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My Book


Advanced Praise for My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur

My Nepenthe serves a big gorgeous slice of American culture that I loved visiting through words and memory.” –Deborah Madison, author of What We Eat When We Eat Alone and Vegetarian for Everyone

“Romney Steele grew up in the lively bohemian milieu of Nepenthe on the Big Sur coast and knows all the stories worth telling.”–Caroline Bates, Contributing Editor,Gourmet

“A very special book about a very special place.”–Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and Omnivore’s Dilemma

My Nepenthe weaves together stories and tales from the famous California restaurant perched on the majestic cliffs of Big Sur. It celebrates the magic and history of place through food and my family who started Nepenthe more than sixty years ago.

Readers will enjoy a collection of more than seventy tempting recipes from the Fassett family, the restaurant, and the café, along with the history, stories, anecdotes, archival black-and-white photography, as well as the breath-taking full-color photography by Sara Remington. It also includes a bonus feature about the filming of The Sandpiper (1965), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, part of it that took place on the Nepenthe terrace, as well as Nepenthe’s unique relationship with the renowned Pisoni wine-making family. Ultimately My Nepenthe is a story about food, family, and the culture of place, and how it all unfolds around the table and why that matters.

My Nepenthe is published by Andrews McMeel ($35.00), available now at the Phoenix Shop.

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  1. frank says:

    I use to work at Nepenthe back in the late 60′s as a dish washer. I lived across Rout 1 from the Coast Gallery. It was then owned by carol Schakmen. For the life of me I can’t remember her son’s john’s last name.
    He worked in the parking lot of Nepenthe.We became friends that summer.I looked back at that time with fond memories, what is left of them. Yet I always wanted to know what ever happened with him and his family.

    If you know him and mention my name I promise he wont through stones at you.

    Funny how I always remember his Mom’s name can’t remember his sisters and his name just seems lately to be on the tip of my memory.

    If you can help do If not, no harm in asking.

    Lots of luck

    frank Vriale

    • Lee A says:

      I DO know of a man named John that lived at the Madsen estate for years. It’s adgacent to the property you’re talking about, I think. His name is John Larmour, and still lives here. He’s listed in the phone book, if that’s who you were talking about.

    • BT says:

      Jon Thomas. Has his own jewelry design store in Mount Shasta, CA At least as of 5 years ago. Hope this helps.

  2. romneysteele says:

    Hello Frank

    Thanks for your note and for reading through my blog. I think you might be referring to Caryl Hill who is now living in Northern California (I interviewed her for my book). I will ask around for her son’s last name; her younger son whom we called Boo-lives in Carmel.

    If you are in the area, be sure to come celebrate at Nepenthe’s 60th–no doubt there will be a 60s revival as there usually is.

    Best, Romney

    • Pam Garzini says:

      Romney – Is it just a coincidence that Rowan Maiden (architect of Nepenthe) also had a daughter named Romney? Rowan was my uncle, Romney my cousin – they lived with us in Piedmont after Rowan died. My mother was Rowan’s sister, Alicia Maiden Arlett. My aunt, Germaine Maiden made pies for the restaurant when they lived there in the 50s. I visited once as a child. Just curious about the name Romney :)

  3. Jan Tache says:

    Hi Noni,

    Congratulations on your book! We can’t wait to get it!
    It is a fantastic idea!

    Hugs from Bill and Jan

  4. Lee Ann Achterberg says:

    I just received the book today, my husband Dai is in it from his young hippie days (as opposed to his old hippie days) Very well done! Great job!

  5. Joan says:

    My name is Joan (Killion) Peisley. My Dad was a State Ranger at Big Sur State Park. I was about 14 when I went to one room school house. I knew Dorcus fairly well, but mostly I remember her brother Frank. He used to chase me and terrorize me, thou it was all in fun. My experiance at that school and living in Big Sur was the best time in my life. I loved that school, my brother was in 1st grade or Kindergarten with me being in the 8th grade with Frank. He was a tall boy who wore his dark hair long and cut in a bowl style. He was very cute and mischevious. I know his parents owned the “Nepenthe” but I noticed the name Frank isn’t used in the book, was one of the boy’s names a nick-name? Is he still at the “Nepenthe”? My daughter and I hope to take a road trip and stop by. She is an artist in Santa Barbara. I just wonder if Frank would remember me if I told him how he used to tease me all the time.

    Sincerely Joan (Killion) Peisley

  6. Joan says:

    I received your book today it is beautiful!!! I can’t wait to read it from cover to cover. It brought back a lot of wonderful memories for me.

    Sincerely Joan Peisley

  7. Francesca says:

    Hi Nani,
    Thanks so much for the copies of your book! I read it all in one night – Congratulations – job well done. I loved the stories and pictures of your family and am going to definietly try some recipes! All your hard work paid off and the book is absolutely wonderful.I hope you don’t get too worn out from all the book signings – just remember what a great feeling it is having accomplished writing this book.I wish I could have met your grandmother – she sounds so wonderful and caring.
    Anyway, loved the book and I could’nt put it down!I’m sure that Nick is going to love it too!

