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SONOMA HUNTER GAMES: FORAGING WITH FARMHOUSE INN

  
  
  
Sonoma County Wild Yellowfoot Mushrooms

This winter in Sonoma wine country, a celebration of foraged foods is taking place amongst restaurants, wineries and in the kitchens of local epicureans.  While Dry Creek  and Russian River Valleys may be better known for the wines they produce, the hills and forests of Sonoma County offer up a plethora of edible and delicious wild mushrooms. 

Mushroom hunting was once a hobby only for "old timers" here in Sonoma County, but more recently an entirely new generation of foragers are flocking to Northern California for how-to classes on mushroom hunting, grand mushroom tasting menus, and an entire season of celebrating this native delicacy.


Just north of Farmhouse Inn, the town of Healdsburg showcased the wild bounty of Sonoma County with the Healdsburg Wild Mushroom Weekend, part of Healdsburg's Epicurean Winter.   This seasonal event is lined up for aspiring mycologists and fans of foraged wild mushrooms including hunting expeditions, culinary classes, and fungi-centric Michelin star dinners. 
Several wineries and Healdsburg restaurants have added special wild mushroom menu items for this event- try Barndiva's Rabbit Fricassee with roasted wild Chanterelles or pop into the Jimtown Store for foraged mushroom grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese.  At the heart of Healdsburg's mushroom madness is Relish Culinary School's lineup of Wild Mushroom Forays and Demonstration Lunches with Chef and forager Elissa Rubin-Mahon. 


Here at Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant we had foraging femme Connie Green and guest Chef Sarah Scott join us for a taste of The Wild Table at our first dinner to kick off our guest chef series.  If you missed dinner with us, Connie's book The Wild Table is available for purchase and Chef Sarah Scott will be hosting another Wild Table luncheon at Chateau St. Jean in late March. 

"The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes" is a cookbook full of recipes for foraged delicacies like North Coast mushrooms with more esoteric recipes using some of my menu favorites; fiddleheads, miner’s lettuce and stinging nettles (try them in SCOPA Restaurant’s Stinging Nettle Budino).  The Wild Table Luncheon at Chateau St. Jean with Sarah Scott will be demonstrating how to tame those wild foods and turn them into epicurean delights.  For tickets to this three course meal with five wine pairings you’ll have to act fast!


   

But Foraging isn't just for chefs and their cohorts- with so many easily identifiable edible varieties here in Sonoma County, even us Farmhouse concierges get into the fun of it!  I do my best Katniss Everdeen impression as I head out and explore the coastal forests, keeping a keen eye out for my favorite mushrooms- Black Trumpet Royales, Hedgehogs (easy to identify with their toothy undersides), Yellow Foots and Chantrelles.  In the fall I'm a Porcini hound, but this time of year nearly all of my efforts go into finding those velvety, black trumpets in the forest duff.


With my pocket knife handy to clean the base of the soft mushrooms and my dog making her way through the boxwood and pines alongside me, I head up into the hills with no regard for trails seeing every wooded area as a prospective mycological gold mine.  Finding an upcropping of mushrooms is rewarding and exhilirating because hunting and foraging take skill and practice, making the entire exercise so gratifying that often I find myself using every last bit of available daylight to stay out and search for more.

I am not an expert by any means- I go where I am familiar and only pick what I know, sticking to the varieties that do not have any look-alikes that cause nasty side effects (death, for instance).  As a child, my father would take me up into the hills above our home and vineyards in Dry Creek Valley to hunt for what he called "Italian" mushrooms (also known as cocoras).  The problem with cocoras is that they closely resemble their poisonous relatives (the reason my mother won't eat any foraged mushrooms to this day). 

But have no fear!  Experts like renowned mycologist and author of the ESSENTIAL pocket field guide for western mushrooms David Arora and Charmoon Richardson are here to help.  The Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA) also hosts monthly mushroom hunting and identifying classes, so go boldly forward on your next (or first) foraging adventure!

For those of us who love to cook with mushrooms, we know just how versitile they can be.  I always find that they're best served nestled in something carbo-licious with a touch of cream. 

 My most recent favorites have been this mouthwatering wild hedgehog mushroom and crescenza pizza or a Recipes.com find for the perfect demonstration of late winter/early spring in northern California- Gnocchi with Yellowfoot mushrooms and fresh peas & asparagus from my vegetable garden. 

