Summer Thyme’s expansion exemplifies boom in fresh, local movement

THE FRESH, LOCAL FOOD MOVEMENT IS BOOMING in our region. BriarPatch Co-op is expanding in Grass Valley, Tahoe Central Market just opened, and farmers markets and CSAs are going year-round.

Nowhere is the boom more apparent than with the new expansion at Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli in Grass Valley, a local institution for real food.

Summer Thyme’s will hold a grand opening on February 14-15. One night will include an exquisite buffet with menu items such as a Gorgonzola-stuffed beef tenderloin, Dauphine potatoes and La Bête Noire flourless chocolate cake, as well as music from the well-regarded Motoshi Kosako Quartet.

Under owners Chamba and Amy Cooke, Summer Thyme’s just moved to a bright, airy space in the Colfax Avenue neighborhood, with a new kitchen, cutting-edge design and more dining options.

With 4,600 sq.-ft. and seating for 96 inside and 20 more on the patio, the new space represents one of the region’s largest restaurant expansions in years.

We predict it will allow Summer Thyme’s to build a regional following akin to Tahoe House Bakery & Gourmet in Tahoe City, Newcastle Produce and Ikedas in Auburn, benefitting the surrounding area.

The move epitomizes the boom in our “farm-to-fork” movement, with owners who helped pioneer the trend in our region. What’s more, the new restaurant and bakery is helping to anchor an “up-and-coming” neighborhood in Grass Valley, called “The Avenue.”

The expansion also is a reminder that rural communities can grow organically, when leaders nurture local businesses, rather than just courting chains. We liken it to a “barn raising,” drawing on the talents of locals to create a signature space.

“This has been a lifelong dream,” says owner-chef Amy Cooke, an “early adapter” to the sustainable food movement and one of the real food chefs who is revitalizing foothills dining.

Amy and Chamba have owned Summer Thyme’s since 2008. It is named after the daughter of the previous owners.

Summer Thyme’s is known for using fresh, local food, sourced from nearby farms whenever possible—soups, sandwiches, freshly baked bread and pastries, and seasonal offerings.

It also has become a gathering place, with live music, local art and dog friendly surroundings. The Cooke’s are warm and gracious hosts.

Now Summer Thyme’s has begun serving dinner, not just lunch and breakfast, and hot sandwiches. It also will have a juice bar, using fresh, local fruits and veggies, and an expanded espresso bar.

The food comes from local farms and ranches, including Boxcar Farm, Riverhill Farm, Woolman School farm, Grass Valley Grains and Nevada County Free Range Beef. Summer Thyme’s also uses Niman Ranch beef.

In the past, the Cooke’s taught at Woolman, a prominent Quaker school. Amy founded the Woolman Semester Program, where growing food is integral to the curriculum. “When you buy food grown near you, it is fresh, flavorful and healthy,” Amy says.

The improvements are impressive in the food, wine and beer selections. The new Summer Thyme’s features local wines and craft beer, including a “local wine of the month.”

It also aims to “pull the finest shot” of coffee around, thanks to a new Italian-made La Marzocco espresso machine.

A 3,000-pound baker’s oven churns out slow-rise artisan breads, including French bread, Ciabitta, Morgenbrot (morning bread in German) and Cinnamon Swirl. The staff has nicknamed the oven “the Beast.”

Summer Thyme’s has a talented staff. The bread baker, Morgan Just, received his training from teachers who learned their craft from San Francisco’s famed Tartine Bakery.

The new space is appealing, drawing on the design talents of locally owned Siteline Architecture.

The restaurant has custom finishings from Grass Valley artists. Examples include a communal table, custom built by David Yonenaka of Fine Line Joinery; cupping tables that rotate on skateboard wheels, from Monica Hughes of Naked Tree Woodworking; and a bike rack from Curious Forge with a Yuba River theme.

An entire wall is dedicated to supporting nonprofits and will rotate regularly. Other features include WiFi, a banquet and meeting space, and a children’s play area, with a vintage toy kitchen from Green Light Restoration next door. “We want to accommodate everyone’s needs,” Amy says.

Crowd funding is popular to help fund locally owned businesses. Summer Thyme’s is turning to a program called Credibles for small, sustainable food-related businesses.

The repayment of the funding is in-kind, edible credits or Credibles.

For example, for $100, you get two free tickets to a tasting party. For more information, visit Summer Thyme’s Credibles.

(Photos: John Burnett,

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  • Follow us on PinterestFollow us on Pinterest