Tip of My Tongue: Man vs. Food comes to Petaluma; restaurants grapple with coronavirus surge

Tip of my Tongue: Houston Porter’s regular roundup of the tastiest news in town.|

Man vs. Petaluma Burrito

Although the restaurants themselves were asked not to reveal who was filming at their location, news of a film crew sighting in Petaluma usually spreads like wildfire. Rumors started spreading Saturday morning about the activity going on around the Bagel Mill and sure enough, some regular viewers confirmed that they had seen Casey Webb, the host of TV’s Man vs. Food. The program customarily profiles restaurants with food eating challenges, but also fills in with other local notables, which is where the Bagel Mill comes in. Although they do not currently have any kind of food challenge menu item, it does appear they will be featured on an upcoming episode of the show.

On the following Tuesday, the same crew was scheduled for Don Pancho’s, where they will be facing a food eating challenge menu item – the Muy Macho Burrito. Located in the Kmart shopping center, between Fru-ta Ice Cream and CVS, Don Pancho’s menu lists their Macho Burrito ($12.99) as, “one of our best-sellers rice, refried beans, choice of meat and cheese, all wrapped in a giant flour tortilla, topped with a special sauce, guacamole, sour cream, onion, tomato and cilantro.” As one can guess, the Muy Macho Burrito ($22.99) is more of the same (“muy” means “very” in Spanish) – “for the really muy macho!!! same as above plus double wrapped tortilla and extra serving or your choice of meat...” There is a free T-shirt in it for anyone who can finish Muy Macho Burrito, but “sorry, not available for sharing or to go.”

For those playing it safe and dining at home, you can order Don Pancho’s and Bagel Mill through Petaluma Food Taxi, or through their websites for pick-up. However, if you are not going to use PFT’s site to place your order, make sure you are using the business’s actual website. There are a lot of food order hijacking sites out there, so be leery of doing a Google search and simply picking the first search result.

Winter Breaks

Una Vida Winter Break

Lynne Gordon Moquete, founder of Una Vida, announced last week that the food providing organization will be taking the month of January off. “We are taking January off to honor our volunteer helpers! The amazing volunteers/helpers from Una Vida have worked so hard to make sure this holiday season is as bright as it can be for those in our community! Thank you to those of you who come and use our services and to those of you who come and help! To be honest, our favorite thing is when people start out as recipients and then decide to also be a helper. There are so so many of you!” Lynne also provided a long list of other local locations where those in need of extra food can turn to help for the next month. You can find that list – in English and Spanish - on Lynne’s Facebook page. You can still give by visiting www.una-vida.org to make a donation to help their future efforts.

Pearl’s Winter Break

As if they also saw the current COVID-19 situation coming, Pearl decided to take advantage of the post-holiday slow period to engage in some well-deserved relaxation and rejuvenation. The restaurant’s break started Tuesday, Jan. 11, with plans to return Thursday, Jan.. 27. We anxiously await their return so we can go back to enjoying their great cassoulets, stews, sandwiches and mains, including some of the best fish dishes in town.

This isn’t really food news, per say, but I do know that us food lovers’ tendency is to panic when we see one of our favorite restaurants is dark, even if only temporarily. However, keep in mind that in most parts of the world, business owners take holiday breaks, some in the winter, some in the summer, and some during both seasons. The U.S. is fairly unique in that we tend to keep our business doors open year-round, for better or for worse. I think holiday breaks are a great idea, even if I don’t always get to participate myself. People work extremely hard, especially in the restaurant industry, and so a mental, emotional and physical break is a good thing.

TCP’s Winter Break

Table Culture Provisions just announced it too will take some time off, but it looks like only for the next week or so. The restaurant posted to social media Monday morning that, “We have decided to pause dine-in service this week to give our team the opportunity to rest up and stay healthy. We will be offering a limited take-out menu this week, Wednesday-Saturday from 5-8 p.m. and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thank you for your patience and support.” On that note, Joshua R. Simmons posted to social media just a day or two ago specifically commending TCP for its take-out. “Shout out to tcprovisions who served up a gloriously tasty brunch today! Extra appreciative that their brunch is packaged in such a way that it travels really well.”

Co-owner/chef Stéphane Saint-Louis in a recent interview was open and honest that the restaurant’s first month since opening Dec. 15 has been a whirlwind of activity, and so the businesses wanted to step back and make the appropriate adjustments. It was heartwarming to hear his reasoning and says a lot about what he and his partners are trying to do at their 312 Petaluma Blvd S. location. “Our guests are our main consideration. I don’t want their experience and hard earnings to have any taste of mediocrity on our part so I thought it would be in all our best interests to let things settle a little bit, let the ‘new normal’ kick in and let the staff have a mental and physical break. … Also, take-out demand has been at an all-time high so why not cater to the ones that are taking the necessary precautions of keeping us and their peers safe by offering them a week of comfort food at home. Right now, it’s all about doing what’s right for the people.”

COVID-19 changes

Clearly, the new health mandate is going to affect restaurants, although health officials stopped short of ordering a complete shutdown. However, we will likely see a downturn in reservations and an uptick in to-go and delivery orders. That said, Scowley’s Burgers should be coming off its COVID-19 related shutdown this week and is an excellent delivery option.

Seared also had a recent shutdown but reopened Jan. 6, and in delicious fashion, with their first couple of nightly specials being a filet mignon, “served with crispy duck fat potatoes, creamed spinach, demi-glace, shallot and blue cheese butter, followed by Dungeness Crab Cioppino, with “local crab, Manilla clams, Gulf prawns, spicy tomato brodo, and served with grilled bread.”

Seared also posted a very nice message to its customers. “We apologize for any inconvenience this temporary closure may have caused, but the well-being of our team and our guests will always be our highest priority. We are so thankful for the kindness and support we have received from our community and are eager to invite you back. For the health, safety, and peace of mind of everyone, we will continue to follow all isolation and testing protocols, as well as strict cleaning and sanitizing procedures throughout the restaurant. If there is anything we can do to make your experience at Seared more comfortable and enjoyable, please do not hesitate to let us know.”

Although surely not the last coronavirus spike-related change, Penngrove Market posted new hours. “In an effort to take every precaution to keep everyone safe- our store hours will be temporarily changing to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. This allows us to care for each other, and our employees, while still caring for, and serving, our community.” The market is hoping this will only be for the next week or two, but did mention that this means the business “won’t be making our breakfast sandwiches for a little while, but our made to order sandwiches will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Our wood fire pizza will be available 12-7 p.m. We’ll still have our awesome roast chickens, salads, and soups too! Thanks for understanding, and for your support. Let’s all stay healthy OK? Love, the Penngrove Market Team.”

Email houston@avantlard.com with questions/comments.

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