If there is one thing that sets Marin chefs and San Francisco chefs apart, it is how and where they source the ingredients they use in their food.
It would be rare to find a San Francisco chef going regularly to the farmers market for vegetables. But in Marin, two local chefs trek to the Thursday and Sunday markets on a regular basis.
Chef Aaron Wright, of the Tavern at Lark Creek, lives in Sonoma with his wife, Sadie, who is expecting their first child and worked in Larkspur. A California native, he cooked at several high profile restaurants in Seattle before cooking in Calistoga, then the Tavern.
On Thursdays he picks up whatever is interesting and fresh at the farmers market. On a regular basis he sources his hamburger meat from Marin Sun Farms, his wagyu beef from Mishima Ranch, which produces American style Kobe beef, duck from Liberty duck and seafood from La Rocca in San Francisco.
“We only use seafood that is approved on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch list,” he explains. (The list recommends which seafood to buy or avoid, helping consumers and businesses become advocates for ocean-friendly seafood).
“Besides the farmers market, I get many vegetables from Star Route Farms in Bolinas,” says Wright.
“Coming from Seattle, I was used to being able to get all the ethnic ingredients and spices that I wanted to cook with, but that is not the case in Marin, which has less diversity,” says Wright.
“Marin seems saturated with Italian cuisine,” he adds.
One revelation is that Wright sources poultry from Mary’s Free-Range Chicken in Petaluma. This chicken is organic, but has the added benefit of being air-chilled. Most poultry, even organic brands like Rocky, are chilled in an ice bath. This method adds from two to twelve percent water weight to the chicken and in addition dilutes its natural juices.
At Mary’s each chicken is individually slow chilled as it travels through the plant (http://www.maryschickens.com/Airchilled.htm) and is misted with cold water. This method of cooling chicken has been the norm in Europe for 45 years. The idea is gaining ground in this country.
Locally Andronico’s, Whole Foods and Mollie Stone's carry the air-chilled chicken from various producers.
Every week, Chef Sean Canavan of the Left Bank Brasserie in Larkspur (www.leftbank.com/locations/larkspur.php) has two grass-fed whole lambs delivered from Fallon Hills Ranch, which he breaks down, using every part of the animal. He goes to both San Rafael farmers markets, Thursday and Sunday.
In season, he gets deliveries of vegetables from Star Route Farms and County Line Harvest in Petaluma.
Because he cooks French food he gets specialty foods like Dijon mustard, escargot, green peppercorns and truffles from Gourmet & More in San Leandro.
Like Chef Wright, Canavan also uses nothing but air-chilled chicken.
“I think that the taste is better,” says Canavan, “it’s the closest to the chicken you find in France.”