San Francisco to Mendocino: A Perfect Weekend Getaway

wild lilies mendocino
wild lilies mendocino
Wild lilies along the coast of Mendocino

One of my favorite road trips to take is the one from San Francisco to Mendocino. It only takes a few hours to get there, there’s plenty of farms and wineries to visit on the way and once you get there you feel like you have been transported to another world.

Getting there is half the fun!

Lets start with getting there. This could take you three hours or all day depending on how much time you have and how much you want to see.

Penny Royal Farm
Penny Royal Farm

On my most recent trip we started out by taking the tour at Penny Royal Farm. Biodynamic farming is pretty much the norm up in these parts. Animals and nature do most of the work with the help of some very skilled and passionate farmhands. Penny Royal, in Boonville, is the sister farm to the very popular Navarro Vineyard in Philo. Both towns are easily accessible on your way up to Mendocino.

Penny Royal Farm
Penny Royal Farm

We started our tour at Penny Royal Farm by learning a bit about how they process their goat and sheep’s milk for their farmstead cheeses. Unlike other farms Penny Royal drives the milk up to their creamery and pours it into vats slowly by hand as opposed to pumping it through underground pipes. This prevents the milk from getting overly churned giving their cheeses a smooth velvety texture.

The curing room at Penny Royal Farm
The curing room at Penny Royal Farm

From there we got to meet and pet the goats (including the ridiculously cute baby goats, OMG) and sheep. The animals are separated by age group and are kept in surprisingly clean and neat conditions. Lets just put it this way, if I am coming back reincarnated I want to come back as a Penny Royal goat.

The goats at Penny Royal Farm
The goats at Penny Royal Farm
Baby goats at Penny Royal Farm
Baby goats at Penny Royal Farm
The Sheep at Penny Royal Farm
The Sheep at Penny Royal Farm
Baby daddies at Penny Royal Farm
Baby daddies at Penny Royal Farm

Penny Royal also makes wine. The vines are just tall enough to where they can let miniature Babydoll sheep run through the vineyards to mow the grass but not eat the grapes. A moveable chicken coupe comes along behind the sheep to aerate the soil helping to mix the sheep’s fertilizer into the soil and eat pests. And of course, you can also buy eggs from their chickens in the tasting room. They also have an enormous composting system and an organic garden.

Penny Royal vineyards
Penny Royal vineyards
The garden at Penny Royal Farm
The garden at Penny Royal Farm

The tour finished off with a beautiful wine and cheese tasting and a primer in Bootling – the local (and nearly extinct) jargon of Boonville, since many of their cheeses have  names such as Laychee, which means milk in Bootling.

Penny Royal Cheeses
Penny Royal’s Boont Corners Tomme and Velvet Sister Camembert style Cheese
Fresh and tangy Penny Royal Laychee cheese
Fresh and tangy Penny Royal Laychee cheese

Continuing the drive through Anderson Valley is a tasty one. This is pinot noir country but also home to some very elegant Alsatian style wines like Gewürztraminer and Reisling. You really can’t go wrong at any of the wineries you pass along the 128 but Navarro and Balo Vineyards are two of my favorites. Across the street from Balo you can also taste wines at Drew Family Cellars and have an artisan pizza at Stone and Embers Pizza. Oh, ya and if you are still in Philo in the evening make sure to stop for dinner at The Bewildered Pig, a local favorite specializing in dishes made with local heritage breed meats and produce.

Navarro Vinyards
Navarro Vinyards

If you are up this way in the fall make sure to visit The Apple Farm in Philo. It wasn’t apple season this time when we stopped by but the farm still stocks their homemade jams, apple chips and famous apple juice – probably the best apple juice I’ve ever had in my life. I learned about The Apple Farm, Penny Royal Farm and Navarro Vineyards from Sarah Henry’s book, Farmsteads of the California Coast. If you like to geek out on this kind of stuff like me I recommend picking up a copy. It’s full of fun facts about each farm and the fascinating stories behind the people who run them.

