Upstairs: Paine Farm Pigeon



Popping up on our menu as often as we can get it, pigeon from Paine Farm in Sonoma is a continual source of inspiration for our kitchen.

Farmer Philip Paine spent years taking meticulous notes of his breeding stock in order to stabilize the production and quality of his remarkable fowl — and it shows! Highly prized amongst the best chefs in the Bay Area, there never seems to be enough pigeon from Paine Farm to go around. Scarcer in winter, more abundant when the weather warms, we ensure some portion of security by keeping a standing order with Philip, and we feel lucky to receive what we can.

If you haven’t had Paine Farm pigeon, it is something like duck, but leaner, less gamey, and most glorious. Harvested just as they begin to mature, they are not so young that the meat is overly mild, but not so old that it’s lost its tenderness.

This week, we ordered older birds so we could make a Piedmontese braise of them in the traditional manner for Thursday night’s special dinner with Produttori del Barbaresco winemaker Aldo Vacca. The more mature birds have a deeper flavor that comes through in braising. When we receive younger pigeons, we hang them dry for a few days so the skin is crisped when we grill or slow-roast them and accompany them with the sort of good things you might see with duck — such as bitter greens and creamy white beans, as above.

Paine Farm pigeon will be on our menu this weekend, and it is truly an experience not to be missed.

**Follow Chef Jonah’s Instagram account for more stunning photos of his recent work.**

Paine Farm Pigeon – Profile

Established 1979


Phillip Paine

Almost 30 years ago Phillip was working at the Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco and commuting from Sonoma. He enjoyed his surroundings in Sonoma so much that he decided to figure out a way to live there full time and not have to commute to a job in the city. He started out not knowing much about raising squab other than thinking that it looked like something he could do. He began by experimenting with just 20-30 birds from many sources and gradually learned by trial and error and copious note taking. He brought some of his squab around to local restaurants and gradually got some accounts; Kenwood, The Fairmont Hotel, China Moon, Post Trio, and Le Coco among the first of them. There were times when he couldn’t make a restaurant’s weekly quota of just 24 birds, but many chefs were understanding and allowed him to bring as many as he had.

Gradually, through diligence, close attention, and thorough record keeping Phillip learned how to selectively breed. In the past twenty years he hasn’t gone outside of his breeding flock.


Breeding happens in spring and early summer and then tapers through autumn with a drop in production by 50% in the winter. Squab need to moult, something they do naturally in late fall/early winter. Some ranchers will use lights to make their birds continue producing. But Phillip believes it is important to allow the birds to have their down time. January is historically a slow time for restaurants, so Phillip doesn’t sell any birds during that month giving the birds time to rest, moult, and regain their strength.


None. In the beginning there were lots.


The reward is providing customers with exactly what they want, not money. Phillip’s personal goal is to keep the customer happy. His satisfaction is customer satisfaction. This is truly a way of life for him. Phillip says, “Farming is who I am.” He finds raising squab an endeavor that is always changing and incredibly captivating. Being around the birds is something that calms him and keeps him connected.


The squab are fed on an all-natural diet. Phillip struck on a feed formula over twenty years ago that he still uses today. It is a high-protein mixture of soy, balanced with whole corn. The ratios change depending on the season.


Sonoma’s climate is unique and very good for birds. Over the 30 years he’s lived in the area he’s seen a huge amount of development and change. His farm is one of very few remaining in the area.

Future plans

To continue raising squab and to eat out at restaurants more often.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

Many years


Six acres south of Sonoma in the Carneros area

Main Business


Secondary Business

Occasionally lamb

Clarence Peak


Directly to restaurants.
Café Rouge meat market in Berkeley.

2017-09-12T15:49:09-07:00March 9th, 2009|Paine Farm Pigeon, Ranchers|0 Comments
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