Pensi Pasta in Marina

Numerous tubs of colorful pasta sauces on a table with samples in front.

Homemade papperdelle pasta in a rainbow of colors.

Sold only in local farmer’s markets, Pensi Pasta has gathered quite a following for pasta that puts dried grocery packages to shame.  They specialize in fresh ravioli pillows stuffed with salmon, butternut squash and more.  Fresh pasta comes in many shapes and colors. Homemade sauces to top your plate of noodles are natually full flavored and come in several varieties. Add a hearty meatball if you want! Roasted elephant garlic is pungent yet popular; olive spreads add oomph to your bread while adding healthy oils to your diet. The calendar of markets is listed online. Make it a point to stop by, visit with the friendly staff and grab some dinner. 

Pensi Pasta         Yelp         Facebook 

Cowboy Sausage and Chili Company in Marina

The logo for Cowboy Sausage and Chili company in brown tones with a smiling man.

Butch Francis, sausage “king” of Cowboy Sausage, insists on using only the highest quality, all natural pork for his products. Incorporating other unique ingredients like fennel, butterscotch and chocolate add subtle nuances to each variety. Heat levels vary to please both meek and bold diners. Be careful if you have delicate taste buds; some of the spicy ones can be pretty intense. His flavorful sausage is just the beginning to his famous chili, which tends to win lots of ribbons at local cook-offs. The links are available at farmer’s markets in take home packs, or on a bun to eat right then. You can also get your fix at a few select restaurants. Special order? No problem, you may email requests any time.

Cowboy Sausage and Chili Company      Website       Facebook

​Riley’s Jerky in Greenville

Five jars of Riley's jerky in a row with strips of each flavor on a table.

Sitting astride a tall, strong horse, a hungry rider reaches for his pouch of jerky as he takes a rest and gazes at the mountain vista. This old west vision may seem antiquated, but good jerky is still a treat that nourishes all modern cowboys with protein. It’s great for camping when refrigeration may not readily available and lasts for months if necessary. Not that it will ever be around that long once you taste it. Riley’s jerky is ALL hand cut of solid pieces of meat, not ground and re-formed into edible “meat-like” strips. Sometimes jerky can be a tough chew, but it always softens up as you take your time and gnaw away at it. Tip: This can bring quiet to bickering youngsters on a long car ride and peace to grateful parents in the front seat. Flavors include peppered, jalapeno, cajun, and more mild teriyaki, Hawaiian and original. Grab a bag at several local mountain locations, or pre-order online for your next adventure. Even if your style is aerobic tv binge watching on the couch, it’s a worthy snack. 
​Riley’s Jerky       Website          Yelp

2 English Ladies in Chico

claireandmom I saw the 2 English Ladies booth at a Mountain View Art and Wine festival. Before I compliment the curd, it was great to see around 600 booths and a nice sampling of artisan food. What first impressed me about the 2 English Ladies booth was the number of people available to chat and sell product. I understand when one person stands solo in a booth that it’s not typically affordable or logical to have 4+ folks selling. However, at this particular festival it was the group in the booth that made the difference. There were enough people standing in front of 2 English Ladies my plan was to take a peek. The tall, kind gentleman in the booth would not let me slip by and politely offered me a side conversation and taste of curd. It was delicious and he did a stellar job of sharing a little about the product and business without fanfare. I’m impressed. The curd was fabulous too, light and refreshing. 2 English Ladies in Chico make their curds fresh every week and use no preservatives or artificial additives or coloring. They personally prepare, blend, stir and cook the curd to exactly the right consistency – by hand. Curd flavors include Orange, Lemon, Lime, and Apple cinnamon.

lemon-curdI noticed bags of scone mix as well as their version of Royal Cream and shortbread. Well done mother, daughter team Pat and Claire.
royal-cream-img scone-mix

2 English Ladies website | FB

​Alvarado Street Brewery in Monterey

Two happy young men holding a tray holding four different beer samples.

Historic building in downtown Monterey California that houses the Alvarado Street Brewery.

