• Thank Heaven for Chicken Thighs

    Strange days here at the farm. Strange days everywhere, really. And very, very strange days for our restaurant Timber & Salt, but that is for another post. For now, we want to accentuate the positive.

    And if there is one good culinary “discovery” we have made over the past 8 weeks, it is that boneless chicken thighs might be the one of the most delicious (and foolproof) ingredients for family cooking. Now, we have always been fans of chicken thighs for fried chicken, both at home and the restaurant. But these days we make at least two dinners each week with chicken thighs and it just hasn’t “gotten old”. The boys, Carolyn and I actually look forward to trying new (and revisiting tested favorite) chicken thigh recipes. Go figure.

    Part of the secret of the chicken thigh is that it is way more tender and flavorful than breast meat and is almost impossible to overcook . We cook dark meat to 180 degrees, as it gets more tender as the connective tissue dissolves at higher temps. That may seem counterintuitive, but trust us on this one. This also means you can use almost any cooking method with thighs and not worry about overcooking. Stovetop, stovetop-to-oven, poached and grilled- it doesn’t matter, all will work. Just find (or create) a recipe you like.

    As for recipes, our family favorite is Pan Roasted Chicken with Harissa Chickpeas from Bon Appetit. Harissa is a North African chili and spice paste that adds great depth of flavor and a pleasant, but not burning, heat. You can buy Harissa as a powder or paste, we just suggest you taste it before you make the dish to adjust to your desired level of spice. Otherwise this is a 1-pot dish that looks, smells and tastes fantastic. Our boys simply crush this every time we make it.

    A similar dish from the New York Times, Smoke-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Paprika, uses a spice blend, outdoor grill and a bit of smoke to take chicken thighs to the next level. (Adding the smoke element is worth the extra effort- and what else do you have to do?) The leftover chicken is great on salads the next day, but we rarely have leftovers. A good problem to have.

    Prefer more Asian-themed dishes? We got you covered. Again, the New York Times has a Miso Chicken that is an incredibly tasty umami bomb with just 6 ingredients. (We suggest boneless thighs and cooking to 180 degrees, but otherwise it is a delightful recipe.) If you want to spend just a few more minutes, you can make Miso Chicken in Ginger, Leek and Scallion Broth. What you get is a delightfully warming dish in about 30-40 minutes.

    And if you are really feeling lazy, simply adding your favorite seasoned salt, spice blend or just salt and pepper to chicken thighs will work in a pinch. We suggest seasoning the chicken, heating the oven to 400 and then browning the thighs with a bit of oil in a skillet and then finishing in the oven. It will take 20 minutes or so from start to finish, and like we said, the thighs are almost impossible to overcook. So if you want to put a few “non-cooks” in your house to work, chicken thigh recipes may be the way to go.

    Finally, we hope you and yours are safe and healthy in challenging times. may10

  • Timber & Salt Greatest Hits: The Flora Cocktail

    IMG_0316This is blog #1 of what we hope will be a regular feature, sharing some of our most popular cocktail and food recipes from our restaurant, Timber & Salt in Redwood City California.

    And, of course, we have to start with our most popular seasonal cocktail recipe, the Flora. How do we know it is the most popular? Well, we have POS data that tells us everything we sell and the Flora is our all-time top-selling seasonal cocktail (Brian Matulis, our bar manager and partner, changes the cocktail list every season). Our Aged Rum Old Fashioned is the overall top-seller, but it never leaves the list. Meanwhile, the Flora was only on the menu for about three months when we opened, but has devoted fans and is ordered regularly.

    It may surprise you, but the Flora is a Gin-based cocktail. Most people would expect a Vodka-based cocktail to be the most popular (and they are popular), but it just goes to show that a unique, flavorful and attractive cocktail will sell regardless the base spirit…umm ok, Mezcal is still tough- but we are working on it.

    So what’s in the Flora? The Flora features London Dry Gin, Kina L’aero D’or (a “kina” or quinquina- see below), grapefruit, lemon and honey syrup. It is served up in a coupe and garnished with an edible flower. And it does look good. It also tastes very good. The Flora is a type of gin “sour”, and you do get the lemon and gin up front (nothing wrong with that). But the use of grapefruit and honey along with the Kina add herbal and floral dimensions along with a slightly bitter finish that pleasantly cleanses the palate (the Flora excels when served with food). The extra complexity also makes for a cocktail that tastes just as good on the first sip as the last.