The Apple Farm's apple juice
The Apple Farm’s one ingredient apple juice
The Apple Farm farmstand
The Apple Farm farmstand

Where to stay in Mendocino

If you are staying the night in Mendocino you’re staying in a bed and breakfast. I’ve stayed at a couple of really cool ones – The Algeria Inn and The McCallum House. The Alegria is right on the ocean and serves up a killer breakfast. The McCallum House has, in my option, the best restaurant and cocktail program in Mendocino. Both are centrally located in town and since Mendocino is all of about 3 blocks long,  you really can’t go wrong with either option.

The trail at The Alegria Inn to Big River Beach
The trail at The Alegria Inn to Big River Beach
Big River Beach, Mendocino
Big River Beach, Mendocino

Where to eat in Mendocino

I love the food here. Most restaurants try hard to use organic produce and sustainably farmed meat. As I said before, McCallum House is my fave. Their cocktails and food change seasonally and are always interesting. They also make everything in house from their sourdough bread, to ice-cream for desserts and bitters for drinks.

The cocktail of the day at The McCallum House
The cocktail of the day at The McCallum House

The Mendocino Cafe is my second favorite. Great for lunch or dinner you can always have a really solid meal here. Their menu is sorta all over the place ranging from curries to dumplings to Italian pastas but still manage to do all of them well. We even had meatloaf and mashed potatoes last time we went that would put your Mom’s to shame.

If it’s a nice day have lunch or a glass of wine on the patio at Flow, the only restaurant with an ocean front patio. Trillium is also a great option for dinner if you want to go high end. If you want a throw down local’s joint Patterson’s is a fun Irish pub that serves a huge menu of comfort food like fish and chips and shepard’s pie.

The bluff across the street from Flow Restaurant
The bluff across the street from Flow Restaurant

I even love the grocery stores here. Harvest Market is your main grocery store with all the regular staples plus a great local wine and housewares section.  Corners of the Mouth health food store is a not-for-profit worker operated collective like Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco only smaller. Like Rainbow they have an extensive bulk foods section filled with ingredients like spices, teas, whole grains and misos. They also carry locally made foods and skin care products.

Corners of the Mouth Market
Corners of the Mouth Market

Meandering through Mendocino along its winding beach trails is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. If you are there during the spring the whole bluff pops off with wildflowers, clovers and if you can believe it collard greens!

Wild collard greens
Wild collard greens
Wild clovers and collard greens
Wild clovers and collard greens
Succulents
Succulents
Flower garden made of wood
Flower garden made of wood

Breathtaking views, clean air and a break from the city madness await you when you travel from San Francisco to Mendocino. It is truly the perfect weekend getaway.

Beach trails in Mendocino
Beach trails in Mendocino

 

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Where is The Nearest Filipino Restaurant Near Me

filipino restaurant near me
filipino restaurant near me
House of Sisig Kamayan Dinner

I can not stop thinking about Filipino food since I started researching it last month. In fact I have caught myself twice this week googling – “nearest filipino restaurant near me”.

It’s a delicious melting pot of different cuisines. Vibrant flavors like tamarind, sweet vinegar and fish sauce swirl through each dish invigorating the taste buds.

I’m not trying to make a generalization here, but in my experience, all of the Filipino friends I have ever made have these things in common – they are all charismatic and funny as hell, the woman are drop dead gorgeous and the essence of the word hospitality is engrained in who they are.

It would make sense then that their cuisine be as equally beautiful and heartwarming as the Filipinos themselves.

A funny thing I’ve picked up on while dining in Filipino establishments.  Every spot I go to always wants me to try their lumpia. Out of all the soups, stews, perfectly grilled meats, noodle dishes and succulent roasted pork these guys wanted me to order, for lack of a better word, fried egg rolls?

I consulted my friends on this and they confirmed it. They often judged a Filipino restaurant on how good the lumpia were. And although this tasty snack is always made with virtually the same ingredients they taste curiously different from place to place.

My favorite Filipino food experiences in San Francisco have all been really different. I’ve tried food trucks, turo turos, kamayan dinners, silog joints and pop ups. Although all of them were special experiences these are the four that stood out for me.

