Repair Cafe

Blenders balk. Vacuums stop sucking. Speakers start hissing. A rarely used KitchenAid Classic mixer turns lethargic, too weak to beat even a single egg.

Don Van Creveld has seen this mixer problem before. He opened the KitchenAid’s housing and detached the electrical connectors to expose the nuts anchoring the motor. A few expert turns with a socket wrench and the mixer came back to life, whirring vigorously.

Van Creveld, manager of a medical instruments repair business, spotted a misaligned pin in the mixer’s tilt mechanism. He pointed it out to Sela Berenblum, a Stanford chemical engineering student assisting him. She coaxed the pin back into place with a hex wrench.

The repair team slid the mixer back across a table to its owner, Tim Showalter of Newark. “I hate throwing anything out,” he said, relieved. The trio arranged themselves behind the KitchenAid, grinned and snapped selfies.

All around them at Palo Alto’s Repair Café, work was in progress on dysfunctional devices. A pod coffee machine was gunky with hot chocolate. A wall clock wouldn’t tick. A bike didn’t brake. All were being tended to at no charge by skilled volunteers.

Repair Café ( a quarterly pop-up event that aims to take a bite, however small, out of the 254 million tons of stuff that Americans discard each year. When things fade, loosen, weaken, clog, stutter, stagger or quit, they are typically consigned to a landfill. Peter Skinner wants to change that. He launched Palo Alto’s Repair Café in 2012 after reading about the movement, which began in Amsterdam in 2009.

The first Palo Alto event drew 100 people. The second attracted 300. “I was like, ‘Oh, we’re on to something here,’” says Skinner, an executive at Monterey Regional Waste Management District. Today, almost 1,500 Repair Café locations operate periodically around the world, including events in Mountain View, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Pasadena and Long Beach.

Fixes can be as quick and simple as correctly installing batteries. Or they can stretch into hours-long slogs that end with a rueful shake of the fixer’s head. Skinner estimates that around 65 percent of items leave in better shape than they arrived.

This spring’s Repair Café attracted about 150 people, most from tony places like Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Replacing a broken curling iron is no financial hardship for these people. Repairing it rather than junking it, however, is “so Palo Alto, so California,” said Susan Barnet, an etymologist from Menlo Park.

Fixers make no value judgments about the worth or value of what they’re fixing. Jim Wall—an engineer and president of Palo Alto’s tiny Museum of American Heritage, which hosts the Repair Café—and software engineer Antariksh Bothale devoted more than an hour to fixing a leak that had sidelined a 60-year-old Waring drink mixer.

The mixer’s owner, who waited in line for nearly an hour for a consult, could have replaced the vintage Waring with an identical model for $16 online, a retro treasure described by the Etsy seller as “mid-century Danish modern.”

Bothale and Wall easily disassembled the mixer to expose a peppy metal motor in fine condition. “A lot of things you can’t even take apart,” Bothale said, pleased. “That’s a little sad. You should at least be able to take it apart.”

Nearby, a pencil sharpener met a different fate. Ann Lemmenes’ husband, a teacher, had purchased the X-Acto sharpener less than a year ago. His fourth-graders complained that it pointlessly devoured pencils. “It was expensive,” Lemmenes said, “and he was really heartbroken when it stopped working.”

Bill Wall, a retired appliance repairman (and no relation to Jim), removed the cover and probed the plastic innards. “These two pieces should’ve been made of metal so they could grind against each other,” he concluded.

Wall broke the bad news to Lemmenes, who winced. “It’s got to be really dead before it goes out the door,” she said. She pondered her options: Consign the functional but ineffective sharpener to the landfill? Return it to the classroom? Buy a more expensive metal model?

Wall boasted that he’d had a 90-percent success rate at a prior Repair Café, making listless vacuums suck and flickering lamps light. “At work, I fixed everything,” he said. “The dispatchers told me, ‘You’re not our fastest guy, but when you do a job, we never get call-backs.’”

Man of Many Talents

Jeff Wachtel probably wouldn’t be at Stanford if he hadn’t gone to Greece first. It was during the year he spent there in high school that he encountered a group of Stanford professors and graduate students at an archeological dig. A kid growing up in New York City wasn’t likely to hear much about a West Coast institution like Stanford, but that chance meeting when Wachtel was far from home drove his desire to attend college 3,000 miles away from everything he knew. Between arriving on campus as a freshman to his current position as the Executive Director of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program, Wachtel has rarely left the Stanford campus.

Technically, Wachtel did venture off The Farm to complete a master’s degree in city planning from Cal and a J.D. from UC Hastings, after studying psychology and urban studies at Stanford. (His undergraduate advisor was, by the way, famed psychologist Philip Zimbardo.) Wachtel’s interest in city planning was jumpstarted by an early passion for Robert Caro’s book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. During his time as a lawyer, Wachtel mostly focused on housing, which is what led him back to his first job at Stanford, in the Faculty Staff Housing department. Real estate prices being what they are on the Peninsula, Stanford assists new staff members as they move into properties owned by the university. Wachtel retooled the system during his time there, and also became the de-facto city manager of that area of campus. Showing that academics pervades every part of Stanford, he held “office hours” by driving around the staff neighborhoods once a month, stopping his truck to address any residents’ issues. Eventually, Wachtel ended up in the offices of the provost and then the university president, serving as assistant to John Hennessy during his entire 16-year tenure.


Hennessy stepped down from his post two years ago, but in some sense he and Wachtel are still working as a team. The two men both are huge proponents of interdisciplinary learning, and Wachtel is determined to expose the scholars in his program to every subject a university can offer. The Knight-Hennessy Scholars are a group of 51 extraordinary young people, all chosen for what Wachtel calls their “proven ability to address lapses in leadership around the world.” The inaugural class arrived on campus last month and will be able to pursue any graduate program at Stanford for the next three years, all sponsored by the Knight-Hennessy program. But Wachtel is determined that the students under his leadership will be learning about more than just their chosen fields. Wachtel, who himself became a musician late in life, is particularly adamant about the presence of the arts. The program will be housed in its own building, still under construction, that will be filled with art pieces particularly chosen to appeal and challenge the scholars who will be working there. In fact, Wachtel is even having the scholars participate in the installation of a sculpture outside the building, so they can feel invested in the entire process of creating the work.

This is the program’s first year, and as its inaugural executive director, Wachtel is still in the process of figuring out his own role. He wants to be a concierge, helping students access all of the amazing resources on campus, rather than an annoying parent. It’s hard to see Wachtel coming across as nagging; he talks often about the wonderful mentors he’s encountered in his career and clearly puts their example to use. His tall, lean frame betrays the fact that he bikes to work, like so many Stanford residents, although his home is in Atherton rather than a dorm. He does drive when he has rehearsal with the Stanford Symphony though; his instrument of choice is a double bass. “I’m the only guy who had a midlife crisis and bought a station wagon,” he jokes. Musician, administrator, unofficial mayor—Jeff Wachtel is certainly leading by example in his mission to turn the Knight-Hennessy scholars into leaders who can do anything.

I’m Home

It’s almost time for the World Series, and even though the Giants aren’t playing, I’ll be watching. The Series—like all other major events today—doesn’t command the attention it once did since our lives are so divided and consumed with the technological world we live in. But for me, there is something pure and wonderful about the Series, something that hearkens back to my childhood but also acts as a welcome escape from the vicissitudes of my current life.

When I was a boy growing up in Amarillo, Texas, there were two things I loved: baseball and baseball. I was lucky to have a wonderful big brother—Danny—five years my senior who somehow, since our European-born father knew nothing about baseball, was a terrific ball player, always the star of his team.

Danny was thrilled to have a little brother to play catch with and by the time I was three we spent hour after hour on our large, grassy front lawn, throwing the ball back and forth. Our German shepherd, Tamby, would run back and forth between us, a strong encouragement for us not to drop the ball since he would swoop down in a heartbeat, grab it and run off.

By the time I was five, Danny was teaching me all aspects of the game: going from side to side for a ground ball; keeping my butt down and my glove open; and reaching back to feed the apple before making the throw to nail the batter before he reached first base. I loved those summer Texas evenings out in front, Danny and I, playing like we were starring in the World Series, screaming at each other, our voices drowned out by the stretching, pulsating cicadas that filled the big elm trees of our neighborhood.

When I was eight years old, I discovered nirvana at Chandler Baseball Camp in the steaming hot land of central Oklahoma. From morning to night, we played ball. In the heat, we learned how to slide; how to bunt; how to dive with our outstretched gloves to make the big play. Since I was small and fast, I discovered that the bunt worked to my advantage and it became my specialty. To this day, there is still nothing I appreciate as much as watching a perfectly executed bunt softly glide down the chalk line toward third base.

Amarillo had the Gold Sox, a minor league team in the Double A Texas League. But when I was six, Texas got its first major league team, the Colt .45s, who played in Houston in the National League. In their first year they were far behind the league champion San Francisco Giants, who just nudged out the dreaded Dodgers. After Danny and I came in from playing ball, I would run up to our room, get on my prized transistor radio, and listen to the play-by-play of the games. Though we usually lost, I rooted for them just the same. They were my team after all. Their current name, the
Astros, was adopted three years later to reflect Houston’s role as the control center of the U.S. space program.

Last year, after 55 years of futility, with me rooting them on year after year after year, the Astros won their first World Series. I thrilled at their victory. But after living on the Peninsula my entire adult life, I also had come to love the Giants, cheering for them year after year with my four children, going to games, meeting several of the players and team leaders, even living a few blocks from Willie Mays. At my core I wondered, was it the Giants or the Astros? If they faced each other in the World Series, who would I be pulling for?

Last month, I got my answer when the Astros came to the play the Giants. My older son, Josh, and I went to the first game of the series on a clear Monday night—freezing as ever in that stadium—to watch them compete. It was a pitchers’ duel, with no one able to string hits together to score a run. Then, in the sixth inning, when my favorite player, Brendon Crawford, came up to bat, I said to Josh, “This is it. The run. He’s hitting it over the fence.” And damned if he didn’t. Without thinking about it for a second, I jumped up cheering with the rest of the 40,000 fans there that night. And then in the ninth inning, my heart sank when the Astros blasted a three-run homer to win the game.

But that settled it; I knew. Despite 55 years of root, root, rooting for the home team Astros, I was a confirmed forever-forward Giants fan. They are my team. As much as I grew up with the Astros, just like giving up the hometown girl for the one you fell for in college, I was now in love with the Peninsula’s team, our team. Go Giants!

Mitchell Johnson: Creative Colorist

Mitchell Johnson personally wraps, packages and ships most of the paintings he sells to their fortunate new owners. For a painter whose work appears in the permanent collections of 28 museums and over 700 private collections, you’d think he would have people to do that sort of thing for him. And he certainly could.

But this dedicated colorist likes to personally take care of most things that pertain to his work, including tending to his warehouse workspace not far from Facebook’s behemoth campus in Menlo Park. Johnson has an enviable work ethic, but he is also protective of the energy in his studio space. It’s rare that he even gives out the address for his studio. It’s clear that this is not out of any kind of paranoia, but out of a deep respect for his craft and what it’s taken him to reach this point.                                                   

Johnson’s official biography would tell you that his paintings are color and-shape driven; that he tended toward brushstroke-heavy, expressionistic landscapes and figures in the ‘90s and then evolved more toward shapes and brighter color in his paintings of the 2000s. His artistic inspirations range from the likes of Josef Albers, Giorgio Morandi and Fairfield Porter (who was never far from the more well-known Richard Diebenkorn). What his bio wouldn’t tell you is that this is a man who reaches out to his interviewer before their scheduled discussion to get to know her and her own interests, as well as her feelings about art and even life.

It also wouldn’t tell you that Johnson is an artist who has been known to destroy many of his old paintings. (Willem de Kooning is perhaps the most well-known artist who had this same habit.) Of this, Johnson says that although it is true that artists evolve and that every painting he has done contributes to the next, he also feels that some of his earlier work no longer accurately represents his goals and intentions as an artist. He believes that the ability to change is crucial and he accepts that he will see his paintings differently over time. Johnson feels free to change his mind about what works and what doesn’t.

When Johnson gets home from his vigilant nine-to-five working day at the studio, he is a family man, but it is not as if his right brain gets a rest. Johnson’s wife, Donia Bijan, is an accomplished novelist, and Johnson actually credits her with his beginning. It was in her Palo Alto restaurant, L’Amie Donia, where he exhibited his paintings while simultaneously showing on 57th Street in Manhattan and with a major gallery in Santa Monica.

Johnson and Bijan seem to have struck a perfect balance as spouses who are each in the top of their artistic fields. Together with their son, they perfectly orchestrate their holidays and artistic pilgrimages to maintain a healthy home/work balance. They pick spots and times where Mitchell will be able to paint, Donia can write, and their son—who is showing interest in art history and languages—will have some enriching endeavor to take up his time. Johnson and Bijan are one another’s biggest supporters in the purest way, which is unmistakable when you hear him speak.    

Some of Johnson’s most fascinating insights come when speaking about the internet’s impact on the art world. Social media transformed gallery-artist relationships in a myriad of ways, he says. Showing at galleries, which Johnson has done many, many times, has actually hindered him. “When a gallery does well with your work,” he says, “they obviously are going to want more of that same work.” This kept him from growing and evolving as an artist and has made many other artists feel that they couldn’t paint what they were meant to at a given time when in contract with a gallery. “Artists are involved in a long-term gambit, they are navigating a lifetime; galleries are trying to have a good month. The internet supports artists in one way and galleries in a completely different way.”

Of his need to grow and change, Johnson says that he reminds himself, “You see the world as you are, not as it is. The most immediate evidence of this reality is how we all experience and make sense of color in a unique way.” He believes that paintings are a reminder that every person assigns different meaning to everything in life, not just a given painting, and that is especially true when Johnson thinks of those early landscapes shown at  L’Amie Donia.

There will be no open studios to speak of for this fascinating albeit private man, though he knows the times in his warehouse are limited as the Facebook campus continues to grow. Until then, Johnson will continue to “go to the studio to do what you don’t know, not what you do know.”

If you’re lucky, though, you’ll one day get a glimpse of the elaborately painted fence in front of Johnson’s home that’s become a staple of his neighborhood. (You can also catch his work in The New York Times Magazine, on Instagram and in person at Flea Street in Menlo Park.)

Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance

For 63 consecutive years, the Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance has built and maintained a proud tradition of honoring and celebrating excellence in automotive design and engineering. The dedication of the Concours leadership and volunteers, pride of its entrants and devotion of its attendees has earned Hillsborough the proud record as the longest continually running Concours in the world. PUNCH recognizes the important design mark made by automobiles and wanted to showcase some of the most intriguing models from the past year’s Concours. These are automobiles that made a statement, that inspired, that captured the attention of awed viewers. These weren’t just vehicles to go to work or to the store—these were inspired pieces of design that have stood the test of time to mark their place in history. The show features the vintage cars and motorcycles you’d expect, elegantly arranged on the Crystal Springs Golf course. Some cars also participate in the Tour d’Elegance on the day before the show, gathering in downtown Burlingame and then winding their way via scenic roads around the Crystal Springs Reservoir.                                                                   

In 2010, the Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance Foundation was established to significantly extend the philanthropic reach and impact of the Concours organization. In addition to the Hillsborough Schools Foundation, all net proceeds from the Concours and its associated activities benefit Autism Speaks, a national charity with the goal to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders, and The Guardsmen, a San Francisco-based volunteer organization dedicated to helping at-risk children thrive.

1966 Lamborghini 400 GT

robert ross

The 400 GT evolved from Lamborghini’s first production car, the Touring-bodied 350GT. The model fuses the talents of engine designer Giotto Bizzarrini and Gianpaolo Dallara, who engineered the chassis. It is powered by a 315 hp, 3929 cc V12 engine with four camshafts and a 5-speed transmission. The model cemented Lamborghini’s status as the marque to beat, upstaging the best Ferrari could offer at the time. New, it could do 0-60 in 5.4 seconds and had a top speed of 154 mph. Although not an official designation, this “Interim” is the most uncommon of the Lamborghini GT cars, featuring a two-seat body and 4.0-liter engine combined with a transmission and differential of Lamborghini manufacture. The current owner acquired it in 2002 and embarked on a full authentic restoration. It was then shown at the Concorso Italiano (2003) and The Quail (2004). It had not been exhibited since then until it was shown at Hillsborough this year.

1949 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Cabriolet

dave & susan buchanan

It took until 1947 for Alfa Romeo to dig out from Allied bombing of its Milan factory and be able to resume civilian car production with the Tipo 6C 2500. Its coachwork is by Pininfarina. This Super Sport chassis is especially engineered for touring and high-speed driving with a top speed of 103 mph. Its 110 hp, dual overhead camshaft 2443 cc inline 6-cylinder engine has triple Weber carburetors and is equipped with a 4-speed synchromesh gearbox, with the shift lever on the steering column. It rides on sporty 600 x 18 tires mounted on original wire wheels. Only 63 of this type were produced. This example was brought to Beverly Hills from Italy by its original owner in 1957. The current, third owner acquired the car in 2012. A four-plus-year restoration was completed in August 2017. Since then, it has won significant awards including 4 Best in Class, 3 Best of Show and 1 Honorary Judges awards.

