Baby Namer

words by  Sophia Markoulakis

When a tweenage Taylor A. Humphrey visited her local Redwood City library with her mother, she wasn’t enticed by the latest Baby-Sitters Club novel. Instead, she made a beeline for the non-fiction section (929 to be exact)—to scour the shelves for books on baby names. 

“I have a distinct memory of getting frustrated in the children’s book section and asking my mom, ‘Where are the baby-naming books,’” she laughs. “I always felt a little dorky, having this weird interest in baby names. I was the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family, so I was obsessed with babies. We did big Sunday suppers growing up, and there was always a gaggle of kids. I was so interested in the names my aunts and uncles were choosing.”

Years later, Taylor morphed her quirky hobby of collecting baby names into a baby-naming consultancy. She founded “What’s in a Baby’s Name” in 2015, but the circumstances behind the launch had less to do with business plans and spreadsheets and more to do with a sudden move back home.

The charismatic Emerald Hills native and NYU grad was living in New York pursuing creative endeavors when she received a call from her mother saying that her grandmother had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. “This was a shock to the family since my grandfather had died from the disease 20 years earlier. Ironically, my grandmother founded the Bay Area’s largest Parkinson’s support group as a result of his diagnosis,” Taylor reflects. While home, Taylor was also dealing with her own health struggles, which she discovered later to be an autoimmune disorder. The next few years were spent either caring for her grandmother and her emotional wellbeing or tending to her own wellness. But, like the consummate optimist she is, Taylor saw the silver lining in leaving her New York life behind as it provided space for her to pull out her old journals and books on baby names and conceive her bespoke business.

“I started blogging about my favorite baby names on Instagram as a creative outlet. I wrote about the significance and the numerology associations behind different names and the personality traits those names often carried, and people went crazy for it,” recalls Taylor. She immediately witnessed a lot of engagement and realized that she was destined to do this: “Choosing that one name that you and others are going to call your child for the rest of their life is such a sacred act.”

Her first client had been following her for a while before he reached out to her for assistance. A towheaded blond boy with the given name, Theodore, was born soon after. “I still keep in touch with my early clients; many of them send me photos and holiday cards,” notes Taylor. Today, her clients span the globe, and she consults with them from the moment they reach out until the baby is born. 

Baby Name Trends

“I’m seeing a resurgence of the use of family names like Elizabeth, Ruby, Grace and Eleanor. If you look at the top 50 names, many of them are from past generations, and they’re all coming back,” Taylor says. She also points to using surnames as first names as a huge trend. “Names like Sutton, Bennett, Collins, Banks, Jackson, etc. feel very strong and timeless.” Citing BabyCenter, Taylor shares that the most popular names for 2021 were Olivia and Liam. For 2022, one hot predicted trend won’t come as a surprise to millions of sweaty cyclists: people naming their babies after top Peloton instructors. 

Taylor’s rate varies on the intensity of the service. Some clients struggle with the challenge; and often, Taylor is tasked with being a sort of marriage counselor. (Taylor estimates that 80 percent of her client couples can’t agree on a name.) Others just need a little insight and nudge and a name can “appear” rather quickly. One client contacted her while being discharged from the hospital. “They wouldn’t let her leave until they filled out the birth certificate,” recounts Taylor, “and they couldn’t decide on a name, so I coached them through the decision-making process on the spot.”

When someone inquires about her service, Taylor obtains as much information as possible about the family through a lengthy questionnaire. Once she reviews it, she meets with them virtually to get a better understanding of what they are looking for. “It’s a highly intuitive process backed with a lot of research. I use the Social Security Administration’s data on baby names. I have my own categorical list of names going back a century,” she explains. “The questionnaire really identifies the major pillars of a family like religion, community, work, activism and extracurricular activities like sports.” By tapping into a client’s lifestyle, Taylor can home in on names that are resonant and appropriate. Insights into a family’s background, i.e. geography or benchmark memories, can lead to names that provide provenance and meaning.

A visit to Taylor’s website reveals additional services, which she considers holistic additions. Just as her grandmother’s diagnosis ushered in a new opportunity, her passing also created space for Taylor’s interest in childbirth and spiritual and energy healing.

She describes witnessing her grandmother’s transition from life to death as a transformative experience. At that moment, Taylor decided that she was ready to help with other transitions—bringing life into the world instead of ushering it out. “As it turns out, there’s a profession for that, and it’s called being a doula,” she laughs. In 2018, Taylor began her doula training, and in 2019, she became a certified Reiki practitioner. 

She views the new offerings as enhancements to her baby-naming business, since she considers the work very energetic and intuitive. “I use Reiki as a method to really tune in to the baby’s spirit and then find a name that matches that baby’s personality,” Taylor says. “I’m not there to give them all of the answers, but I’m there to guide them through the process of establishing a relationship with their unborn child.” 

What’s in Taylor’s Name?

While going through old photos, Taylor recently discovered a list of baby names that her parents had prepared in 1987. “Oh my gosh, this weird obsession came from somewhere after all. My parents were ahead of their time. They had a very clear aesthetic when it came to names,” she says. One of the names on the list was ‘Wallace,’ and Taylor feels fortunate that she ended up with the name she has even if she was named after an ‘80s soap opera star (Taylor Miller). “I actually think that ‘Wallace’ is a very chic and cutting-edge name, and no one is using it,” she observes. “They gave me a more feminine middle name—Alexandra—and I really do feel like I embody my name.”

The Hanukkah Miracle

words by Sloane Citron

My family, except for our son who lives in Israel, was finally all getting together to light the candles on the last night of Hanukkah, the holiday of the miracle. It’s called that because 2,200 years ago, after the Maccabean Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple, there was only enough oil for one night for lighting the Temple lamp and yet it lasted eight nights.

The 14 of us planned to assemble early on Sunday afternoon after my daughter Arielle, her husband Danny and their two sons (one a newborn) flew in from their home in Los Angeles. It was a day that I had been looking forward to, since I knew that this year the two older grandchildren, having recently turned three, were mature enough to have some understanding of what we were doing, be able to sing the prayers and songs and enjoy opening their presents. 

While the clean-up is a bit onerous and falls to me, I love the absolute commotion of these get-togethers. My wife was smart and ordered a bouncy house for the backyard, since, with six grandchildren, it was definitely a party. One family after another arrived, the kids streaming inside to see their cousins, their aunts and uncles, their safta and saba. The house reverberated with the cacophony of voices, screams and singing.   

The bouncy house was a big hit, and the kids spent close to an hour cascading off the sides of the air-filled play towers, the netted walls and each other. An occasional collision caused some momentary tears before the affected were quickly back into action. Except for the newborn, they all loved rolling around, shooting balls into the rubber hoop and jumping into each other.

When the sun went down around five, we calmed the children down a bit and prepared for the big event—lighting the candles. There was one Hanukkiah for each family, four in all. Thanks to my kids and their spouses, their children already have a good grasp of the prayers and songs that are all part of the lighting ceremony. Seeing all nine candles (one is used for lighting) brightly burning, the overhead lights turned off for effect, was a spectacular sight and a special spiritual moment for us all.

One of the challenges for little Jewish kids is learning the difference between birthday candles, which, of course, they get to blow out, and the candles for Shabbat and our holidays, which decidedly they do not get to blow out. So there is a moment of indecision for the children when their initial inclination is to blow and their parents have to yank them away so that the candles can burn down naturally.

Once this was done, it was time for presents. We are not really a “wrapping” family and each family—oldest child Josh and wife Adara going first—took their turn handing out their gifts. This meant, though, that each child received six or more exciting new things to pore over, from books to stuffed animals to Paw Patrol backpacks and Thomas train sets. Of course, it was too much, but there was great joy in seeing their happy faces. Then it was time for dinner, which, because no one wanted to take away time from the get together, we ordered in from a local restaurant. Lots of salmon, salad and fries. Of course, we had latkes and applesauce, and dreidels and gold chocolate coins were flying everywhere.

Late that afternoon, however, before the candle lighting, we had decided to go on a walk around the block, a good way to have the kids burn off even more of their unlimited energy and a pleasant way to enjoy the autumn coolness. As we readied for the walk, however, my daughter Talia realized that she had accidentally forgotten to bring shoes for her youngest child Levi. I suggested she search her car to see if there were any hidden away, and after rummaging around she found one right foot shoe, but only that single one. My kids are easygoing about such things, which I think is a wonderful trait, and Talia and her husband Sam were fine with little Levi riding in a wagon with no shoes. 

“Just wait a minute,” I told them, and I ran upstairs to our attic and pulled out the first cardboard box resting there, full of old children’s clothes stored for some 25 years. I dumped the entire contents onto the floor, and there it was, one—and only one—little shoe, a left-footed boys desert boot that looked to be about the right size. I grabbed it and ran down to the front yard and placed it, Cinderella-like, onto Levi’s foot, where it fit perfectly. 

It was a magical moment, one that could not be planned or ever duplicated. We all laughed hysterically and agreed wholeheartedly that this was the true Hanukkah miracle of 2021! 

Belmont’s “Happy Hydrants”

words by Lexi Friesel

If you live or spend any time in Belmont, you may have noticed that not all of the fire hydrants look the way you’ve come to expect. Whether you’re walking along a residential street or driving down busy El Camino or Ralston Avenue, colorfully decorated hydrants seem to pop up all over the place. Back in the early 1970s, in a tribute to the approaching U.S. bicentennial and Belmont’s 50th anniversary, residents rallied in a collective creative spirit to paint more than 300 city hydrants. Inspired by the larger “Paint a Plug for America” program, many of the hydrants captured patriotic characters—including Betsy Ross, John Hancock and Paul Revere—with additional themes ranging from robots to the San Francisco Giants. Jim McLaughlin, a former Belmont city clerk, suggested the idea and even wrote a poem, “The Happy Hydrants of Belmont,”to commemorate the initiative. The name “Happy Hydrants” stuck. Over the years, the number of hand-crafted plugs dwindled due to aging and weather damage—as well as new state standards enacted in the 1990s, which mandated uniform hydrant colors. Fortunately, many of Belmont’s “Happy Hydrants” got a reprieve from the law thanks to a bill sponsored by former state senator Quentin Kopp, and an estimated 50 to 60 are still around to catch your eye and elicit a smile.

10 Fresh Ways to Give Back

It’s the December issue, which means another fresh take on our annual PUNCH list of creative and unexpected ways to serve our Peninsula community. Donating money is always a vital way to make a difference, but there’s also priceless value in your time. Read along for ideas that might resonate with your particular skills, talents and interests—and don’t forget that your help is needed all year-round. 

Photography: Courtesy of San Mateo County Parks
  1. Horse Around

    There are a bunch of long faces at Wunderlich Park in Woodside that could use your attention and care to keep their tails happily swinging. The nonprofit Friends of Huddart & Wunderlich Parks ( are always looking for volunteers to help with their various equestrian programming. The museum, open on the weekends, could use an extra docent to explain the rich past of horse heritage in the park as well as a docent to guide their mini horse named Lightning who introduces children to the wonders of horse stewardship. The group could also use a hand with their education hikes and are on the lookout for naturalist docents who can lead groups through the park. All the training is provided by the nonprofit and volunteers can provide whatever time they have to give.

  2. Help the Town

    Who knew that civic duty could be so fun? Whether you like to swing a hammer or a golf club, you can find all sorts of ways to contribute in your local neighborhood. For example, in Belmont, the parks and recreation department is looking for help to maintain public facilities such as parks, park benches and picnic tables. If you choose to adopt a full park, expect to yank weeds and pick up litter to keep a particular park in its best shape. There’s also the opportunity to refurbish benches and tables or even update community bulletin boards. Email to learn more. If your home turf is San Mateo, there’s a need for volunteer golf marshals to assist players and cart staff and work with the pro shop to keep the city’s Poplar Creek Golf Course humming. The time commitment is one seven-hour shift per week and training occurs at the course. Bonus: complimentary golf privileges are offered for your service time. Reach out to Leo Loane, the volunteer marshal program coordinator, at to learn more.

  3. Art Ambassador

    It’s nearly a guarantee that you won’t find another volunteer option that celebrates art inside of a mall. The Peninsula Museum of Art in San Bruno (located within the The Shops at Tanforan) is hoping to find motivated people who want to contribute their time and skills towards developing the space into a vital art resource for the community. Volunteers are needed to help staff the space (at least one shift per week) and contribute to their evolving vision. PMA welcomes those who are curious about diverse emerging and established Bay Area art and artists and want to help connect our community. No experience needed. Training is provided and you can reach them through

  4. Extra Care for Kids

    There With Care, an organization designed to assist families with children who are facing critical illnesses, is a program that excels in coalescing. When a family is struck with a tragedy for its youngest, There With Care supports them by removing obstacles and distractions that prevent the family from focusing on their loved one. Always seeking volunteers, the organization is in need of meal and grocery delivery help and childcare providers for patients or siblings. On the administrative side, they could use a hand in cataloguing donations, supporting special events and assisting in their Redwood City office. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or to help support their community events, please contact: volunteer. Even one-time opportunities are available with no training required.

    Photography: Irene Searles
  5. Shiny New Shoes

    Since 2006, My New Red Shoes has helped to promote a sense of belonging and dignity for more than 90,000 students in the Bay Area and beyond by improving the quality of life and well-being of children and youth impacted by economic inequality. The organization provides new shoes and clothing to homeless and low-income children to help them look and feel confident before starting a new school year. Office and warehouse assistance is always appreciated, along with a call for creatives: Leverage your professional skills as a photographer, videographer or graphic designer to help get the word out about the organization. If you have time to sort donations, capture an event or promote a fundraiser, reach out to the Redwood City organization at

  6. Donate to the Donors

    Vampires need not apply! For all others, Peninsula blood centers are on the hunt for help in their facilities. Everyone knows that donating blood feels (at a conscience level) good—and even earns you free juice and cookies—but the blood banks themselves need help, too! For example, Stanford’s nonprofit community blood bank provides blood and blood products to children and adults undergoing transplants and surgery. Volunteers are needed to monitor donor safety, serve replenishing refreshments, label blood bags and tubes, shuttle blood, help in the labs and assist in various clerical tasks. Your efforts help create the (O, A, B or AB) positive experience that keeps donors coming back. Check or other blood center websites to discover ways to help.

  7. Promote Independence

    Beginning 85 years ago, Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Palo Alto has been a resource to anyone across the Peninsula living with blindness or visual impairment. It has served thousands of clients with a variety of geographically centered services and classes, and their success is dependent on the aid of volunteers. Ways to help our visually- and auditory-impaired neighbors include translators, administrative assistance and working at the store inside the Vista Center that’s stocked with a variety of products to help folks lead more independent lives. Opportunities range from providing occasional on-call office and home assistance to the Client Partner Program, a six-month commitment to support clients a few times a month. Depending on what is needed, you might read aloud, help with mail, go on walks, run errands or just have a friendly visit. Staff will match you with a client based on your location and interests. Visit for more information.

  8. Treat a Trail

    Do you know why our trails remain pristine and welcoming all year long? It’s through the dedication of outdoor lovers who pitch in to help. The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District relies on assistance in Los Altos and beyond for the miles of trails they preside over. Email or visit their website to learn more. The minimum age is 14. Meanwhile, over in Palo Alto, the Trail Center is a nonprofit focused on maintenance and trail work across the Bay Area. They remind us that it’s the perfect blend of community service, outdoor awareness, conservation and physical exercise. No experience or special skills are required, and the minimum age is 17. Connect with them through email or the website

  9. English-language Support Star

    If you’re a fluent English speaker and still fumble with they’re/their/there or can admit that words like “pterodactyl” make zero sense, then place yourself in the shoes of a neighbor learning English. San Mateo County Libraries has a call out for English Conversation Club and ESL (English as a Second Language) Book Club facilitators. Meet online in small groups to chat about interesting topics, help English language learners improve their speaking and reading and transform neighbors into new friends. Whether you’re discussing books together or practicing English, the interaction happens in a convenient and welcoming way. Both teen and adult opportunities are available. Check out to learn more.

  10. Sing to Seniors

    A quintessential way to serve your community, spending time with our seniors is the perfect give and take. Share your time by socializing and in return, you receive a perspective earned with time. Numerous Peninsula senior facilities need volunteers, such as The Trousdale in Burlingame, which is seeking musicians to enhance the lives of their residents. Musical groups or solo artists are welcome to share vocals, piano or guitar. Learn more at At the Avenidas in Palo Alto, you can find a manageable commitment with one-time-only projects and events. has more information. And the nearby Channing House ( asks for volunteers to visit patients, help during bingo and word games and assist with their parties.  

Deck the Historic Halls

Transforming Filoli into a Holiday Wonderland 

words by Sheri Baer

Walk up Filoli’s grand staircase (only staff are allowed above the first floor), and you’ll pass a 17th-century French tapestry depicting a battle scene from the conquest of Alexander the Great. Continuing down the second floor hallway brings views of former family and guest bedrooms (currently used as offices)—including an en suite bathroom with opulent Carrera marble and a deep soaking tub. Other sights include the lady-of-the-house’s octagonal dressing room, attached to an expansive bedroom, and a small kitchen and dumbwaiter, once used to prepare and deliver food to the second floor. Up one final narrow staircase with a low ceiling (Watch your head!), and you arrive in the attic, which on this cloudy October morning looks like Santa’s workshop—if it was transported into an early 20th-century 54,000-square-foot Georgian Revival-style mansion. 

Bookshelves brim with rolls of ribbons and trimmings—shades of red, pink, green, blue and purple. There’s metallic gold and shiny silver. Shimmery, striped, patterned, lacy and woven. Countless bins and cartons. Glitter-filled plastic containers. Festive miniature houses. Garlands hang densely in floor-to-ceiling rows, draped over bars.

Tucked in the back, beyond the displays of mounted wreaths, agile hands transform empty boxes into elaborately-wrapped gifts. Filoli database specialist Lisa Chai looks up from the bow-making station, where she is expertly weaving ribbon around dowels. “We’ve been told gold and gold,” she says about the day’s color assignment, nodding to the other elf in the attic, human resources coordinator Jenifer Beswick, who crisply cuts through ornately-patterned paper with sharp scissor blades. How do they know if they’ve done their job well? “When you leave,” smiles Jenifer, “you’re covered with glitter.”

Anyone who decks the halls of their own home knows what it takes to capture the festive spirit of the season. Thus, it’s not surprising to learn of the colossal effort involved in producing the glorious scenery, scents and sounds that have come to define Holidays at Filoli. “Filoli was always a place of gathering and celebration,” says Filoli CEO Kara Newport, “and so that’s our inspiration when we think about how to share Filoli.” 

Holiday Traditions at Filoli 

Completed in 1917 and nestled into 20,000 acres of preserved land in Woodside, Filoli represented the culmination of a dream for William and Agnes Bourn, who worked with architect Willis Polk to design a “country place” to retire. “This was their grow-old together home,” shares Filoli CEO Kara Newport, “and they used it heavily for family and holiday parties.” In particular, much has been noted about the Christmas gathering of 1918, which also marked the end of World War I. “That was one of the first big party celebrations in the house, and their daughter and son-in-law came. It was a really special time for the family to get together.” Those early years at Filoli pre-dated commercially produced ornaments, Kara points out, and the decor reflected that. “It was very much about collecting greenery from the gardens and doing more natural displays.” 

After the Bourns passed away in 1936, the Roth family took ownership of Filoli. William ‘Bill’ Roth and Lurline Matson Roth and their three children embraced an active, vibrant lifestyle on the estate, especially around the holidays. “The Roth family really used the house for celebrating,” recounts Kara. “Everyone would come in for the big family parties, and in the ’50s and ’60s, it had this whole mid-century modern feel to it. It was cutting-edge—they’d use the ballroom and the reception room, and it was Tony Duquette-planned parties and funky centerpieces and tinsel and silver.”

After her husband’s death in 1963, Mrs. Roth lived by herself at Filoli before donating the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, inspired by her belief that “Filoli is too beautiful to be private.” 

Getting the Party Started Again 

When Kara Newport became Filoli’s CEO in 2017, she embraced Mrs. Roth’s intent to make Filoli more accessible to the public. For decades, Filoli’s holiday festivities were limited to a seasonal shopping experience that ran for 10 days every December. “Other than that one week, we were basically closed from the end of October through mid-February,” she explains. “And so we were missing this opportunity to share Filoli at what is really a beautiful time of the year.” 

Originally from Ohio, Kara earned an undergraduate degree in botany (with a minor in American history) and a master’s in public horticulture administration. Equipped with a wealth of experience gleaned from other public gardens and houses, she arrived at Filoli with a vision for enhancing Filoli’s holiday offerings. “It was a big task—we had staff who had never done it before,” she recalls of the first extended season in 2017. “We hadn’t decorated the house with period art and furnishings, as the families might have done. We had never done lights in the garden. And we had never been open for this long.” 

Over the last five years, what began as Thursday through Sunday evenings multiplied into, “Let’s just be open every night.” And that initial “Let’s just do what we can,” approach to decorations and lighting evolved into a year-round exhaustive undertaking to deliver an immersive holiday experience. “It feels like an old-world European Christmas,” describes Kara. “It’s transportive—like you’ve traveled to a faraway place for this fantastic celebration.” 

Bringing the Holidays to Life

In a tireless loop, even as one holiday season wraps up, planning for the next season officially begins. “Every year we use some of what we already have and add in some new,” Kara says, which requires careful assessment and review. “We have to make decisions about what we’re doing the next year by January,” she explains, “because the ornament sales and retail sales that we use for our planning are in January.” 

April marks the kick-off of more granular planning—that means scheduling and timing, what’s happening behind the scenes and in front of the scenes, who is doing what and when. Filoli’s head curator and collection manager Julie Bly DeVere takes the lead with the house decor and every aspect of planning. “We try to change it up every year, so that it feels different,” Kara says, “and Julie does a really wonderful job of choosing things in the house, in the historic decor, as inspiration.” For example, the mixed metals, browns and greens of the estate’s 17th-century tapestries influenced the color scheme for the reception room’s great tree. 

Meanwhile, Filoli’s horticulture staff actively engage in planning for the garden. “We try to do something fresh and different—change the color palettes, change the experience,” Kara notes. The lighting contract is wrapped up by summer, and all the holiday planning by August 1, so that ticket sales can get underway in late August. The head curator produces a massive planning document with a detailed inventory for each room—outlining trees, ornaments, wrapped gifts, historic decor and other custom touches. 

Outdoor and behind-the-scenes momentum picks up in September, and by October and into November, staff members are tapped to pitch in, whether they’re wrapping gifts, weaving greens or assisting with small outdoor containers and trees. Plastic bins containing 7,000 ornaments sorted by color are brought up from storage in the basement below the ballroom. And the decor-packed workspace in the attic becomes a whirling beehive of activity. “We do a lot of what we call blitzes, when we come in and do one thing and get it done,” Kara says. “All staff help with holidays—it’s integrated, it’s part of who we are.”

Filoli partners with San Francisco florist Nigella to install the decor in the house and with Christmas Lights Pro to illuminate the garden, a particularly creative challenge given the estate’s antiquated outdoor power supply. It all comes together by opening day, which for 2021 meant November 20. 

The Immersive Experience

“We try to draw people through from experience to experience,” says Kara of Holidays at Filoli, as she describes touring the house, venturing outdoors for a glass of hot cider or wine by cozy fire pits before exploring the formal gardens and dazzling light displays that include a river of lights, draped Camperdown elms and a Yew tree rainbow. Filoli’s reception room is considered the first show-stopper that visitors see. “It’s our biggest tree, and we pull on the colors and the beauty of that room. It’s where both families would have greeted their guests,” she says. This year, the ballroom features new curtains of shimmering lights to complement the space’s sparkling crystal. In the 1940s-era kitchen, the scene conjures up Filoli staff getting ready for a party, complete with cooking sounds and the scent of freshly baked cookies. The study, where the Roth family held their private Christmas celebrations, reflects the 1960s, including many of Mrs. Roth’s original decorations.

“We keep the study in that mid-century modern feel,” notes Kara. “Not only is it her ornaments that are on the trees, there’s also her Murano glass nativity scene with spectacular, beautiful colors.” The newly-restored gentlemen’s lounge is on display, and even the dining room has a tree, with the table grandly set with Filoli’s historic china and silver. “The table setting,” emphasizes Kara knowingly. “That’s what everyone wants to see.” 

Filoli built it, and people came. Prior to 2017, the historic estate typically saw 9,000 visitors during its abbreviated holiday season, but with its expanded festivities, as many as 60,000 are expected this year. Mindful of overcrowding, capacity is capped at 2,000 during daytime hours and 1,000 at night. And when the holiday festivities wrap up on January 2, what happens next? “We play music, and we all work together,” Kara relays. “Everyone takes a room and starts packing up.” And then, yes, the cycle starts all over again, which apparently isn’t as daunting as it sounds. “It’s just so much joy,” Kara reflects. “I love the year-round nature of it because I think it’s the ultimate experience—it’s our opportunity to create memories and nostalgia and happiness and joy and sharing and celebration.” 

Artisan Shopping Season

words by Jennifer Jory

No need to travel to Europe to experience holiday markets—the Peninsula serves up its own traditions right here at home. The local artisan culture is back after taking a hiatus over the past year, with events ranging from Burlingame’s Kohl Mansion Holiday Boutique to Mountain View’s German Fair offering ways to support Peninsula makers. And shopping local also means you can leave with gifts in hand without having to worry about shipping delays. 

Here’s a sampling of the spirit and ingenuity that drives Peninsula artisans and the many ways to discover their inspired creations. 

Courtesy of Linnea Visbal

Maarit Knits

Burlingame artisan Maarit Visbal keeps a three-generation legacy of hand weaving alive by creating unique embellished knitwear. “My grandma taught me how to weave in Finland where I grew up,” says Maarit. “We had huge looms and we would weave rugs. All of our rugs were homemade in the Scandinavian style.” She gestures to a two-story-high weaving hanging in her entry, handmade by her mother with a distinct native pattern. “It’s definitely indigenous,” she affirms. “These are the colors from the district where I grew up in the northeastern part of Finland.” 

As a student, Maarit came from Finland to San Francisco State University to study languages and then went on to hone her knitting skills through professional classes at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Using high-quality silk and merino wool yarns made in the U.S., she knits with a machine-like loom creating wraps and sweaters with hand details such as leather fringe and applied Swarovski crystals. She considers working on her loom to be a meditative experience. “I am in the zone,” she describes. “Colors from nature inspire me, and in the fall the muted multitude of colors is not one-dimensional.” 

Maarit’s work will be on display at artisan events throughout the Peninsula including the annual Kohl Mansion Holiday Boutique in Burlingame.

Cherry Blossom Lane

When you come across Judy Stanley’s work at an artisan event, your eyes dart over a feast of vintage treasures repurposed with new life. Her one-woman business, Cherry Blossom Lane, produces original decor, jewelry and keepsakes such as vintage dog show medals turned into art or an old wooden table leg reimagined as a candlestick. “It’s all in the hunt for pieces that I can make into something else, such as a handle on an old dresser,” Judy emphasizes. A South Bay native who displays her work throughout the Peninsula, Judy started her up-cycled art making one-of-a-kind belt buckles. Using vintage brooches embellished with stones and crystals, she sold her original buckles at stores across the country and eventually expanded into making vintage jewelry. 

Courtesy of Michelle Peglau

“I look for small, interesting pieces that I can string onto old wooden beads, which I hand-paint with many layers,” she explains. “I get bored if I keep doing the same thing.” Judy’s unique jewelry includes sliced vintage pool balls from the flea market joined together and artfully transformed into necklaces. She turns the ordinary into art such as wooden decorative signage made from old fences. “I am always looking for fences coming down, and I love to make things out of old fence posts,” she says. “It is all in finding something that inspires me, and then I get the saw out.” She also uses German glass pieces to craft custom signs with popular sayings and themes.

