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Tip of My Tongue: Petaluma’s April Pantry closed for good

After two Thanksgiving debacles, April Pantry closes

April Pantry recently announced its permanent closure. Although its food was excellent, the restaurant was plagued with problems since the start. And after its second Thanksgiving meal disaster, the closure comes as no surprise to many.

Last week April Pantry posted a farewell post to its Facebook fans before pulling down its page, as well as deactivating its website and Instagram page.

Owner Aimee D’maris signed the lease for April Pantry on Feb. 27, 2020, her birthday, and as bad luck would have it, just a couple of weeks prior to the pandemic lockdown. She appears to have closed things out for good exactly two years later, enjoying both birthday and well wishes on her 2022 birthday.

Based simply on my experience as a food writer here Petaluma, I was concerned with the restaurant’s chances of survival since the start, in large part because their food was so darn good and fresh. The costs to keep up with a menu like April Pantry’s must have been astronomical. April Pantry’s background is catering and making the transition to restaurant service is not as seamless as simply offering catering quality meals on a regular to-order menu.

Catering vs. Restaurant Service

Catering is a whole different beast than running a restaurant, which is why you often do not see businesses crossing over between the two. Caterers know ahead of time how many meals they need to make on any given day, and usually have a limited menu to prepare. That kind of planning ahead is harder to do with restaurants, which often led to April Pantry running out of popular dishes regularly and often quite early in their lunch service.

A restaurant cannot run out of things regularly and expect to survive, even in these ‘supply chain’ challenged times. More often than not, when we tried to order something for lunch, enough of the menu was not available that it had us wondering what was going on. Even when we attempted to beat the lunch rush by ordering in advance, and well prior to the lunch rush, the most popular dishes were often not on that day’s menu. And running out of something as easy to make and store as brownies always made us raise an eyebrow as to how the kitchen was being run.

Location, Location, Location

Then there was April Pantry’s locale, nestled on Clegg Court in north Petaluma among enterprise. This site has never been a great restaurant location. If a sandwich shop could not make it with all those businesses around them, plus breweries and distilleries, many of which do not offer they own food, a full-blown sit-down restaurant was going to be a challenge. Although this location might be a decent lunch spot, it has never supported a strong breakfast or dinner crowd.

Thanksgiving x2

And then there were the special dinner debacles, including back-to-back Thanksgivings when April Pantry failed enough of its customers with either very late meal delivery or no meals at all. The restaurant tried to make up for these mistakes, but messing with people’s Thanksgiving is something that a lot of guests found unforgiveable, especially having had similar problems the year before. For those wondering why anyone would risk Thanksgiving problems for a second year in a row, as mentioned from the get-go, April Pantry had great food.

Calling all BBQ and Chili cooks!

Ribs for Kids, the Petaluma Active 20-30 club foodie fundraiser is back and better than ever. Where a lot of events have scaled back as we come out of the pandemic, Ribs for Kids decided to go big by changing to a much larger venue to accommodate more people more safely, as well as to add a whole new competition to their rib cookoff – a chili cookoff! For those who have been missing the Great Petaluma Chili Cookoff since its 10-plus year run came an end a few years ago, this is your chance to either compete or taste some of the best chilis around -- or both.

This year’s Ribs for Kids will be held on Saturday, May 21, from noon-4 p.m., at the Petaluma Fairgrounds. It also offers a side dish competition, beer and wine, tons of games and raffles, and live music. Visit petaluma2030.org for more information and to reserve your tickets.

With all this nice weather, it’s as good a time as any to dust off the grill and the smoker and start working on those rib and chili recipes your friends and family have always told you could win awards. For direct inquiries, email petaluma2030r4k@gmail.com

Sips & Bites

After a couple of year hiatus, Sips & Bites is back at the Petaluma Woman’s Club (petalumawomansclub.com) for two sessions on Sunday, April 3, 2022. This is the 3rd Sips & Bites and having attended the first two, I can attest that it is a really nice and relaxed food and drink event, where you not only get to see the beautiful PWC clubhouse from the inside but also get a chance to speak to and learn about many of our local food and drink purveyors.