    IMG_0306So what is a “kina” or “quinquina”? Kinas are basically a type of aperitif or aromatized wine that features Chinchona bark, the basis of quinine. So if you imagine a vermouth or aperitif with bittersweet, fruity and herbal notes and finishing with a slightly medicinal or tonic-like taste, you would be close to a kina. We are fans of Tempus Fugit’s Kina L’aero D’or, but other kinas include Lillet Blanc and Cocchi Americano (both good and widely available).

    Unsurprisingly, kinas feature in a few classic gin cocktails like the Corpse Reviver #2 and the 20th Century. Lillet is also an ingredient in the (loved/hated) James Bond cocktail, the Vesper. So if you are waffling on buying a kina to make drinks, you now have at least three good recipes to try out. Not to mention, good kinas are lovely aperitifs on their own, just serve them chilled or on the rocks, perhaps with a lemon or orange twist, maybe sit in the sun and read the paper…

    We hope you enjoy the Flora Cocktail and we will be back soon with another of our “Greatest Hits”.

    The Flora Cocktail

    • 1.5 oz. London Dry Gin (Tanqueray)
    • .75 oz. quinquina (Kina L’aero D’or)
    • .75 oz. grapefruit juice
    • .5 oz. lemon juice
    • .5 oz. honey syrup (1:1 hot water to honey)

    Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake until very cold and then double-strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with an edible flower.


  • Timber & Salt Year 3: Finally (Really) Using the Garden / Farm

    Hi there. We are “back” after a long, work-induced pause in our blogging. We are planning to blog again more regularly and hopefully post new things from the farm and some “greatest hits” from our restaurant, Timber & Salt. (Timber & Salt is in the awesome town of Redwood City, in Silicon Valley, btw).


    Isaac’s Wild Oregon Cod with Butter Bean Ragout, a very good dish from earlier this winter.

    In any event, we are well into our third year running Timber & Salt. Happily we can say the food, drinks and service have never been better. We are very busy, reviews are good and the business is a going concern- so we aren’t going anywhere. Just the other day Brian Matulis, our bar manager / partner, and I realized that we have already lasted well beyond the expected “expiration date” of most new restaurants. We enjoyed that for about five seconds and then got back to work.


    Melanie Ralston- one of Brian’s more popular creations (Vodka, Bonal, Cherry Heering, lime)

    So how did we get to our third year? After a good, but somewhat frantic “bumpy” start, operations at the restaurant finally started to get truly “settled” late in our second year. We brought on Isaac Miller, an experienced chef from a critically acclaimed restaurant in San Francisco called Maven. (Not surprisingly, Maven specializes in seasonal California cuisine that compliments craft cocktails…sound familiar?) Isaac’s management of the kitchen complimented Brian’s already successful bar program and we finally got the restaurant close to what we imagined when we started this project over five (!) years ago.  And that feels pretty good, but there is one big thing left to address.

    You see we have this “Farm”.  At one point it was a really a big garden. But over the last few years we have an experienced friend (Daniel) helping us, and the garden has expanded to the point that it is getting truly “farm-like”. When you have 30+ fruit trees, 10 raised beds, and 4 large open plots, all on a schedule- it starts to feel like a farm (large, organized garden?). And when you have a farm and a restaurant, well, you want to serve up some of that fresh, seasonal, local produce in innovative, tasty dishes and cocktails.

    Not to say we haven’t been using produce from the farm at Timber & Salt for the last few years, we have. In no particular order, we consistently use our Meyer lemons, lime leaves, mint, chives, thyme and basil in both the bar and kitchen. We also get lovely “spurts” of tomatoes, squash, greens, onions, radishes, strawberries and stone fruits that make for great eating (and, in some cases, drinking). But overall, the availability of our produce has been inconsistent, at best.

    But this year, weather permitting, we have a plan. Our team is working with Daniel and we aim to have a consistent (and abundant) supply of herbs, tomatoes, squash and stone fruit throughout the summer and fall. And we hope to consistently feature some of the best tasting, and truly “local” produce at Timber & Salt over the next few months.

    This will not be easy. It’s one thing to plant some stuff that you harvest once a year (past readers may recall dozens of blog posts about what to do with produce from your garden when you get it all at once). But for the restaurant, we are staggering planting times and varietals to make for a longer season and harvest. We expect that this will be a “learning” year…but even with some fits and starts we will have a lot of tasty food to enjoy and share.

    We will keep everyone posted on our progress and also let everyone know when dishes at the restaurant are featuring some truly “just-picked” produce. Meanwhile, here are a few pics….


    Some of the hundreds of tomato plants we are planting.



    Spring onions….no too impressive to look at, but very sweet and with way more flavor.


    Tree Collards. These are so good they may not make it to the restaurant….just our kitchen.


    Lettuces, herbs and chard.


    White peaches early in their growth. The trees are specially trimmed and tied for easy access.