1967 De Tomaso Vallelunga

Raffi Najjarian

Argentine-born Alejandro De Tomaso was passionate about building beautiful cars. This rare Vallelunga, designed by Carozzeria Fissore and with coachwork manufactured by Ghia, was named for the track where the Rome Grand Prix once raced. The 1,600-pound, mid-engined automobile is powered by a 104 hp, 1498 cc inline 4-cylinder Ford Kent engine equipped with 4-wheel drilled disc brakes and a pressed steel spine chassis. This example is one of just 32 remaining from a total of 53 production cars built between 1964-68. Its first owner, Nasif Estefano, lived in Modena and raced the Vallelunga extensively. The current, fifth owner acquired it in 2007.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

darwin & patricia ludi

The 1963 Corvette was the most significant in the history of the marque. The changes were revolutionary, both for the body (it was the first time Corvette offered a coupe) as well as the chassis. Its design incorporates a boat-tail taper reminiscent of sporting roadsters of the 1930s and (only in the 1963 model) a split rear window inspired by the Bugatti Atlantique and Bertone BAT. An independent rear suspension was also introduced that year, along with Hide-a-Way headlights. It is powered by a 340 hp, 327 ci small-block V8 engine equipped with a 4-speed transmission and Positraction. The current owners acquired this example in 2000 and began a restoration that was completed in 2015. It was awarded 1st in Class at La Jolla (2016) and Amelia Island (2017) as well as NCRS Top Flight (2010) and Bloomington Gold certification (2014).

1980 Maserati Merak SS

bruce wagner

In 1975, the more powerful and lighter mid-engine Merak SS was introduced, using the Bora body shell but a Maserati-based engine and a 5-speed ZF transmission with a 4.37 final drive ratio. The 220 hp, 3-liter, 4-cam, V6 engine with triple Weber 44 DCNF carburetors has a top speed of over 150 mph. Only 652 Merak SSs were produced of which just over 200 were for import into the U.S. from 1976-80. This is a non-restored, original automobile. It has full papers of acceptance from the “Federation Internationale des Vehicules Anciens” (FIVA) and “Officine Alfieri Maserati” (factory) papers of “Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin.” Also included are the Appointment Data Sheet and Shipping Documents. It has been invited to The Quail and won numerous class awards at Concours d’Elegance including the Concorso Italiano, Presidio of San Francisco, Palo Alto and Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded 1st in Class and the Owners Choice Award.

1972 Ferrari Dino C

Coleman Fung

Dino was a brand used by Ferrari from 1968-76 for its mid-engine, rear-drive sports cars with fewer than 12 cylinders. The 308 GT4 2+2 was a groundbreaking model: the first production Ferrari with the mid-engined V8 layout that would become the marque’s norm. It was the first to feature Bertone (rather than Pininfarina) bodywork. Named in honor of Enzo Ferrari’s late son, its technical and stylistic features influenced many subsequent models. The design embodies the Ferrari’s elegance, inner drive, speed and power. It is powered by a dual overhead camshaft 2927 cc 90o V8 engine with 4 Weber 40 DCNF carburetors. The claimed top speed is 155 mph. Ferrari built 2,826 308 GT4 coupes from 1973-80.

The Beat on Your Eats

Macarthur Park

Palo Alto

MacArthur Park in Palo Alto is celebrating a special occasion this fall—the 100th birthday of the Hostess House, the building which houses the restaurant. Designed by Julia Morgan, the first female architect to be certified in California, the house is one of the few remaining structures of Menlo Park’s WWI-era Camp Fremont. MacArthur Park carries on the spirit of the house’s original use by offering warm hospitality along with a comforting menu featuring seafood, salads and their signature BBQ. Faz Pouroshi, the chef at the restaurant’s helm when it opened back in 1981, is back in the kitchen, so diners can be confident the food is just as good as ever. One of the best ways to sample MacArthur Park is during their happy hour (4:30PM to 7:00PM on weeknights), when you can enjoy classic cocktails like a French 75 or a Rob Roy ($6) along with a half-rack of their signature ribs ($12).

27 University Avenue, open Monday through Sunday from 5PM to 9PM.



If you’ve ever had a group who can’t agree on where to go to dinner, Flights is the restaurant that can solve that problem. The menu includes everything from Hawaiian poke to truffle empanadas, although all the dishes are united by a theme—they’re served in sets of three. If you’re in the mood for shrimp, it comes skewered and seasoned with garlic; wrapped in phyllo dough; and lastly perched on the edge of a dish of cocktail sauce, all on the same plate ($18). If you’re more familiar with wine flights than shrimp flights, you’ll be happy to know that Flights also offers a full bar program, including trios of cocktails (like three different takes on an Old Fashioned), wines and beers.

1100 Burlingame Avenue, open Monday through Thursday from 12PM to 10PM; Friday from 12pm to 12am; Saturday from 11am to 12am; and Sunday from 11am-9pm.

Maison Alyzée

Mountain View

Peninsula Francophiles have been celebrating a trend of excellent Gallic bakeries opening up in the past few years, and the team behind Maison Alyzée is betting that there’s still more demand for buttery croissants and elegant tortes. The culinary team has a resume featuring multiple Michelin stars and well-known Paris establishments like Ladurée and Le Bristol Palace. The patisserie is also open for lunch and dinner, so the offerings include larger dishes like a Croque Monsieur ($12) along with the breakfast pastries and confections. But the dessert case, filled with offerings like the Paris-Brest, a ring-shaped cream puff filled with almond and hazelnut cream ($10.50), is the true centerpiece of the Castro Street storefront.

212 Castro Street, open Tuesday through Thursday from 8AM to 6:30PM; Friday through Saturday from 8AM to 10PM; Sunday from 8AM to 2PM; closed Monday.

Knife to Meet You, Andrew Corradini

Andrew Corradini’s about-face journey from high-tech marketing executive to chef’s knifemaker is a fascinating one; a brilliant example of the “spirit of the Peninsula” —where anything is possible.

After graduating from Wharton with an MBA in 1992 (with a major in entrepreneurial management and a minor in management of technology), Andrew’s goal was to IPO a VC-backed technology company as its CEO. He’d accumulated a lot of experience in programming and the internet before most people had even heard about it.

Corradini was recruited from Salt Lake City, where he is from originally, by a company in Los Angeles. There, he met his wife (through a dating site, which at the time was still a pretty dodgy thing) and together they moved to the Bay Area, eventually landing in Hillsborough where they currently live, to begin their new chapter.

Even though Corradini was not in a dot-com business, the internet crash still brought his professional rise to a screeching halt, as there was a limitless supply of marketing VPs all over the Bay Area. Corradini’s wife, Valerie, was in finance and still experiencing a lot of success, so when the couple’s first son was born, Andrew stepped into the role of Mr. Mom without a clear plan to go back into marketing again.

Shortly thereafter, though, Andrew did attempt re-entry into the rat race of Silicon Valley. Between diaper changes, in his garage workshop, he invented a green process to turn waste sewage gas methane (which has 27 times the greenhouse gas impact of CO2) into clean, high-octane gasoline. He started a company, hired a CEO and CTO, raised $1.2 million, patented his process, and built a pilot plant at the local sewage plant. The company had received Series A term sheets from top-tier Sand Hill Road VCs and was in late-stage negotiations, when the CEO unexpectedly died of a heart attack at 46.

The funding collapsed, and although Andrew tried a re-start for about a year, he eventually sold the assets, disappointed and disillusioned. That’s when he says he knew for sure that he was not meant to be in the corporate world.

After kicking around a bit with what he says was “way too much self-pity,” Corradini realized that what he most enjoyed was simply working with his hands to make things. That meant both in his workshop, where Andrew used skills that he had learned from his grandfather who was a woodworker, and also in the kitchen; cooking is something Andrew has loved since he was a kid. In fact, he still has the copy of the My Love to Cook Book that his mom gave him for his seventh birthday. His mom (a single mother and the mayor of Salt Lake City for eight years despite being neither Mormon, Republican nor male) was a terrible cook, and he learned early on that if he cooked dinner himself, it would be exactly what he wanted to eat.

About 20 years ago, Andrew read a magazine article about a man, Bob Kramer, who’d been a magician and a Ringling Brothers’ circus clown, but hadn’t found a real passion in his life until he discovered knives. Andrew’s wife put in an order for one of Kramer’s knives for $700 or so. Andrew was able to speak with Kramer directly, who agreed to custom-forge a knife which Andrew still loves and uses.

Thinking back on that experience with Kramer led Andrew to realize he’d always had a knack for making things himself and would love to spend his days in a shop full of dangerous tools. From there, Andrew developed his own style—drawing from both classical French and Japanese profiles—rather than Kramer’s more typically German style.

After the disillusionment of his latest venture, about 18 months ago, Valerie was prodding Andrew to decide what he wanted to do next. “What do you want to do with your life and when are you going to get up and go do it?” she asked.

“I want to make knives!” Andrew exclaimed without hesitation.

Now a full-time knifemaker since 2017, Andrew’s bespoke chef knives have been used by a Michelin chef, he’s been commissioned to make specialty Japanese butchering knives for some top San Francisco chefs and more. He uses exotic woods, 1500° heat-treating and ever-expanding custom designs. “I didn’t set out to be a knifemaker,” Corradini says, “just to make myself a knife.”

Andrew’s sister, a Nike executive with a side passion for photography, has documented his work. He’s recruited his two sons, ages 14 and 11, to be his social media marketing team. He’s always done things his own way. And with a waiting list of up to nine months for one of his pieces, we suggest you visit if you know someone who’d appreciate one as a gift next year.

Landmark: Flintstone House

It would be impossible to know who first coined the phrase, but generations of Peninsula residents have grown up calling the unusual building you can see off of 280 in Hillsborough by the same nickname—the Flintstone House. William Nicholson, the architect who built the home in 1977 at the request of a tech-industry family, wasn’t attempting to bring a cartoon to life. His use of a new technique called “gunite,” which involves spraying concrete over a mesh form supported by aeronautical balloons (think papier-mâché), was an attempt to create an organic, naturalistic structure. As the house’s unusual exterior indicates, there are almost no corners in the entire building. The Flintstone House’s original cream color probably contributed to comparisons between Nicholson’s creation and the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and originally the architect wasn’t pleased with the nickname, which he saw as an insult to his artistic vision. In the decades since, the house has fallen into disrepair, then been restored and painted bright orange with purple accents and recently gained some eye-catching decorations. What’s never changed is its popularity with residents and passers-by, and even Nicholson has come to see how beloved it is.

Understandably, not everyone is cut out to live inside a Peninsula landmark. The last time the residence was for sale, it remained on the market for over two years, which even led to its listing on Airbnb while it was waiting to be sold. The Flintstone House has changed hands at least three times in its 40-year lifespan, but almost all the residents have preferred to keep a low profile. Current occupant Florence Fang, the 83-year-old former owner of the San Francisco Examiner, seems poised to break that tradition. Fang bought the house last year and has made waves by adding statues of dinosaurs, mushrooms, a wooly mammoth and other creatures in front of the house. The media mogul has happily spoken to the press about her work on the Flintstone House and seems to relish her new home’s notoriety. Although the iconic house is no longer listed on Airbnb, the joy of peering out the car window to see what’s new at the Flintstone House will always be free.

Open Space Photo Contest Winners

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) announced the winners of its ninth annual digital photo contest this month. Each year, photographers of all abilities are invited to submit images taken in publicly accessible areas of Midpen’s open space preserves throughout the South Bay, Peninsula and San Mateo County coast.

“The contest is a fun way for people using everyday technology, like smartphones and digital cameras, to connect with nature close to home,” says General Manager Ana María Ruiz. “We hope people are inspired to explore their public open spaces, perhaps for the first time, and capture those moments of awe and wonder in nature.”

The 2018 winners were chosen by a public vote on Midpen’s Facebook page; learn more and see past contest winners at

picchetti ranch open space preserve

Photographer: Vedya Konda

About: Featuring an historic winery as well as beautiful scenery, the area takes its name from Vincenzo and Secondo Picchetti. The brothers emigrated from Italy in the 1870s and started growing grapes as well as plums, apricots and pears—crops that sustained the family through Prohibition. The ranch also housed a variety of animals, including peacocks bought by Vincenzo’s son, John. Though the lush landscape is now more likely to be populated with hikers than livestock, a few peacocks still call the preserve home.

rancho san antonio open space preserve

Photographer: Sohum Phadke

About: Phadke, a student from Sunnyvale, is the contest’s first winner in the newly-created Youth Category. Fittingly, Rancho San Antonio has long been popular with younger Peninsula residents, since there’s a designated space to fly radio-controlled airplanes at the park. The preserve’s nearly 4,000 acres means there’s enough room for the planes to fly without disturbing Rancho San Antonio’s more feathery winged residents, like the woodpecker in Phadke’s photograph.

russian ridge open space preserve

Photographer: Stephanie Richardson

About: A registered dietitian, Richardson works at a community health center in Hollister that services a diverse population of low-income individuals. “I am also an artist, and I like to incorporate design principles in my photographs. Part of the appeal of my photograph was the vertical axis being crossed within the composition, as well as the repetition of shapes in the large dewdrops.”

thornewood open space preserve

Photographer: Serisha Nagothu

About: Nagothu lives in San Jose and works as an IT engineer. “I started photography as hobby in 2010 and it became my passion. I love being out there in nature.” She says she always carries her camera, so she’s ready to get that perfect photo. “To capture great shots, we need to be at the right place at the right time.”

windy hill open space preserve

Photographer: Jack Lucas

About: Since this peak is one of the only ones on the Peninsula without trees, you can’t mistake Windy Hill. Hikers who reach the 1,400-foot summit are rewarded with amazing views, reaching as far north as Mount Tam and as far south as Hoover Tower. Be warned though—this photo doesn’t reveal that the weather at Windy Hill can vary greatly from temperatures at sea level, so be sure to check with a ranger before you make your way up.

Best Places to Find: Peninsula Fall

Hooray! Yes, we’ll miss summer, but glorious autumn is here. As temperatures cool, fall’s first spectacular colors break out in California’s Eastern Sierra and gradually descend, week by week, foot by foot, bringing a vibrant palette of magentas, yellows and reds into our own downtown streets and backyards. Still, coastal California isn’t famous for its fall foliage, so we have to work a bit harder on the Peninsula to embrace our inner autumn. We’ve scoured the region and here’s our guide to finding and enjoying the best of Peninsula fall.

1. Explore the Gardens (and Patches)

For an immersive experience of fall bursting into color, the Peninsula has a bounty of botanical gardens, arboretums, and of course, pumpkin patches that you can explore. Woodside’s Filoli Historic House & Garden is staying open for its second fall season. Beyond the famous gardens showcasing gigantic oaks, golden gingkos and Japanese maples, Filoli offers orchard tours where you’ll find a fall rainbow of apples, persimmons, pears and peaches, over 400 varieties in all. Also, make a note of Filoli’s family-friendly Autumn Festival on September 22. Check for details. The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden in Palo Alto feels like your own secret garden, a 2.5-acre fall symphony of Chinese tallow, scarlett oaks and tupelo trees. And, it’s free to visit. Gamble Garden is the place for a quiet stroll amidst oakleaf hydrangea, wisteria and barberries sparkling in shades of bronze, mustard and scarlet. See seasonal photos and more information at And finally, what would fall be without our favorite orange gourds? The “World Pumpkin Capital,” Half Moon Bay, hosts its annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival October 13-14, celebrating the area’s autumn splendor. If you’re not up for braving the traffic and throngs of visitors, venture over another time for a more relaxed visit to the Bay Area’s best pumpkin patches. There’s a list at

2. Follow the Grapes

Local wineries offer front-row access to one of autumn’s best shows, and even better, you get to taste the fruit of the vine. Look for a rolling display of fabulous color, as grapes ripen for harvest and different varietals hit their peak, any time from September through mid-November. At Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards in Woodside, you’ll see plump purple Pinot Noir and green Chardonnay grapes with leaves turning deep orange and vibrant yellow. Visit for everything you need to know about the tasting room and tours. If you’re up for a winding, scenic drive into the Santa Cruz Mountains, you’ll find Monte Bello-Ridge Vineyards nestled at 2,300 feet. Monte Bello grows Bordeaux varietals, with a picnic area where you can soak up views of historic vineyards decked out in fall finery. See for visitor tips and Monte Bello’s tasting opportunities.