Judy’s favorite creations are Christmas ornaments made from vintage horse show ribbons from the 1950s. She fashions the vibrant colored ribbons into flower shapes that frame an image such as a dog photo and turns them into keepsakes. “Someone’s trash is my treasure,” she happily notes. 

Cherry Blossom Lane’s current creations will be on display at Saint Francis High School’s Christmas at Our House event on December 3 and 4.

Courtesy of Madisyn Stanley

2 Wonder & Wander

San Mateo native and jewelry designer Valerie Gartner makes it her mission to create one-of-a-kind pieces that are different from everything else she sees on the market. She began her career as a stylist, but her passion for creating jewelry for friends and family drove her to start her business, 2 Wonder & Wander. Using 14- and 24-karat gold-plated chains, Valerie handmakes unique necklaces that incorporate vintage pieces and gems. Her style gives a nod to her own past and heritage that has influenced her jewelry aesthetic. “My great grandmother always dressed to the nines and layered her jewelry, both real and costume,” reminisces Valerie. “I always wear a piece of my grandmother’s jewelry. It is my own personal story, and I strive to help others tell their stories.” 

Courtesy of Jennifer Jory

Valerie often travels to Petaluma antique stores and flea markets to search for vintage baubles and parts of jewelry that she can transform into new adornments. She shares that the message behind her jewelry is that it’s often a conversation starter that tells a story. “I didn’t expect so many people to follow me to different events,” she adds. “My goal is to make people feel unique.”

Valerie’s signature medium is pavé crystal. “It makes you stand out,” she says. She also works with glass and antique gold and silver electroplating pieces, applying coating to enhance the aesthetic of a gem. “When the light hits these necklaces it gives them a subdued sparkle, which everyone loves for the holidays.” Often working 60 hours a week on her creations, Valerie’s jewelry is sold at events and stores throughout the Peninsula including Prairie and Sol Y Luna in San Carlos.

Courtesy of Valerie Gartner

That One Thing

words by Sheri Baer

On any given design project, Kristi Will hears and directs notes being played from every direction—whether it’s the architect, the builder, stone workers, cabinet makers, furniture designers, lighting experts or artisans. “I think of us like the conductor of the orchestra,” says Kristi. “We know the tempo and we know the people who make all of these beautiful things, and our job is to fluidly put them together so that everything has its place and is purposeful.” 

The founder of eponymous Kristi Will Interior Design, Kristi always knew she would walk a creative path. Born and raised in San Mateo, she grew up on job sites, courtesy of a construction company run by her mother and stepfather. Close family friend Marguerite Casey was in real estate, and Kristi jumped at the chance to tag along from “home to home to home.” And, in Marguerite’s living room, Kristi discovered a treasure trove of inspiration: stacks of Architectural Digest magazines. “I had pin boards before there were pin boards,” she recounts. “I used to take the AD magazines and tear out all my favorites—all these influencers in the ’70s like Michael Taylor and Donghia. I would plaster my walls with them. I was always inspired by design and how people set up rooms.” 

Throughout her childhood, whether she was rearranging furniture at a friend’s house or sketching and drawing floor plans, Kristi’s aspirations never wavered. After earning a degree in interior design, she launched her career with a firm in Mill Valley. When her husband, now a San Mateo fire captain, was stationed in Half Moon Bay, the couple moved coastside. “His job brought us here,” Kristi says, “but then we just fell in love with it.” 

In 2009, she opened her own firm, which is now situated in an historic Queen Anne home in the heart of downtown. With a team of five, Kristi tackles projects ranging from kitchen renovations to full-scale remodels—primarily on the Peninsula but extending to vacation homes in Aspen, Hawaii and even a GulfStream jet. “I think of us as a small firm that can do really large projects,” she says.

No matter the assignment, Kristi makes a point of catering to two clients: the homeowner and the home itself. “The homeowner is obviously the most important—how they’re going to live in the house and how they envision their lifestyle in the space—but for me, it’s also really about the house,” Kristi explains. “What does the house want to be?”

In the case of a San Mateo County coastal retreat, Kristi worked closely with the owners to fully understand their vision for the project. They emphasized their desire to have the home fit seamlessly into the local landscape—while still being a very personalized haven. Here’s how she summarizes their guidance: “From the outside, we want the home to feel like it was always here and part of our community, but we also want to experience the ‘Wow, this is so beautiful!’ every time we walk through the door.” 

To achieve that goal, Kristi drew on a philosophy that’s always influenced her design ethos—emphasizing meaningful elements in a space. For the homeowners, Kristi notes, that translated into “things that were unique and specific to their needs and how they see the world.” As an example, for the master bedroom, the desire for soothing colors and textures led to the commissioning of a carved leather headboard evoking the California coastline. “It’s very specific to the home,” shares Kristi. “We said, ‘Here’s our interpretation of what we think this room can be for you and how you’ll feel when you go into the space.’” 

Kristi acknowledges that achieving an authentic, personal connection can be challenging, especially when it’s so easy to get swayed off course. “I’ll say, ‘Tell me about this space and why do you have all these things here?’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, so and so gave us this,’ but they don’t really carry any meaning for the client. And that’s when I have to say, ‘Okay, why is it here? Is it here just because it landed here when your aunt gave it to you?’ If it doesn’t really do anything for them or the room, it’s got to go.” 

At the end of the day, the old adage “less is more” invariably proves true. “I always talk about editing and pulling back,” Kristi says. “Sometimes when you have too much stuff in a space, you don’t really appreciate that one beautiful pillow or that gorgeous light fixture or that exceptional table. Sometimes you have to take a few things away to really appreciate that one great piece.”

For a modern home remodel in Palo Alto, Kristi encountered a common scenario—the homeowners actually represented not one but two clients in that they had differing tastes and perspectives. “The husband just kept saying, ‘I love neutrals and taupe,’ and the wife said, ‘Please let me have some color,’” Kristi recalls. “The project really became a balancing act—taking the husband’s love of modern and clean lines and bridging the gap with the wife’s love of a little bit of fun and pattern.”

An Hermes couch capturing the same quality and detailing of a beloved purse. Modern artwork and pops of color. A whimsical animal sculpture unexpectedly holding court on a staircase. By purposely not overdoing, the end result is that each carefully selected piece imparts greater impact and meaning. “It can be one thing and that’s what your eyes are going to go to,” Kristi points out. “When you walk into a room that you love, it will create that feeling inside where you just want to sing because it feels so good.”

For the coastal retreat, Kristi accomplished that effect through the selection of signature pieces, including two works created by the late renowned Iraqi architect, artist and designer Zaha Hadid. Hadid’s UltraStellar coffee table is a mesmerizing focal point in the living room and in the dining room, recessed lighting illuminates Hadid’s Liquid Glacial table to magically transform the space. “If you look into the table, it looks like water is melting through the legs,” describes Kristi. “And in the evening, you can see this beautiful water reflection on the floor.” 

Although Kristi’s client roster consistently keeps her busy—she estimates that 90% are repeat customers—she is feeling particularly inspired by the prospect of safely entertaining again. “For the last two years, everybody’s had to live sort of isolated and not able to share their homes with their friends and extended family,” she reflects. “That’s not how the homes were meant to be, that’s not how we were designing them. Our homes should be full of life and laughter.”

The Beat On Your Eats

Get into the holiday spirit with festive outings and eats!

Four Seasons Silicon Valley

East Palo Alto

A cozy mountainside retreat, equipped with mini-chalets and an alpine-inspired menu, is the festive vision behind Four Seasons Silicon Valley’s annual holiday pop-up, Après Village. The outdoor terrace of the hotel’s signature restaurant Quattro is transformed into a winter wonderland with rustic wooden chalets, sleek fire tables and festival-lit trees. Looking to outdo themselves from previous traditions, Après debuts a new Sweet Shoppe from Pastry Chef Guillermo Soto that offers sugary treats to accompany the holiday activities such as a holiday sleigh and life-sized snow globe to set the scene for the ultimate holiday card. 2050 University Avenue. Après is open to the public through February 27, 2022 from 4PM to 9PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Sweet Shoppe is open weekends from 3PM to 9PM.

Espetus Churrascaria

San Mateo

The largest seasonal outdoor ice rink in the Bay Area offers 11,000 square feet of real ice during the day and night in downtown’s Central Park. Open until January 9, San Mateo On Ice is your chance to participate in a treasured holiday activity—California-style. To round out the full day, head to the Brazilian steakhouse Espetus Churrascaria just two blocks away for a warm and hearty feast. Cozy up next to the cheerful decor as Gaúcho chefs slowly grill choice cuts of skewered rotisserie meats over an open flame and parade their offerings around the restaurant for you to slide off their skewers onto your plate. 710 South B Street. Open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11:30AM to 2:30PM; Saturday from 12PM to 3PM. Dinner hours are Monday to Thursday from 5PM to 10PM; Friday and Saturday from 5PM to 11PM; Sunday from 12PM to 9PM.

Marufuku Ramen

Redwood City

Redwood City’s Courthouse Square becomes a beacon for attracting Santa Claus throughout the month of December. The festivities begin on December 4 with carnival rides, photos with Santa and live entertainment from local high school bands, dancing groups and singing groups before the annual Holiday Tree Lighting on the corner of Hamilton and Broadway at 5:45PM. After the joyful romp, head to Marufuku Ramen nearby to fill the belly with authentic Hakata-style Tonkotsu ramen featuring milky and umami-rich broth made from boiling pork bones for long hours. The exquisite ramen is only available in a few cities—including San Francisco, Oakland and New York—suggesting that Redwood City has joined a company of culinary legends. 865 Middlefield Road. Open weekdays for lunch from 10:30AM to 2PM and for dinner from 4:30PM to 9PM; weekends from 10:30AM to 9PM. 

Bon Idea

The night before the debut of Bon Marché, a weekly pop-up artisan food and crafts market slated for Wednesdays in downtown Menlo Park, the concept’s orchestrator jolted awake. It wasn’t that Ali El Safy was nervous or forgot to relay a crucial note to one of the dozen vendors. In fact, it was the opposite emotion: The restaurateur was restless with excitement.

For the past several months, Ali worked almost unitarily to organize and develop Bon Marché for the single block section on Santa Cruz Avenue in front of his restaurant, the downtown mainstay, Bistro Vida. He navigated a maze of municipal bureaucracy, securing the necessary use permits, insurance and a blessing from the health department while personally curating a list of vendors to fit his vision.

“I didn’t want the same thing you see at a generic farmers market where it’s produce, strawberries and more produce,” he explains. “I wanted one of each: a bread maker, cheeses, a flower girl and a French macaron guy. It’s eclectic. I want you to be walking down the street and then smell it—like vin chaud with cinnamon and oranges that you smell from a mile away.”

By 4PM on the last Wednesday of October, Ali’s aspiration was realized. Neatly stacked rows of white canopies covered folding tables holding various foods and crafts. Strung above the compact crowd as they swirled from station to station were zig-zagging lines of blue and white diamonded flags, entwined with twinkle lights. By the bar, which had been wheeled out from Bistro Vida, was a bass and guitar duo out of Menlo-Atherton High School performing peppy jazz standards for the shoppers and revelers.

Propped up in the middle of the avenue’s meridian was a new sign announcing Bon Marché, with an illustration of a petite carrot serving as the accent mark over the é.

Within an hour, the bread selection from the local Little Sky Bakery was nearly depleted while towering white orchids from Half Moon Bay’s Bay Area Orchids were seen shuffling around the market. Tote bags were filled up with jars of Joceline’s Wildflower Honey, imported charcuterie, pâté from Frenchery and boxes of handmade, freshly arranged macarons made by Artisan Macaron. At the market’s edge was a booth with rows of necklaces and earrings from Jewelry by Geri.

 It was lively, albeit narrow, as the entire market occupies one side of the street within half a block. But Ali was all smiles as he greeted each person who passed by his orbit.

The birth of Bon Marché is just the latest concept from the active restaurateur who, since arriving on the Peninsula several decades ago, has never let an opportunity pass by unconsidered. In 2020, when indoor dining at Bistro Vida was hindered, Ali invested in a notable parklet inspired by French sidewalk dining with live music in a commodious space. Now 80% of his customers opt for outside dining, which inspired Ali to embrace the opportunities of outdoor commerce. 

For now, Bon Marché is planned until the end of the year but the goal is to maximize its potential for the springtime and beyond, with talks of expanding into the adjacent block. Creating bustling energy on Santa Cruz Avenue is a noble pursuit but for Ali, his deepest desire is seeing the street’s vacant storefronts filled. He hopes that a Bon Marché vendor—or visitor—may see one of the several vacancies along the avenue and decide to open a brick and mortar.

A lofty ambition, sure, but it’s not unheard of. Back in 1998, Ali was walking home late one night when he stumbled upon an opportunity on Santa Cruz Avenue. 

At the time, he owned the Spanish tapas spot, La Luna, located on Chestnut Street (now the Shiok! Singapore Kitchen). After immigrating to the U.S. a decade prior and receiving an education in restaurant management and hospitality from a cast of hosts and chefs in New York City, Ali was becoming seasoned in the industry.

Prior to Bistro Vida, the space was an ice cream and hot dog joint with a storied past as the first venue to host the Grateful Dead. Ali always loved the tall ceilings, which reminded him of New York, so when he caught wind one night that the owner was thinking of calling it quits, Ali rushed over to meet him.

“The owner said he was going to sell and had one year left in the lease. I told him I’d buy him out,” Ali says. “He said that if I was serious, I was to return the next day at 12 noon. I came back the next day and in one hour we were done.”

He decided on a French concept because he recognized a need for it in Menlo Park. Within a year saw the opening of Left Bank, a Parisian counterpart and neighboring restaurant.

“We don’t compete,” he clarifies, and without hesitation directs people to Left Bank when they arrive during Bistro Vida’s off-hours between lunch and dinner. “The edge I have is that I’m a local guy. My kids went from preschool to high school here. Do you know how many parents I know? I live three blocks from here!”

Born in Cairo, Ali left Egypt and bounced around Europe before coming to the States when he was 17. He’s lived in the Chelsea Hotel, played midfielder in soccer his whole life and you’ll catch him reading a recipe book over a book on politics. He looks to designers and hotel curators from around the world (mentioning a bar in Sardinia) for inspiration and “steals” from the best.

Although Ali isn’t exclusive to one faith, you still might find him standing in the back of the St. Raymond Catholic Church during the Christmas pageant because he loves the lights, warmth and community. A simple testament to his commitment to Menlo Park.

“I always say that downtown is your bread and butter. But that’s the joke about Menlo Park, right? That it’s just a rug store, bank, a rug store, bank …” he laughs but quickly straightens up. “If you look up and down the street here, there is room to open up restaurants and bars. There is always room to do things in Menlo Park.”

Baking Sweet Success

words by Eva Barrows

“The trick with piping,” Richard says to a small gathering in the Baking Arts kitchen as he applies fine icing details atop a bare ginger cookie snowflake, “is to start at the base, lift up and let the icing fall into place.” He hands the bag of icing to me so I can try my hand at holiday cookie decorating. Richard’s words replay in my head as I anchor a dot of icing on the snowflake while keeping even pressure at the bag’s top, bringing it across the cookie while allowing the icing to flow from the tip to adhere lightly to the cookie’s surface. 

“I did it!” I smile as I fill in the rest of the design with lines, arrows and dots. I compare my cookie to Richard’s and notice it’s a bit off. He points to where I’ve missed an arrow and two dots in the design. “Aha!” I say, filling in the spaces.

Richard Festen, chef and owner of Baking Arts culinary school and baking supply shop in downtown San Mateo, provides personalized hands-on instruction for anyone looking to improve their baking skills. Tucked behind the colorful retail front, the learning kitchen is furnished with standing-height wood-topped workstations, a purring double refrigerator and a spotless white marble countertop with a stainless steel sink. 

The idea for Baking Arts was sparked by Richard’s disappointment in the classes he took where he worked as part of a group on a recipe but left feeling like he didn’t learn anything. “For all my classes, people get to work individually and complete everything from start to finish on their own,” he explains. “That way, we can ensure we’re really teaching people something they’ll be able to recreate when they get home.”

In Baking Art’s Holiday Cookie Tray class, students learn how to make and decorate a variety of goodies from scratch. A Baking Arts instructor leads the class in making Viennese and Linzer cookie dough, forming and baking the cookies and then filling them with raspberry jam or dipping them in tempered chocolate. At the “Special Occasion Cookie” class, students learn icing and decorating techniques to make festive cookies any time of the year.

Students go home with their baked goods and descriptive recipes to help them recreate what they learned in class. Instructions for the Viennese Piped Biscuit say, “Look for a lump-free mix with the texture of soft hand lotion.” Not exactly the wording you’d expect to find in a cookie recipe—Richard has a special knack for making it easily relatable. 

“When people leave us, and we’re not standing with them baking, things will go a little awry,” he observes. “We need to make sure a recipe is flexible enough so people are going to still be really successful, even if they’re not doing it as precisely as we did it here in class.”

Richard grew up loving baking. At ten years old, he shared his first efforts with his grandmother. “I watched her take a forkful of what I had made,” he recollects fondly. “She just kind of rolled her eyes and oohed and aahed over it.” Looking back, Richard thinks his grandma was a little dramatic with her appreciation of his baking. “But,” he says, “that started me on my path.” 

Before becoming a chef, Richard worked in biotech and lived overseas, but he never stopped baking. While living in England, Richard collected recipes from his friends and the people he worked with, looking for inspirational homemade recipes. On a business trip to the south of France, Richard stopped at a patisserie. “I pointed to these little pastries,” he recalls. “And this lovely French lady told me I was purchasing mille-feuille. I took my little packages and ate them while looking over the water. It was just a transcendent experience.” 

Those French pastries inspired Richard to take a year off from work and go to culinary school. He attended the California Culinary Academy’s Baking and Pastry Arts Program in San Francisco, after which he founded Baking Arts. What started as private baking classes 20 years ago in a San Francisco loft has grown into a cooking school and retail store dedicated to baking, decorating and confectionary arts in downtown San Mateo. 

Baking Arts’ colorful retail front has everything that new and experienced bakers need to feed their passion for baking—whether it’s aprons, tea towels and pot holders or cake pans, ramekins and flour sifters. If gift-giving is in your holiday baking plans, you’ll find cupcake kits, decorative sprinkles, along with festive cellophane baggies, patterned tins and cardboard boxes. 

Richard’s freshly-made baked goods are also available in limited supply. Most days, his decadent brownies are in stock along with whatever type of cookie he feels like making and always a selection of handmade candies like truffles and salted peanut rocky road. These expertly crafted morsels give the aspiring baker a taste of what’s possible.

When Baking Arts doesn’t carry a hard-to-find ingredient, Richard can often suggest a different approach. “We’ve been baking for a long time,” he notes, “and we can give them substitutions we know from experience actually work.” But on rare occasions, there’s no alternative, and Richard advises against making the recipe: “You don’t want people to end up with a disaster.”

The online schedule of Baking Arts classes is filled with mouthwatering sessions: Neapolitan-style pizza, French Macarons, Kouign Amann and combos like Pies & Pie Dough, Toffee & Brittles and Biscuits & Scones. Savvy students know to plan ahead as classes fill up quickly. Difficulty levels of baked goods range, but Richard and his instructors supply all the support needed to succeed. “Our fundamental focus is teaching people how to make really, really good food, using simple ingredients with the equipment they have at home,” he says. “If we can just inject really good technique and a little know-how, it’s amazing what we can accomplish.”

Splish Splash

words by Robert David Siegel

In keeping with the adage: “Water is Life,”  many of us—plants, animals and people—eagerly await the coming of the winter rains. Unlike in many places, winter dramatically transforms the Peninsula from golden brown to lush shades of green. Streams swell, and mushrooms, amphibians and invertebrates reemerge. Beyond its ability to rejuvenate, the physical properties of water make it a wonderful, yet challenging, subject for photography.

With approximately 32,000 known species, the aster family (Asteraceae) is the most numerous group of plants on earth. Also known as composites, the structure that appears to be “the flower” is actually a large collection of smaller flowers, each capable of producing a single seed. Only the flowers on the outermost ring produce a single large petal.
The wild radish (Raphanus sativus) is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia but is now widespread throughout the open spaces of the Peninsula and across the globe. With its four distinctive, veined petals, this is the same species that is used to produce the commercial varieties of radish. And, like the cultivated varieties, it is edible.
The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is one of our greatest natural wonders here on the Peninsula. This species includes the tallest trees on earth and each tree forms a dense repository for organic carbon. Here, in Wunderlich Park, a single drop of water lingers on a branchlet before giving in to gravity on its inexorable path to the ground.
As my Santa Cruz fungus fair t-shirt proclaims: “When it rains, it spores.” Like a little red umbrella, pleated marasmius (Marasmius plicatulus) rises from the ground on the stipe, or mushroom stalk, to facilitate the spread of fungal spores giving rise to the next generation. This specimen was photographed on the slopes of San Bruno Mountain State Park.
This spider was encountered during a very wet field trip to Filoli Gardens with my “Photographing Nature” class. Despite the downpour, we persisted with many interesting results. Although spiderwebs are designed to catch insects, they are also very good at catching water drops that glisten like gems linked by silky threads.
The common water strider (Aquarius remiges) makes use of water tension to skate along the surface of local streams and ponds. Happily, it can feed on mosquito larvae and other insects. Remarkably, water striders can communicate using “ripple communication,” sending different messages by varying the strength, duration and frequency of the ripples produced by their legs.
Like humans, birds use water in many ways. As part of its preening ritual, this young sparrow at Geng Road Park in Palo Alto is taking a bath in a parking lot puddle after the rain. In addition to bird feeders, bird baths can be a good way to lure birds into our backyards, especially during the dry months.
This American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) is taking a drink from a backyard swimming pool. A number of birds—from small perching birds to large raptors and herons —treat pools as if they were giant bird baths. While crows are often wary of humans, they are quite intelligent and very adaptable in taking advantage of human environments.
This Snowy egret (Egretta thula) is using the ponds at Renzel Wetlands as a source of food. He is standing at the base of the spillway waiting for the fish to come to him. With their golden slippers and matching eye mask, delicate head plume, strikingly white plumage and majestic flight motion, snowies are very charismatic birds. They are relatively common, and sometimes indifferent to photographers, making them wonderful photographic subjects.

An Insider’s Sun Valley

words by Kate Daly

Kate Daly considers herself lucky to have discovered Sun Valley decades ago. She splits her time between the Peninsula and Ketchum and keeps finding a new favorite season there.

For the second year in a row, Ski Magazine ranks Sun Valley as the #1 ski resort in North America. Will Sun Valley make it to the top of your list this winter? Back in the 1930s, Union Pacific Chairman Averell Harriman handpicked the former mining town in south central Idaho to become America’s first destination ski resort. Today, the first-class getaway offers so much more, ranging from sleigh rides to spa treatments. Yes, two mountains with more than 2,400 acres of diverse terrain and extensive snowmaking equipment ensure that skiing and snowboarding are top-notch, but the added allure of natural beauty, Old West charm, comfortable accommodations and classy dining and shopping broadens the appeal. No wonder Ernest Hemingway lived there, Tom Hanks has a hideaway retreat and multiple Olympians call the place home. A warning though: Weather can be variable in any mountain town, but this is particularly true of Sun Valley during the winter. 

Where to Stay

Sun Valley Lodge is the iconic place to book if you want to be right in Sun Valley Village. The spacious guest rooms, spa and bowling alley have been redone, but the halls off the main entrance are still rimmed with black and white photos of the many luminaries who have frequented the resort over the years. Nearby condos can be arranged through the resort’s rental office. A mile or so away in downtown Ketchum, Limelight Hotel is a contemporary upscale addition to town, with an active lobby full of eating, drinking and live music. Also on Main Street, Hotel Ketchum offers more basic rooms. Rental properties are sprinkled throughout the Wood River Valley. For supplies, stock up in Ketchum at Atkinsons’ and Village Market for groceries and Chateau Drug, which carries every sundry imaginable, including road salt.

What to Do

Sun Valley is a popular playground for all snow sports enthusiasts. Skiers and snowboarders head to Dollar Mountain (elevation 6,638’) in Sun Valley if they are beginners or want to try the terrain park. Intermediate and more advanced downhillers go to Bald Mountain (elevation 9,150’) in Ketchum for the challenge of 65 varied runs. Parking is free and gear rentals are offered at Baldy’s two entrances, River Run Plaza and Warm Springs Lodge. Foodies should know that a bell rings at Warm Springs when oversized chocolate chip cookies are fresh out of the oven, and River Run has a gondola that enables even non-skiers to enjoy fondue and fancy sandwiches at the Roundhouse Restaurant at 7,727’. Be sure to check out the photos of famous visitors who have come through since 1939. Now that Sun Valley is an EPIC pass partner, crowds fluctuate, so it’s wise to reserve a table.

Snowshoers, Nordic classic and skate skiers can whip around the groomed trails at the Nordic Center in Sun Valley, or try the Blaine County Recreation District’s network straddling both sides of Highway 75. It’s well worth the half-hour drive north to Galena Lodge to explore those trails and recharge with a hearty lunch in the classic log cabin. Backcountry skiing, snowmobiling and yurt rentals are additional options up north. Best to book in advance.

Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink at Sun Valley Lodge is open to the public and the focal point of a fun family holiday tradition. Christmas Eve starts with hot cocoa, mulled cider and cookies set out on the terrace overlooking the rink. Local skaters and special guests dance, jump and twirl to seasonal songs. Carolers and Santa Claus round out the show, which then shifts to Dollar Mountain where, in the distance, Sun Valley ski instructors carve down the slopes in a Torchlight Parade. Fireworks cap off the night. 

You can start your own tradition by taking a sleigh ride from the nearby Sun Valley Inn. Make a reservation and bundle up for a memorable 30-minute excursion surrounded by scenic mountains.

Dining and Going Out

Breakfast or lunch may take you to Konditorei in Sun Valley Village or The Kneadery in Ketchum. Muffin and coffee fans will want to seek out the highly-acclaimed “Bowl of Soul” at Java, or a cup at Maude’s, also in Ketchum. Rasberrys serves wonderful lunches and sweets in Ketchum. Looking for more local fresh fare in town? Try Enoteca, an Italian wine bar, or the pub, Warfield Distillery & Brewery. A fixture since the 1950s, Pioneer Saloon stands out a few doors down Main Street with its “Prime Rib and Cocktails” sign. Step in to study the mounted animal heads and old firearms, and stay for the steaks and signature Idaho baked potato dishes. Dating back to the same era and perfect for a couple’s night out, Michel‘s Christiania Restaurant and Olympic Bar serves up cocktails and fine French cuisine in Ketchum.

If you are looking for something lighter, the Duchin Lounge at Sun Valley Lodge has a piano bar with a menu of quick bites. For more  nightlife, try Whiskey Jacques’ in Ketchum, which doubles as a sports bar and a live music venue. Also in Ketchum, the Argyros Performing Arts Center attracts all kinds of traveling talent.

Art gallery walks usually fall on the first Fridays of the month in Ketchum. On those evenings, galleries greet you with glasses of wine, and people mill around the exhibits and sometimes meet the artists. 

Shopping Time

Panache in Sun Valley Village carries many high-end lines of women’s clothing. In Ketchum, two boutiques, Sister and Baby & Company, lean more towards hip and chic designers. You might see Peninsula cyclists sporting colorful Maloja sportswear, likely purchased at Bavarian Soul in Ketchum. Silver Creek Outfitters takes good care of shoppers seeking classic clothing, but if you are specifically looking for activewear, go to Backwoods Mountain Sports, Sturtevant’s or Elephant’s Perch in Ketchum.

The great news is that they can also cover what you’ll need when you return in the summer to go hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, horseback riding or rafting. The latter happens up north, but Sun Valley works well as a gateway. Regardless of the season, the message stays the same: Get ready to enjoy mountain life and a slew of activities.