  • Timber & Salt 2nd Anniversary and New Chef


    Isaac Miller’s Tomatoes & Burrata, using Putney Farm tomatoes and basil

    It is amazing how quickly two years goes by! But happily I can say we are still in business and doing quite well here at Putney Farm and at our restaurant, Timber & Salt in Redwood City California. Thanks again to all of our employees, investors and friends for the work, support and patronage. We are very grateful.

    The best news, along with our anniversary, is that we have a new chef, Isaac Miller, who joined our team in August. Isaac comes from Maven in San Francisco, where they received a SF Chronicle top 100 and 3 Stars during Isaac’s tenure. Isaac also worked at notable restaurants like Sons & Daughters, Flea St. Cafe, Manresa and 231 Ellsworth- so we are very pleased to have someone of his experience on the team. (Brian, our bar manager was managing the wine and bar at Station 1 when they were 3 star / top 100- so our management team has some serious chops!)

    MrFox2Otherwise, I could wax on about the ups and downs of owning a restaurant, but one of the first lessons I learned was to keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself a bit more often (…yeah, it’s a work in progress). Regardless, we love the restaurant and are very happy with the food & drinks…while always pushing to be better.

    DrinkForInez2Finally, we will just note that we hope all of you join us at Timber & Salt. The food and drinks have never been better and IMHO, we have the best cocktails in Silicon Valley (and perhaps beyond). Brian’s brunch cocktails are a particular treasure…they are totally worth a try. Here is one more….



  • So We Opened A Bar And Restaurant….

    Timber&SaltFinalWhite….it’s called Timber & Salt. It’s in Redwood City California (a very cool town). We serve craft cocktails and artisan comfort foods with fresh seasonal ingredients (sound familiar?). We have a strong, experienced team and are off to a great start with plenty of regular customers. And we are more than a little tired…but very, very happy.

    So now back to blogging. Please pardon our silence of the last few months, but at least we have an excuse. There are few things quite like opening a restaurant. It is a very involved process to build a restaurant from the ground up- normally you buy your first restaurant but we couldn’t pass up our location. It is in the center of town, next to the movie theater, a block from the train station and across from a new office development with parking, oh, and did I mention the sidewalk seating area? Yup, just had to do it….


    Rio Star Cocktail

    So you wanna know what you need to do to build and open a restaurant? Here we go: take a very deep breath, convince your spouse it is a good idea, get a decent lawyer, form an LLC, recruit your core team of experienced bar and restaurant managers, build a deal structure that works for all stakeholders (takes a while), scout 15+ locations, buy a place and have the deal fall apart, find a better location but you need to build, negotiate the lease terms for eight months (yes, eight months and that is considered “fast”), match the concept to the location and size of the space, get a good architect / builder, get an interior designer (you need one, you really do), do a real business plan with financials, sign the lease (deep breath, avoid panic), raise money, make sure you have an accountant, submit plans to the town and landlord, revise/repeat, select your builder, start buildout, buy furnishings, buy equipment and smallwares, start real menu development with team, set up accounts with multiple government agencies, finish basic buildout, start recruiting your staff, select and install a good POS system, select a merchant payment solution, fill out dozens of credit applications for suppliers (be ready to sign your life away), buy a ton of food and booze, buy all sorts of extra stuff you didn’t expect, train your team, install your furnishings and fixtures, do a few weeks of warmup and catering events, pass all of your inspections, tune the menus, set an opening date (another deep breath), open the doors and say a little prayer…..then smile, welcome your guests and make them feel at home.


    Smoked Trout & Salmon Salad With Ecopia Microgreens

    And that last one is key. We are in the hospitality business because we truly believe that time spent breaking bread with our friends and family is the most important time in our lives. We opened Timber & Salt because nothing is better than sharing that feeling of hospitality and welcome with our community. Every time a customer walks in to a welcoming host, smiles at the look of the room (a room without a TV, btw), relaxes with a cocktail at the bar, waves at friends when they arrive, then shares a good meal mixed with laughter and conversation is a small victory for civility. Our hearts rise. (Of course, we are crushed when we fall short, but we never stop trying to improve). In our minds, there is no better business to be in, even if it is hard work. And let’s face it, anything done well and with real commitment requires hard work.


    Bacon-Wrapped Dates, One of our most popular dishes. They go great with cocktails.

    Moving forward, we will be blogging and sharing more stories, images and recipes from here at the farm, but also the restaurant. We hope you join us “virtually” here at the blog, but also visit us in the “real” world at Timber & Salt. Now for some photos of the food and booze, and look out for more posts with new photos and recipes!


    Black Pepper Quail Salad. Moving off the menu now, but will come back with warmer seasons.


