Introducing InsideLands.org, upcoming house concerts, and a new song produced by Jeff Campbell

In the midst of all of this chaos and turmoil, something fun and encouraging happened.

A few weeks before the election, after a series of sleepless nights, I woke up before dawn with this song in my head. Up until then, I’d been in a creative drought for a long, long time. But the tension of the campaign ended up inspiring me in unexpected ways. For the first time in 8 years, I’d finished a song I felt good about.

So I asked one of my musical heroes—Jeff Campbell, the leader of Pine & Battery, Static & Surrender—if he’d produce the track. Jeff went a step further and ended up playing guitar, arranging vocals, and writing the intro and bridge for the song. Hard to put into words how lucky I feel to have such a supportive friend.

Big thanks also to the fantastically talented Gawain Mathews for capturing the Kings of Leon meets Pete Yorn sound I had in my head, and to Rick Munoz who rocked like a thunder god on the drums.

If you download the song at drewpearce.bandcamp.com, 100% of my proceeds will be donated to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency who are helping refugee children and families receive life-saving relief and support.

Also… I’ve created a new online home for my Inside Lands house concert series. InsideLands.org is where I’ll be posted news of upcoming music parties. So please head over there to sign up for my new mailing list as I’ll be sending updates from there going forward.

And join us for one of our upcoming music hangouts:

Sunday, February 26 at 12 pm
Song Circle in Alameda, CA
(It’s like an open mic without all the mic)
RSVP to drew[at]insidelands.org to attend

Saturday, March 18 at 8 pm
House Concert at The Open Matt in Oakland, CA
Featuring Matt Lucas, Amie Penwell & Brad Brooks
See videos and details below.
RSVP to drew[at]insidelands.org to attend

Sunday, April 9 at 12 pm
Song Circle at Divewalk Cafe in Sonoma, CA
(Same location as our January party)
RSVP to drew[at]insidelands.org to attend

Nomadic Snacking Episode #5: Sea-Salted Caramels at Hooker’s Sweet Treats

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Admit it: the name made you snicker. Well go ahead, get your mind in the gutter because that’s exactly where the owners of Hooker’s Sweet Treats were going when they named their funky candy shop in tribute to the Tenderloin District’s hardest-working entrepreneurs.

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And why not? As an intrepid Snack Advocate and Om Nom Nomad, I’m totally on board with the whole Think Local, Snack Global movement—even if it means trekking to the infamous Tenderloin to track down a boxful of these buttery chunks of briny sweetness. Besides, paying homage to their neighborhood inspired the funniest schnicka-schnack nicknames you’ll find anywhere:

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If you have the willpower to resist wolfing down a whole caramel in one bite, I recommend pairing any one of these with a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir. Not that I know anything about wine or pairing. I just happened to be having a glass of Goldeneye Pinot Noir in my hand when I was about to nosh a 3rd Nut, and that’s when I discovered that I might never go back to the cheese plate pairing again.

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If you’re hesitant to brave the Tenderloin’s traffic, parking or gunfire, you can also find Hooker’s Salted Caramels at SightGlass Coffee (both locations in San Francisco) and Bi-Rite Markets, home of the best salted caramel ice cream on earth. Coincidence? (Probably worth a side-by-side taste test to check that conspiracy theory.)

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Hooker’s Sweet Treats is located at 442 Hyde Street in San Francisco. Heads up: they’re not open every day, a fact that just adds to their coy mystique and my unrequited love for their naughty little noms. Catch ’em while they’re open 8-4 Tuesday through Friday and 10-2 Saturday. Closed on Sunday and Monday.

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Nomadic Snacking, Episode 4: Apple-Ginger-Marzipan Scones at Wild Flour Bread in Freestone, CA

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A few years ago, a friend introduced me to an organic brick oven bakery that was rumored to have the most incredible sticky buns on the planet. Up until that point, the pinnacle of pastry for me was the pecan Cinnabon. Yeah, I know. You can take the snacker out of Indiana, yadda, yadda.

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But it turns out my friend was right. The sticky buns at Wild Flour Bread are a monstrous, heavyweight chunk of warm, cinnamon heaven so sumptuous, I often planned my Saturdays around making the long drive from Stinson Beach up Highway One to the far fringes of western Sonoma, on the edge of Bohemian Highway.

For a few years, this was one of my favorite weekend rituals. Back then, I didn’t know that the chronic red patches on my face were skin rashes caused by my not-yet-diagnosed celiac disease. So I keep going back for more of those wheat-laden loaves of love.

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Until one day, they took me down. I’ll spare you the details. But suffice to say, it was painful enough to make me to finally have to seek out the dreaded, often-mocked-as-mythological gluten-free alternatives. Yes, it is a fad. Yes, it’s received WAY too much hype. Yes, it’s ridiculous to assume that a majority of people will benefit in any way by removing wheat from their diet. And yet, after four years of working around it with corn, rice and almond flour alternatives, I can’t deny that I feel like a new person. Trust me when I tell you that no one who loves donuts and pizza as much as I do would EVER give them up unless there was a doctor-directed reason to do so. And so.. I did.

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But that’s where the bad news ends and the good news begins. Because now there are so many places that excel at wheat-free baked goods, I can honestly say, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything anymore.

Which takes us to the delectable star of today’s episode: the Apple-Ginger Scone from Wild Flour Bakery that uses marzipan so artfully that I’m telling you, when you get one right of the oven, you will not care one bit that they have no wheat whatsoever in them. These scones still inspire me to make the trek up to Freestone despite no longer being able to partake in their legendary sticky buns.

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Being near those sticky buns now is like being in the same room with an ex at a party. Sure, there’s heartache and awkwardness, but it’s good to know they’re doing well, making others blissfully happy just like they used to do for you.

Seriously, though: if you have no dietary restrictions, you need to get your paws on one of those sticky buns. Or, if you’re a fan of the cheese: try the fougasse. And don’t forget to take a stroll through the Wildflour Gardens while you’re there to see where they grow some of their ingredients. And say hi to the lovely hippies who are pulling the dough from the fire. They are almost as magical as their bread.

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Wild Flour Bread is located at 140 Bohemian Hwy, Freestone, CA 95472. They’re open 8am to 6pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Nomadic Snacking, Episode 3: Housemade Guacamole and Chicken Tinga Tacos at Copita Tequlieria y Comida

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Growing up in Indiana, my introduction to tacos was an Ortega Yellow Corn Shell filled with package-seasoned ground beef, shredded cheddar and lettuce. (Not that there’s any wrong with that, Mom.) But I’d be barely exaggerating to say that the quest for a better taco is what lured me 2,500 miles west to the taco-making mecca of our great nation: the San Francisco Bay Area.

Yes, the 70-degree February days and spectacular coastal vistas were part of the attraction, too. But anybody who knows me will tell you that I follow my gut. And my friends, last Saturday, my gut led me to a truly transcendent taco: The Chicken Tinga at Copita Tequlieria y Comida in Sausalito.

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True, I already have a strong bias toward tacos. Aside from their sheer ubiquity, what impresses me most about the taco is that it’s just as gratifying coming from a street vendor as it is coming from an impeccably designed upscale restaurant like Copita.

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The taco rises to any occasion. It doesn’t need any stilted story about being invented by an English Earl. No. It earns your respect, one bite at a time.

And that’s exactly what this incredible combination of rotisserie chicken, tomatoes, chipotle, avocado, queso fresco, crema, and cilantro does. Aside from a tortilla as melt-in-your-mouth fresh as a Krispy Kreme donut, its salsa chicken has a slightly smoky barbecue flavor that I haven’t tasted since the taco trucks in the trailer parks of Austin.

Of course, before you dig into their epic tacos, you should definitely partake in the housemade chips, seasonal salsa and guacamole, and wash them down with one of their superb house cocktails. Shown below is the Copita Margarita with Herradura Blanco, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, but Shannon was raving about their Spicy Pomegranate Margarita with housemade spicy tequila, La Pinta Pomegranate tequila, and lime.

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Copita Tequlieria y Comida is located at 739 Bridgeway in Sausalito and is open till 10:00 pm Monday through Thursday and until 11:00 pm on Friday and Saturday.

Nomadic Snacking, Episode 2: Maple-Sugared Donut Holes with Butter Pecan Sauce at Archetype in St. Helena

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You might think Napa Valley’s most bitter feud is between the white winers and the red winers. But if you’ve ever taken your in-laws to St. Helena for breakfast at Archetype, you know that the gloves don’t come off until it’s time to choose between maple-sugared donut holes with butter pecan sauce and cinnamon walnut rolls with orange cream cheese frosting.

Trusted sources tell me that both are a lot lighter than they sound. And as a hardcore pastry maven, I was pretty sure one of these two menu items would win our Snack of the Week award. As it turns out, what took the prize was the morning cocktail known as The Scala: jalapeño-infused cimarron tequila, lemongrass syrup, domaine de canton, cayenne sugar pepper and lime. A perfect balance of spicy and sweet. I’m normally not a morning drinker, but for this, I’d make an exception.

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Archetype also serves a pretty mean pancake (lemon-ricotta), omelet (spinach-mushroom) and corned beef short rib hash. They look a little something like this:

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Aside from the delicious food, what makes Archetype worth the drive to the north end of Napa is the incredible atmosphere. Something about that place feels like they’ve infused a little bit of Savannah into northern California.

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A truly impeccable place for a late morning meal and pre-wine tasting fuel up. It’s easy to find—on the west side of Highway 29 on the north side of St. Helena. Check out their site for directions and details.

Nomadic Snacking: A Guide to Gourmet Road Trips

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Everyone has a secret superpower. Mine is tracking down snacks. So I’ve finally decided to fully embrace my calling and start blogging about my adventures as a Snack Tourist.

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As a lifelong connoisseur of road trips and artisanal junk food, I’m pretty sure this project’ll be a no-brainer. My plan is to start in the Bay Area and eat my way east, hunting down the kind of munchies that inspire people to drive way out of their way, to plan vacation destinations around food opportunities.

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Daring? Yes. Reckless? Certainly. But that’s what they said about the astronauts. And now we know the moon isn’t made of cheese. (Thanks for nothing, NASA!)

This first post is a shout out to my go-to taco joint of the past 20 years, Joe’s Taco Lounge. You haven’t lived until you’ve had their #nachos.

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You’ll find Joe’s Taco Lounge at 382 Miller Avenue in Mill Valley, California next to the notorious 2 A.M. Club.

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So let’s do this. Where should I go next? Leave a comment with your favorite snack destination in the country.

Mid January in Half Moon Bay

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