I consider myself fortunate to live near coastal Monterey, full of history, natural beauty, and great food. Alvarado Street Brewery takes this area to the next level, making local craft brew as yet another reason to visit. These West Coast style beers come in several popular varieties including Doc Brown: a Belgian style Brown ale, Bixby Blond: a refreshing pale ale, and Grains of Wrath: a rustic farmhouse ale. There are many other brews made here; please check online or at the pub for which ones are on tap on any given day. Pair your adult liquid refreshment with items off their gourmet pub food menu which emphasizes seasonal, local, sustainable ingredients. Located in downtown Monterey’s renovated Regency Theater turned tap room, you can soak up historical ambience as you drink up some modern brews. 

​Alvarado Street Brewery         Website      Facebook

​Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates in Sacramento

 A hand sprinkling small spices over hand made gourmet chocolates.

Five macaron cookie-ice cream sandwiches in a row.

A passion for chocolate, and a mission to share the joy is the driving force at this artisan chocolate boutique. Ginger Elizabeth is a formally trained chocolatier and pastry chef who loves to bring the highest quality products to her customers while always listening to new ideas and concepts. Hence, the products are always evolving and rotating. Chocolate is sourced with a discerning eye towards how the cacao is produced, and how the communities where it is harvested is are treated. Packaging is made locally and is recyclable and compostable. All ingredients are fresh and natural. Artificial dyes are never used to decorate or color a product. Chocolates come in small bite sized confections and large dessert bars. The flavor combinations are numerous and unique, with a heady mix of smooth, textured, sweet, bitter and salty. Ice cream is always made fresh from local organic milk and cream. Check online for daily menu, and the calendar for the popular monthly summer Ice Cream Socials. The macarons are made fresh daily; flavors rotate and change. Each flavor is better than the last, so you will always find something to please your palate. Macaron Ice cream cookies sandwiches are a must taste treat. Their online store can ship many of their numerous products. The rest are available at the boutique and at select local gourmet markets. 

​Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates        Website         Facebook

Pick a Peck Pickles in Yuba City

 Jars of bright red pickled beets in a row.

Four Brubaker brothers loved their gramma’s pickles aso much that they decided to recreate those flavors together in a modern way. This family run pickling business uses only the finest, locally sourced produce for their hand packed products. Thankfully their goal is to make more than they can eat. Some of the flavors are traditional, some are fiery hot to really catch your attentions. Pickled asparagus, beets, green beans and carrots make colorful additions to any burger or sandwich plate, and Peachy Keen, their pickled peaches are always a treat. Any of the longer spears can be used as a savory garnishment to stir up a bloody mary. Way to eat your vegetables every way you can! Purchase locally at selected markets or order online. 

Pick a Peck Pickles       Website        Facebook   

Tasty Karma in Palo Alto

tasty karma farmer's market booth
Saumil and Vinay, founders of Tasty Karma create chickpea chips and truffles that serve as healthy, tasty snacks for kids of all ages. Saumil began making chickpea chips for her family, bagging them for her kids’ lunchboxes and sharing them with friends and neighbors. Once she started selling her snacks at the Sunnyvale Farmers’ Market, she got “a lot of great feedback” that propelled her to a full-time launch at local grocery stores.

Chickpea chips are natural, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, potato-free and corn-free chips from chickpea flour. Flavors include Chia & Sesame Crunch, Quinoa with Cracked Pepper, Zesty Fenugreek and Cinnamon Sugar.

chickpea chips tasty karma
Tasty Karma website | FB | Twitter | Pinterest

Green Girl Bakeshop in Oakland

greengirl1I first saw Green Girl Bakeshop’s vegan and gluten free handspun ice cream sandwiches at the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market. As an avid cookie baker I questioned the idea; however, these ice cream sandwiches are flavorful and satisfying. I have to say she also has a great website, often in writing on this blog artisan websites seem to be less of a priority. Take a look for yourself and consider which flavors, colors, textures most entice. While you’re at it, check out her ingredients list. Very nice approach.
green girl ice cream sandwich

Green Girl Bakeshop website | FB | Twitter | Instagram |

Big Paw in Campbell

working with bottles in the big paw warehouse
Big Paw Olive Oils and Vinegars. Their olive oils are cold pressed with flavorful, high quality olives. Their vinegars are unique and interesting.
big paw vinegar bottle selection
Private labeling is available if you’re interested in sampling and then sharing products such as Hot Tuscan Olive Oil, Hot Chili Chipotle Olive Oil. They also offer complementary products such as steak rub, fig syrup and ketchup. Free shipping on orders of 4+.
Big Paw’s Video that details their founding and approach. Big Paw’s website.