While our recent travels with California were filled with a lot of new explorations, a couple of old favorites popped-up in our excursions. Needless to say, they did not disappoint even with a few years removed between visits.
Moschetti Coffee: Similar to the craft beer phenomenon (see my prior post on Vallejo's Mare Island Brewing Company), finer coffee has bypassed this East Bay town until fairly recently. Even the goliath of Second Wave coffee, Starbucks, took their sweet time to come to town, arriving within city limits at the start of the new millenium (2001.) A few smaller, hometown-styled coffee houses dot the landscape, including the Ferry Building-located Panama Red (a small regional chain of coffeehouses) as well as the former gas station that has hosted Java Jax near downtown Vallejo for several years.
One of the more unique members of this small coffee clique has been making the rounds for more than 25 years, and has provided the locals a taste of what a more refined cup of joe can be for the last several years for absolutely free (yes, I said free.)
Fabrice Moschetti, a native of France who started the commercially-oriented Moschetti Coffee in 1989, acknowledged in a recent Vallejo Times-Herald article about his 25th anniversary that most of the people back then "didn't care. Coffee was coffee." But with the growth in the coffee industry (Starbucks, a company Moschetti definitely has some strong opinions on, grew by 12,000 stores in the decade after finally arriving in the area in 2001), Moschetti eventually found more and more interested in the hows and whys behind the coffee they were brewing and drinking, and he was only more than happy to help them out via what has become a regular community gathering in their weekly "Tasting Saturdays", where all coffee sampling is on the house.
|Dispensers featuring all of Moschetti's single-origin and coffee blends|
were lined up like I remembered from past visits
|Moschetti had all manner of coffee preparation, from old school to nitro brew|
|Among the bags of coffee, Moschetti Coffee's owner Fabrice |
was pulling shots for the customers who dropped in as usual
As befitting a community-based gathering, visitors can almost always find a couple of locally-based vendors selling their wares at the event. On this visit, sample and bring home the confections of Ian Scott and the bath and beauty products of Shameeka Dream. The friendly and casual conversation with these vendors, as these interactions often are, are perhaps some of the most favorite aspects of our travels. Even if many of these end up being single-shot experiences, they are often the main ingredients to a very simple but highly desirable goal: getting out of the house and having a great day for yourselves.
|Local vendors are almost always found at Moschetti's Tasting Saturdays|
Top: Shameeka Dream and her homemade body- and beauty-products
Bottom: the Pumpkin Seed Brittle and Pistachio Cherry Chocolate Bar
from Ian Scott Confections
11 6th St
Vallejo, CA 94590
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El Molino Central - Trends, hot neighborhoods and the latest"you've got to try this place" change rapidly in a food-focused area like the San Francisco Bay Area, so its very easy to forget about places that were in the spotlight even for the briefest of moments.
Our return to El Molino Central, in the easy-to-drive-by town of Boyes Hot Springs (most folks would see this small town of 7,000 as part of Sonoma itself) was one such place, until my spouse recalled it from a previous trip when we were still dating. It seemed like a good candidate for a revisit, as we enjoyed our food there and the vibe and the food are reminiscent of a Columbus eatery we have grown fond of in the form of Katalina's.
El Molino Central is a small eatery owned Karen Taylor Waikiki, who had long set her mark on the Bay Area dining scene through Primavera and their organic, homemade tamales and tortillas. Opened in the middle of 2010, her Sonoma-area cafe (the "Molino" in the name refers to the mill where corn is taken to be ground into masa; this eatery takes pride in milling its own masa) showed that her talent with food reached far beyond those two Mexican staples, sporting a seasonal menu with unique creations such as Swiss Chard Enchiladas and Chalupas.
Those same items were the very first we sampled on our first visit ever: my spouse loved the contrast of bitter provided by the chard and the salty in the cotija cheese in her enchiladas, while my dish (definitely NOT anything like the Taco Bell item) sported layered taste extravaganza of tender chicken, onions, beans and salsa on top of freshly-made masa. The pour-over Blue Bottle Coffee was just icing on the cake.
|El Molino's interior is pretty much all kitchen and prep space; while some|
eating areas have been appended, this eatery is geared to take out
The Chard Enchiladas were again on the menu along with other unique items like the Pozole Rojo with Tostada (hominy pork soup stew with traditional garnishes), German Butterball Potato and Cheese Tacos (with salsa, habanero, sour cream and pickled jalapeno), as well as tamale options and a special with Dungeness Crab. However, much to our chagrin, we had arrived a bit too early, so the only option available to us was their Chilaquiles Merida.
|Mmmm....El Molino Central's Chilaquiles Merida|
El Molino Central
11 Central Avenue
Boyes Hot Springs (Sonoma), CA 95476
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