So far, vendors include perennial favorite Preferred Sonoma Catering, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, Zest Catering, Apple Spice Lunch, Petaluma Pie Company, Alfredo’s Italian Restaurant, and Urban Deli, Petaluma’s latest and greatest Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant, located along Petaluma Boulevard, in Theatre Square. On the drink side, Adobe Road Winery, Sonoma Coast Spirits, Bella Snow Brewery and Azari Winery will all be on hand to handle the ‘sips’ side of things.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door, if space allows and can be purchased for either the 2-3:30 p.m. or 3:30-5 p.m. time slots. Proceeds go to support the Club Restoration Fund and Mentor Me.

Artisan Hamantash Bake

The Chabad Jewish Center of Petaluma hosts a “pre-Purim ladies’ night out” this Sunday, March 6, 2022, at 6 p.m. with Rebbetzin Devorah Bush, who is an excellent chef in her own right. The fee is $18 and includes refreshments while you bake Hamantashen with the fillings of your choice. Purim is a Jewish holiday commemorating the saving of the Jews from a death plot by Haman, a Persian official, and this year is celebrated from sunset Wednesday, March 16, through sunset Thursday, March 17. Hamantashen are triangular filled pastries associated with, and sharing the villain’s name from the Purim story.

The Chabad Jewish Center of Petaluma is located at 205 Keller St. #101. JewishPetaluma.com/Hamantash

The Mother of All Crab Feasts

We’ve been to every one so far, and nothing really compares to Heidrun Meadery’s crab feast (heidrunmeadery.com), with the best crab preparation, best ice cream, and best and only locally made mead you could ever want to taste. This year’s event resurfaces on Sunday, March 13, with seatings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

As always, Chef Matthew Elias will offer not only fresh Dungeness crab, but grilled crab, which is a rarity at a crab feast. Alongside the crab will be all sorts of great seasonal appetizers and sides, many with ingredients sources from right there on Heidrun’s property. This is purposely called a “feast” and not a “feed” because it is not all-you-can-eat. However, fear not, because there is plenty of food. I have been known to devour a healthy handful of crabs at local “feeds,” but am always plenty full after Heidrun’s crab feasts. And for dessert, Double 8 Dairy will be providing possibly the best ice cream you will ever have – and it’s made with water buffalo milk. Everyone also gets an introductory glass of mead, although we always buy at least another bottle (or two) for the table.

Traxx Sold

The rumors that Traxx has sold were finally confirmed this week with the announcement that Friday, March 4, will be its last night in business under the current owner. Rumor also has it that Traxx was purchased either by Mario & John’s directly, or by some of the folks related to Mario & John’s.

Pliny the Younger

The yearly hunt for Pliny the Younger seemed to sneak up on most of us this year, in large part because of Russian River Brewing’s (russian riverbrewing.com) earlier announcement that it would push back the release of Pliny bottles until March 25, and ending April 7. Bottles will be available for sale at both the Santa Rosa and Windsor breweries while draft Pliny was sent out to participating bars and restaurants the second week of February and has been popping up periodically since. And just so you avoid confusing the Elder for the Younger, Pliny the Elder is Russian River’s Double India Pale Ale, is available year-round and is labeled with a red “Pliny the Elder” badge over a green background. Pliny the Younger is released in limited quantity, once a year, is a Triple IPA, and has a blue/gray and white label.

Wedding Planner Award

While on the topic of event planning, our very own Tyler Terrell recently won recognition for her Events by Tyler in the 16th annual “Best of Weddings” awards from The Knot. We have personally known Tyler for years, starting when she was one of the bartenders at 101 North Brewing and continuing on at the many events we have attended where we’ve seen her work in motion. She’s local, so knows all the best venues and vendors.

“To determine the winners, The Knot analyzed its millions of user reviews across various vendor categories—including venues, musicians, florists, photographers, caterers and more—to find the highest rated vendors of the year. These winners represent the best of the best wedding professionals that engaged couples should consider booking for their own unique weddings.”

“I am so thrilled, and I have all of my amazing clients to thank for my success!” says Tyler Terrell.

Email houston@avantlard.com with questions/comments.

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