Make-your-own poke coming to Petaluma, plus food events and finds

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It is with great excitement that several readers informed me of a new sign up in the Kohl’s shopping center announcing the arrival of Aloh-o Poke & Tea. There was recent Facebook discussion about where people get their poke “fix” in and around Petaluma. Several local suggestions floated to the top, including the Shuckery, Rosen’s 256 North, Seared, Pongo’s, Petaluma Market, plus Pearl out of Novato. Also, most of our sushi places made the list, such as Sake 107, Gohan, O’Sushi and the new (and soon to be reviewed) Kinka on McDowell Boulevard. But many lamented not having a place that offered “build-your-own” poke bowls. Well, Aloh-o Poke & Tea to the rescue, along with what I can only assume is boba tea, which is all the rage these days. (Boba is a sweet iced tea infused with tapioca balls. I don’t particularly like chunks of anything in my drinks, so this is not really my thing, but the kids seem to love it.)

For those who are wondering, poke is a mainstay of native Hawaiian cuisine and consists of diced raw fish that is marinated/seasoned in soy sauce, sesame oil and green onions, or something similar. Fresh, high-quality fish is a must because the texture and flavor of the fish itself is what carries this dish, with the marinade merely acting as a condiment.

Speaking of excellent poke, Anna’s Seafood offers a rotating selectin of poke that has become a Petaluma favorite. Currently, they have Ahi and Homachi pokes but in the past, we have bought the salmon, which is still my favorite. Reminiscent of the best salmon belly sashimi, we buy multiples of Anna’s salmon poke so as to save ourselves a return trip.

Eating events

Stemple Creek Ranch will hold its 10th anniversary annual open house and barbecue on Saturday, Aug. 24, from noon to 3 p.m. This will be the last public ranch tour of 2019, providing a chance to not only learn about a working ranch, but learn what this multigenerational ranching family is doing with the Marin Carbon Project. Visit stemplecreek.com for tickets, which are $30 for adults, $10 for kids 3 to 12, and free for kids under 3. The tour will culminate in a barbecue, which is usually accompanied by a discount Thistle Meat sale.

Although the Petaluma Educational Foundation’s “Bash” fundraiser is not until Sept. 7, the online auction opens Aug. 14 and runs through Aug. 28. This is a great way for those of us who might not be able to make the Bash to still help support PEF’s goals by bidding on some of the great auction items. Of course, the restaurant gift certificates are what caught my eye. Keep in mind this is all for a good cause, so don’t be afraid to over-bid the value of a gift certificate. You’ll not only get some great food at your favorite restaurants but will additionally help PEF. Quinua Cocina Peruana owner Juan E Gutierrez made the biggest donation of all, a party for 10 at the Peruvian restaurant. This is one I’ll definitely bid on. Registration for the auction is quite easy and can be done at PEFBASH2019.afrogs.org.

Restaurant reports

No, Keny’s Donuts is not closed. Located just down the street from Petaluma High School, where Hagstrom’s used to be on Douglas Street, fans were in a panic when they saw a handwritten sign in the window reading, “Closed due to a problem ~ Sofie.” That left a lot to the imagination, while foodies hoped for the best, both for their love of Keny’s donuts (the buttermilk bar is divine) but also for Sofie, a beloved local proprietor. Finally, the scare was over when Devon Gambonini posted on the Petaluma Foodies Facebook page, “She’s fine! Went and got my coffee from her this morning. They had an issue with their oven. All is well.”

The Bagel Mill is also not closed. On Monday, a passerby and self-admitted Bagel Mill addict reported that paper covered the windows, making it appear closed. I reached out to owner Glenda Dougherty who informed me that they were simply doing some touch-ups and re-opened as usual on Wednesday, after the normal Monday and Tuesday off.

While on the topic of breakfast, Palms Grill recently announced a breakfast buffet, offered on both Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for $21 for adults, $18 for seniors and $11 for kids 10 and under. In its first weekend, plenty of folks were raving about it, with menu items such as a made-to-order omelets, pastries, French toast and pancakes, a waffle bar, bacon and sausage, fresh fruit and much more.