Click on each link below to read their story:

Elena Una

The Salo Series

The Sarap Shop

AJ’s BBQ & Cafe

filipino restaurant near me
Sisig-silog at Tselogs

Other Filipino spots to definitely check out include:

Tselogs

House of Sisig

Pampalasa

Senior Sisig

No Worries – Filipino Vegan Cuisine

The Lumpia Company

FOB Kitchen

Patio Filipino

Mitchell’s Ice-cream – for authentic Filipino flavors like ume and halo halo

I am not exaggerating when I say that Filipinos truly put their heart and soul into their food and the dining experience. Your going to be blown away by how much you are treated like family.

So when you catch yourself googling that phrase “filipino restaurant near me” think of these spots.

And remember, when you go to a Filipino restaurant don’t forget to try the lumpia!

filipino restaurant near me
Another happy customer enjoying the lumpia at AJ’s BBQ & Cafe
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Elena Una

elena una
elena una
The crispy Lechon at Elena Una

Elena Una is surprisingly what started my journey down the Filipino highway of deliciousness. Ex chef for the President of the Philippines, Janice Lazaga takes this cuisine to the next level. She takes the bold flavors and homestyle cooking of her homeland and transforms them into the highest level of sophistication.

Elena Una
Chef Janice Lazaga

Dishes like the Oxtail Kansi – succulant braised oxtail swimming in a tangy lemongrass broth and Pacham – fried rice with crunchy lechon (slow roasted pork) with fried egg are addictive and comforting yet look like something out of a fine dining restaurant.

Elena Una
Oxtail kansi
Elena Una
Pacham with lechon and fried egg

Although her style is upscale Janice still has fun. Her playful presentation of buttery pandesal bread rolls served in a paper bag with coconut jam and butter evoked nostalgia in the Filipino friends I was dining with.

Elena Una
Pandesal

Her sisig is served traditionally in a cast iron pot with a wedge of lemon. She adds chopped white onion, tomato and jalapeno on top, which gives this rich dish a fresh crunchy element to it. The lumpia are nice and plump stuffed with not only pork but shrimp as well.

Elena Una
Sizzling Sisig

Desserts blew us away. Authentic flavors like ume (purple yam) and halo-halo (basically a hodge podge of ingredients like sweet beans, tropical fruit and evaporated milk) are used to make classic desserts like panna cotta and bread pudding. The bibingka skillet is a traditional Filipino coconut and rice cake baked and served in a cast iron pan and drizzled with caramel tableside. It will make you want to call home. Hurry up and make your reservation now, this pop up ends in April.

Elena Una
halo halo panna cotta and calamansi cheesecake
Elena Una
Berry bread pudding with coconut toffee sauce
Elena Una
Bibingka skillet

Elena Una

3347 Fillmore St. San Francisco, CA 94123

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

The Salo Series

salo series
salo series
Yana Gilbuena presents 7 courses with JP and Kristen of The Sarap Shop at her pop up NOLI: Pag-ibig

The Salo Series hosted by my girl Yana Gilbuena, a Feastly Chef, brought Filipino cuisine to 50 states in 50 weeks. This self-proclaimed nomad travels the world putting on her pop ups and collaborating with other chefs she meets along the way. She picks up local help wherever she goes only arriving in each city with a vision. Yana credits her success to social media and says her followers contact her in advance volunteering to help out the next time her pop up lands in their city.

On the night I went to her pop up in San Francisco she was partnering with the owners of The Sarap Shop food truck. The pop up for the evening was called NOLI: Pag-ibig. This traditional kamayan dinner had untraditional twists like silverware and fancy plate presentations.

Yana met the Sarap shop guys at a Filipino food festival called  Savor Oakland last year. Together they served seven courses spread out before us on a bed of banana leaves. Yana bringing the flavors of Visayas and Sarap shop countering each course with their vegan comfort food version. Both Yana and the Sarap shop duo delivered creative riffs on classics showcasing bright, sweet and sour flavors and varied textures.

My favorite dish of Yana’s is a spin on poke. Diced salmon marinated in the flavors of Singang ,which included tamarind, soy sauce, fish sauce and thai chilies for heat. She adds a crunchy element to the dish by sprinkling chopped cornicks on top, a Filipino version of corn nuts. Sarap shop made a lovely vegan version of this with fresh diced tomato, watermelon and cucumber.

The next course was Binakol na pugo. Yana served crispy quail over an aromatic sweet and sour broth made of coconut water, coconut meat, ginger, lemongrass and moringa leaf – a medicinal plant grown in tropical climates used in Indian, Thai and Filipino cuisine. Sarap shop created what they called a “Chinese goose” – shiitake and oyster mushrooms enveloped in a bean curd wrapper floating in the same delicious broth.

For dessert Yana brewed up a hot chocolate she called Tsokolate-ey made with Thai chilies, coconut cream, semisweet chocolate, pure cacao and pinipig – pounded young rice, which was sprinkled on top for texture. While Sarap shop threw down 3 innovative takes on classic Filipino desserts – Deep fried suman – a glutinous steamed rice cake, spicy flan and a raspberry cornmeal cake topped with crumbled vegan bacon and diced mango.

All dishes were elegantly plated and accompanied by live Filipino music which consisted of  a woman on acoustic guitar and a man on the ukulele. Their beautiful voices and brought the food, music and rum cocktails into perfect harmony. If you closed your eyes you could almost hear the ocean.

Since I consider Yana an authority on Filipino cusine in America I asked for her opinion on this surge of Filipino cuisine in the bay area. She said, “Filipino cuisine is a lot like our culture, a beautiful mutt. We had so many strains of cultures come and contribute to our existing one right now from Malay, to India, to Saudi Arabia to Chinese, to Japanese, to Spanish and American. Our islands are as different and diverse, as are the people who inhabit it. That is our strength and it should be celebrated. We are highly adaptable wherever we are. Our cusine is still hard to define, especially in the American standpoint because a lot of people are alreay creating mutations and adaptations of it before it even has a chance to stand on its own. I think there should be a clear definition of Filipino food versus Filipino-American food versus Filipino-inspired.  Since it’s a “young” emerging cuisine here in the U.S., it’s best to educate people first of what it is, versus trying so hard to “Americanize” or “Frenchify” it. We don’t need western cuisines to “elevate” ours or western culinary leaders to “approve” and say, “oh, it’s great” when they have never even had “real Filipino food”. I love that Filipino cuisine is spreading all over the nation, not just the bay area. I’m really big on history and why food was made the way it was and I would love to implore other Filipino/ Filipino-American food leaders to not only serve the food, but also educate people about it.”

When I asked her what Filipino cuisine specifically meant to her, she replied simply, “family”.

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

The Sarap Shop

The Sarap Shop
The Sarap Shop
The Sarap Shop

You can not help but fall in love with owners JP Reyes and Kristen Brillantes of The Sarap Shop. With his cooking chops and her passion for business they have created some of the most innovative and tasty “meals on wheels” in the bay area. If you have ever thought about opening your own food truck or you’re a sucker for love stories, I recommend checking out their article – How We Opened A Food Truck In 6 Days. It’s pretty amazing.

From the moment I read the menu with dishes like “I love my adobro” and “Why you laing” I was sold. The Sarap Shop uses their sense of humor and playfulness to make Filipino food approachable for everyone. Their menu has 50% vegan and 50% meat offerings and are all unapologetically Filipino-American. The portions are huge and all of their dishes have that classic American comfort food feel with a Filipino twist. Sarap, meaning something that is delicious and makes you feel good, defines their food.  Filipino food to JP means bringing people together. He describes his culture as “welcoming” and I agree with that 100%. His truck is family run and everyone pulls shifts as needed.

The Sarap Shop
Dynamite lumpia, I love my adobro and the vegan sisig sandwich

The vegan sisig sandwich, which JP claims started it all, consists of diced tofu cooked with vinegar and serrano chilies, stuffed in pita bread with French fries, cornices (Filipino corn nuts) and cabbage slaw, drizzled with tamarind-garlic aioli. I found it much easier to eat with a fork than to pick it up and eat it like a sandwich. It’s a hot mess (and I mean that in the best of ways) and it is ridiculously delicious.

