Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of spending a gorgeous spring day in Sebastopol with Marcy Gordon, the witty, snarky fireball behind the “accidental” wine blog, Come for the Wine. I’d visited this patchouli-and-hemp-laced town once before, in 2009, and dined with great gusto on a few costly vegan selections from the bustling Whole Foods deli. That being my only gastronomic experience in Sebastopol, I expected something similar when Marcy suggested we sate our starving selves at Peter Lowell’s, which she described as vegan and macrobiotic.
It turns out that Peter Lowell’s bills itself as “West County organic” and I immediately thought of the Berkeley equivalent, Gather—organic, locally grown, sustainable, blah blah blah. Gather is tasty but pretentious (have you seen Portlandia? Please recall the restaurant chicken scene) and pricey. Pizzas aside, their portions could fit on a dish sponge. If you’re in my tax bracket and share my healthy appetite, you’ll probably need to hit a drive-thru afterward or pray you have leftovers at home.
Happily, very few items were over $10 so I allowed myself an apple-Asian pear juice ($2.50) while I tried to figure out if I felt sweet or savory. Marcy decided right away on the fresh-baked scone plate ($7): warm, lightly sweet, and studded with nuts and chewy bits of fruit. It arrived with fluffy, naturally sweet whipped cream, tangy kiwi jam, slices of blood orange and apple, and what looked like butter.
She also ordered the basic breakfast ($7): two poached eggs, roasted fingerling potatoes, sourdough toast, and thick bacon.
Rather than agonizing over the menu further, I settled on the Spanish tortilla (potato omelet) made with duck eggs ($10) as well as the poached eggs over braised greens and polenta ($9.50). I assumed: 1) the plates would be fairly small and 2) Marcy would help me out if I got stuck. (Little did I know that Marcy’s stomach capacity rivals that of a three-year-old.)
The use of fresh duck eggs intrigued me. I understand that you can cook with them as you would chicken eggs, but I’ve only had duck eggs the Chinese way: preserved and salted, and preserved in a visually displeasing mixture of ash, clay, salt, and lime (it seriously looks like dung) and then buried for up to several months. This latter method produces what’s erroneously known as the thousand-year-old egg, a “cooked” specimen that bears a brown, translucent “white” festooned with delicate fern patterns (I still haven’t figured out what causes that) and a bluish-green yolk that tends to be gooey when the egg is relatively fresh out of hibernation. It tastes like a mild brie, and lately I’ve wondered when in the near future a maverick chef will spread it on a baguette and serve it for $12. I’m a fan of both types of eggs, although I do prefer the thousand-year-old egg yolk solid rather than runny.
Funnily, the center of the tortilla was slightly runny, but bore no resemblance otherwise to thousand-year-old eggs or brie. The rest of the dense omelet engulfed onions, chunks of potato, and jolts of goat cheese. As far as omelets go, it was fine, but I might as well have been eating a chicken egg concoction. Was I setting my bar too high? I don’t even know if plain duck eggs are any different flavor-wise than their chicken counterparts. I guess this calls for a taste test soon.
The creamy polenta and eggs, dusted with parmesan and bread crumbs, more than made up for my momentary disappointment, although I honestly didn’t need this second meal. Sure, I could’ve boxed it up, taken it home, and eaten it six hours later, but that’s not my style. It was meant to be eaten warm, before it started congealing in all the wrong ways. My salivary glands kick into gear just thinking about it…
After polishing off both plates and the rest of the scone, I eyed Marcy’s half-eaten breakfast and wondered if I really needed to scavenge the potatoes from her plate. In the end, I determined that I was content—not hungry, not pants-unbuttoning stuffed. OK, maybe I was just a tad over the edge…
And then the waitress came by with the dessert menu.
Since when does brunch conclude with dessert???
Always ready to eschew tradition, I had her deliver the chocolate budino ($6): a dark chocolate mousse in a chocolate tart crust, topped with fresh whipped cream, salted caramel sauce, and crunchy chocolate cookie bits. Marcy managed a bite; I devoured the rest. Yes, it was divine. Yes, I would get it again.
Afterward, we zipped along Florence Avenue, past the parade of exquisitely executed junk-art sculptures by Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent. (I learned later that Tom Waits lives in Sebastopol, and imagined that he probably has one of these whimsical sculptures in his yard, too.) Luckily, my food coma managed to delay itself until I was halfway home. Thank you, Sebastopol, for showing me that I can indulge in locally grown, organic fare without breaking my budget and, more importantly, without having to stop off at Jack in the Box for a post-meal snack. I hope to eat in you again soon.