How to Get There

Direct flights are available on United during the season from SFO into SUN (aka Friedman Memorial Airport) in Hailey, a 25-minute drive to the ski resort. Winter storms can cause flights to be diverted from Hailey to Twin Falls, which is about a 90-minute drive away. Delta offers service to Hailey connecting through Salt Lake City; otherwise, Southwest, United and Alaska fly into Boise, the state capital. The two-and-a-half-hour drive from Boise to Sun Valley starts on freeway and then switches to two-lane roads where wildlife and tumbleweed may cross your path, especially if you take the Highway 20 shortcut. Some lodges, hotels and businesses provide shuttles, and Mountain Rides runs free buses in the area, but most visitors will want to have their own vehicle to handle cold-weather conditions. Note, the drive from the Peninsula to Sun Valley takes about 12 hours.

Diary of a Dog: Sid

Not many American dogs can say they’re national treasures, so I have good reason to brag—well, at least I think I do. I’m believed to be a Jindo/Sapasali mix, which likely aren’t familiar breeds to you, but in South Korea, both have been officially named national treasures, #53 and #368 respectively. Whatever my lineage, which resulted in my Wookie-like appearance, my family in Palo Alto considers me a household treasure, which is more than enough for me. I arrived in the Bay Area by way of Love & Second Chances, a rescue organization founded by Melody Chen, who believes neglected dogs from other countries need second chances too. Laura and Simon, along with their two daughters Marni and Clara, had already fostered about 50 dogs when they adopted Stella, a Jindo rescue from South Korea. And although they had decided on no more fostering, they couldn’t say no when Love & Second Chances called needing help with a South Korean emergency rescue. Melody dropped me off in Palo Alto, and Laura says she instantly knew, “I wouldn’t be able to let him go.” My family refers to me as the last piece of the puzzle, which also includes two cats by the way. I love everything about my life here—whether it’s rolling on my back for tummy scratches, morning walks to ZombieRunner for coffee (Make mine a water!) or dropping Marni and Clara at Duveneck Elementary, where the crossing guard always has dog treats in his pockets. If you’re searching for a priceless treasure of your own, check out

The Wonder of Wunderlich

words by Silas Valentino

It’s not uncommon for someone to ask Shawn Mott upon first sight if he works with horses. The ten-gallon hat is a dead giveaway, as is his horseshoe-shaped mustache. But a tender demeanor lies beneath the calloused handshake. Somewhat akin to the horses he trains that may appear menacing at first, but turn out to be sweethearts once you reach out for a gentle caress.

The equestrian assumption serves Shawn well as he is a California cowboy who oversees the horse programming at Wunderlich County Park in Woodside. Working alongside the nonprofit Friends of Huddart & Wunderlich Parks, they jointly bring a thriving culture for horse education and heritage to the Peninsula.

Shawn and his business, Chaparral Ranch, which he co-runs with Susan Pennell, handle the recreation side at Wunderlich Park while the Friends oversee the educational component. Shawn is a Western-style rider who began training his first horse by age ten in the Fremont hills.

“I absolutely loved horses and a kid at my school won a mustang in a raffle,” he recalls. “I had a paper route at the time and he offered it to me. I thought I died and went to heaven. I gave him $75 and it was a done deal.”

Shawn forged a wide-ranging career with horses, from opening a riding academy to serving on the mounted police force at the Shoreline Amphitheater. As long as he was riding, Shawn was content, but jobs began to dry up following 2008’s Great Recession. He remembers how he was down on his luck before a chance encounter with an untamed horse turned things around.

“It was one of the moments in life where I had to ask, ‘What am I going to do?’ I had five horses with $5 in my pocket—and I was running out of gas. I drove up to this ranch and asked if anyone needed a horse trainer. This lady came out in an arm cast and I asked, ‘Did a horse do that to you?’ She nodded yes and when I asked if she had a trainer, she said he was in the hospital because of the horse,” Shawn says, grinning as he recounts the story. “I had to ask myself, ‘How badly do I need this job?’”

He took the rambunctious horse back to his ranch and placed it in a pen with a gelding, a castrated horse that was calmer and better-behaved. Horses share emotional intelligence with each other and two weeks later, the horse was ready to ride. Shawn took him back to the ranch and the owner couldn’t believe it.

“I snapped my fingers and I was back in business,” Shawn beams.

By 2014, his reputation with Chaparral Ranch made its way over to Wunderlich Park just as the Friends were looking for a new concessionaire to run the horse programming. The concessionaire is responsible for trail riding, the public arena and leading the lessons—job descriptions that aligned perfectly with Shawn’s skills and experience.

Having ridden the trails in Wunderlich Park many times before, Shawn was eager to accept the position and share his passion with the Peninsula.

“This is a jewel for its uniqueness,” he says. “There’s a trail through a redwood forest that we call the ‘church ride.’”

Woodside, where statues of galloping steeds greet drivers as they turn into town, fosters its reputation as one of the country’s most horse-friendly communities through the various programs at Wunderlich Park.

Beginning with the restoration of the historic Folger Stable, the Friends champion the equestrian culture with active programming and education tailored to both children and adults. They’ve collected various relics and historical items to create the Carriage Room Museum, open on weekends, to exhibit how horses were essential throughout Woodside’s history.

Local students and scout troops flock to the stable for a hands-on horse education with horseback riding. Jill Daly, the president of the Friends nonprofit, and Lorna Basso, a board member, relish their roles as ambassadors for introducing and sharing equestrian culture with children and adults as they visit the park.

 Lorna serves as a docent for schools, welcoming students to meet horses and discover the stable’s rich history. She recently developed a new program called Meet a Mini, where children ages 4 to 12 are introduced to the culture through a mini horse named Lightning. Kids are given a lesson on grooming and can take a trail ride with this short but stout steed.

The Friends manage the education component of Wunderlich Park as well as the major maintenance projects for the facilities. The horse culture wasn’t always flourishing at Wunderlich and it took a group of dedicated equestrians to establish it as a hub. When Jill first visited the park after moving to the Peninsula some 20 years ago, she was struck by how the Folger Stable had fallen into disrepair.

“I came to do a hike and saw this big blue tarp over the building,” she remembers. “I said, ‘What is wrong with this?’ I learned how the county was planning to demolish the stable because they didn’t have capital funds. That’s when I got involved.”

Jill helped secure the stable’s legacy by placing it on the National Register of Historic Places and has continued ever since to assist the nonprofit as it fundraises for upkeep and grounds management.

The next project in their sights is a restoration of the small ice house located near the creek. Their goal is to restore the roof and cupola and to repair the interior and doors as dictated by historic standards in time for next summer. Once complete, they’ll include the ice house in their education tours to teach students how 20th-century settlers kept cool using basic physics of the landscape.

Folger Stable has 30 stalls where 3rd and 4th graders wander up and down to admire the various horses as they eat and are groomed. Lorna has already begun to introduce her two grandchildren to horse riding and imparting the wisdom she’s learned from a life riding English-style.

“You never need a therapist,” she says. “It’s a closer relationship than with a dog. You never have a bad day on the back of a horse.” 

Perfect Shot: Striking Beauty

When Palo Alto photographer Brian Krippendorf woke to the sound of room-shaking thunder, he grabbed his camera and darted out into the pouring rain. “I was very excited as I’ve never had the opportunity to photograph lightning,” he recounts, “and I’m fortunate to live a short walk from Emily Renzel Ponds.” Although Brian got a soaking and quite a few mosquito bites, he also captured this Perfect Shot. “This particular image is my favorite from the morning due to the color in the sky, which I have never seen before,” he says.    

Image by Brian Krippendorf / @briankrippendorf

Growing Business

words by Linda Hubbard

Haydi Danielson’s start-of-the-day duty is distinct from other Peninsula business owners—she takes a stroll. Accompanied by her production manager, she checks on the irrigation, surveys what needs pruning and identifies what requires re-planting. It’s all part of overseeing Portola Valley’s 50-acre plant nursery, Boething Treeland, which grows and delivers trees and shrubs throughout the Western U.S.  

Both Haydi’s and Treeland’s roots are in Southern California. She is one of four daughters of Susan and John Boething, who started Boething Treeland Farms in 1952.  Haydi grew up in Woodland Hills and attended UCLA, where she swam backstroke and contributed to the team’s NCAA championship. 

“We were all raised the same way,” Haydi notes about her upbringing. “You go to high school, you go to college and then you join the family business. I’m number two in age, and I went straight from college into the business, as expected.”

As Haydi tells it, like any family business, the first and second generations occasionally butted heads. “So, I escaped to the East Coast and Yale,” she says. 

At Yale, Haydi earned master’s degrees in management and forest science, aided by the fact that the latter “was next door to the management school.” 

She took a job with a forestry products company in New York and had no intention of coming back to Boething Treeland. However, she returned to California to get married and opened a private school in Santa Cruz. Then, about 15 years ago, she heard the beckoning call of the family business. “I started working here at Treeland,” she recounts, while expressing gratitude for the meandering route she took. “I’m happy for all of those steps. It added a lot of texture to my life.”

Today, all four of the Boething daughters are involved with the business that now includes 10 farms—about 400 acres in Northern California and 500 in Southern California. As a co-owner, Haydi is responsible for NorCal operations, and two of her SoCal sisters serve as the CFO and VP of sales and marketing, respectively. A fourth sister moved to Florida but remains on the board of directors. Haydi’s son, John, is one of six cousins—and to date, the only member of the third generation working for the company. Based on her own experience, Haydi is taking a “wait and see” attitude about how it will play out with the others. 

Treeland has been in Portola Valley for about 40 years. Haydi explains that her father really wanted a presence in Northern California and tried locating further south in Santa Clara County before leasing the current property from Stanford. The driveway into Treeland is directly across Alpine Road from another family farm, Webb Ranch. “Webb grows produce while we grow ornamental crops,” Haydi explains. “We complement each other.”

On a visit to Treeland, I navigate a long, twisty driveway surrounded by plants before coming to an old building where Haydi’s office is located. “It’s been a schoolhouse, then a hospital and a home for nurses. It was abandoned—and hippies moved in,” Haydi tells me. “We rescued it from that stage.”

About 250 plants are grown in Portola Valley with additional plants being trucked over daily from Boething’s 360-acre farm in Lodi. “We grow a lot of coast live oak and trees in the madrone family here,” Haydi explains. “In addition, we grow shrubs, perennials, succulents and grasses. There’s been an increased demand for drought-tolerant species, and we’ve been growing those for decades.”

Treeland’s clients are primarily local landscape contractors as the nursery is wholesale only. “The landscape industry is tight,” she relays. “The contractors and architects hear about us through word of mouth.”

Haydi points out that there are a lot of moving parts to running a plant nursery. “We have a lot of old farm equipment, so we need mechanics who know how to fix them when they break. And we’re in an area popular with deer, so there’s a fence around the property to keep them out.” Deer aren’t the only local wildlife. “We have a resident fox and a few months ago got visited by wild pigs,” Haydi adds.

The pandemic actually had a positive effect on the business—landscaping was something homeowners could do that was positive. “We change our plant palette as the market demands. When there’s little rain, we grow more native plants, and, in the last five years, more succulents.”

The biggest challenges are water and labor supply, which Haydi cites as the two constraints to growth. “They’ve been our biggest challenges for a long time, but they are worse now,” Haydi observes. She acknowledges that it’s a slowly-evolving industry but change is happening: “We’ve definitely done some automating of plant delivery. And we’ve evolved in how we treat our people and care for their well-being.”

Treeland’s 37 employees do a little of everything—whether it’s irrigating, pruning, staking or pulling weeds. Haydi appreciates their loyalty, as most come to work and stay on the job for years. “I just love the people who work for us,” she shares. “I feel blessed to have them.”

As for her decision to rejoin the family team? The timing was right—in every way. “It’s really great to be in a business that is good for the earth,” she reflects. “Given that there is so much concern about global climate change, I view it as a pure stroke of luck that my parents started a business that has the potential to offset carbon emissions. And, of course, I love the plants. I get to come to work and see happy plants.”

Brothers & Sisters

Each family is a story. You are born into it, you live through it and then you look back and wonder at the breadth of it all—the parts and roles that each member played—those who brought you into the world and those who lived alongside of you, your brothers and sisters, sharing experiences that only you and they can know and feel and reprise together.

Brothers and sisters. The camaraderie and history of being raised together breeds a togetherness of shared secrets, innate understandings and emotional bonds that can never be broken or equalized. Genetically, there is no one closer to us. No one who knows the minutiae of emotions and events of the small world of time and place that you collectively passed through. No one who can intrinsically understand the same complexities of your lives. 

My sister Shelley was the first-born and she is the leader of us three. Her name means “mine” in Hebrew and to my brother and me that seems especially significant. Eighteen months after Shelley arrived, Daniel was born. When he was small, his name was Danny and now he is Dan. Not too long after Dan was born, my father, an orthopedic surgeon, volunteered to be an Air Force doctor during the Korean War and so I was born later, five years after my brother.

Shelley recently had some old films digitized as people our age do these days, trying to save memories that we will appreciate and that our children will ignore. I can hardly look at them without tearing up. My siblings were wonderful to me, and you can see the loving bond between us. Of course, there is our old dog and our parents and grandparents, now all gone. We played on our jungle gym in our backyard, visted the Grand Canyon and scouted around the hills and creeks of the small country cabin that we had. In the winter, huddling together against the cold, we rode in the back of our Chrysler station wagon.

Shelley introduced me to pop music. We sat in her room one evening and on her small box-like record player she carefully placed a 45 disc of Andy Williams singing Can’t Get Used to Losing You. The music intoxicated me, introducing me to a whole new world. Just like when Danny first taught me how to throw a baseball in our front yard, it became part of the fabric that helped define me as a boy.

On Sundays, after Hebrew school, our dear grandmother would take us all out to lunch, and there the three of us would squirm, laugh and get into a bit of mischief. Watching my older siblings order and then copying them, I developed a taste for foods and drinks that I carry forth to this day. 

What we also shared, of course, were our parents. Our mother, an accomplished violinist, brought us classical music, famous musicians and great culture, and our father, who had had a tumultuous childhood escaping from Germany, brought us his monstrous temper that we feared. Shelley, Dan and I always got along, maybe because of our shared preservation instincts provoked by our father. When he would come pounding up the stairs to the kids’ floor, we would cower in fear, and protect one another from whomever was the target of his rage. Our father was not a bad man; he just had a bad temper. 

Dan went off to prep school when I was 10; Shelley left the next year to go to college; and my mother left to join a major symphony the next year. It was a great loss for me, going from a family that felt like a family to being alone with my unpredictable, fearsome father. Shelley and Dan did their best to look out for me, and somehow I made it through until I finally left for prep school myself. 

The wonderful relationship that Shelley, Dan and I have never waned over the years. Despite being spread out—Shelley in Miami then Chicago, Dan in Denver, me here—we stay lovingly close. When each of our parents died, there was not a single squabble over anything, down to the most valuable possession. What would be the point?

Whenever I had a personal crisis in my own life, Shelley and Dan stepped up to make sure that I was okay. Regardless of the challenge, the hurt or the pain (fortunately, Dan is a doctor, which is enormously helpful to have in one’s family), we three have been there for each other. Life throws challenges at you, and it is good to know that there is someone there for you whom you can trust absolutely.

We have gotten in the habit of getting together every October in Chicago for Shelley’s birthday. We share stories, memories, we laugh and cry as though we once again are those kids shivering in the back of our old station wagon. Even after all these years, with each of us having our own spouses and children, there are just some things that only we can understand, those shared genes creating a forever link. Brothers and sisters, you know.

KGEI Building

words by Jim Clifford

A blockhouse-shaped building in Redwood Shores that made history in World War II is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Appropriately located on Radio Road, the Art Deco structure housed the transmitter for KGEI, a shortwave radio station established by General Electric Company. During the early years of World War II, KGEI was the only voice from home for GIs fighting in the Pacific. The station’s call letters, emblazoned over the doorway, were covered up decades ago by a church that took over the building, but in early 2020, the letters were restored, and thanks to fundraising efforts by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a new history marker was recently installed at the site. In 1942, The New York Times wrote a story headlined “KGEI Tells Them.” Nothing, the newspaper reported, stirred the hearts of soldiers and sailors as much as hearing the introduction to the station’s programs: “This is the United States of America.” Among KGEI’s notable accomplishments, the station broadcast General Douglas MacArthur’s “I Shall Return” speech promising to return with American troops to the Philippines, which had been occupied by Japanese forces since 1942. After the war, General Electric sold the station to the Far East Broadcasting Company, which then sold the transmitter building to a church in 2001. The building is near a section of the Bay Trail frequently used by hikers and bike riders, but KGEI’s transmitter is no more. Far East Broadcasting gave the transmitter to a radio ministry in Liberia where it was destroyed by rebel forces in the late 1990s. Today, the building of about 7,000 square feet is owned by Silicon Valley Clean Water, the wastewater plant operated jointly by Redwood City, San Carlos and Belmont.

Photography: Courtesy miSci, Museum of Innovation and Science

Eye of a Master

How Renowned Architectural Photographer Bernard André Builds His Craft  

words by Sheri Baer

Growing up on Réunion Island, a tropical French isle off Madagascar, Bernard André would design houses in China ink just for fun. “When I was pretty young, I was already doing drawings and mapping and redesigning,” he recalls. Bernard dreamt about being an architect but then he also loved painting and photography. The youngest child in a family of doctors, he was determined to follow a different path. “I said, ‘I’m going to art school’ and my parents told me, ‘You’ll never make any money. It’s not a job,’” he recalls. 

Still, Bernard persisted. 

After graduating with a master’s degree in arts from the Sorbonne University in Paris, Bernard shot travel photography throughout the islands of the Indian Ocean for French magazines. But when he relocated with his own family to Menlo Park in 1992, he had no connections and struggled to find work. Seeking to create a unique offering, he specialized in aerial balloon photography, which captured a bird’s-eye view of a building and its surroundings—with an added benefit: “I brought my two passions for architecture and photography together.”

In the years that followed, Bernard expanded his scope and expertise to become one of the Bay Area’s preeminent architectural and aerial photographers. Heavily influenced by his formal classical art education, Bernard relishes in the diversity of projects that he shoots. “I love the pleasure of composing a photo until everything becomes balanced and in place,” he notes. “It takes time but you really build it like you would compose a painting.” 

Nearly 30 years after moving to the Peninsula, Bernard now tallies over 5,000 projects for clients ranging from high-end real estate agents and developers to architects, builders and interior designers. “Every day, I get to see beautiful landscaping, architecture and craftsmanship; some of these projects take two, three and even five years to get to completion,” he observes. “The photo shoot is kind of a celebration for everybody after years of intense work. It’s a blessing that I’m the guy who just arrives when everything is perfect. The photo shoot says, ‘We did it! We’re done!’”

“This Woodside hallway photo was not in my photo list for this assignment for Arcanum Architecture. When I walked inside this home, I saw the potential for an interesting image created by the rhythm of the arches and the colorful light fixtures framing the subtle staircase in the backdrop.”
What did it take to get a foothold as an architectural photographer on the Peninsula? 

When I came to America, I was a little intimidated by all the photographers here already, so I did something that nobody else did. I got a remote-controlled aerial balloon—an eight-foot-diameter helium balloon—and I would do low-level aerial photos from 20 to 250 feet high. There was a video lens that would plug into my camera and on the ground I would have a little control board, so I could tilt and rotate and see the image on a video screen and I could take the picture. Photographers I met would refer me because I took pictures that no one else could capture. And then, my clients really liked me and they would say, ‘If you’re here, can you also shoot the exteriors?’ ‘Of course,’  I’d say, ‘I can shoot exteriors.’ And then it became, ‘Oh, if you’re shooting exteriors, can you shoot interiors?’ I had never shot interiors so I learned by doing, and I’m still learning today. I still shoot aerials too but I transitioned to helicopter and then to drone. 

“For this project in Atherton for Woodlane Properties, I was able to photograph this hallway using only the natural light. I loved the floor-to-ceiling windows on the right making this corridor a very special indoor-outdoor circulation space.”
What are the key elements in memorable architecture and design?  

I love when the architecture is in harmony with the environment, the landscape, the hardscape—and it all works together. I’m drawn to design that is daring, authentic and original, that shows personality and individuality. But it has to be livable. You have to feel good in it. When you have a high-caliber project to photograph, it puts the pressure on you to do it justice. What excites me is to render the emotion that I have when I see it, to translate that into a photograph. 

How do you want people to react to your photos?  

When people see the picture I want them to be able to imagine themselves right away in the space, to project themselves into that image: ‘I want to cook in that kitchen.’ ‘I really want to swim in that pool.’ You’re surrounded by photos in your daily life, but I think the ones that really work are the ones where you would say, ‘I see myself on that deck at the end of the day when I come home from work.’ When I compose a photo, I want to make sure there’s a space in that photo where somebody could say, ‘Oh, I could be there.’ 

Photography: Courtesy of Alberto Gamazo
What’s your secret for accomplishing that?

I love to compose my photo as if it was a painting. We’re looking at something two-dimensional, so I bring out a 3D effect through the composition but also with the lighting, with the shadows, with the reflections, with a beam of light that you can see going through the space. First, I spend a lot of time just looking at the point of view. I go through the process to look at it from the left, from the right, from the opposite side. Even when it seems obvious, I still take a picture from the other point of view just to make sure. Once I lock it in, I move all the items within the frame—the flowers, the chairs—until it’s perfect. It’s as if I was creating a still life. I love the art of composing and putting it into a frame, and that’s what it is. We’re going to take this section—this piece of the window and the chair and a table by the computer—and make it a photo. 

What role does lighting play?

Through my years of taking photos, I’ve come up with a technique that’s very unique—and that takes a lot of time. I take all of my pictures at different bracketing [exposure], which everybody does, but I also light the room from every direction in order to make it look exactly how you see it when you’re in the room. I take photos from every lighting set-up that I do. That allows me to remove all the noise—the wrong colors that would come into the room—to get accurate color and work with the shadows and highlights. I end up with about 30 images of the room, lit differently at different bracketing. And then later, I build it up like a painting in Photoshop. I select the images I like the best and I layer it section by section. I use a tablet with a pen and I just go and paint with the pixels. My final image is made up of about 20 different photos. By the end, it looks like a natural room and it doesn’t look like it’s even been lit. 

“Another very special project designed and built by Pacific Peninsula in Atherton. For this image, I was drawn into the symmetry of the pool design and the views of the garden through the large windows of the family room. I wanted it slightly backlit to show the texture of the stone around the fireplace and the pattern of the wood on the ceiling. The idea of the sunken-in bar allows everyone to enjoy the views of the backyard while having a drink.”
How would you describe the range of your clients and projects?  

I have a wide mix of clients and the types of jobs are very diverse. I work with three of the main players in real estate here. I also work with a lot of commercial contractors, architects and developers. My clients are super interesting and their clients are amazing people. Many are the founders of Silicon Valley. These people are world-known and it’s very exciting to be in the heart of what made Silicon Valley—to see the personal side of them. I see the art they’ve collected or sometimes it’s the music, like a collection of guitars. I’ll see this music room and realize, ‘Yeah, he’s a famous CEO but he loves to jam with his friends.’ Some are into wine and they have these amazing wine cellars. And some are into books or prints or photography and so it’s great to see that side of them that nobody else would see. I also get to see amazing workplaces. Many, many big high-tech campuses like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Apple. It’s exciting to go on a shoot to a famous company that’s known all over the world. 

What makes the Peninsula the perfect home base for your business?  

I would not be as successful if I wasn’t in Silicon Valley. I think part of my success is being here. The people you meet are exceptional, and many also have the money to work without constraints. They have the vision and a lot of projects don’t have a budget so they can do amazing things that are extremely beautiful—work that you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the country. And the views! I’ve shot beautiful places in Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills. You don’t even see your neighbor and you feel like you are alone in nature. It’s just gorgeous. 

“Shot from the other side of the infinity pool, this image shows how a large house can be integrated into the natural landscape of Woodside. The reflection gives a feeling of serenity. Arcanum Architecture used the module concept to separate the different living spaces.”
How would you advise someone building their dream home?  

I would say to hire an architect who gets to know you and how you live. You should like their work, but then they need to spend the time getting to know you. They need to know if you like horses or if you’re into cycling or art, and then give them carte blanche to create that space for you. It’s really hard if you hire somebody with a creative talent and then you tie their hands with Houzz and Pinterest pictures: “I want this and I want that and I’m paying for it.” At the end, they remove themselves from the process of creating something for you. The key is to hire somebody you can communicate with well, somebody you trust who will do the best for you, and then let them create it. Let them give you their best.

The Borrone Business

Serving Up a Family Legacy of Food and Hospitality on the Peninsula

words by Anni Golding

If you’ve lived or worked on the Peninsula even for a minute, then you know about Cafe Borrone, the popular European-style cafe in Menlo Park. Maybe you’ve stopped in for breakfast, lingered over a first-date dinner or just hung out on the patio, enjoying a frosted mocha. 

 Created by Redwood City residents Rose and Roy Borrone, the eponymous eatery has been a local favorite for more than 40 years. Customers who visited the cafe as kids now bring their own children. 

 Native San Franciscans Rose and Roy moved to Redwood City in the mid-1960s, and in the span of seven years, had five children: Tina, Alisa, Marina, Peter, and Kristi. “My parents always entertained long before the restaurant,” says Marina. “I don’t remember ever not having a full house.”

 Roy, a businessman with a creative bent (he’s also a painter), worked in insurance and real estate and also managed bands. “My mom was constantly cooking for all of these musicians who were coming over,” recalls Kristi. 

 They opened the first Cafe Borrone in 1979 in a downtown Redwood City building that Roy owned. Rose ran the kitchen with family friend Bob Day, while Roy “loved being at the front of the house, in the center of attention,” remembers Marina. 

 However, these were the days of “Deadwood City,” when “there just wasn’t much going on at night,” says Peter. So, in 1989, Rose and Roy took the opportunity to relocate to Menlo Park, reopening the eatery as a counter-service cafe next to Kepler’s Books. And the rest is Peninsula history. 

Rose and Roy are now retired from the restaurant business, but three of their brood—Marina, Peter and Kristi—are committed to carrying on their parents’ legacy of good food and warm hospitality.


It’s no small feat to keep a restaurant going for four decades, especially in the current climate. Overhead costs are high, margins are notoriously thin and customers can be fickle. And yet, Cafe Borrone remains a part of the Peninsula dining scene, 42 years on. 

 Marina Borrone was eight years old when her parents started the cafe, and just 22 years old when she took over running the business. Being a restaurateur was never her plan, but a year after the cafe opened in Menlo Park, Roy had some health issues, and Marina started taking on operational duties while still a college student. After graduation, she jumped into a full-time management role, while Rose handled the kitchen. It was a good fit. “I saw it as an opportunity to get to dabble in each area,” Marina explains. “You get a little bit of HR, you get a little bit of the books, you get a little bit of the front of the house and you get to be in the kitchen.”

 Her older sisters, who had less interest in taking on the management side of things, followed their own passions and contributed to the cafe in other ways. Tina, a trained pastry chef who created many of the cafe’s luscious treats, preferred to be in the kitchen, and Alisa had a passion for landscape and design. “I would go to Alisa to design a poster,” or for other projects, says Marina. 

 From the beginning, Marina had her own vision for the cafe, which included maintaining the ambience and community that originated with her parents, while moving the business forward. She created infrastructure, slowly transitioned the menu to use more organic ingredients, and in 1998, completed an expansion that doubled the size of the kitchen and increased interior seating.

Over the years, the cafe has been a hub for family members, not only personally but also professionally. It was a training ground for siblings Peter and Kristi, as well as for their spouses Courtney and Zu. “Everybody worked for me,” notes Marina, “and they learned a lot. They learned systems. And they all learned from my expectations and structure.”

