Farm, cook, eat

The Shed-Steve Werney

The Shed-Steve Werney 1

The Shed-Steve Werney Photo

The Shed by Steve Werney Ph

Friends are the most valuable possession, are they not? They may take you on some grand adventure, whether to a place or a state-of-mind. Or else they teach you some trade. One of those is my friend Jerry Doyle who taught me how to apply and preserve finishes on different surfaces. Just now he’s restoring one of the oldest houses in Healdsburg.

On one of my visits, he introduced me to Cindy Daniels who, with her partner Doug Lipton, own The Shed, a market and community gathering place. It’s a celebration of food’s journey from field to fork, and a place where you meet a friend, sit in on a lecture, languish over a perfect expresso or a delicious lunch made from local ingredients. And then, you can shop for traditional hand-forged gardening tools and a very tasteful choice of cooking equipment.

The food is carefully selected, and the shelves stocked with the best spices, pasta, aging cheeses, and smoked fish. You can even buy salt from Slovenia, which of course is dear to my heart. There’s a story here, which involves Maria Teresa — who ruled the Hapsburg Empire for four decades, married for love, and had 16 children. She was known for her reliance on diplomacy and government reform. She also built a railway line from Vienna to Trieste, in large measure to secure this specific salt; now you can get it at the Shed.

The building itself, stands in the shape of a modern, very minimalist barn made of glass and recycled steel. It was designed by Jensen Architects. Inside, everybody tends to gather in the kitchen, which has a very homey feeling and is anchored by a wood-fired oven. Thick Carrara marble slab tables are a vision of minimalistic sturdiness and enduring character. I love the feeling of cold marble, set against warm, wood counters.

Close by is a zinc-covered Fermentation bar where you can order everything fermented. And here is one more surprise I love: glass funnels used as light fixtures over the bar. The second floor offers an open spacious meeting room, known as the Grange, where the Sunday suppers, music, films and lectures bring the people of Healdsburg together.

Among those who inspired the Shed is the poet Wendell Berry with the quote: “An agrarian mind begins with the love of the fields and ramifies in good farming, good cooking and good eating .”

Show Dogs and Vampires



Sitting at the corner table of my friends restaurant Show Dogs, watching the wild street life at the corner of Market and Golden Gate Ave., I remembered another wild scene, happening in the same building. I am talking about the morbidly beautiful cult movie, Interview with the Vampire, which begins with the camera sweeping over nightly San Francisco Bay, traveling down Market, following street life like a hunter following his prey, and then finally zooming in on a top floor window at the St. Martin Hotel. We are drawn into the dark, sparsely furnished room where Louis de Pointe du Lac, a gloomy gorgeous vampire, portrayed by Brad Pitt, is spinning his 200-year-life story to journalist Daniel Malloy.

The Flatiron Victorian building, known for the fictitious St. Martin Hotel to classy vampires and to foodies alike, also features the Show Dogs restaurant. They all come to find substance at this artisan’s hot dog place, where you can sink your teeth into the most delicious wild boar sausage, accompanied with poached cherries in red wine. Imagine little Claudia, after her first bite, saying, “I want some more.”

Of course, my little darling, then you shall have it.

Foreign Cinema owners and chefs, Gayle Pirie and John Clark, opened Show Dogs four years ago, serving delicious, locally-made sausages and other fine foods accompanied with locally brewed beer.  You can also order a glass of deep, red wine — and all that just a few floors below the room where I imagine that my favorite vampire is to this day still telling his fabulous stories.

Bar Agricole

I fell in love with Bar Agricole the first time I stepped in the place, and not just because of the way it’s been designed, and those heavenly cocktails, but because it evokes so many associations with where I came from.

As you know by now I live as much in the past as in the present.  Each is my parent.  Each tries to drag me away from the other.

