Field Notes

Looking Back: 2017

2017 Year in Review

Looking back at the whirl that was 2017, we see a luxurious montage illustrating our bedrock ethos of good farming, good cooking, good eating — but moreover, we see good people, good neighbors, and good friends in every photo.

This was the year of the terrible fires that destroyed huge swathes of the North Bay and taught us all humility in the face of nature while reminding us of the importance of helping one another.

It was a year in which we celebrated women’s accomplishments . . .

. . . and, for the month of October — the entire state of Oaxaca! — helping to support the local nonprofit Corazon.

2017 year in review

We enlarged our Healdsburg Café this year by moving our Farm section to its own clever storage unit outside of the store . . .

2017 year in review

. . . and using its former space to place a new load of comfortable tables.

It was a giddy year in which we were honored with a Bib Gourmand, were awarded a Slow Food “Snail of Approval,” were hailed by Robert Parker himself, and named to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s influential Top 100 Restaurants list. Among others!

SF Chronicle photo by Preston Gannaway/Peter DiSilva

We had the thrill of being featured in Martha Stewart Living, which even took the time to capture Doug — and his turnips.

2017 year in review

Martha Stewart Living photo by Jake Stangel

In June, photographer Roman Cho showed work from his Culinaria project throughout our Healdsburg store.

2017 was the year that we launched our Larder Take Away program online, featuring everything from that which you need for dinner tonight (hint: fried chicken) . . .

. . . to what you might want to bring along for a picnic or wish to feed those hungry colleagues gathered for an offsite retreat. Our preserved fish program, spearheaded by Perry Hoffman (below, left) is among those SHED foods named finalists in the 2018 Good Food Awards!

In April, we celebrated our fourth anniversary with cake. . .

2017 year in review

. . . and by expanding our proprietary Pantry Line of house-made powders, shrubs, preserves, and other essentials.

2017 year in review

From this new collection, we created a special Pantry Box full of goodies with an accompanying Pantry Share program.

This was also the year that the artistic stars aligned, allowing us to launch our own line of stoneware dinnerware settings, created by Pope Valley sculptor Richard Carter just for the SHED.

We’d be remiss not to mention the hundreds of events we hosted, from community fundraisers to dance concerts, from film premieres and small documentary screenings to sold-out dinners, community suppers, and celebrity events. Author and chef Deborah Madison joined us with Roots of Change founder Michael Dimmock.

2017 year in review

Paula Wolfert, the cookbook author who introduced duck confit and so much more to American kitchens, appeared in support of her gorgeous autobiography Unforgettable with photographer Eric Wolfinger and biographer Emily Kaiser Thelin.

2017 year in review

Wendell Berry‘s daughter Mary Berry joined us for a sold-out evening in November to introduce the new documentary on her father, Look & See, which puts his poetic/agricultural philosophies into greater context. He’s a hero of ours; getting to meet Mary was a thrill!


2017 year in review

We welcomed such chefs as Portland’s Josh McFadden, whose Six Seasons cookbook is kept in constant home use by some of our more avid staff, and paired his good food with the great grape coming from Scribe . . .

2017 year in review

. . . and launched our Zero Foodprint program with Mission Chinese and The Perennial’s Anthony Myint (shown below) and writer Kenji López-Alt, replete with a community meal to offer insight on the Zero Foodprint concept and how a multi-faceted operation like SHED might achieve its parity.

2017 year in review

Learning is a core value and our workshop roster was full this year as always. Among the highlights was the Studio Mondine tutorial on floral design co-hosted by photographer Gemma Ingalls. . .

2017 year in review

. . . and hosting students at our own HomeFarm for a Sun Hive workshop with natural apiarist Michael Thiele.

Proud to sponsor the Healdsburg Jazz Festival and the UPside Dance Company, we revel in providing such small surprises as the occasional free live jazz from the excellent Dry Creek Trio (yes, that’s Doug on guitar!). Stop by early and often to see what we have in store.

We know that this coming year will be full of more dinners, learning, films, dance, music, and fun. We don’t know what else to expect — and that’s OK. We just hope to spend part of it with you!

Field Notes

Slow Food Sonoma County: Snail of Approval

Slow Food in Sonoma County awards the Snail of Approval to local restaurants, producers, and artisans making a significant contribution to improving the food system.

