In early 2019 I was visiting Mendocino County frequently, looking for a new place to live after a twenty-year absence, during which time I lived in Southern California raising my children. It was a huge move for me. When I house-hunted, Philo was starting to pull me in, and in the beginning of March that year I arrived in town not only to look at a Philo property with local realtor Sheri from Rancheria Realty, but also to take my daughter Cassidy, who had recently moved back into her family’s home in Comptche with her dad Mike, to her 24th birthday dinner.
I began to look at restaurants near Philo and there weren’t a lot to choose from, but I did see an article that mentioned a place called The Bewildered Pig. The Smithsonian Magazine article dated June 2018 titled *This Secret Corner of California Is a Paradise for Lovers of Great Food and Top-Notch Wines, *mentioned The Bewildered Pig in quite a flattering manner. It discussed the fresh local fare Chef Janelle Weaver used to create culinary masterpieces, and Daniel Townsend’s special design flare that provided a stunning postcard-perfect destination.
I was interested in taking Cassidy to the unusually-named eatery, and she wholeheartedly agreed when I suggested it. She wanted to also bring her boyfriend Cameron, who I had met when he visited us in Los Angeles. Everything was melding together. We set up a reservation to enjoy a meal at The Bewildered Pig, which featured an incredible and specialized menu, and was located at Philo’s “Town’s End.”
It all felt like coming home. I was quite struck by the restaurant’s character and rustic beauty (described by the Pig owners as “refined rustic”), as we joined together to eat there. The front patio area was a uniquely landscaped wonderland, with a fire pit and palatial cactus wall. The garden lights sparkled in the dark country night. Going inside, the vibe was palpable as the place thrived with life while happy diners spoke in low tones, the clinking of glasses and cutlery adding to the ambience. The scent of the meals got our appetites going as we took our seats.
The opener miso deviled eggs were heavenly. We all enjoyed a delicious meal, which included things like wild mushrooms, delectable seasonal vegetables, specialty mac ‘n’ cheese, and my daughter enjoyed the pork for her birthday meal. I remember a delicious dessert and espresso afterward, and feeling very full and impressed with the fare my soon-to-be community of Philo had to offer.
Within six weeks of our celebration dinner at The Bewildered Pig, I moved in to my new property off Signal Ridge and began my comeback to a country lifestyle. As it turned out, Cam would become my son-in-law within a couple years of that dinner, when he and Cassidy got married in 2021.
It was a pleasant surprise that within a couple of months of that birthday dinner, Cam ended up working at The Bewildered Pig as Assistant Manager and Lead Server. He drove almost an hour from Fort Bragg there and then back, sometimes in storms to work there, but it was a labor of love. I asked Cam what he thought of the Pig’s food, since he and Cassidy are what I would call “avid foodies,” as they both appreciate a delicious well-prepared meal. Cam’s response was simple: “The best!” And when I asked Cam about his favorite thing about working at the Pig, he responded: “Them.” Of course he meant Chef and Daniel. It’s true, the small crew at the Pig had become a little family of sorts. I found myself there sometimes to drop someone off or pick someone up in our own family, as the Pig became our meeting point near my house, to avoid the further drive to the ridge and dirt road into the woods, as a visit to my house requires.
I have spent many evenings by one of Daniel’s crackling fires in the magical front patio area, admiring the cactus garden and the quiet and solitude that space offered. The Bewildered Pig became my stomping grounds of sorts, as we would wait for Cam to get off work after I’d spend the day with my daughter and their two children, or I would meet Cassidy there to pick her up for an adventure while Cam worked.
I for one was pretty devastated when I learned a few months ago that the Pig was giving up its perfect space at Philo’s Town’sEnd, and that the brick-and-mortar aspect of The Bewildered Pig restaurant was to only be a fond memory as the restaurant moves into a new way of being. I spoke to Janelle and Daniel about this changing situation, and they graciously allowed me to interview them about these changes.
CS (Cat Spydell): Thanks so much for chatting with me about The Bewildered Pig! To start, when did you two meet?
J/D (Janelle/Daniel): We met in 2004 when Janelle was the Executive Chef for Kuleto Estate Winery and Daniel was the Landscape Designer for both Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel Wineries, both in the Napa Valley.
