a call to a local reporter. His attention pulled for a moment, he glances over to a nearby structure. “Right on the side of that building,” he says, gesturing, “I often see these crazy creatures called slime molds.” And although no explanation is needed by now, he clarifies, “People rarely notice slime molds because they don’t have a slime mold lens.

Elementary Teachers

I’ve had many teachers in my life. From kindergarten to my last class at Stanford Business School, there must have been a hundred. Friends often discuss their favorite high school or college teachers, but most of the instructors who taught me then are a blur to me.

Those I do remember are my elementary school teachers. With the exception of Mr. Walker who taught PE, they were all women. They were a kind and gentle lot, all with good intentions, all with long tenures, all with good teeth and solid shoes.

My school was Wolflin Elementary in Amarillo, Texas, named for Charles Wolflin, a dairy farmer who in the 1920s laid down wide brick streets, planted thousands of Siberian elms and constructed hundreds of large, stately homes on his 640 acres of pasture. We lived on the same street as the school in one of those stately homes, and from age six on, I could—and did—walk the two-thirds of a mile to and from school straight down the broken sidewalk, looking both ways before crossing the streets.

My first teacher—and the teacher who most impacted me—was Miss Hooper, who had rich black hair, white luminous skin and lips covered in bright red lipstick. She was tall and lanky and pretty to me, though she never married, instead caring for her elderly mother. There were two classes in each grade, about 28 students in each, and it was my good fortune to have gotten Miss Hooper since my brother Danny had her five years before me.

Our classroom had desks with two children per, one on each side of some drawers in which to store our schools items. We had permanent seats, unless you were too disruptive or too befuddled and then you were moved accordingly. I was a pensive student and, indeed, the report card that my dad saved to be rediscovered only five years ago, said in the comments, “Sloane is a quiet child and should try to speak more often.”

Miss Hooper was gentle and helpful and rarely cross with us. When I needed help on, say, a writing assignment, she would bend far down to my small body and with her sharp pencil, help me, for example, make a proper “q.” She smelled of cleanliness, wore no fingernail polish and always was formally dressed. She inspired me to want to learn, to be curious about things and to do a job all the way through to the end. I spent my days trying to emulate her, and her habits and actions were ones that I took as my own. We stayed in touch for most of her life, and if I ever loved a teacher, it was Miss Hooper.

I had Mrs. Fabian for second grade, a plump, squatty woman with auburn hair and a warm, kind smile. She favored me and I was always assigned a seat up front. I think I was less quiet since I had a grade of school under my belt. Still, I was a good student, and by then I could read well and do multiplication in my head.

It was Mrs. Fabian who helped launch my publishing career. I borrowed mimeograph sheets from her and at home wrote and designed “The Second Grade News.” She would run them off for me and then I had a half-dozen kids go around their neighborhood and sell them for a nickel each. I got three cents and they got two.

On November 22 of my second grade year, shortly after we had come in from lunch recess, Mr. Willoughby, our principal, called for all the teachers to come to the auditorium. Mrs. Fabian told us to be good and left. When she returned, she had dark glasses on and was crying. She shared the news that our president had died and together we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. We didn’t truly understand the significance of what had happened other than we were dismissed early that day. Still, I can remember everything about that moment: the handkerchief clutched tightly within her hand, the gold and red wool suit she was wearing and the sad tone in her voice.

In third grade, I was lucky to have Mrs. Taylor, a stalwart woman with dark hair and a stern disposition. She wasn’t mean, but she looked like she could be. She wore uncomfortable-looking shoes and always seemed to have a sweater on, even when it was hot outside. The best thing about her class, however, was that I met the love of my life there (at least for the next few years), a pretty, sweet girl named Susan Standefer. She had shoulder-length bouncy hair, often with a hairclip across the top and wore cute tennis shoes to class. When I asked her if I could kiss her, she told me she’d have to ask her mother first. We are close friends to this day.

I remember each Wolflin teacher with great acuity. I can perfectly hear their voices, remember their faces and see their laughs and gestures. Though they made modest money and held little prestige, they molded me in far deeper ways than the well-known, highly-paid professors I had later on, and their impact has lasted me a lifetime.

The Living Laboratory at Jasper Ridge

Anthony Barnosky’s phone rang out of the blue one day in 2012 when he was out running with his dog—it turned out to be
an unanticipated call from
Jerry Brown.

The former California state governor wanted to speak to the scientist about the recent paper he and his wife Elizabeth Hadly had published in Nature, alongside 20 other scientists. The paper warned that humans were pushing the global climate to a perilous environmental tipping point. Governor Brown wanted to know why scientists had not been shouting this news from the rooftops.