The I love my Adobro over rice is a plate made up of crispy pork belly cooked in soy, vinegar and garlic, rice colored neon yellow with annatto seed, sweet corn and truck-made pickled bitter melon.

They have fun with their version of lumpia creating sort of a take on the jalapeño popper. Whole serrano chilies are scooped out, stuffed with ground pork and vegetables, wrapped in a lumpia wrapper and deep fried. They are served authentically with sweet chile sauce, which actually calms the heat of the spicy serranos down a bit. Warning, these are a bit addictive.

The Sarap Shop
Owner JP of The Sarap Shop

JP plans to eventually sell hot sauces and beverages called “coolers” with flavors like Jasime and pineapple in addition to their truck grub. I had to laugh one day when I was speaking with a good friend of mine who is married to a Filipino. She said she wishes she could eat Filipino food but she cant because she is a vegetarian. I smiled and said, “I know just the place for you”.

The Sarap Shop

@SOMA Street Food Park

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

AJ’s BBQ and Cafe

AJ's bbq sf
AJ's bbq sf
Owner Kevin Guevarra behind the counter at AJ’s BBQ and Cafe

AJ’s BBQ & Cafe is a turo turo,  a quick service restaurant consisting of steam tables filled with delicious home-style Filipino cooking. This turo turo was passed down to Kevin Guevarra by his family and re-opened as AJ’s BBQ & Cafe, named after his son, a couple years ago. And from what I can see he is definitely doing the family proud.

This place starts out the day by serving breakfast. Kevin makes a killer cup of coffee and sells boba teas with flavors like taro and Thai iced tea. Other morning items include donuts, breakfast burritos and more traditional Filipino fare like house-made longsilog –  pork and garlic breakfast sausages served with garlic rice and fried egg. There’s a steady stream of passerby’s who come through to grab a quick breakfast on their way to work.

Aj's bbq sf
Thai iced tea and taro root bobas and Kevin’s famous lumpia

You can find Kevin most days behind the counter cooking and chatting it up with his regulars. He’s clearly passionate about what he does and it shows. He’s not just running a business he is back there doing what he loves – cooking the foods he grew up on and making everyone feel at home. Out of all of the Filipino restaurants I’ve been to this place is like a primer on the cuisine. He was serving just about every dish I had read about and was more than happy to explain each one to me.

His lumpia shanghai are hand rolled and made with ground pork, vegetables and black pepper. He also makes a mean Sinagang consisting of pork shoulder, bok choy, green beans, ginger, eggplant, tamarind, soy sauce and fish sauce. The chicken adobo he admits is an Americanized version made simply with soy, sweet vinegar, garlic, onion and black pepper. The Laing could give the best steak houses in the city a run for their money. It’s basically creamed spinach, but not just any creamed spinach. It’s cooked with minced pork, coconut milk, ginger, fish sauce, onion and garlic. OMG.

Aj's bbq sf
Sinigang

The chicken afritada consists of chicken legs braised in tomato, chicken broth, potato, carrot, yellow onion, celery and garlic. Pancit, I learned,  is a noodle dish traditionally eaten at birthday parties. The long noodles represent long life. Kevin uses rice stick noodles for his version and cooks them down in beef broth until the broth has completely reduced. Then garlic, scallion and cabbage are tossed in which are lightly steamed by the hot noodles.

Aj's bbq sf
Pork and Chicken BBQ Skewers

You would think it couldn’t get any better than that but it does. AJ’s is known for their BBQ chicken and pork skewers. Nice fatty pieces with the skin left lends a nice crispy texture. The skewers are marinated overnight with soy, sugar and surprisingly 7-up, drained, cooked on flat top grill, taken off to rest and then grilled one again over an open fire. The result are sticks of smoky, sweet and succulent chunks of meat.