3. Go Downtown

With the Peninsula’s tree-lined downtowns draped in brilliant color, it’s the perfect time to stroll, shop or grab a sidewalk seat while sipping an espresso or hot cider. Even familiar spots look dressed up for the season, so you can stay close to home or hop over a few towns. In the six-block triangle of Downtown Los Altos, you’ll see a stunning mix of Chinese pistache, locust, sweet gum, ash and gingko trees. With its quaint village vibe, Los Altos offers more than 150 shops, along with orange-speckled sycamore leaves catching in the breeze. Palo Alto counts nearly 65,000 trees in its urban forest, which fall transforms into a wash of reds and shimmering golds. Get your fill of liquidambars and gingkos as you meander through Palo Alto’s art galleries, specialty stores, and inviting coffee shops. And then there’s Burlingame, aka the “City of Trees,” a designation Burlingame has worked hard to earn. Burlingame’s eucalyptus rows are stunning year-round, but fall’s stars include yellowish-brown California sycamores, purplish-red zelkovas and blazing red sunset maples. Visit October 27-28, and you can combine downtown autumn shopping with Burlingame’s third annual Fall Fest.

4. Hit the Streets

Sitting in traffic on El Camino is no one’s pick for a good time, but that frustration is lightened in fall, when we find ourselves slowing down to notice the leaves brilliantly changing colors. A weekend drive up our own El Camino is now a favorite autumn outing, especially if you take time to pull off, explore secluded side streets, and fully appreciate the lush gardens and tree canopies in our Peninsula neighborhoods. We all have our own special detours we like to take this time of year. If you’re setting a course with your GPS, here are a few more suggestions: Hillsborough’s Barroilhet Avenue, Chateau Drive, Remillard Drive and Ralston Drive; Atherton’s Atherton Avenue, Isabella Drive, Almendral Avenue and Monte Vista Avenue; Menlo Park’s Allied Arts streets and Guild, Bay Laurel Drive, Oak Avenue and Glenwood Avenue.

5. Head for the Parks

Whether you’re laying out a picnic, hunkered down for a good read on a bench or lacing up hiking boots, the Peninsula’s neighborhood, city and county parks offer the perfect fall backdrops. In San Mateo’s Central Park and Japanese Garden, delicate and iridescent red and yellow leaves flutter down from the Japanese maples. Wind your way back to Huddart Park in Woodside for miles of trails and the chance to see native trees like bigleaf maple, California black oak and valley oak, with deeply-lobed leaves turning from yellow to light orange. Heading south, but still part of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Rancho San Antonio County Park and Open Space Preserve has rolling hills aglow with native deciduous oaks and maples. Take an easy one-mile stroll out to Deer Hollow Farm or map out a fall splendor loop from the area’s 24 miles of trails.

the peninsula’s #1 leaf lover

Sure, we all love fall, but John Poimiroo’s passion for nature’s parade of show-stopping color makes him the ultimate fan. Originally inspired by a New England colleague outraged by any California boast of fall color, he launched California, a website dedicated to making sure every spectacular changing shade of blazing orange, yellow and scarlet is fully appreciated. The site’s tagline is “Dude, autumn happens here, too.”

Although John now resides in El Dorado Hills, his roots are deeply embedded in the Peninsula. He grew up in San Mateo and Hillsborough and attended Burlingame High School, and it’s here that his admiration for autumn first took seed. In the same way our mix of locals and transplants makes Peninsula communities unique, John will tell you that it’s our blend of native and exotic trees and plants that gives us fall shades and hues you won’t find anywhere else.

If you’ve ever noticed the colors starting to change and then blinked to discover bare trees and piles of crumpled leaves, John is just the guy to make sure you don’t accidentally blow past this fabulous season. Instead of “Ready, Set, Go!”, his website speaks in leaf language: Just Starting, Patchy, and Peaking (Go Now!). It’s a handy resource if you don’t want to get caught again by his final leaf stage: Past Peak (You Missed It).

When it comes to fall colors, New England typically gets all the shout-outs. What do we have to brag about here in California, and specifically, on the Peninsula?

The reality is that on the Peninsula, there is very little native fall color. You really have to search for it, you have to be quite an appreciator of it, and you have to go out of your way to find it. It’s in the creek drainages, and it’s along some trails. Whereas the fall color that’s been planted here is overwhelming, in New England, they have all native trees. Because we have a Mediterranean climate, we’re able to grow plants from all over the world, like deciduous trees that show their fall color in those countries and can survive in California. Therefore, we have an added layer of fall experience that other destinations don’t have. We also have the longest fall color season in North America that actually starts in September and continues past January.

What do you love most about fall on the Peninsula?

Many people think that October on the Peninsula is the best time of year. You don’t have the cold air coming across from the ocean, it’s clear blue skies and warmer and stiller, and it’s just beautiful color at that time. The hills in Burlingame and Hillsborough are just full of spectacular displays of exotic trees, oaks and so forth. I remember in my youth going to football games at Burlingame High School and just being surrounded by this beautiful rainfall of leaves as we walked to the football game. There’s this crisp feeling in the air. The fall colors are really seen in the towns, and I love going to a great little coffee shop or walking through a shopping district and being surrounded, just enveloped by it.

Which plants and trees really make us say “Wow!” at this time of year? 

On the San Francisco Peninsula, let’s talk about the exotics first. The most popularly planted tree on the Peninsula is the liquidambar. Liquidambar has a really beautiful flame color. And then there’s the Chinese pistache, which is the most vibrant of all the exotic trees. It has spindly-type leaves that change in color from lime to yellow to orange to red, and they are literally fluorescent. Ginkgo is planted in a lot of locations and has a beautiful yellow leaf, and when they are planted in profusion, it makes for a spectacular show. For the natives, bigleaf maple has a very large, classic maple-shaped leaf that turns yellow and golden. California grape is a native shrubbery that’s very common in the Bay Area. It’s a beautiful purple and auburn and goes to a bright crimson, orangey-red color. Another plant, often overlooked but in great profusion, is poison oak. People say they don’t want to be near poison oak, but it has a beautiful bright, deep red-crimson color in fall. Some of the best photographs I’ve seen are of poison oak.

How do we take full advantage of your website,

If you want to see the most spectacular fall color, you have to go to the destination when it’s peaking. So, that’s how you use the site. On the right side of the site, there are all kinds of tools you can use. There’s a California Fall Color Google map, updated as I receive reports. The leaves on the map will start to change color to light green, then yellow, then orange, and then red. That tells you what stage of peak they’re at. The most valuable tools are reports by month/year and reports by location. If you know when you’re going to travel to an area or if you’re welcoming visitors to the Peninsula, then go to month/year and see what’s going on. You’ll know exactly when and where all the beautiful colors will be peaking.

Changemaker Chris Kelly

Some people know Chris Kelly as the owner of the Sacramento Kings. Some people know him as a candidate for California Attorney General. Some people know him as the lead on Security and Privacy as employee #20 at Facebook. However one might know Chris Kelly, all would agree that he is a human who understands how wildly fortunate he is and who is trying to use his resources, and his vast knowledge of technology, for the good of the world.

“I have the good fortune to have done well and with that, there is a huge obligation to leverage that for social good. Even in for-profit ways.”

It seems that the general conversation about technology recently has been its evils: its hindrance of personal, in-real-life contact, the risks that it can spread inaccuracy, the fact that its allowed for illegal exchanges through the dark web; you may have heard of the newfangled phenomenon of “tech addiction specialists.”

Chris Kelly, who lives in Atherton with his wife and two kids, understands this, but also knows that tech is here to stay, and is taking pains not only to secure it for our entertainment and efficiency purposes, but also to flip the script so as to actually use it for helpful changes. As Peninsula residents, our proximity to Silicon Valley makes this a very pressing issue. What follows—ways in which some of our area’s biggest tech titans (speficially Chris Kelly) are utilizing what we know about technology to improve our lives in safe ways—will hopefully inspire readers to ask themselves how to take technology in our area—and beyond—and make a positive difference.


Chris Kelly has always put children first and his use of technology to help win the battle against cybersecurity and trafficking that could harm children is inspirational.

First, in 2012, Chris Kelly helped rewrite Proposition 35, the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act,” which banned human trafficking and sex slavery with a number of measures, including increases in prison terms for traffickers, requirements for sex traffickers to register as such, requirements for criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims and more. This proposition was approved by a whopping 81% of voters, making it the most successful ballot initiative since California’s ballot process began in 1914.

About 12 years ago, Chris Kelly stepped up as Chairman of the New Leadership Council (NLC). The NLC instills faith and grants resources to support millenial thought leadership. Millenials, soon to be the largest voting block in American history (to the tune of nearly 83 million voters), will harness significant economic power. Chris Kelly believes that millennials will be the generation to truly change our institutions in American society and through the NLC, so he is looking to them to help remedy various aspects of the online cybersecurity crisis.

What got Chris started in this fight was a deep understanding that something was broken on the internet. In the late ‘80s, Chris was working as an outside attorney and saw way too much of what he calls “the uglier sides of humanity.” He also recognized a real misuse of what would have been helpful tools like Craigslist.

As a Silicon Valley attorney before his current endeavors, Chris Kelly has a long track record of representing companies that are championing substantive cybersecurity initiatives. He even served as a policy advisor to President Clinton on policies that make the internet a safer place for children and adults. As the first Chief Privacy Officer, General Counsel, and Head of Global Public Policy for Facebook, Chris helped the company grow from its college roots. Because of Facebook’s newsmaking security breaches of late, Chris can’t seem to get too far without being asked about it. Happily, he says that he believes Facebook has stepped up in a real way to remedy the issues with their system—by adding another identity layer, for one. “Perfection can’t be the standard,” Chris says. “Because there are bad things in the world, there will be bad things online.”

“The problem of cybersecurity is that it has so many layers,” he adds. “And the political issues process doesn’t make it easy to force change.” A combination of working to rethink the way that trafficking is done in the digital age and a refocusing on criminal enforcement has been at the core of Kelly’s efforts.

Other tech heavy-hitters are also helping out with children’s rights through their vast Silicon Valley networks. Charlotte and Dave Willner, heads at Airbnb and Pinterest, respectively, are joining forces to protect children with The Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES.) They had a goal to raise $1,500 in a weekend to provide free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children. By the end of the week, the mobilization of their networks had brought in nearly 20 million dollars. Makes one proud to live in our area, where successful people are using their resources for altruism and philanthropy.

No matter what political camp we are in, we all want children to be happy, healthy, safe and cared for and Chris Kelly is constantly demonstrating that we should we all put those things before any personal agendas.

Another way Chris Kelly is using technology for good is through politics. To be clear, he is not doing it in a partisan way. Organizer, Chris’ app, has been constructed to help streamline the political process and it’s being started right here on the Peninsula.

Kelly believes that technology can and should be used to improve the integrity of politics at a base level. It seems unreasonable that we can put a man on the moon, yet most political tallies, census and polling are done with old-fashioned pencil and paper, which is not only time-consuming, but is also prone to error. As the first Chief Privacy Officer for Facebook, Chris knows intimately the importance of protecting our information.

The impetus behind Chris’ inception of Organizer was his interest in how we can gather and use accurate data in real time. Camps on both sides of the aisle can use the technology to implement systems wherein they can see what needs to be done in their campaigns, the public feeling on a given subject and, of course, their polls, in real time.

Chris also sits on the Board of Directors at the Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Institute, which has attracted the likes of Silicon Valley technology veteran and former CTO at Sun Microsystems, John Gage, as its director. OSET is all about researching, developing, and making innovative elections software publicly available in order to increase verification, accuracy, security and transparency in the policical process. Its goal is also to ensure that ballots are counted as cast. This work is philosophically and actually for the benefit of the greater public, no matter your political affiliations. Above all else, Chris says it’s about integrity in elections while lowering costs and improving usability. It’s been said that Organizer, which is now only available for use by campaigns themselves, will one day soon be used across the board for elections large and small.

Sports is an arena (pun intended) that has a history of separating itself from technology, probably because sports are necessarily played in person. But Chris Kelly saw an opportunity when the Sacramento Kings came up for sale, and he isn’t the only Silicon Valley tech titan to get involved.

Kelly, who is a part-owner, has been instrumental in making the Kings one of the most tech-forward professional sports franchises in the world.

Though he spends much of his time here on the Peninsula in his home in Atherton, Kelly never misses a home game in Sacramento.

So, why the Kings? Kelly was in the right place at the right time when the opportunity presented itself. When news came that the Kings would be relocated to Seattle, leaving Sacramento as the only U.S. capital without a professional sports team, Kelly jumped at the chance.   

Within the ownership group for the Kings, Chris is the designated tech person. He spearheaded building the new Golden 1 Center, an arena which claims to be the most wired and tech-centric area in the NBA. It contains Tier 4 data centers—the caliber of data center you find only at Facebook, Google, Amazon and the like. This infrastructure can support up to 250,000 Instagram photos posted per second when the arena is at capacity.

Golden 1 is also the first arena to be outfitted with blockchain, which is the underlying technology for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ripple. The group is also mining Ethereum (a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts, which prevent the possibility of fraud or third-party interference). The Ethereum is then given back to the Bill Black Comcast Foundation, which funds digital literacy programs, community service and volunteerism initiatives and more. Again, Kelly uses every opportunity to wring the positive social impact from his technological endeavors.

Chris sees sports teams as social networks and thinks that when we utilize technological ability to help people connect with a team and the team to connect with the people, we turn sports teams into platforms to be used for good and to champion beneficial campaigns, ideas and thoughts. “A sports arena should be a civic space,” Kelly says.

Although the complexity of many of these technological endeavors can be mind-blowing, Kelly has a knack for explaining them—and the earnest reasons for doing them—as if he is describing the simplest of things. In this, he uses Silicon Valley technology to provide benefits for the largest group of people possible.

With Silicon Valley in our backyard, it’s great to know what is being done to make sure technology doesn’t continue taking on a life all its own and has champions like Peninsula native Kelly leading the charge, even though he still refers to himself as “just a San Jose kid.”

The Beat On Your Eats

Porta Blu

Menlo Park

The words “hotel restaurant” probably conjure up images of bland furniture with even less exciting food, but Hotel Nia’s Porta Blu is anything but boring. Your first clue comes when you realize that the restaurant’s titular blue doors aren’t near the entrance but are instead suspended above the main dining area. Ceiling decor aside, the real action at Porta Blu takes place in the open air of the restaurant’s patio. Almost every piece of the Hotel Nia was custom-designed, and that helps keep up the illusion that you’re eating in a coastal villa rather than a few hundred feet from 101. The smartly-outfitted bar staff are pouring cocktails like the “Courtyard Fresco” (lime, salted watermelon and vodka, $16) for guests to sip poolside along with various mezze and pita bread. Porta Blu’s menu also runs to larger entrees including Turkish chicken kabobs ($24) that certainly will draw in a dinner crowd from outside the hotel grounds.

200 Independence Drive, open daily from 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM.


Palo Alto

This is the first time Thanasis Pashalidis and Hakan Bala will be in charge of a restaurant, but they’re certainly no strangers to the Peninsula dining scene. The longtime friends first met and worked together at the Palo Alto institution Evvia, and Pashalidis went on to join the team at other notable restaurants including the Village Pub and Mayfield Bakery. While they and executive chef William Roberts (most recently of Dio Deka in Los Altos) have fine dining experience to spare, their new project is trying to strike a more casual vibe. The menu focuses on bites and small plates, drawing inspiration from the small neighborhood restaurants in Greece from which Taverna takes its name. The team behind Taverna hopes that with a constantly rotating menu based on seasonal produce and a wine list that features bottles from small, exclusive Greek producers, they can offer something fresh. And besides the saganaki ($16), an appetizer of pan-fried cheese flamed tableside, there will be another unusual sight in Taverna’s dining room—the restaurant’s co-owners both plan to work shifts waiting tables. 800 Emerson Street, open Monday through Thursday from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM, Saturday 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM.


Half Moon Bay

If your experiences dining in Half Moon Bay have been limited to a deli sandwich enjoyed on the beach, make a point to visit Impression on your next trip to the coast. With a second-floor dining room that offers stunning views of the waves crashing into Maverick’s beach, the restaurant’s chef Florent Courriol is striving to offer food that lives up to the scenery. Mixing the French cuisine of his early years with Asian techniques, Courriol has created a prix-fixe menu that highlights the best of Californian produce and seafood. At dinner, three courses (an appetizer, main and dessert of your choice) is $49, with the option to add other items. Though the menu rotates frequently, recent dishes run the gamut from grilled octopus with romesco to duck confit. But if a set menu just isn’t your thing, stop by for Sunday brunch, which includes options like a homemade cinnamon roll ($8).

260 Capistrano Road, open Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM, Sunday 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

Alotta Michelada

Warm, late summer nights call for drinks that are refreshing but not too strong, so you can pour yourself something to cool down without worry that you’ll have a headache tomorrow. Low-proof drinks, also called session cocktails, are the house specialty at the Los Altos hotspot Honcho. In addition to craft cider, beer and wine, the bar has a full menu of cocktails with low-octane ingredients. Since he doesn’t have a full liquor license, owner Rod Newman stocks the bar with what he calls “an obscure collection of alcohol which is not easily available to the general public.” But other drinks at Honcho are mixed with more easily obtainable drinks, like the ‘Honchelada.’ Based on a Michelada, a Mexican classic that can be as simple as a can of beer with a squeeze of lime and a few dashes of hot sauce, Honcho’s version adds a few extra steps to make the drink even more delicious.

