Sonoma County chef shares dad-approved recipes for Father’s Day
Mom is not the only parent deserving of homemade breakfast on a special day.
Dads also enjoy starting off Father’s Day with a pile of pancakes or waffles drizzled with syrup, some hearty potato hash or a simple eggs-travaganza, like a plate of fried eggs cooked in bacon fat. And if it’s made by their own progeny, it tastes even better.
If you happen to be a chef and a dad, like chef/owner Ryan Ramey of Americana in Santa Rosa and Estero Cafe in Valley Ford, you may already have trained your kids to cook simple fare and eat like a foodie.
“My kids are really easy to please,” Ramey said. “They eat clams, avocados and even blue cheese.”
Ramey and his wife, Samantha, are raising two young daughters: 2-year-old Danny, born in April 2020 during the early weeks of the pandemic; and 4-year-old Ivy, who will turn 5 on June 20, the day after Father’s Day.
“She was my Father’s Day present,” said Ryan, 39, who grew up in Rohnert Park and spent his late teens and early 20s living at the beach and surfing. The couple is now busy raising a family, along with a flock of chickens, in the coastal hamlet of Valley Ford.
“Ivy and I take care of our chickens together,” Ryan said. “We go out and gather eggs together, and we hold onto them and eat them as eggs or in pancakes for breakfast.”
A classically trained chef, Ryan attended Santa Rosa Junior College’s culinary arts program while working 40 hours a week at the Doubletree Hotel in Rohnert Park, but he left the program three units shy of finishing his certificate. From 2001-2002, he took a second job working nights at the Sheraton Hotel’s restaurant in Petaluma as lead dinner cook.
Samantha grew up on Long Island in a food-centric family and has worked in the front of the house in restaurants most of her life. The couple met while working together in San Diego. After moving to the Sonoma County coast, they started a catering company, Northwest Catering. Then they opened two restaurants and started a family.
“Ryan is one of the biggest-hearted men I’ve ever met. … He exudes love and generosity,” Samantha said of her husband. “ I fell in love with him because of how committed he is to ethics and morals, and he carries all of this into parenthood.”
One reviewer on Yelp praised the restaurateurs for focusing first on creating community, with profit coming in second.
“That’s actually a flaw of mine,” Ryan said. “We don’t cut a single corner.”
In 2014, the couple opened a family-friendly breakfast and lunch spot, Estero Cafe In Valley Ford. In February of 2020, they launched Americana, a classic American-style diner in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square, just 10 days before the pandemic’s shutdown orders in March 2020. The restaurant reopened in May 2021.
To divide and conquer their two restaurants, Samantha takes care of the daily oversight at Estero Cafe and works on marketing for both places, while Ryan holds down the fort at Americana while overseeing the kitchen at Estero Cafe, too.
On his days off, Ryan enjoys making pancakes in the morning with his two girls and topping them with homemade syrup. He creates his Vanilla Cider Maple Syrup by reducing apple juice with vanilla, then blending it with real maple syrup.
“We got the idea from the former Fremont Diner in Sonoma,” he said. “Using real vanilla makes it stand out. It tastes tropical.”
On his night off, Ryan looks forward to a family ritual: ordering a take-out pizza from Hippizzazz in Sebastopol, which uses organic flour in its crusts.
“It’s part of my weekly routine with the kids,” Ryan said. “I try to eat healthily all week, and then I have the pizza to look forward to.”
For a decadent Father’s Day breakfast, Ryan shared a recipe for his stick-to-your-ribs
Biscuits & Country Gravy, a Southern staple served at both Americana and Estero Cafe with optional sides.
“Biscuits are the easiest thing in the world,” he said. “The key is to start with frozen butter. For any crust, its easier to start with it frozen.”
For the gravy, Ryan browns some breakfast sausage from Sonoma County Meat Co. with onions, garlic and thyme. He finishes it with some chicken stock, a roux made with butter and flour, milk, heavy cream, salt and pepper.
“I like to serve it with a side of eggs over-medium, link sausage and wilted greens,” he said. “Dads would be stoked to have that for breakfast.”
Americana (americanasr.com) is open for breakfast and lunch 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. The Estero Cafe (esterocafe.com) serves breakfast and lunch 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Thursday.
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