Aj's bbq sf
BBQ skewers, Boba teas, Laing, Longanisa, Chicken Afritada, Pancit and Chicken Adobo

Kevin says “every Filipino restaurant is different”. Filipino cuisine means “home cooking passed down from family” to him. He comes from Pampanga where it is known for its good cooks. He is currently messing around with a lumpia burger to put on the menu. He envisions a patty made of lumpia filling topped with a special sauce that he is still dreaming up. If it’s anything like the rest of his food I will be first in line for that.

AJ’s BBQ & Cafe

2275 San Jose ave, San Francisco, CA 94112

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Osprey, Your Local Seafood Market

Osprey local seafood market
Osprey local seafood market
Osprey Seafood in Napa, CA

Where is your local seafood market? Have no idea? Chances are if you are a seafood lover and a home cook you may have struggled with this problem before.

There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of butcher shops, farmers markets or health food stores these days but even here in San Francisco I find it very difficult to shop for seafood.

Outside of dining in a high end seafood restaurant or purchasing seafood wholesale (the perks of being a professional chef) there really isn’t many local seafood market options in the bay area.

Last month I wrote about my favorite fishmonger in the bay area, Mike Winberg-Lynn. He is my number one trusted source here locally.

His market, Osprey Seafood, in Napa has an amazing selection and is amongst the freshest you can find around here.

What’s great about Mike is he’s been in the business a long time so he has good relationships with the fisherman and really knows his product.

I spoke with him recently regarding a few issues consumers struggle with when buying seafood. Here are his tips on how to become more confidant when selecting seafood….

Farm-raised vs. wild fish

I asked Mike what his opinion was on farm-raised fish. His take on this topic was simply this, “there is not enough wild fish in the world to feed everybody.”

He says “the argument with farmed fish has always been about the practices. The cleanliness, antibiotics, the amount of wild fish needed in order to feed farmed fish, fish swimming in their own shit. These practices took place in the 90s. The industry has evolved since then. They aren’t perfect but they are learning and their practices today are tons better than they were 10 years ago. Right now the ratio that they have to feed is 1-1. That’s 1 pound of wild fish to grow 1 pound of farmed fish. That’s even better than what it is in the wild. I visited a farm in Canada where the tidal flow was so strong and constant that I thought, there’s no way these fish could be swimming in their own shit.”

Although Mike agrees that wild fish is always the best option he admits that in places like the U.S., Norway, Scotland, Canada and Scandinavia they are producing respectable farm raised fish. He warns to stay away from fish farmed in South America where giving fish antibiotics isn’t regulated.

Basically when it comes down to it, if you took away farmed fishing it would tax the wild fisheries way too hard.

Which fish are sustainable to eat.

As you may recall from our last article together, Mike hate’s the word sustainable.

But to answer my question he said, “The United States is deemed sustainable, if you buy domestically or from New Zealand and Australia you can feel good about what you are buying”.

He says, “Every single domestic fishery has a managing group looking at everything it has found. (this is why domestic fisheries are so good). They count the catch to see how much volume they are bringing in so they can know when they have hit a maximum. Last year they were catching a lot of squid and the government stepped in and said that’s enough.

There’s no way to know how much fish is really out there. We can’t count them all, we have methods of maybe counting them but other than salmon, which we have a really good method of finding out how many are out there, we have no clue. Sometimes fish disappear because the water is too warm (like in the case of el nino). If you move 2 or 3 degrees your gonna lose a whole eco system.”

Mike says to stay away from buying fish caught in China and Japan who don’t always follow the rules.  And besides shrimp he avoids buying seafood from the gulf of Mexico because of frequent algae blooms due to high heat.

Seafood species found locally in the bay area.

Mike says that around summer and fall you can find rock fish, salmon, ling cod, petrale sole, sand dabs, mackerel and anchovies. Salmon season closes in October.

In March they hold hearings and decide when they are going to open salmon season and which salmon fisheries may be in danger. He explained that, “Salmon live their life in the ocean 5 years, give or take. At the end of that time period they go back up the river they came from to spawn. Certain populations of salmon will decrease. Right now the stress point where we are is the sacramento run. We try to stay away from all the sacramento river fish. As they started their migration back to the river we shut down areas to avoid fishing them. That was in July, no fishing in July because we want to make sure these salmon make it back to the river.

