In her dazzlingly warm and welcoming café, The Drawing Board, Rosie Wiggins ’09 presides over an eclectic menu shaped by the seasons and the availability of local produce. “We’re here to marry wholesome and delicious food with a sustainable, community-driven ethos,” proclaims the Petaluma, California, restaurant, which opened in January 2017.
Rosie’s journey to create The Drawing Board began, oddly enough, with a writing exercise. After spending several years in her teens and 20s struggling with health issues, she came to some firm conclusions about what eating and dining meant for her—and, in a larger way, for society. In the essay, “I talked about the dinner table as a catalyst for connection and community,” she says, “a place where we can (and should) take off the armor that we wear on a day-to-day basis, and simply enjoy the company of one another. I talked about the lost art of dining together, how in our busy lives we forget to take that time for ourselves. I also talked about physical nourishment and about food that can fuel us, not just fill us.”
Rosie’s approach, as outlined in her essay, developed into a business plan for a restaurant where the dining is thoughtful and deliberate, quality ingredients are artfully assembled, and the cocktails go far beyond the ordinary. Local, regional, and national media have taken notice, creating a buzz around The Drawing Board. One menu item that consistently draws attention is The Drawing Board’s carrot lox, served with vegetable cashew cream cheese on a long-fermented toasted senora levain. “It’s the dish that people come in for,” says Rosie. “It’s what we get media attention for, and it’s definitely our most Instagrammed menu item.”
As well it should be. “We treat the carrots like you would classic salmon lox, smoking them whole over applewood chips until that smoky flavor is really infused into the veggie,” Rosie explains. “Then we roll the carrots in olive oil, toasted nori seaweed, and smoked sea salt, and we bake them low and slow until they are soft and slice just like lox. The seaweed and sea salt come together to create a very ocean-y flavor. People often think it’s salmon.”
With that commitment to detail, it’s no wonder The Drawing Board has developed a following. While at Williston, Rosie’s college counselor suggested a career in hospitality. Instead, she pursued a different tack, studying sociology and anthropology, and in so doing, explored how and why people gather to share food and drink. “Restaurants and cafés aren’t simply a place to go and eat, they are a place to connect with one another, and oftentimes they deeply embed themselves into the lives of their guests. I’ve always loved being a part of that.”