Marina admits that running the cafe has not been without its challenges. She’s juggled the pressures of overseeing everything at the eatery—which pre-pandemic employed a staff of 70 and saw 600 customers a day—with being a single mom to three boys. “I’m very hands-on,” she says. “I do everything here.”

 Pandemic-related shutdowns hit the cafe hard, and there was a real possibility of losing the business. A self-described go-getter who never wanted help, Marina turned to GoFundMe to ask customers and community for support. Donors came through, “jumpstarting us to pay off bills and get deliveries again.” 

 If there’s one positive aspect of the mandated closings, it’s that Marina was able to rest and reassess. Since reopening the cafe, she’s reduced the operating schedule to five days a week and plans to keep it that way for the foreseeable future. She’s also closing the book on Borrone MarketBar, the short-lived passion project she created behind the cafe. It involved a significant investment of time, creativity and funds, and she’s held onto the assets since ceasing operations. But now, “I’m selling it. I just decided that I need to make this happen; I can’t juggle everything,” she says matter-of-factly, adding, “I’m outnumbered by teenagers,” referring to sons Oliver (19), Max (16) and Nico (13).

As to what’s next for the cafe, she’s modifying the liquor license to “maybe have a couple Italian drinks, like Campari.” She’s also considering paring down the menu, although longtime favorites, like the Frosted Mocha (which her dad created “on a whim” during the Redwood City days) and the Chicken Salad Sandwich aren’t going anywhere. 

 In May 2021, Marina hired Julia Sommer as a general manager to take on the day-to-day management so that she can focus on big-picture issues and have more time “out front” to connect with customers. For Julia, who grew up in Menlo Park and worked at the cafe while attending Stanford, it’s a homecoming of sorts. She started coming to the cafe as a baby with her stay-at-home dad. “When I was born, he would bring me in almost every day,” she says. 

Coming off a decade of ups and downs and having recently celebrated a milestone birthday, Marina is excited about the future. Last year, she signed a new lease for the cafe, re-upping for another 30 years, and she plans to keep moving forward. “My parents started this when they were 50,” she says, referring to the cafe’s Menlo Park incarnation, “so to me, it’s just the beginning.”

Peter & Courtney 

I spent my childhood down here,” says Peter Borrone, sitting with his wife Courtney and their two young children outside Vesta, their popular Redwood City restaurant. “There was a little tiny deli on that corner right there,” he recalls, pointing across Broadway. “I would go there and get chocolate milk or sandwiches.” 

 Peter was six, just a little older than his own kids are now (Theo is five and Josie is three), when his parents first opened Cafe Borrone in the same building that today houses Vesta. How’s that for coming full circle? 

 Both Peter and Courtney grew up in Redwood City, but didn’t meet until Peter hired Courtney one summer as a seasonal employee while she was home from college. A passion for dining experiences drew them together. “We have this mutual fondness for dining, restaurants and food, and that was a big part of our bond early on,” Courtney shares. 

 The idea for Vesta developed while Peter and Courtney were living in Southern California for a few years during the early 2000s. At that time, artisan pizza places that also served share plates, like Pitfire and Gjelina’s, were on the rise in the greater Los Angeles area. The idea struck a chord with the couple. “That’s how we like to eat—share style,” explains Courtney.

 “It had always been in the back of our minds to do something foodwise,” says Peter. At the time, no one on the Peninsula was doing wood-fired pizzas; they saw a business opportunity. Their dream place had all of the elements of an upscale dining experience—good food, ambience, nice lighting—but was fun and approachable at the same time. Peter’s parents offered to co-sign a loan for the couple to get started. “So,” says Peter, “it was time to pack up and come back here.”

 Opening their eatery in the old Cafe Borrone spot was a given for Peter. Roy, however, was not a fan of the idea. “He said ‘Go to Palo Alto or go to San Carlos. There are people down there all the time,’” recounts Peter. “He didn’t want us to fail.” But this wasn’t his father’s Redwood City; the downtown area was on the cusp of a revival.

 Still, Peter and Courtney had their work cut out for them. “We worked on the menu and the space for a year and a half before we opened,” Courtney recalls. They took classes to learn how to make pizza dough and then tested out their creations using the wood-fired oven in Rose and Roy’s backyard. Learning to cook with wood fire is tricky. Unlike a deck oven, you can’t just turn on the heat or control it with a dial, you have to stoke the fire, let it build and then manage the temperature while cooking. 

 Renovating the building was a major project as well. They tore out work that Roy had done on the space 30 years prior to make space for their design vision and called on a community of long-time friends and local tradespeople to help with demo and remodeling. Sister Alisa provided design help, consulting on colors for the space’s interior.

 Vesta opened in the summer of 2012. During the first year, Peter and Courtney worked from open to close most days. “Courtney was in the back making dough, then jumping on the salad line at lunchtime. I was working at a pizza oven with maybe one other guy, and then I’d wash my hands and run up and greet somebody,” Peter says. 

 The hard work they put into developing the menu paid off. Their sausage-and-honey pizza and share plates like the grilled carrots are now local-famous. An emphasis on using local and organic ingredients, built into the business plan from the beginning, has become even more important to the couple since becoming parents. “I want to stand behind everything we’re serving—that it’s something I’m okay with my children eating,” emphasizes Courtney. “There’s a lot of thought that goes into every single thing we serve.”

 The restaurant has stayed busy since opening. Now one of the OG’s of the Redwood City dining scene, it’s been a key part of the city’s downtown renaissance. Rave reviews have extended beyond the Bay Area: To date, the Michelin Guide has recognized them with six Bib Gourmands. 

 With a staff of 50, Peter and Courtney no longer have to work open to close. Work-life balance has taken a priority, and they keep Sundays free for family time. They’ve considered opening another concept but will hold off at least until Josie starts school. For now, they’re tabling the idea, enjoying the family, business and community they’ve created. 

Kristi & Zu 

If there’s one thing that Kristi Borrone and husband Zu Tarazi have learned from their time in the food and beverage industry, it’s how to pivot. The former owners of Station 1, Kristi Marie’s and BottleShop are now onto their fourth Peninsula business, the startup wine shop JuiceBox.

Kristi and Zu met as teenagers, and that first meeting was it for Zu—who is also the youngest of five and grew up in Sunnyvale. He was smitten. The two attended Foothill College together, and he took a job at Cafe Borrone to be near Kristi. Working at the cafe was an education in customer service. “Roy and Rose really set this expectation of what hospitality is,” he reflects.

In the decade following, Zu and Kristi married and had two children, Camila (now 19) and Santino (now 15). Zu honed his wine skills, becoming a certified sommelier, and held management roles at the cafe and John Bentley’s restaurants.

The couple became first-time restaurateurs in 2010, opening Station 1 in the former John Bentley’s space in Woodside. A creative prix fixe menu emphasized local organic ingredients, complemented by Zu’s curated wine list. The restaurant earned a thumbs-up review from San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer. 

Several years into Station 1, they had the idea for a grab-and-go spot across from the CalTrain station in Redwood City. “We wanted to do something that was simple, fast and delicious,” Kristi says. While converting the former hair salon into a nook-sized cafe, they were also reaching an impasse in lease renegotiations for Station 1. Something had to give: They opted to focus on Kristi Marie’s and closed Station 1. 

Kristi wasn’t an experienced baker, but she was motivated and drew on the resources around her to learn what she needed to know. It was the same approach they’d taken with Station 1: learn as you go and don’t be afraid to try. Kristi Marie’s quickly became a local favorite for its OG Breakfast sandwich, burgers and friendly service. The 7AM to 2PM schedule allowed Kristi to be home for the kids, especially as Camila was starting high school. 

In 2018, Zu opened BottleShop, a wine bar with retail sales and live music, just a few blocks down the street from Kristi Marie’s. However, the COVID shutdown exposed unresolvable business issues with the partners, and Zu bowed out. Going into 2020, Kristi was in the process of making another pivot herself. As much as she loved Kristi Marie’s, it was an exhausting proposition. They decided to sell it, and Kristi had already joined tech startup Level as chef and operations manager when the shutdown happened. The new buyers backed out, leaving Kristi and Zu with a lease and no business. 

They took a beat, thought about what to do next, and Zu says with a laugh, “I thought it was just a good idea to roll my show down the road.” He means that both figuratively and literally. The figurative: They decided to turn their leased space into a retail wine shop with a small by-the-glass list. The literal: Zu rolled the piano he had bought for BottleShop down Broadway, across the train tracks and right on into JuiceBox. Problem(s) solved. 

 Zu emphasizes, though, that while he’ll offer a short list of wines by the glass to enjoy at the shop, there will be no food menu. Online retail has been available since mid-2021, along with order delivery within an eight-mile radius. As soon as they’re able to fill the interior with the still-backordered furniture, they’ll open the doors for in-person sales.  

Kristi’s new role with Level is “so fun,” she says, but she also misses interacting with customers on a daily basis: “We have met so many people that I can’t imagine not having in my life, whether we worked with them or they were guests. It’s been so fantastic. I saw it with my parents, too, the way that different people came into their lives because of the cafe.”

 Maybe it’s indicative of the Silicon Valley culture or Gen X flexibility, that ability to adapt when things aren’t going exactly as planned, but making a leap is something that Kristi and Zu have no qualms about. “I think both of us, given where we are in our family dynamics, we’re willing to give things a shot. We feel like we can do it,” muses Zu. Kristi agrees: “Maybe we could have regrets, but I just think that it’s because of all these steps that we are where we are today.” 

Crafting a Signature Sound

words by Silas Valentino

On a recent afternoon in Belmont, there wasn’t a vacant workbench or station available inside the custom-instrument shop California Guitars.

The sander and bandsaw were preoccupied with cutting a slab of wood into a Telecaster guitar-shaped body while coats of yellow residue from a recent spray job dried inside the painting booth. For the moment, the most dangerous machine in the building, a wood router, stood idle. Used to carve precise pickup pockets and control plates, it has the reputation for being the bane of guitar makers for how it can subtract a digit without pause.

Leaning near the entrance of the shop’s industrial-grade garage door were two long boards of old-growth redwood. Around here, they’re nicknamed “California gold.” These were gifts from a next-door neighbor who builds furniture but after Grant Baldwin has his way with them, ten handmade guitars will rise from the timber.

A micro-universe of guitar creation, repair and renovation swirls around Grant in his one-man shop as he works away on the instrument he’s loved (and has lovingly ripped apart) his entire life.

“I’m a task monkey and that term doesn’t bother me,” he grins. “I work multiple stations at the same time. I’ll glue up a neck and while that’s curing, I’m over in the paint booth where I can shoot two guitars a day. I have bodies on the wall that are projects waiting to be conceived. I put together a list every day because I can’t freestyle. My customers understand that some of this takes time.”

No one is complaining about the process because the outcome speaks soundly. Grant curates a “space for musicians by musicians at musicians’ prices,” as he describes it. As a devoted admirer of Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster models circa 1962 and 1963, considered the top of the line for classic guitars, Grant riffs on these particular guitars to pay tribute to the hallowed tones, without the cost of an installment plan.

“I want to give everybody a fair shake. People will pay a lot of money for certain custom builds and I was never comfortable with that,” he explains. “A guitar that comes in here for a tune-up gets about an hour’s worth of my labor at no charge. I want people to get a little more than what they pay for. It’s not a formula for success but that’s how we do it here. I can’t abide by sending a thing out of here improperly done; I treat every instrument like it’s my own.”

Grant’s personalized and personable touches have scored fans across the Peninsula and country since he opened the garage door in 2005. He recalls how a musician dubbed his guitars “hot rods” for their unique and high-voltage modifications and fondly remembered when a utility player for The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville called him up to effuse about the soulful touches. The musician told Grant that his guitars feel alive.

“He said that they were ‘vocal and ready to go,’” Grant says. “And I want that light sound! The left hand is the first thing that engages with the instrument and I’m nuts about removing any obstructions. No pokey frets. Those are things that hit our brains negatively. I want the guitar to feel like it’s lived in a little bit.”

Scrawled in white ink on a black board hung at the entrance to California Guitars is Grant’s motto for the shop: “Find the guitar you left behind.” It’s both an opening salvo for prospective buyers as well as a reminder for the guitar maker who didn’t always live out his dream job.

He previously owned a company that specialized in freight handling for burgeoning tech companies in the 1990s. The money was lucrative but the constant stress and restrictive creativity took its toll on Grant’s joy.

“Work was a drudgery and I didn’t have any other examples in my life. My father was well paid but his relationship with work was that it was something he had to do to get to where he wanted in life. It’s all about giving yourself permission to do what you love,” he opines.

Grant’s father kept a Martin guitar in his childhood home in Newport Beach and he would toggle between the guitar and playing saxophone. But by the time Grant turned 12, The Beatles had played Ed Sullivan and left an indelible mark. Grant soon purchased his first real guitar, a 1962 Telecaster, and his fascination with the instrument went well beyond strumming it.

“I tore that guitar apart within six months!” he laughs today, recalling the horror his father felt as he witnessed Grant’s earliest embark into
guitar alteration.

“It just looked very cowboy to me but I was a hippie surfer. I wanted the guitar to look like a redwood tree. I took advantage that it was modular and began swapping parts to learn about the thing. I may have had a hand in destroying the collector’s value for a guitar or two …”

Grant and his wife Liz live near the shop and their daughter Brooke sometimes helps out with posting guitars for sale on Craigslist and Reverb. In between work, the father and daughter ride skateboards in the parking lot and a few custom boards that Grant cut hang on the wall like wooden trophies to his boundless craft.

Although he is by definition a luthier, a craftsperson who builds and repairs string instruments that have a neck and a sound box, Grant prefers to downplay such a grandiose description.

“I do the work of a luthier but I can’t lay claim to that title. After years down this road, there’s nothing I can’t recover from. I’ve made every mistake known to man—but I try not to do it on other people’s dimes. I’ve hit my marks and am validated by someone saying I want to do this again with you,” Grant says. “And while I can’t afford 53 Telecasters, I can build one. That’s what satisfies my soul.” 

Artful Approach

words by Sheri Baer

When a Woodside sculptor decided it was time to sell her home, the idea of a traditional staging approach didn’t resonate with her aesthetic spirit. While she understood the concept of showcasing spaces with universal appeal, her life was devoted to creativity and art—and she wanted her home to reflect that. So, she reached out to a collaborator and friend with an unusual request. 

“She approached me and said, ‘I’m looking for someone with a very artistic vision who can make my house beautiful and widely attractive but also unique and memorable,’” recounts Matthew MacCaul Turner, an architect and interior designer who had originally connected with the artist through the San Francisco Decorator Showcase. “She essentially wanted to create the house of her dreams—a true artist collector’s home—in order to sell it. And she saw this as a way to distinguish the house from other competitive properties at the same price point.” 

Matthew remembers his initial response: “This is not my usual kind of project. My jobs usually take months and years, not a couple of weeks.” 

Architect and interior designer Matthew MacCaul Turner
and art consultant Alex Ray. Photography: Courtesy of Dan Herz

But the project also intrigued him and ideas began to spark. “The more I thought about it, the more I realized I could do this,” he says. Equipped with the resources and expertise to tackle the interior design strategy and furnishings, Matthew recognized that he needed a partner to fully realize the home’s potential. “Right away, I thought of Alex Ray, an amazing art consultant I could bring in to help me with the task.”

Born in the U.S. and raised in London, Alex blended her fine art degree at Central Saint Martins with training as an interior designer. Although she worked in various roles in the art and design realm, she embraced one unwavering passion. “I am crazy about art and love nothing more than weaving art into a project,” she shares. “It’s the icing on the cake—the fun part of expressing a client’s personality and the impact that they want to create within the home.” 

After Alex relocated to the Bay Area in 2006, she identified a niche opportunity in the market:  being a resource for homeowners who want to buy quality art. While working as an art consultant, she started doing Showcase houses, and that’s where she met Matthew, who had opened his own practice in 2007. “I wear both hats of an architect and an interior designer, so I bring that attention to detail with the practical construction knowledge as well,” he relays. “I like to joke that with me you get two for one.”

When Matthew reached out to Alex about the Woodside project, she recognized a synergy with a business model she was already implementing with clients in San Francisco and Marin. “I do what’s called a stage-to-sell model. The model is that the house is for sale and so is the art and everything in it,” she explains. “I bring in original art from top galleries—interesting pieces that I think suit the home—and it’s like putting on a mini-exhibition.”

In this particular case, the client’s Mission-style home offered up 5,500 square feet of “exhibit” space wrapped around a courtyard on more than an acre of land. As Matthew designed the plan for furniture, he envisioned a young family moving into the residence’s five bedrooms. With everyone—including the client and realtors—on board with the staging concept of a family home that belonged to an artist, it was time to get to work. 

Although Matthew hadn’t staged a property before, he drew from his experiences with Showcases. “I’ve done four of them in San Francisco where you’re trying to appeal to a wide audience of potential clients, yet at the same time show who you are as an individual and create a memorable space,” he says. “This staging was very much an extension of a Decorator Showcase room.” For the furnishings, Matthew blended modern with vintage antiques. “When you create something that has a mix,” he notes, “there are a lot of different angles that can resonate with a variety of people.”

As for Alex, she took Matthew’s cues on where art might go and ran with it. “I know Matthew likes to mix in a bit of old and I love that,” she observes. “I thought that it was important to have a real mix of textures and color and photography along with paintings and some textile pieces. I felt that’s what an art collector, an artist’s home, would stretch to—and I wanted to weave in a California craft vibe.” 

A threaded piece by Nike Schroeder. Photography by Jonathan Smith and Jock McDonald. A bronze head by Martin Bialas. A stainless steel sculpture by Rainer Lagemann turned upside-down like a suspended diver. Despite working on parallel tracks, Matthew and Alex were delighted to discover a creative psychic wavelength. “I had placed an amber glass orb on the large mantelpiece in the great room,” recounts Matthew, “and Alex coincidentally showed up with a Ryan Snow painting of a giant ochre sphere surrounded by a grass field. They couldn’t have been better suited to each other.” Alex smiles, adding, “I had no clue of the furniture really, but I think designers are all on a kind of subconscious Zeitgeist.” 

After meeting the three-week deadline and budget, Matthew summarizes how their approach played out: “The broker tour was on a Tuesday and by Friday, they had a done deal. The buyers are a young family with three children and one on the way, so they’ll be using all five bedrooms.” 

Given that the property sold above asking price before hitting the market, the owner shifted the scheduled open house into an opportunity to view the art for sale and celebrate her completed vision. “We had a very successful event, and we sold pretty much all the big major pieces in the house,” says Alex. “It gives art a platform and some exposure where you might not otherwise see it.”

While the staging assignment initially felt like a stretch, Matthew now views the Woodside home as “proof of concept.” He envisions memorable home design featuring a blend of furnishings and original art for sale—with right of first refusal going to the eventual home buyer. “We would create a catalog for the project, a supplement to the whole sale package,” he says, “and people can open it up and see, ‘Oh, I really can have it all right now.’”

Power Moves

words by Eva Barrows

Walking into a Pilates studio for the first time can feel intimidating. Rows of unfamiliar exercise equipment, spring-powered sliding platforms inside wooden tracks and a tall, slender bed-like apparatus encompassed by a metal frame with all sorts of pulleys attached beg explanation. Nicole Kennedy, founder and owner of Empowered Body Pilates in Los Altos, is aware of this initial apprehension.

During an introductory Pilates class, Nicole guides me on how to sit on the reformer (the sliding platform with springs), acquaints me with its footrest, noting to press against it—not pull on it, or else the bar will fly toward me. Then she talks me through laying my torso on the platform with my head supported between two bumpers. I place my feet in the proper Pilates V-shape position, heels together on the bar. After demystifying the apparatus as she does with all her students, the real work begins.

“Press away,” Nicole instructs. “Scoop the abdominals.” 

As I bend and straighten my legs, she tells me I’m essentially doing a lying-down squat. This helps me better picture how my body and the reformer work together. Nicole empowers her Pilates students to develop body awareness through bite-sized bits of education as they strive to achieve “a little more” mobility with each exercise and session.

Before Pilates was her thing, Nicole danced with the San Francisco Ballet. Growing up in Santa Barbara, she performed in the local ballet company after finishing high school. Encouraged by a visiting choreographer to take a San Francisco Ballet company class, Nicole was discovered and asked to join the company. She moved to the Bay Area in 2004 to begin her dance career. 

As Nicole figured out her new role within the company, she decided to try Pilates sessions at the onsite wellness center. “I couldn’t stand it. I hated Pilates,” she recalls. “I could not figure out why, as a highly trained athlete, I couldn’t push the springs out. I couldn’t pull the leather straps.” But instead of running away from it, Nicole embraced Pilates.

She retired from ballet in 2010 and became a certified Pilates instructor the same year. Many of her clients are not dancers, and she finds working with them very rewarding. “There’s something so magical about watching a person who has had very little movement in their life suddenly realize their potential, realize their capability,” she says.

After earning a liberal arts degree from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Nicole opened her studio, Empowered Body Pilates, in downtown Los Altos in 2017. She makes a practice of maintaining class sizes of three. “I believe that smaller groups have the ability to give an instructor the opportunity to dig into those small details,” she says, “to really help a person make permanent change.”

Although many associate Pilates as a recent trendy fitness craze, it actually dates back 100 years. Joseph Pilates developed his teachings and invented his fitness apparatuses in Europe during the first half of the 20th century. In 1925, he opened a fitness studio in New York City where celebrities and dancers began to train after learning about the rehabilitative benefits of Pilates’ curriculum. Nicole attributes the popular wave of Pilates on the West Coast to New York-based instructors moving to Seattle and Los Angeles in the early 1990s. Since then, celebrities, magazines and social media have fueled the growing buzz. 

Nicole helps her students connect with the intention behind Classical Pilates exercises by using the original equipment and movements. “Without a strong sense of understanding where an exercise is its most fundamental, how can that exercise be broken down and then be enhanced?” she posits. “You can’t take it and reinvent it and turn it on its head if you don’t know what all the sides of the piece look like from the very beginning.”

Breaking down the components of an exercise to modify it to a student’s needs is essential. Maybe the original exercise is too difficult to learn all at once. By approaching it in stages, Nicole allows students to build and strengthen and eventually take on the full exercise. “There are just so many amazing ways you can modify Pilates,” she notes. “It has the ability to be so versatile to every population. That’s what’s so beautiful about it.”

As a dancer, Nicole experienced Pilates’ healing and strengthening benefits first-hand. She used Pilates to stay strong during an ankle injury and to make a quick recovery from surgery. Other advantages she cites include building strength without building excessive muscle mass, maintaining symmetry between both sides of the body and sustaining flexibility.  

She takes satisfaction in the transformation she sees in her students—whether it’s using Pilates to help recover from a spinal injury or mobilizing bad hips and knees. A former professional triathlete turned to Pilates to lengthen her muscles and focus on her core so she could be more efficient running and biking. “There’s not much it’s not good for,” notes Nicole.

During her sessions, Nicole also taps into the mental element that’s inherent in the practice of Pilates. “The way I choose to teach has a lot to do with mindfulness, being present in your body,” she says. “It’s extremely hard for people to let go of what is happening outside of these doors and just take the opportunity to fully concentrate
on themselves.”

Nicole has big plans for her business, starting with a move into a larger studio space in downtown Los Altos. She looks forward to scheduling two classes of three students, each happening at the same time. This expansion will also open up the opportunity for Nicole to mentor additional instructors. “I love watching aspiring teachers say their first words and get it right,” says Nicole. “I help them set a really clean and clear foundation for what their next steps as a teacher are going to be.”

What won’t change is Nicole’s approach: active encouragement and hands-on instruction aimed at bringing out the best in her clients. “I think we all need that combo cheerleader/tough coach every now and then to help us realize what’s possible,” she notes. “Because we’re all capable of incredible things if we believe in it, but often someone else needs to believe in it with you.” 

Wining Down in Healdsburg

words by Suzanne Ennis
image above courtesy of Christian Horan

As autumn turns to winter and Sonoma County’s green vineyards transition to rich russet and burgundy, the tourist crowds thin, traffic slows and reservations open up. In other words, it’s time to pack your weekender bag. For leaf-peepers and gourmets, the quintessential wine-country town of Healdsburg is a destination in its own right, as well as an ideal base camp for those eager to explore farther afield. If you haven’t visited in a while, you’ll be delighted to discover that favorite restaurants and tasting rooms are once again open for business and, what’s more, they’ve been joined by a host of buzzy newcomers. If this is your first time visiting, well, prepare to fall for Sonoma County’s many charms. 

Photography: Courtesy of Aubrie Pick

Settling Inn

A two-hour drive from the Peninsula north on Highway 101 brings you to Healdsburg, smack where the Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River valleys kiss. On that note, if you’re on a romantic getaway, check into the circa-1900 Healdsburg Inn on the Plaza, in the heart of downtown. The 12 guestrooms (many of which have fireplaces and a soaking or jetted tub) feature original architectural details paired with contemporary comforts, and guests enjoy a full breakfast each morning. A complimentary mini-picnic and a half-bottle of wine are perfect for an impromptu picnic on the plaza. 

A mile north on Dry Creek Road, the 122-suite Hotel Trio Healdsburg exudes a more modern vibe. Here, guests can plug their cars in at EV chargers, rent bicycles or catch a shuttle downtown, and even have a “robot butler” named Rosé bring necessities like extra towels and wine, contact-free. 

Photography: Courtesy of Christian Horan

For luxury nonpareil, splurge for one of the 130 bungalow-style guest rooms at Montage Healdsburg, which opened to the public this year after more than a decade under development. Set on 258 acres and boasting 22,000 oak trees, 15.5 acres of vineyards, an apiary, pickleball courts and more, the uber-private guest rooms and forthcoming residences offer stunning views and organic-modern wine country design. Even if you don’t stay overnight, you can dine on seasonal fare at the resort’s signature Hazel Hill restaurant and schmooze over a cocktail at Scout Field Bar. Or you can indulge in next-level pampering at the 11,500-square-foot Spa at Montage. A decadent couple’s massage, followed by a dip in the zero-edge pool overlooking the vineyards? Um, yes please. 

Just a Sip

More than 425 wineries fall within the borders of Sonoma County’s 18 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). A notable recent entry is Aperture Estate, two miles south of town on Old Redwood Highway. Winemaker wunderkind Jesse Katz founded the brand in 2009. The first winemaker ever to be included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, a Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 Tastemaker and a Wine Spectator “Rising Star,” Katz is also the winemaker behind the cult-favorite Devil Proof Malbec. Clearly, he knows his stuff—as is evinced by the ratings of Aperture’s Bordeaux-style wines, which you can taste by appointment at the estate’s outdoor terrace and private lounge. There, you can also peruse art by Katz’s father, Andy, a world-renowned photographer responsible for the wine bottles’ labels. Note the aperture-shaped ceiling: another nod to Andy’s craft.

Coursey Graves Winery, from winemaker/owner Cabell Coursey and located on the steep hillside of Bennett Mountain in Santa Rosa, is another newcomer. The view from the tasting room alone—past pollinator gardens, over acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes and across the valley—is worth the half-hour drive from downtown Healdsburg. 

Photography: Courtesy of Andy Katz

A by-appointment tour includes a seated tasting and a visit to the wine caves, which hold Italian terracotta amphorae in which some of the wine is aged. There’s also a walk-in tasting offered at the new Coursey Graves Tasting Room near the roundabout at Healdsburg Avenue, Vine and Mill Streets in Healdsburg.

Less than a mile west of that roundabout is the new Bacchus Landing, a three-acre collective of boutique wineries, a small artisanal food market, an area for lawn games and an event center, all surrounding a square for picnicking and seasonal events (keep an eye out for holiday shopping events in November). Five tasting rooms, each with its own patio, feature eight wineries; the sole co-tasting room includes Aldina Vineyards, which is owned by Bacchus Landing’s founders, the Lopez family. Drop in to taste their Cabernet Sauvignon alongside 13th & Third’s Rhône varietals and Pinot Noir by Dot Wine. 