The other night my entire meal was either grown or foraged here in Sonoma County- mixed greens salad with a poached farm egg and a main course of wild mushroom rissotto and wild duck confit to top it off. 

Are you getting hungry yet?

   

 Signing off Mushroom Forager (Concierge) Extraordinaire















10 WAYS TO CELEBRATE ROMANCE IN SONOMA WINE COUNTRY

  
  
  
Sonoma County Wine and Romance

Valentines Day is just around the corner, and for those of you looking to find that perfect romantic getaway, look no further.  Sonoma wine country is the perfect place to sneak away for a romantic lover's retreat, and here at Farmhouse Inn we've become quite the experts at serving up the most romantic meals and special packages available.  So skip the stuffed animal and grocery store red roses (trust us) and let us help you plan the perfect vacation that will sweep your love off their feet! 

At Farmhouse Inn, each concierge has become an expert at knowing what works to set the mood for those looking to score some major points in the romance department.  It's not hard to get some of that lovin' feeling when you're staying at one of Wall Street Journal's 10 Coziest Hotels in the United States.  Whether you're snuggled in front of the fire making your own gourmet s'mores in a Heritage Deluxe Room or soaking in a tub with the window open while your partner enjoys the two-sided fireplace from your own private deck amongst the redwoods in a Barn Luxury Room, there is no escaping the romantic atmosphere here at Farmhouse Inn.

 

Add a Romance Package to your room stay and get a bottle of bubbles, a beautiful bouquet, handmade chocolate truffles and a side-by-side couple's massage at the Farmhouse Spa.  We'll even lend you a little of our magic while you're at your spa treatments and line the bathtub with candles and rose petals, set your champagne glasses and ice bucket along the side, and let you take all the credit! We make sure that each of our guests gets special attention so that no detail goes overlooked in making your getaway absolutely perfect.  This probably has something to do with whyTripAdvisor reviews voted Farmhouse Inn one of the Top 25 Small Hotels in the United States for 2013!

 

Whether you prefer to enjoy a fireside food and wine pairing at one of our partner wineries, or maybe you're keen to walk on the wild side and want to explore some Wild Jungle Love at Safari West this Valentines Day, we can find exactly what you're looking for!  This year, stop by J Vineyards Bubble Room in Healdsburg for a chocolate ménage à trois with new winery chef Jason LaBue (formerly of our partner property Meadowood Inn).  On the menu for February; oyster chowder croquette, beet risotto with cocoa nibs, braised brisket with gnocchi and black trumpet mushrooms, baby red velvet cake and chocolate "three ways". 

Perhaps, though, this all sounds fine and dandy but you're looking for something bigger, grander- the most romantic surprise ever.  Well lucky for you, Farmhouse Inn hosts beautiful, intimate elopements for the couple seeking a moment they can call uniquely their own.  We do everything from finding an officiant and photographer to ordering the cake and the flowers.  All you have to do is show up (bring rings), enjoy a couple's massage and dinner for two at the Farmhouse Restaurant, and when the time comes, say 'I do!'. 

   

 



DUNGENESS CRAB SEASON IN SONOMA COUNTY

  
  
  
Mary Calla Rowan, Farmhouse Inn concierge



More From Farmhouse Inn bloggess Mary Calla Rowan, 
concierge and Sonoma County enthusiast 

 

 

 

 

 




WINE COUNTRY MEMORIES...SONOMA BACKROADS TO OYSTER FARMS

  
  
  
Mary Calla, Farmhouse Inn concierge




    Mary Calla, Farmhouse Inn concierge team,
back again exploring a new favorite
Sonoma County wine country backroads adventure. 




Taking any backroad in Sonoma County leads away from the masses and gives a feeling of traveling back in time, back before six lane freeways, tract homes and box stores.   Our wine country is crisscrossed with roads like this, little, windy, forgotten roads with speed limits regulated by cattle grates instead of radar guns.  While many back roads will take you through the heart of wine country, the rest will lead you over the hills and through the redwoods to hidden gems throughout the north bay- all you need is dedication, a set of wheels and an appetite for adventure (and oysters).  One of the joys of being a concierge at Farmhouse Inn is getting to share some of our secret favorites of the area.

