Two weeks ago, I had the good fortune to spend a weekend in rural Sonoma with an incredible group of food enthusiasts at the first ever Eat Retreat. Founded by an impressive trio of ladies (Laura Brunow Miner, Kathryn Tomajan and Emily Morgan), we were enticed with the tagline Play with your food this spring in northern California.
I carpooled up with Jeff Potter, who shared with me not only his book-writing wisdom but also an impressive collection of tasteless jokes. (The best kind!) We arrived to a brief, intense hailstorm and a stack of Julie Morelli’s lovingly crafted, totally charming, letterpressed Eat Retreat notebooks. (Which Laura rightly declared the best swag ever!) AND then! A raw seafood bar of epic proportions, with oysters, scallops and crab, courtesy of Anna Larsen, plus bottles of champagne begging to be quaffed and a whole pig roasting over an open fire. There was an unending supply of impressively selected wines, beers and whiskeys sourced by Bruce Cole and Jesse Friedman. There were two unbelievably gorgeous brunches (Marc Matsumoto’s lime-marinated pineapple: transcendent) enjoyed in bright spring sunshine and two amazingly crafted dinners eaten al fresco in the chilly evenings. (Scarves and mittens abounded!)
Tucked in between the proper meals was a panini interlude (thanks to Deidre Hopp for spearheading and Dafna Kory for her amazing INNA Jam; Jam+cheese+toasted bread=heaven), spit-roasted chicken with the tastiest dry rub ever (thanks to Nate Keller, who did not stop cooking the entire weekend!), an afternoon cheese tasting, dangerously good halibut crudo courtesy of Mike Lee, absolutely perfect fava bean crostini made by Lauren Ladoceour, Jesse Friedman’s entertaining and enlightening discussion about the craft of beer, and OH, I could go on, and on. James Collier said it best when he wrote of the weekend, Let’s just say we never went hungry.
What did we do when we weren’t stuffing our pie holes? We talked about food, snuggled up to the campfire, overcrowded the hot tub, discussed the obesity epidemic, shared our food philosophies, giggled, hiked, photographed everything five times over, marveled at the landscape, the hawks, and our ridiculous luck. To say the weekend was fortifying is an understatement.
One of the things that makes my heart swell the most is this: I arrived at Eat Retreat having met only two people there, and left feeling like I had just made some of the raddest friends ever. Which brings me to the clearest takeaway from the weekend: the value of community. I find that I spend a lot of time cultivating and nurturing my little food community through the internet (a place that fills me with warm fuzzies, no doubt). It is refreshing, energizing and inspiring to spend a weekend entirely away from the internet with a group of ridiculously talented, enthusiastic, passionate and fun people. One weekend with them was not enough.