“And I said, ‘Well, I thought we were,’” Tony chuckles, recollecting his first interaction with the then-governor. “And he said, ‘What? No. I’m a politician, I know how to get things done and a lot of this is news to me.’”

Governor Brown went on to help Tony and Liz distribute a statement (signed by 1,400 scientists from 60 countries) summarizing the tipping point premise and potential solutions to national and world leaders. For the scientist pair, their collaboration with the Brown administration showcased the power that public outreach has to amplify scientific research.

“It made me want to do more than go out and study fossils,” reflects Tony.

Today, Tony and Liz are using their scientific and advocacy skills to lead Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (JRBP), teaming up as the Preserve’s executive director and faculty director. Situated in the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just five miles from Stanford’s campus, the 1,200-acre space is a hub for scientific research and teaching, a remarkable university/local community collaboration and a case study for environmental conservation.

“Jasper Ridge has a long tradition of research and teaching,” explains Liz. “Our first student project or study came out in the 1800s, but we also have a very rich legacy of community outreach.”

Photography: Mary Ries Fisher

The pristine meadows of Jasper Ridge are steeped in ecological significance. Even before the land was designated as a biological preserve in 1973, Paul Ehrlich and Peter Raven found their famous evidence for coevolution here through their studies of butterfly-plant interactions. Hal Mooney experimented on the Preserve’s rich abundance of native plants and solidified the principles of vegetative resource allocation.

“It’s really daunting to think about the giants who have come before us,” Liz says.

While Liz and Tony do not obsess over the personal legacy they will leave at Jasper Ridge, they do constantly think about how to maximize Jasper Ridge’s potential as a living laboratory. To them, Jasper Ridge represents an ideal location to study the Anthropocene, the current geologic epoch. Unlike any period of geologic history, human impact is driving the climate and environmental changes appearing in the geologic record.

“Everywhere in the world is now being impacted by people,” Tony says. “The planet is changing so fast in so many ways driven by humans, that no longer can we just assume that we can keep managing nature the same old way that we always have. To keep nature healthy in the future, we do have to manage it, but we really have to understand how this overprint of rapid change is making the whole world different.”

Photography: Mary Ries Fischer

Liz points to the Searsville Reservoir coring project as an example of how to use Jasper Ridge to characterize human impact on the environment. Because the Searsville Dam has blocked the flow of San Francisquito Creek since 1892, the 10 meters of sediment accumulated at the bottom of the reservoir contains evidence from nearly the entire history of human industrialization in the region. Liz explains that the cores obtained from the sediment can spark all manner of studies: analyzing environmental DNA, tracking chemical runoffs, monitoring invasive species and so much more.

“That sediment—that is amazing,” she says. Liz thinks they may eventually use the site to define the precise moment when the Anthropocene epoch began. “The detail on this core is just the most amazing core you’ve ever seen,” she adds, with near-breathless excitement. “It’s probably one of the best in the world that we know about.”

Jasper Ridge is also a part of the Santa Cruz Mountain Stewardship Network, which is a group of 22 major land stewards—from Big Creek Lumber to the Sempervirens Fund—working together to develop a regional plan to sustain the native ecosystems throughout the Peninsula.

Photography: Jorge Ramos

“These are groups that have very diverse missions and are now working together,” Tony says. “It turns out there are a lot of things in common that people will get together on.”

The combination of research and outreach is what drew Liz and Tony to Jasper Ridge in the first place. Prior to Jasper Ridge, the two built their careers analyzing changing ecosystems based on the geologic records of North America’s Rocky Mountains. They noticed first-hand how the growing human population was influencing the environment, which led to public policy projects like the one prompting Jerry Brown’s phone call. Through Jasper Ridge, they saw a chance to experiment with the policy ideas they championed in a relatively small, semi-controlled space.

“The opportunity to study the environment intensely is much more tractable in our backyard than it is in Yellowstone,” Liz says. “I find a lot of parallels and a lot of power in Jasper Ridge.”

Photography: Robert Siegel

To protect vital research projects and conserve the historic land, Jasper Ridge welcomes the public through docent-led educational tours only—with an estimated 8,000 visits a year. Liz and Tony are proud of the learning opportunities Jasper Ridge provides to local schools, including free tours and teacher training workshops. Additionally, of the 60 yearly research projects in progress at Jasper Ridge, Liz estimates that half are run by faculty from other institutions.

“There are many different kinds of attractive qualities for teaching at Jasper Ridge that include more than just the fundamentals about ecology and evolution,” adds Liz. “We appeal to artists, we have writing classes, photography classes and even plays out there; we have had people from Stanford’s School of Earth and civil engineering projects.”