Like its cousin-cocktail the Bloody Mary, a Michelada is completely customizable, so making it at home means you can develop your own signature spin on the recipe. At Honcho, they add Secret Aardvark hot sauce and Maggi, a savory Swiss seasoning, along with other ingredients the restaurant wasn’t willing to divulge. You can use your favorite brand of hot sauce along with a dash of Worcestershire to recreate the spirit of the Honchelada. While an imported cerveza is a popular option for this drink, you can choose to keep your version close to home since local breweries Anchor Steam and 21st Amendment both make Mexican-style lagers. Just be sure your beer of choice is well-chilled when you make this drink—we still have a few more hot weeks left.

make it


  • Tajín spice mix
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Bloody Mary mix
  • 1 (12-ounce; 355ml) can or bottle
    Mexican-style lager
  • Hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce


1. Cover the bottom of a small plate with Tajín.

2. Make a shallow slice into one of the lime wedges. Take a tall glass, turn it upside down and swipe the lime slice around the rim of the glass.

3. Place the lime-rimmed glass in the spice mixture and swirl around to coat the outside edge of the glass. Flip the glass upright.

4. Fill the glass with ice, then add Bloody Mary mix until the glass is two-thirds full.

5. Squeeze a few wedges of lime into the drink, then top off the glass with the beer. Stir gently with a long spoon, then garnish with a lime wedge.

6. Serve the drink with the remainder of the beer on the side for topping off, along with the rest of the lime wedges, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

The (Pizza) Robots Are Coming

When’s the last time you thought about the box your pizza comes in? Since the answer is probably “never,” you’ll be aghast that the team at Zume Pizza in Mountain View spent almost two years working to design a new and improved container to keep the company’s pies at their best. However, Zume wants to change more than just pizza boxes and instead is trying to revolutionize the entire industry of food delivery. A combination of humans and robots make a dozen varieties of pizza each morning at their headquarters. Then they’re loaded into a truck equipped with ovens, so that each pie can cook while it travels to local customers. (Zume will soon be delivering to even more South Bay locations like Sunnyvale and San Jose.)

Alex Garden, CEO and Chairman of Zume Inc., sees his company as an example for how automation can improve an industry without harming the people who currently work there. Unlike other food delivery services, Zume uses no outside contractors, and instead relies only on a small team of employees with full benefits. Oh, and those pizza-making robots.

You grew up and began your career as an entrepreneur in Canada; how did you know that the Peninsula was the right place to start Zume?

I learned so much from my Canadian entrepreneurial experience and went on to build companies in a variety of sectors, all of which has shaped how Zume’s been built. That said, there’s really no place in the world quite like the Peninsula. The unique concentration of venture capital, innovation in AI and the abundance of delicious, organic ingredients made starting Zume here an obvious decision.

As someone who is immersed in automation, what jobs do you see around you that you think will be done by robots in the next ten years? How will that change our lives?

There are many tasks that are boring, repetitive or downright dangerous for humans that are great places to implement automation. The key is that the surplus captured from the automation must be reinvested back into your employees, community and customers—offering employees training and upward mobility in your company or purchasing better ingredients/products for your customers. We are at a pivotal moment in the next phase of automation where CEOs will be faced with this choice, and at Zume, we’re holding firm that automation exists solely to improve human lives. If others follow suit, we’ll see greater job opportunities, higher wages and health benefits, and better outcomes overall for the entire community, not just shareholders who’ve historically benefitted from this.

As a CEO, what do you think you owe the human, a.k.a. non-robotic, workers who keep Zume running?

Everything. Let’s face it—a robot can’t run a company or know if a pizza tastes good or ensure quality customer success. A robot can accelerate a company’s processes but it’s the people of Zume, who have grown with us, who make this worth doing and frankly make it possible.

A great example is Robert Medina, known as Uncle Bob in the kitchen. He’s been in the pizza business for over six years and joined Zume Pizza in 2016 specifically for his expertise in artisanal dough. Now, with our newest robot Vincenzo, Uncle Bob spends most of his day preparing dough, cooking from scratch and creating delicious recipes, rather than spending half his day taking pizza crusts in and out of the 800-degree oven. By freeing up our employees’ time, we are able to prioritize our team’s growth, identify their strengths and move them into higher-skilled positions more quickly.

What things in your life do you automate?

Very little, actually. I spend more time asking what I can eliminate that’s not absolutely essential to meeting my family and work commitments. Once I’m down to the essential, minimum number of commitments, I prefer to do them manually. This keeps me connected to the people I’m responsible for.

The Benefits of Staying Afloat

Float therapy. Sensory deprivation. Weightlessness. Back in 1980, William Hurt triggered a pop culture craze with his bizarre transformative journey in the movie Altered States. Nearly four decades later, we are seeing a new wave of float fascination—whether it’s helping Steph Curry find his focus in a TV commercial or creating a pivotal plot twist in Netflix’s Stranger Things. Floating is clearly top of mind again, and in fact, for five consecutive years now, the number of float centers has doubled in the U.S.

One person we can thank locally for that popularity surge is Andrew Dannaoui. Andrew discovered floating while living in Australia and it became his go-to way to recharge after a hard, physically demanding week. After moving to Portola Valley in 2014, Andrew was disheartened to find no float centers on the Peninsula. By the time he got through fighting traffic up to San Francisco and driving back from a session, he says, “any effects of relaxation therapy kind of disappeared.” Recognizing an opportunity, he opened Balance Float in Redwood City, one of several centers now in easy reach. If you’re intrigued by the idea of a sensory deprivation dip, here’s the lowdown from Andrew on what’s involved in going afloat.

Why is floating getting a lot of attention?

The sports and fitness industry has really understood what the benefits are and how it’s helping. For instance, you’ve seen the latest Steph Curry ad—it’s him getting into a float tank, and he also did an ESPN special talking about floating and what it does for him. Tom Brady named floating as one of the top 10 things he likes to do in Forbes Magazine, and he actually has a float tank in his house. So as these more prominent celebrities and pro athletes start to use them and talk about them, there are a lot of people catching on and realizing, “Hey, we can benefit from this too.”

So once you’ve climbed into the float pod and closed the top, what happens next?

Floating is a two-part process. The first part is the physical aspect of floating. You’re in 1,000 pounds of epsom salt in just 10 inches, 160 gallons, of water. It’s a very high concentration of epsom salt. Epsom salt is a muscle relaxant, so first of all, it’s great for muscle recovery and helps breaks down lactic acids. But the other thing is by having such a concentration of salt in the water, it creates a very high buoyancy, which also creates a zero-gravity environment, so there’s no pressure on the joints. You don’t need to know how to swim, you don’t need to know how to float; there’s so much salt that it will push you all the way to the surface without you even trying. The other part of floating is the mental part. Essentially what we’re doing is we’re shutting down the five senses to the brain. There’s no light, it’s dark, there’s no sound, there’s no touch because the water is at skin temperature, there’s no taste because you’re not eating, and there’s very little smell because it’s just salt water. So, when you shut down the five senses to the brain, it allows the brain to go into a very deep state of relaxation.

How do you get the most out of a float experience?

Floating can be used to help improve sleep quality, anxiety, depression, PTSD, back injuries and muscle recovery. It’s like meditation in a sense that it’s a practice and you get better at it. What commonly happens at the beginning when people first start floating is they get lots and lots of thoughts, so the challenge is to start quieting the mind. Usually by the 20-minute mark, the body has absorbed enough epsom salt for it to start physically relaxing you, and it also naturally helps calm the mind, so you’ll start to slow down your thoughts, you’ll start to feel more relaxed. And then usually by the second half of your float, you’ll be very relaxed, very calm. You’ll get into the theta brainwave state, that’s the state between being awake and being asleep; it’s right in the middle. We say to really understand floating, you have to have floated three times. The first time you’re kind of just getting used to the environment and understanding the sensations of what you’re feeling, the second time there’s a bit of muscle memory there and your body understands’ “I’ve been here before,” and the third time is when you get in there, and you absolutely relax.

Who are the big floaters on the Peninsula?

I would probably break it up into three groups. There is the health and fitness industry, so the pro athletes, personal trainers, that group of people. And then there are the people who are into mindfulness and meditation; that would probably be the second biggest group, and then the third biggest group is definitely the Silicon Valley people who are in highly-stressful environments and need to shut off, usually coming in at the end of the week, slowing down, getting relaxed for the weekend. We even get corporate people who come in here stuck on a problem; they go into the tank and meditate, and they come out with the answer and say, “I’ve got it, see ya!”

nearby flotation locations

Balance Float

1922 El Camino Real

Redwood City


Insight Float Spa

609A Old County Road

San Carlos


Float Realm

20603 Third Avenue



Float Station

36 Railway Avenue


Breaking Bread: An Unexpected Bakery

You’d be forgiven for driving past the building that houses the Midwife and the Baker. The low, green-trimmed warehouse in residential Mountain View doesn’t exactly scream “artisan bakery.” Although this is the first time it’s had a retail storefront, the Midwife and the Baker started in 2015. At first, Mac McConnell (the baker) was making a few loaves of bread that he’d sell once a week at his wife Jenna’s (the midwife) office in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.

Though the bakery has built quite a following since then, selling at farmers markets and through wholesale clients like cafes and grocery stores, McConnell seems a bit surprised that people are showing up to buy bread basically out of the side door of a warehouse. “It’s almost like a speakeasy,” he says. “You have to know about us; there’s no signage at all.”

McConnell was working as an engineer when he became an avid home baker, the kind of person who wakes up at odd hours of the night to check on his doughs. Taking a leave of absence from his job to attend a program at the San Francisco Baking Institute (SFBI) was enough to convince him that he wanted to transition from a hobbyist to a professional, and he hasn’t looked back. After working in bakeries in the North Bay and on the East Coast, McConnell returned to the SFBI as an instructor.

The bakery’s staff is small—almost all the bakers are ones McConnell taught at SFBI—but they go through almost two tons of flour a week. About half of that flour arrives in Mountain View as whole grains from local farmers. Then, the team uses a mill with two vertical stones (made of granite that McConnell carved himself) to grind the grain into flour. The result is staggeringly different from something you might buy in a grocery store. McConnell likens the freshly milled flour to the first dusting of snow that falls during really cold weather; it’s so fluffy and light that you can barely feel it between your fingers, and it holds together when you pick up a handful and squeeze.

They use a wild yeast, or sourdough, starter to make their bread, but the term “sourdough” almost makes McConnell wince. “It’s such an unfortunate name,” he says. After going through the trouble of milling his own flour, it’s the toasty, burnt-honey flavor of the grains that he wants his customers to taste first, not a vinegary tang that dominates other flavors. Some people might think of whole-wheat breads as hard and dense, but by using fresh flour and a high-hydration dough (meaning that there’s a fair bit of water for every ounce of flour in the recipe), the Midwife and the Baker’s whole-grain loaves are light and chewy. That natural yeast also means that the bread stays fresh and soft for a surprisingly long time. “We’re so proud when a customer comes in, having bought a loaf a week ago, and they say that they had their last piece of toast that morning,” says McConnell.

Even great bread gets stale eventually. When that happens, you can use your loaf of ciabatta or country white from the Midwife and the Baker to make panzanella, an Italian dish that also uses the delicious local tomatoes that are in season right now.

make it


  • 2½ pounds mixed tomatoes, cut into
    bite-sized pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus
    more for seasoning
  • ¾ pound ciabatta or sourdough
    bread, cut into 2-inch cubes (about 6 cups bread cubes)
  • 10 tablespoons extra virgin
    olive oil, divided
  • 1 small shallot, minced
    (about 2 tablespoons)
  • ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or
    wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup packed basil leaves,
    roughly chopped


1. Place tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature to drain, tossing occasionally, while you toast the bread.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to center position. In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and firm but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

3. Remove colander with tomatoes from bowl with tomato juice. Place colander with tomatoes in the sink. Add shallot, garlic, mustard, and vinegar to the bowl with tomato juice. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the remaining half-cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Combine toasted bread, tomatoes and dressing in a large bowl. Add basil leaves. Toss everything to coat and season with salt and pepper. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until dressing is completely absorbed by bread.

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.

Bike Gangs of the Peninsula

Any time you’re on the road on the Peninsula, you’ll be sure to pass at least one group of intense, Lycra-outfitted bikers. Although we all enjoy taking a quick ride down to the farmers market or on city streets, these bikers are in a whole different stratosphere. Since most serious Peninsula bikers belong to a group or club, PUNCH presents our field guide to local bike gangs. It should help you identify the next group you see on Junipero Serra or Skyline Boulevard, and maybe it will even encourage you to take a ride yourself.

The most formal of these bike clubs almost verge on professional athletic associations. Alto Velo Racing Club, for example, has corporate sponsors, matching jerseys and membership dues. All that infrastructure hints at how seriously the members take their rides. The club counts former Olympians among their more than 200 members and competes in races like the Pescadero Coastal Classic, which last year consisted of a 27-mile course and almost 4,000 feet of climbing. The club leads planned rides almost every day of the week, including some for more casual bikers, which you can read about on their website

Although they’re not made up of full-time athletes, some of the groups do have a professional connection. Murray Engineers in Los Altos is a group of engineers, architects, designers and builders who bike together before, after and sometimes even during the workday. The firm also sponsors youth cycling teams, just to make sure that the next generation of Peninsula residents are getting out on the road as well. You can see more about their cycling events at

On the other end of the spectrum is the Over the Hill Bike Club, which started 25 years ago when two friends in Woodside met for a weekend ride. The group still meets every Sunday at Roberts Market at 9 AM, and their usual route starts with a climb up Old La Honda, which is something of a benchmark for Peninsula riders; everyone seems to know what their best time is and when they beat their personal record. There were even some organized races up the hill back in the day, but the cheering as people strove to beat their best times became a problem with surrounding homeowners. See pictures of the club and find more information at

These bike groups are definitely aware that drivers aren’t their biggest fans. In fact, some groups even have sections of the California Vehicle Code prominently displayed on their websites, often with the word “vehicle” in bold, as a reminder that the law holds someone in a car responsible for yielding to bikes in an intersection.

Despite the huge range of different groups, they’re all united by a desire to get out on the road, test their physical capabilities and have fun. While bike groups are always comprised of riders with different skill levels, riding the hills of Woodside is no joke. So if you’ve been reading along, waiting to find a group that might fit your fitness level, here it comes. The San José Bike Party organizes rides all over Silicon Valley, and as soon as you see them pass by you’ll notice a key difference from other groups we’ve mentioned—no Lycra. Instead, partygoers are more likely to be wearing Star Wars costumes or Hawaiian leis, and their backpacks contain portable speakers rather than protein gel packets. Their routes, which often start at the Mountain View train station, cover 10 to 15 miles of flat road. Since the rides often take place on weekday evenings, they’re also the perfect place to start if you’re not sure you’d like to dedicate your entire weekend to an intense ride. The best place to see updated information about the Bike Party’s next event is on their Facebook page, or at

Still Waters: Rediscovering Reservoirs

Though most of the water that keeps the Peninsula verdant and clean is piped down from the Sierra Nevada, our water system does rely on a few local sources you might not know about. These small lakes and reservoirs also can sometimes serve a dual purpose for recreation, but be careful. Fresh, clean water is no joke, so you don’t want to be caught breaking the rules around any of these local reservoirs. As a public service, we’ve rounded up the critical information about some of the area’s most interesting bodies of water.

bear gulch reservoir

Location: Atherton

History: This tiny man-made lake takes its name from an incident in the Peninsula’s Wild West past. Supposedly, in the 1850s, James H. Ryder, who was a partner in one of Woodside’s earliest lumber companies, lost a pair of oxen. He was searching for them down by the creek that feeds this reservoir when he surprised a grizzly bear and her two cubs. Ryder survived and earned the nickname “Grizzly,” and the body of water was named after his encounter.   

Status: Completely closed—except for the one day a year when the reservoir hosts kids from Palo Alto’s Ronald McDonald House.

waterdog lake

Location: Belmont

History: This former reservoir was built by North Peninsula bigwig William Ralston to provide water for his estate Ralston Hall. Although the lake is now a great place to bring your canine companion, the name actually comes from another kind of animal—salamanders. Young salamanders who live in small lakes like this supposedly make noises reminiscent of a dog’s bark, so they’re referred to as “mudpuppies” or “waterdogs.”

Status: Open. Dogs on leash are welcome to hike around the lake and fishing is permitted as well.

vasona lake

Location: Los Gatos

History: The smallest reservoir in Santa Clara county, this lake was created by damming Los Gatos Creek in 1935. The name comes from a local rancher, Albert August Vollmer, who campaigned for Southern Pacific to add a stop closer to his home. The railway took his advice and let Vollmer name the station Vasona after his childhood pony.

Status: Open. Any kind of watercraft that’s not motorized—kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, pedal boats, canoes, rowboats, sailboats—is available to rent at the lake, although swimming is prohibited so do your best not to fall in. The lake and nearby ponds are also open for catch-and-release fishing.