    “Ham & Cheese”. Cheddar gougeres and ham consomme.


    Aged Rum Old Fashioned. Our flagship cocktail. Aged rum, Mauby Syrup (house made Caribbean spiced syrup), twist, big rock. Perfect.


  • Mixology Monday C Cocktail: The Hoffman House

    DSC_0372Wow, 100 Mixology Mondays. In this day and age of instant online popularity and even faster irrelevance, a hundred of anything seems significant. And one hundred global online cocktail parties is even more outstanding….it seems good booze has some real staying power in popular culture. And that’s a good thing, as we cocktail-loving folk are always trying to keep both the grumpy teetotalers and Fireball-drinking, whipped cream vodka chugging heathen at bay…..just kidding (not really).

    mxmologoThe other special thing about Mixology Monday C is that our founder, Paul Clarke of the Cocktail Chronicles blog, and now the truly awesome book, may join us once again. Pretty cool. And we have to thank both Paul and Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping the party going- they truly are key players in the modern cocktail renaissance. Again, pretty cool.

    Seeing as how we have a bit of a milestone MxMo, Fred Yarm is hosting, and he looks to Paul’s new book for inspiration. And we think they found the perfect theme of “elegance”. Here is the summary:

    But what does Mixology Monday “Cocktail Chronicles” mean? I figured that we should look to Paul’s magnum opus and digest the theme of it all — what is timeless (or potentially timeless) and elegant in its simplicity. Paul commented in his interview, “[it]’s wonderful to see that level of creativity but simplicity is going to be the glue that continues to hold interest in the cocktail together. The moment that we make cocktails too difficult or too inaccessible to the average guest, the average consumer, then we start losing people.” Paul does support a minor tweak of a major classic as well as dusting off a lesser known vintage recipe like the Creole Contentment; in addition, proto-classics like the Chartreuse Swizzle and the Penicillin intrigue him for their potential to be remembered twenty years from now. Moreover, he is a big fan of the story when there is one whether about a somewhat novel ingredient like a quinquina, the bartender making it, or the history behind a cocktail or the bar from which it originated. Indeed, I quoted Paul as saying, “If I write about these and manage to make them boring, then I have done an incredible disservice. So I feel an incredible obligation not only to the drinks themselves, but to the bartenders who created them, and also to the heritage oSo for this theme, channel your inner Paul Clarke. Think about simplicity, elegance, and timelessness to the point that you would not feel strange about drinking and writing about this at MxMo M.f cocktail writing to try to elevate it.”

    So for this theme, channel your inner Paul Clarke. Think about simplicity, elegance, and timelessness to the point that you would not feel strange about drinking and writing about this at MxMo M.

    We couldn’t pick a better theme, although this one made us a bit sad. Why? Because we immediately knew exactly what cocktail we would feature, the Hoffman House. If stranded on a desert island with only one cocktail choice, this would be it. Yes, we thought (and perhaps drank) long and hard looking at other choices, but there was never really any doubt. 

    DSC_0349In case you are unfamiliar, the Hoffman House is a classic Martini variant named after one of the best of New York’s cocktail palaces of the late 19th / early 20th centuries. It is truly a simple and elegant creation. 2 parts Plymouth gin, 1 part dry vermouth, 2 dashes orange bitters and a lemon twist. Serve up. Act like Nick and Nora Charles. Repeat. Act like their dog Asta. Repeat….um, well, maybe not.

    DSC_0351Too much vermouth you say? Hogwash. Try it with good, fresh vermouth and you will never go back to “dry” Martinis.  Prefer olives? Nope, with orange bitters you need a lemon twist- and you will be stunned at the brightness of the citrus and herbal flavors.

    DSC_0356The only change we suggest you try is going away from 82-proof Plymouth and to a London Dry gin of 94 proof for a big, clean kick. We like Brokers or Beefeater (USA version) here, but the clean (almost soft) Plymouth is still delightful. And if you make a pitcher of Martinis, the Hoffman House with Plymouth is a true crowd pleaser…just make sure your guests know about Uber, this drink goes down way too easy. 

    Oh, and did we note The Hoffman House is just beautiful to look at? Again, simplicity and elegance often lead to true beauty.

    DSC_0365So thanks again to Paul and Fred for creating and hosting another MxMo. Let’s hope we do see MxMo M….

    The Hoffman House Cocktail:


    • 2 oz. Plymouth gin (or a crisp London Dry gin like Brokers or Beefeater)
    • 1 oz. Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
    • 2 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s)
    • Lemon twist


    1. Place all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Give the lemon peel a very good twist over the cocktail and add to the drink. Serve.

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