Here in Sonoma County, brunch is more delicious than it’s ever been. When you go to a restaurant that receives a daily supply of freshly gathered produce and creates in-house organic specialties, the difference is exceptional.
Peter Lowell’s Restaurant in Sebastopol represents the very heart of farm-to-table eateries. Now in its eighth year in business, the restaurant’s deep commitment to local, fresh and organic shines through in every breakfast, lunch and dinner plate—and on the weekends, brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“All our ingredients are organically farmed, which is exceedingly rare in the brunch industry. We take our time with each dish, both in creating it and cooking it,” said owner Lowell Sheldon.
Peter Lowell’s Restaurant has the kind of relaxed environment that makes it possible to enjoy a truly leisurely brunch with family or friends. When you enter, it’s open and airy, but still maintains an almost cozy, rural vibe. This is a place where guests feel invited to take their time to enjoy the food and one that takes brunch seriously. As Sheldon put it: “Our restaurant, in general, and our brunch, in particular, offer exceptional quality in a super easy-going, vibrant environment. Folks can count on everything being house-made, from the jams made from locally foraged fruits to the fresh-baked scones and tarts.”
And when asked why the brunch menu, specifically, is such a hit, he said, “Folks love our house-cured salmon hash with poached eggs and escarole; our Tummy Warmer of white beans, rapini, garlic chili flakes and baked eggs finished with Parmigiano; also, our Niçoise salad with new potatoes, beets, house-cured olives and North Coast albacore. We care deeply about what we do—cooking delicious food for everyday folks.”
After graduating from college, Sheldon came back to his hometown of Sebastopol with the idea of starting a restaurant that combined his passion for traditional Italian recipes with his desire to have a sustainable impact on the community. Peter Lowell’s Restaurant features only organic ingredients, locally sourced and sustainably produced; and during the summer months, more than 60 percent of their produce comes from the 2-acre family farm—Two Belly Acres. This enables Sheldon and his life and work partner, farmer Natalie Goble, to offer a real farm-to-table, seasonal menu that showcases how rich and diverse the agricultural landscape here truly is.
Two Belly Acres is contained within a larger property—Valley Verde Farm—one of the original Green Valley homesteads that is owned by Brian Goble, Natalie’s father. When Natalie was working as a chef at Peter Lowell’s Restaurant, she and Sheldon approached her dad about starting a small farm within his bigger one, which he had purchased in 1989 with dreams of farming Gravenstein apples from the then 50-year-old trees. “My father worked hard but it became evident that maintaining this lifestyle wasn’t sustainable while trying to support a family. Months and years passed and slowly the earth seemed to go into hibernation,” Natalie wrote on the restaurant’s website.
The couple dreamed of revitalizing the land—and in the fall of 2010, they harvested the first crop of kiwis for Peter Lowell’s Restaurant. “The dream is still building, and the Goble family has come together to help make it a reality,” Natalie explained.
The once-fallow farmland now produces a variety of vegetables grown from locally sourced heirloom seeds. “We grow every field crop you can think of—kale, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, herbs—and our goals for the farm include Biodynamic Certification and revitalization of kiwifruit, fuyu persimmons and feijoa (pineapple guava),” Sheldon said.
Sheldon stressed their commitment to sustainability and how the farm and the restaurant are synergistically linked. “The importance of where the food on our table comes from provides the framework for the philosophy of both the restaurant and the farm. Keeping our long-term goals in mind as we work the land, we look to set the pace as we progress towards our dream for a diverse farm as an educational tool for our local community,” he said.
When food isn’t available at their farm, Sheldon supports community agriculture by shopping at the nearby Farmers Market to pick up last-minute supplies. “My favorite farm at the farmers market is Laguna Farm,” he said. “Their quality is superior.”
Peter Lowell’s Restaurant uses eggs from Green Star Farm, a small Sebastopol producer that takes a holistic approach to managing its pastures to increase the quality of its topsoil, which influences the quality of its products, including the eggs. The chickens that lay the eggs used in the restaurant’s dishes have access to mobile hen houses, which are moved to fresh pasture regularly, and are fed soy-free certified organic feed as needed. The devotion Green Star Farms shows to its farm practices, including how well the chickens (and all of their animals) are treated, makes for excellent eggs that are denser and more flavorful than those which are store-bought or factory-farmed.
“The plan with the animals is to get them foraging as much of their diet as they can from the pastures…
Moving the mobile coops gives chickens more access to natural food. It is this natural forage which gives the eggs such qualities as chefs prize. The diversity of vitamins and minerals and micronutrients in the chickens’ food are the building blocks of those eggs,” said farmers Mark Felton and Sarah Silva of Green Star Farm.
Sheldon is especially keen on doing all he can to buy fish—a must in a good Italian dish—from the fisherman in the area, though he admits it can sometimes be difficult. “We love to work with local fisherman, but the realities of the trade make this practice dicey. I have a few friends that are either avid fishermen or commercial fisherman, and we all brainstorm about the day when the laws of the land make this practice more accessible,” he said.
When asked to name his personal favorite dish, Sheldon replied, “Changes every day. I love it when our Chef Joe cooks duck. He’s an amazing cook, and I love everything he cooks, especially his duck!”
“Chef Joe” is Chef Joe Zobel, an alumni of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, who spent years perfecting his art in the City but wanted to move somewhere where the lifestyle was less about the hustle and more about community. When Peter Lowell’s Restaurant was searching for a Chef de Cuisine, Zobel leaped at the chance—and for more than two years he’s been creating fresh, consistent and delicious meals that are exactly in line with Lowell’s vision.
The duck Lowell talks about is sourced from Salmon Creek Ranch in Bodega, which has been certified by California Certified Organic Farmers. Among other things, this means that the duck are fed an organic diet and are free range, all of which contributes to superior tasting meat.
Sheldon and his team’s passion for sustainable agriculture, community support and commitment to the freshest ingredients and expertly crafted meals shines through on every plate and aligns with their aim to place people, animals and the environment before profits.
Whether you’re spending the weekend in Sonoma County or are a longtime resident, brunch at Peter
Lowell’s Restaurant should be a part of your agenda. Peter Lowell’s is open for weekend brunch, both Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They also offer a weekday breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon; lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; and Friday-Saturday dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations aren’t necessary, but you can call to make them for a large group, or make them online through the website. SD