Dancing: Strengthening Body and Soul

Mandy Bell and Lisa Navarro have been in the dance world for 20+ years each. They originally met while doing a “triple threat” camp in 2006—that’s acting, singing and dancing for the less artistic of us—and they “just clicked.” Shortly thereafter, they started teaching together at Groovitude in Palo Alto and the rest is (very rhythmic) history.

The classes at Groovitude, which are mainly held in the mornings, run the gamut from jazz to hip-hop, contemporary to tap. Lisa recommends the jazz class for anyone who might consider themselves a beginner. Its soundtrack is not so much strictly jazz music as it is pop and musical theater-oriented tunes; it involves more basic dance techniques than some of the other classes. So, if you have two left feet, jazz at Groovitude should be your choice. No matter which class you choose, the format of your one-hour session is pretty consistent: a 20-minute warm-up followed by learning a piece of choreography.

This choreography piece is a sight to behold. Yes, coming up with the actual steps does take artistic skill, but coming up with choreography that is truly fun for people of all ages (from 35-75) and all levels (from beginners to professional dancers)—that takes work. Even then, the act of teaching these steps to this variety of people—considering possible injuries, dispositions, varying learning styles—is harder still. It requires patience and flexibility (pun intended).

“What I love about teaching dance is that dance is a discipline that strengthens the mind, strengthens the body and strengthens the soul,” Mandy says. Lisa’s favorite moments in class always revolve around watching people learn to express themselves. “[In dance you] learn to emote, and it’s fun to see what comes out,” she says. Lisa herself began dancing as a way to express herself because she had difficulty with articulation in other ways earlier in her life. It was a way to say what she wanted and needed without any words at all.

We spoke to many dancers who frequent the studio and everyone agrees that Mandy and Lisa are wildly talented. And it’s clear that dancers are getting a lot more from the classes at Groovitude than just some smooth moves. Tammy, a student there, says; “The Groovy gals, Lisa and Mandy, are two of the most inspiring women I know. When you come [into the studio] and take a class, you will walk away a new person, ready and waiting for their next round of joy! Groovitude is my home away from home, my go-to place when I need to just dance and escape the outside world.” Above all else, positivity is key at this hub for Peninsula peeps who want to get down with their bad selves. It cultivates an atmosphere of supportive vibes, which is welcoming for people who might not feel totally comfortable getting their groove on in front of strangers.

That confidence-building is only one of the many benefits of dancing. Dancing has been proven time and again to be an incredibly healing art form. It allows you to express yourself without words and absorb the high vibrations of music. To learn more about classes, or about Groovitude’s non-profit umbrella, Dance Visions (which allows artists in the Bay Area to have subsidized rent), visit


4000 Middlefield Road, Room L3

Palo Alto

The Slow Coast

Usually when there is a public, picturesque oceanfront area, the masses have discovered it and it becomes a “destination,” crowded with people and trendy storefronts. But the Slow Coast is still largely a hidden gem. You may not even have heard the term. The Slow Coast, lesser known than its popular and more southern oceanside neighbor, Santa Cruz, is the special area on the stretch of land between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. It combines the beauty of the California coast line with a rich history not found in all parts of the West Coast.

From hiking to biking, berry picking to tidepooling, the Slow Coast will have something for you. We’ve rounded up the best parts of this gorgeous region, so hurry up to slow down on this getaway.

1. wilder ranch state park

Wilder Ranch State Park is a California State Park on the Pacific Ocean coast north of Santa Cruz. Because of the nature of the trails at Wilder, it’s a favorite for mountain bikers, but however you navigate it, you’ll be treated to sweeping ocean views peppered with some great pocket beaches. And attention history buffs: The park was formerly a dairy ranch, and many of the ranch buildings have been restored for use as a museum that contains early farm implements and tools. Docents at Wilder Ranch often dress in period clothing for interpretive tours and living history demonstrations; check the website for details. Just north of Santa Cruz, the park is open every day from 8 AM to sunset, and the visitor center is open from 10 AM to 4 PM, Wednesday through Sunday. 813.423.9703,

2. food in davenport

The popular Roadhouse Restaurant & Inn exists in the historic location of the original Davenport Cash Store, which was built in 1906. In 1953, the Cash Store was destroyed in a fire and remained a charred wreck until 1978, when it was briefly a pottery studio and then became the restaurant in 1982. In 2006, the Cash Store came under new ownership as the Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant & Inn. Like most restaurants right in Davenport or Bonny Doon, the Roadhouse is pretty casual. If you’re craving a fancier dining experience, you’ll want to head into downtown Santa Cruz. 1 Davenport Ave, 831.426.8801,

Whale City Bakery is known for their famous ham and cheese croissants, but if you miss breakfast time, go in late for tacos, a cold beer and live music (on Thursday nights). The bakery opens every day at 6:30 AM, and closes at 8 PM on every night but Thursday. 490 Highway One, 831.423.9009,

3. american abalone farm

Since the collapse of the commercial abalone fishing industry in the 1990s, you may not have heard much about this fascinating aquaculture species, but the American Abalone Farm in Davenport is bringing it back and in a very environmentally friendly way. They use pumps to continuously supply clean, fresh seawater to the abalone tanks and the shellfish are fed a natural diet consisting of a variety of fresh local seaweeds that the company harvests themselves. At the beachside location, you can shop, buy fresh seafood, learn about delicious recipes and more. The farm is open from 10 AM to 4 PM on weekends; learn more at

4. bonny doon beach

Bonny Doon Beach is a stunning beach set against the dramatic backdrop of both sand dunes and high cliff walls. It is located at the intersection of the Highway 1 and Bonny Doon Road north of Santa Cruz and near the town of Davenport. When the tide is low enough, you may see people “tide-pooling,” walking in the shallow tide pools that form near the shore when the tide goes out. These shallow pools of seawater contain countless little critters to inspect and enjoy. The beach is closed between sunset and 8 AM.

5. año nuevo state park

Año Nuevo State Park is restricted year-round. And for good reason: it’s home to elephant seals. Lots of them! The park offers docent-guided walks between December 15 and March 31, which feature these marine mammals in their natural habitat. To view the elephant seals during this season, you must be on a guided walk. Elephant seal viewing requires a three-to-four-mile moderate hike over varied terrain, including sand dunes. The walks last about two and a half hours and operate daily from early morning to mid-afternoon. The only time that the park is completely closed is in the beginning of December, when pregnant females and adult males begin to arrive on the beaches and form harems. The Park is open from 8:30 AM to sunset daily; find more information about how to reserve a spot on a tour at

6. pigeon point lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse stands high (115 feet!) on a cliff. This landmark has been guiding mariners since 1872. The coastal areas surrounding Pigeon Point Lighthouse are rich with life—both flora and fauna. The intertidal zone along this part of the coast, particularly in the rocky reefs that flank the light station, contains a diverse and sizeable variety of plant and animal life. If you do go for a visit, leave your dog and your drones (if you have one) at home. Neither is allowed. 210 Pigeon Point Road, call 650.879.2120 to schedule a guided history walk.

7. costanoa

We could really make a whole list on Costanoa alone. It’s a resort full of accommodations from rugged cabins to more traditional hotel rooms, with activities ranging from biking to horseback riding, a day spa and sauna, plus lots of outdoor seating and eating, so you can challenge yourself to a strenuous hike or brisk swim, and then pamper yourself by getting a massage. But for all these activities, Costanoa has above all developed a reputation as the go-to for “glamping.” Their safari tent “bungalows” are outfitted with electricity and WiFi, as well as full-size plush beds and bedding. 650.879.1100,

8. swanton berry farm

Swanton Berry Farm is a must on your getaway to the Slow Coast. You’ll see the large strawberry from the road. What you can’t see is the sustainable goal of providing flavorful strawberries that were not grown at the expense of farmworkers’ health or dignity. Over the years, Swanton has become an industry leader in developing organic methods for growing strawberries. You’ll want to pick up a pie to bring back to a friend or loved one who couldn’t join on your getaway. And just a little farther up the road, Swanton U-Pick allows you to gather the berries yourself! Find hours for the farmstand and U-Pick operation at

9. big basin redwoods state park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park contains almost all of the Waddell Creek Watershed, which was formed by the seismic uplift of its rim and the erosion of its center by the many streams in its bowl-shaped depression. Animal lovers will definitely want to make a stop at Big Basin. The park has a large number of waterfalls and animals ranging from bobcats to woodpeckers and everything in between. There are far too many hikes on the Slow Coast to list them all, but Skyline-to-Sea is one not to be missed. Locals are big fans of the “Skyline to Sea” overnight. It starts at the end of Big Basin (Skyline) and ends at the sea, where you’ll get to a spot very popular for wind and kite surfing. Visit for information about parking and hours.

10. slow coast airstream store

No list of Slow Coast locales would be complete without the Slow Coast Airstream Store. The 1954 Airstream-turned-lifestyle boutique has become something of an area staple. You can spot this roadside stop on your way back from the Bonny Doon Winery tasting room along Highway 1. With surf shack vibes, the vintage trailer is surrounded by gardens and stocked with goods produced by local artisans. Fun fact: this place’s co-owner is Wallace Nichols, who wrote the fascinating and informative book Blue Mind. The book details the beneficial effects of the ocean on our brains and well-being. 450 Highway 1, open daily (weather permitting!) from 11 AM to 5 PM.

Perfect Shot: Atherton Train Station

Although most trains pass through the Atherton station at full speed these days, the small depot on Dinkelspiel Station Lane didn’t used to be so quiet. In the 1880s, train journeys up and down the Peninsula were advertised as the “Great Pleasure Route of The Pacific Coast,” including stops in resort towns like Fair Oaks, soon to be renamed Atherton. As Atherton transitioned from a sleepy community of summer homes to a suburban center, the station became popular with commuters who worked in San Francisco. Although Caltrain suspended weekday stops in Atherton due to declining ridership in 2005, plans to electrify the lines could see service restored to the station.

Diary of a Dog: Zoe and Riley

Zoe: We were born in Modesto on April 7, 2014 at the home of Joe and Carol Ovalle. Our whole family are Golden Retrievers—our grandpa even won Best of Breed at the National Dog Show! We came to the Peninsula because our owners, Pam and Elisha, were looking for a new furry friend after losing their dog suddenly. They only intended to bring home one puppy, but luckily they fell in love with both me and my brother Riley.  

Riley: My turn to tell the story, Zoe. Yes, when we first came home, we lived in San Carlos. Obviously having two puppies around was pretty adorable, and so Elisha thought that she could use the photos she was taking of us to help her experiment with social media, since she works in marketing. Everyone loved watching me grow from a little fluffball into the handsome pup I am now, so the Instagram page now has thousands of followers.  

Zoe: Sorry, our social media fame has gone to Riley’s head a bit. Today we live with Pam in Atherton, and our social media page has transformed from an experiment into a full-blown job. We get sent toys and treats to try, and then we tell our fans on Instagram about them. That means that we can help out with our humans’ finances, instead of just lazing around like your average family pet. Most of our time is spent at home with Pam, who just retired from doing important human stuff at IBM. We do our best to make sure that we get into enough trouble so that she doesn’t get too bored with all this new free time. 

Riley: We also love to hang out with Brittany and all the other dogs at BB’s Dog Walking. Brittany takes us everywhere from down the street to Holbrook-Palmer park to big hikes at the Pulgas Open Space Preserve. Sometimes people recognize us from Instagram or just from seeing us around the neighborhood, and we love it when they say hello. If you ever want to tell my sister and me apart, here’s the key—she’s the one in the front of the pack, while I’m just following and trying to keep my nose clean.  

TO KEEP UP WITH US: follow us on Instagram at Zoe_and_Riley 

Connections Through the Years

Madeline Dangerfield-Cha and Joy Zhang know that most people expect the companies that come out of Stanford’s Business School to be reliant on complex computer code or a groundbreaking app that you don’t understand. But this duo used their final semester of the program to create a business that centers on a decidedly un-hip group—senior citizens. To be more accurate, their company Mon Ami is targeted at people who have parents or other loved ones who are in their golden years. Dangerfield-Cha and Zhang have developed a company that helps those relatives can find a local college student to act as that person’s “activity companion.”  

Mon Ami isn’t about providing healthcare or medical services, but instead conquering projects like completing puzzles or helping write down someone’s recollections of their lives. The family members who join the program want their loved one to have the additional connection and stimulation that comes from building a relationship with a young, friendly student.  

For the students in the program, like Theresa Santiago, Mon Ami fits seamless into their schedule. Since her partner, Astrid, lives in Palo Alto, she’s able to bike to their weekly appointment and shift their meetings when she has finals or other school responsibilities. And instead of spending most of her time at Stanford without venturing far off campus, Santiago is building connections to members of the local community she likely would have never met without Mon Ami. And not for nothing, but Mon Ami compensates their companions at a competitive rate, so they can attract top-notch students for the program.  

The idea might sound simple, but that’s what makes Zhang and Dangerfield-Cha think they can expand their company all over the country, since every community has college students in need of a part-time job and older residents eager to build new friendships. Since the program right now is limited to Stanford students and Peninsula residents, the situations that companions encounter are unique to our area. In one case, a student is helping a retired professor used the Stanford alumni website to get in touch with former students, while another keeps a former healthcare pioneer with memory issues up-to-date on current advancements by reading the newspaper together. In fact, Mon Ami is in some ways a microcosm of the best of Peninsula culture. Young, talented people like Dangerfield-Cha and Zhang are here to make something new, but they also see what an amazing resource we have in our longtime local residents; even if those people might be not be interested in setting up an Instagram account.  

For more information visit

911? My Computer’s Broken

In a suburban community like Menlo Park, you’d expect the local police department to spend most of their time giving out parking tickets and responding when residents accidentally set off their alarm systems. But Menlo Park’s most important resident, at least in the eyes of the city’s police dispatchers, isn’t a person at all, it’s a company—Facebook. To be fair, the tech giant has tried to be a model resident in its new hometown, hosting community events and working with the city to reduce the impact their large campus near 101 has on traffic. It’s actually the billions of people who use Facebook who are the ones making trouble for the Menlo Park Police Department. Facebook doesn’t make it particularly easy to find a corporate phone number online, but frustrated users can easily find the name of the city where the company has been based since 2011. That means that someone who has lost their password, thinks their account has been hacked or wants to complain about an advertisement sometimes finds the phone number for the next best thing—a Menlo Park police dispatcher.

Of course, those officers can almost never solve the problem, and most seem bemused at the idea that their department is the right place to deal with an inquiry about the workings of a private company. Instead, they direct the frustrated callers to Facebook’s online help center. This phenomenon is a stark reminder of how the huge reach of companies on the Peninsula can lead to a warped idea of what our area is really like. Most people calling the Menlo Park Police Department assume that since Facebook is so big, their local law enforcement staff must be huge too.

These strange calls don’t appear to affect all Peninsula police departments equally. Janine De la Vega, the Police Public Affairs Manager in Facebook’s old hometown of Palo Alto, says that the tech companies in their neighborhood generally keep a low profile. The city’s more famous CEOs often have their own security teams, so the police department doesn’t spend any more time patrolling their streets than they would in the rest of the city. Police officers who have  worked in Palo Alto since the early days of the tech boom say that they used to get more unusual calls. For example, if a small tech company was located in Palo Alto and ran into legal trouble, Palo Alto PD would get a request to present the business with a warrant or subpoena. Now that firms have multiple campuses and well-run legal departments, police officers are generally spared the uncomfortable tasks of serving papers.

These days, it’s actually members of the public sector who cause the most trouble for the Palo Alto police officers. If you’re in federal or state government (or if you’re hoping to be there after the next election), you’ll likely make a stop on the Peninsula to discuss policy with an entrepreneur, give a speech to a think tank at Stanford or hold a private event to raise campaign funds. The local police department is responsible for keeping the peace during those visits, which seem to happen more and more often during each election year. Since the Secret Service tries to keep the exact travel plans of the high-profile people they protect as “secret” as possible, that can leave a police department like Palo Alto’s with little time to arrange things like stopping traffic for a motorcade.

On the whole, the law enforcement officers seem to treat these tech troubles as just part of the job. Most of the departments even use platforms like Facebook, Nextdoor and Twitter themselves, since it’s the best way to connect with their residents and promote local events. And after all, patiently explaining that no, they can’t send an officer to Mark Zuckerberg’s house to relay a message from someone over the phone is at least a change of pace from writing parking tickets.

The Barn of a Master Craftsman

When you step into The Barn Woodshop, you are transported to a time in the past—when people worked with their hands, moved more slowly and made house calls without calling (or texting) first.  

Tom Kieninger is the third generation of people doing the same quality wood work at the same shop in Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park. You can find him there nearly any day, at all hours, either sitting behind a huge, sturdy desk listening to messages on his landline’s answering machine, standing, one leg on a chair, working on another or talking with someone who happened to wander in. He’s like a modern-day Marlboro Man, not just because of the cigarettes never far away, his baritone voice or daily uniform of white shirt blue jeans and work boots, but because there’s an authentic simplicity to himHe’s a man of few deep-voiced words, but they’re always good ones.  

