Dorris and Daughter Catering Cafe xx
By Katie Wheeler | Images by Katie Wheeler & Dorris and Daughter Catering Café
Taste. It is a whole body experience. We smell, the olfactory sense giving us taste in air. Vision taps our expectations. The power of belief triggers electrochemical effects. Mind is matter, subtle and profound. Touch. The texture of food and drinks in our mouths. Scientists have found food pairings to be based off a balance of dry and rough with moist and soft – complimentary feeling. Or the crunch of a crisp bite of lettuce, cusping texture, expectation and sound. Hear it. Research cites different pitches matching our five defined tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami – and some say fatty and metallic will find a place too), and these pitches can affect how food tastes. And receive taste; let those taste buds talk to the brain.
Eat. When you put all these elements together, right eating is a fulfilling experience of art. Survival instincts refined, pleasure must always be associated with fueling life. Sweet is our highest taste recognition, our favorite. Pleasing, delightful energy density. There are taste receptors for sweet all through our digestive system, not just on our tongues. Our bodies follow that right path from millennia of experience, like destiny. That is Jeanne Dorris and her natural talent and love of creating food: Her innate ability for feeding people on all levels.
“I got my love of cooking from my grandma, my mom’s mom,” Jeanne says. “Lala was a farmer’s wife in Minnesota and fed all the farm hands. As a young girl I thought that was pretty cool. All the boys would come in from hauling hay and I would help her feed them a full dinner – that’s lunch, supper was ‘dinner’. She made everything from scratch and without a recipe – even cookies and cakes. It was just a little of this and a little of that, and everything was out of her garden.”
Jeanne’s family moved here from Minnesota during the flood of ’64. Not the palm trees and sunshine they had pictured California would be, but Jeanne blossomed into a true Fortuna girl. Then she catered her own wedding. As the best businesses go, her product spoke for itself. All of a sudden people were asking her to cater their weddings. She kept her day job and sidelined catering, which gave her the income to travel and take cooking classes, even cooking classes in Paris. About 10 years ago she finally got business cards, after decades of successful catering. Word of mouth, literally.
In 2009 Jeanne found herself at a crossroads, ready to move on from her day job. As seems to happen in her life, she got a call from the historic Scotia Inn asking her to run the whole place. Running a hotel and bar was a big new challenge. “I knew I had the capability of booking weddings, so I thought ‘I’m going to take a chance.’ So I did. And I really loved it, but it is a 24 hour job. I loved all the guests from different countries. A lot of Europeans were drawn to the old world charm of the Inn. We had the marathon runners year after year. And all the weddings. “
“Probably my favorite was the smallest wedding I ever did,” Jeanne recalls. “An attorney from Virginia calls me and tells me she wants to book a wedding at the inn. Her assistant was getting married and she is throwing the wedding, eight guests. I closed the inn. We changed the lobby into their wedding and reception venue. They were older, and all Harley Davidson riders, but business people. They flew from Virginia to Reno, rented Harleys there and rode to Scotia. We arranged everything. The best photographer, Mike Gibbs as the DJ, Suzy Haggerty for the flowers. We gifted them some Fire and Light (glassware). Right before the wedding he gave her a necklace that was something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. It was the sweetest thing I have ever done.”
Five years later, it was time for another change. So she asked Diana, who runs the Fortuna Business Improvement District – and who was leaving the café after eating breakfast with her husband as we started our interview, if there were any spaces available in Fortuna. Jeanne was thinking she wanted a little café and the contract was coming up for the Scotia Inn again. That is how she found her current location, perfectly equipped with a commercial kitchen, and Dorris and Daughter had their own storefront.
“We do all our catering from here, and go wherever the event is,” Jeanne says. “We have our catering trailer and a barbeque that we can pull, so we can go anywhere. We cater lots of Christmas parties, class reunions, lots and lots of weddings. We do the logging conference. The Scottish Society has the Burns Supper in honor of the poet Robert Burns; we make the haggis and the rest of the meal.”
“Fortuna is such a small town. I know practically every person by name,” Jeanne says. “Literally, I know almost everyone that comes in here. If not, they are regulars and so I know who they are now. So it’s fun, it’s that kind of a café. My daughter Angi is my partner, she works the opposite days that I do here and we cater together. She has worked with me since she was a teenager. She has two kids that help too. Then I have a great staff. They are really more qualified than working in a café, I am so glad to have them. I hire people that I want to be around me. We all get along really, really well. And that is so important to me. I want to be able to talk to everyone that comes in. And when we cater, I want to be able to pick up plates and say ‘how was your food’. I don’t want to just stay in the kitchen, I want to mill around with the people and talk to them. I want to know that they are happy, that is the kind of person I am. And if something isn’t right I do my best to fix it. We get asked over and over and over again to do the same parties, and that’s so nice. I do believe that you get what you give. I don’t give to get back, but it does seem to work out that way.”
The menu at Dorris and Daughter changes every day. Everything is homemade. The selections are based on what is in season, some meaty, some vegetarian. Items that are affordable for the high school rush, and some higher end. And of course it depends on who’s cooking. Jeanne and her daughter have their own styles. Sweets, breakfast dishes, quiches, soups, pizza, bread, three salads, three lunch dishes. There are a lot of folks following them on Facebook with mouths watering in expectation. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 till 2 for the winter, and will stay open till 3 as the days get longer. Go in for their Valentines Mini Red Velvet Heart Cakes. 725-2505, 758 10th street, Fortuna.