CS: How did you meet?
J/D: To tell the whole story, with all of its serendipitous, synchronistic, and ironic twists and turns would take too many pages! We both lived in the rural area of St. Helena on Hwy 128 East. Ironically, Janelle’s next tenured chef position was at Peter Michael Winery on Hwy 128 in Knights Valley (in Sonoma County), and Highway 128 West is where we have been here in AV since 2015! Apparently, the 128 is our geographical main artery!
J: I had to pass Daniel’s mysteriously beautiful place every time I came or went home. I was always intrigued by the alluring landscape design and the secrecy and enchantment beyond the gate: the flowing bamboo, the chimes, the list goes on…¦
About a year into working at Kuleto Estate, one evening after dinner, Pat (Kuleto) told me that he knew who my “soul mate” was. He proceeded to tell me about Daniel. Daniel had also done design work for Pat. I was skeptical, but curious. After several weeks full of coincidences, we finally met.
J/D: The rest was history, and it seems Pat was right. That was almost 20 years ago now! We still refer to each other as “the boy and girl next door!”
CS: I love that! Sounds like kismet. How did you both decide you wanted to open a restaurant together?
J/D: Prior to being a landscape designer, Daniel had been a cook and chef for over 17 years — he opened and or tenured in many iconic restaurants, from Arizona, to San Francisco, and then Napa Valley in 1989 â¦ Maxwell’s Plum, Domaine Chandon (under Philipe Jeanty), Don Giovanni, and many more, and he was Robin William’s private chef for several years. We had been seriously contemplating creating a destination restaurant and a* B&B* for a long time — since we began dating, actually.
Right around the same time for both of us, the companies we worked for sold to corporate entities, so our work and living environments were about to change pretty drastically. So with Dante, the wolf, we took off for a couple weeks in our ‘78 Volkswagen Westie on a road trip north, through Oregon & Washington, to take a break and “check out,” in contemplative curiosity.
Our combined passions and paths intersected in what we created on that trip: The Bewildered Pig name for our unique concept.
CS: That’s great that a road trip could give you such a fresh perspective on your next actions. Did you open The Bewildered Pig in Philo because you lived nearby, or was it because you felt like the Anderson Valley needed a restaurant like yours? What is your history in the AV?
J: We courted on the roads of Mendocino County, whether it was in the Westie or on the on/off road motorcycle. One of our first holidays together Daniel brought me sight unseen for a Thanksgiving weekend at the Greenwood Pier Inn, where the fantasy began of owning our own place — and of course how we would design it, what the food would be like, and how the culture of hospitality would be.
J/D: Later, friends in the industry who had relocated up here — both associates from the Kuleto/Foley days — invited The Bewildered Pig to cook for some events up at Handley Cellars. The Pig ended up cooking a lot at Handley when Milla was here, and we had a lot of fun. Then, we were invited to cook for the Alsace Festival, Pinot fest, and more. We loved it here! As the Napa Valley atmosphere began to change, we started to think more and more about relocating up here. We felt like we could do all of the things we love, without pretension: make delicious and pretty food, bring our farm (plants and critters), and create a beautiful vibe for all — including us — to enjoy.
Ironically, on Thanksgiving weekend 2014 spent in Mendo land, we were introduced to the Floodgate space by one of those same friends. It was that restaurant space, 6-years into our search, which would eventually become the long sought-after location for the Pig.
CS: That’s amazing how this area influenced everything that would come to be the physical version of The Bewildered Pig. Can you please explain the restaurant's name?
J/D: We have probably been asked this question even more than the one about how we met, and it’s a really tough one to have a cookie-cutter response to — because the name is really a moniker of a philosophically broader conversation about humans and their approaches to socio-culture, environment, farming, and food practices — and even religion and politics. “Why the Pig? Do you only serve pork?” people would often ask (and we would chuckle). We believe that pigs are very intelligent, sentient beings. They are also opportunists, clever, witty and precocious. They love to laze and love to graze. They can be and are incredibly agile and fierce when they so choose. It seemed to us that’s how people think they are, too; only they don’t like to be referred to as a pig. (Okay, we’ve raised pigs, and we know their table manners and housekeeping practices are not up to our human standards — we get it!). Humans like to eat a lot of pig, but many turn a blind eye to the industrial farming practices used to provide the vast quantities needed to satisfy that demand. We wondered — if we could ask pigs what they think of humans and their ways, what would they say? We decided that the pig would be bewildered by humans. And there was the name!
