On the Trail of Chef Mark Malicki (and outstanding pulled pork)
Since reading this mention of Mark Malicki's barbecue wizardry nearly a year ago, I've kept an eye out but never seemed to be in the right neighborhood (Bill's or Andy's in Sebastopol) at the right time.
Then I caught wind of his plans to open Saint Rose, a small cafe in downtown Santa Rosa, and eagerly anticipated a June opening.
Not hearing any further word about it, two weeks ago I did a drive-by to see if any progress had been made. The bright blue building had no external signage for Cafe St. Rose, but peering inside 463/465 Sebastopol Road, I could see two two-tops next to the windows covered with brightly colored cloths and what seemed to be a fully-equipped cafe counter. And I could catch a glimpse of the large commercial kitchen in back where Malicki runs his catering business.
That afternoon I headed out to Russian River Valley for a couple wineries' open house tastings. At Scherrer, I enjoyed some corn on the cob dabbed with crema, smoky from the grill. Even more impressive was a mini pulled pork sandwich, served without sauce to show off the gloriously nuanced smoking and meltingly tender shreds of suckling pig. When the caterer stopped by the table to replenish, I complimented him on the pulled pork and asked which bakery made those crusty, chewy buns.
He said, "oh thanks, we're baking the buns out back."
I asked, "love the rolls, which restaurant?"
He said, "no restaurant, we're a small caterer."
I asked, "which catering company?"
He said, "just my name.'
I asked, "and your name is . . . ?"
Trying to get information was as hard as pulling teeth, but it paid off when he identified himself as Mark Malicki! I blurted out that I'd been trying to find him, sending emails, calling to no avail, all to get more information on the status of his cafe and his barbecuing gigs.
He volunteered that it was supposed to open in June and but now it looked like it would be ready in two weeks. His initial plan is to focus on breakfast and lunch, and most of that will be take-out business as there wasn't much seating. On weekends he'll have smokers and grills set up in the side driveway for barbecue sales. He promised some grilled Thai specialties influenced by his time living abroad.
This Wednesday I drove by again, and it still looked the same with no signs up yet.
The sugar dispensers and salt and pepper shakers lined up on the counter were still empty, as were all the cases.
Maybe it's open/will open this week as promised? Santa Rosa 'hounds, please let us know. I can't wait for this latest edition of a fine dining chef scaling back to wow us with every day foods prepared in extraordinary ways.
More about Mark Malicki -
"Not yet – he’s now thinking the first week of September."
Emailed to me just now by a shy hound.
Guess I can stop stalking him for a couple weeks. (G) He's a shy guy.
The folks at Scherrer said that the pulled pork came off the suckling pig that Malicki smoked on site and served the day before, and said to be even more awesome than the sandwich I tried.