And so yes, I admit it. The glass skylight sculpture takes me back to Trieste, to the feeling of those strong winds, the Bora, raging across the Adriatic through the Kras area. Sidewalks in Trieste have railings just so passengers don’t get blown away. Roofs of the houses are covered with extra bricks, so tiles don’t fly away.  It will take your mind if you’re not careful.

Incidentally, the skylights fixtures are made of a thousand fused tubes of clear glass, a masterpiece by Nikolas Weinstein. They appear like curtains blowing in the wind or air- dried laundry catching the wind, with the ever changing light hitting the fabrics and in this case, glass, a material that adds the most dramatic effect to the space. The skylights are surrounded on one side by a wood siding crafted from reclaimed whiskey-tanks that fold down behind the tables, like a wave of warm evening air following the winter coldness of the blowing glass.

Bar Agricole is a perfect mix of the old country and always inspiring California, the minimalistic and at same time dramatic interior, all designed and made by local artists, designers and craftsmen. Chairsbenches, even the waiters uniforms are designed by a local designers.

Steping into this eco-perfect tavern. designed by architects Aidlin-Darling, it’s like visiting a gourmet showcase of San Francisco Crafts and Design, with the perfect esthetics and there you are, sipping a seductive classic cocktail, shaken and stirred by the tavern owner, Thaddeus Vogler. The drinks are fresh and at the same time celebrate the old traditions of farmhouse distilling, mixed with fresh fruit, every sip dangerously delicious.

My father and my grandfather were masters of distilling plum brandy, which makes me respect and enjoy those beautiful cocktails all the more. Thank you Thaddeus Vogler for giving us the gift of locally made food, drinks, art and design. More please.

Foreign Cinema

Foreign Cinema reminds me of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Especially, the Inferno: you enter from Mission Street, which is dark, full of sinners and sins. At the outset you feel insecure. And then there is a door and you must pass through Purgatory, down a long narrow, grey hallway. Two little chapels with flowers on the side.  As though in a nave. And at the end of that endless hallway, a beautiful angel, Beatrice, the ideal woman:  a hostess with a smile and a question: Do you have a reservation? To heaven? Yes, of course, I have a reservation.

And here it is; an oyster bar, a movie theater, a beguiling dining hall with a fireplace and Modernism art gallery. Heaven, here I come! And a very happening place. Busy yet serene, waiters dancing their efficient dance to serve the guests. To make you fell like nobility. Your eyes wander up to the clouds, where the open sky movie theater is. And then the movies take your imagination to other places. Only the food is earthly, and divine.

And here are the masters of this drama, my dear friends,  the chefs, the couple that decide and provide: Gayle Pirie and John Clark.



Here is what happens. My daughter, Adriana, and I will be strolling along a street in some city.  We have no particular destination in mind. I’m thinking of Venice last year. Or was it the year before? Or, perhaps it was another city altogether.  But let’s say it was Venice and we were walking alongside one of the canals. We were in one of those earthly heavens where it doesn’t matter where you are, where any nuance is sufficient, where the most subtle light on a wall, or the architecture in the waiter’s brow is enough. Or whatever it is. Eventually, we come to the oldest part of the city, near Punta Della Dogana and the Peggy Gugenhaim Museum. For some reason I’m driven to check out what is behind a particular Venetian façade, away from the crowded streets. We end up in Antiooo’s Lounge and Restaurant (  Totally unexpected. The dining room is all white, and for that, serene, yet at the same time, busy with embossed walls, light fixtures and small but beautiful flower arrangments. In this place every bite of food is enjoyable. Whether it is or it isn’t. Everything is perfect, whether it is or it isn’t. And then we go into The Red lounge, equally surprising, with a fireplace wrapped in a mirror frame and the hearth filled with wood. Very dramatic. And then my daughter will look at me with her fabulous smile.


I am an interior designer, drawn to beauty in all its forms, especially in art, architecture and fashion. As a designer, I take my inspiration from my clients, and from what I find in the world.

Read More »

Friend me on FacebookJoin my network on LinkedInFollow me on Pinterest



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: