January 20th

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January 20th

When The Perennial opened on January 20, 2016, we weren’t thinking about presidential politics—we were picking the first day that we felt ready to welcome the public to experience a project we’d been working on for years. Now, however, as we approach our first anniversary, Inauguration Day looms over the calendar, dominating most of our thoughts and feelings about January 20.

And yet we feel it’s worthwhile to reflect on the first year of The Perennial. From the beginning, we set out to prove that a sustainable restaurant could be just as delicious as any other restaurant, and we feel that we’ve done that, with national accolades from Bon Appétit and other magazines, plus local love from the press, our peers, and above all, our diners. There have been moments when we’ve worried that our mission has diverted attention from our food and drinks, and other moments when we’ve relished the chance to share our message of regenerative agriculture with the world, like when we spoke at noma's MAD conference, or when we took over the Asian Art Museum with an exhibit on food and sustainability. This has been a year of highs and lows, with a lot of fun and a lot of work. That’s the life of a restaurant.

Filling buckets of compost to plant with the redwoods. The sun came out a little later.

Filling buckets of compost to plant with the redwoods. The sun came out a little later.

So, for our first birthday, instead of celebrating on January 20th, we decided to take a trip with our staff over Martin Luther King weekend, which would allow us to celebrate our values: banding together against climate change, with optimism and great food. Along with friends from CUESA, Slow Food SF, and other members of our community, we planted more than 200 redwoods and 150 willows along Stemple Creek in Marin County, as part of an effort to restore the riparian ecosystem and draw down CO2 from the atmosphere with help from perennial plants. (And trees that can live thousands of years are the ultimate perennials.) Then we ate lunch and basked in the sunshine and the beauty. It was a moment to celebrate what we can accomplish, together.

Of course, a few hundred trees will not stop climate change. Neither will a single restaurant, no matter how hard we work. We know this, but we also know that we are onto something hopeful and local, in spite of the alarming news on the national level. What can we do, when our incoming government denies climate change? Well, for one thing, we can organize politically -- but we can also engage in direct action like tree-planting or gardening, or grocery shopping with an eye on climate change. We can create the conditions necessary to support farmers and ranchers whose practices offer our best hope against climate. As we look back on a year at The Perennial, that’s what we believe is important, and that’s what we’re going to work on in the coming year as well. We knew when we started that it we were taking on a big challenge, and we’re going to keep at it, year after year. You know, perennially.

Day One: at least we had barstools.

Day One: at least we had barstools.

One year later: the rug really ties the room together! (Not to mention the banquet table.)

One year later: the rug really ties the room together! (Not to mention the banquet table.)

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Last Minute Gift Idea

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Last Minute Gift Idea

I've read that experiences make the best gifts, and if you couldn't snag Hamilton tickets, we have another experience that could make a great gift. (And if you are going to Hamilton, we're just around the corner from the theater!) 

On January 15, we're launching a new event series with CUESA and Slow Food SF that's all about becoming a part of the change you want to see in the New Year.  We're calling it a Ground Work Party, and it means getting a hands-on experience of regenerative agriculture.

We'll meet at The Perennial and travel via party bus to Stemple Creek Ranch in Marin. Our goal is to plant 200 tress as part of helping to transition parts of the ranch towards carbon farming. What’s carbon farming you might ask? Come find out! Fourth generation rancher Loren Poncia will be our host, walking guests through the processes by which cattle and ranchers (and diners) are part of the climate change solution. Lunch (featuring Stemple Creek beef) will be cooked by The Perennial's own Chris Kiyuna and Anthony Myint, with plenty of drinks and conversation. 

Cocktail hour starts upon boarding at 9:30am, serious tree planting starts at 11:00am and a cookout prepared by Chris Kiyuna and Anthony Myint (The Perennial) will follow. Ticket includes transportation, food, beverages and the costs of adopting a tree (which is not cheap!). If you're reading this and you're a bluegrass band, we'd love to trade you tickets for a pop-up show. Or meet us there, if you're coming from outside SF. 

Tickets here.

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Events! Party on New Year's +Tree-planting Party in the New Year!

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Events! Party on New Year's +Tree-planting Party in the New Year!

