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San Francisco Chronicle, “Love is Always in Season at SF Ferry Plaza Market” Review
February 9, 2017

“Love is Always in Season at SF Ferry Plaza Market”
San Francisco Chronicle, “Love is Always in Season at SF Ferry Plaza Market” Review
Years together: 25
What they sell: Smoked fish products, including honey-smoked salmon and salmon jerky.

On any given Saturday, you'll find an abundance of impeccably fresh produce at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. You’ll also find a number of charming couples tending their market stalls, each with their own story of how they met and fell in love.
Cap'n Mike was a Methodist minister-turned-fisherman living in Bodega Bay with a pet wolf named Two Rock. Sally was an actress-turned-therapist, who decided to move to the Bay Area on a whim.
They met in the early 1990s while she was shopping at the Marin Civic Center Farmers’ Market, when she bought some salmon jerky to take on a backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon with her then-boyfriend. “We were down there for two weeks and I spent my whole time thinking about the salmon dude at the farmers’ market,” says Sally.
Three weeks later, Sally and her boyfriend parted ways. Over the next several months, she took every opportunity to visit the salmon dude. “I would go to the market even if I didn’t need anything just so he could take my hand in his great big paws and ask how I’m doing,” says Sally.
Eventually, Mike asked her out, inviting her up to Bodega Bay to go on a canoe ride. (Mike called Sally several times after his initial invite, just to make sure she was still game.) On that day, Sally drove up to Mike’s old Victorian house, where she was greeted by the fisherman and his wolf. Sally knew she was “in like Flynn” when she found herself being smothered by a 1½-year-old wolf.
Not to be upstaged by the wolf, Cap’n Mike also made his move. “Michael swept me off my feet and showed me the kitchen and said, 'This is all yours'. We never did go on our canoe trip, but he took me to all his haunts up and down the coast. That was basically it,“ says Sally.
Three weeks later, Sally moved in. She proposed -- fittingly -- on Salmon Creek Beach. The couple were married on Bodega Head in a small outdoor ceremony that was meant to be just for family, but according to Sally, “Everybody at the farmers' market assumed they were invited and came.”
© 2017 San Francisco Chronicle, Sarah Fritsche

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San Francisco Chronicle, “How A Patient Cap'n Mike Puts The 'Fish' In Aficionado” Review
June 13, 2003

“How A Patient Cap'n Mike Puts The 'Fish' In Aficionado”

When Michael "Cap'n Mike" Hiebert smokes his wild salmon, it takes him three days to do what others do in 12 hours.

"Like when a guy takes a girl out to dinner," he said, "you just can't rush it."
Hiebert and wife Sally are the proprietors of the Cap'n Mike's Holy Smoke fish company in Rohnert Park. Hiebert, a Mennonite minister and Cherokee medicine man, uses his Indian grandmother's recipe for smoked salmon. In addition to various types of smoked salmon, he also smokes steelhead trout, albacore tuna, and black cod (known as sable on the East Coast).
Hiebert believes that hot-smoking, which is smoking for up to 12 hours at temperatures ranging from 120 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, is easy to do, while cold-smoking at 70 to 90 degrees for up to three days requires finesse. He finds the cold-smoking technique to be "so artsy" that "I can give you the exact recipe and you still couldn't duplicate it."
Stephen Bardessono, the manager at Sunshine Foods in St. Helena, applauds the "firm and flaky texture" of Holy Smoke fish. He also likes that it is not hot-smoked and has "no additives and no preservatives -- just a clean flavor."
Hiebert brines the fillet, allows it to dry, then smokes it slowly. He favors alder, which is what he was taught to use by the Indian elders. "French oak is to Chardonnay what alder is to salmon," said Hiebert, who likes the salmon to be the dominant flavor, with just a hint of smoke. He believes hickory would overpower the fish, and although he likes apple wood, he is concerned about pesticides.
Tony Knickerbocker, a caterer in St.Helena, orders the tuna and sable almost every week -- for personal consumption. He said he appreciates the texture, which has not been made completely to mush by the smoking process, and likes how the flavor is delicate, "not like eating a mouthful of smoke."
Tony Poer, managing partner of Hayes and Vine Wine Bar in San Francisco, said he likes Holy Smoke because it "tastes like the essence" of fish and the flavor doesn't get in the way of the wine. "It tastes really fresh and there is a good balance of smoky intensity," he said.
What better way to get fresh fish than to procure it yourself? "Know thy fishmonger," said Hiebert, who has four fishing boats supplying Holy Smoke. Although he prefers to stay local, he ventures as far as Washington if necessary, depending on availability, weather and demand.
Hiebert believes Swedes and Danes have done a good job raising farmed salmon for more than 100 years. But he prefers wild salmon to those farmed industrially, which are often crowded in pens and fed antibiotics and artificial coloring agents.
Fortunately, he said, this is a great year for wild salmon because of the rain -- the streams have opened up and the salmon food source has increased. His boats have even caught rare white king salmon this year, which he sells to Dean and DeLuca.
There were few clues in Hiebert's childhood to his future as a fish aficionado. He was born in Dinuba (Tulare County). His mother, Alvalyne "Sugar" also known as "Laughing Sugar Mom," was a Cherokee from the North Coast. His father, James, was a Russian Mennonite who grew grapes for Christian Brothers and oranges for Sunkist. As a child, Hiebert earned the nickname "Holy Smoke" for using the expression incessantly. The moniker got further play after he received a doctorate in Divinity from the Mennonite Brother Biblical Seminary in Fresno in the late 1970s. Later on, it became an apt name for his company.
Fish began swimming into Hiebert's life in the 1980s, when he lived on a boat in Porto Bodega and worked as a commercial fisherman. Native Americans and Swedes long had been smoking salmon in their backyards for private consumption, but by the '80s, Hiebert feared the practice might become extinct.
No wonder. In Western medicine, salmon is lauded for its Omega-3 fatty acids. Among Native Americans, salmon medicine is about a kind of abundance that can't be earned, Hiebert said. One is simply blessed with it.
One day in 1987, he says, he had a strong "feeling" he should sell smoked salmon.
Since then, Hiebert has cultivated a following that includes celebrity clients such as CBS news anchor Dan Rather. Hiebert says he prefers to concentrate on mail orders and farmers' markets rather than on retail outlets.

He also has gotten more involved with his Indian heritage, finding his tribe through a genealogy search. The tribe promptly made him the medicine man.
He continued his education with the Karuk tribe along the Klamath River and the Inuits in Alaska, and just recently studied with a healer in Micronesia.
Hiebert met his wife, Sally, at the San Rafael farmers' market in 1992. A Jewish psychotherapist from New York, Sally recalled encountering the "blond surfer dude" hawking smoked fish and thinking to herself, "What does a California guy know about lox?"
They got married three weeks after their first date on Salmon Creek Beach, north of Bodega Bay. Sally said even though Hiebert was the only beau she has had who wasn't Jewish, he was the only one her grandmother didn't complain about "because she didn't want her lox supply cut off."
© 2003 San Francisco Chronicle
   
Cap'n Mike & Sally Hiebert
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