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In this issue: We celebrate our farm’s first year, we spend a little time with our chef de cuisine, Chandler Diehl, and we share some exciting changes to our brunch service (hint: longer hours and new dishes!).

Getting Our Hands Dirty: Celebrating One Year of Piccino Fields

The advent of spring often seems like the year’s true beginning, regardless of what the calendar says. After all, what is more festive and thrilling than crunchy radishes, slender stalks of asparagus, verdant spring onion tops, or the delicate meat of a young artichoke? This year, we have even more to celebrate than usual as we are receiving many of our spring vegetables from Piccino Fields, the little farm that we started just over a year ago in Healdsburg. We thought that now would be the perfect time to share the story of our farm and its bounty with you.

One of our guiding philosophies has always been that there is a direct connection between the plate and the ground. Margherita grew up gardening with her family in Tuscany and learned as a child that the best food starts with raw fruits and vegetables and the soil they are grown in. As Margherita herself says, “my passion is not just cooking. I love everything, the entire process, from selecting a seed to planting it, growing it, picking it, smelling it, cooking it, and eating it.” We believe that to achieve the kind of food that we love—the kind of food that Margherita and Sher, too, grew up with—every small choice, from when a seed is planted to its harvest date to how it is prepared for your plate, makes a difference. So, from the first day we opened in 2006, we have wanted to grow our own produce, but the right circumstances didn’t come into play until late 2016.

That was when Margherita found out that it might be possible for us to farm a little bit of property, just over half an acre, on some land owned by a friend of the restaurant. The land was in Healdsburg and was at the time sitting unused. All it needed was someone to farm it—someone, that is, willing to battle the Bermuda grass that had taken over the property, lay irrigation, and then build the farm from scratch—in other words, someone up for a challenge!

Fortunately, we found just the right person in Miriam Blachman. Miriam entered the world of farming several years ago after spending fifteen years in the restaurant industry as a cook. At first hesitant about how much she would even like farming, Miriam had started with a three-month internship under Bob Cannard of Green String Farm in Petaluma. (If you don’t already know Bob Cannard, let us just say that he is one of our heroes and a visionary farmer!) That internship turned into a job at Bob's farm that lasted nearly five years before she met Margherita and Sher and agreed to help us realize our dream of Piccino Fields.

Since she started, Miriam’s philosophy has been to plant as much as possible and to try out as many varieties as possible. We are experimenting to know what grows best in the soil we have as well as what works best with the food we’re serving. The first year saw us try about 100 different types of seeds, including a large variety of heirloom tomatoes, five different basils, and an abundance of herbs and edible flowers. All of that added up to over 1,100 crates of produce!

After just over a year of farming, we are only just beginning to realize our dream. This year, we are looking forward to growing sweet potato greens and winged beans, also known as asparagus peas (which corner the market in both looks and flavor!), among many other items. Please look for the words Piccino Fields in the weeks and months to come on both our Piccino and Noon All Day menus!

What’s the Diehl? A Few Facts about Chandler Diehl, Our Intrepid Chef de Cuisine

  1. Chandler started at Piccino in 2015 as our sous chef. He became our chef de cuisine in October of 2016 and has shone in that position ever since!
  2. He is the kind of person who goes to Reno to gamble. . . but then comes home with a puppy.
  3. An avid fisher, Chandler has caught fish all over California. He's a fan of eating what you catch, but once had to practice catch and release when he accidentally captured a young shark!
  4. His favorite vegetable is—wait for it—celery. Yes, really. He's even convinced a few of us to take a second look at this oft-neglected vegetable! If you want to be converted, too, look for its crisp, peppery flavor in our seared octopus primo.
  5. Building on a long history of culinary exchange between Italy and its neighbors, Chandler has brought such spices as espelette (from France) and ras el hanout (from North Africa) to our menu.

New Brunch Hours!

We are now opening an hour earlier on the weekend! Please join us from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays, followed by our usual snack (from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and dinner menus (from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.). Recent additions to our brunch menu include a citrus and avocado salad and a cap steak with a fried egg and romesco.