Photography: Robert Siegel

Beyond her work at Jasper Ridge, Liz returns to Wyoming every year to advance other research. Her studies of pack rats in a Yellowstone cave was the basis for both her master’s and PhD projects and her lab is filled with specimens from that field site.

This cave also happens to be the site where Liz first met Tony.

“I was working at the time in a cave in Colorado and she was working in this cave in Yellowstone,” recalls Tony. “We were probably two of four people in the world who were excavating ancient pack rat middens to see how the mammal communities had changed through time.”

After bonding over a shared fascination for rodent waste piles, Liz invited Tony to visit her Yellowstone cave. The two married in 1990, first taking positions at UC Berkeley, followed by work at Montana State University. The couple moved back to the Bay Area in 1998 with Liz becoming an assistant professor in the Stanford Biology department and Tony returning to a Berkeley professorship. In 2016, they joined Jasper Ridge’s leadership team together, hoping to guide JRBP’s contributions on a local, regional and global scale.   

Balancing the research, community outreach and conservation elements of the Preserve is challenging—but Liz and Tony cherish the value of this protected, unspoiled space in heavily-developed Silicon Valley.

“There’s been this incredible foundation of science and teaching and outreach built here already—how do we take that to the next level?” ponders Tony. “I think all the things that we’re trying to do right now are to understand the Jasper Ridge system and use that as a way to model how we can manage nature into the future.”

Docent John Working

explore the ridge

After ABOUT, it’s the second button on the Jasper Ridge website: VISIT THE PRESERVE. Through the efforts of over 100 active docents, Jasper Ridge invites the community to experience the Preserve’s geologic, topographic and biotic diversity—along with some truly fabulous views. Docent-led educational tours run from October through May.

Trained to “teach on the trail” through a rigorous class taught during the academic year, JRBP docents represent a mix of Stanford students and community members. Each docent class (up to 24) is carefully curated to reflect a range of backgrounds and interests. “We don’t want the class to be all ecologists or environmental scientists,” advises Jorge Ramos, JRBP’s associate director for environmental education. “We choose students and community members who are bringing something unique—we want you to bring your creativity and express it in your own way.”

In addition to leading tours (assigned by areas of interest), docents also contribute to research projects, volunteering to help with bird surveys, wildlife camera monitoring and collecting botanical specimens. “Some of the long-term bird studies are done by volunteers who are in their 70s,” notes Liz. “So this is a really deep, long connection we have to the surrounding area.”

John Working of Palo Alto dates his involvement to the docent class of 1981. “My early interest in Jasper Ridge came as a member of Boy Scout Troop 51, which was a troop for children of professors living on campus,” John recalls. “I had some camping experience out there including…” he says, with a bemused smile, “some wonderful cases of poison oak.” 

For John, becoming a Jasper Ridge docent felt like a natural fit. “I had always been a wanderer of the countryside as had my parents,” he says. “My whole family was just steeped in identifying the natural environment—trees, flowers, birds and mammals.”

As a longtime JRBP supporter and patron, John led docent tours for nearly four decades and continues to participate in Zoom meetings and updates. “Being able to talk about the special biology that is there is just a delight,” he says. “I don’t know of a place that I’ve held in higher regard than Jasper Ridge; it reaches out to the community in a way that nothing else does.”

Secret Treasures of the Allied Arts Guild

Tucked at the back of a Menlo Park neighborhood, at the edge of San Francisquito Creek, begins a tree-shaded barrier wall extending a long block. Multiple gated entry points—all emblazoned with the large italic monogram A A—catch the eye, inviting further interest. What’s hiding back there? Is it a private estate? Peering over the top, curiosity mounts given that while some structures look distinctively Spanish Colonial, there is a mish-mash of other styles including an old wooden barn.

This is one of the most distinctive and historic collections of buildings on the Peninsula—the Allied Arts Guild, home to artisans, shops and stunning gardens for over 90 years now. How did it come to be, and what secrets does it hold?

Photography: John Todd

From Spanish land grant to guild for artists

What is now the Allied Arts Guild, located at 75 Arbor Road, initially belonged to the 32,000-plus-acre tract called the Rancho de Las Pulgas, which was awarded to Don Jose Dario Arguello by the Spanish Governor of California in 1795.

The Peninsula landmark traces its current history back to 1929, when wealthy art patrons Delight and Garfield Merner purchased 3.5 acres of what had been Murray Farm. They worked with renowned architect Gardner Dailey and artist Pedro de Lemos to create their vision of an arts guild that would house workplaces for artists, support folk art and encourage the crafting of everyday items.

The original Murray barn and sheds were preserved and proved useful in the construction of the rest of the buildings, many of Spanish Colonial design, accented by wrought iron work and red roof tiles. The main building used the framework of the old Murray farmhouse with the archway still in place today.