Start the New Year as a climate hero!  Join a tree-planting party and farm tour to support carbon farming at Stemple Creek Ranch, sponsored by CUESA, Slow Food SF, and The Perennial! Your efforts will be rewarded with a great meal prepared by Chris Kiyuna and Anthony Myint of The Perennial, along with drinks and stimulating conversation. Stemple Creek Ranch was one of the first farms to participate in a decade-long carbon farming trial by the Marin Carbon Project; since 2014, Stemple Creek has implemented many climate-beneficial features on the ranch, but more trees mean more CO2 pulled out of the air, and this is where we can lend a hand! The willows and redwoods we plant will sequester about 3 tons of carbon per year—over their lifetime, that’s equivalent to 27,000 gallons of gasoline. After we plant the trees, we'll take a walking tour with fourth-generation Stemple Creek rancher Loren Poncia, and learn how animals are a crucial part of regenerative agriculture: improving the soil, drawing down greenhouse gases, and making the pasture more resilient to drought. Then we'll enjoy food, drinks, and conversation in Stemple Creek's barn. The Perennial is bringing their beloved Kernza bread (made from a perennial grain whose deep roots also fight climate change), as part of a delicious lunch featuring Stemple Creek’s meat, produce from some of our favorite farms, and tasty adult beverages!  Meet us at The Perennial (59 Ninth St, SF) by 9:15 on Sunday morning of MLK weekend for a 9:30 departure. Please be prompt! We cannot wait for stragglers. You’re also welcome to make your own way to the ranch (choose your ticket level accordingly). We plan to return to The Perennial by 5:00pm, but traffic conditions can be unpredictable and we can’t guarantee an exact arrival time. Tickets include round-trip transportation from The Perennial in San Francisco in a comfortable bus and a delicious lunch featuring Stemple Creek Ranch beef and seasonal produce. Your ticket price also includes the cost of the willow or redwood saplings and compost – an investment in the ranch and in our climate future. The event will take place rain or shine! What to bring: Please bring shovels and gloves if you have them (we will have some). Wear closed-toed shoes appropriate for work in the dirt or mud, and layered clothing in case of cold. We also recommend a water bottle, sunscreen, and/or a change of clothes and shoes (in case of rain). Optional: snacks, a camera, and a book or other entertainment for the bus. The tour is geared toward adults and will probably not be enjoyable for young children. In addition, adult beverages will be served, but only to those guests who are 21 or older. Children who are likely to appreciate an adult-level tour and activity are welcome to come with their guardians. Please call if you have questions. Please note: Tickets are nonrefundable but are transferable to another guest for this tour. A note about price: CUESA is committed to providing accessible food system education to all. If you are interested in a scholarship for one of our farm tours, please email Carrie Sullivan (carrie@cuesa.org) for a scholarship application.

Start the New Year as a climate hero! 

Join a tree-planting party and farm tour to support carbon farming at Stemple Creek Ranch, sponsored by CUESA, Slow Food SF, and The Perennial! Your efforts will be rewarded with a great meal prepared by Chris Kiyuna and Anthony Myint of The Perennial, along with drinks and stimulating conversation. Stemple Creek Ranch was one of the first farms to participate in a decade-long carbon farming trial by the Marin Carbon Project; since 2014, Stemple Creek has implemented many climate-beneficial features on the ranch, but more trees mean more CO2 pulled out of the air, and this is where we can lend a hand! The willows and redwoods we plant will sequester about 3 tons of carbon per year—over their lifetime, that’s equivalent to 27,000 gallons of gasoline.

After we plant the trees, we'll take a walking tour with fourth-generation Stemple Creek rancher Loren Poncia, and learn how animals are a crucial part of regenerative agriculture: improving the soil, drawing down greenhouse gases, and making the pasture more resilient to drought. Then we'll enjoy food, drinks, and conversation in Stemple Creek's barn. The Perennial is bringing their beloved Kernza bread (made from a perennial grain whose deep roots also fight climate change), as part of a delicious lunch featuring Stemple Creek’s meat, produce from some of our favorite farms, and tasty adult beverages! 