The way we felt to best portray it on the website was to provide the dictionary definitions for “Bewildered,” Pig,” and “Metaphor.” Basically, the name is a metaphor for being a conscious person who is often bewildered at our human follies. No, it does not mean we’re a barbecue joint that serves only pork, although we do make some mean braised pork belly and pate!
CS: I really get what you are saying about The Bewildered Pig name, and the animal. I have rescued a pig before at my at-home animal rescue and know how clever they are. And by the way, though I am a vegetarian, my daughter tried the Pig restaurant’s pork belly once and she loved it.
Now that the Pig is facing a change in how you operate, how is packing up and selling the restaurant equipment going? I know you had a big sale recently and may plan more for the future.
J/D: The process of moving & schlepping isn’t fun; this we all know. But going through years of accumulated stuff is very liberating: reference George Carlin. The sale weekend was totally awesome, and totally nuts. We saw so many people we loved, and also tons of folks showed up just to see us and the place before disassembling — one last look at their beloved memory-making spot.
It’s also really been heartwarming to see a bunch of our stuff stay local. We’ll be able to go have dinner at several restaurants and event venues where we can eat our courses off of our plates and silver, know that it was cooked in our well-seasoned pans, perhaps sit at an old table we owned, or see a piece of fine and funky garden art or an unmistakably Daniel-designed fountain in their space. The enjoyment provided by these objects will live on making people happy, and that makes us happy!
Not everything was for sale, so one of the really cool results is that we get to have a lot of the things we own that we loved and had in our house prior to the brick-and-mortar incarnation of the Pig, back home — even if it ends up being temporary. We are very excited about our next chapter!
CS: Our family ended up with a wonderful Pig espresso maker that is used all the time. Maybe the one that made that cup of espresso I had at my first 2019 meal at The Bewildered Pig! I bet it is freeing to downsize. While I will miss visiting the physical location of the Pig, I am excited about the future for you both. Do you have an online sales link where people can purchase what you still have for sale?
J/D: We’re thinking about it! Once this move is done, we’re planning for some much-needed rest and relaxation. We’re also super excited to actually be able to get out into the community to which we moved, 9 years ago. When you own a restaurant, there is no life other than that. We have a lot of adventures ahead of us! Of course, we are excited to focus on our next chapter, which will be the culmination of everything we’ve created, and we can’t wait to be inspired by the beauty and deliciousness all around us!
CS: That sounds amazing. And relaxing sounds well-deserved! What do you see as the future for the Pig or other ventures?
JD: We will continue to do what we do: to provide next-level, super-local, healing deliciousness; make sustainable alchemy from Mother earth’s gifts; create whimsical, magical environments in which folks can find repose and rejuvenation, and to nurture with our own unique combination of witty, unpretentiously refined service. And, as always — we’ll create a proper amount of fun, provocative suspense!
CS: I don’t think you two could do anything any other way. That’s great! In closing, is there anything else you want to say?
J/D: Yes, we’d love to convey a heartfelt thank you to all of those who have supported us along this journey and continue to offer gestures of kindness, kind words, and encouragement. We will miss all of the fireside chats, dancing, and everything we created in that space. We are grateful and humbled by all the love that The Bewildered Pig community, near and far, has bestowed upon us. We couldn’t have done it without them!
If folks want to be sure to have first dibs on future events, or just to stay in touch with what we’re up to, they should sign up for our email list. There’s a sign-up spot on the webpage. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.
Web address: https://www.bewilderedpig.com
CS: I know many will want to follow you both on your next adventure, whatever it looks like! May The Bewildered Pig live on, somehow. What a gift your restaurant’s presence has been to our community. Thank you! The Bewildered Pig will certainly be missed, but how lucky we are to have had such a wonderful place to eat and gather these past few years in the magical setting you both created here in the Anderson Valley.