2 Established Restaurants Get Makeovers

2 Established  Restaurants  Get Makeovers

Nov. 27, 2013

By Abby Bard | Photos by Sarah Bradbury

Two innovative Sebastopol restaurants are realizing their dreams of expansion.  Both are owned by husband and wife chefs with growing families and are well established as local favorites for great eating, featuring the highest quality local foods.  Now they’ve outgrown their original spaces,  and both are experiencing a creative culinary growth spurt.

Zazu Kitchen + Farm

  Sebastopol – wake up and smell the bacon! Husband and wife chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart are happily sharing the kitchen in the new incarnation of Zazu, formerly a tiny country roadhouse and now a much larger modern space, renamed Zazu Kitchen + Farm, which opened in August at The Barlow. The new Sebastopol location provides this couple with ample room to share the cooking area, which was not possible in the old location, and to have all of their specialized equipment, like John’s meat grinder and smoker and Duskie’s gelato machine, operating under one roof.

    “It’s our dream kitchen,” Duskie said, of the new space where John transforms the meat and Duskie does the line cooking. “John does everything that requires patience, and I do the things that are impatient. We’re very excited to work together. I’m very lucky!”

    Both are passionate about knowing who grows and makes the food they serve, being able to put a face on almost all the ingredients. They are advocates for preserving what is soulful about the area, supporting the raising of animals on pasture, treating them with respect and putting money directly in the hands of the farms.

     “There’s no luckier spot than right here; I love the diversity of agriculture. We couldn’t do this in New York, for example. Where we live makes all this possible. We’re simple cooks, we want to elevate the ingredients. If you have rockin’ ingredients, you can do it!” Duskie said.

    During the height of the growing season, 30 percent of the food served at Zazu came from their own gardens. They raise pigs for the bacon heavily featured on their menu, along with goats, sheep, rabbits and ducks. Vegetables are grown at their MacBryde Farm in Forestville and at another garden they maintain at Davis Family Vineyards near Memorial Beach in Healdsburg.  At the restaurant itself, tomatoes, peppers, sage, thyme and citrus and olive trees are planted in large wooden boxes that define the patio on the west side the building.

    Half of the bright and welcoming 3,600-square-foot space is devoted to the kitchen. The front is open to the dining area, and in the rear, there’s a section where sides of bacon are curing and vegetables are pickling in large tubs (visible from a hallway window). The dining room can accommodate 22 at the bar, on bright yellow metal stools, and 65 more seated at tables both inside and outside on the patio, which has lights and heaters for cooler evenings and umbrellas for sunny mornings and afternoons.

    John and Duskie (who was once a vegetarian) were crowned the King and Queen of Pork in 2011 at the Grand Cochon, the Heritage Pork Olympic Finals at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival.  Appropriately, the outside corner of the building is marked by a Patrick Amiot sculpture of a pig.   To further celebrate their porcine royalty, the industrial grey interior walls are enlivened with a single decoration–a large wall sculpture of a crown, points lit up–which hangs above the gleaming kitchen and is visible from everywhere in the restaurant.  Duskie and John’s two daughters, Brydie, age 12, and Mackenzie, age 10, are second-generation foodies. A favorite game of theirs is a version of  “Iron Chef,” where Duskie is the judge and both are winners.

    On an early autumn morning, I had brunch with a friend at Zazu. The sun came streaming into the space from the south and west facing roll-up doors, lighting up the shiny chrome French press coffee pot, colorful orange coffee cups and azure blue mason jars (used as water glasses) on the simple wood table where we were served our meal. Little cozy details, like dishtowel-sized white napkins with red striped edges, folded between double plates, keep the dishes steady when knife and fork are applied.

    The food itself is simple, beautiful and absolutely delicious. My friend had the Dutch Baby Pancake, topped with fresh berries, lemon wedges and powdered sugar, served in its own individual iron pan, and I chose the Spud-O-Rama with cheddar cheese, scallions, topped with a fried egg and a dollop of sour cream. We also split a side order of Zazu’s signature house-made bacon, with a subtle maple flavor and dense, satisfying meatiness.  