Photography: Courtesy of Andy Katz

Wine and Beyond

Visiting a winery usually involves tasting delicious wines and soaking in an idyllic vineyard setting. Adding a tour and nibbles equals a satisfying afternoon in wine country. Occasionally, though, a winery earns extra credit by offering all of the above, plus options beyond wine. Case in point: Trattore Farms, on Dry Creek Road in Geyserville, just outside Healdsburg. Owned by Tim and Mary Louise Bucher, who met in graduate school at Stanford, Trattore’s 40 sustainably-farmed acres are planted in both vineyards and olive orchards from which they produce 2,000 cases of artisanal extra-virgin olive oil annually under the name Dry Creek Olive Company. After perusing the vintage tractors in the hillside tasting room (trattore means “tractor” in Italian—an homage to a 1967 red Bucher tractor Tim imported from Europe), visitors can relax on a terrace with views of Dry Creek Valley, Mount Saint Helena and Geyser Peak while enjoying flights of olive oil and Rhône-style wines, which can be paired with panini and charcuterie. A “Get Your Boots Dirty” tour includes an educational jaunt around the farm on a Kawasaki mule and a Family Flight tasting. Bonus tip: Olive harvest begins at the end of October, so tour-takers in November may get to see the olive mill center in action. 

Photography: Courtesy of Michelle Robson

Thirty minutes away, set high above the Santa Rosa Plain, Paradise Ridge Winery offers another irresistible combination: wine and art. Opened in 1994 by the Byck family and rebuilt after being decimated by the 1997 Tubbs wildfire, the estate covers some 155 acres, 15 of which are planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel grapes. The rest of the property is devoted to a beautiful new wine tasting/event space, 200-year-old oak trees, wildlife, meadows and a sprawling, changing large-scale sculpture garden that’s open to the public. Family patriarch Walter Byck established the original garden and dedicated it to his wife, Marijke Byck-Hoenselaars, who died in 2006.

Photography: Courtesy of Daniel Ennis

Today, the Bycks work in collaboration with Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation to exhibit dozens of sculptures in and near “Marijke’s Grove,” including several previously shown at Burning Man. Burners shouldn’t (and, frankly, can’t) miss the newest addition: a towering wooden temple entitled Empyrean, created by Laurence “Renzo” Verbeck and Sylvia Adrienne Lisse, that was originally destined for the ultimately canceled 2020 event. 

If you’ve checked out the sculptures and are looking for a nearby bite, check out Santa Rosa favorite Perch and Plow, which offers a great view overlooking Old Courthouse Square.

Photography: Courtesy of Michelle Robson


For a recharge between tastings or a kick-start to your day, grab a pumpkin dulce latte and a veggie burrito at the award-winning Black Oak Coffee Roasters, which opened a second location (after Ukiah) on Center Street in Healdsburg last spring. Or head south of the roundabout on Healdsburg Avenue to newcomer Quail and Condor, a bakery from Melissa Yanc, winner of the Food Network’s 2019 Holiday Baking Championship, and her husband Sean McGaughey, a sous chef at SingleThread. Pick quickly: the loaves, savories and sweets (cardamom apple tart … mmm) sell out fast.

Terroir to Table

Healdsburg is an epicure’s fantasyland, boasting several Michelin-recognized restaurants within its 4.5 square miles, plus plenty of worthy others featuring award-winning cuisine and talent (see Quail & Condor, above). Two new dining spots from familiar faces are adding to Healdsburg’s culinary renown.

Photography: Courtesy of Michael Woolsey

Open since this summer is The Matheson rising three stories above the Plaza in downtown Healdsburg. Owned by Chef Dustin Valette of beloved Valette, two blocks away—and, charmingly, on the site of a bakery owned by the chef’s great-grandfather, Honoré Valette, in the 1920s—The Matheson serves up a sure-to-please combo of Chef Valette’s creative, hyper-local and -seasonal fare; sushi from acclaimed chef Ken Tominaga; and an 88-bottle, self-service, fun-to-sample wine wall. The convivial, casual vibe continues upstairs to the Mezzanine, which offers a private dining room and reserve wine locker. Things get a little moodier on Roof 106, a fire pit-warmed rooftop cocktail lounge serving wood-fired pizzas and cocktails. 

Set to open in late fall is Little Saint, from the team behind three-Michelin-starred SingleThread farm-restaurant-inn. Created in collaboration with new property owners Jeff and Laurie Ubben, Jenny Hess and designer Ken Fulk, the plant-based restaurant, quick-service café and bottle shop seems destined for the former SHED space—and to become a big player in Healdsburg’s dining scene. 

Photography: Courtesy of Deb Wilson

The Beat On Your Eats

As days grow shorter, so does the space between breakfast and lunch. The time for brunch is now.

Fambrini’s Cafe

Palo Alto

 As a purveyor of breakfast sandwiches, salads and other lunch delights since 1993, Fambrini’s Cafe carved itself out as a trusted choice for the busy brunch options in Palo Alto and Stanford. The menu straddles the line between rich and savory bites like the egg sandwich (made with grilled tri-tip and a homemade “jerknaisse” sauce sandwiched between ciabatta) and healthy concessions that don’t disappoint, such as a pumpkin seed tuna salad bowl (romaine lettuce, homemade tuna salad, fingerling potatoes, alfalfa sprouts and avocado with an oregano vinaigrette). Although its rooftop terrace was lost during a 2017 remodel, it’s been replaced by an inviting large patio to keep brunchtime outdoors. 2500 El Camino Real, Suite 105. Open Monday to Friday from 9:30AM to 4:30PM; Saturday and Sunday from 10:30AM to 3:30PM.

Photography: Courtesy of Foreigner


San Mateo

No stranger to a vigorous brunch menu, Foreigner offers a mix of upscale yet casual New American cuisine. Their menu is seasonal and plays with ingredients that celebrate the California palate. If looking to add some flair to breakfast staples, try the Bacon Benedict (Cipollini onions, cherry tomato, crimini mushrooms, poached egg with Hollandaise sauce on levain bread) or get cheeky with the Sexy French Toast that uses homemade TCHO-chocolate banana walnut bread topped in mascarpone and seasonal fruits. The savory and hearty options are abundant, which suits this breakfast-lunch fusion well. 60 East 3rd Avenue, Suite 108. Open for brunch Monday to Sunday from 8AM to 2:30PM; for dinner from 5PM to 9PM.

Photography: Courtesy of House on First

House on First

Los Altos

You’re unlikely to find another brunch spot on the Peninsula where the restaurant’s atmosphere is as photogenic as its menu. House on First is located a block from downtown Los Altos where a white picket fence and bright yellow door stand between you and an artisan menu. If you’re hankering for a sandwich, try the Croque Madame (brioche, Swiss, rosemary ham béchamel with a couple of sunny-side up eggs) and what good is a brunch without the libation option? Their Duck Old Fashioned shakes up the classic by using a duck fat-washed bourbon with a toss of Maldon sea salt. 145 First Street. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11AM to 10PM; closed on Sunday and Monday.

Growing Greens

words by Jennifer Jory

A living wall of vibrant purple kale, deep green arugula and edible flowers frames Planted Places founder Christy Ross as she describes her new business and the health benefits of organic greens. Using live soil and a portable vertical living wall, Christy helps aspiring gardeners grow organic greens, vegetables and herbs—in small spaces like a porch or in their backyard. 

“We have architected a living wall so that every pot fills with water through an automatic drip system and then moves down to the next one and recirculates,” she explains. “It’s a huge space-saver as well.” From its homebase in the South Bay, Planted Places is providing a holistic approach to health through a subscription gardening program that sends everything needed along with expert advice to customers on the Peninsula—and anywhere in the U.S.  

With the farm-to-table trend firmly rooted, Planted Places makes organic gardening accessible to even apartment dwellers who want to try their hand at growing their own produce. Christy’s passion for gardening and past struggle to nurture greens and vegetables herself inspired her to want to teach others to succeed. However, she acknowledges that the major catalyst for the business was her own health. “I had gut issues,” she reveals. “I got to the point where it was really hard to function. My system couldn’t handle a lot of things and I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.” 

A nutritionist friend of Christy’s suggested that she might benefit by adding more leafy greens to her diet. “I rebuilt my gut with greens,” she recounts. “At first, I couldn’t even eat salads as they were too much roughage. I’d stir-fry Swiss chard. Then I actually rebuilt my microbiome. When you grow in living soil, you’re growing in the soil bio—the microbiome of the soil.” 

With a background in molecular biology, Christy’s interest in the healing properties of organic greens grown in live soil appealed to her scientific side. “I love science and I studied
biology.  I am sort of a geek about this,” she smiles. “We tested a lot of different soils and I did not want to do hydroponics [growing only with water]. When you take one handful of living soil, there’s billions of microbial activity in there—all sorts of good bacteria, fungi and nematodes.” 

Like a science teacher, Christy talks through the process of how the soil delivers nutrition to plant roots. “If you’re eating a lot of the typical American diet, a lot of carbs and animal proteins, your body is very alkaline with a high pH,” she explains. “Your pH needs to be lower in order to move things through the system and be healthy. Leafy greens are acidic so they bring that pH down.”

In addition to her biology knowledge, Christy also brings extensive experience in technology and ecommerce—including time at Intuit and—to her new business. “Throughout my tech career, I always loved to garden,” she notes. “I wanted to build a business that I was passionate about where I could teach customers how to grow organically and have an impact on their health, so I pivoted.” 

Christy’s first plant business was based on ornamental leafy and succulent living wall kits, but she eventually found herself installing the walls rather than teaching how to do it. When a customer asked her to create an edible wall, the light bulb went off for her. “I actually failed and decided I was going to figure this out,” she recalls. “I partnered with organic growers and learned how to grow greens successfully.” Her desire to teach and mentor then blossomed into Planted Places with the goal of educating customers from start to finish on a holistic journey.

With a Planted Places subscription, customers select a box that arrives monthly or quarterly with organic seedlings, soil amendments and a special artisan gift. Christy also provides education, which is why it’s a membership. “We provide garden training and custom coaching,” she explains. “We’re teaching people how to regenerate their soil and grow food sustainably. We go live every Friday morning and provide mini-courses throughout the year.” 

Customers can access a range of tips—ranging from transplant shock to soil health and the growing cycle. Herb mixology. Making appetizers with greens. Even the psychological benefits of gardening. “We also have a chef demonstrating how to cook with vegetables and herbs,” Christy adds. 

For wannabe gardeners who want to start small, Planted Places provides a starter kit including six organic leafy greens, lettuce, herbs and a micro green kit, along with soil and amendments. Customers also have access to all the gardening education resources. For a more robust organic garden, subscribers can purchase the vertical wall (five and half by two feet), which holds 18 plants on each side with a recirculating water pump. “All of those great ingredients in the soil are not leaching out. They’re going right back into the system,” Christy clarifies. “It’s automated through an app and you just set the timer.”

Following 2020’s surge in gardening interest, Planted Places offers a way for anyone, regardless of space, to dabble in growing their own food. As Christy summarizes, “We do this so people can realize more energy and vitality in their lives.”

Come for the French Comfort

words by Silas Valentino

In a turn of coincidence, monumental life moments always seem to happen for restaurateur Geoffroy Raby during the month of October.

 He first stepped foot in the Bay Area, which would become his adopted home after growing up in France, in October 2001. Ten years later, in October 2011, he and his wife welcomed twin boys just as he debuted his first restaurant: Cuisinett in downtown San Carlos.

This fall, as his restaurant celebrates a ten-year anniversary, Geoffroy takes a pause. The last two years brought challenges that forced him to reimagine everything: the menu, the space and the overall experience of dining at Cuisinett. Survival required a swift overhaul while deploying tactful direction to care for his employee roster. Geoffroy had to make sacrifices and rethink the confines of what his sunlit space on the corner of San Carlos Avenue could offer this community.

First was the adoption of a strategic to-go system, which proved difficult because scrumptious French comfort food doesn’t really lend itself to a take-out box. The Croque Madame (French ham, cheesy sauce and egg) doesn’t have the best life expectancy if the distance from kitchen to fork requires miles of travel.

“So we started to rethink our menu. What would travel well, taste good and look good?” Geoffroy says, and found success by directing customers to use their website for their delivery orders as opposed to relying on a third-party business. Then he created what was essentially a pop-up restaurant he called La Terrace and built a parklet dining area out front.

“It was only open at night and we began doing service at the table by reservation only,” he says. “It was fun to do a pop-up inside of Cuisinett, a restaurant that had been around for nine years.” 

The rotisserie chicken is Cuisinett’s biggest seller thanks to a careful process involving a two-day brine to juice the flavor. Before the impact of COVID, they were selling 700 pounds of chicken a week as well as 300 pounds of mussels. The menu celebrates comfort with quiches and sandwiches among entrees of beef bourguignon and ratatouille. Wine and beer complement the menu. 

As folks began to return to the physical space, the menu went through a calculated rebuild. There is now a lunch and dinner selection instead of offering the same items throughout the day and items are carefully selected by popularity to save on costs. 

“We knew we wouldn’t be able to please some people,” Geoffroy says, noting that mussels and steaks are now reserved just for dinner. “But we have to go with the numbers.”

The biggest revamp is the creation of a full-time market inside the restaurant dubbed Épicerie, an outpost for imported French wine, cheese, charcuterie and delectable sweets such as galette, Pépito cookies and macarons. Not to mention a few French magazines to peruse such as Valeurs Actuelles and Notre Temps. Customers come for a meal and then leave with a unique import in tow. 

Due to addressing the challenges it has faced, Cuisinett has evolved from a fast-casual café to a versatile bistro and market just in time for its ten-year anniversary. “This was my answer for how I can use a commercial space in a different way,” Geoffroy says. “Instead of just one type of income, like a restaurant by itself, it now has three streams.”

During a recent midweek afternoon as the lunch crowd gradually morphs into the dinner crowd, Geoffroy is in his prime. He attentively checks in on diners while exchanging pleasantries with several of the other restaurateurs who stroll by. He knows them all by name, from owner to cook to server, and treats them with genuine interest.

Cuisinett shares the avenue with Delizie Cucina, Drakes, La Corneta Taqueria, Red Hot Chilli Pepper and several more eateries, creating a diverse block of global cuisine. Geoffroy wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He dreamed about coming to America to relish in the cultural diversity and business opportunity as a boy in Lille, France.

He’d go on to study marketing and finance at San Francisco State University and, to support himself through school, he worked in restaurants both in SF and on the Peninsula. While working for a variety of locations including Station 1 in Woodside and the Mayfield Bakery in Palo Alto, Geoffroy recognized his passion for this business. 

He approaches it not from a chef’s perspective (although he knows his way around the kitchen), but with a focus on creating an experience and managing in full efficiency.

“I came up with this concept during a marketing project at school where people discover French food that’s from throughout the country. I hired a chef and the menu is based on traditional, everyday French food—it’s the everyday part that counts,” he says before breaking into a laugh. “Some people think that French food is just French onion soup. If you ask any French person when was the last time they ate that, they wouldn’t know!”

He devised Cuisinett as a neighborhood joint where it was fast and casual but with a reinforced commitment to establishing a sense of community.

“Some people go to Starbucks but in France, we go to a little bistro in the afternoon,” he says. “I think there was a need for a French restaurant that broke stereotypes and was casual, friendly and easy to bring your family.”

The location in San Carlos was ideal as Geoffroy lives in Redwood Shores with his wife and sons and can take them to their French-immersion school in Palo Alto. The balance between work and family is crucial for Geoffroy and although he’s flirted with the idea of opening a second location, he’s not ready to give up on those precious family hours.

Instead, he follows a prudent process of ensuring that Cuisinett takes care of its employees, distributors and ultimately, the customer.

“I love the multiple hats I have to wear. I don’t look at it as ‘This is my baby.’ This is my business. It’s numbers,” he says, and then elaborates by pointing out in real time some other examples of running a restaurant that he continues to adore. “We have people laughing, having a glass of wine while a baby cries a little bit. It’s this whole aspect of life.”

Geoffroy excuses himself to check in with his staff and as he walks by a family with a young boy, he stops to see how everyone at the table is doing. Without skipping a beat, the lad tells him that his lunch is “the best thing in the whole world.” Geoffroy beams, and returns to work with a grin for the rest of the afternoon. 

Diary of a Dog: Toby

Im Toby. That’s me on the right there. (I’ll tell you about my buddy Jake in just a bit.) I’m a Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, but I’ve channeled many spirit animals in my life. For example, my younger self started out as a turtle. I’m originally from Redding. I had a rough time as a puppy, but I got a second chance through the Northern California Sheltie Rescue, which is where Karen found me. Karen adores Shelties, but when she first brought me home to Woodside, she thought she had made a mistake. You see, I was so nervous and scared that I turned myself into a turtle. I closed my eyes and hid under the table in what Karen referred to as my turtle shell. Karen did everything she could to coax me out. She took me to lots of classes and introduced me to other dogs, but I found it hard not to withdraw into my turtle shell. Karen sensed that I needed a companion, and that’s how we also came to rescue Jake, who was abandoned in Merced. Jake became my instant buddy, and for the first time, I felt like running and barking and playing. And that’s when I became an elephant. Jake was too quick for me to chase, so when he would come streaking by, I would catch his tail in my mouth—and not let go. We would trot around the house like this, and Karen thought that I looked like a baby elephant holding onto its mom’s tail. Karen’s mom and brother Karl would often watch us too, and for some reason, we always made them laugh. To better understand my third spirit animal, I need to confess to a secret vice. I absolutely love Kleenex and toilet paper. I love chewing on it. I love pulling pieces out of boxes. And if anyone makes the mistake of leaving the bathroom door open, I love to lavishly TP the house. “You must be a goat,” Karen frequently says to me. But I’m content now and happy to be just a dog. To learn more about the rescue organization that gave Jake and me a family, visit

Signs of the Times

words by Sheryl Nonnenberg

They can be seen in every city and suburb in this country—signs announcing that a property is for sale or rent. For most of us, they serve a utilitarian purpose, after which they are removed and used again. For Redwood City’s John Shroyer, however, vintage real estate signs are a link to local history and a connection to others who have shared his profession.

Both John’s family and career are rooted on the Peninsula. He grew up in the Belmont-Redwood City-San Carlos area and attended Carlmont High School. In 1977, shortly after graduating, he became a real estate agent and moved his office to San Carlos in 1980. John and his wife Jane settled in Redwood City, where they raised three boys in their 1930s classic Spanish home in Edgewood Park. 

A lifelong history buff, John discovered bottle collecting as an 11-year-old, which led to other collecting pursuits. Above all, he loves finding objects that reflect local history. But why real estate signs?

“I am interested in them for the historical aspects but they are also aesthetically beautiful to me,” he says. John explains that he focuses on signs found in San Mateo County that date prior to 1950. His collection totals around 40 and he displays about half of them in his new office (he works for Golden Gate/Sotheby’s International Realty) in Redwood City. The other half is in storage in his garage.

The first signs that John acquired were from realtors who were in their heyday when he was just starting out. Local legends like Bill Royer, for example, who began in the 1940s. “This is what started it,” notes John, “connecting signs with people.” At that time, most realty companies were mom and pop businesses or a single individual, rather than the national and international firms we are familiar with today. “They are from a bygone era; these people are long gone,” he says, “but I thought the signs were historically significant.”

John acknowledges that he is probably the only one who collects signs in this area, although he has found others who collect ephemera (photographs, brochures, etc.) that focus on San Mateo County history. He has discovered signs in houses that he has sold, old offices and garages. John will occasionally spot one on eBay and he also has friends who are “pickers” who will notify him when they see something of interest.  

“Real estate signs have not changed much, basically,” he observes. “Although today, the company name is far more prominent than the individual realtor.”  

The vintage signs were often hand-painted on wood or tin. “The old ones were unique and individually done,” John shares, as he gestures to his favorite, a sign from C.G. Lambert Real Estate. Mr. Lambert’s office was in the Hotel Sequoia Building in Redwood City and his phone number was “888.” John found the sign in an empty barn and was immediately drawn to it because Lambert was selling homes in the Edgewood Park area. “He was doing what I am doing now,” he points out. The sign is a bit battered, but for John, that is part of the charm: “I love the fact that it is not new and it is clearly a weathered old sign. And, who doesn’t know the Hotel Sequoia Building?”

Some of the signs are so old they do not have telephone numbers. Others were cobbled together using old crates. One of the oldest, from 1870, for A.J. Samuel Real Estate, consists of calligraphic lettering on tin. Spade Realty, located in Menlo Park, used a bright yellow background and the graphic from a playing card for their logo. An old sign for Fox and Carskadon used contrasting red and green block lettering, set against a rustic, wood-grain background. “It makes history more tangible,” reflects John. 

John clearly enjoys his various collections and, as much as possible, displays them in an organized manner both at his home and office. “Otherwise,” he says with a laugh, “it is just clutter.” He would like to see his signs displayed one day, perhaps in a local history museum. And yes, he hopes his collection will continue to grow because, he explains, “Much of the fun is in the search and the finding.”

Perfect Shot: Aqua Shrine

Patience (and consistency) rewarded photographer Gino De Grandis, who made several attempts to capture Cañada Road’s Pulgas Water Temple engulfed by fog. On a bright, autumn morning with low clouds and ground humidity, Gino finally recorded this unique frame. “The fog lasted less than a minute,” he says. “The timing was perfect!”

Image by Gino De Grandis /

Digging for Family Treasure

words by Silas Valentino

In a sprawled display on the kitchen table inside a Belmont home are fragile photographs and dusty journal entries alongside a copy of a faded document with a signed date of 1647. The documents and correspondences are part artifacts, part clues being used to stitch together a multigenerational narrative that would have otherwise been lost if it weren’t for the copious care of a curious couple.

Meticulously piecing together this treasure trove of keepsakes are Ed and Pat Schoenstein. Ed is the grandson of Felix Schoenstein, who established what was to become the most successful pipe organ factory on the West Coast: Schoenstein & Co.

“I’ve rediscovered a man I didn’t know,” Ed says. “I’ve finally gotten to know my great-grandfather.”

Using patience and self-taught archival techniques (not to mention countless German-to-English translations via Google), Ed and Pat have begun to draw a detailed lineage encompassing 13 generations of Schoensteins that spans centuries and continents.  

“I’m not an archivist but Ed would come down from the attic with these boxes he inherited and there was always some treasure inside,” Pat says. “This project is like a sticky ball that’s rolling around the house picking up new treasures.”

As the last of nine children, Ed grew up enveloped by stories of his family and the impact they had on bringing music to San Francisco. His father Louis and his uncles installed a massive and electrified pipe organ for the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco. His father and mother Josephine spent their honeymoon at the Fair. 

One example of family lore that’s been passed down stems from the night they were gearing up for a performance by the famed French composer Camille Saint-Saëns during the closing concert for the Fair in June 1915. The Schoensteins were horrified when a howling noise roared out of the organ because of a technical error, which caused the electronically-operated organ to play at random. The family hustled together to fix the mechanical issue, saving the evening and their reputation.

“It was a curse of modern technology,” jokes Ed, “and a humbling experience for the family.”

In Felix’s diaries, they discovered how he drafted, carved and built the pipe organs while composing the score into the musical cylinders for orchestrions he sold. Orchestrions were a precursor to a jukebox that could reach up to 14 feet tall, and the family sold several of them specifically to saloons in San Francisco. The automatic music players showcased Felix’s breadth of music, cranking out classical songs from Europe as well as folk tunes from America.

“Felix was the Leonardo da Vinci of the family,” Pat says. “He learned English by translating a German book he was familiar with on the history of pipe organs that he rented from the Mechanics’ Institute Library in San Francisco.” 

Felix Schoenstein

Upon emigrating from Germany to San Francisco in the last quarter of the 19th century, the Schoensteins began by building and selling orchestrions and then transitioned into pipe organs throughout the Bay Area. Their pipe organs championed an American-Romantic tonal style that shot to high demand following the 1906 earthquake and fires as every church and cathedral required a replacement.

In 1977, the business was sold to a new owner named Jack Bethards, who expanded the national reach of Schoenstein & Co. The company’s illustrious pipes appear at Georgetown University and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra as well as dozens of churches including St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto and St. Denis Church in Menlo Park.

Ed remembers working on San Francisco pipe organs with his father, including ones at the Civic Auditorium and the Legion of Honor. Those experiences in mechanical engineering, along with an education from Lick-Wilmerding High School, guided Ed to his first job designing bucket elevators at age 18. He went on to work for Bechtel and served in the Marine Air Reserve before turning to a career teaching drafting and eventually technical art at the College of San Mateo for 33 years.

Photography: Courtesy of Pat and Ed Schoenstein

Pat was raised in northwest Indiana and attended art school in Chicago for illustration. She drew fashion advertisements for newspapers in Chicago and later worked in student affairs at Notre Dame de Namur University. After moving to San Francisco, Pat was at a social camping weekend in Pinecrest when she met Ed. (He likes to say that she accidentally stepped on him while he was lying in his sleeping bag.) Today, two photos of the couple on the day he proposed to her at the Legion of Honor adorn their wall alongside photographs of their three adult children and a new generation of grandchildren.

Their home is filled with a lifetime of kept treasures including a ticket to the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island that Ed attended when he was six years old. He remembers riding the ferry to the island and admiring the China Clipper, one of the largest airplanes of its time.

Ed’s fascination with the aircraft never faded and inspired him to create a model airplane of the China Clipper as a gift for the Treasure Island Museum about four years ago.

Photography: Courtesy of Pat and Ed Schoenstein

“I was hoping to stir up a little interest and try to get San Francisco to recall more of that Fair,” he says. “The 1915 Fair is much better remembered but the Treasure Island Fair was enchanting. I remember the soft, romantic colors at night. It was beautiful.” The models didn’t stop with the China Clipper and Ed has also produced faithful recreations of other parts of the Fair including the majestic Tower of the Sun and the Elephant Tower. 

Looking over the now neatly compiled archives of their family history, Ed and Pat exude a hard-won calm and tranquility. The printed materials, photographs, journals, ledgers and letters that they sorted through and processed allowed them to document a tangible family tree, one with firm roots and endless new leaves.

In their project statement, they summarize reflective sentiments by writing, “How profound it is that we cannot see into the future and know the effects of our life on the lives that follow.” 

Cataloging Thanksgiving

Most of the kids at my prep school, Andover, were from wealthy nearby towns in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. But there were also a number of us from disparate places including Amarillo, Texas, my hometown. As the Thanksgiving vacation approached, and we were off for a few days, I desperately wanted to come home, miserable as I was stuck there at Foxcroft Hall, friendless, depressed and anxious.

But my Dad said, “No, it’s too expensive,” and my Mom was always too busy to make time for me. Students were allowed to stay in the dorms over Thanksgiving, but I badly wanted to leave the campus. I had an uncle who lived outside Philadelphia, and so I asked my mother to contact him to see if it would be okay if I went there to celebrate the holiday.

Though I had met my uncle a couple of times, we were not a close family, and I didn’t know him well. He was an affable balding man whom we called Uncle Bill and his wife, who chain-smoked and had a raspy voice because of it, was Aunt Kat. They had three children, two daughters who were out of the house and a son, Danny, sort of a mysterious boy my older brother’s age who—according to my parents—had “issues.” 

Midway into November, it was arranged that I would spend Thanksgiving at their home in West Chester, a suburb about an hour outside of Philadelphia. On the Wednesday before the holiday, I took buses from Andover to Boston and then from Boston to downtown Philadelphia, where Uncle Bill met me. He was the head of Gray and Rogers, a substantial advertising agency at the time. He good-heartedly greeted me, and we drove in his rather unkempt Ford to their home, an old ramshackle place in the country. 

