A Taste of Secret Kitchen in Petaluma
Discover authentic fresh cuisine at Secret Kitchen in Petaluma: succulent meats, handcrafted meals with locally sourced ingredients, fresh vegetables and seasonal fruits. Brenda Anderson, a chef who trained in Paris, Germany and Thailand, and worked as a chef educator at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena. Her most recent project was the Long Life Café for picky eater types on the Google campus in Mountain View.
She didn’t want a big kitchen. So when the tiny space came up next to Agius Grocery on Bodega Avenue in far west Petaluma, she jumped in, cleaned up what had been storage space, and hung a banner sign in the goat field across the street.
The look: Bright blue clapboard is trimmed in lime green, with an exterior menu chalkboard hung next to the doorway leading to Anderson’s work space. Seating is at picnic tables on the asphalt, partially shaded by red umbrellas. You stand in line, call out your order at the door, and when it’s ready, staff brings it to you (or simply shouts for you to grab it, if they’re extra busy).
To eat: The flavors celebrate Asia, Central America, and North Africa, while the ingredients showcase Sonoma County, and the recipes honor street vendors. But the real star here is the spices, herbs, sauces, seeds and cremas that Anderson marries in masterful blends for tacos, rice and noodle bowls, burritos and salads.
Regulars know to study the chalkboard while standing off to the side – the line needs to move, people, so be ready to offer your order as soon as you’re at the kitchen door. You may see the meats sizzling right there on an outdoor grill, for the popular barbecue chicken dressed in Korean spice and sauce, set atop three-grain rice with sesame broccoli, spicy kimchee and pickled onions ($11.50), or the same good ingredients served as corn tortilla tacos ($3.50).
Fresh and local is key – Anderson lives in rural west Petaluma, and relies on her neighboring farmers for produce, meats and free-range eggs. The torpedo roll bread for her banh mi is Full Circle from Penngrove, and the stuffings offer authentic flavors of pickled carrots, cilantro, daikon, mint, peanuts, spicy sauce, basil, and a choice of barbecue chicken, pork or tofu ($10.50).
Curry is a particular specialty, showcased in the khao soi ($8/$12.50), a slurpable feast stocked with soft egg, rice noodles, herbs, fried shallots, peanuts and chicken or tofu – an exotic flavor contrast to the country setting we’re in. Or check the daily specials board, for delights like a Shanghai noodle bowl ($11.50) scattered in chopped peanuts.
These aren’t everyday burritos, either, but gourmet monsters, brimming with mouthwatering magic like the Frida Kahlo ($11.75) plump with slow roasted citrus pork, black beans, three-grain rice, pickled onions, cilantro, mint, basil, and the fiery punch of Serrano chiles, kimchee, and Gochujang fermented Korean chile sauce.
To note: Secret Kitchen is dog friendly, to the point that chef Anderson often comes out the kitchen to welcome visiting pups. She’s friendly to people guests, too, of course, but furry visitors hold a special place in her heart.
Dessert: Selections change daily, but one winner is soft, fluffy caramel rum cake ($3) that reminds of yellow cake soaked in delicious liquor sauce.
To drink: Grab a cold beer from the market next door.
Details: 4701 Bodega Avenue, Petaluma, 707-787-8243, www.secretkitchenpetaluma.com.
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