Asian Fusion

A unique local stop in our town, Petaluma, has more to it than meets the eye — Ernie’s Tin Bar.  Family operated since 1923, this little bar caught Berkley’s eye because he enjoys connecting to local people and to local places that aren’t in the mainstream. Mostly, though, Berkley knows how much I enjoy a good story and you can’t leave Ernie’s without hearing one, sharing one, or creating one of your own.

Ernie now represents the fourth generation of barkeeps in the family.  Contemporary in his social awareness, you will find Ernie behind the bar with his iPhone sharing photos of his family, and young daughter.  Use your cellphone to talk, however, and you will be buying a round — a rule we all enjoy and honor.  Ernie’s Tin Bar is not listed in the phone book, but you will find them on Yelp and in a few articles about good beer, served locally. That’s about it — except for this:  Ernie grows delicious organic fruits and vegetables that he provides to subscribers in his local CSA.  What is a CSA? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  For $17 a week, each Tuesday we have the privilege of stopping by Ernie’s Tin Bar for a beer and a bag of groceries filled to the brim with produce Ernie grows on his small farm.

Ernie's Produce on the chopping block

Ernie's Produce on the chopping block

This week, our overflowing bag of goodies included sweet cantaloupe, tangy raspberries, sumptuous beets, golden carrots, roasting potatoes, crisp cucumber, lemon cucumbers, crookneck squash, crunchy cabbage, and heirloom tomatoes.  For our first entry, we planned a comforting veggie meal with savory Asian flavors and invited a special guest to share it with. What follows are the recipes using these wonderful gifts from Ernie’s garden.

Half of the fun is planning the meal – talking about it and researching recipes from old books and favorite online gourmets.  I (Berkley) went to my favorite website,, looking for an Asian dish that would utilize cabbage and Udon noodles. After sifting through 145 recipes, I found one that spoke to me, Sesame Noodles With Napa Cabbage.  Our goal for this recipe, and all others, is to use at least two local foods, regular pantry staples, and for it to be yummy. 

Since we were entertaining we wanted it to be simple to prepare, so we could enjoy our company while sipping some local sparkling wine from Mumm Napa  I created an easy sauce, whisking together some organic crunchy peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, white wine vinegar (in place of rice vinegar), white wine (in place of sherry), organic sugar and red pepper flakes.  (Kelly loved this sauce and her only request is to double it next time.)  Meanwhile, Kelly sliced the cabbage into long crunchy strips and chopped cilantro from the Petaluma Farmer’s Market grown by Taylor at Petaluma Bounty.  She then added her idea of julienned carrots to top the dish.  I simmered the sauce and prepared the Udon noodles.  One of the neat tricks to learning this recipe was using the boiled water from the Udon noodles to blanche both the cabbage and the carrots. Using two strainers (one smaller for the carrots), I poured the hot water from the noodles over the vegetables.  I mixed the sauce with the noodles in the noodle pot, and mixed in the cabbage.  After plating the dish, I topped each plate with the carrots and cilantro.

Sesame Udon Noodles with Cabbage

Sesame Udon Noodles with Cabbage

Adding to the delicious, peanutbuttery noodle dish of Berkley’s, I (Kelly) made a salad with sliced roasted beets, cucumber, and tomatoes with an Asian ginger dressing.  To top the evening’s meal, I served fresh raspberries with diced cantaloupe, topped with Straus Family Vanilla Whole Milk Yogurt (talk about yumminess, this is the best yogurt EVER.)  I love a good story and if you do too, listen to an oral history interview with Albert Straus about his experience as a dairy farmer.  This interview was done for a project I took part in with Dominican University as curator for the Marin History Museum’s current exhibit,  Growing The Future:  Farming Families of Marin. 

Enjoying our meal with a special friend makes it taste even better.

Enjoying our meal with a special friend makes it taste even better.

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