I was shown to the attic, where Danny normally stayed. Since he was “not home at the present,” it would just be the three of us. I was creeped out, as the saying went, to sleep 1) in this old, dusty attic and 2) where the Danny with “issues” normally stayed. The home, while comfortable, was cold and drafty and begged for maintenance. There was no television, and every surface was littered with books, magazines and catalogs, most of which had recently arrived to introduce holiday buying opportunities.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Kat were quiet and apparently spent most of their time reading, resting or going for an occasional stroll around their grounds. Though they made a successful living, they were seemingly content with little and were happy as they were. Uncle Bill would smile at me when we talked and asked about Andover and how it was going. Not wanting to stir an uncomfortable conversation, I lied and said that it was terrific, and that I was very happy.

I quickly found my position there, among the quiet of the house. There was a heating vent on the floor, tucked into a corner in the back of the room where my uncle read, sitting in his old, frumpy leather chair. On either side of the chair were piles of books and several weeks of newspapers. I settled into the spot by the vent that Wednesday evening and claimed it, like a cat would do with a sunny spot on the top of a couch. 

On Thursday, Thanksgiving, a big fire was lit in their living room, and we settled into the comfortable chairs there and spoke of what we were grateful for and about our families and friends. It didn’t occur to me as a 15-year-old to be grateful for my very life and so I lied, again, about my gratitude, since at that time I felt rather ungrateful about everything. Later, we had a fine meal and I remember that Aunt Kat made three kinds of pie, and I ate about half of a pecan pie that day.

My big discovery that evening, in a kind of precursor to my life in magazines, was the large piles of catalogs, everything from toys to fashion to electronic gadgets. Sitting on the floor of this rickety-rackety home, trying to keep myself warm, I uncovered the nuances of printed catalogs—the different paper stocks; the use of staples or perfect binding; the unique fonts that were employed; the design of the pages; the quality of the photography and printing. I was also intrigued by the copywriting—how some of the catalogs were sparse with their words and others sought to sell you on a product. Seeing and comparing all those catalogs sparked the entrepreneurial publishing part of my mind.

For the first time since I had left home several months before, reading those catalogs gave me some joy, like kissing someone for the first time and feeling a giddy buzz that burns through your body. Making that November journey to West Chester turned out to be a fortuitous decision. The next year, I started the first satire magazine at Andover, the vision of which was clearly inspired by those Thanksgiving days sitting on the cold floor at Uncle Bill’s, perusing that year’s offerings from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Stanford Clock Tower

words by Robert David Siegel

At 5:04PM on October 17, 1989, the clock adjacent to the Stanford Quad stopped abruptly. The time marked the beginning of the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta Earthquake, which was actually the second famous quake in the clock’s illustrious history. Built in 1901 by clockmaker Seth Thomas, the antique-style pendulum clock mechanism was originally housed in the belfry of the massive tower that sat atop Stanford’s Memorial Church. Five years later, the church tower was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and was never rebuilt. However, the clock works survived, and for the next 50 years, it resided in a temporary wooden structure behind the church, where it fell into disrepair. Since 1983, the antique clock has been housed in a dedicated tower with an adjacent colonnaded pergola. The new structure was built with a donation from Stanford trustee William Kimball, and at its dedication, Kimball remarked, “As president of the board of trustees, I’m delighted to receive this gift from me.” Six years after it was installed, a temblor once again brought the clock to a halt. In its current home, glass walls allow visitors to watch the mechanism as it marks out the passage of time. Using the same tune as Westminster Abbey, the clock chimes every 15 minutes. A series of tones sounds out the hour. In an effort to make the clock more resistant to errors due to changes in temperature, the mechanism was tweaked once again in 1997 by a group of Stanford engineering students. As Rob Bernier, one of the student engineers, reflected in 2001, “I love the clock…It’s a mechanical thing in a computerized world.” The mechanism still requires hand-cranking several times per week and these visits are hand-recorded in a logbook. Although it may be less accurate than the GPS phones in our pockets, it has far more charm. And chime.

Garden Party

What Makes a Community Grow Together

words by Silas Valentino

The average time on the waitlist for a plot at the Eleanor Pardee Community Garden had historically been a few months but in the last two years, that’s grown to a year and half. Why are there now 33 people vying for a plot in the garden?

“It’s the energy of being in here and around so many gardeners,” says Lisa Van Dusen, a recent addition. “How many Master Gardeners per square foot are in here?” she asks rhetorically. “There’s a lot of experience here and people are very generous with their knowledge.”

In Palo Alto, some of the most exclusive clubs have nothing to do with tech, wealth or society but everything to do with dirt. Sponsored by the city, there are five community gardens scattered throughout the neighborhoods—dedicated public oases of open space, fertile ground for vegetables, flowers and herbs. 

What first began with the Rinconada Garden has flouristed to include Arastradero, Edith Johnson, Ventura and Eleanor Pardee Gardens. Each one has its own rich culture and unique produce.

Stroll through the neatly packed plots at Rinconada and you’ll find pumpkins, wine grapes, native flowers and even a seedling experimenter named Liz who uses her plot as an incubator for her gardening business, The Seed Shrine. Or, if in need of advice, flag down Sharon Erickson, a Master Gardener who helps run the Water Wise Garden, which neighbors Eleanor Pardee. She often leads Saturday classes ranging from saving seeds to better composting.  

The produce from each plot may differ; however, the gardeners are united in their passion for growing things, their commitment to creating a healthier community and a shared disdain for the squirrels that make off with their veggies in the middle of the night.

Eleanor Pardee Garden

The Eleanor Pardee Garden (1201 Channing Avenue) started in 1979 and has 92 plots. Penny Proctor is the volunteer liaison for the garden and remembers when the area was a vacant lot created when the conjoined Eleanor Pardee Park was established.

Her mother, Helen Norman Proctor, was the park project’s landscape architect who later started a plot in 1983. Penny recalls how the garden’s first growers attempted to grow corn but were met with a pesky enemy. “One time, my mom drove in and saw six squirrels in the corn patch who fled with corn tucked under their arms!” she says.

Penny started her own plot in 1988 next to her mom’s and has been growing beans, tomatoes and peppers. She said that due to a 1998 flood from the nearby creek, the soil is ideal for gardening.

Helen Norman Proctor was one of the garden’s first liaisons (a volunteer who acts as the nominal leader) and after she passed in 2007, Penny took over and has been steering to a fruitful future. She helped rewrite the garden rules to address various problems such as barring the use of glue traps and adding new fencing.

Of the 77 or so gardeners currently at Eleanor, Penny says that about a third are over the age of 60 and that there are a fair number of families who garden together. One of the youngest green thumbs is a 12-year-old who grows strawberries and herbs. Underscoring the range of Palo Alto neighbors, a bench near the garden’s large bay laurel tree is dedicated to Elsa, who gardened here into her 100s. 

Eswar Subramanian

Plot D-33 

One of the first species to admire in Eswar’s garden is his Amaranthus. Strikingly beautiful with deep red color, they tower above his tomatoes. In the 13 years Eswar has been here, he’s built a wall of vines and installed a sonic device that plays a high-pitched noise to repel any veggie thieves.

A proud father of three, Eswar’s love for his garden is unquestionable. “I told my family that my priorities are: the garden, the compost that feeds my garden and then them,” he jokes. “I was married but it didn’t stop me from getting married to my garden.”

Lisa Van Dusen

Plot D-28 A  

Lisa and her husband John’s house lacks a sunny plot, so when a neighbor tipped them off to the Eleanor Pardee Garden, they added their name to the waitlist. Their patience paid off and they’re some of the newest members of the garden community. “It’s just such a great antidote to isolation and screens,” she says.

 They’re spending their first year creating a foundation for their plot and planting kale, basil (which Lisa uses in her walnut pesto), parsley as well as a surprise gift. “There’s a family from Iran who has a plot near ours and this little girl came over to present me with some seedlings,” she says. What grew: cherry tomatoes.

Kristina Smith

Plot D-30 and C-24

Adorned in a shirt that reads, “I love gardening from my head tomatoes,” Kristina began gardening here 32 years ago. Besides a commitment to tomatoes, she’s growing squash, cucumber, chard and various herbs such as sage and rosemary. Her cardoon thistle blooms in the spring.

Mike McFarlin

Plot D-35  

“I always wanted to be a farmer,” Mike says and his dream came true in May 1982. He’s since established himself as the tidiest gardener in the garden whose rows are perfectly aligned and spaced. He grows okra, which he says is a great substitute for a martini olive, and trades beets with Kristina for tomatoes. As one of Pardee’s long-standing gardeners, Mike has seen a whole community grow around him.

“The plot next mine is a woman named Wendy and I’ve seen her get married, have twins who are now taller than all of us and climb Mount Everest and Machu Picchu,” he says. “Last month, I even helped her move furniture.”

Rinconada Garden

The original Rinconada Garden (1213 Newell Street) was created in 1970 as a model to demonstrate organic gardening techniques. Originally part of Palo Alto’s Nature & Science Department, gardeners were recruited from junior high schools, city staff and the public.  

 As the oldest community garden, it’s not without its share of lore; the 1998 novel Murder Crops Up by Lora Roberts is a murder mystery that takes place in a garden inspired by Rinconada. The actual Rinconada is much less lethal and instead, a massive project featuring twice as many plots as the Eleanor Pardee Garden.

 Annie Carl is the volunteer liaison and Master Gardener who is the point person for anyone who signs up for a plot. She became the liaison in 2015 and has led several initiatives including a program to improve the butterfly population by spreading milkweed. She estimates that she’s propagated over 2,000 milkweed plants that have been planted across the Bay Area to directly benefit butterflies. As Annie toured the garden on a recent afternoon, she lit up when she saw two butterflies mating above a patch of milkweed.

Christine Baker

Plot H-16

Unlike her neighbors who are growing produce, Christine instead honors California natives. There is goldenrod, buckwheat and salvia, plus a bee box on the fence nearby. In the spring, she nurtures woolly sunflowers and then grows gooseberries in the winter.

 “This being California,” she says, “there’s always something in bloom.”

Doug Hagan

Plot 4-A

If you visit Doug at his plot in the right season, you won’t leave without a bag full of tomatoes. The father of two is also raising summer squash, zucchinis, red peppers and, per the request of his children, a few pumpkins.

Laurie Siv

Plot E-1

On a recent Friday afternoon, there were three generations of the Siv family working together on the plot. Laurie’s parents were watering and cropping the spinach and cilantro while her two daughters frolicked around the garden. Having started three months ago, Laurie wanted to teach her daughters about Pachamama, or Mother Nature, by having them help grow red peppers and black mint from her native country of Peru.

 As one of the newest members of the garden, Laurie is embracing unfamiliar produce (“Indian squash,” she deadpans. “I had never seen anything like that.”) while appreciating her friendly neighbors. “I was new here and everyone helped me,” she says.

Behind the Snaps

50 Years of Photographing Stanford Football

words by Sheri Baer and David Madison

As a highly-motivated member of the Stanford Photo Club in the early 1970s, David Madison didn’t let a locked-up dorm keep him from his craft over the holiday breaks. Living locally in Palo Alto, he covertly found a way to access the darkroom in Wilbur Hall’s basement. “I noticed that the air conditioning shaft from the darkroom went straight up to the roof of Wilbur Hall and that there were rungs inside the air conditioning shaft,” he recalls. “So I used to climb up on the roof and then climb down the air shaft and I’d have the darkroom all to myself for hours at a time.”

No doubt Stanford’s legendary broadcaster Bob Murphy sensed David’s above-and-beyond commitment. Having discovered photography as a hobby in junior high, David started shooting sports for his Gunn High School yearbook. While studying architecture at Stanford, he turned his lens onto the football field, initially shooting from the stands—before petitioning Murphy (Stanford’s sports information director at the time) for official access to the field. “Murph said, ‘Sure, I’ll give you a pass,’” David recounts, although he admits his first images received ego-bruising feedback. “‘These are nice,’” Murphy remarked, “‘but I don’t need pictures of guys’ backs.’” 

Still, Murphy gave him another field pass—and David proceeded to earn his own place in the annals of Stanford University sports. Now a professional sports photographer with a storied career, David holds the milestone achievement of shooting 50 years of Cardinal football. That’s five decades spanning coach names like Walsh, Harbaugh and Shaw and jerseys reading Plunkett, Elway, McCaffrey, Gerhart and Luck. Starting with film (250 images per game) and progressing to digital (2,500 images on average), David has shot more than 250 games, including 35 Big Games and 3 Rose Bowls. Total number of Stanford football images: 250,000+ 

Having shot the single home game in 2020’s abbreviated season, David is eagerly embracing the call, “Stanford Football is Back!” PUNCH asked him to set down his camera long enough to offer up highlights and insights from 50 years on the field.

Stanford plays Navy in the first game in the new Stanford Stadium on September 16, 2006

Stanford Stadium

The new Stanford Stadium has wonderful high angles because the stadium is so close to the field and it has both the mezzanine and upper terrace, so there are some beautiful high angles there. Those angles didn’t really exist in the old stadium. In the old stadium, the crowd was much farther away, but it would create beautiful backdrops when the stadium was full because you’d have that huge unbroken arc of the crowd.

Following the Action

I think football is one of the most challenging sports to photograph because the ball and the play move so fast and because of the geography of the field. If you’re following the action, normally you’re going to follow the ball. So you’re going to start probably focused on the quarterback and when he hands off, you’re going to shift to the running back or when he throws the ball, you’re going to attempt to shift to the receiver. As a photographer, there’s always a big element of chance to being in the right place. You’re just trying to keep it framed up while the bodies are bouncing around in the frame, and you have a very narrowed-down perspective. It’s almost like periscope vision. 

#20 running back Bryce Love shakes hands with a young fan (Chase Conley) following the University of Washington game on November 10, 2017

A Buffet of Visuals

My approach has evolved in that I’m looking for a broader view beyond the standard action photograph. I try to look for things that are visually interesting, so for me that encompasses pre-game and post-game and warm-up and what might be happening on the sidelines or in the team area. Partly I’m drawn to those images because all of them happen in areas that potentially have different light and visual interest compared with what’s on the field. With football, there’s a lot of stuff going on around the action: You have great crowds, the Band, Stanford cheerleaders and Dollies and the Tree, and so for me, it’s like a whole smorgasbord.

Generations of Stanford Players 

What I’ve been seeing more of now is sons—sons of players whom I photographed in the ’70s and ’80s. There has been a run of those in recent years: Ed and Christian McCaffrey, Chris and Drew Dalman, Bob and Kodi Whitfield. And then there are also Stanford coaches who did not play at Stanford but whose sons did, like Jack and John Elway and Willie and David Shaw. And then of course, David Shaw was a player and then an assistant coach and now head coach.

In the September 22, 2007, Stanford vs Oregon game, the Stanford team enters the stadium through a cloud created by spraying fire extinguishers

Keeping it Fresh after 50 Years 

When you’re shooting in the same place—the same stadium—over and over and over again, it becomes an ongoing challenge to find new angles and new motivation and new pictures. I think ahead about time of day, possible angles and what I’ve done before that didn’t work but maybe has potential and that I might want to try again. I like to get there early and walk all the way around either the upper tier of the stadium or the mezzanine or the field and just look at everything. I come up with a general idea for what I want to do with the game—and it depends a lot on the game too. Obviously, at the end of a Big Game, if you want an Axe shot, you’ve got to be ready for that, and in position. 

Energy of a Winning (or Losing) season

It would be false to say that I’m not affected by the team’s performance and certainly great players and great games and big match-ups inspire me. Stanford-Cal Big Games are always potentially loaded and the big match-up games—historically, USC, UCLA and now Oregon—have energy to them, so that’s inspiring. When Stanford was in its recent golden years and winning nine, ten games every year and a Bowl game, you get a little spoiled. When you’ve got a dog of a season going and players are hurt and there’s not a lot of excitement, that affects me too. A lot of what you’re looking for is that bit of human energy that comes out either through emotion—reacting to a player reacting to the game—or anticipation. So when the performance has dulled all those things down, there’s less of that to grab.

Evolution of Football  

Over the last 50 years, the game has evolved in how it’s played and the speed at which it’s played and the size of the people playing it. There are also a lot more people involved. When you look at old pictures—how many people are on the sidelines or how many are involved both within the team structure and the number of players and people who are on the field for different reasons—all of that has really, really grown. And from the photographers’ point of view, you have fewer places that you can work from because the field has been shrunk in terms of where photographers are allowed to be.

Future NFL quarterback #12 Andrew Luck celebrates with the Stanford Axe following the 113th Big Game on November 20, 2010. Stanford beat Cal 48-14 at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium

Getting that Unique Shot

There are routines that certain players have that can be interesting. When Christian McCaffrey burst onto the scene, it was clear immediately that he was something extraordinary. His sophomore year, I really focused on following him, and he had a very carefully scripted pre-game warm-up routine, and so once I caught on to that, I began to plan to be there. I knew that he came out an hour before game time, but by about the fourth game I got there and he was already out there, so then I would get there even earlier and just wait. 

Emotions of the Game

Generally with sports photography, everybody likes faces. So that’s a big element. I’m always looking for emotion. Happy. Sad. Fierce. Intensity. Any kind of emotion. With football players, because they wear so much equipment, you’re looking sometimes for body language and those opportunities when you can actually see their faces. I definitely have lots of photos that are really nice photos, but they lack facial expression. Football is especially hard because of the bars on the face mask. You can have a wonderful shot and the face mask is cutting right across the players’ eyes, so it’s not as wonderful of a shot. 

Stanford’s New Season

I think everyone is excited because we had a year with no live football. I shot last season’s one and only Stanford home football game with no one in the stands, which was a very strange experience. I’m always thinking about what it’s going to be like this year and what I would like to do with that opportunity—because it really is a privilege to have that opportunity. 

One of David Madison’s images from his first season of shooting Stanford football. In the October 10, 1970, game, Stanford beat USC by a final score of 24-14. Visible players on the field include #16 quarterback Jim Plunkett and #18 wide receiver Randy Vataha

Molten Magic

words by Emily McNally

The liquid glass glows in the fiery furnace, its molten gold flowing with every turn of the long metal pipe in my hands. “Slow down,” advises Doug, as he lightly touches my arm. “Use your fingertips, not your wrists. The glass will respond to even your smallest movement. You want smooth, rounded edges. Aim for a Q-tip shape.” Standing within arm’s length of the ferociously hot furnace—also called a glory hole—I quickly feel my face and chest warm. It’s not surprising that a glass blowing studio is also known as a hot shop. “Some people cannot handle it,” Doug acknowledges with a smile. “The physical nature of glass blowing is intense.”

Half Moon Bay Art Glass, which Doug Brown has owned and run for the last 12 years, is located on a pastoral property shared with La Nebbia Winery, just down the street from some of the biggest local pumpkin patches on the Half Moon Bay Coast. Doug creates and sells his own art glass, most spectacularly the jellyfish lighting fixtures that radiate with an otherworldly gleam, but the bulk of his business is in teaching others to make a unique glass art project of their own. “I lead the project, of course, but it does belong to the maker,” he emphasizes. “They get the bragging rights. I’ve taught over 48,000 people to make glass.”

Doug’s workshops generally consist of around six to eight people, though he occasionally hosts larger corporate events with the staff of three teachers who support him. The amateur artisans who visit HMB Art Glass can make projects ranging from paperweight hearts and terrariums to holiday balls and milk jugs. But, by far, the most popular project is the pumpkin. 

“Pumpkins are a great canvas for color,” Doug notes. “They offer a manageable degree of difficulty and they’re charming. I’ve probably participated in making around 100,000 of them.” Every October, he joins in Half Moon Bay’s pumpkin festivities by creating a glass pumpkin patch outside his studio. Like gourds from a fairy tale, the pumpkins reflect every shade imaginable from translucent turquoise to rosy amber, from deepest emerald to sunny yellow.

Doug guides my hands in rolling hot glass into the fine particles of broken glass called frit. “You get a layer of color and melt that in,” he explains, “but the magic happens when you layer more than one color.” After my first round of color—a deep cobalt—melts, I roll it in a chunkier frit of silver and watch them come together in a hypnotic swirl.

After the glass is reheated, Doug leads me in blowing out the shape. I kneel on the floor with the blowpipe in my mouth as he rolls the pipe and contours it with a block to round it out. The degree of breath matters and Doug coaches me to blow harder, then softer, to get it to the right form—a palm-sized sphere. The pumpkin’s ridged sides are created by standing on a low platform and very carefully dipping the hot glass into a steel mold.

So seamless is Doug’s process for making your own objet d’art that you may be fooled into thinking you have a knack for it, but glass is a highly temperamental substance demanding constant attention. If it heats or cools too quickly, the glass will shatter, crack or bubble, ruining all of your hard work. But Doug’s 40 years of experience have given him a kind of sixth sense about when to mold, fire or blow glass to get the perfect surface and shape. 

The final moments of making glass are fast-paced. The glass has to be gently ground away where it’s connected to the pipe with large steel tweezers known as jacks. With one sharp tap of a wooden rod, the glass drops from the pipe into a rag-lined bowl, before being quickly transported to the annealer, which is set at around 900 degrees. The glass will remain there for 24 hours and the temperature will drop incrementally to maintain the piece’s integrity.

Originally from Santa Clara, Doug first became fascinated with glass when he was in his twenties, chasing adventure as a traveler on a tall ship in the British Channel. “I saw etched glass windows in a shop in St. Malo, France—they were beautiful,” he recalls. “I’ve always been more of a maker than an artist, but I knew that I wanted to learn how to do that.” Doug began working for Valley Fixtures in San Jose and tackling the kinds of projects that caught his interest. “We made large-scale art glass pieces—mostly etched glass and stained glass for clients all over the world, including King Hussein of Jordan.”

Seeking a more stable living to raise a family, Doug transitioned to a career making the glass tubes used in microchip production. But the lure of making his own glass projects never left him. He maintained a hot shop on his back patio, and in 2009, he opened HMB Art Glass so that he could return to glass blowing full-time. 

Doug is currently in the midst of opening another glass blowing studio on Mare Island this fall, near several breweries and distilleries. He’s also planning for a traveling van, The Troubadour, that will be a mobile glass blowing unit, extending his outreach to new places and events. What’s motivating his business expansion is clear: the satisfaction he gets from guiding others to work with such a temperamental, malleable and almost mystical material. “It’s so fun seeing the magic in their eyes when the pieces come together,” he reflects. “For many, it’s on their bucket list of things to do. Others never dreamed they could do anything like it.”

Modern Comfort

words by Suzanne Ennis 

Growing up in Santa Clara as the child of Portuguese immigrants, Anna Lisa Avelar treasured spending summers in Europe with her extended family. As she got older, that love of travel blossomed into frequent international adventures, including a stint in Italy while earning her master’s degree in interior architecture and design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. After establishing herself as a junior designer at a firm in Los Altos, where she had a hands-on education in everything from house framing and electrical work through what she jokingly calls the “frilly decorator stuff,” Anna Lisa struck out on her own in 2007, forming her eponymous Los Gatos-based interior design company. “As dorky and cliché as it sounds, I just continued to go in the direction of where my heart was pulling me, and I flourished,” she says.

Today, Anna Lisa continues to find inspiration from frequent travels, and she channels it into high-end residential projects, predominantly on the Peninsula. One such project was a recent soup-to-nuts renovation for a Palo Alto couple and their two boys. “They wanted to hang out and play games and cook together,” she says of their design directive. Anna Lisa talks to PUNCH about how she transformed a dark, awkward house into a modern, comfy home that puts family front and center.  

Photography: Courtesy of Michelle Magdalena Maddox

Tell us about this project.

The house is about 4,000 square feet, and there’s an ADU on the property too. At first it was just, “Let’s dress this house up.” And then I got on the scene and said, “This isn’t enough.” It wasn’t super old; it was just not well-planned, and the spaces didn’t make any sense. From start to finish, it took two years. There wasn’t a wall that was untouched.

Who lives in this house? 

You couldn’t ask for better clients. They are a brilliant couple of MIT grads who fell in love. They have two boys: lovely, talkative, fun kids who were around 8 and 10 at the time. The wife chose to be a stay-at-home mom, and the husband is a well-known guy in the tech world, but they are as down to earth as you can get. 

What were their design goals? 

They gave me some Pinterest boards at first, but there wasn’t a whole lot of guidance in terms of consistent design style preference. Reading and minimizing screen time is really important to them, so the mom wanted a lot of reading nooks in the house where the kids could come cuddle up with a book but still be around the adults. The mudroom was her big thing—she said, “I need a shoe dumping spot because it’s out of control.” What made working for them such a pleasure is that they would tell me what they liked and what they didn’t like, but when they weren’t sure, then they would just say, “You know what? I trust you—just do it.” 

How would you describe the style?

Eco-modern. We did a lot of natural materials. The wallpapers are all natural grass, and there is a lot of wood and stone; much of the tile is sourced from vendors that are sustainably making tile. There aren’t any harsh transitions in terms of color and dark and light—it’s just a very smooth color palette with very clean lines.

Is there a lot of tech incorporated into the house? 

Yes, but it’s all concealed. We did a huge tech closet that’s five feet wide. Security is important to the husband because he has a very high-level position at his company, and keeping his company protected is critical. Also, everything’s automated in the house. That stuff is exciting to them. They worked with experts directly to execute those techy enhancements. All I had to do was carve out a space in the floorplan where they could house equipment out of sight. 

How did your love of travel influence the design?  

I appreciate suburbia and being able to spread out, but I do miss some of the community that you can get overseas. For example, in other cultures, at a big party, you’ll see a group of older people playing cards and a group of teenagers hanging out, and then little kids with their moms. So, that inspired creating community-oriented spaces within the home, where different ages can hang out, feel welcome and have a place. Also, working closely with artisans is important to me, and I think that’s another big part of design that travel really helped me develop.

What kinds of challenges did you run into? 

There was no real dining area, and carving one out would make the entry quite dark. The good news is that we had really high ceilings, so I stopped the wall about two feet before the ceiling, and then I installed a transom window that was the full width of the wall. The transition was super clean, so it didn’t look like it was just cut out and slapped on there. It’s well-integrated. 

What was the most fun part of the project? 

While I’m serious about design, I kind of have a jolly, happy-go-lucky attitude, and these clients are just like that too. It might be a function of being in the tech world, that new ideas and collaboration are exciting to them. So things that they hadn’t seen before, ways I was applying things—hidden storage, all that sort of stuff—they found really cool, and they were willing to explore it. That was sooo fun.

How about the most rewarding aspect?

I love that I’m involved in creating the project from the beginning to the end—from architectural planning and detailing to the furnishings. That’s how you get a space that is spectacular. You make sure the bones are set right, then add on layer by layer, and you don’t stop until every last detail is carefully selected. That’s how you get that “Wow!” When you get that opportunity to do it from the beginning to the end, it’s amazing. 

Quick Punch:

My favorite Peninsula spot is … Windy Hill in Portola Valley.

My dream project is …  an estate in Napa Valley.

My style is authentic.

Every home needs … dimmable, layered lighting and good sheets. Who could get tired of Yves Delorme? 

My secret design trick is … hiding outlets and other uninviting technical necessities.

I’d never … design something that I didn’t believe in.

I always say  …. relax into the process. Waiting for the right thing pays off in the end.

The Beat On Your Eats

Baribar Bistro

Los Altos

The website for this new eatery in downtown Los Altos, which has replaced Aldo, features a welcoming text that succinctly introduces the Mediterranean cuisine to the neighborhood: “There’s a ferry that travels from Bari, Italy, to Bar, Montenegro. At a time when many of us aren’t traveling a lot, daydream that a leisurely ferry ride on the Adriatic is within reach.” With a full cocktail program to start, BariBar Bistro’s menu features watermelon salad (arugula with mint, feta and citrus vinaigrette) as well as favorites like the mushroom risotto. 388 Main Street. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 5PM to 9PM; closed on Monday. 