Upon entering The Barn, you’re taken into an organized mess—there are pieces of furniture on every side of you, in every direction, on top of other pieces of furniture. But Tom knows exactly where everything he is, the progress of its repair or restoration, miscellaneous facts about its journey there to the shop and its owner. Even though Tom He owns a home in Pescadero with his family, he’s been known to work late into the night at The Barn and has made himself an area to sleep out back.  

There is a ledge overhead that runs the perimeter of the whole, large barn room, and it’s lined with relics from the past: old San Francisco Chronicle covers touting Giant’s wins, tools from hundreds of years ago (some of which came around the Horn of Africa) and cans of paint and WD40 that seem nearly that oldand, lovingly strewn on the ledge above Tom’s desk, his Dad’s black work boots. “I’m still finding things around here,” he says.  

Here, next door to Silicon Valley, where what is new and progressive is often considered to have the most value, the history inside The Barn is palpable. Surrounded by cities of vast affluence, Tom is clearly a person who has and takes what he needs and nothing more. Few Peninsula locations exist where historand simplicity is so revered and accessible. This is true no more than when Tom proudly shows off the shingles of one of the original Guild buildings. “These are the original shingles – their shape was made because each one was formed over the worker’s knee,” he says, mimicking the making of a single shingle over his knee. “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.”

Allied Arts, hidden on Arbor Road, looks so like a residential property from the outside and many people—even locals—drive right by it. It stands on part of what was once a vast 35,250-acre land grant dating back to the late 1700s. It wasn’t until wealthy art patrons Delight and Garfield Merner, who’d recently returned from a trip to Europe where they were inspired by various artist colonies, bought 3.5 acres of that land on the edge of Menlo Park that this beautiful workplace for artists was established. The Merners wanted to encourage the crafting of quality objects for everyday use; and to support all peasant or folk art, especially that of early California.  

The Guild’s iron and wood shops were actually the first in operation because they were needed for the construction of the rest of the complex. Whereas most of Allied Arts was built in the 1930s, The Barn is original from 1885. Martin Nelson, who was a wood craftsman and sculptor, established the woodworking business that we know as The Barn at that point. Nelson believed in the importance of quality work as well as a system of apprenticeship, and he employed a young man by the name of Albert “Al” Kieninger. Albert had served with distinction in WWII and Nelson recognized in him the type of talent and work ethic worthy of his mentoring. 

Al took over the business in 1974. By then, he had begun to train his son, Tom, and eventually the reins of the tradition were handed to Tom in 1987. Today, the tradition lives on as Tom mentors his son, Luke, ensuring that another generation of customers benefits from the special furniture repair and restoration knowledge and skill passed down through the years from The Barn Woodshop’s founder. 

Tom has been known to make house calls“I finally had to get an iPad,” he says. I didn’t want to, but it is for my customers. They like to send me photos of their pieces. I guess it’s a little faster way to see them, so I’m not driving around to their houses all day.”  

Susie White, a Menlo resident and longtime Barn customer tells us “We inherited some pieces from my husband’s great grandparents. We had no idea how old they were and what should be done to preserve their value. I placed a call to Tom and with very little description of the pieces, he was able to figure out the types of pieces I had and what would need to be done to them so I could display them in our home. Within 48 hours, Tom came to my home to see everything and we decided what I wanted to use. Hthen took them to his shop. I couldn’t believe how beautiful they looked when he brought them back. The wood had been restored to its original beauty while retaining the value as an antique. I don’t know where else I could have gone to get work of this quality and it was two miles from my home.”  

This is what you get when you use Tom. He is vividly aware that what he is working on is not just furniture, but peoples’ histories, their families and their dearest memories.  

We spoke to Joann Holder, longtime Peninsula resident who previously led tours of The Barn and Allied Arts GuildThe craft at The Barn is something you rarely see outside the East Coast, and frankly when you do, they usually charge an arm and leg.” Tom’s prices are fair, and he intends to keep them that way, the same way that Allied Arts has kept the rent fair for him and The Barn stable, though they could certainly charge much more for the legendary building. He’s doing 19th century work in a 21st century marketplace,” Holder adds. 

When asked if he liked being alone with his thoughts and his work, Tom smiles and looks up at a sign that his father carved into a piece of driftwood the two of them had found floating in the ocean:  

The man who works with his hands is a laborer. The man who works with his hands and his brains is a craftsman. The man who works with hands, his brains and his heart is an artist. 




Wedding Bell Strikes Three

Though I knew they were coming, once they started I was surprised at their intensity, like the rounds of thunder and lightning during the raucous Texas storms of my home state.  They were good things and so there was lot of joyand each brought its own level of excitement, thrill and love. So there was no complaining on my part. Only smiles and open checkbooks. 

The first ones to get engaged were my youngest daughter Tali and her guy Sam, who had both just turned 24 years old. This one was no surprise, as Tali and Sam had been a steady item ever since they were 15-years-olds at Menlo-Atherton High School. I’d halfway watched Sam grow up, as the two of them were inseparable 

When Tali went to UC Berkeley and Sam to Stanford, I wondered if it would affect their relationship. But I soon realized that since she spent the majority of the week at the dorms at Stanford—most everyone thought she was going to school there—the distance was not going to have any impact on their romance. And so it didn’t take long before Sam, in a romantic and grand way, asked for Tali’s hand in marriage 

My oldest son, Josh, had done the right thing when he left his job here and joined his wonderful girlfriend Adara in Washington, D.C., where she was getting her master’s degree. Follow love—that’s my motto, I told him. Finally, despite a significant amount of nerves and trepidation, he took the plunge and proposed during a romantic trip to Italy.   

While Tali and Sam thought they were going to be the first to get married, Josh and Adara opted for a short engagement and chose an earlier date. No one seemed to care. And soon our home was filled with never-ending discussions about caterers, flowers, rings, engagement parties and invitationsSometimes when the women stood in our kitchen talking nonstop about all this stuff, I had to go to my study and shut the door.  

At this same time, my older daughter Ari fell in love with the charismatic and funny Danny, a Minnesota transplant. And before the first wedding got underwayDanny very sweetly asked for Ari’s hand one day after making three trips to Tahoe in 24 hours to create a perfect recreation of their first romantic get-a-way. I suddenly had three children engaged at the same time.  

The endless wedding talk became that much more endless until our home seemed like an outlet of Weddings-R-Us. The food tastings and reviews of locations and interminable squabbling over invitation lists became what I woke up to and what I went to sleep with. At one time budgets had been established for these events but they had long been forgotten and spending mayhem ensued. It was a veritable wedding train blistering down the track with no feasible way to stop it. 

First, Josh and Adara were married at Lucy Stern Community Center in Palo Alto in a beautiful traditional Jewish wedding led by our dear family friend, Rabbi David Teitlebaum, who at 90 years old, thought he was performing his last ceremony. The dancing was fierce and the joy was palpable. 

When Tali was eight years old, she asked close friends of ours—who have an exquisite backyard in Woodside—if she could get married there some day. Little did we all know that Tali meant it seriouslyand on a beautiful summer day she and Sam were married there in another wedding—reminiscent of Fiddler on the Roofagain led by Rabbi Teitlebaum, who despite his age, persevered like champion 

My Ari always knows exactly what she wants and how to get it done with grace and beautyShe is a talented interior designer and had her wedding planned as if for a feature in Brides magazine. For a bit of variety, she and Danny were married at Campovida Winery in Hopland, just north of Healdsburg. It was a fantasy-like affair and Rabbi Teitlebaum gallantly made it at age 91 to once again led the charge under the chuppa, with a hora that lasted late into the night. 

And so now there is just one to go, my youngest son Coby, but he’s not ready yet, and we are all grateful. I realize how lucky I am that my three kids have married people I really love. The only thing that is hard about these special occasions is that you look forward to them for a whole lifetime and then they are over in a flash. The groom smashes the glass, the crowd yells “L’Chaim” and then, after the dancing, it’s over.  

When I start thinking of those moments, I get teary-eyed, sad that I cannot live them all over again. The only thing to do, I think, is to embrace these occasions as best we can, to take the sights and emotions that we are seeing and feeling into our heartshold them tightly and forever, and then make plans for the following day, as life pushes forward with no respite. 

Landmark: Pulgas Water Temple

Tucked away in the Redwood City hills is a monument to the Peninsula’s most critical and most overlooked feature—the water system. The Pulgas Water Temple is the symbolic end of the Hetch Hetchy Project, the turn-of-the-century engineering marvel that provides San Francisco and surrounding cities with fresh water from the Sierra. After the earthquake and fire of 1906, city planners knew that a reliable source of water was critical as the Bay Area rebuilt and continued to grow. Over the next 20 years, aqueducts were built to connect the Hetch Hetchy Valley to the Peninsula, more than 150 miles distant. Just as it did 100 years ago, the water today travels solely via the power of gravity, without any other human intervention.

Current-day Peninsula residents might have trouble understanding the significance of the Hetch Hetchy Project’s completion. However, any visitor who views the monument today can clearly see that it was built to mark something tremendous. The Beaux Arts-style building calls to mind Greco-Roman sites, which not only gives the temple a timeless look but also honors the ancient engineers whose techniques were used in the water system’s construction. If you notice a resemblance to the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco’s Marina, it’s because the temple’s designer William Merchant trained under Palace architect Bernard Maybeck. Adding to the grandiosity is the inscription made by master stone carver Albert Bernasconi, quoting the Book of Isaiah, “I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people.”

When it first opened in 1934, the temple housed a waterfall, but today the flow bypasses the falls and heads straight into taps or the Crystal Springs Reservoir. Though owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the Pulgas Water Temple is open to the public and accessible via Edgewood Road off of 280. During the week, there is public lot open on Cañada Road. Since it’s a popular spot for weddings, the parking lot is closed on weekends, but you can still visit the temple on foot or by bike.

For more information, visit

Let’s Talk About Farmers Markets

Although our mild weather means that wandering through a farmers market can be a year-round activity, late summer is really when our markets are at their best. Tomatoes, peppers and leafy greens are heaped on tables at outdoor markets around the Peninsula, and they’ll soon be filled with the apples, squash and root vegetables that signal the season’s official end. So now is the perfect time to ask: How exactly do these amazing markets work? Farmers didn’t just decide one day to gather in a parking lot and sell their wares directly to you. So we’re diving deep into the history of farmers markets, and introducing you to the people and organizations that make them possible.

There are the smaller operations you’ve likely driven past without noticing, like a Thursday market at the Portola Valley Town Center, which dwindles down to just a few farm stands in the winter. On the other end of the spectrum are huge affairs, including the market on California Avenue, where you see crowds lining up year-round to buy everything from vegan scones to beeswax candles to locally made bone broth.

Obviously, the idea of local farmers gathering together in a town center to sell their wares is nothing new. In fact, the practice was so normal that farmers markets don’t really even show up very often in the historical record. In the 1866 edition of The History of Bradford and its Parish with Additions and Continuation to the Present Time, author John James describes his small English village as having “two bazaars, numerous butchers’ shops, two butter-crosses, and a green-market.” (Although modern farmers markets often sell dairy right next to the fruits and vegetables, Bradfordians would have bought their dairy from a separate institution, known as a butter-cross.)

But between the the 1800s and today, farmers markets fell out of fashion. By the 1960s, residents of suburban areas like the Peninsula were more likely to shop at grocery stores, despite the fact that farmers were growing some of the best fruit and vegetables in the country just miles from their doorsteps. It’s fair to say that quality produce wasn’t exactly “in vogue” at the time. A brief glance through cookbooks from the era illustrates just how dire the situation was. Perhaps the most glaring example is 1969’s Better Homes and Garden’s Salads, which includes categories like “Congealed Fruit” and “Frozen Salads” in its table of contents. Almost no recipe in the book escapes the addition of canned fruit, mayo or gelatin, and some (horrifyingly) include all three. Clearly, it was time for a change.

Chefs like Alice Waters reintroduced the idea that diners should seek out local food when she opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971. This new “California cuisine” relied on ingredients like salad greens that weren’t iceberg lettuce, and curious customers started to look around for places to buy a wider variety of food than what they found at their local supermarkets. Some of the farmers markets still operating on the Peninsula, like the Kiwanis Club Market in Redwood City, came into existence during this era.

The amazing number and variety of markets we have today are a patchwork, since there are a number of groups and nonprofits that operate the different markets. But there are some rules that govern all markets, no matter which organization puts them on. Any farm that wants to sell at a market needs to get certified by their respective county, in order to confirm that they’re actually growing the produce they sell. Some markets also require that the farms be located within a certain distance from the market, but since we have so much agricultural land in our area, almost no one drives in from more than 75 miles away. The produce should also be sold directly by the people who’ve grown it, since farmers markets exist to give farmers a way to sell directly to consumers without the interference of a middleman.

One other note—although many products at farmers markets carry the government certification of “organic,” not all of them do. The organic seal means that the farm has proven that their products are free of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and dyes, and that they don’t process the food in ways that can be harmful to the environment. The route to become an organic farm is time-consuming and expensive, especially for smaller operations. If you don’t see a sign about the status of some peaches, just ask. Farmers will be happy to tell you exactly what techniques and products they use and don’t use.

The existence of farmers markets and newer innovations like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes means that some farmers can eliminate the need to sell their produce to grocery chains or large food companies. That’s the case for Sam Thorpe and his family, who run Spade & Plow Organics. The farm, located just north of Gilroy, is a two-generation operation, run by Sam, his brother Nick and their dad Mike. They’re able to sell all of their tomatoes, salad greens and artichokes without leaving Santa Clara County­—by setting up booths at various markets and having people sign up to pick boxes of crops weekly through their CSA. Thorpe says that knowing his customers allows the farm to grow more unusual crops and know that his regulars will be willing to try them out. Spade & Plow’s second planting of tomatoes of the year, which will be hitting the markets this month, will include five different varieties of Italian San Marzano tomatoes. They’ll see what grows well and what sells, and hearing how the tomato sauce or soup that his customers make tasted will affect what Thorpe plants next year.

If Spade & Plow fits the classic mold of a farmers market vendor, then Manresa Bread is an archetype of the new businesses joining the market. This spin-off of the Michelin-starred Los Gatos restaurant sells their loaves and pastries at the California Avenue market every Sunday, and they’re among the first booths to pack up and head home because everything has been sold. Although the team at Manresa follows the same tenets as farmers like the Thorpes—trying to make the best version of simple foods through attention to detail and high-quality ingredients—they also bring a shine of trendiness that farmers markets haven’t always possessed. These days, boutique products like smoked salt and gluten-free fettuccini are sold right next to the berries and carrots that have been farmers market staples for years. 

The people responsible for turning all these different vendors into a well-oiled machine are nonprofits or municipalities that are the only groups allowed by the state to run a farmers market. (That’s what makes your local organic grocery store different from a certified farmers market). The nonprofits handle the administrative work of a farmers market, especially finding places to host them. Sometimes, things just work out perfectly, like at the San Mateo College Farmers Market run by the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association. The college has huge parking lots that don’t see much use on the weekends, which means that the organizers can allow farmers to bring their produce to the Sunday market without worrying about finding a place to park their trucks off-site. The PCFMA also tries to ensure that their markets offer a diverse group of vendors, which works out better for everyone. With live music, local crafts and prepared food, customers feel as if going to the market is more like attending a festival than just doing a quick stop to pick up groceries. Some markets include a booth set up by the organizers, which usually contains information about the market and services like an ATM or a place to use EBT cards for those receiving government food assistance. Even if you don’t need something, stop by the organizer’s booth the next time you see one—they’ll definitely have tips about what’s freshest that day.

The good news is that no matter where you live on the Peninsula, there is probably a great market in your backyard. But we have an additional suggestion—make an effort to try ones that aren’t in your area as well. The market down the street might be great, but so is the one in the next town and the one near your office. Here’s a list of some of our favorite markets so you can check them all off your list.

farmers markets


  • Palo Alto, 490 California Avenue
  • Mountain View, 600 West Evelyn Avenue
  • Menlo Park, 1030 Crane Street


  • Half Moon Bay, 225 Cabrillo Highway
  • College of San Mateo, 1700 W Hillsdale Boulevard
  • Redwood City Kiwanis Club Farmers Market,
  • 500 Arguello Street


  • Los Altos, 288 2nd Avenue
  • Thursday
  • Portola Valley, 765 Portola Road
  • Burlingame Fresh Market, 110 Park Road

At the Salon with Vanessa Hood

In 1920s Paris, Gertrude Stein famously inaugurated her “salon years.” Her home at 27 rue de Fleurus was a well-known outpost for intellectual conversation for some of the most influential thought leaders of the time. Stein, along with contemporaries like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few, brought together their varied talents to understand and inspire art, literature and critical thinking. A century later, Peninsula native Vanessa Hood heeded a calling to unearth that time-honored tradition of The Salon in order to remedy what she saw as a “scarcity of culture” in the hub of technology that is Silicon Valley. The get-togethers Hood organizes as your Salonniere are her effort to bring that back.