In early November 2017, SHED was named one of the first awardees of the Snail of Approval, along with Backyard, Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, Estero Cafe, The Naked Pig Cafe, Zazu Kitchen + Farm and Black Piglet.

All awardees hosted a panel of evaluators in early 2017 for a site visit and in-depth interview. Areas of evaluation include local and seasonal ingredient sourcing, investment in fair labor practices, humane treatment of people and animals, and recycling and composting programs.

SHED co-owners Doug Lipton and Cindy Daniel were two of the early members of Slow Food Sonoma County North over twenty years ago, and credit the good, clean, and fair philosophy for shaping many of our practices and programs at SHED.

From our focus on green energy to sustainable farming to ethical business practices, there are countless ways in which we embrace the tenets of Slow Food, a global movement dedicated to defending regional food traditions, gastronomic pleasure, and an overall slow pace of life, founded in Italy in the 1980s.

Committed to honoring the Snail of Approval, our dedication to local and seasonal sourcing, exploring and celebrating culinary traditions, and promoting and protecting agricultural diversity is as strong as ever.

We hope to continue provide a place of conviviality where people can take pleasure in cooking, eating, and sharing meals with other.

Farming, Field Notes

Saving Heritage Mexican Corn

Mexico corn

Corn has been a staple in the region now known as Mexico for some 11,000 years. It is more than a foodstuff; it is an entire way of life.

And, as with so much else in the modern world, it is a way of life that is dramatically changing.

Once home to some 60 so-called landrace corn varieties, that is — corn grown and adapted to particular areas and climates — Mexico has slowly Americanized its fields, favoring just a few varieties over the variations the elders once valued so highly.

Where corn once flourished in every state, it is now mostly grown in just three. Even NAFTA plays a role, introducing inexpensive American yellow corn to which consumers quickly adapted, abandoning the indigenous varieties with which they grew up.

With that eclipse in choice, so comes a change in taste and manner, and ultimately — a change in health, resulting in the diabetes and heart disease that marks the Western diet.

In addition to the impact on citizens’ health, losing heirloom varieties means losing taste. The taste that past generations knew, a taste that informed family recipes which no longer have the same flavor. Lore and knowledge have gone, too.

Several crusaders are working to restore Mexico’s rich maize legacy, including Rafael Mier, who has founded the nonprofit Organización de Tortilla de Maíz Mexican to educate his fellow countrymen about how to make more delicious tortillas.

The secret? Start with more delicious corn. Even in Mexico, most tortillas are made with water and a powdered mix called masa harina. The difference is like a pancake-mix pancake versus one made from scratch with freshly ground flour: Alike in name only.

Mier is an unlikely crusader, a businessman who one day three years ago thought to grow his own popcorn only to discover that there was no seed available near him. Nor was there any for sale the next state over. And so on. A simple desire to have freshly popped corn to snack on has led him to devote himself full-time to his nonprofit and resign his role as CFO to a business.

Thank goodness for that. Because corn is an endangered commodity in Mexico, home to the Mayan culture which believed that man was created of corn.

We grind heirloom corn at our Healdsburg store and purvey fresh polenta and cornmeal from it. We carry handsome, locally-made oak and walnut tortilla presses. We’ve invited restaurateur Natalie Goble to join us this month to demonstrate the easy art of making fresh masa. We’re interested in corn and preserving its important role in Western life. We hope that, the more you know, the more interested you will be, too. A very culture depends on it.

Field Notes

ZeroFoodprint: Interview with Anthony Myint

zero foodprint myint

Anthony Myint was in Copenhagen at a thought leadership conference sponsored by Noma restaurant in 2014 when the idea for ZeroFoodprint was born.

Myint’s friend, Lucky Peach editor Chris Ying, had just been tapped to lead the next year’s conference, and the men huddled with environmental consultant Peter Freed to brainstorm ideas. Recently becoming a father had amplified Myint’s desire to make a difference. In researching food waste, he learned that the effects are more dire than he could have imagined.

Myint, the co-founder of San Francisco’s famed Mission Chinese and The Perennial restaurants, says that the topic immediately turned to the role of restaurants in responding to climate change.

“The food system is about 43-56 percent of all greenhouse emissions — processing, storage, deforestation,” Myint recently explained by phone from the kitchen at Mission Chinese, where he worked as he talked. “A lot of people think of fossil fuels as being the culprit and while that stuff matters, food is such a big part of it that it seemed that we should find as many ways as we could to stem it.”