Meet us at The Perennial (59 Ninth St, SF) by 9:15 on Sunday morning of MLK weekend for a 9:30 departure. Please be prompt! We cannot wait for stragglers. You’re also welcome to make your own way to the ranch (choose your ticket level accordingly). We plan to return to The Perennial by 5:00pm, but traffic conditions can be unpredictable and we can’t guarantee an exact arrival time.

Tickets include round-trip transportation from The Perennial in San Francisco in a comfortable bus and a delicious lunch featuring Stemple Creek Ranch beef and seasonal produce. Your ticket price also includes the cost of the willow or redwood saplings and compost – an investment in the ranch and in our climate future. The event will take place rain or shine!

What to bring: Please bring shovels and gloves if you have them (we will have some). Wear closed-toed shoes appropriate for work in the dirt or mud, and layered clothing in case of cold. We also recommend a water bottle, sunscreen, and/or a change of clothes and shoes (in case of rain). Optional: snacks, a camera, and a book or other entertainment for the bus.

The tour is geared toward adults and will probably not be enjoyable for young children. In addition, adult beverages will be served, but only to those guests who are 21 or older. Children who are likely to appreciate an adult-level tour and activity are welcome to come with their guardians. Please call if you have questions.

Please note: Tickets are nonrefundable but are transferable to another guest for this tour.

A note about price: CUESA is committed to providing accessible food system education to all. If you are interested in a scholarship for one of our farm tours, please email Carrie Sullivan (carrie@cuesa.org) for a scholarship application.

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Sustainable Restaurant of the Year

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Sustainable Restaurant of the Year

 

At The Golden Gate Restaurant Association's first annual Saucy Award ceremony, The Perennial was honored to be named Sustainable Restaurant of the Year. The event was full of restaurant and bar folks from around the Bay Area (7 counties represented), and we were happy for the occasion to cheer one another on.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners, and to everyone on our team at The Perennial!

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Inside the Greenhouse

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Inside the Greenhouse

We get a lot of questions about our greenhouse operations, so we're happy to share some pictures taken by our new friend Lingling Chen. (Thanks, Lingling!) As you'll see, there are a bunch of different systems at work in our greenhouse, and though we're using aquaponics, there's still plenty of dirt! 

Nathan Kaufman runs the greenhouse, manages all our plants and fish at the restaurant, and works on The Perennial Farming Initiative with Anthony and Karen

Nathan Kaufman runs the greenhouse, manages all our plants and fish at the restaurant, and works on The Perennial Farming Initiative with Anthony and Karen

Celeriac growing in a flood and drain table. 

Celeriac growing in a flood and drain table. 

Red leaf lettuce growing on a coconut husk base.

Red leaf lettuce growing on a coconut husk base.

Nathan also works as a youth educator teaching kids about agriculture. Here, he shows how to remove dill seedlings to transplant to a deepwater culture bed.

Nathan also works as a youth educator teaching kids about agriculture. Here, he shows how to remove dill seedlings to transplant to a deepwater culture bed.

Dill seedlings float on a raft with a small amount of soil and roots hanging down. So easy a child can do it!

Dill seedlings float on a raft with a small amount of soil and roots hanging down. So easy a child can do it!

Violas in NFT.

Violas in NFT.

Anisse hyssop in a plug tray, eventually headed for a deep water culture. 

Anisse hyssop in a plug tray, eventually headed for a deep water culture. 

Moroccan Mint in an NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) system, which means nutrient-rich water flows over roots, with the plants anchored in a tight space.

Moroccan Mint in an NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) system, which means nutrient-rich water flows over roots, with the plants anchored in a tight space.

Three of our front-of-house superstars visiting the greenhouse.

Three of our front-of-house superstars visiting the greenhouse.

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Get Involved! Help Food Reverse Climate Change!

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Announcing The Perennial Farming Initiative

Animals can be part of fighting climate change. Illustrations by Jon Adams; animation by Bonfire Labs.

Perennial grains like Kernza can draw CO2 out of the atmosphere and into the soil. Illustration by Jon Adams; animation by Bonfire Labs.