After Hood finished with prestigious degrees from Yale University (Political Science) and King’s College London (War Studies), serving in a number of government roles, including at the NYPD and the International Criminal Court and the U.S. State Department, launching the tech giant Palantir into the government market and driving its meteoric growth, the Peninsula came calling. And she answered.

The fact that Hood saw the Peninsula (and Silicon Valley in particular) as the least obvious place to begin a new salon actually made it the perfect place. The progress that’s made in Silicon Valley is mind-blowing, but the pace is also overwhelming, and Vanessa felt that the sea of tech was desperate for a hub of culture to provide a space for prioritizing thoughtfulness and bringing back in-real-life (IRL/not digital) conversation. In a place where the “no new friends” meme went viral, Vanessa knew that encouraging just the opposite—new friends and acquaintances, bringing people together who were unlikely ever meet to otherwise—would benefit everyone involved. “Being around people who are so good at what they do makes you better. It’s the idea of playing up. And not only playing up, but playing across,” Hood says. Since The Salon’s inception in 2017, Vanessa (photographed here in the beautiful Los Altos Hills home she shares with husband Gavin, daughter Milly; and their terrier, Bosley) has curated conversations and community (for both women and men) around extraordinary talent in art, global affairs, spirituality and fashion. 

There was David M. Kelly, who invented the Apple Mouse and also founded the design firm IDEO. And Tamara Mellon, the female business powerhouse who just happens to have started Jimmy Choo. There’s the incredible Avril Haines, former Deputy National Security Advisor, former Deputy Director of the CIA and the first woman to ever hold the position; former Vogue Editor Emily Holt, and many, many more. Yet what’s important to note is that these guests and moderators who participate in The Salon are not a who’s-who of fame or fortune.

These are people of substance who share in Vanessa’s goal to elevate the culture of our area on the Peninsula. They are people as concerned with teaching based on their experience as they are in perpetually learning more.

The recent increased visibility and brand recognition of The Salon begs the question: How will Vanessa harness and retain the intimacy that is part of what defines it? “I want to keep these very special occasions. Ideally, we will have an event only every six weeks or so at the most frequent. I believe there is value in that scarcity. And I also don’t always invite the same people. We are clearly not a volume business.”


Vanessa is still bringing people around to the idea, giving life to her vision and focusing on the quality of the offering itself. “We are working to create the intrinsic value of The Salon as well as a really valuable digital offering, before any sort of scaling,” Hood says. For now, Vanessa feels that The Salon is still in “startup mode.” Though you wouldn’t know it by the quality, legacy and caliber of the brands queuing up to work with her.

What would Vanessa say to people who claim that they don’t have time for the kind of connections and conversations that The Salon aims to cultivate? Especially since, ostensibly, the more interesting a person is, and therefore the more they would bring to a Salon event, the busier that person might be. Vanessa says that thoughtfulness and critical thinking need to be priorities.

“If you already go out to dinner, attending a Salon is a more elevated way to spend that same amount of time in your evening. I know that people don’t have a lot of time, so I would tell them the more limited your time, the more you should use it wisely,” says Hood.   

It’s a great point. It doesn’t make much sense for a couple to use their “date night” just to go out and eat. The best way to really get a respite from children’s playdates and chicken nuggets might be to attend a more cerebral, adult event to discuss creative endeavors and global affairs.

Speaking of more adult themes, there is a small subset of The Salon that Vanessa calls Spicy Torah. It welcomes the same 14 ladies who would come for dinner and conversation but Spicy Torah in particular is more intimate and off-the-record.

The reason for the name is that, contrary to popular belief, there are many spicy moments in the Torah. Hood adds as a reminder that there is no religious affiliation with The Salon. She just happens to be Jewish herself, so that comes through in her activities and discussions. 


The idea behind the Spicy Torah meetings is to discuss sex and relationships, then and now. Using pieces of literature (from the Torah, for example) to introduce content from a historical perspective, and then to lead a conversation bringing these issues into modern context, can be a really effective way to get answers. At a recent Spicy Torah, the group studied a passage wherein it is described that unwillingness to partake in sex with your spouse can be grounds for divorce. Vanessa goes on to explain that the Torah actually lists the frequency expected by occupation. If your husband is a merchant, perhaps the frequency is higher than that of a sailor. “The women were in hysterics…but then we got into this really important discussion of power struggles in relationships. The literature or quote just serves as a prompt.” Despite the size of these groups—both Spicy Torah and The Salon in general—it’s important to note that although Vanessa curates the crowd at The Salon events, it is not to be exclusive, but to optimize the experience.

A lot of people who have been to Spicy Torah have come back to tell Vanessa how it changed their perspective. Sex and sensuality is not only part of life—it is life and creates life, not just relationships. It’s essential to family and leads to spirituality. It’s not just a salacious thing, and when you see that sex is in one of the oldest texts in the world, it flips the script and the paradigm. Vanessa loves that Salon discussions can reframe these ancient topics in ways that are helpful—and often entertaining—to her guests.

One of the biggest benefits of The Salon might not even happen at the event itself. While she knows it is a lovely and stimulating event in the moment, Hood really wants the impact of the things you consume at The Salon to impact what you consume afterward and continue to inspire you long after the evening has ended. Like mental party favors: you can put those lessons in your mind and your proverbial toolbox to use them later. 

When hearing Tamara Mellon discuss surviving sexual assault at a recent Salon event, the room was captivated. It’s quite clear that any woman who heard her story, should she encounter difficulty thereafter, might think of Mellon’s strength and be empowered by it. This perfectly demonstrates Vanessa’s vision for The Salon: bringing in exceptional people who are willing to talk at a open and sometimes raw level.

Recently, Vanessa was dealing with a challenge of her own—there was something she just couldn’t figure out. To hearten herself, she sought some text by Rabbi Naomi Levy (a well-received Salon speaker) and voila, she figured out her problem.

Hood would not have known about Levy if it weren’t for discussions at The Salon and how they have influenced what Vanessa consumes intellectually and spiritually. The growth of The Salon is keeping Hood very busy these days, but she intends to foster the intimacy that allows it to be so special. That’s because Vanessa is a connector in the truest sense. She enjoys helping people and identifying cross-cultural associations that may be beneficial to everyone involved. And these “small world” moments seem to come back to her. When The Salon hosted Avril Haines, former Deputy Director at the CIA, for example, she was traveling with John Brennan (former CIA Director). He joined as a surprise guest that evening and spoke from the audience!

Gertrude Stein would be proud.

For more information, visit

personal accounts


“Thanks to Vanessa’s generosity, accomplishments, and enterprise, I’ve been in the same room as John Brennan, former director of the CIA. Like, sitting feet away from him on the other sofa. There is no universe in which I’d ever imagined that would happen. And there is no one other than Vanessa who could bring such disparate worlds together.”


“Vanessa and her Salon were totally enjoyable for me as a host and speaker. Given our lives today I find that we have very few experiences like The Salon where one has the chance to make real, in-person, human connections. I could tell that the participants really enjoyed the intimacy and the resulting conversation.”


“The atmosphere that Vanessa creates at these events—or Salons—is nothing short of extraordinary. Vanessa brings together interesting people from very different walks of life, including writers, artists, politicians, teachers, business people and public servants, and challenges them to have a conversation that they would not ordinarily have—one that is meaningful but different. I was lucky enough to be part of igniting the conversation at one Salon, but the genius of Vanessa’s approach is that the people who attend have as much to add as those who are asked to speak, and they all bring a different, and sometimes provocative, perspective. Remarkable women like Vanessa have a long history, not just in the United States but around the world, of driving the intellectual life of communities through such gatherings, but I cannot think of a time when such discussions are needed more than they are today. I am extremely proud to have been a part of The Salon!”


“My business is based in the digital space, but there’s nothing quite like being able to sit down and talk with like-minded women face to face. I’m so grateful to my friend Vanessa for creating The Salon and bringing together a community of women who want to share, learn and support each other.”


“It has truly been a pleasure getting to participate in, and support, Vanessa and The Salon through its evolution over the past two years. The Salon brings together a truly world-class and fascinating community to ruminate and reflect on a variety of different interests, as well as provide a much-needed medium for the social discourse of the new garde of Silicon Valley. While the spectrum of personalities is quite vast and diversified, the common denominator of this group is that they have impeccable taste!”

Message in a Bottle

In 1968, 11-year-old John Shroyer was hiking from his home in the Belmont Hills down to the Pulgas Water Temple when he stumbled upon a decrepit old dump on the side of the road. As Highway 280 had not yet been constructed (and wasn’t until 1971), John had free rein and decided to explore it. What he found would color the rest of his life. 

Forgotten cans, car parts, glass and pottery were everywhere. What would have been garbage to most people was a treasure trove for young John; he didn’t know what he was doing except that the bottles he unearthed captivated him. That was the day that incited his lifelong passion for bottle collection.

John told his 6th grade teacher about the finds and, coincidentally, the teacher’s husband was a collector himself. From this man, John learned that you can date a bottle by how it is made and marked. Soon, John was identifying Ernette flavoring extract bottles, cobalt blue Philips Milk of Magnesium bottles and mason jars just like he’d seen in his grandmother’s kitchen. That dump turned out to be from 1910.

The Peninsula is not just a beautiful place to live, it also has a rich history—that interests John on its own and also makes bottle collecting (and other types of collecting) lots of fun. Throughout the 1850s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the Peninsula was dotted with logging camps and saw-mills for redwood trees. The men who worked at these camps would drink beer, whiskey and wine, and the glass-blown remains of those beverages still exist.


At age 14, John heard that crews were putting BART down on Market Street in San Francisco as well as beginning work on the Transamerica building; he got his father to take him north to scavenge the construction sites. John learned that from 1849-1851, the Financial District of San Francisco burned down multiple times. All of the garbage and debris from those fires fell into the water, became landfill and then buildings were built right on top, burying all sorts of treasure underground…even old ships. John and his dad hauled any finds back home and searched through them together, sometimes coming home so entirely covered by mud that his mom would make them wash off in the front yard before coming into the house. John was hooked on the hobby.

Even though John has come out ahead on some trades with fellow collectors, this passion, unfortunately, didn’t pay the bills. He is still actively digging, but he has also been a real estate agent with Sotheby’s in San Carlos for many years. John attends collectors events and has met loads of fascinating and eccentric people through a shared love for this hobby. He now limits his collection to just western glass (most of which is embossed) because of his day job.

Bottle collection originally emerged in the 1950s and ’60s, and then rose to popularity through the ’70s and ’80s. There were fewer rules then. Nowadays, it isn’t as easy to just go excavating on private properties; there are hoops to jump through and official papers to file that are prohibitive of some of the more fun parts of the hobby. But John does keep track of demolition permits (which are public record), and when he hears that something interesting is being torn down—or put up—he hops in his car and makes a beeline.


Sitting in the 400-square-foot room that he’s dedicated to his favorite bottle finds from over the years, John has a proud twinkle in his eye that one can only imagine is the same one he had at age 11 on that first exploration in 1968. “They are all similar, but they are all unique,” he says with a smile.

Djerassi’s Legacy to the Arts

Usually when someone deploys the adage “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” they are referring to turning a pesky, unplanned inconvenience into something that they may actually enjoy. When life served Stanford chemistry professor Carl Djerassi some of the sourest lemons of all, the death by suicide of his daughter Pamela, a painter and poet who was just 28 years old, he decided to dedicate the rest of his life—time and money—to founding the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, which to date has provided over 2,400 artist residencies since its founding in 1979. The program’s property in Woodside is so strikingly beautiful that it affords artists the divine inspiration they need to create their most beautiful work and further their careers. That’s some very sweet lemonade.

After his personal tragedy, Carl Djerassi took a pilgrimage to Italy with Stanford english professor Diane Middlebrook (who would later become his wife), searching desperately for answers and peace in the wake of disaster. There, he took note of the patronage that the famed Medici family had given to artists in Renaissance Italy. This incited a determination in Djerassi to extend similar support to female artists on the land he owned back home on the Peninsula. Because he felt that the depression which ultimately led to Pamela’s death was caused by her perceived lack of support as an artist, Djerassi decided that forming this program to champion other artists would be a fitting and important way to honor her life.

If you’re of the more academic set, you may recognize Carl Djerassi’s name from his hand in the science behind oral contraception. In fact, he is sometimes referred to as “the father of the pill.” As a research scientist for Syntex Corporation in the 1940s, Djerassi was a member of the team that discovered how to manufacture artificial progesterone from Mexican yams (crazy, we know!). This was the foundational building block for the development of a
human oral contraceptive.

The land where the Resident Artists Program now sits was originally home to the Salson tribe of the Ohlone Indians. They used it for logging and cattle ranching into the 20th century, so when Djerassi bought it, he’d intended to continue those practices. Djerassi built a house on the land, as did his daughter Pamela and son Dale (who serves on the board of the program as one of the original founding trustees). Djerassi’s intention for its usage didn’t shift until that fateful trip to Italy following his devastating loss.

The cultivation of this wonderful program did not happen overnight. The first artist involved was Tamara Rikman from Jerusalem; she began a year-long residency in 1979. She was quickly followed by a group of four more women. Then, in 1983, the program opened its doors to men as well. Around that time, the very first executive director of the program was hired and it began its evolution into the well-oiled machine that it is today.

The 2,400 resident artists Djerassi has hosted have come from 54 countries and all 50 states. The program has hosted writers, visual artists, photographers, filmmakers, composers, choreographers, biologists, physicists and more. Margot H. Knight, Djerassi Residency’s current executive director, puts it best: “It’s a joy to know we have, through the gift of time, advanced the careers of over 2,400 artists and scientists up here on the mountain. In my past life, I was a grant maker and giving time is even more satisfying than giving money.”

As if providing “uninterrupted time for work, reflection and collegial interaction” in a setting conducive to masterful creation wasn’t enough, it’s also part of the Djerassi program’s mission for those who reside to be good stewards of the land itself; they use and care for each facility wisely and with the least impact on the environment. In 1999, the program created a conservation easement with Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), which set strict development limits on its property, guaranteeing that its majestic landscape of coastal redwoods, streams and rolling hills, oaks and coast redwoods would be protected in perpetuity. If you are ever near the Woodside property, don’t miss going on one of their guided hikes (which run from spring into autumn). You will be impressed and enlightened by both the art of nature and of the residents themselves.

While the Djerassi Resident Artists Program would not exist without the generosity of Carl Djerassi and the entire Djerassi family, it did become an independent non-profit in 1999, to which Carl donated the land and buildings, along with Pamela’s house. Though this year’s annual summer Open House has already passed, guests are welcome at October’s Artful Harvest benefit dinner and auction, proceeds from which go back to the organization’s programs and grants. Check the Djerassi website for more information.

Carl Djerassi was reunited with his daughter in 2015 when at age 91 he passed on. The program he founded is a testament to Pamela and to art. But to be leveled so completely by the loss of a child, and to be able to conjure the wherewithal to channel that pain into charity and support for others, is also a testament to human strength, in this case, to Carl Djerassi’s particular human strength.

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Escape With Tablescapes

Nothing beats being surrounded by good friends in a beautiful setting. As Labor Day draws closer to take summer farther away, it’s a great excuse to fit in those last warm-weather get-togethers. PUNCH talked to a couple of event-designing pros who can help make doing that in high style a piece of cake. (And you’ll hopefully also get to eat cake at the party).

While there are all sorts of planners—event, party and so on—here we are focusing on designers—event and party designers to be exact. Event planners work on the logistics of a fête: guest list and count, location, timing, etc. Designers work on the look of the event: tablecloths, napkins, place cards and escort cards (those cards that tell you what table you’re at upon entering a dining area), floral design, etc.

Sheila Kramer is the talented event designer who created the gorgeous tablescape on this issue’s cover at a stunning Atherton home. Kramer has always had a love for style and design, and she’s here to make it accessible for everyone. She spent the early part of her career sourcing furnishings and decorative accessories for home design and decor retailers on both coasts before launching her own interior design firm here in the Bay Area.

According to Kramer, the entertaining industry has changed and grown a lot in recent years, and the reasons are two-fold. First, guests now have the power to document the tiniest of party features on social media sites, where cultivating beauty and design are of vast import (i.e. Pinterest and Instagram). That documentation is more than sufficient impetus for a host to up her game.

Julia Rockwell, former event planner for Fortune 500 companies, tech giants and the San Francisco Opera (and now the founder of the online gifting mecca, Gifted Gift Guide), tells us that the second reason the entertaining industry has grown is because more options than ever exist for hosts. “There are more interesting, high-end and specialized rental options, and more curated and custom entertaining goods (think the opposite of regular party store retail),” Rockwell tells us. Also, social media platforms offer endless ideas—a never-ending stream of swatches and inspiration boards to screenshot and drool over. (A cursory look at some event-idea Pinterest accounts shows that one can freeze edible flowers within ice cubes to put in water glasses around the dinner table and even have an evening’s menu written on individual cacti for each guest.)