Sardines, anchovies and squid only show up during certain times, so sometimes you might get lucky and sometimes you may not. 

Most fish are seasonal meaning we get them just when they appear, like black cod. Its been a great year for black cod, but you will soon see that start to disappear. Albacore, same thing. We see them in the summer and that’s great but then by October they’re gone. But with El Nino everything flips. This year we didn’t hardly see any white sea bass.

Crab season starts mid November and lasts until early summer. There are times when the demonic acid levels are too high and they have to shut down crab season. This year it’s looking good.”

What to look for when purchasing seafood.

Mike thinks that in the bay area we do a pretty good job in general of offering good quality seafood. He says, “In the bay area the demand of quality is high. If you walk into a store and it smells like fish walk out. If it smells a little bit like fish give them a break it is fish. If it smells rank or overly bleachy walk away.”

Additionally, I would also say to look for clear eyes, firm skin and flesh and a nice vibrant color.

Local seafood markets Mike recommends. 

Mike says, “Besides Osprey Seafood in Napa I recommend, Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley, Hapuku Fish Shop inside Market Hall in Oakland,  Antonelli Bros in San Francisco  and even Whole Foods does a decent job. Programs like CSFs (community supported fisheries) are good. They will give you good fish. I don’t know if you want to eat as much sardines as they want to give you but they are usually using hook and line local fish.” An example of one of these would be Real Good Fish.

Favorite seafood restaurants in the bay area.

I asked Mike, when he goes out to dinner where are some of his favorite restaurants in the bay area for seafood. He said,Perbacco, Staffan (the chef/owner) knows more than any chef I have ever worked with, his knowledge of seafood and food in general is incredible, Gotts roadside, who is one of our accounts, their quality is very good, Swan Oyster Depot really knows their fish, Coqueta, Bottega, Hurley’s (just about any restaurant in Napa, really), Wood Tavern and Walnut Creek Yacht Club

Why I buy from Mike.

As I said before, I trust Mike over anyone else when purchasing seafood. I purchased fish from him wholesale when I was a chef in the restaurant business and I continue to purchase from him for my private chef clients and personal use.

Besides knowing the fish business inside and out Mike is a friend. He has a wonderful wife and family and has a wonderfully silly sense of humor.

Want to see just how knowledgeable and funny Mike is? Check out his educational video on oysters here. I laughed my ass off.

My favorite quote from Mike is this, “I had a fellow fishmonger say that when he retires he will be buying his fish from me. The reason is that we know quality and I love fish. My idea of a perfect day is to work with fish. I hate business. I am a poor business man, but I love working with fish. My brother Pat is better at the computer than me.”  Whenever I read that it makes me smile.

So where is your local seafood market? It’s time to get out there and take a look around. Help out the little guy. Support your community. And in doing so, support your own health and the health of the environment.

I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

I also would love to invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore, for my weekly newsletter. I am so grateful for this community, thank you for being part of it!

Mike and Susan
Mike and his lovely wife Susan

Mike and his lovely wife SusanAs a physiological psychology graduate from UCSB, Mike looked forward to a professional future in the laboratories of the Bay Area. Newly married and with high hopes, he moved his family to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco only to find a hiring freeze up and down the peninsula. After several months of selling wedding presents to make rent, his life took one of those turns. Upon a chance meeting with a neighbor who owned the fish store across the street, Mike begged for any job at all. The neighbor, Peter Bird, hired Mike as a driver for $5 per hour. It was September of 1983 and Mike fell in love with the business from the very start. As he learned the day-to-day operations, his passion for fish and the people who worked with it grew. In December of 1986, Mike excitingly took the plunge and purchased a major share in Osprey Seafood. By 1989, Mike invested all he had in Osprey Seafood and became the sole owner. Since then, Mike’s goal to serve the entire Napa Valley area has resulted in the retail store at Wine Country Avenue. 29 years later and he still loves fish.

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.