***This is an extended version of the article that appeared in the Argus-Courier newspaper on January 15, 2015.***  

“Farm to Fourchette” comes to North Petaluma

When you come to a fork in the road, take it. – Yogi Berra

Fourchette (French for “fork”) burst onto the Petaluma food scene early last year, providing fast, healthy lunch options delivered directly to the cubical warriors of our local business parks. Starting with simple “grab and go” tables in the lobbies of several local office buildings, Fourchette has grown quickly, both in reputation and size, recently expanding into a restaurant space on the north side of town. With a commercial kitchen, seating for up to 300, and a desire to bring the “farm to fork” philosophy to the business crowd, Fourchette is poised to add character and flavor to what might otherwise be another “business as usual” area of town.

High School is like a spork: it’s a crappy spoon and a crappy fork, so in the end it’s just plain useless. – John Mayer

Cherry Valley School moms, Heidi Overman and Melita Reyff, bring a mix of business, restaurant, and event planning experience to the table. Having missed more than a few lunches during her days in the business world, Director of Operations Heidi Overman brings restaurant, human resource management, and corporate event planning experience to the partnership. Co-owner Melita Reiff has owned and operated restaurants throughout the Bay Area, including the Easy Bay’s Garden of Eden. The partners exhibit an air of simpatico anchored in their common vision to bring healthy food alternatives to those who are simply too busy to take long lunch breaks.

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food. – Paul Prudhomme

For anyone experienced in the cubical life of office work, staying well-nourished is a challenge that often gets pushed to the back burner. The fast pace of the business world, with inevitable deadlines and constant conference calls, makes it not unusual for lunch to get skipped altogether. This is particularly troublesome if, like many, the first thing that pops into your head upon reaching your desk is “what’s for lunch?” Office parks are often pushed off to a remote corner of town, far from the closest retail and restaurant locations. Further disconnected from the real world by cubical walls, long hallways, elevators, and large parking lots, it isn’t unusual for time to slip away altogether. Before you know what’s happened, 3 p.m. has come and gone, and all your normal lunch spots are closed down for the day. Your choices are downright dismal if you stay late or work weekends. It’s a junk-food Russian Roulette – unhealthy chips and soda from the break-room vending machine, candy from the receptionist’s desk, the year-old emergency PowerBar from the back of your desk drawer, or the decomposing donut in the greasy pink box abandoned in the conference room after a hastily concluded meeting. …was that meeting this week or last?

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use. – Emily Post

“Business people crave a healthy alternative, but can’t afford to drive all over town searching for it. We remove the guesswork by bringing lunch to them,” says Overman. “People also want to show off the bounty of our region when clients come into town. Whether they opt for catering, or want to come in for a business lunch, we have great choices for them.” The partners are especial proud of their breakfast catering, which goes beyond the standard bagels and cream cheese. A great breakfast spread not only starts that meeting off on the right foot, by keeping grumbling stomachs at bay, but also signals to perspective clients that you pay attention to the details.

The shorter the chain between raw food and fork, the fresher it is and the more transparent the system is. – Joel Salatin

“The variety and diversity of what we have available to us in Petaluma is beyond anything I could have imagined growing up in rural Wisconsin,” reports Overman. The availability of fresh local products makes it easy for Fourchette to offer local business folks a place to get healthy and tasty food. Like many other local restaurants, Fourchette has moved beyond relying on “organic” labeling and instead concentrates on the “farm to fork” philosophy. Although a national standard, locally, “Certified Organic” has lost much of its appeal because ethical farmers and ranchers are often too small to afford the cost of certification. Many locals would rather consume food from a local farmer without organic certification, than from a distant vendor, no matter how “organic” they may claim to be. In place of expensive certifications farmers establish personal relationships with the restaurants to which they supply. This helps keep costs down while adding a level of accountability.

I’ve realized you can use a fork as a spoon if you use it rapidly enough. – John Mayer

I first tried Fourchette at last summer’s Taste of Petaluma, which is a culinary walking tour of downtown Petaluma and fundraiser for Cinnabar Theater. Hosted at WORK Petaluma, Fourchette served generous and tasty portions of Argentinean steak sliders (a style of steak served with chimichurri and lime crema) paired with Chinese chicken salad and gazpacho. The food was excellent, so it came as no surprise that a few months later Fourchette had secured a restaurant space of their own. In the interim, they had taken over kitchen duties at the Petaluma Golf and Country Club.   In fact, the building owner of their new space was a loyal Fourchette customer and sought them out in the hopes that they would take over the space recently vacated when Lydia’s Sunflower Center closed. They jumped at the opportunity, and have transformed it from a hodge-podge vegetarian/vegan gathering place to a sleek, yet inviting restaurant, business center, and hangout spot.

If this is the end of the world, give me a fork and a knife. – Dana Goodyear

At the same time Fourchette was moving into and updating Lydia’s old space, the partners brought on a new chef and partnered with a baker for desserts. Although not nearly as important to a true foodie as good, honest, healthy food, it never hurts to have a well pedigreed chef. With stints at John Ash’s original restaurant and Healdsburg’s Zin, Chef Omar Gonzalez is more than qualified to make top notch cuisine. But it is his passion for local ingredients that drives him to constantly seek out the freshest regional ingredients in order to keep his menu relevant and seasonal.

Put a fork in me, I’m done. – Houston Porter (after just about every meal I eat.)

