How Generational Visitors to Plumas County Turned One Covid Shutdown Into A Thriving Local Family Business and Mountain Lifestyle.
Graeagle Ca – When I stumbled upon the Pinecone Kitchen on Social channels, I must confess the first works that I said were “Black what?” It was just such an odd item to see come across my feeds. Black Garlic, as the post would claim, the “Caviar of the Sierra,” is all the rage North of Truckee in the tiny town of Graeagle. I just had to learn more about this business and the people fermenting Garlic for 60 days and pumping its benefits.
So early in March, my wife and I just happened to have a VRBO rented in Blairsden, and I reached out to Greg and Kayla, Owners of the Pine Cone Kitchen and artisans of “Local Black Garlic”, to see if they would be interested in speaking. Knowing that doing business on my anniversary getaway was a bad idea, I talked to Kayla briefly before our trip. She set aside a sample of the Garlic for me at one of the local favorites, The Brewing Lair.
What is Black Garlic?
Black Garlic, for those like me who are not culinary wizards, is simply a clove of aged Garlic in a fermentation process. According to WebMD – Compared to regular Garlic, Black Garlic has a smaller amount of allicin, the compound that gives regular Garlic some of its health benefits. Still, it’s rich in amino acids, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. The fermentation process, however, changes the concentrations. This is where Pinecone Kitchen has taken the lead in Black Garlic Lure!
What Dishes Do Use Black Garlic?
Crispy black Garlic tastes delicious on roasted chicken. Stews and casseroles: Mix Black Garlic with stews, soups, and risotto to add a subtly sweet, umami flavor. Stir fry dishes: Add some to your home stir fry or sprinkle a bit into a ramen dish. Speaking with Kayla and Greg, locals love to mash it up in butter as a spread on their bread or even mix it with cream cheese or other spreads for picnics outdoors along the river.
So Why Start a Black Garlic Business in Graeagle?
That is where this story becomes a bit interesting. Kayla and Greg are from the Sacramento / Bay Area region in California. Kayla’s family has had a cabin in Graeagle for over 50 years, and Greg and his family would travel up for golf weekends and enjoy the mountains growing up in California. Four years ago, they were dining at a Ramon house in the bay area and discovered the secrets of Black Garlic. The fascination and experimentation with Black Garlic from there just developed.
The two met 13 years ago, and when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and shut down the world in 2020, it just happened they were in Kenya on a 21-day vacation to see family. Well, 21 days turned into eight months. Workplaces that used to require daily commutes became remote workplaces, and when travel windows opened, Greg and Kayla decided to pack it all up and work remotely from the mountains. The choice was obvious to live in Graeagle.
Life in Graeagle took a minor adjustment from the cities. Life pretty much closes down in the mountain town at 6 pm most of the year. Greg and Kayla, between trips to the river with friends and nights at a local brewpub, started to hatch a plan.
“One night, we were out with friends at the Knotty Tavern, and a plan hatched to start fermenting their Black Garlic brand under The Pine Cone Kitchen” “It’s not the first thing ever conceived at the Knotty Pine,” Greg would add. That fateful night Greg and Kayla dedicated themselves to becoming “Garlicogogists”
Sourcing the Garlic
To start, Greg and Kayla became YouTube Students on the process of Ageing Garlic. They developed a preferred taste for fermenting timelines and started sourcing locally grown Garlic. After creating their first batches, they started offering it as a garnish to Bloody Mary’s at a local establishment and then got a booth at the local farmers market in Graeagle.
The Demand has grown significantly over the past year to the point where Greg and Kayla had to pull back the distribution chains for a bit to get a better distribution plan. For now, the Black Garlic sensation of Graeagle is only available in jars @ Quincy, Portola, & Graeagle at 6 peaks in cuisine at Truckee in Graeagle. Another great reason to visit. The Pine Cone Kitchen Black Garlic recipe is fermented for 60 days. Greg explains that most black Garlic on the shelves is only fermented for 9-12 days, so their garlic package is much higher in antioxidant or antimicrobial properties value.
The Longer fermenting process also slows down production and requires them to manage the buying process of local garlic sources closely. When I asked about the next steps, I was thrown for another loop. “Next step is to forage for our wild garlic in the Sierra,” says Greg. Wild Garlic? Is that a real thing? I asked. Well, low and behold, it is actually a real thing. Between March and June or after the snow melts in the mountains, Wild Garlic is indeed in some mountain areas. Greg has learned that it is indeed possible to find wild Garlic in Plumas County through a friend. Greg is looking forward to discovering where and the challenge of that adventure in 2022.
Speaking of Adventure
Greg and Kayla are a great couple. Moving to the mountains was a significant life change. They and their friends like to get together for what they call Adventure Picnics on the Feather River. Of Course, they are in charge of bringing the Fresh Garlic Spreads. Creek life in the mountains, Paddle boarding on relatively quiet quiet lakes and water ways half of the year, and meeting new friends at the local farmers market or down at one of the local breweries such as Ronin Brewery or the Brewing Lair is just what life requires in the mountains.
We love the serenity of Mountain life. Living where everyone else vacations is just extraordinary, says Kayla. Kayla Burton, co-owner of Pine Cone Kitchen
For now, The Pine Cone Kitchen and its infamous Black Garlic concoctions will stay local in Graeagle. But as with many such mountain passions, it has legs to grow and inspire others looking to fulfill a dream of passion and mountain life.
Source: All Photos of Black Garlic and Greg and Kayla courtesy of is Scott Chandler Productions