Photography: Courtesy of The Refuge

The Refuge 

San Mateo

At this East Coast street food-inspired neighborhood joint, there’s a simple philosophy that pastrami is king. The Refuge’s thoughtful sandwiches, from their Philly cheesesteaks to those packed with a “pastrami pathos,” have earned them some serious fans. “You could be a hardcore New Yorker and nothing is gonna prepare you for that pastrami,” Guy Fieri said in a 2013 episode of Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives. The Refuge has three locations across the Peninsula including Menlo Park and San Carlos, and this latest spot in San Mateo opens within the refashioned Hillsdale Mall. 66 31st Avenue. Open Sunday to Thursday from 11:30AM to 9PM; Friday and Saturday from 11:30AM to 10PM.

Photography: Courtesy of Choc Cookies

Choc Cookies


The bakers at Choc Cookies live by a simple motto: “Warm. Giant. Delicious!” Their chocolate or triple-chocolate cookies stay true to their goal with mouthwatering, melty goodness that’s baked from scratch every day. Following their successful shop in Santa Clara, Choc Cookies recently opened a second location in Millbrae to supply the north Peninsula with its decadent treats. The cookies are available for delivery or pickup from the Bagel Street Cafe in downtown Millbrae. Baking chocolate cookies isn’t rocket science but some things are better left to the professionals. 537 Broadway. Open Friday and Saturday only from 3:30PM to 10PM.

Belmont’s Breakout Baker

words by Sophia Markoulakis

Hetal Vasavada’s culinary journey—connecting her family’s deep ties to India’s Gujarat region and first-generation Indian-American experiences—began when she was young, savoring her mother’s intricate Indian desserts, yet yearning for the “just add water” boxed American baking mixes of her suburban youth. 

The Belmont cookbook author and culinary entrepreneur grew up cooking alongside her mother and ‘aunties’ but it wasn’t until her appearance on Season 6 of MasterChef in 2015 that her career in medical consulting ended and a new path in the culinary realm began.

“I’d never cooked meat before appearing on the show,” Hetal admits. But her vegetarianism didn’t derail her. “There was one challenge where I had to cook a Salisbury steak, and I was looking for a cut called ‘Salisbury…’”

Hetal understood natural pairings—pork and fruit or beef and root vegetables—and had a good knowledge of anatomy, thanks to her science background. “I created a meat matrix,” she laughs about the cooking competition. She ultimately won both meat and non-meat challenges, using Indian ingredients.

That reality-show experience reinforced her belief that food was a happier career choice, and making it to the top six (out of 22 contestants) meant that people were responding to her Indian-American way of approaching her native cuisine.


Hetal recommends sourcing spices the way you source fruits and vegetables: knowing the farmer and how they are grown and harvested are important for quality and flavor. She is a big supporter of Oakland’s Diaspora Co. “Sana’s coriander is grown 20 miles from the farm my mom grew up on. It’s lovely to see the farmers she’s helping,” Hetal explains. “Burlap & Barrel is also a great company for ethically sourced spices. Their cinnamon is out-of-this-world good.” There’s a whole industry of female saffron harvesters and processors in Afghanistan, and Rumi Spice employs thousands of women there, providing them with financial security. Rumi’s saffron is Hetal’s favorite.

Soon after the show ended, Hetal’s culinary consulting career took off. Her social media, photography and recipe development gigs made it possible for her to recognize the power of social media for her own brand. Indian desserts captured the attention of MasterChef producers, and her proclivity to bridge Indian and American cuisines is what propelled her to notoriety. The culmination was her first cookbook, Milk & Cardamom, published in 2019.

“I started making desserts with the Indian flavors like saffron, green cardamom and rose water that I was nostalgic for and using them with the American desserts that I craved,” she says. “So many of our recipes are passed down orally without exact measurements, and I wanted to recreate them so they could be approachable and reproducible.”

Today, Hetal is building her brand around demystifying Indian sweets and making them accessible to the American palate.

“When I began developing my recipes that marry Indian flavors with more approachable steps, they just blew up,” she recounts. “When my book came out, I learned that there’s a huge representation of Indian-Americans who grew up the same way I did and who were nostalgic for these flavors. A lot of Indian followers, whose spouses are American, appreciated my recipes and recreated them, especially during American holidays, to bridge both cultures.”

Hetal points out that there’s still a lot of work to be done regarding the Anglo acceptance of Asian cuisine. “MasterChef put a lot of emphasis on ‘elevating my cuisine,’” she reflects. “They only said that about the non-American and non-European food that contestants were preparing. Trying to fit my food into the standard American paradigm of protein, starch and vegetable on a plate was very difficult.”

Influential Indian chefs and journalists like Floyd Cardoz and Priya Krishna paved the way for creatives like Hetal to illuminate the diversity of the country’s cuisine. The author emphasizes that there’s more to Indian cuisine than Punjabi tandoori and naan. 

“Every state has its own cuisine,” she says, “and people are starting to understand that now.” For instance, Gujaratis make up the largest percentage of Indians outside of India, according to Hetal, but you’ll rarely see soulful, seasonal Gujarati food at restaurants. 


For traditional Punjabi cuisine, Hetal recommends the recently remodeled Saffron Bistro in San Carlos. For a more complex dining experience, she goes to Los Altos’ Aurum. “Chef Manish Tyagi used to be at San Francisco’s (now closed) August 1 Five. He does modern Indian food, and he sources his inspiration from all over India. He’s all about cooking seasonally,” says Hetal. “Literally, the last restaurant I ate at before the state shut down last year was Palo Alto’s Ettan, which serves modern southern Indian food from the Kerala region.” Hetal’s go-to for Indian staples is Namaste Plaza in Belmont for a quick stock up. For a larger haul, she heads to Indian Cash & Carry in Foster City. “They have lots of organic spices and flours that you don’t typically find here on the mid-Peninsula,” she says.

San Francisco’s Besharam, in the Dogpatch neighborhood, is one of very few Gujarati restaurants, and there you’ll find dishes like dahi wada (split lentil dumplings with yogurt and tamarind) and khichdi (a rice and lentil dish). “Heena, the owner, and I are good friends,” Hetal says. “Whenever I go, she does the typical aunty thing and stuffs me silly.”

 Hetal is also breaking the dessert social class ceiling. Affluent native Indians buy their sweets; they don’t typically make them. “My mom grew up very poor and my dad grew up as a child laborer cutting diamonds at the age of nine. In our home, everything was homemade. Indian desserts are very difficult to make, and if you don’t have the skill or technique, you’re not going to do it,” she says, acknowledging that her followers (89k and counting…), who might not have grown up watching a mother make mithai (sweets), are willing to give it a try now.

 Take burfi for example, which is similar to fudge. “These Indian sweets are made not only by temperature but also by viscosity,” notes Hetal. “You have to feel the sugar to determine when it’s ready.” 

Another tactile dessert that is arguably India’s most popular is gulab jamun. These fried balls of dough that are then soaked in an aromatic sweet syrup require skill and plenty of preparation time. The dough’s batter is made from milk solids that the traditionalist would extract from fresh milk simmered over the stove for several hours until all liquid has evaporated. Hetal shares that the flavors of that dessert prompted her to come up with a quicker, more approachable recipe that had a similar, almost toothsome delicate interior, but could still withstand a good soaking of syrup. The recipe for her galub jamun cake appears on her website and in her cookbook. You can also purchase prepared cakes on her website. 

“I love watching my followers and customers enjoy these cakes,”  she smiles. “They bring people back to a certain joy or memory.”

New England Flavor

words by Eva Barrows

The lobster roll overflows with four ounces of sweet pink meat stuffed inside a thick slice of split, toasted bread. It’s what you’d call naked. The roll has nothing on it, just primo knuckle lobster meat—the hardest to extract. Dress the roll up a little by pouring liquid butter over the lobster meat or add some avocado.

And then there’s the signature dish, lobster corn chowder, a creamy yellow soup with a spicy kick. The broth hugs lush lumps of lobster and juicy corn kernels that go down smooth, waking the senses and warming the belly. One of the soup’s secrets, as Marc Worrall, owner of New England Lobster Market & Eatery in Burlingame, discloses, is the fresh, concentrated lobster juice made from pressing lobster meat through a colander and stirring it into the chowder pot each morning.

The New England Lobster Market & Eatery flies in four to five thousand pounds of live lobster a day to the Peninsula from the East Coast. Customers come to the market and eatery to pick up live lobster to cook at home or pull up a seat to enjoy freshly prepared seaside fare with family and friends. 

“The concept here is an East Coast restaurant where lobsters aren’t perceived as a $50 to $60 item. It’s more of a little shack at the end of a fishing pier in Maine or Canada,” says Marc. He notes that everything on the menu, except for the bread, is homemade, including the tortillas, coleslaw and chowder. 

San Francisco Bay’s salty seawater scent carries on the shoreline breeze to red umbrella-shaded picnic tables fenced by swinging sailing ropes. The seaside décor extends inside with wall-hanging fishermen-carved buoys, an overhead dinghy from Gloucester, Massachusetts, and a mural of Nova Scotia’s Boar’s Head Lighthouse. Another mural of a lobster shack walk-up window enlivens the special event space where raucous lobster feeds happen.

“The biggest compliment we can get is when people from Maine, Boston, Cape Cod or Canada come try our stuff, and say, ‘Wow, this is good,’” says Marc. “Then we know we’re doing a good job because they know their seafood and lobster rolls.”

Marc got his start in the lobster business in 1987 when he partnered with a San Diego State college buddy, Dave Collins, to wholesale live lobster to local restaurants. “We started out of my mom and dad’s Burlingame garage,” Marc recalls. “We’d bring the lobsters in the morning and deliver them to the restaurants at night.” By 1992, they bought a warehouse in South San Francisco and moved three to four thousand pounds of lobster a week.

Eventually, Marc and Dave began selling directly to consumers. They discovered that customers were willing to travel for fresh lobster and developed a dedicated following, from Marin County to San Jose.

Similarly, they experimented with a catering truck outside the South San Francisco warehouse within walking distance of nearby biotech companies. “We made lunch for three or four hours a day. Pretty soon, we were buying more picnic tables and built a counter outside. We were getting a line down the block just to eat these sandwiches,” recounts Marc. “That gave me the courage to say, ‘Let’s try a restaurant.’”

The food truck and resulting eatery were also a solution to a wholesale lobster business problem. “We have to buy whatever the fishermen catch—that’s how we get our best price,” Marc explains. “When we do that, we might get between 10 to 20% cull, like a lobster with only one claw.” There’s no place for a lobster with a missing limb in fine dining, but turning cosmetically-challenged lobster into a meal made a probable loss into a win-win gain.

Marc became full owner of New England Lobster in 2002 and moved it to the current Burlingame location in 2012. Marc and his family also live in Burlingame, making it easy for his wife Sue to partner on the business side and for his three kids to help out at the eatery on the weekends. Today, New England Lobster employs about 75 people, some of whom have worked there for over 25 years.

The lobsters served at the eatery go on a crate-to-plate journey. Lobsters are fished out of the waters from regions around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Stonington, Maine, and South Shore, Nova Scotia. Marc acquired South Shore Lobster, a wholesale lobster distributor company in Nova Scotia, in 2005. A live webcam feed from South Shore Lobster plays on a flat-screen TV in the restaurant. “If people are sitting here, they can watch lobsters being packed into boxes that will be here in two days,” observes Marc. “There’s no way you can get fresher lobsters from the ocean.” 

Customers can also watch the live feed from the camera in New England Lobster’s saltwater tank room, where daily shipments of live lobster are processed. The main tank is 75 feet long by 25 feet wide, almost half the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The lobsters are sorted into crates by weight, with each crate holding 100 pounds of meat. The tank has the capacity to hold up to 70,000 pounds of lobster. A pump system circulates water with the right salinity and microorganism levels throughout the site to support healthy live lobster.

The onsite market gives locals the chance to purchase fresh shellfish and live lobsters ranging from one to ten pounds. The market also carries live Dungeness crab from Half Moon Bay, fresh oysters, littleneck clams, Mediterranean mussels and wild white shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. Frozen lobster meat and pints of frozen lobster corn chowder are also for sale.

A big part of New England Lobster’s business remains delivering live lobsters to wholesale customers. Deliveries go to restaurants and supermarkets spanning the South Bay, East Bay and North Bay to further points in Northern California and even Hawaii. 

Employees at New England Lobster process lobster meat to either freeze and sell later or to use in the eatery’s fresh lobster rolls, tacos, salads or chowder. Five hundred to six hundred pounds of lobster is broken down at a time by boiling and shelling.

If you’re up for ordering a whole cooked lobster at the eatery, cracking into one for the first time can be intimidating. “When you order the lobster, you get crackers and a bib. Then you just break the tail apart like that,” demonstrates Marc, as he cracks the tail lengthwise from the underside. “Then you snap the claws off, and you can take the cracker to get to the claw. To get to the knuckle meat, you just use your fork and pick it through there. That’s the tricky part. Or you can use the back of the fork and kind of use it like a little scalpel.” 

If you’re not quite confident on technique, don’t be afraid to ask the New England Lobster staff for tips on how to get cracking.

More than Skin Deep

words by Sheri Baer

Beeep beeep beeep. Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. KKA KKA KKA KKA. I’m listening to a discordant symphony—what sounds like a series of clicks, whistles, car horns, jackhammers and clanking typewriter keys—emanating from what’s been described as an “MRI machine on steroids.” 

And I’m going to Carolina in my mind…” croons James Taylor into my headphones, delivering the musical accompaniment I’ve requested for this experience. Slowly breathing in and out, I mentally remind myself to relax: “This is just like final savasana in yoga.” Although I had decided not to open my eyes, I’m feeling comfortable enough to take a peek and perceive the view as a stained glass window of white light. My only job is to lie there and occasionally hold my breath. An MRI technologist’s reassuring voice talks me through the process. Eight minutes deeply imaging the brain. Three minutes on the neck. Twelve minutes on the chest. Sixteen minutes on the abdomen. Four minutes on the back. Six minutes on the pelvis. Extremities are screened in the final few minutes—and then I’m done. 

In less than an hour, Prenuvo, a medical diagnostic imaging center in Redwood City, has captured a comprehensive scan—a visual blueprint—of my entire body.

“People can spend all their lives looking at themselves in a mirror but what we see is only literally skin deep,” notes Prenuvo co-founder/CEO Andrew Lacy. “What we’re doing is peeling back the curtain.” 

Full-body scans got a deservedly bad rap in the early 2000s, when companies set up shop in shopping malls with CT technology that radiated patients with questionable accuracy. The medical and engineering wizardry behind Prenuvo’s novel approach (with zero radiation) stems from Vancouver BC-based Dr. Raj Attariwala, whose insatiable curiosity led him to pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering and an MD in radiology and nuclear medicine. 

Although aggressively recruited after completing his medical training, Raj chose a self-directed research path, motivated by memories of tragic loss. “We’ve all known people who look young and healthy, and then they’re diagnosed with a late-stage cancer and nobody can believe it,” he says. “I had several patients like that and also close friends.” 

Haunted by the premature death of a high school friend to a brain tumor and his wife’s childhood friend, Reenu, a young mother of four, to Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer, Raj seized upon the life-saving potential of early detection. “Mammography is an example of the power of preventative screening, but the problem with imaging in general is that it’s restricted to individual parts,” he says. “MRIs have typically been very, very slow, and as a result, they’re confined to just one area.”

In 2009, Raj bought a high-end MRI machine and began to tinker. “Was it possible to take a radiology device, an MRI machine, and make it behave like a nuclear medicine machine, where you look at the entire body?” he wondered. Raj worked with a team to customize and fine-tune the hardware and then customized software around it. “Our goal from the very beginning was to make sure the images are the most diagnostically accurate images that you can get,” he explains. “We rewrote software to get quicker and quicker, and I added more and more things to the point where we can actually now detect nine of the ten top cancers in Stage 1.” After launching AIM Medical Imaging in Vancouver, Raj recognized that he would need support to scale his innovation. “My passion is science—making things quicker, better, faster,” he acknowledges. “I’m not a business guy.” 

Enter Andrew Lacy. By way of Melbourne, Australia, Andrew arrived on the Peninsula in 2003 to earn his MBA at Stanford. Following several successful tech ventures, he was looking to make a meaningful contribution in the healthcare space. When Andrew heard about Raj’s work in Vancouver, he flew up to meet with Raj in October 2018 and undergo a scan himself. “From the second I saw the images, it was so clear to me that this is really what the future of health should be,” recalls Andrew. “The good news was that they didn’t find anything life-threatening and until that moment, I never realized the peace of mind you get from knowing 100% that there’s nothing going on underneath your skin. For weeks afterwards, I felt like I was bouncing off the walls.”

About a month later, Andrew called Raj to discuss a partnership. “Let’s work together,” he said, “and see if we can provide that same peace of mind for other people around the world.” In early 2020, Raj and Andrew launched Prenuvo (Pre for preventative, nuvo for new with the “renu” in the middle in memory of Raj’s family friend Reenu) as a diagnostics company focused on the early detection of cancer and other diseases. They selected Silicon Valley—Redwood City—as Prenuvo’s first U.S. location. “People here are early adopters of new technology,” observes Andrew. “And physicians here are very good at referring patients when the evidence is strong that this can help people live longer and healthier lives.”

For patients, the process begins with submitting medical history through an online questionnaire. When it’s time for the MRI scan, light receiver coils are placed on the body, allowing for the capture of up to 2,000 images. As Raj describes it, the coils and cacophony of noises essentially allow the machinery to look at you (and listen) in cross-section—like an AM radio tuned to the unique signal that hydrogen gives off in fat, water and protein.

Once the images are captured, Prenuvo radiologists check for more than 360 conditions including solid tumors, aneurysms, cardiovascular disease, disc bulges and arthritic degeneration. Trained eyes search for signs of abnormalities, inflammation and early lesions. On average, Raj says that Prenuvo detects a life-threatening condition in about 5% of patients who come in for preventative scans. “We’re able to see things well ahead of time—before they become a problem,” he emphasizes. “That’s really quite powerful because if you find it early, you can actually correct for it.” Andrew nods. “We are only just getting started,” he adds, “and we are already providing a potentially life-saving diagnosis a day.”

When it’s time to hear my results, I’m told, “Here’s the headline: Things are all good.” I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Now I can simply be fascinated as I take a visual tour of my inner-workings. I see my cerebellar tissue and a baseline scan of my hippocampus region—which is a predictor for Alzheimer’s disease. “Your brain here is perfect—it’s like a textbook,” I happily process, sending packing any concerns about occasional bouts of forgetfulness. The meet-myself tour continues through my salivary glands, thyroid and lungs. Check. Breast tissue. Liver. Bile duct. Spleen. All perfectly normal. No gallstones in my gallbladder. No sign of any precursors to pancreatic cancer. As we work our way down, my spine reveals an explanation for occasional neck and hip pain—minimal symptoms but they could progress. I now have a medical incentive to be conscious of good posture. “So, that’s you,” my scan consultation concludes, followed by instructions for accessing all of my images and a written report on Prenuvo’s app.   

Raj’s initial vision was to make efficient MRI whole-body imaging possible and the next phase calls for expanding Prenuvo to multiple sites. At the current speed, scans range from $999 to $2,499 with the ultimate faster/cheaper goal being a 15-minute scan that runs about $300-$400. “That’s where we can really transform healthcare globally,” Raj says, noting that it will require better hardware and the support of the computer science and artificial intelligence communities to get there.

As Andrew looks out five to ten years, he envisions Prenuvo playing a similar role to a dentist—in that you would go for a routine checkup (or scan) of your entire body, regardless of how you’re feeling. “The accumulation of images that we take over many different visits helps us get better and better at diagnosing disease and cancer much earlier,” he points out. “The real goal is to demystify these images so patients understand them. At the end of the day, nobody’s going to look after yourself better than you.” 

Santa Ynez Escape

words by Jennifer Jory

Golden hills lined with grape vines. Picturesque towns with distinctive personalities. Cuisine that takes farm-to-table seriously. Cycling and hiking on pastoral trails. Located less than a five-hour drive away, just north of Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Valley offers Peninsula wine enthusiasts a unique wine country experience that feels like Napa Valley in the 1980s. With small producers, family-owned businesses and reasonably-priced lodging, visitors can explore the western landscape and sample abundant varieties of wine. “Santa Barbara wine country is approachable, easy to get around and casual,” emphasizes Ashley Parker Snider of Fess Parker Winery.

Photography: Courtesy of Bri Burkett

Los Olivos

While most guests arrive at the Fess Parker Ranch and Winery by car along vineyard-studded Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos, we opted to explore the Ranch on a Ride, Wine & Dine Tour. Saddled up alongside the daughter of the late Fess Parker (AKA TV’s Daniel Boone), it’s easy to imagine yourself in a Western film. “I grew up riding with my dad as a kid,” Ashley recounts. “When he bought this ranch, there were around eight other wineries registered in the region.” The Ranch spans 714 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley with meadows dotted with oak trees and grape vines that Fess Parker planted in hopes of starting a family business, which continues today, operated by several generations of family. After the ride, we sampled award-winning Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay on the winery’s large veranda and then toured the production facilities. “This is where the magic happens,” notes Ashley as we enter the sparkling tank room. “Everything is hand-picked and hand-sorted.” 

Just up Foxen Canyon Road on a winding country lane, European-style Demetria Winery perches on a hill overlooking vineyards with a large terrace where guests can take in the view. “Bring your own picnic and you feel a bit transported to Tuscany,” says owner Alexis Zahoudanis. Demetria specializes in Burgundy and Rhone-style wines with an emphasis on biodynamic methods and sustainability. “Our 100% Mourvedre wine is my favorite,” shares Alexis. “We also have been making Rosé in the Provençal style since we started the winery. We love the light salmon pink color and low alcohol.” 

Photography: Courtesy of Andrew Schoneberger

A few miles away in the town of Los Olivos, John Dragonette greets us on the wrap-around porch of the Dragonette Vineyards tasting room. ”We are filming today,” he smiles. No, it’s not the sequel to the 2004 movie Sideways that put the Santa Ynez Valley on the map. Rather, John clarifies, it is a documentary on the story of wine growers in the region. 

Inside the tasting room, winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis welcomes us and explains the unique soil and microclimate of the Santa Barbara wine region that help them produce flavorful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, among many other blends.

“The coast of California takes a dramatic turn here and the land turns east to west,” says Brandon, a former geologist. He describes the nearby Santa Rita Hills where he is growing grapes in the largest diatomaceous (fine-grained sedimentary rock) deposit on earth. “We thought, ‘What if we plant right on top of the diatomaceous soil, literally white hills?’” he continues. “The story of Santa Barbara is in the diversity of its soil and climate.”

Photography: Courtesy of Heather Daenitz

Los Olivos provides a well-situated mid-point in the region to enjoy dining, tastings and strolling through shops in the small upscale town surrounded by vineyards. In the center of town, the Fess Parker Inn invites guests into its white-washed farm house and provides comfortable accommodations just steps away from local tasting rooms. The hotel is also home to top-rated Nella restaurant with Italian-born chef Luca Crestanelli, who sources from local farms and ranches to create a rustic, yet fine dining experience with an Italian influence. Luca also owns the popular, acclaimed S.Y. Kitchen in the town of Santa Ynez where the music and wood-fired pizza oven are local favorites.

Down the street in Los Olivos, Brewer Clifton Winery’s tasting room provides both indoor and outdoor seating in a relaxed setting. Winemaker Greg Brewer, who started the winery out of a garage in 2003, casually talks with guests at outside tables. “When the movie Sideways happened, we were jamming and demand for Pinot Noir in our area exploded,” he relays. Named Winemaker of the Year in 2020 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Greg maintains an equal focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Photography: Courtesy of Heather Daenitz

Los Alamos

It used to be easy to miss the turn-off on 101 to the formerly sleepy town of Los Alamos, but not anymore. Today visitors recognize the low-key downtown as a destination in its own right with wine tasting and top-rated restaurants including Bob’s Well Bread Bakery. Known for its fresh-baked sourdough with a French sensibility, Bob’s Well Bread serves up breakfast and sandwiches with savory flavors. Whether you try the Egg-in-a-Jar (purple potato puree topped with gruyere cheese, a poached egg and bacon lardons) or the Cinnamon-Raisin-Brioche French Toast, it’s worth the wait in the typically long line outside. Also a foodie favorite, Full of Life Flatbread features an enormous pizza oven serving popular flatbreads such as Central Coast Sausage with smoke-dried tomatoes, fennel, mushrooms and mozzarella. After lunch, diners can play lawn games on the restaurant’s side patio. In addition to being a dining destination, Los Alamos offers several tasting rooms and antique shops along its main artery, Bell Street. For accommodations, the Skyview Los Alamos is a classic roadside motel that offers contemporary luxury without a high-end price tag.

Photography: Courtesy of Silas Fallstich


Your trip to the Santa Ynez Valley would not be complete without taking a walk down the Danish-inspired streets of Solvang. In 1911, a group of Danes traveling west wanted to start a Danish community and settled on a Mexican land grant surrounding the old Mission Santa Inés, creating what looks like streets straight from Denmark. The quaint (some might say kitschy) town boasts authentic Danish pastries, nearly 150 boutiques and themed attractions. On your way into town, you can even visit OstrichLand USA where you can watch and feed these regal creatures. Nestled on two private acres between the towns of Santa Ynez and Solvang,
the Hotel Ynez provides spacious guest rooms, along with lush gardens, a pool and fire pits within close proximity to wineries.

For outdoor enthusiasts who want to explore the area’s natural beauty, Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling tours lead guided trips out of Solvang where riders travel through picturesque vineyards in nearby Happy Canyon and wine taste and picnic along the way. The tour company also guides hiking trips around the area. Through Moke Experience, visitors can explore Solvang and cruise along town and country roads in brightly-colored, open-air electric jeeps.

Santa Ynez local chefs and winemakers continue to perfect their crafts in this less-traveled California wine country. “Our planting is about ritual and discipline with this beverage that is very primitive,” observes winemaker Greg Brewer. ”And there’s a lot of evolution to come.” 

Diary of a Dog: Enzo

Bonjour! It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Enzo and I’m a French Bulldog or Frenchie for short—although my large bat ears, distinctive wrinkles and fine muscle tone may have already tipped you off. I was born in the U.S., but I consider myself a worldly pup given that I’ve been to four countries and 18 states. I live in Menlo Park with Sherrie, who also happens to be my bien-aimée sidekick and traveling companion. Sherrie used to make frequent work trips, and I couldn’t stand the thought of her missing me, so I happily volunteered to go along. We’ve shared many adventures ranging from trade shows in Vienna to CES in Las Vegas. Given my vast experiences, you may be surprised to learn that my favorite place is quite close to home. It’s the beach. The beach. The wonderful beach. You can see me fully in my element here. I love to play in the sand and run into the ocean but I’m at my happiest when I’ve found the perfect stick to carry around. In fact, my most beloved toy is the Chuckit! stick. You heard right. Forget chasing balls. It’s all about the stick. And although I will never share (and I will even sometimes steal) a stick, Sherrie takes pride in my otherwise generous nature. Whenever we have a visitor, I run right to my toy bin to select a toy to present to our guest. So, in that regard, you can consider me the consummate host.

King of Mushrooms

words by Silas Valentino

Spend a morning foraging for mushrooms with San Mateo’s Todd Spanier and the line between hunting and gathering begins to narrow.

Admittedly, mushrooms are immobile and exist within an entirely separate kingdom from animals, but successfully pursuing them requires trailside techniques akin to tracking prey. You must read the subtle signs scattered in nature, and Todd is well versed in this literacy.

The lifelong forager and fungi aficionado expounds knowledge while guiding tours into the brush across the Bay Area and nearby counties. He passionately relays advice (and indications of toxins or poisons) from his years of foraging to spot and identify edible mushrooms. He learned the art of rummaging through the forest from his grandfather, whose lessons continue to echo decades later.