Photography: John Todd

Inspired by famous sites the couple had visited in Spain, the gardens were designed and named in the Spanish manner: The Court of Abundance, The Garden of Delight and Cervantes Court, which has an inner courtyard featuring a mural of Cervantes dedicating Don Quixote to his patron, Count de Lemos.

The tiles and objects of art used to decorate the walls were sourced from Spain, Tunis and Morocco. Famed female artist Maxine Albro (also noted for her Coit Tower murals) and the de Lemos family created the decorative mosaics and frescoes.

In 1932, the Merners invited women from the Palo Alto Auxiliary to serve lunch at the Guild to benefit Stanford’s Hospital for Convalescent Children (now Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford), and in 1935, the couple retired from active Guild engagement, ceding the running of the complex to the Auxiliary.

Photography: John Todd

Visit by a famous American photographer

Shortly after the Guild opened, 29-year-old Ansel Adams became its photographer of record and captured the first interior and exterior photographs. According to Alan McGee, a photographer who exhibits at the Portola Art Gallery located at the Guild, Adams’ photographic career was well underway at that point—having found a sponsor, Albert Bender, established friendships with Paul Strand and Georgia O’Keefe and created a widely acclaimed masterpiece, Monolith – The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite 1927. Although Adams had a 60-print show at the Smithsonian scheduled for that year, he struggled to support himself on print sales of his photographs alone, so he also accepted commercial work.

Photography: Frances Freyberg

Adams’ Guild assignment entailed photographing architecture and art activities and producing a folio of Allied Arts Guild prints. “The folio, entitled Twelve Camera Studies of the Allied Arts Guild, was produced using the then state-of-the-art halftone process,” explains McGee. “The folio images were produced from plates made from Adams’ negatives by the Allied Arts Guild Print Shop, which was located in what is now the Portola Art Gallery.”

Of note: In 2010, McGee and fellow photographer Graham Creasey embarked on a “re-photography project” using the same vantage points and lighting conditions as those used by Adams. The result is Allied Arts Guild – Past and Present, a booklet which is available for purchase at the Portola Art Gallery.

Photography: Frances Freyberg

The Guild from mid-20th century to now

Following its inception in 1932, “having lunch at the Guild” became an established local tradition for Menlo Park and nearby residents. Served by members of the Palo Alto Auxiliary, the dining experience included the opportunity to buy favorite recipes printed on little blue note cards. In 2005, volunteer members created and published Tastes, Tales and Traditions, an Allied Arts Guild cookbook, which is still available in print.

After lunch, visitors enjoyed strolling through the gardens and perusing the Guild’s many shops, including The Traditional Shop, overseen by the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary, now called the Allied Arts Guild Auxiliary.

“We sold a lot of Waterford crystal, old Imari pieces, lamps, silver and jewelry,” recalls Menlo Park resident Louise DeDera, who has been a member of the Auxiliary since 1973. “At Christmas, people looked forward to hearing, ‘The tree is up!’ This meant that an 11-foot tree from Oregon was up and decorated in the shop. Boxes full of ornaments circled the tree, and customers were given baskets to fill with their purchases.”

Photography: Robb Most

The Allied Arts Guild complex is now owned and operated by the Allied Arts Guild Auxiliary with the purpose of raising funds for children receiving medical care at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital through donations made to Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health. The Guild’s lunch tradition endures at Cafe Wisteria, a venue managed by event director Tiana Wong, who took over in 2018. Serving contemporary American food, the restaurant’s customary lunch schedule is Monday through Saturday from 11AM to 3PM.

In her role as event director, Tiana oversees weddings, memorials and other gatherings at the Guild. “Weddings come from everywhere, even the UK and China,” she says, confirming that some years ago an elephant played a featured role at one ceremony.

No visit to the Allied Arts is complete without visiting the shops on the property. The selection includes pottery, leather work, an art gallery, layette boutique, couture women’s wear, floral shop, Italian jewelry and textiles for upholstery and window treatments.

Photography: Frances Freyberg

The Traditional Shop is now called the Artisan Shop—staffed entirely by volunteers with all profits donated to Lucile Packard. The Artisan Shop is housed in the historic Milono Building, designed by Germano Milono and cited in 1953 by the American Institute of Architects as one of the best designs in the Bay Area. While its exterior echoes the exterior of the barn, its style is decidedly contemporary.

The Allied Arts mainstay is Thomas Kieninger, who is the second Kieninger to make and repair furniture at The Barn Woodshop, taking over the business from his father, Albert. The woodworking barn has been in business for 90 years in the same location—the original barn that was built in 1885—an enduring reminder of the Guild’s deep, historic roots.