The friends knew that restaurateurs would donate money to the cause, sure. But there had to be something that was deeper, that offered a more robust commitment, in order for the actions to deepen and resonate. That something turned out to be ZeroFoodprint.

“We started the organization to learn more about what specific aspects of the industry contribute to greenhouse gas emissions the most and how we can change those things,” Myint says. “There’s an element of taking responsibility but it’s more specific to what each restaurant is doing. It’s learning about your carbon footprint and making the changes that you can and specifically offsetting them.”

To that end, ZeroFoodprint has a certification program that allows restaurants to be evaluated on their carbon emission “foodprint” and learn to take steps to both rectify and offset the valuation. SHED launches its relationship with ZeroFoodprint this month, learning how to change our practices and creating a pathway to offset our emissions.

Even though we built the Healdsburg SHED with an eye to sustainability, insulating our walls with recycled denim, installing photovoltaic panels, and establishing a rigorous composting program from the start, there are still ways that we can diminish our impact. And for those things that simply can’t be changed, we can purchase carbon credits for offset. Working with the ZeroFoodprint organization helps us make these efforts count.

Because, as Myint well knows, it goes beyond simply not throwing away food scraps that could be used to make soup stock or pesto. That kind of waste is accounted for on the bottom line and most restaurants are rigorous in preventing money from being literally thrown away. As we are known to say, it all comes down to soil.

“It was really exciting to learn how farming can change climate change,” Myint says. “The soil used to have a lot more organic matter. We can revise our farming practices to put it back in the soil. In the long run, our goal would be to have zero foodprint contributions to those efforts.”

Carbon offset monies currently go to such entities as the Marin Carbon Project and the American Carbon Registry.

ZeroFoodprint is also working with the Open Table reservation platform to add a category that allows diners to choose a participating restaurant when making a dining choice. It’s still in the “proving out stage,” he says. Once that’s in place, Myint allows, the movement will have a more concrete footing. “It will be easier to have metrics,” he admits. “In the absence of that, it’s a little bit esoteric.”

Myint’s Mission Chinese has always had an altruistic bent, donating 75 cents for every meal purchased to the San Francisco Food Bank. In becoming a ZeroFoodprint establishment itself, it now donates 10 cents for every meal to offset its carbon emissions, too. Myint sees this as a way forward for all dining, even fast food.

But how would this apply, say, to a national franchise like Pizza Hut? Myint goes back to the 10 cents per meal he already charges for offset.

“[Mission Chinese] is not as inexpensive as Pizza Hut, but I’m pretty confident that no one is electing not to eat here because of 10 cents,” he says.

“If leaders in the restaurant industry like SHED are willing to take a stand… that’s how a market is created. We don’t give customers the option; it’s just part of the program.”

For the Pizza Hut example, Myint suggests that they would offer customers the option to donate 20 cents from each purchase to carbon offsets. The only inconvenience would be in checking off a box.

“That seems pretty approachable,” Myint muses. “That actually is the model that we’re trying to get chefs and restaurants to adopt.”

Learn more about the ZeroFoodprint initiative, meet Anthony Myint with colleague J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, and help us offset our carbon emissions at a very special dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 27

To learn more about the ZeroFoodprint initiative, read Myint’s excellent James Beard op-ed.

Anthony Myint photo by Alanna Hale.

Chefs, Cooking, Craftsmanship, Field Notes, Modern Grange, Supper series

The Unforgettable Paula Wolfert

Paula Wolfert
“Good food is memory.” —Paula Wolfert


“Paula Wolfert,” says her editor and food biographer Emily Thelin, “is the most influential food writer you’ve never heard of.”

Yet, if you’ve ever enjoyed a cassoulet or confit, delighted at a preserved lemon tucked into a dish, fluffed couscous with a fork or cooked in a tangine, you owe a culinary debt to Paula Wolfert — even if you’ve never heard of her.

Paula is the intrepid food journalist and chef who brought such delicacies as cassoulet and preserved lemons to American palates via her nine cookbooks, beginning with Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, published in 1973.

Following her first husband to Morocco in the ’60s, Paula became restless with the ennui of the bohemian expat crowd and instead turned her fine intelligence to the sights and smells of the souk, and finally to the kitchens and tables of the Moroccan people who frequented its food stalls.

