Fa Nino’s and 101 North pair tacos and beer in Petaluma
Some of the tastiest food in town can’t be found at a restaurant, but in a new partnership between F.A. Nino’s and 101 North Brewing.
I discovered F.A. Nino’s years ago, when owner/co-founder Chuck Ross offered samples to taste at Petaluma Market. Not a fan of fire alarm level hot sauces, I was impressed with the depth of flavors of F.A. Nino’s hot sauces. They remain our favorite sauces because even the hottest one, which features ghost peppers, puts “flavor before fire,” as I like to say.
As I wrote in my 2015 article introducing F.A. Nino’s to Petaluma, “The name? ‘Nino’ is a slang for ‘Godfather,’ likely finding its way from the Greek’s ‘Nouno.’ Nino is a tribute to Ross’ actual godfather, while the silhouette on the label is Ross’ father. The F.A.? Well, Chuck’s father, godfather and uncle Frank were rather large fellas and liked to refer to each other’s “fat posteriors,” a term of endearment between the trio. The term ‘F.A.’ was a way to avoid offending anyone within earshot.”
I later discovered F.A. Nino’s barbecue sauces and dry rubs. The sauces come in an array of delicious combinations, including Bourbon, Sage and Tarragon BBQ sauce and Beer-BQ sauce, which incorporates Lagunitas’ Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. And when it comes to dry rubs, I have found nothing better than the Jamaican Dry Rub for making the perfect barbecued chicken. The Citrus-Herb Dry Rub goes well on fish, too, and is the base for their fried chicken sandwich, which is what we were on the hunt for when we dropped in last weekend at 101 North Brewing Company.
Shawn Kaffun mans F.A. Nino’s griddle at 101 North. He met Ross when they were neighbors Ross’ uncle Frank. Like all members of the family, Frank always had a smile on his face. He passed away unexpectedly last year and is sorely missed.
Kaffun grew up in Fairfield, where he loved to cook as a kid. He is self taught, admitting that he was inspired by all the Food Network shows he watched as a kid. Kaffun has also always loved baebcue and set out to master the grill at a young age. He moved to Sonoma County 20 years ago and when F.A. Nino’s launched, he was there to help mix sauces, package bottles and pick up the cooking duties, when need be.
The idea for F.A. Nino’s food at 101 North was inspired by Frank’s regular visits to the brewery for a beer after a long day of making sauces across the freeway at F.A. Nino’s commercial kitchen and tasting room. For a while, 101 North hosted random food trucks, but those started to dwindle once the Block – Petaluma opened. Frank offered to start cooking up some of his excellent tacos on a semi-regular basis and a partnership was born.
During our visit, Kaffun was quite adept at answering questions while never losing sight of the many orders he juggles. He clearly takes pride in what he does and his food tastes as good as it looks. The crew uses local ingredients, sourcing products from Golden Gate Meats, Andy’s for produce, Petaluma Creamery for cheese and Golden State Pickle Works for toppings.
Kaffun cooks with all F.A. Nino’s sauces and rubs, as well as with 101 North’s beer. During our visit, 101 North’s beer was added to the pork tacos, the nacho cheese, the pretzel dipping sauces and as a starter liquid while grilling the taco meat. He tells me that 101 North’s Indio Pale Ale is a great cooking beer because it, too, is relatively mild compared to some of the hoppier beers at 101 and so it does not overpower the flavors of the food.