So far, we’ve not done any restaurant reviews on this site. Certainly we like restaurants. We eat at all sorts of interesting places and enjoy them. But the truth is, we enjoy the challenge and adventure of kitchen projects even more than we like writing about things like service and sauces. And eating out is something we do more than we’d like, while cooking at home is something we wish we had more time for.
But the opening of Peter Lowell’s, in our home town of Sebastopol, is a special occasion. It’s part of the reason Will ventured north last weekend, and the entire reason we’re posting our first review for you. But rather than a review, maybe we should call it a write-up. We would never send you somewhere we didn’t think was great, but for full disclosure, we should say that Lowell Sheldon, who is one half of the team behind Peter Lowell’s, is a dear friend from our childhood so we might be a little biased.
There are plenty of wonderful restaurants featuring local produce, but what’s remarkable about Peter Lowell’s is their commitment 100% sustainable and organic agriculture, and their focus on vegetarian cuisine (they do offer seafood for the flexitarians among us). We ate a meal almost completely of local organic food, and tasted from a menu of all sustainable, organic, or biodynamic wines. In addition, the building and attached live/work development are LEED Certified green buildings.
We arrived around 1:30 pm and settled in at the PaperStone bar at the front of the cafe. Behind us were about 8 or 10 bamboo wood tables. The room felt bright and airy. Soon we were joined by our Mom and our step dad, Ben. Lowell was admittedly a little frazzled, but really, who could blame him. We put ourselves in his hands, and he expertly guided us through the menu, starting us off with a fabulous 2006 Medlock-Ames Bell Mountain Sauvignon Blanc, and wrapping up our meal with an impressive round of Espressos from Ecco Caffe.
We started off with the Braised Rapini, Broccoli Raab braised in local extra virgin olive oil with whole roasted garlic, chile, and anchovy. We’ve never started a meal with braised greens before, but served family style as a starter it was both comforting and bright.
Next came the Peter Lowell’s Escarole Caesar, one of the best Caesar salad’s we’ve had. They decided to feature escarole because organic local romaine is difficult to come by, and it turned out to be a stroke of genius. The young escarole added just enough flavor and bitterness.
Two thin crust Italian style pizzas followed, the Pepperoni Norma, with heirloom tomato, eggplant, gypsy peppers, and ricotta salata cheese, and the Cipolla, a simple heirloom tomato marinara with slivered red onion and Parmegiano cheese, topped with an oven baked egg. Both were excellent, but we particularly loved the Pepperoni Norma.
We ended with the Macro Bowl, brown rice, heirloom beans, and cooked greens, topped with crispy seitan and a tangy ginger sauce, baked in the pizza oven in a soapstone dish. The Macro Bowl would have made a casual, healthy lunch, but was less of a standout after the other dishes. Rose would have liked to see them serve it with a stickier rice.
On a subsequent visit, Rose also tried a version of the White Pizza, with cannellinni beans, rapini, and fontina cheese, and their Fish of the Day, halibut cooked to perfection in the pizza oven and topped with a spicy heirloom tomato, chile, and gypsy pepper relish. Both were excellent, as were the 2003 Porter-Bass Russian River Zinfandel, and the 2005 Paul Mathews Ruxton Vineyard Pino Noir that she tried.
We suggest you stop in after an afternoon wine tasting in the Russian River Valley (but please keep the wineries there a secret!) Then plan to settle in at the wine bar for a leisurely lunch or dinner. And tell Lowell that Rose and Will sent you!
7 am – 9 pm daily
7385 Healdsburg Avenue
Sebastopol, CA 95472
For Rose’s recipe for easy braised greens:
Rose’s Easy Braised Greens
Any kind of cooking greens can be used, including kale, chard, nettle or the baby braising greens often available at farmer’s markets. They make a nice accompaniment to grilled or roasted meat or fish, or they can be served with rice or polenta as a casual main dish.
1 – 2 lbs greens
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Wash the greens and chop them roughly, removing any tough stems. Heat two tbs olive oil in a large pan, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Sautee the greens in the olive oil until just beginning to wilt, then add 1/2 cup water, stir, and cook covered over medium heat until soft, 5-10 minutes depending on the greens. Remove the lid from the pan, turn heat to high, and quickly cook off the remaining liquid. Season with good salt and freshly ground pepper.