We are delighted to publicly announce a project we've been working on quietly for about a year now: The Perennial Farming Initiative, a non-profit sister to The Perennial focused on supporting agriculture that fights climate change. Think of the two organizations as addressing the same mission from different directions: whereas the restaurant/bar seeks to build demand for sustainable food and drinks from the consumer end, the non-profit aims to help farms, ranches, and fisheries transition toward highly sustainable practices. Although we are a mission-driven business, we feel that there are some projects that are more appropriate to a non-profit, like advocacy and fund-raising. To that end, The Perennial Farming Initiative has launched a petition on healthy soils directed at the California State legislature and a Barnraiser campaign to fund a dehuller for Kernza grain in the Bay Area, among other projects.

All in all, we're hoping to spark a food movement that can turn back the clock on climate change. We hope you'll join us. 

P.S. We started a Perennial YouTube channel, where we've posted more of videos like you see in this post. 

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(Lots of) Good News

Co-founders Karen and Anthony in The Perennial's roof garden, doing their best to look daring for Condé Nast. 

Co-founders Karen and Anthony in The Perennial's roof garden, doing their best to look daring for Condé Nast. 

It's been such a whirlwind week that it's hard to know where to begin. This past Sunday, our chef Chris Kiyuna married his long-time love and 2015 SF Chronicle bar star, Karri Cormican, and The Perennial turned out to celebrate the happy couple. The next day, we found ourselves among some real heavy-hitters on Condé Nast magazine's list of the Daring 25 "game-changers" in this country (see the list in Vanity Fair). And then the next day, we learned that Bon Appétit included us among America's Best New RestaurantsChris's folks must be so proud. 

Co-founders Anthony and Karen illustrated by Jon Adams for the Asian Art Museum TAKEOVER Aug 4. 

Co-founders Anthony and Karen illustrated by Jon Adams for the Asian Art Museum TAKEOVER Aug 4. 

On top of all this, we're gearing up for a big "TAKEOVER" event at The Asian Art Museum this Thursday evening, when we will present a variety of ways to engage with food and climate change, from the debut of 5 short animated films (with help from Jon Adams and Bonfire Labs) to interactive exhibits (with help from IDEO and 4 intrepid CCA students) to conversations with inspiring people in this field (Soil Solutions, Singing Frogs Farm, 18 Reasons, Imperfect Produce, etc).  Join us!

All in all, it's shaping up to be a pretty big week. We hope you can join us at the museum or the restaurant to soak it all in. 

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Podcast: Root Matters Episode 1

Episode 2 will be Anna Lappé (author, Diet for a Hot Planet) speaking at The Perennial on Saturday July 23. 

Please join us! Tickets include one draft drink (cocktail, beer, wine, or non-alcoholic). We'll open the doors at 3pm for drinks and schmoozing, followed by the talk and discussion at 4pm. Hear your question on our podcast! 

Thanks to Caitlin Roper, Emma Ellis, and WIRED for initiating us into the wide world of podcasting. And THANK YOU for listening!

We're starting an event series! And making it a podcast! It's called ROOT MATTERS!

We're happy to announce a series of talks in our bar, centered on food and the environment, and we figured we might as well podcast them too.

To kick it all off in Episode 1, The Perennial's co-founders sat down with WIRED Editor Caitlin Roper to talk about the  restaurant, the bar, and the ideas that drive them. (Click on the player below to listen.)

For EPISODE 3, we'll have Jennifer Colliau on Saturday August 20, speaking on "Empirical Dilution: Ice and Sustainability in the 21st-Century Bar." (Ticket link to come.)

MEANWHILE! 


We're excited to host Alex Wallash, of The Rare Barrel, for an evening of beer + food pairings in our bar on Tuesday July 12 at 6:30pm.

Tickets here. 

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Earth Day, Wine, and Other Ways to Celebrate Sustainability

It's Earth Day, and we're thrilled to participate in ZeroFoodprint's Earth Day campaign to rally restaurants to donate $1 for every diner tonight toward carbon offset projects. As of this moment, we're up to 30 restaurants, with more folks still welcome to join in. 

In the meantime, we wanted to share an interesting exchange we had with a diner, who wrote to us to say he loved the restaurant but wondered why we offered European wines on our list: "you have a ton of good french wine," he wrote, "but according to carbon footprint studies, nobody west of ohio should be drinking french wine since it travels so far to get here." We thought this was a great question, which others might have pondered too, so we're sharing our wine director, Jay Latham's response here, which has been expanded with a few links etc.:

Cover crops on the fields at Hirsch Vineyards

Cover crops on the fields at Hirsch Vineyards

Wine flight at The Perennial

Wine flight at The Perennial

The simple answer to your question regarding wine is that there are many more factors to consider than location/distance between a winery and SF when determining the environmental impact of a wine (or any product). 