While these touches are certainly post-worthy, Kramer’s theory on entertaining tends more toward functionality. “Homes should be comfortable above all else. The goal of my business is obviously to create beautiful homes and environments, but they should still be very approachable and feel like real life, not a stage. It doesn’t serve anyone any good to have things look gorgeous if they aren’t functional or sustainable,” Kramer says.

Kramer also doesn’t want her clients to run out and spend a small fortune on items for setting the scene for a fête or tablescape. She encourages her clients to see what they already have at home and then put it all together in a fun, interesting or unexpected way. Below, Kramer shares her best event-design tips and tricks:

What would you tell a host who intends to attempt a tablescape for an event at her home for the very first time?

It’s SO important that the host feels comfortable and confident, so keep it simple! Don’t fret. Have fun! I recently heard something that struck a chord: there really is nothing more loving that preparing food for friends and family. I believe that is so true. Do it with love.

How much should the food that is to be served and/or the theme of a party (if there is one) inform your tablescape?

One hundred percent. Choose your menu and then the tablescape will come together naturally. Reference colors and tastes in the food for your design and the “theme” will present itself!

Can you give our readers a tip for their tablescape if they are throwing a super casual get-together and another if it’s a super fancy occasion?

I actually feel the same about both—if you throw yourself into every detail (casual or formal), your spirit will come through and the party will be a hit. But, if I had to give concrete direction, I’d say doing a casual, buffet style for the informal option and a sit-down dinner for the formal is a good way to differentiate. For the buffet, you can have wicker trays and plates and have your guests sit anywhere. Serve lighter salads like arugula with prosciutto and burrata or cold pasta, grilled salmon sandwiches and tuna steaks, or grilled chicken. When having a sit-down dinner, ensure the table is dressed, linens are pressed, beautiful background music is playing, etc. You can also do a buffet for a formal dinner where guests help themselves and return to the table to find their place cards.

Fresh flowers can get pricey and multiple pieces of flatware/chargers/etc. can really add up. What are your tips for tablescaping on a budget?

Mix it up! Use every pattern and style of china in your cupboard. Purchase inexpensive flowers from the supermarket (Trader Joe’s is a go-to favorite) that repeat colors in the china in separate vases to tie
it all together.

How can you use surroundings—art, architecture, landscaping—to complement and play off your tablescape?

Chose one feature and let everything play to that feature. For example, metal sculptures in a garden lend themselves to metal vases or planters, metal chargers and so on. If you have flowers in your garden, use them on your table! If you have citrus trees, have bowls of that citrus on your table or on your bar.

Can you give our readers some brand/store recommendations as they venture into the world of tablescaping?

Anthem is one of my favorite stores for design and it’s centrally located in Menlo Park. If you find yourself in San Francisco, don’t miss Sue Fisher King’s shop on Sacramento Street. That said, ALWAYS be on the lookout! Places like Home Goods, your local hardware store, Pottery Barn, Target and more…these places all have fun things you can add to your collection of partyware!

Kramer puts her money where her mouth is when it comes to combining high and low. In the
tablescape scene on the cover, Kramer reveals that the ikat blankets are actually beach towels. Kids had to be able to be kids and swim! She has the same emphasis on beauty that is characteristic of the most highly recognized event designers, but she insists on less fuss and more fun.

Heavenly Stationery

Standing in her Menlo Park garage, Karla Ebrahimi bends her head over two seemingly identical pieces of paper. But to the owner of Sky of Blue Cards, the two prints in her hand have clear differences. One version has been run through her circa-1942 Chandler & Price letterpress only once, while the other made a second trip under the 2,000-pound machine’s metal plates. Eventually, Ebrahimi and Laura Wellington, the artist who is running the press, decide that the double-printed version’s deeper red color is a better fit for the holiday card they’re working on.

When Ebrahimi was working as a graphic designer for corporate clients, she didn’t make those kinds of decisions. She quit that business in 2008 out of a desire to do something more meaningful than “churning out the next recycling piece,” as she describes it. Ebrahimi had always loved cards and other printed materials, and as a kid she explored stationery stores with a wonder that other children reserved for a candy shop. She’s the kind of designer who is always working on the next project, jotting down ideas in a notebook or on her iPhone. So once she’d left the corporate world, it wasn’t long before she opened her own card design studio. Sky of Blue started out small, with just a dozen holiday cards and handmade gift tags. But once the ball was rolling, it never really stopped. In the first five years of business, Ebrahimi caught a few breaks, including a booth at the National Stationery Show, interest from national retailers like Barney’s New York and eventually even a mention on Oprah’s Favorite Things list.

The rapid expansion meant that Ebrahimi had to change some of her business practices. Instead of doing everything in a studio that used be her son’s bedroom, she expanded into her garage and bought her own letterpress. Printing on a letterpress means that her work looks unique, even to those who aren’t stationery experts. The old-fashioned technique presses the ink into 100% cotton paper with a custom-made plate in the shape of a message or design. This leaves a visable depression on the card, giving it depth in addition to rich color. And since the press can only print with one shade of ink at a time, Sky of Blue products generally have only a few colors, keeping the designs from looking too busy.

Today, you can find Sky of Blue cards online and in stores, including local shops like Village Stationers in Menlo Park and Letter Perfect in Palo Alto. Ebrahimi’s constantly adding new products to her line, and she’s particularly excited about her new project called Letterbox. It’s a subscription service the company sends out quarterly, with cards appropriate for the season, custom postage stamps, and other lifestyle items. Peninsula residents can also catch Sky of Blue cards at their occasional pop-up shops at retailers like Anthropologie, or at various holiday boutiques in the winter. Though most of her business happens online or through her wholesale clients, Ebrahimi makes a special effort to hold those kinds of events so she can interact with her customers. Sometimes this leads to new design ideas, like her line of “Dude! Thanks” cards—the result of a client who was looking for a message that wouldn’t be too stuffy to give to a teenage boy. Meeting people who’ve bought her cards also gives Ebrahimi the opportunity to hear what she says is the best compliment in her business—“I loved your card so much, I framed it!”

Perfect Summer Cocktail

At Vault 164 Restaurant and Bar in San Mateo, warm weather calls for mojitos. Although owner Brad Goldberg and his staff will happily mix customers a Martini or Tom Collins, they also feature a rotating menu of signature drinks.

That mix of old and new is reflected all over Vault 164, which takes its name from its building’s original inhabitant, the historic Crocker Bank. After walking through the original circa-1925 doors, diners are greeted by a host stand crafted from an old safe, but plush red booths and colorful wall hangings update the space for its new life as a local hotspot.

The team behind Vault 164 tries to keep the cocktail menu updated, both to give regulars something new and to utilize local produce, and a Vault 164-spin on a mojito often makes the cut. “It’s a commonly ordered drink,” manager Rick Axelrod explains. “We like to cater to people’s taste, while keeping the menu seasonal.”

One of their favorite variations on the classic Cuban cocktail is made with kiwi, and it’s so perfect for the season that they even named the drink “It’s a Cool Summer.” Instead of asking you to rummage around in the liquor cabinet for flavored liqueurs or obscure bitters, the drink gets its flavor from a generous helping of fresh fruit and herbs. No need to strain out the kiwi’s dark seeds—they give the drink a fun, almost polka-dotted appearance.

make it


  • ½ ounce agave nectar
  • ½ lime, quartered
  • ½ fresh kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • 6-8 fresh mint leaves, plus 1 sprig
  • 2 ounces Cruzan citrus rum
  • Soda water
  • Lemon-lime soda


1. Fill a tall glass ¾ full of ice. In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, combine the agave, lime quarters, mint leaves and kiwi slices. Muddle to release the juice from the lime and kiwi.

2. Add the rum and the ice from the glass to the muddled mixture and shake vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds.

3. Pour everything, including the ice and fruit, from the shaker into the chilled glass.

4. Top off the glass with equal parts of each soda; garnish with the mint sprig.

Wellness in the Workplace

Lauren Krasny wants you to be healthy and happy. And stay that way. Here’s her plan. Krasny wasn’t always in the business of health. Inspired to change careers in 2014 when she was laid off from a startup, Krasny went back to school at Coaches Training Institute (in Marin County). She had always gravitated toward psychology, emotional health, mindfulness and stress reduction strategies. But her biggest shift came a year later, when Krasny cared for one of her best friends during her battle with cancer. After holding her friend’s hand through months of chemotherapy (which, sadly and ultimately, did not work), Krasny’s determination to find more meaning and purpose in her career was ignited. Now, if you hear the name Krasny in the Bay Area, your mind may jump to Michael Krasny, the 25-year veteran radio host with such an esteemed resume that former SF mayor Ed Lee gave him an official day! Soon, however, the name will make you think of Lauren Krasny, Michael’s daughter and one of the leaders in a movement we should all hope to see more of: mental and physical wellness in the workplace.

Since getting certified with Coaches Training Institute (CTI), Krasny has leapt into various roles in the wellness space in California. She is a Coach/Course Facilitator at Stanford’s LEAD Program (Learn Engage Accelerate Disrupt), an international program at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. In her role, she gets paid to learn, weighing in on submissions and assignments to help people get more out of their time there. The courses she is helping facilitate now are: Innovation Playbook (Storytelling), Getting More of What You Want (Negotiations) and Leading Effective Teams. All are applicable and relevant for both personal and professional life success. “We should all have a Lauren in our lives,” one of her students tells us. “[I] wouldn’t have progressed in this course without her guidance.”

Krasny is also a consultant and coach at Modern Health, whose main funder is Y Combinator, a well-known startup seed accelerator based in Mountain View. It caters to employees who suffer from anxiety or depression that may be situational or circumstantial and can be mitigated by a professional therapist, coach or lawyer. So many companies have employees who feel stuck and have a hard time breaking out of their own routines, and Modern Health recruits people like Krasny to offer helpful resources and resolve these issues within the infrastructure of the workplace.

Lastly, Krasny is a digital health coach at Omada Health for diabetes, heart disease, obesity-related illnesses and other controllable diseaserisk prevention. She coaches approximately 500 people on nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, emotional triggers, social cues, and more. The first curriculum is 16 weeks long, called Foundations, and is developed by doctors and scientists. The second section is a full eight months of upkeep, called Focus. Omada’s backers, Norwest (Palo Alto) and Andreessen (Menlo Park), make us proud to be on the Peninsula! Through her work with Omada, Krasny provides a support system for her clients. She helps people take inventory of their actions and reactions, which is a common goal across many variations of coaching. Lauren asks, “How are your choices directly impacting the outcomes you get?” She encourages clients to harness their power and control over what roles they play in life and in work.

Happily, there is a real movement happening when it comes to company culture that counts employee wellness as a priority. Richard Branson recently spoke at The Castro Theatre in San Francisco about this very topic. As the head of the Virgin Group—which has created more than 300 companies—Branson has had to develop some real goals about the management of his employees. His policies show that face time is unimportant compared to overall employee contentment; the idea being that if employees are less consumed by the stress of commutes, face time, micromanagement, and other problems, it will increase their loyalty to the company, which then increases their productivity. He told the audience at The Castro that he felt that U.S.companies were really behind Europe in finding a healthy work/life balance.

Krasny thinks that we will “continue to see companies assign more and more value to the mindset, well-being, integrity and authenticity of their employees, rather than just optimizing for their productivity levels.” She truly believes that all of the mindfulness tactics she uses in her various positions can elevate and improve lives by eliminating the unnecessary and focusing on what’s most important and needs to be prioritized. Moreover, Krasny understands people. One client tells us that she helped him untangle what felt like a rat’s nest of afflictions in his life that were psychological and physiological. “This really fine-tuned my approach for the future,” he says. Especially in our area of startups and technology, there are so many job opportunities out there. As such, in order to retain good people, you have to make the benefits more compelling and offering workshops and resources that champion happiness is one of those benefits. After all, we all want to be happy!

rapid fire

  • MAKI OR NIGIRI? Maki (If I’m having rice, I’ll make it fun.)
  • WORKING OUT WITH PEOPLE OR ALONE? Workout classes! I work out at RippedBody Fitness with JT and Jake Peterson.
  • GIANTS OR A’S? Giants
  • FAVORITE PLAYER? Buster Posey
  • FAVORITE PENINSULA HIKE? Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail
  • FAVORITE BUMPER STICKER? Critical thinking: our other national deficit

When a City is Not a City

First thing’s first—Stanford is not a city. Actually, it’s a census-designated place, a federal term for a population center that doesn’t belong to a nearby town or city. The 8,180 acres residents think of as Stanford are mostly part of unincorporated Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, along with some property in Palo Alto, Woodside, Menlo Park and Portola Valley. So, if you’re at the Stanford Shopping Center or Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, you’re still in the city of Palo Alto. Although the university and the area around it have changed a lot in the 120 years since its founding, any place with “Stanford” at the end of its address is united by a common history.

Former California governor and railroad magnate Leland Stanford first bought land on the Peninsula in 1876, in the form of a mansion on what’s now Sand Hill Road and a 650-acre ranch surrounding it. The ranch would come to be known as the Palo Alto Stock Farm, and it was the family’s summer home as well a place for Stanford to practice his hobby of raising horses, hence the name. The property would likely have remained a private residence if not for the death of Leland and Jane Stanford’s only child, Leland, Jr., in 1884. Determined to honor their son’s memory, the Stanfords established a trust and gave over control of their land on the Peninsula (which had grown to more than ten times the size of the original ranch) to a newly established school. Stanford’s trustees purchased the land for a town to support the school, and University Park, now Palo Alto, was established in 1887.

So while Stanford doesn’t have its own mayor or ZIP code, it’s certainly a community with its own unique feel. Just make sure you know exactly where you’re going if someone asks you to “meet me at Stanford”—those 8,000-plus acres give you a lot of room to get lost.

The Success of Failure

Every day we get up from our beds, dress ourselves and go out into the world looking for success. We are optimistic that way. But success is an illusory thing that is difficult to maintain. What even defines success? And are those who achieve their version of it happy? And if they are happy, how long does that happiness last before new success is needed to keep the happiness going?

By success, I mean the good things happening to us, around us and for us. And by failure I mean the opposite of that. It’s really not the literal term of failure, I suppose, but when you lose something that is truly important to you, it certainly feels like failure. Much failure is simply disappointment though we certainly talk about failure when it comes to marriages not working out or to once-promising startups going out of business.

As we go about our days seeking successes, the one thing that is certain is that we will generally not succeed as planned. Most of what we strive for in life is rather meaningless (think: hoping the Giants beat the Dodgers this weekend) and the failures are not traumatic. We deal with them. We move on. But then there are the big things in life: marriages, jobs, children, family, homes and health. And when we find failure in those endeavors—and we all do or will—it’s traumatic and can change the course of our lives and our personalities.

My mother left our family home and moved thousands of miles away to pursue her career when I was a 12-year-old kid, and that certainly felt like a failure to me. It took a while to overcome that loss but I’m sure that part of my personality will always carry a mark from that experience. I’m insecure and overly nostalgic for my childhood. I place too much emphasis on the memories of inanimate objects. But we all have failures in our past that have helped to determine who we are today.

But let me get to the point already. Last summer—having previously left Gentry magazine, which I had founded—I got a call from a top media broker in New York who had helped to broker a deal back in 2004 when we sold California Home & Design. He told me that Time Inc. was selling Sunset magazine and asked if I would be interested. He said some kind words about how they thought I would be an ideal owner-operator of the franchise. Time Inc., after being spun off from Time Warner and given a pile of debt, had badly neglected Sunset. They had no idea about what to do with the faltering publication and so they decided to sell.

That phone call started an extremely intense six-month period during which I came up with an extensive business plan of how to transform Sunset into a brand that could once again thrive and prosper. I totally reimagined Sunset into a fresh, meaningful and modern magazine; developed comprehensive financials to execute that plan; put together an executive team to take charge; and raised the money needed to buy the company.

I understood there to be approximately 20 suitors at the start. As the months went by and we had to supply Time Inc. with certain milestone accomplishments, the parties were eliminated there were only four of us left who met all their criteria. Raising the money was extremely difficult (try selling a traditional media company to Sand Hill Road), but I found what I needed, and the final presentation was submitted. Then I got the phone call from the broker who told me that Time Inc. was selling Sunset to a private equity group in L.A. because they could close the deal in a week, and I needed three. All came to light when Time Inc. itself was sold a month later to Meredith Corporation.

I was deeply disappointed; I had failed. And I walked in a stoop for a good month. But then I decided that I would turn that failure into success: I would take my carefully crafted plan for Sunset and create a fresh, exciting magazine for the Peninsula, the place I have lovingly called home for more than 30 years since coming here to go to Stanford Business School.

And so PUNCH magazine is born from the ashes of that doomed Sunset deal. Richard Branson once wrote that we should not be embarrassed by our failures but learn from them and start again. So that’s what I am doing with PUNCH, a magazine about how to live a life that is more engaging and authentic; about appreciating and finding the richness of where we live and how that understanding can enhance our lives and make them more fulfilling and happier. I hope that, in some small way, it adds to the success in your life.

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