K&L Bistro

    Longtime fans of K&L Bistro will be happy to know that this consistently satisfying Sebastopol restaurant is planning to expand, both in size and scope, in 2014.  On Jan. 1, K&L will close briefly for a complete remodel, planning to reopen in mid-February with a new bar, new dining room and plenty of kitchen space.

    When husband and wife chefs/owners Lucas and Karen Martin opened their French-inspired bistro 12 years ago on S. Main Street, they had a 10-year plan – but “things were in limbo for the last two years until a great offer from our landlady fell into our laps,” Lucas told me. When their former neighbor, Mermaids Day Spa, closed, they were able to occupy the entire building on an incremental 15-year lease and finally act on their vision. The new expansion enables them to enlarge the staff to 12 people on busy nights, freeing Lucas and Karen from their 17-hour workdays and providing them more time at home with their sons, now 9 and 12, who literally grew up in the restaurant.

    Lucas is very excited to transform the original space into a full bar, with a raw bar for oysters in a glass enclosure at the entrance. “We’ll have six to eight beers on tap, a full liquor bar and sexy barstools from Harrington on Valencia Street in San Francisco, a whimsical brasserie-style bar menu and a TV. The bar tops are Caesarstone, with recycled glass, mirrors and seashells; we’ll use the granite from the original bar for the host station.”

    The separation of the bar and new dining area is an important element for Lucas. He’s inviting a new clientele, who are looking for a livelier atmosphere for cocktails, into the bar, while still making sure to consider the needs of his current and loyal patrons for
a quiet and relaxed space to dine.

    The new dining room, entered through a passageway to the left of the host station, will accommodate 50 people. Well-insulated from the noise at the bar, it will have natural light from a wall of windows on one side, a bare-brick wall on another, and new carpeting. There will be seating for 18 more at the bar and for 12 outside on a covered patio: in all, more than double the current seating.

    The original kitchen was designed for two people cooking, with Lucas and Karen the sole chefs. It was impossible to fit in a third person. The new kitchen plan is double that size, opening out to both bar and dining room, accommodating two people on the hot side and two more in the pantry, with a lot more refrigeration. Karen will also have a new convection oven with a speed rack for baking pastries for both the restaurant and catering. Behind the kitchen is an area devoted exclusively to catering operations. Right now, Lucas and Karen can cater small events, from 10 to 12 people. The new space will allow for a dedicated catering chef and capacity to prepare for much larger events. It should be fully operating by early summer.

     To source fresh produce for the menu, Lucas works with Paula at GreenLeaf, a distributor of local and sustainable farm products representing 15 organic small farms. GreenLeaf picks up at the farms and delivers the same day to the restaurant. Lucas used to travel to Marin twice a week, but really likes the great selection and convenience of working with GreenLeaf. Humboldt Creamery provides the ice cream that Karen uses in her desserts.  The delicious bread, beloved by loyal K&L patrons, will continue to be provided by Full Circle Baking Co. in Penngrove.  

    The new bar will have its own menu, offering smaller plates with more ethnic influences in the $5 to $8 range, like soft pretzels, scotch eggs, porkbelly sliders and poutine (a Canadian classic dish of French fries and fresh cheese curds with oxtail gravy). A glass-cased oyster bar will offer four to five different choices plus three different tartares. The main menu will also be available in the bar.  

    When asked what he’d be serving this winter, now that the weather has turned cool, Lucas said: “Cassoulet will make its way back onto the menu; red wine-braised short ribs with barley risotto, five-hour lamb leg with ricotta gnocchi, and, of course, all the house-made charcuterie,” he said. “Right now we have a chicken liver and bacon terrine, rabbit pâté with pistachios, and a smoked cotto salami. We also just added a house-made corned beef tongue Reuben on rye. Salads will include persimmon and arugula with pecans and pomegranate seeds, crushed kale and butternut squash, Brussels sprouts with shaved Joe Matos St. George cheese and pine nuts.”

    Familiar standards like Caesar salad and – my personal favorites – French onion soup and Steak Frites (mesquite grilled rib eye steak accompanied by irresistible French fries) will still be on the menu this winter, too.

    With the great food, warmth, and personality that these two restaurants offer, we can look forward to a cozy winter in downtown Sebastopol.

Zazu Restaurant + Farm
#150 The Barlow
6770 McKinley St., Sebastopol

K&L Bistro
119 South Main St.­, Sebastopol

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