I want to first give enormous credit to the California wineries that we partner with for all the hard work and commitment they give to making environmentally responsible wines.  In fact, many of our California and European winemakers are friends as well as colleagues. They visit each other's wineries, trade ideas, and send their employees to work harvest with each other to share their experiences and techniques. They are collaborators more than they are competitors.

Our California winemakers are making great commitments in their vineyards and setting California up for a wonderful future. Pax Mahle of Wind Gap is planting new vineyards according to biodynamic principles. Nathan & Duncan of Arnot-Roberts have taken on the stewardship of vineyards where they buy fruit to farm the vineyards in environmentally positive ways. Dan Petroski of Massican winery is a member of 1% for the Planet. And Hirsch vineyards, possibly the most famous Pinot Noir vineyard in California and all of the US, farms biodynamically and sets an example that many other producers are quick to follow. 

The California wineries that we work with are very specialized and unfortunately a tiny percentage of the total production of wine made in our state. The amount of pesticides being used in California is actually going up despite increased demand for organic fruit by winemakers. This is a big reason why we advocate for certification whether it be organic or biodynamic. 

In general, the production methods are much less energy intensive for the European producers we have on our wine list. The vast majority of our European producers are biodynamic. In contrast, it's very hard to get California producers that are certified organic, much less biodynamic, because they rarely own the vineyards where they source their fruit. In California these vineyards also might be 100+ miles from the winery with those grapes traveling to the winery on tractor-trailers and the winemaker racking up 1000 miles in his own car visiting that vineyard 4-5 times a year. Multiply that by 5-6 vineyards and the carbon footprint becomes substantial. Contrast that with some of our European wineries where the vineyard is in their village and in some cases their backyard. 

These European wineries also tend to have smaller carbon footprints overall in their production. For instance, European producers often own their bottling machines or even bottle by hand in some instances. Conversely, nearly all (or perhaps all?) CA producers have their wines bottled on bottling lines driven to their winery on tractor-trailers. There are dozens of similar examples during the production of a single wine. Irrigation is another factor (CA is in a drought yet still uses a lot of irrigation, which is in fact illegal in France). Water use in California wineries during harvest can be so copious that it can affect the entire wastewater management of a small town or county. Almost all California wineries use above ground cellars, which need significant amounts of energy to cool to 55 degrees year round vs French wineries with natural underground caves. Not even to mention tasting rooms and huge gardens at wineries in places like Napa that use what we would consider superfluous energy and water simply for ostentatious taste.

Measures of the carbon footprint of shipping European wine on container ships show that wines shipped by ocean vessel from Europe have a surprising small carbon footprint for the transit. The European wines on our list are all shipped to Oakland port (on container ship), so they are not traveling long distances on trucks across the country. 

Thanks for your inquiry and hope this helps shed some light on the topic. 

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True Cost of American Food

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True Cost of American Food

This past Friday and Saturday, a couple of us had the pleasure of attending the True Cost of American Food conference, put together by Sustainable Food Trust. The motivating idea of the conference was that many of the (environmental, health, infrastructure) costs of producing and consuming food in this country have been externalized, and therefore invisible, but that we should try to account for the real costs--to all of us--of pollution in our waterways, or treating diabetes, or public assistance for low-wage workers. The whole experience was so eye-opening, and fascinating, with incredibly impressive speakers from all sorts of fields, from scientists to farmers to activists to CEOs of major food corporations. We were surprised to see that the restaurant industry was hardly represented among the attendees, even though we are always concerned with exactly these issues, and the Chronicle recently ran a great piece by Jonathan Kauffman about the economics of the restaurant business here in SF. 

Overall, we came away from the conference with a clearer sense of the policies that shape our agricultural system and a lot of hope for the future, though it's going to require that people demand more of both government and businesses to break out of some bad habits. Above all, we felt hopeful about starting a conversation that brings so many sides of the food system together to produce real and lasting change. 

Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin

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