Homegrown restaurateur serves only house-made fare
The Wild Raspberry
Where: 661B Newcastle Road, Newcastle
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Phone: (916) 663-1945
Owning a restaurant wasn’t Newcastle resident Heather Pier’s priority when she began looking for a commercial kitchen for her foraging classes. But when the right building become available, it all fell into place.
Pier opened The Wild Raspberry in October.
“It’s breakfast and lunch,” she said. “I offer a grab-and-go breakfast, sandwiches, bagels and varying baked goods.”
Everything is made from scratch on site.
“There’s a full sandwich menu and every day there’s quiche and a couple of different kinds of soup,” she said. “There’s a daily special. Today it is a meatball sandwich. Usually there are homemade pies and there’s a full selection of teas.”
The menu brings together dishes from chefs she knows, family recipes, some from trial and error and others from cookbooks.
Her flair for cooking comes naturally.
“When you have a large and extended family from Europe, you learn American food and European food — a little of this and a little of that,” she said. “When you are foraging, you surround yourself with chefs and people who know food.”
Her interest in foraging also has roots in Europe.
“My mother was raised in Nazi-occupied Paris and (her family) survived by foraging,” she said.
Pier’s foraging classes are a separate part of the business. She holds sessions at the restaurant one evening a month, teaching her students about collecting and preparing food from the wild.
“Acorns are huge,” she said. “And cattails, too. You can make a flour out of them. You can eat the hearts like artichoke hearts. You can use the roots. Pretty much the whole cattail is edible but it must be processed.”
She also covers the safety aspects of food gathering.
“Part of the challenge of this course is making people understand that they can’t just walk out and expect to know what they are doing,” she said. “You have to study just like any other sort of skill. They have to ask questions and get help. It’s not something people can expect to know. A lot of this knowledge is not passed on in families anymore.”
Pier emphasizes that foraged foods aren’t on the restaurant menu.
“I’m looking into the possibility of that,” she said. “I’d like to talk to the county about it and where we would take it. When you are talking about certain plants, there are very few problems and they process very cleanly and with not a lot of allergies in them.”
One of her foraging students is Angela Tillotson, who discovered the classes while she was surfing the web. One session that particularly stands out to her was on eating a pine tree.
“She had taken part of the pine tree and prepared it in a few different ways — dry roasting and frying,” she said.
Another outing included a potluck of foraged foods.
“(Pier) had made a casserole with things like chickweed and she took plantain leaves and dehydrated them and made them into chips. … It was surprising how good they tasted,” Tillotson said.
Citrus Heights resident Eddie Risse met Pier on a plant identification walk in Newcastle.
“Over the course of getting to know her, I learned how truly interesting, knowledgeable and sharing she is,” he said in an email. “Whenever I see her or attend her class, I can count on learning something amazing about nature. … Her newest venture — the Wild Raspberry — gives her a nice spot to work her food magic and share it with Newcastle. I tried the special — a hearty slice of quiche and a delightful piece of persimmon pie, washed down with a refreshing brew of iced tea. I’m anxious to try one of her many sandwiches and I caught a glimpse of a soup that a customer was enjoying that I will have to try.”
Pier has lifelong ties to Newcastle. She was born in the same house she now resides in and is a Del Oro High School graduate (known as Heather Waterbury in those days). Her husband spent a 20-year career in the U.S. Army and is recovering from wounds received in Iraq.
What she enjoys most about owning her business is the feeling of being home.
“I like the fact I can look out the window and see my house and I can get home in a heartbeat if I need to,” she said. “I like that the people I’ve known since I was a little girl are supporting me here. Every day I get hugs from people. I’m coming back to a town I love and adore, and that means an incredible amount to me. That’s the best part. I’m serving people I love — people who made me what I am today.”
Reach Gloria Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.