While closed during the spring due to the shelter-in-place mandate, the Allied Arts Guild’s normal operating hours are Monday through Saturday from 10AM to 5PM.

Photography: John Todd

San Mateo Japanese Garden

Walking through San Mateo’s Central Park, it’s difficult to miss the bamboo fences that surround the Japanese Tea Garden, a quaint area tucked away in the back of the park. After World War II, the city of San Mateo sought to develop stronger ties with the Japanese community and established one of the United States’ first sister city relationships with Toyonaka in 1963. A gift from Toyonaka, the garden was installed in 1966, designed by Nagao Sakurai, the chief gardener for the Imperial Palace of Tokyo and the designer of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Sakurai closely collaborated with the San Mateo Gardeners Association, which at the time was made up of many Japanese Americans in the community. Visitors to this peaceful haven will find a pagoda statue installed at the park’s opening, a traditional gazebo (azumaya) and a teahouse (chashitsu). There’s also a diverse range of foliage, including Japanese maples, bonsai plants and cherry trees (best viewed in late winter or early spring to catch the cherry blossoms in bloom). Koi fish in the large pond in the middle of the gardens are fed every day during the summer at 11AM and 3PM. To get the best view of the feeding, stand on the bridge. The garden’s usual hours are 10AM to 4PM Monday through Friday and 11AM to 4PM on weekends. It is most easily accessed through the Laurel Street entrance, and admission is free. Call 650.522.7400 or check for current access updates.

Luxe Linens

Eat. Sleep. Repeat. When your home literally becomes your whole world, life’s most essential functions can arrest us with their power and sweet simplicity. Routine questions—What’s for dinner? Did you get a good night’s rest?—assume fresh importance and yet, are joined by a new one: How can I live a more beautiful, meaningful life in my own home, right here and right now?

For inspiration, we turn to Julia Berger, a grateful resident of Woodside’s historic and paradisiacal Green Gables estate, a 74-acre property that’s been in her husband’s family since the early 20th century. As purveyor of Julia B., her line of luxury linens, Julia is also well-poised to provide good advice on the how-tos of home appreciation.

“Many people tell me that they save their fine tablecloths, placemats and napkins for special occasions. I say, ‘Why?’ If we have learned anything in these troubling times, it’s that life is precious, and every day has the opportunity to be special,” she says.

Fortunate to be in such a bucolic locale, Julia’s home and setting provide ample opportunity for her to unleash her creative spirit.

“The lovely and ridiculously spacious dining room in our family home has become my creative sandbox,” she notes. “I view the dinner table as the ultimate expression of joy and beauty. In our home we are passionate about food and equally passionate about the linens that adorn our table. Depending upon the day or the season and my mood, I switch back and forth from soft and serenely coordinated sets, all matching and harmonious, to a vibrant, mix-and-match symphony of color.”

For the dining room, Julia suggests that a good starting point is paying attention to the details.

“A well-set table is richly filled with beauty. There are many, many ways to achieve this, yet from my perspective this requires thinking holistically about the setting and the occasion,” she advises. “Of course, it all starts with tablecloths and/or placemats and napkins as a foundational layer, yet it also extends to the dinnerware, glassware and cutlery that fill out the scene. The history and provenance of the accessories on the table add sparkle, dimension and depth. Mixing old and new adds layers of beauty and inspires stories to be shared. It is like painting and I often experiment with new colors, shapes and shades.”

Julia also offers expert advice for optimizing ever-so-vital, replenishing sleep.

“For me, getting into bed at night comes with two sets of feelings—the visual and the visceral. As I prepare for bed, my eyes are always dancing across the various patterns and colors and I often say a silent word of thanks to the amazing women embroiderers who bring my designs to life with such incredible skill and precision,” she says. “Then I truly relish that amazing tactile moment when I first slide under the covers. The softness, that feeling of absolute ‘yumminess,’ as I like to refer to it, of our fine cottons and linens, is simply delicious. It’s like butter.”

Julia says her penchant for choosing quality over quantity comes from her mother.

“I grew up with the philosophy my mother taught me, which is that you don’t have to have a lot, but what you do buy and what you do choose has to be excellent quality and last you a really long time,” she explains. “If you choose well, then you will continue to enjoy it and love it.”

A Bay Area native, Julia was born and raised in San Francisco by her Japanese mother and Jewish-American father. Before attending high school in Tokyo, she grew up just blocks away from her now-husband, Marc Fleishhacker, who is seven years her senior. Both attended Brown University, and each ended up marrying Italians before their paths intertwined later in life. Their lives seem as romantic as their home and their products.

