Organic farmers launch Damascus cafe and market featuring CBD products, gluten-and processed sugar-free menu

If You Go

What: A Boring Life Cafe and Market grand opening celebration

When: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 7

Where: 20414 S.E. Highway 212, in the plaza near Pub 212, Damascus

Offerings: breakfast and lunch menu built on locally sourced sugar- and gluten-free ingredients; Peet's Coffee giveaway

Business hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week


Call: 503-878-4962

PMG PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS  - A Boring Life Cafe and Market founders Jennifer Johnson and Serafina Palandech show off some of the gluten- and processed sugar-free menu items Johnson created for the brand-new Damascus business.  Growing up in Los Angeles, Serafina Palandech found the city's glitz and fast-lane culture seeped into her bones.

"I wanted to live a life of world travel and glamour, get an art degree," she says. "What I found, as I grew older and built a successful business and traveled across the world multiple times, it all comes back to me wanting to be with family and live the quiet life."

Or more precisely, A Boring Life.

That's the name of the cafe and market Palandech, a Boring resident, and her wife, Jennifer Johnson, are launching with a grand opening ceremony this weekend. The warmly inviting space in the former Subway shop at 20414 S.E. Highway 212, Damascus, will feature coffee, espresso, teas, and a breakfast and lunch menu of organic, from-scratch, sugar- and gluten-free baked goods, sandwiches, frittatas, salads and soups. Johnson, whose personal chef clientele has included President Barack Obama and A-list actors like Woody Harrelson, curates and prepares all the food items.

"The menu is influenced by Jen's culinary background as well as local sourcing," Palandech says.

A Boring Life Cafe and Market also features a line of organic nuts, fruits, honey and hemp, or cannabidiol (CBD)-based wellness products harvested or created at the couple's Boring farm.

"The menu items use alternative sugars and honey, not processed sugar," Johnson explains. "It's all really healthy — chilis, cornbread, pretty light fare, but (also) substantial. It's not french fries and burgers."PMG PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS  - Brie cheese, walnuts, almonds and honey are among the locally sourced food items Jennifer Johnson features on A Boring Life's food menu.

The grand opening event, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 7, will introduce the uniquely decorated cafe and offer a prize of free all-day Peet's Coffee, as well as special 4-ounce jars of locally made raw honey.

Johnson, 53, who is busy preparing for the big opening, said the business is an outgrowth of what she and 46-year-old Palandech have cultivated on the farm where they've lived for the past year and a half.

"We started with nuts. Now we're doing honeys. It's a natural evolution," she says. "As we started making more products, we realized we had to have our own facility, which resulted in (A Boring Life)."

"We want this to be a fun cafe and really focus on and feature local farmers," Johnson adds. "We're sourcing ingredients locally, all from the folks we know in East County."

The couple relocated to Boring from Sebastopol in Northern California after becoming smitten with the area on visits to Palandech's mom and sister.

"It's very expensive in California," Palandech says. "We (all) moved up here and fell in love with it."PMG PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS  - Using locally sourced art, cards and accessories, Jennifer Johnson and Serafina Palandech went to great lengths to transform the former Subway sandwich shop in a plaza along Damascus's main drag.

While the couple's use of arty decor — including paintings, plants and sculptures — has transformed the former Subway sandwich shop that closed about two years ago, some remnants they just had to work around.

"We tried to work with what we have, but the floor remains," Panandech says with a chuckle. "Our aesthetic is quite different from Subway's."

The popular chain has lent its name to a cafe menu item inspired by a classic Italian-by-way-of-New Orleans sandwich.

"We are honoring them with a special sandwich, the Subway Muffulatta," Panandech says.

Although a seasoned organic farmer, Panandech considers herself new to hemp/CBD products and what they can accomplish.

"It's fascinating what it can do for us — our minds and the environment," she says. "I started taking it about a year, year-and-a-half ago, for anxiety. I was very skeptical, so I was taking it very slowly and eased my way into it."

For the uninitiated, cannabidiol, most commonly known as CBD, is a naturally occurring, non-intoxicating compound derived from the cannabis plant. Sold over-the-counter — often in the form of oil, creams or infused in food products — it's become increasingly popular for a range of therapeutic uses including anxiety, depression, acne and pain relief.

Although the Food and Drug Administration has approved a CBD-based medication to treat epilepsy, the federal government has not approved its use as a prescription drug or dietary supplement.PMG PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS  - A bulldog sculpture Boring Life co-founder Serafina Panandechs father created is among the unique accessories that add ambience to A Boring Life Cafe and Market in Damascus. The markets honey-dipped almonds, at bottom right, are among the products for sale.

"The key is understanding who's sourcing it," Palandech explains. "It's coming in from all over the world ... We're sourcing (ours) from local (hemp) growers ... People are becoming less scared of it because of education."

Acknowledging that A Boring Life Cafe and Market may seem an unusual concept for a rural community like Damascus, Palandech and Johnson — who had high volume organic-based businesses in California — say what they're really trying to create is a community anchor.

"To me, it's about building community," Palandech says. "We had a high-growth company ... What we want now is to get to know the folks in the community. We almost called it 'A Gathering Place.'"

Johnson says she's looking for a place "where I can serve my food and have people come and enjoy it and get immediate feedback and meet the public."

Based on the feedback from local farmers and community members they've met since settling in the Boring-Damascus area, they are confident their vision will resonate.

"There is nothing like this in the area," Palandech says. "But I think a lot of people in the area are looking for this."PMG PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS  - Jennifer Johnson and Serafina Palandech are preparing to introduce the Boring-Damascus community to their A Boring Life Cafe and Market on Saturday, March 7.

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