During the pandemic, these local leaders continued to work from home. Try their breads, cocktails and cookies


It’s hard to keep a great leader down. As restaurants rode the wave of the pandemic, many talented food professionals have seen their careers take unforeseen turns. Yet rather than throwing in the towel, some creative types have turned to opening craft businesses, renting large commercial kitchens – even getting permits for their home kitchens – to start new businesses.

The scale remains small for now, but given the appeal of these one-of-a-kind artisanal operations, let alone the local support they have received, the sky is the limit.

T&K Mixology, Sonoma

Home happy hour became an event last year, and thanks to artisan bartenders Kenneth De Alba and Tony Leyva, we can compete with the best mixologists in the area. The duo introduced their craft cocktail mixer company in March 2020, after losing their full-time job at Sonoma’s El Dorado Kitchen due to COVID-19.

“With the bars closing, there was a clear void in the domestic market for craft cocktails,” said De Alba. “We looked at store-bought blenders and found that they didn’t taste fresh and we could make our own to taste as perfect as anything we would serve at the bar. “

The result is an all-natural sip of heaven made in small batches of less than three cases per week in flavors like blood orange margarita and strawberry.

Sparkling like liquid jewelry in their hand-labeled canning jars, the colorful mixes are exquisite enough to drink on their own, but T&K includes expert drink recipes like a spicy mezcal margarita lined with chili salt.

“I’ve always described creating cocktails like cooking, combining fresh ingredients and flavors,” De Alba said. “We are trying to support local farmers, like using Watmaugh strawberry fruit in Sonoma and organic citrus fruit from California. It brings us great joy to work with local businesses and see how we have all come together and helped each other in these difficult times.

To order, search for T&K Mixology on Facebook, find them on Instagram @tnkmixology or visit their website, tnkmixology.com.

Sean du Pain, Kenwood

For his new home business, professional baker Sean Perry managed to come up with the smartest name we’ve heard in a long time, a riff on popular zombie movie titles from the early 2000s.

Perry quit his retail bakery job in San Francisco to move to the town of Kenwood last November and immediately sold several bread entrees to neighborhood customers sheltering in place. Soon orders were pouring in for his fresh sourdough bread, ancient grain breads, English muffins and bagels.

“The science of bread is fascinating and I love explaining it to people,” said Perry. “The ability of grains to develop gluten and trap the wonderful gases produced by fermentation is what makes them such a magical gift to mankind.”

Inspired by the tradition of small towns and villages having a local baker, Perry delivers his art within a three mile radius of Kenwood or meets customers in town for pickups.

Worth a visit for the all-natural golden crust breads lovingly mixed and shaped by hand, then baked by bread.

“I wake up around 4 am every day,” he said. “It allows me to make sure that a product will never be rushed, and I can stick to the bread schedule instead of trying to force the bread to adhere to mine.”

To order, email [email protected] or visit seanofthebreadkenwood.com.

Ta’Bueno, Sonoma

Surely a great pandemic stress remedy has to be gooey, cheese-laden enchiladas drenched in a rich gravy or sizzling tamales plumped up with lots of flavorful pork topped with a fruity and smoky guajillo chili sauce. Happiness surely comes in a complex chocolate chicken mole, homemade masa sopes and a creamy arroz con leche.

It was Erik Mejia to the rescue, who launched his Mexican cuisine Ta ‘Bueno (“It’s good”) in August 2020 after an exciting career in restaurants such as the three Michelin star restaurant of Meadowood in Saint Helena, where he worked in the front of the house. Meadowood was lost last September in the Glass fire.

Based on home delivery, the concept of Mejia is run from a donut shop in Sonoma and presents treasured family dishes from generation to generation.

“We had to call our grandmothers for this, taking old recipes from our loved ones in different parts of Mexico,” he said. This includes the use of real lard in the tamale masa, because, as Mejia noted, “We try to keep Mexican food as authentic as possible. It is very difficult to find a lard substitute that retains all of the flavor, texture and sweetness of a tamale.

That said, he presented a successful vegan tamale that is also sumptuous – “because the world and its people are changing”.

To order, visit facebook.com/tabuenosonoma or Instagram @tabuenosonoma, email [email protected] or call 707-408-3138.

Kraffty Kitchen, Kenwood

Cookie dough is quite delicious, but when it’s healthy, it’s an extra-special treat. Kraffty Kitchen Owner Chef Audrey Krafft’s treats are sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free, and they’re ready to bake or freeze.

“Growing up, I would bake a batch almost every week, occasionally baking cookies, but 99% of the time I was just baking it for the delicious dough,” she said. “I was obsessed.”

The fitness trainer and personal trainer launched his business in March 2020, when the shelter in place allowed him to focus on his paleo, vegan and keto-friendly recipes. Because Krafft is sensitive to most added sugars, she uses a calorie-free monk fruit extract; she also uses a custom combination of almond and cassava flour.

His other secret weapons? Organic vegan butter from Miyoko’s Creamery in Petaluma and natural vanilla and almond extracts from Sonoma Syrup Co.

“It took me almost a year to get the right consistency, texture and flavor,” she said. “And really, what could be better than eating someone else’s cooking in your pajamas from the comfort of your home?”

Available at Glen Ellen Market in Glen Ellen, Baker & Cook in Sonoma and Browns Valley Market in Napa, or order online at krafftykitchen.com.

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