“I studied in Italy my junior year at the encouragement of Marc, whom I had met my sophomore year of college. He was married to a Florentine woman at the time and Francesca and he both suggested that I go to study in Europe and specifically in Italy,” she recounts. “So I transferred out of Brown for a year and went to study textile design and art history. I learned the language and had an Italian boyfriend and there you go, my love for Italy started there.”

Later, when Marc and Julia reconnected, Italy remained a touchstone for their lives and for their new business, Julia B., founded in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 2002, while she lived on the East Coast.

“The incredibly skilled artisans who produce our hand-painted ceramics, hand-blown and -cut crystal and hand-forged silverware all hail from Italy, which to this day remains a major point of reference for the finest in handmade artistry,” Julia says. “Our cotton percale and cotton pique fabrics come to us from purveyors of the highest quality fabric in Italy.”

Before entering the world of luxury home goods, Julia enjoyed a successful career in fashion, with stints working for both Donna Karan and Calvin Klein in their heydays. Starting this year, Julia is re-entering fashion, with the introduction of Julia B.’s Angels of Bergamo nightgown collection. Her new products will be produced entirely in Bergamo, Italy—a community hit especially hard by the pandemic—in close collaboration with Martinelli Ginetto, Italy’s leading producer of luxury home fabrics. The items themselves will also be sewn and embroidered in Bergamo, with a sizable portion of the proceeds donated to directly support the healthcare and small business needs of the residents of Bergamo.

A key differentiator for Julia’s business and products is that they are all custom-made to order. “If you want something in our collection, and you want it in a different color or way, we can make it,” she says. “There’s a lot of value and worth in touching something and feeling something beautiful in your day-to-day life.”

Hailing from all over the world, Julia B.’s customers clearly embrace that idea. Mostly women, Julia describes them as textile lovers who understand how a good product can embellish the beauty of a room.

“They love flowers. They love nature. They love entertaining. They love and appreciate the tactile nature of our products,” expands Julia. “We have everybody from their mid-20s who are just getting married and starting their trousseau to married couples and grandmothers who are not necessarily buying things for themselves, but are buying things for their grandchildren or for their daughters or daughters-in-law.”

While Julia does see first-time home buyers embracing Julia B., she acknowledges that many of her customers are second-, third- and even fourth-time home buyers—customers who have multiple homes and are furnishing multiple environments. “They’re either designing them or having professional interior designers working with them to curate their homes,” she says.

As for her own dear and celebrated home, Julia and her family have been considering a new adventure; her husband’s family is open to selling Green Gables, introducing the possibility of a fresh, uncharted chapter ahead.

“When it comes to the potential sale of my husband’s family’s magnificent estate in Woodside, it is a bittersweet proposition and one which we are certainly in no rush to achieve,” she says. “As families grow and new generations emerge, the challenges in managing such a remarkable place are not simple ones. When we leave, we will do so with a profound sense of appreciation and incredible memories to last multiple lifetimes.”

Half Moon Honey

Lest there be any confusion about the hive hierarchy at Half Moon Honey, Gary Butler quickly sets the record straight. “Teri’s the queen bee,” he says, referring to his wife. “I’m just the worker bee.”

So it’s Teri who provides the back story on how the couple became busy beekeepers with a buzzing business. Back when he was nine, Gary met a mentor and that’s when the bee adventures began. Despite the occasional sting, his growing expertise quickly paid off. “He got to miss school,” is how Teri summarizes younger Gary’s source of glee. “When there was a swarm in town, the police would come to school and call him out of class.”

Clearly wired for thrill-seeking, Gary went on to become a national champion kick boxer, owner of pet tigers and barefoot water skier. But, after a series of concussions, he realized that his days of barefooting were numbered. “Falling on water while skiing is like falling on concrete,” relates Teri. “He finally had to call it quits.” Naturally, Gary had to find something to replace barefooting. A happy childhood memory gave him a buzz.

In 2008, Gary and Teri started Half Moon Honey with two packages and a hive kit. Teri didn’t take much convincing—she was happy for a hobby they could work on together. After their respective day jobs wrap up, they focus on the bees. Nights, weekends and vacations are dedicated to beekeeping activities, including checking hives, bottling honey and traveling—most recently Cuba—to glean additional knowledge and tips.

Since the original two hives, Teri and Gary now have 300 to 400 hives during peak season, located in Pescadero, Half Moon Bay, along the coast and up in the hills. With 50,000 bees (making up to 50 pounds of honey) per hive, that’s a total of over 15 million bees. Those same calculations also mean a heck of a lot of stingers. “You have to stay mellow,” Teri says. “You can’t go crazy if a bee gets stuck under your veil.”