“Know the tree, know the mushroom,” Todd instructs during a recent forage, repeating an axiom his grandfather Ed Marcellini passed down to him. Todd shifts his gaze to a towering Monterey pine tree, a coniferous evergreen native to the California coast but now found globally due to its use in lumber. The Monterey pine is also a fertile host for growing the coveted porcini. 

Todd points out the “drip line,” how the pine needles droop above a patch of toyon shrub to create a mossy pocket of moisture on the forest floor. “Think of yourself as water,” Todd says. “‘Where would I flow?’” With keen eyes, he spots a mound ever-so-slightly rising within the greenery. Peeling back a layer of foliage reveals a button-sized mushroom packed with nutrients and umami flavoring, ready for the picking. He adds it to his pile and returns to the endless hunt.

Standing nearly seven-feet tall, Todd is easily spotted among the trees and brush, but as it has been since he was five years old, the outdoors is his kingdom. Since 1996, he’s reigned as the King of Mushrooms, a royal title that’s self-anointed but continuously reaffirmed each time he treks out to forage and returns with a bounty of mushrooms.

The mushrooms that Todd finds, along with the species he works with farms to grow, are sold wholesale to local markets such as Bianchini’s and Draeger’s as well as celebrated restaurants across the Bay Area including The French Laundry, Gary Danko and Manresa in Los Gatos. Along with his wife, Cristina, Todd will travel to fungus festivals throughout the West Coast to educate and celebrate the wild food.

 Todd also leads foraging classes through the service ForageSF where folks can sign up for a seasonal excursion to hunt, gather and prepare mushrooms. It’s during these outings when his encyclopedic knowledge of fungi pours out of him between amusing anecdotes of a life in restless pursuit.

Well before Todd was born, his grandfather Ed would traverse the Apennine Mountains near Cinque Terre in Borgo Taro, Italy, in search of porcini. After immigrating to the United States, Ed worked in the flower industry but never ceased foraging. By the time Todd was old enough to haul a sack, he’d join his grandfather in the mountains outside his home in Burlingame to learn the skill.

Their family often played a little game: whoever found the most mushrooms or the largest individual one would earn the title King or Queen of Mushrooms and would not have to clean or cook. Todd relished in delight whenever he earned the crown.

During Todd’s formative years, two events shaped Todd and led him on his path to mushroom royalty.

As a teenager, he pulled a ligament in his leg and had to abstain from playing basketball until he recovered. His creative family championed a DIY ethic (Todd brewed his own beer in high school), so in his downtime, he ventured back into the hills to pick mushrooms.  

Soon, the family kitchen was overflowing with mushrooms. The pantry, freezer and fridge were all stocked with foraged picks in various stages of the drying process. Todd’s mother grew weary of the overstock and drove him to a new restaurant in town called Ecco. Todd approached the owner, Chef Tooraj Sharif, with a bag full of freshly-plucked mushrooms and the restaurateur was quickly impressed.

“He led me to the cash register and took out a $100 bill,” Todd remembers. “It was my first sale! When I got back to the car, my mom drove me straight to the bank to have them break it up into $5s. Then she said, ‘Now this is your lunch money.’”

Later, when he lived in Florence, Italy, for six months, Todd spent the weekends visiting his family in the nearby mountains. The reconnection to his roots was enriched with each forage for mushrooms. In town, he noticed boutique stores that specialized in mushrooms and the heightened reverence for the fungi in Italian culture.

The calling for a career in mushrooms came to a head not long after Todd’s return to the Peninsula. The mushrooms he foraged for and sold to restaurants supported him while he took classes at Skyline and Cañada Colleges. Todd remembers sitting in a business ethics course when his pager kept buzzing. Finding a nearby telephone, he returned calls to eager chefs and before Todd knew it, he was a full-time mushroom forager.

During a recent hunt, Todd wore a custom t-shirt for his King of Mushrooms business as he hunched over a mossy and moist plot. On the back of his shirt is the holy trinity of mushrooms: chanterelle, porcini and morel. He explains how porcini grow near Monterey pine trees and since these trees are grown worldwide for their lumber, porcini have become a global treasure.

“Mushrooms are a reconnection to my roots and heritage. You can go to Italy or South Africa to pick chanterelles. They’re throughout Europe and even Korea. They grow everywhere, except Antarctica. People who love nature, love foraging. We pretty much know all of the plants and animals but fungi are underground,” he says, noting that there are new species of mushrooms discovered every year.

“When you get out into nature, it puts you in the moment. After all, we’re all hunters and gatherers.” 

Perfect Shot: Sharon Park Morning Light

Mornings at Sharon Park in the Sharon Heights neighborhood of Menlo Park are always serene, but Scott Loftesness thought the light was particularly beautiful when he captured this Perfect Shot. “As photographers know, the best picture is often behind you,” he notes, “and that was the case with this shot. I turned around on my morning walk and caught this tranquil scene.” 

Image by Scott Loftesness / @sjl

Bird Man

words by Silas Valentino

There are only a couple of hours of sunlight left as the crowd gathers into the shape of a U around Kenny Elvin and his truck loaded with raptors. Situated near a grove of eucalyptus trees at Coyote Point in San Mateo, the audience is diverse, spanning all generations. But their captivation is universal as they feast their eyes on the master falconer.

Kenny ramps up anticipation with a cheeky call-and-response chant: “Give me a B!” he howls and receives an impassioned response. “Now give me an —IRD!”

He flings open the side door of his truck to reveal Boomer, a kookaburra with dark wings and a white abdomen. The sharp-beaked bird leaps onto a small perch near Kenny and remains tethered to him by a slim rope.

Kenny is a falconer but his flock is not exclusive to that sole bird of prey. He currently possesses seven falcons, five hawks, a pair of owls and the kookaburra, which is the ideal assistant for this educational event. It reacts to an audience. The louder the cheers, the more boisterous the kookaburra will call, leading to its nickname as a “laughing kookaburra” for its rambunctious chuckle.

Kenny parades Boomer around to gazing eyes to measure the state of the crowd and, according to the kookaburra’s cheerful cackle, this bird show is in full swing.

Educational events such as this one at Coyote Point held by the San Mateo County Parks Foundation are only a sliver of Kenny’s work as a master falconer, but it’s a treasured time for human contact and to celebrate these fascinating creatures.

 The majority of his work is in wildlife abatement, using raptors as pest control. Vineyards and farms hire him and his birds as a sustainable scare tactic against unwanted pests.

“Abatement work has changed falconry,” observes Kenny. “We’re getting paid to perform. What we want is the bird to chase but not catch. You’re trying to scare stuff off. But there is a tradeoff; in one aspect, you’re getting paid to fly. But you’re flying every day, so your birds tend to get more exercise and exposure.”

Kenny will source a new bird every couple of years. It works best to start with a younger bird to build that trust and cooperation. “Using positive training measures creates patterns and routines,” he says. “The magic happens when you find new elements to work with.”

Abatement and education help develop and improve some aspects of falconry but hunting keeps the birds keen and strong.   

“I want them to catch their own stuff but I also want them to trust me. When you’re training anything—horses, dogs—if you lose that trust factor, you’ve lost the game,” Kenny explains. “I’ve had some birds that didn’t work out and I’ve had quite a few that have done amazingly well. Each time you get a new bird, you’re dealing with a clean slate.”

Kenny has worked in falconry for 19 years. Following years of working for other people, he established his own business, Full Circle Falconry, about six years ago. It’s been a natural calling for Kenny, who has gravitated towards animals since he was a boy growing up in Los Altos.

“Animals help keep me interested and focused.They have what I call a ‘grounding effect.’ They keep us honest. Animals don’t tend to lie,” he says, then reconsiders. “Crows have been known to shift their behaviors … but most animals are not into deception.”

Kenny’s father was an architect and his mom worked in real estate while taking care of him and his four sisters. He grew up with horses and his first best friend, a standard poodle named Spook. The surrounding property opened Kenny up to frogs, lizards and snakes. In grade school, he remembers friends starting to explore raptors but Kenny stuck with amphibians and reptiles. “I thought falconry was something I’d do in retirement,” he now muses.

Before obtaining his falconry license in the early 2000s, Kenny lived untethered and free; he was a musician who carved his own didgeridoos out of bamboo and eucalyptus, served in the National Guard rising up to the level of captain and spent countless mornings surfing between Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

In January 1986, he met his now wife Kitty through a mutual friend (they quickly bonded over animals) and a few years later, the couple welcomed their daughter Anne. The zoological legacy continues with Anne, who currently works at the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo.

Kenny now lives in San Jose, coincidentally on a street named after a member of the Corvidae bird family, and has a busy schedule keeping his flock in shape. He’s constantly weighing each bird to track their weights.

“As we fly a bird and train it, it’s going to gain muscle mass. You have to bring the flight weight up to keep it in condition. Hawks don’t burn as much energy as falcons do. Falcons burn energy with their intellect—their neurology is moving. That burns up sugar. I feed a falcon two-and-half ounces a day to maintain weight, whereas I feed a hawk three-fourths of an ounce.”

Kenny and his assistant, Lisa Ralston, handling a barn owl and a great horned owl.

He names some of his birds using monikers such as Wyatt and Gunner, but Kenny had a mentor early on who taught him that the bird is a tool and you don’t want to get too hooked considering the nature of, well, nature. (However, the same mentor taught Kenny that a dog is your best friend, a title that currently belongs to a Vizsla Hungarian pointer dog named Jasper.)

“I tend to name my birds after tools: gauge, axe, saber, sprocket. The name is insignificant because it can fly off or get eaten,” he says, speaking from first-hand experience. “It’s always surprising when something happens: I call it ‘the silence.’ You’re looking for that animal but it’s gone. It just happens sometimes. It’s a moment of reflection. If you have a dead bird, then you know what happened. But if you don’t, then you’re always looking.”

Ever cognizant of the natural world’s harsh reality, Kenny remains committed to growing his flock. “If I followed my whim,” he admits, “I’d have more birds than I’d know what to do with—they’re just so interesting!”

Bird’s Nest Guardian

I was visiting my brother-in-law in Re’ut, Israel, this summer and was impressed with the pristine quality of his yards. The flower beds burst with color; the outdoor kitchen, tables and chairs were spotless; and there was not a dead flower bud in sight. It inspired me to bring my own yard up to snuff. 

When I got home, I took a survey of my gardens and lawns and saw a lot of work to be done. It wasn’t as though my personal nature space wasn’t attractive, but upon close review, I noticed messy vines, dead plants and overgrown trees. It was clear that there were many opportunities to make some upgrades. 

This exercise was to serve two purposes: one, to improve my gardens; and two, to get me out of the house and into the air. After too much inside time, my mind fills with too many thoughts that I’d rather not have rattling around inside my brain.

I looked for and found a gardener who I thought would keep a better eye on things and who also had more expertise in a number of landscaping areas. The first thing he found was that I had six irrigation issues—
broken underground pipes, missing spray heads and leaking drip irrigation valves. This explained my several dead plants.

I bought a good number of new plants, both to replace those that had died and others to enhance the various beds. My new gardener redid all the pots, some with annuals and others with perennials. He trimmed back overgrown areas and spent three days pruning trees, which was clearly overdue.

When I would get home from work each evening, the sun with a couple of hours of light still to give, I busied myself pulling dead leaves and branches out of the fig vines that cover almost all the fences, cleaning out ground cover and pulling weeds. There is, apparently, no end to doing these chores. I would do a section and the next day go back and observe how much I had missed. But it was a gratifying effort to see the accomplishments we were making on all fronts.

On a Sunday morning, I started a new mission and for the next many hours managed to eliminate the spider webs and clean everything around the exterior of the houseall the light fixtures, the windowsills, the barbecue, the storage shed, even the garbage cans. Because I am a cleaning fanatic, once I had started, I couldn’t stop until everything was immaculate.

With much done, one bedding area around our backyard porch caught my attention. Because the small trees around it had grown up over time, the once sunny spot was now almost always shrouded in shade. As well, the soil was almost impossible to dig because the tree roots had usurped the space beneath the top layer of soil. The plants there, though filling the space, were a tangled mess. 

The weekend before our gardener was to come help with this area, I discovered a tiny bird’s nest hidden in the plants and within it three small eggs, each about the size of a marble. On Monday, thinking the gardener would come later in the week, I called to tell him to hold off, but he was at my home, seconds away from starting to take out all the old plants. I was grateful that I managed to stop him in time. I told him that we’d have to wait until the eggs hatched and the chicks had flown away.

Every few days I’d check on the nest until one day there were three tiny birds inside. The mother bird would fly back and forth finding food for her little ones. After about two weeks had passed, I looked to find an empty nest. These birds had flown.

Because of the shade, I settled on round English boxwood, tassel ferns, yerba buena and white annuals for the area. As it turned out, the delay worked in my favor as when I went to my prized nursery, Wegman’s in Redwood City, they had an ample supply of all the plants in good sizes and quality, something of a rarity these days.

My final effort was to plant some lemon trees that were on my wife’s wish list. Though I somewhat bungled the effort and removed some plants that were best left in place, we will now be able to produce enough lemonade for our whole neighborhood. 

As I notice the days quickly shortening and autumn upon us, I happily walk outside my home to enjoy the work that has been done. The garden project served its purposes, improving the quality of the nature around me and taking my mind away from its endless chatter. But, of course, the work never ends, and there is always a dead fig vine to be clipped and a trash can to be cleaned

Union Cemetery

It is easy for the eyes of those passing by to be drawn to the expansive mystery of Redwood City’s Union Cemetery. Located on Woodside Road, the six-acre California State Landmark is a lush, stirring setting with long walkways, ornate statues and American flags. In 1859, prior to the American Civil War, the land was purchased by the Union Cemetery Association with the help of a donation from former San Francisco District Attorney Horace Hawes. “It was only called the Union Cemetery because that was the leaning of the citizens at the time,” says Kathy Klebe, president of the Historic Union Cemetery Association. The cemetery saw its first burial in May of the same year. Visitors today can see the tombstones and crypts of notable 19th-century San Mateo county residents including composer John Clifford Heed and pioneer John H. Sears. There is also a designated area of the cemetery for those who fought in the Civil War as Union soldiers with a large statue commemorating their service. Donated by Mrs. Leland Stanford, the monument’s inscription reads, “To the Memory of California’s Patriotic Dead Who Served During the War for the Union. Mustered Out.” The Union Cemetery Association was disbanded in 1918, and the cemetery fell into disrepair, but community volunteers stepped in to help maintain the serene space. Today, the landmark is managed by the Historic Union Cemetery Association, and anyone is welcome to tour and appreciate its beauty. A visit on Memorial Day is especially meaningful. “We have had a very large and decorative memorial service since the 1850s,” notes Kathy. “Normally, we have flags, songs, speeches and a loud anvil shoot.” In 1967, Union Cemetery was designated a California State Landmark, and it is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit to explore a wealth of historical details and documentation. 

The Joy of the Vines

Discovering the Peninsula’s Wine Country

Strolling through rows of Pinot Noir vines, Portola Vineyards owner Len Lehmann stops to carefully wind tendrils back on their wires. “People on the Peninsula don’t realize they live in wine country and think they have to go to Sonoma and Napa,” he says. “This is the epicenter of historical fine winemaking in North America.” 

Len pauses to point out grape flowers and budding fruit on branches on his two-acre property tucked in its own valley within Portola Valley. “I feel we are here for a moment in these vines’ lives and it is a joy to be among them,” he explains. Along with his wife, Vivian, Len is committed to sharing that bliss—the unique terroir of the Peninsula foothills—with the local community. 

A longtime Peninsula resident, Len retired from a technology career to try his hand at agriculture and settled on growing and selling wine grapes in part to honor the winemaking heritage of the area. He didn’t originally set out to become a winemaker; however, a gift from Vivian changed their lives. “One year, my wife bought me a small press and destemmer for my birthday,” he laughs. “She probably regrets that now.” 

As Len tried his hand at winemaking, he enjoyed the connection with the land and discovered that his science mind as a former engineer translated well to the art. “In my previous career, I saw short life cycles with products and companies,” he notes. “I wanted to be attached to something with a little more staying power and work outdoors where I could be a part of the natural order of things.” 

Getting back to the land for Len also opened up a new world of connection among local winemakers in the Santa Cruz Mountains region. “It has been a very warm community of commercial winemakers in this region,” he says. “We gather around a table to celebrate the harvest together sometimes with nearly 30 bottles of fine wines and magnums. We taste each other’s unreleased wine in closed sessions and the winemakers will stand up and tell exactly how they made the wines. There are no trade secrets in this business.”

Len finds the community spirit and teamwork among local wine growers unlike anything he found in the tech industry. “It is a kind of mutual aid insurance program,” he says. “During the winemaking season when vintners are working 16-hour days and things are really tense, fine winemakers of this region found time to mentor me during my first few years. That is real generosity.” When Len asked fellow regional winemakers what happens when one of them is unable to work, they had a swift reply: “If you are injured or sick, the other winemakers will get together and make sure that vintage goes okay for the winery.”

The group of nearly 50 wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains works together to elevate the entire region and keep its historic wine-making tradition alive and competitive. Their efforts have paid off and the region’s wines are gaining recognition. Prince Harry and Megan Markel selected Saratoga winery Mt. Eden for their wedding, and a few years back, the best French wine experts chose Santa Cruz Mountain Ridge Winery red and white varieties over French wines at the prestigious Judgement of Paris. 

Portola Vineyards is a certified organic vineyard and sustainable on many levels including the practice of dry farming, which consists of not watering the vines at all during the growing season. “We just let the plants do what they need to do to find water,” he explains. “It’s astonishing to me to see how dry the ground is in June and July and the vines are vibrant green and not stressed at all.” Portola Vineyards avoids tillage to preserve organic matter and with grape vines lasting over 100 years, they make for a regenerative, ecological crop. “The roots will go down 25 feet looking for water,” he illustrates. “Our only nutritional input is one tablespoon of potassium per year.”

In addition to dry farming, Portola Vineyards employs a unique, natural technique called native fermentation, which is a distinguishing winemaking practice of the Santa Cruz Mountains. “We don’t add any yeast to the grape juice and instead rely on whatever yeast cells are floating around in the air or on the skins of grapes,” he describes. “It is like making sourdough bread and is a longer, cooler fermentation process and arguably it creates a more complex wine.”

As fall harvest approaches, Portola Vineyards’ neighbors and wine club members participate in picking and stomping the grapes each year. “A lot of the kids join in and crush grapes underfoot,” Len smiles. “We have set up this vineyard to share our enthusiasm with local folks.” Much like a “U-pick” farm, wine club members receive an undivided interest of fruit, which translates into the wine bottled from seven vines. The vineyard also offers instruction in viticulture, a unique advantage for those who want to learn more about the trade. “We constantly have a stream of locals and others in the community who work the vines,” Len observes. “Three of our club members have gotten so excited they have enrolled in the University of California at Davis winemaker’s certification program.”

Len initially planted his two acres in 2003 with Pinot Noir vines, and after many years, the fruits of his labor have garnered the attention of wine critics. Just last year, Wine Enthusiast magazine awarded Portola Vineyards a Gold Medal and 90 points for their 2015 Estate Pinot Noir. Earlier in 2018, handed Portola Vineyards 2013 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir a Gold Medal and 94 points. Wine experts have also awarded Portola Vineyards Cabernet and Chardonnay with high marks. In addition, the winery also produces Rosé and a Port wine infused with walnuts. 

California wine growers always navigate natural elements and weather, but recent high temperatures and smoke have proved challenging for the industry. “It was a tough year,” Len affirms. Portola Vineyards produced about one-third of their normal production last year and local vintners continue to brace for rolling blackouts and more trying circumstances. “We were harvesting at 100-degree temps on harvest day, then PG&E cut power,” he recalls. “We were fortunate to harvest early and we produced a lot of Rosé wine, which looks promising right now.”

Despite recent challenges, Portola Vineyards continues with its tradition of community-focused events. Before the harvest every summer, the winery hosts a series of evening jazz concerts with ticket prices at a fraction of the cost of other summer music venues. The line-up includes  Grammy Award-winning musicians and several San Francisco Jazz Festival headliners. Ticket sales begin every April and sell out quickly for the popular events where guests picnic under the stars and taste newly released wines from the vineyard.

While Len offers up grape-growing and winemaking instruction, his wife Vivian expands the community offerings in ways that reflect her own talents—including cooking classes. “My wife grew up in Istanbul and makes fantastic stuffed grape leaves,” Len proudly boasts. “Guests learn how to pick leaves right off the vine and blanch, stuff and roll them.” Additional Portola Vineyards quarterly events for members include yoga in the vineyard led by Vivian and Pizza and Pinot Day when members enjoy flights of Pinot Noir and hot pizza right from an outdoor pizza oven.

With fall harvest just ahead, Len looks forward to the crush and doing his part in keeping the ancient art of winemaking alive on the Peninsula. “Leland Stanford was a big wine grower,” Len relays. “The old red barn on the Stanford campus was the original 19th-century wine building and there was a vineyard on campus.” He pauses before providing a deeper perspective on the importance of his craft. “Winemaking has been around for over 5,500 years. The reason Portola Vineyards endures is to enjoy our heritage of fine wine growing in this area and learn how we have co-evolved with these vines.” 

Living in the Art World

A Palo Alto Couple’s Passion for Collecting 

The Greek statesman Aristides is credited with saying, “Collection is obsession organized.” Palo Alto art collector Pamela Hornik is quick to agree with the obsession aspect of that statement. She and her husband David have, over the past 12 years, amassed a prestigious collection of paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture that are displayed in two adjacent homes located on a quiet, leafy street near Stanford University. They have also become known for sharing their collection by loaning and donating art to regional museums and galleries. 

Although Pamela laughingly confesses that she would like the collection to be more organized, it is clear, upon touring the Hornik homes, that she is extremely knowledgeable about art and passionate about being a collector. As a child, she collected Steiff animals and David has a large collection devoted to Alice in Wonderland volumes. “We have that wacky gene that makes you a collector,” she explains.  

David, a venture capitalist, grew up in small towns in Massachusetts and New Hampshire before heading west to attend Stanford University. Pamela was born in Queens, New York, but lived overseas (Panama, Puerto Rico) prior to enrolling at the University of California at Berkeley. Neither one had exposure to art as children.

The Horniks were drawn to art collecting as a mutual activity after the last of their four children left home. “Some couples decide to play golf; we decided to collect art,” Pamela says, before further clarifying, “This is not an investment collection. We don’t work with advisors and flip the art. It is a passion collection.”

(left to right): Albert, Spaceman O.T. #3 and James by Joel Daniel Phillips.

Viewing the art, which is installed in virtually every room, one can see a theme emerge. The Horniks love representational art, specifically portraits. “One reason I am drawn to the figure,” explains Pamela, “is that each one tells a story.” To that end, the couple has purchased art by some major players in the figurative genre: Chuck Close, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, Robert Mapplethorpe and Cindy Sherman.

As their collecting evolved, however, they also found themselves drawn to emerging artists. “We do have a lot of LGBTQ artists and that has become more and more important to us,” Pamela says. In addition, they have significant pieces by Black American artists and artists from Africa—along with works from Creative Growth, an Oakland-based nonprofit studio and gallery that supports and advances artists with disabilities.

Pamela acknowledges that there is a definite learning curve to collecting art and that initial instincts aren’t always correctly honed. As an example, she shares how she and David considered an early work by Amy Sherrald, who would go on to paint the official portrait of Michelle Obama. They decided not to buy it, which Pamela now says, “was an important collecting moment—who would have known?” They were luckier with American figurative painter Jordan Casteel, who is known for her colossal New York- and Harlem-based portraits, purchasing three of her works for themselves and one for the Cantor Arts Center. “This is a good example of how we are evolving as collectors,” observes Pamela.

Mandarin Warrior by Wanxin Zhang; Official Portraits: Citizen, Official Portraits: Proletarian and Official Portraits: Immigrant by Hung Liu; Unctions of the Luminaries by Conrad Egyir.

She also shares that the very act of acquiring has involved an evolution of sorts. “I used to get very excited and wanted to play the game, getting dressed up, wearing the best purse and shoes,” she says, referring to the often tony settings involved in the purchase of art. “But now my thinking is, ‘I want the piece, I will be a good steward of the piece and I will one day donate it to a museum.’”

She and David rarely buy art at auction (but if they do, they use Phillips) and prefer to make gallery visits both here and in New York City where they own an apartment. They enjoy establishing personal relationships with artists and, as Pamela notes, “If the artists are alive, and if they want to, they become part of our family.”

Another source that Pamela uses frequently is Instagram, which became a lifeline for her during the past year. “I bought more art than I ever did in my life during the pandemic,” she relays. Often, there were surprises when a work of art arrived that was different than portrayed online. This is what happened with a work by embroidery artist and painter Cayce Zavaglia, which was both large and heavily textured. “We have had a lot of ‘Whoa!’ moments,” Pamela recollects with a smile. When that happens, art is rotated around the house in order to find the perfect installation site. And, she says, they are experiencing the bane of most collectors—running out of space. “It makes me sad to have things in storage, out of sight,” she laments.

Nana Kwesi by Serge Attukwei Clottey.

In addition to gallery visits and Instagram, a constant resource for the couple has been the competitions held by the National Portrait Gallery, both in Washington, D.C. and in London. “If you love portraits and collect them,” she observes, “it makes sense to follow who is winning those competitions.” They have acquired work by Berkeley-based artist Lava Thomas and contemporary figurative artist Jiab Prachakul, among others, in this way.

In addition to their collecting activities, the Horniks are also strong advocates for art in other ways. They both sit on boards at Stanford University (Pamela is on the board of both the Cantor Arts Center and the Anderson Collection.) and enjoy supporting artists by sponsoring exhibitions and underwriting books and catalogs. They frequently loan art to museums and galleries and often buy art with the intention of gifting it. “If you have the time and capital to be an art collector,” emphasizes Pamela, “I believe it is your duty to give something back to the public in that way.” 

In turn, the Horniks’ commitment to art philanthropy is both publicly recognized and appreciated. As Elizabeth Mitchell, interim co-director of the Cantor, expresses, “The Horniks are incredibly generous to and supportive of the Cantor and exciting to work with because the figural works and portraits they collect are so tuned into the humanity—not just the ideas and styles—of this moment in time.” Karen Kienzle, director of the Palo Alto Arts Center, sums up their contributions this way: “The art world is a much better place with Pamela and David Hornik in it.” 

The Earth is but One Country (Eastern Bred, Southern Fed) by Amir Fallah.

When asked who in the art collecting world has inspired her, Pamela quickly responds, “Hunk and Moo Anderson,” the Bay Area couple who donated the bulk of their 20th-century American art collection to Stanford University. “I love what they did with their collection to make it more accessible,” she adds. Pamela also cites New York philanthropist Agnes Gund: “She is the real deal, donating art and raising consciousness about mass incarceration and the importance of art education.”

Most collectors have a story about “the one that got away” and Pamela is no exception. Although she loves the work of such established masters as Picasso and Cezanne, the painting she wishes she could own is by an artist from Ghana named Amoako Boafo. It is a bright and colorful portrait of a young Black man, clad in a red checked jacket, holding a small dog. “I have a weak spot for art with dogs in it,” she acknowledges, as she affectionately pets her own small rescue dog, Teddy.

Client by Jordan Casteel

The Horniks say they will continue their pursuit of “obsession organized.” “I want to be more intentional in our collecting,” Pamela adds. “I want it to be meaningful and I want to loan more; it brings me joy to see our art in a museum and to see people viewing it and children on the floor drawing from it.”  

Pamela notes that she and David have learned a great deal about how to maneuver around in the art world, which has a reputation for being snobby and notoriously non-transparent. “I have found my place in the Bay Area art world and I feel appreciated by curators and local galleries,” she happily reflects. “I am appreciated for who I am.”

Sean Kelly by Andy Freeberg

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