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(article, Deborah Madison)
During our tour for What We Eat When We Eat Alone, Patrick and I arrived hungry and tired for our last reading at the mighty Point Reyes Books in Marin County, California. Before our presentation, our gracious hosts sent us next door to Osteria Stellina for some dinner. While ready to eat, we weren’t prepared for the menu, which featured two columns of dishes featuring food from western Marin County and a wine list that nicely followed. (Sean Thackery's “Pleides” from Bolinas, just down the road, is my new favorite red.) We regained our strength with a meal whose lively, lusty flavors reflected that coastal terrain with its wind and fog, ocean, and grass-covered hills. Stellina was stellar. [%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="A handmade garganelli pasta with fresh peas, smoked bacon, and Straus cream."] It’s not fancy (no tablecloths here or delicate stemware), but the menu at Stellina, which might remind one of Delfina in San Francisco, makes choosing from its adventurous dishes difficult indeed. As a result, we ordered more than we could properly eat and still make it to our reading. Of course, restaurants that feature local food sources are nothing new today, but to find one that does it so thoroughly in such a tiny town is something to take note of. Finally, it seems that this can happen in the country, not just in an urban setting, which of course makes ultimate sense: that’s where the food is. Today, it seems, that’s where the eaters are too, or eaters will go there. I can buy Straus cream and butter in Santa Fe, but to have it in situ is always so much better. And pretty much everything here is in situ, as is fitting for a restaurant dedicated to supporting Marin County goods and producers, such as Marin Sun Farms' beef cheeks; Hog Island Oysters; Bodega Bay Dungeness crab; Star Route’s beet greens and frisée; Point Reyes blue cheese; Fulton Valley chicken; local goat, lamb, and black cod; and many, many more vegetables. The beautiful hills of rural Marin are clearly host to a plethora of farmers and ranchers today. We dove into a bowl of braised greens and rosemary-garlicky scented beans; lamb liver with melting onion confit and whole-grain mustard; roasted asparagus nicely drenched with McEvoy olive oil; and a handmade garganelli pasta with fresh peas, smoked bacon, and Straus cream. We had time only to taste our black cod and beef cheeks, and there was clearly no time for dessert. But one thing we know: we’ll have to make time to go back and see what will undoubtedly be an entirely new, seasonal menu, and then allow the time to take it slowly. If you’re in Point Reyes, or anywhere near it, go to Stellina and get a taste of western Marin County. p(bio). Deborah Madison is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks, including Local Flavors. She lives in New Mexico. .