Another important relationship is Fourchette’s close ties to Forget-Me-Not Cakes, owned by Sally Ann McGrath. Overman and Reiff met McGrath while sharing a commercial kitchen prior to moving to the Petaluma Golf and Country Club and were duly impressed with McGrath’s cake making chops.   With an enormous kitchen currently at their disposal, and no desire to reinvent the dessert wheel, Fourchette invited McGrath to share their space. “She matches our food quality standards, so it is a perfect fit,” says Overman. Forget-Me-Not has been voted a top five bakery for wedding cakes in the Bay Area for the past four years, taking first place twice and runner up once. McGrath satisfies the sweet toothed customers at Fourchette while continuing to turn out award-winning custom cakes. I was lucky enough to taste a sampling of cakes during a recent visit. A huge fan of cake, I can attest to their high quality and exquisite flavor, but one cake was a particular standout. One bite of McGrath’s Purely Pistachio cake and you can stick a fourchette in me; I’m done searching for the perfect cake. Described as “Something a little different . . . layers of moist, pistachio-studded Pistachio Cake, alternating with the cool green of creamy Pistachio Silk Buttercream,” I’m currently working on a good reason to order one of these for myself. Aren’t any of my friends getting married soon? Birthday? Retirement? Don’t we have a National Cake Day?

I once saw a forklift lift a crate of forks.  And it was way too literal for me. – Mitch Hedberg

Fourchette is located at the back side of a massive office building (by Petaluma standards) deep in the tree lined streets of the Redwood Business Park, at the north end of North McDowell Boulevard. It can seem a bit off the beaten path and maybe a little hard to find, however, if you allow your hunger to guide you, your eyes will immediately be drawn to the forked Fourchette sign posted at the road. Once around the back of the building, you will see the fork motif repeated on their black awning. Parking is plentiful, and for those picking up food, there are even a couple of convenient “food to go” parking spots right out front.

Is it progress if a cannibal uses a fork? – Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

But don’t let the location fool you. Despite being located in an office building in an office park, the immediate surroundings include a grassy picnic area with volleyball court. And flooding in from beyond the fence are provincial scenes reminiscent of what we’ve come to expect of our beloved local farmlands: rolling hills, oak and redwood trees, and lazy country lanes meandering past grazing cows.

If this is the end of the world, give me a fork and a knife. – Dana Goodyear

Admittedly small looking from the outside, the space is bigger than the single front door lets on. The size of a small warehouse, the restaurant’s interior is well thought out, with several different seating areas and an “outdoors inside” vibe conveyed with a thoughtful tree decor. Tucked into the back wall is cozy seating, and along one of the walls of windows you will find bar seating which takes advantage of the pastoral views. With capacity for up to 300 guests, there is plenty of open seating for large gatherings and impromptu business meetings. Fourchette encourages guests to come and stay, offering free Wi-Fi, plenty of power plugs, and comfortable couch seating.  The space is surprisingly calm and quiet for its size and the level of regular activity that surrounds a commercial kitchen. Even with the constant background hum of cooking and baking our party could visit without raising our voices, and never felt as if our space was invaded by the sounds of others.

If it was raining soup, the Irish would go out with forks. – Brendan Behan

Both healthy in size and content, Fourchette offers a full breakfast and lunch menu. Although known for their benedicts and Henhouse breakfast, I’m a sucker for good french toast, so I went that route. The Brioche French Toast was perfect – slightly eggy but still firm enough to hold up on the fork, and moist but still porous enough to soak syrup all the way through. A rarity on local menus, I could not resist ordering the Cheese Blintzes, which lived up their reputation as cheesy, creamy little pillows of tasty happiness. Soups, salads, sandwiches, and wraps all grace the lunch menu, but so far, I have opted for the pizzas or burgers. My favorite pizza is the House Special – Creamed Leeks and Smoked Bacon, and as a big burger fan, I highly recommend the truffle burger special, if it’s available on your visit. The meat is perfectly seasoned and the truffle oil and cheese complemented each other perfectly.

There is a lot of talk now about metal detectors and gun control. …they are no more a solution than forks and spoons are a solution to world hunger. – Anna Quindlen

Fourchette is currently open for breakfast and lunch. As soon as their ABC license is secured they will offer a dinner menu, as well as happy hour specials. Plans are also in the works for various night-time events, such as comedy shows, TED Talks, and a dinner and speaker series. With an impressive and visible kitchen acting as part of the décor, cooking classes and demonstrations are also in the works. Currently, the “Vagina Monologues” is on the calendar for later this spring. In addition to regular restaurant services Fourchette is available for private rental, charity events, and continues to offer full-service catering.

Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor. – Emily Post

With “good fast food” virtually an oxymoron, Fourchette aims to break the mold both with their catering and restaurant. Delivering healthy meals directly to the local suit-and-tie brigade, coupled with excellent catering and restaurant service, Fourchette has set the bar high. Having gone from concept to caterer to full blown restaurant in less than a year, I predict Fourchette is up for the task. So, the next time your friend or business colleague emails or texts with “You choose” or “Place TBD”; make the simple and healthy choice for them. “Fourchette at noon.” You and your associates will be pleasantly surprised at the sublime luncheon delicacies Fourchette has to offer, all in a comfortable and friendly environment.

Telling a story is like trying to eat grapes with a fork. It’s always trying to get away from you. And if you’re a good author, and you’ve challenged yourself, and you’re telling big stories, there’s more and more that’s trying to get away from you simultaneously. – Brent Weeks