Getting stung is inevitable, so you clearly have to have a positive attitude as well. “I look at it like free ‘beetox,’” Teri jokes. “When I get stung in the face, it blows up so I don’t have any visible wrinkles.” She also points out other, more obvious, upsides. “Seeing a healthy hive work together is incredibly rewarding,” she says. “Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I love honey—it’s an amazing product with so many uses. People even used honey during the Civil War for treating wounds.”

While honey evokes a single image, there are countless types. “Honey is like wine with different color, taste and viscosity,” Teri explains. With the taste heavily influenced by what nectar the bees forage, the Butlers’ honey is a meritage of flavors, including local wildflowers, dandelions and eucalyptus. Half Moon Honey ‘flights’ include an amber honey, “Born to be Wild,” a dark harvest, “Dark Side of the Moon” and a eucalyptus honey, “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Peer into a jar of “Born to be Wild,” and you’ll be struck by the golden hue that shifts in different lights. Dab the honey with your finger, and the texture reveals a buttery feel. Sniff, and the scent is of citrus and floral.

“Honey—I just love it on everything!” Teri rhapsodizes. “Honey toast with fresh blueberries is the bomb. On oatmeal, with chicken, in tea—it’s the perfect food for me.” Teri and Gary aren’t the only fans. At the San Mateo County Fair, five out of the last six years, Half Moon Honey won Best in Show.

Half Moon Honey products can be purchased at the Coastside Farmers Market in Half Moon Bay. You can also find the brand at shops, restaurants and wineries around Half Moon Bay, including Sam’s Chowder House, Nebbia Winery and Urban Sanctuary. In addition to shipping out phone and email orders, the Butlers also keep Half Moon Honey followers in the loop through updates on their Facebook page.

The Butlers say that beekeeping is a lifelong adventure in discovery—and they love sharing insights from their bountiful bee background. Before even opening a hive, you can learn a lot. On a pleasant, warm day, you should see moderate activity going in and out. “Older girls are coming back from foraging with fat pollen baskets on their legs,” explains Teri. “We have sometimes seen four different colors of pollen going into the same hive—white, yellow, orange and bright red.” Look carefully, and you can observe guard bees in position, and younger bees taking their first flights. If everything seems in order, the top box can be opened. “Give them a puff of light smoke,” advises Teri, “and they will retreat into the hive so you can check the frames for brood, honey, and if they need more open frames or another box.”

As for advice to wannabe beekeepers? Get training. Teri and Gary recommend joining a local bee club. “Everyone says the two-year beekeeper knows the most,” Teri wryly observes. “After that, you realize just how much you don’t know. You always need to be growing.” The Butlers belong to the San Mateo Bee Guild, which provides information sharing, tips and resources and mentoring of beginning beekeepers.

Even as Gary and Teri each wear their own beekeeping hats (or veils), they find the actual hive duties endlessly fascinating. As Gary first learned from his childhood mentor, there are three types of honeybees: the queen, workers and drones. “The bees have a borg mentality,” Teri notes. “They do what is right for the hive, not necessarily what is right for any one bee.”

Courtesy of the Butlers, here’s a quick refresher: Each hive has one queen who lays approximately 2,000 eggs per day. All worker bees are female and usually live for about six weeks. They do a variety of jobs, including cleaning, feeding the young and defending the hive—with their final two weeks dedicated to foraging. The sole purpose of the male drone is to spread the genetics of the colony by mating with a virgin queen from another colony. If he’s able to mate, he dies a “successful” bee. Unsuccessful drones return to the hive, where they eventually become a drain on resources. “The sisters are mean to their brothers,” observes Teri. “They kick their brothers out of the hive once swarm season is over.”

The Butlers work to dispel misconceptions about bees, saying they suffer from a case of mistaken identity. “Bees get a lot of bad press. This is mainly because of the yellow jacket, which often gets mistaken for a honeybee, yet is, in fact, a wasp,” Teri points out. “Yellow jackets are carnivorous and will go after that meaty sandwich or sweet drink; they can be aggressive and sting as well as bite. Honeybees aren’t usually interested in you,” she says. Or as she phrases it, “Bee and let live, so to speak.”

Teri and Gary encourage the Peninsula community to support local beekeepers—starting with calling a local beekeeper or bee club if you see a swarm. “Eat honey from local sources, don’t use pesticides and plant bee-friendly vegetation,” Teri adds. What does Gary suggest? “Let your lawn have clover and dandelions,” he says. “Go a little wild.”

Carrington’s Process

There’s a short slogan that appears on the Carrington Hill Designs website that guides the namesake designer as she assesses a home design:

Trust the process.

Any Philadelphia 76ers basketball fan knows the motto, used to emphasize the details you can control as opposed to focusing on the outcome, but for Carrington Shenk Kujawa, a San Carlos-based interior and landscape designer, the message resonates closer to home—which for Carrington growing up, was only a few miles down the road in Menlo Park.

