Thursday, February 10th, 2011
Like much of the produce and meat he serves at his restaurant, Peter Lowell’s, 30 year-old Lowell Sheldon is a homegrown product of West Sonoma County. Raised on two self-sustaining acres of land in Sebastopol, a graduate of the Waldorf school, sometimes farmer and untiring proponent of ecological and organic ideals, Sheldon is the kind of dreamy-eyed idealist you might expect.
And up until recently, Peter Lowell’s was, in many ways, the restaurant you might expect.
“We’ve always fit in Sebastopol,” says Sheldon. With macro bowls as a top seller and a printed credo on each menu stating that, “people, animals and the environment come before profits, where organic is a way of life, and where the highest quality cuisine is a top priority — is in keeping with our community standards,” there’s no mistaking the restaurant’s point of view. On the walls are photos of local farmers’ collectives and bee-keepers who supply the restaurant. Producers wander in with boxes of mushrooms or lettuce or whatever they’ve picked that day.
But Peter Lowell’s is evolving. Since opening three years ago with an almost meatless menu, the restaurant has undergone a fairly radical re-thinking of its mission. “The menu today reflects my own evolution,” said Sheldon. “I was vegan for quite a while and was really thinking about what I was eating. But my reality changed and needed to expand. This is a menu for everyone,” he said.
And while the seitan, macro bowls, brown rice, beans, seasonal greens and tofu, remain some of the restaurant’s most popular items, the recent addition of the talented and unapologetically omnivorous Chef Daniel Kedan brings serious culinary cred to a restaurant that’s always been good, but fell just short of great.
The Ad Hoc and Cantinetta Piero alum has a deft hand with rustic, full-flavored Italian dishes culled from seasonal ingredients. Focusing the ever-changing menu on whatever local farmers bring to the back door and with plans to source the majority of their spring and summer produce from a Green Valley Farm they’ll work themselves, Kedan and Sheldon’s visions seem to dovetail nicely.
“Yountville never felt like, home says Kedan. “I wanted to be around people I’m comfortable with. There was so much pressure and intensity. Here farmers are coming in all the time, and it’s much more casual and relaxed. I mean, if your vegetables aren’t perfect here, we can still highlight them,” he said.
Along with veggies, they’ll be trying their hands at goat’s milk cheese and offering up cuts of local lamb, beef, pig and chicken. Oh, and Chef Seamus Guevara, one of their most talented former chefs (now at Cotogna in SF), has left instructions on how to make his amazing lasagna.
And so Peter Lowell’s continues to evolve, finding a comfy spot somewhere between idealistic and delicious.
The Vibe: Housed in a bright, welcoming LEED-certified space, Peter Lowell’s small outdoor patio has a bubbling fountain that’s as welcoming for morning coffee as evening wine and wood-fired pizzas.
The Menu: Look for dishes like Pizza Bianco (with shaved Bosc pears, bacon and blue cheese); Lamb burgers with aoili on a house made bun; veggie-friendly dishes like Romanesco broccoli with panisse; Gleason Ranch pork belly, delicate raviolo filled with duck eggs, ricotta and seasonal produce and homemade pasta.
Drinks: Lots of small production, locally produced wines that share in the PL philosophy.
Peter Lowell’s, 7385 Healdsburg Avenue Ste. 101, Sebastopol, 829-1077