For most of us, dining at one of San Francisco's most acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurants is a special-occasion event, but we never need an excuse to take a Saturday drive up to dreamy Bolinas.
On August 21st, we got an extra treat: an invitation to a summertime alfresco meal, prepared by Quince's chef Michael Tusk, on a bucolic farm in Marin County's famed coastal enclave. It was just the staycation we needed.
The exclusive event served to kick off a new Summer Dining Series hosted by Capital One and the Michelin Guide itself. Exclusive to Capital One cardholders (and this very lucky member of the press), the series celebrates Michelin's Green Star designation that awards restaurants for their efforts in sustainability—including D.C.'s The Inn at Little Washington and Brooklyn's Aska.
"When we kicked off plans for this summer series with Michelin, we thought it would be meaningful to highlight some of these incredible, sustainable-minded restaurants—like Quince—and create unique experiences that you wouldn't get just from making a reservation on your own," says Monica Bauder, head of branded card partnerships and experiences at Capital One. "Access to events like this are just one of the exciting benefits we offer Capital One cardholders."
In fact, Capital One cardholders also have access to James Beard Foundation events and the James Beard House; the New York City Wine & Food Festival; and South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Chef Michael Tusk hand-harvesting produce for a meal at Bolinas' Fresh Run Farm.(Adahlia Cole and Colin Peck)
Since 2003, James Beard Award–winning chef Michael Tusk, who now holds three Michelin stars for his famed Jackson Square restaurant Quince, has created produce-centric Cal-Italian fare drawing from his experience at European Michelin-starred establishments as well as Berkeley's heralded Chez Panisse. Tusk's restaurants support the nonprofit foundation Feed the Future, which is working to solve global hunger, and his menus feature a bounty of meticulously grown produce from Bolinas' Fresh Run Farm.
Sprouting from the Bolinas hills, Fresh Run Farm is a certified-organic farm owned by third-generation farmer Peter Martinelli, who supplies exclusively to Quince and chef Michael and Lindsey Tusk's other nearby eateries, Cotogna and Verjus. Last summer, Quince began offering Covid-safe alfresco meals by reservation at the farm, but those are now reserved for special events only as Quince prepares to reopen its SF dining room for service in September.
Until then, the idyllic farm was the perfect location for Capital One and Michelin Guide's first summer dining event.
When we arrived in Bolinas on Saturday afternoon, we were whisked away up a narrow road blooming with flowers and frequented by horses before being deposited at the farm and greeted with glasses of Bollinger bubbly.
(Adahlia Cole and Colin Peck)
Champagne in hand, we set off on small group tours where we saw vibrant flowers and vegetables—rainbow chard, kale, artichokes, squash, and beans—being hand-picked for later appearances on our plates. We stopped along the way to watch chefs meticulously preparing produce—like the La Ratte potatoes for our first seated course—all the while receiving Champagne top-offs and sampling the produce as it was transformed into appetizers before our very eyes.
Our feast on foot began with bites of country pork topped with smoked and pureed Gravenstein apples and whole grain mustard; a basket filled with the whole fruit was there for the taking. Later, entire artichoke stalks would serve as a nest for crispy artichoke fritto topped with caper aioli; then, near plantings of bowling ball–sized squash, we were treated to two summery squash bites: squash blossoms with creamy ricotta and Meyer lemon, and squash cups filled with king salmon tartare. On our final stop before lunch, we were given refreshing tomato broth with basil oil, pepper juice, cucumber, and melon, followed by sunchokes with black truffle aioli served in front of towering sunflowers.
Chef Tusk gave a few remarks before we were seated at lovely open-air tables with a proper view of the intricate preparations going down in the outdoor kitchen and greenhouse. The communal setting offered a taste of pre-pandemic normalcy and the chance to mingle with fellow foodies.
The leisurely afternoon meal began with La Ratte potatoes, served with Champagne and Point Reyes oyster sauce and topped with sustainable California Tsar Nicoulai caviar; the pairing of Charles Dufour Bistrotage Extra Brut Champagne sent this first taste over the top.
Next, the terre et mere salad featured bush and pole beans, local anchovy, and a freshly baked stuffed squid ink roll, and was served with Amorotti Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. While pots of fish soup were cooking on outdoor stoves between our tables, our glasses were filled with Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé from Provence. Chef Tusk, who chatted amongst the tables, hand-ladled the Bolinas rockfish, saffron, leek, and shallot soup into our bowls.
For our final savory course, rosemary-scented grilled and smoked local duck was served family-style over a bed of vine cuttings and arrowhead cabbage, which doubled as a rustic centerpiece. The dish was accompanied by shelling beans and a creamy breadcrumb topping. The meaty Black Trumpet Syrah, from Charles Heintz vineyard in nearby Occidental, was the perfect complement.
Because this is California and also a celebration of farm-to-table sustainability, there were also primo vegetarian options.
(Adahlia Cole and Colin Peck)
Sweet caps to the day came in the form of poached white peaches with wild berries, lemon verbena, almond ice, and noyaux cream. The summery flavors paired well with the lightly sweet Moussamousettes pet nat from René et Agnes Mosse in France's Loire Valley. The assortment of mignardise—strawberry and gianduja bonbons; Linzer cookies with plum jam; gold-topped dark chocolate mendiants with dried cherry and apricot; and coffee caramels—was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
The chance to harvest our own produce to take home made for the ideal post-feast exercise and then, after mini cones of stracciatella gelato, we said our goodbyes, arms laden with fresh beans and bags filled with gourmet goodies, dreaming of making reservations for Quince's San Francisco reopening on September 2nd. —Chloé Saraceni
// For more information about Michelin Guide and Capital One's Summer Dining Series, as well as other Capital One experiences available to cardholders, visit capitalone.com.