Wine or Lose Board Game Café, located in Topsy’s old spot on Kentucky Street, is rumored to be in the final stages of inspections, so should be open soon. Another rumor is that they will carry Mariposa Ice Cream, which is good news because the more restaurants offering Mariposa, the better.

While we are on the topic of Mariposa Ice Creamery, Thomas Keller choose to serve its chocolate-dipped salted caramel ice cream at his recent employee appreciation party in Napa County. The bars now feature Guittard Chocolate, out of Burlingame. One of America’s premier chocolate makers and still family run after four generations, Guittard is the oldest continuously family owned chocolate company in the country and for good reason.

A little known fact is that Thomas Keller kind of discovered Mariposa. He came to try Pilar’s ice cream, choosing her vanilla and her strawberry because according to him, if you can’t make those two flavors well, you probably shouldn’t be making ice cream bars. It’s several years later, and Thomas Keller still has Mariposa cater his parties.

Being a neighbor of Pilar’s, it is not unusual for her to drop by samples for me to try as she working on new flavors. One such occasion included a quart of lemon cookie ice cream. I texted her within the hour that it was fabulous, not too lemony. She inquired to see what Drea thought of it, at which point I had to admit that I had no problem plowing through the entire pint before I knew what happened. Drea has yet to try that flavor, but I promise her it is excellent.

Preview signs are already up on the old Rosso location, at the corner of Petaluma Boulevard South and D Street, reading “Coming Soon — Hank’s.” Hank’s is the “brother” restaurant to Taps and is named after owner Eric’s younger brother, who passed away recently. From the other sign we find out that they will offer wood-fired pizzas, crafted beer and Italian wines.

Fun food finds

Lumpia is little known, yet delicious menu item at Quickly, which is the fairly new boba tea place in the River Plaza (formerly the Golden Eagle Shopping Center). Lumpias are a spring roll of Chinese origin that are commonly found further south in Indonesia and the Philippines. I have yet to try Quickly’s Lumpia’s but am a fan of that style of roll so look forward to visiting them soon.

Harder to find than Lumpias, zeppoles are kind of like an Italian sweet fritter. These deep-fried balls of dough are usually topped with powder sugar and are often filled with custard, cream, jelly or the traditional butter and honey mixture. Emma Cooke of Petaluma Foodies recently inquired where she could find some because if she baked them herself, she would eat them all. Marlene I. Beaulieu responded quickly that Cucina Paradiso has them, if you need a unique new dessert to try.

In a recent discussion about late-night “dining” options, the New Yorker came up in conversation as a long-time local favorite, especially for those rolling out of a late-night show at the Mystic Theater. Sitting just a few storefront’s down from the McNear’s and the Mystic, the New Yorker offers a “Late Night Menu” on Friday and Saturday nights, from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., including a slice of pepperoni pizza for $5, a slice of cheese pizza for $4 and a cup of ranch dressing for $1. (Soda and water are $2.)

It had been a while since we visited Thistle Meats so we figured the recent vegan protest was as good a time as ever to show our support. We shouldn’t have been, but we were surprised at just how good our choice of the hot pastrami sandwich was. They usually offer at least one other sandwich, although on this particular Saturday, they had both a roast pork and roast beef option, in addition to the hot pastrami. The flavors of the hot pastrami were phenomenal with the topper of pickled string beans adding a very nice touch.

Speaking with several vegan eaters who were familiar with, but not affiliated with the protestors, I was informed that the reason for targeting a locally run, whole-animal butchery is because the protesters feel that places like Thistle promote the idea that there are ethical ways to raise and harvest animals. It was disappointing that although they claim to be peaceful protestors, “peaceful” seems to include being verbally hostile to Thistle Meats customers.

On the topic of vegan options, a vegan friend informed me that there is a smartphone app called Happy Cow. This app allows users to input where they have found vegan menu options, markets and more. With less than full vegan menus, this app can be helpful when planning a plant-based meal out and appears to have quite a few Petaluma restaurants listed, as well as covering over 150 countries throughout the world. I have even started to add vegan menu items when I come across them, in an effort to help build a reliable database for my non-meat eating friends. One recent surprise was a vegan dish available at Gator’s, which I will be writing more about next week.

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