  8. Jon Michael says:

    Wonderful article in the SF Chron last Fri. If I cant get your book in person at a signing, I will order it. My niece is an aspiring cook, nurse ( she’s currently in nursing school). My folks dined there decades ago and loved it. I remember our discussion several months ago as the publication date neared.


    Jon Michael ( Provident Credit Union )

  9. [...] Saturday, November 21, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Caffe Trieste, 4045 Piedmont Avenue mynepenthebook.com/my-book/ [...]

  10. Pam Garzini says:

    My uncle was Rowan Maiden, (my mom’s brother) architect of Nepenthe. Frank Lloyd Wright was best man at his wedding. His daughter was named Romney, curious about the same name. Romney died 3 years ago. Now, only Rowan’s son, Timothy Maiden survives. I visited as a child when Rowan and his family lived at Nepenthe. My aunt, Germaine Maiden, made all the pies!

  11. Christina Rose says:

    Hi Romney – just finished your great book, wonderful how you put together the great homey stories, recipes, photos, a great read. I live in Marin County and have been a regular at Nepenthe for almost 30 years. My first nite there I was hooked as I sat outside under a full moon by the fireplace. Got divorced early in marriage, not much money, so our annual vacation was heading down the coast with two young daughters and their friends, camping and eating fries outside at Nepenthe, visiting the giftshop and on occasion inside by the great fire. Over the years I have brought lots of friends and family and we all love it! You can feel the incredible generous energy. Thanks for sharing such a great story about your great family and most of all your fantastic Grandmother Lolly! Her visions and faith were inspiring. Thank you, Christina Rose

    • romneysteele says:

      Dear Christina,

      Thank you so much for this comment and so glad you grabbed on to a little piece of Nepenthe during the difficult times, and continued to share it over the years. Sitting by the fire at night with my kids remains one of my favorite things to do; when my own troubles seem to so easily melt a way with a basket of fries and that view. Take good care, and thank you again for buying my book and spending time in the company of my family story.

  12. tina rhoades says:

    After reading this book – my first thought was, what a perfect gift for a new bride! It’s not just about the recipes which are wonderful, but a great inspirational story about a young family with a dream that made it happen, who created a large loving family and community with their wonderful visions and hard work – I really enjoyed how it was put together – since I have 23 nieces and nephews and many friends of my children that I have taken to Nepenthe, I am looking forward to purchasing it as gifts for many of them,

    Blessings to you and yours

  13. romneysteele says:

    Dear Tina

    Thanks for writing in and for your thoughts on my book. I’m so glad you think it is inspiring as I myself felt inspired in writing it and gratified that you would feel the same. My grandparents were one of a kind and their vision and life story, continues to amaze me. Nepenthe has signed copies that you can order via the internet or by phone; I’m also happy to send out bookplates addressed to your loved ones.

    My best to you and yours-Romney

  14. [...] Steele is a freelance writer, cook, and artist and the author of My Nepenthe. She grew up at her family’s home in beautiful Big Sur, which also doubled as a restaurant and [...]

  15. Gary says:

    thanks’ for sharing your knew book–(beautiful author) met you at Dr Bills, In Laguna!!!!!! (Guitar Gary)!!!!!! Aloha!!!!!!

  16. [...] Romney Steele is a freelance writer, cook, and artist and the author of My Nepenthe. [...]

  17. [...] contributing writer Romney Steele will be signing her book “My Nepenthe” today from noon to 3pm at Nathan & Co on Piedmont [...]

  18. Bill Keel says:

    Romney: Thank, thank you, thank you for the beautiful book on “your Nepenthe”. Traveling down the Big Sur in the middle 60s a friend from high school and I, coming from Chicago, accidentally stumbled on Nepenthe. I was beyond overwhelmed and swore I would come back some day. As fate would have it, 2 years later my brother moved to Carmel Valley and the rest is history. My wife and I have been coming back there every few years since then; our last visit was in February of 2009. Hope to be back there again in September. It is a very magical place that keeps drawing me back. You captured the feeling of the place so very well. Now that I have read your book I think I understand my feelings. It’s about family and I feel a small part of it. Thank you, Bill Keel

    • romneysteele says:

      Bill, I’m so glad you found my book and thank you for your comments and memory of traveling to Big Sur in the 60′s.
      It was a special and unique time then, but even today-there is magic to be found in Big Sur and at Nepenthe. And,
      yes-it’s about family. So true.

  19. Florent BIARD says:


    We met two years ago at Nepenthe, Christmas time. I bought your book you had it signed / autographed for me and I brought it back to France as bringing a part of Nepenthe with me in Paris.
    I am a Nepenthe addicted and so addicted that I have named my House that way…
    Eversince 1986, I do stop at Nepenthe every single year…This time it is going to be in August…I cannot wait to reach this little mythical paradise.Nepenthe, old greek for no sorrows…hum, no wonder knowing that place, (that refurbished fire place at the restaurant) should I rather say

    Thank-you for this book, as a neverneding living souvenir of a place which has been, is and will be always magnificient.
    Merci et Aurevoir;

  20. [...] recipe for the rice came from my stunning new cookbook, My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur. Nepenthe is my dang dream house. Good lord. Can I please live in a baller tree house with an [...]

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