The Drawing Board
It is rare to find someone doing something out of pure passion and love for their craft. It is much easier to get distracted and lose sight of the original vision, whatever that may be. Often, it is money that becomes more alluring than remaining true to your art. Any form of art is designed for other people to enjoy and benefit from. But it is hard to constantly prioritize serving others; it simply goes against our nature as humans.
I am very in tune with this realm when it comes to dining in restaurants. As soon as a dish comes to the table, it is evident if the food has been made, on some level, with love. It is a difficult thing for me to define, because the food doesn’t have to be fancy, or pretty, or well-plated, or anything that I could put a finger on. There’s no rubric for this one. It just comes down to the emotional response I have, and the overall sense that accompanies it. But I’ve heard chefs and other people talk about this too, so I know I’m not crazy.
My wife and I have 3 little kids, and my parents are gracious enough to watch them for us on Sunday evenings so we can go on a date. This time is very precious, so naturally we don’t want to spend it eating food that isn’t any good. In the past few years, we’ve become more aware of the idea of “food made with love.” And using this criteria to guide us, we have discovered a few of our favorite restaurants of all time.
There is a lovely restaurant in Petaluma, CA called The Drawing Board. We just went this past week, and it was our 6th visit this year. The first thing that caught our attention about it was the beautiful interior. I really love the open floor-plan, the spacious feel, and the artful balance of modern-industrial with natural wood and live plants. As I researched The Drawing Board on Yelp before our first visit, I was very intrigued by the menu, specifically the carrot “lox” and “cream cheese.” The dish is 3 simple components: thinly-sliced smoked carrots, a cashew-based cream cheese, and really great grilled levain (artisan bread). The crazy thing is that it tasted exactly like its non-vegan counterpart, and simultaneously fresher and lighter. It is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. The level of care that went into creating that single dish is evident. There is so much attention to detail, and the flavors are so delicate that I recall closing my eyes to fully savor and appreciate the moment.
The cocktail menu is equally inspired and packed with even more unfamiliar flavors. Since they make many of their own extracts and tinctures in-house, there are ingredients I’ve never seen, heard of, or tasted. It is such an exciting experience to order a drink and enjoy the creations they’ve made. As an example, the drink I ordered this last visit included an extract of redwood tips. It was incorporated so artfully and subtly. I’m looking forward to trying it again and enjoying its complexity even more.
It wasn’t until this week that we learned about the owner. It was a busy evening, and our usual server was running around tending to more than his fare share of tables, so a nice young woman took our order. As we chatted about a cocktail that is sadly no longer on the menu, she had a very deep knowledge of the process by which it was made and the reason it isn’t currently around. After asking if she designs the drinks, we learned that she owns the restaurant! Rosie Wiggins, age 27, is officially my hero. I couldn’t believe that someone so young created this very special, one-of-a-kind place.
Meeting her gave me a burst of inspiration to continue pursuing my passions fearlessly. It is so great to see people doing something they love and truly believe in. She told us that she just finished culinary school, and I’m totally blown away. At age 27, I was still learning how to cook and had no idea what I wanted to do for my career long-term. I was still very fearful and didn’t have much of a plan or vision for anything. But just because I’m not 27 anymore, doesn’t mean I can’t begin to live without fear and pursue my far-off goals today. I’m thankful that I have already begun a new pathway, and I’m exceptionally thankful for the inspiration from Rosie. I can’t wait to go back to The Drawing Board soon. It was a pleasure to finally meet the visionary behind this lovely establishment.
Watch a short video of Rosie talking about her restaurant.