“My dad was a basketball coach,” she says, reaffirming her love of the Golden State Warriors. “‘Trust the process’—it’s what my dad would say. He’s very coach-like and taught me to run in the mornings before school. When you put the time into something, it’ll create something beautiful.”

Philadelphia may have a playoff-contending team to show for their process but Carrington has a portfolio of projects spanning Atherton, Menlo Park, Los Altos and Woodside that exude elegance. She’ll spend months and years working closely with clients to envision stylish homes that are easy on the eyes while also remaining equally livable.

Although she primarily began as an interior decorator, Carrington expanded her business, Carrington Hill Designs, over the last 20 years to encompass both interior and landscape services. Her holistic home design firm can revamp a house down to the detail of the nail heads dotting a sumptuous staircase and out to the violet-colored chaise lounge chairs that complement a Woodside manor’s lavender hedges.

These projects may begin simply with watercolor sketches of her ideas (callbacks to her days in fashion) before Carrington elects to use a roster of mom and pop upholsterers and Italian stone makers to execute her vision. These smaller businesses are often located just a short stroll from her office near Industrial Road in San Carlos, an area that’s made a significant contribution to Peninsula design.

“This part of San Carlos is known as the area that built Menlo Park and Atherton. I’ll walk down the street and find the greatest painters and artists—right here in little San Carlos. They’re hidden gems that were passed down from their parents,” she says, mentioning how these smaller businesses have united in an effort to stave off the downside of development.

Photography Courtesy of Carrington Hill Design

“I know when Da Vinci Marble moved in they really solidified it and Devil’s Canyon is trying to preserve our trade neighborhood. We all want to support these trades that have been fleeing due to cost,” Carrington adds. “We want to create an environment where anything can be created in this neighborhood.”

Part of Carrington’s process is educating her clients. If it’s a couple, she asks that both partners be present when discussing the core pieces of furniture since they’ll both be living in the space. She’ll take them on a tour of showrooms to have them sit and feel the furniture, an experience impossible to replicate online, and will advocate with a purpose when it’s appropriate to go with the larger price tag.

This means that she promotes upholstery, even personally endorsing her business neighbors, Old World Interiors and G. Suppes Upholstery. “I don’t like inexpensive things that constantly get replaced,” she says. “Let your accessories be what you change out.”

Photography Courtesy of Conroy Tanzer Photography

Hopping from one showroom to another is an afternoon activity that’s influenced Carrington since before she was a teenager. It’s how she learned to appreciate well-designed furnishings and the value of durable pieces that withstand time. She credits her grandmother, Pauline, for imparting a sense of quality, taste and style.

“As a 12-year-old girl, my grandmother would take me to New York City and show me her old world. It was an education. My grandmother would show me why she would buy antiques and to always go with my instincts while shopping. She’d always say, ‘Carrington, you don’t want to buy a sofa you can pick up with one hand.’”

Back home at her family’s house in Menlo Park, Carrington initially found herself drawn to fashion. She looked to her parents as role models for creativity and ambition. Her mother, Mary, stitched together the ballgown Carrington designed for her senior prom at Menlo-Atherton High School; Bob, her father, worked as an engineer and would build pieces of furniture in the family’s garage.

Carrington studied English and business at UC Berkeley and worked at Nordstrom during the holidays and summers, eventually becoming a buyer after her college graduation. Leaving fashion for a few years to work in investment banking, she realized her biggest drive in life is to be constantly creating new ideas.

Photography Courtesy of Bernard Andre Photography

After getting married, she remodeled her first house in San Carlos. She expanded it from a two-bedroom, one-bath into a three-bedroom with two bathrooms. She worked within the existing space, demonstrating how dark colors didn’t make the home appear smaller, a technique she learned through her years buying for the men’s department at Nordstrom.

“I designed that house like how I would dress a man, it was very suit-like,” she remembers. “I used dark colors on the outside with sophisticated things on the inside, with a little twist. It was like leather shoes and a textured sweater mixed with a beautiful pair of trousers. It had a very different kind of look from what was out there.”

Photography Courtesy of John Sutton Photography

The house quickly sold and soon she was onto her next project in Old Palo Alto. She launched Carrington Hill Designs in the year 2000 as a young mom with a process.

“I always tell my kids,” she says, referring to her three boys, “that if you can learn a formula, you can plug it into any career.”

Carrington believes that if you’re honest and work hard, people will give you a chance. “I started with paint consultations to get in the door but once I was in, I’d see their things and tell them what could happen. I learned to master what I knew so I could walk my talk.”