Famous for nearly moving in with her subjects, Paula eventually found ease with seven languages, allowing her to move into the kitchens and homes of people across western Europe. An expert on Mediterranean cooking, including our favorite Clay Pot Cooking, Paula introduced French country cooking to an avid audience.

Now 78, Paula is a longtime resident of the town of Sonoma, where she shares a home with her husband, the writer William Bayer. She’s still on a mission, but its aim has altered. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013, Paula can no longer differentiate tastes but she can still enjoy the kitchen.

Rather than examine the traditions of a particular geographical area, her focus today is on brain-healthy foods that she hopes will forestall the worst of her disease as long as possible.

Paula’s editor Emily Thelin (pictured above) realized that now is the time to capture Paula’s food memories and best recipes in a new collection and set about trying to sell the proposal through regular New York publishing channels. No one committed.

So she did what we do these days, she took it to Kickstarter, where 1,112 people donated to the cause, raising $91,000 and catching  the interest of both famed food photographer Eric Wolfinger and acclaimed food writer Andrea Nguyen, who agreed to edit the text.

The resulting book, Unforgettable, gathers together some of Paula’s favorite and most iconic recipes along with a lively biography peppered with intelligent asides by Thelin throughout.

A loving and alacritive recent article by New York Times food writer Kim Severson looks at Paula’s current life, after the book’s publication, where she is still active in the kitchen and able to surprise both her biographer and her assistants.

Accompanied by photographer Wolfinger, Thelin and Paula come to SHED on Sunday, June 4, for a special celebration dinner. Each diner will receive a copy of Unforgettable as part of the night. Our chef Perry Hoffman has created a splendid Middle Eastern-themed dinner in Paula’s honor.

“I don’t remember yesterday,” Paula says plainly to the camera in her Kickstarter film. “Tomorrow, I could get hit by a car. So I live in the now and I make it work for me.”

It appears that there’s more to learn from Paula after all.

The Unforgettable dinner honoring Paula Wolfert is slated for Sunday, June 4, from 5pm. $115 per person; includes the book. RSVP today.

Field Notes, Foodshed

Natural Bee Hives

For the benefit of the bees, we sell only natural bee hives.

Standard commercial bee hives are made for the convenience of the human who harvests honey, not the insect that produces it.

While we know the joy of eating honey and the good crunch of comb, what we really want from bees is to coexist with them, enjoying the chance to observe their fascinating lives.

We prefer natural hives because they allow bees to create comb the way that they would in the wild, with smaller cells that help protect against mites and other predators.

Among the natural bee hives we carry is the Warre hive, named for the French monk who popularized it in the late 19th century, calling it “the people’s hive.”

Warre designed the hive so that one could add an empty box to its bottom each spring and harvest the honey from a box on the top each autumn.

The Warre is a “top bar” hive which means that the bees can build their combs from horizontal wooden bars that run along the hive’s top, making it lighter and easier for a human to examine the comb periodically without unduly bothering the insects.

The Kenyan, or horizontal top bar, hive is thought to be the oldest and most commonly used type of man-made hives in the world. Long and handsome, these hives come with their own stand, so that they sit about waist height, allowing for easier access.

We are glad to sell Warre and top bar hives both online and in our Healdsburg store. At our HomeFarm property, we have those and other hives for the bees.

The Golden Hive is so-named because its proportions align with the Golden Mean. Designed to minimize interaction between humans and bees, the Golden Hive benefits apiary health by reducing insect stress.

Woven from rye grasses, the biomorphic Sun Hive was developed by a German sculptor and is really something that is best made in with a group.

Tall and with a full belly, the Sun Hive has its portal at the bottom, allowing the bees to come and go freely. Once made, it is mudded with manure to provide insulation.

The Log Hive is as it sounds — a tree trunk that has been hollowed out to accommodate a hive. Many wild bees nest in trees and the Log Hives fashioned by humans work for the bees while providing us with a nice glimpse of the insects’ intricate life.

Helping honey bees to thrive by providing appropriate places for them to nest is one small thing that we can do to support this endangered population. Planting nectar-rich flora for pollinators is another.

Want to learn more? We have more info on natural bee hives, planting a bee-friendly garden, natural beekeeping, and supporting pollinators throughout our site.