Today I would like to share with you one of my recent favorite trips through the backroads of Sonoma wine country. Friday afternoon, the sun had come out and warmed everything for the first time since the rains had flooded much of Russian River Valley.  I left Farmhouse Inn around 2pm and drove west through Russian River Valley and south towards Sebastopol.  I caught up with Bodega Avenue and wound my way through apple orchards older than I am.  Along the drive, orchards that line the road are a reminder that Sonoma County was once a great apple producing county, famous for the sweet juice produced by the Gravenstein variety.  Soon, green pastures dotted with black and white Holsteins and fawn colored Jersey cows fill the landscape.  West Sonoma county out towards Highway 1 and the coast is dairy country unlike any other, with views that encompass boulder-strewn pastures leading to the craggy Sonoma Coast and Pacific Ocean. 

A left onto Freestone's Valley Ford Road leads through more dairy country and to Highway 1, through the little towns of Freestone and Tomales, towards my final destination:  Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, CA.    I was on my way to meet my sister Camille and our friend Lily for the release of a new beer called Marooned on Hog Island, produced by San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery.  

 

 
Now I wouldn’t normally drive nearly an hour just to try a new beer, but when our friend Julian who works for Hog Island Oyster Co. invited us to come out for an afternoon on the bay enjoying fresh oysters, how could I say no? 

When I arrived, I didn’t know yet where to find everybody, but figured I could follow the laughter and sound of happy people eating and drinking the fine fare of Northern California.  I headed straight back to the picnic tables full of folks joyously shucking oysters and eating hearty bowls of steamer clams with white beans and sausage, adorned with hunks of rustic French bread perched on the lip of the bowl.

 

 













SONOMA COUNTY...THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

  
  
  
Farmhouse Inn concierge Mary Calla

GUEST POST FROM FARMHOUSE INN AND OUR NEWEST MEMBER OF THE CONCIERGE TEAM...
Mary Calla (and looks like our up and coming poet and photographer extraordinaire)

 


BEST WINE COUNTRY DESTINATION - SONOMA...AGAIN!

  
  
  
Sunset Wine Country Face-Off

First it was Sunset Magazine and their "Napa vs. Sonoma Face-off" with the two rivals slugging it out over which wine country has "the juice" and, of course, Sonoma edged out Napa. 

We thought that it might have been a little prejudicial as Sonoma is more up Sunset's alley- they are not big on the corporate style so dominate over in that "other" wine country. On top of which the Sonoma side of the story was written by Rod Smith, husband to one of the Farmhouse Inn proprietors, Catherine Bartolomei-Smith. (Perhaps just a little partial to Sonoma and the lifestyle they enjoy here.) 

Here's an excerpt from Rod's take on Sonoma County: "The county’s 1,576 square miles are a sprawling garden of organic produce, free-range meats, and since 1824, grapes. (George Yount planted Napa’s first vines in the 1830s, using Sonoma cuttings.) Napa offers the thrill of tasting wines few can afford and eating trendy food cooked by the employees of celebrity chefs. In Sonoma, you can access countryside, towns, and tasting rooms—sans appointment—to try some of the most distinctive and innovative wines available. True, pockets have trended upscale. Limos? Check. Celebs like Lady Gaga looking to buy? Check. But at heart, this is authentic country open to visitors—casual and wine snob alike."

Even though we were excited about the article (and seeing Rod's byline) and the outcome we were hesitant to crow too loudly. But then Sunset took a vote from their readers and Sonoma won hands down (at one point the voting was 10164 votes for Sonoma against a mere 236 for Napa). Those Sunset readers really know their stuff.  So take that Napa! We are no longer the poor little sister.

But now we really do have something to crow about!  The new Travelers Choice Award for Wine country destinations just came out from TripAdvisor.  The destinations are rated by the millions of travelers that use the TripAdvisor site.  And Sonoma County came out #1 in the U.S. (yes, in front of and on top of Napa) and #2 in the WORLD (just behind Tuscany- and Napa didn't even get on the world list).  So watch out world...we are on the map!







SONOMA WINE COUNTRY BIKING FROM FARMHOUSE INN

  
  
  
Biking Russian River

Guest Blog Post from T.C. (aka "Teec")- one of our most talented concierges (and the one that has been with us the longest)... Still loving her job and filling the role of "resident mom" with some of the younger concierges (Does that make Meilani the "Grandmom"?).  

With so much to see and do in the Wine Country we are never short of exciting activities to share with our guests here at Farmhouse Inn.  This time of year brings the excitement of the grape harvest and those gorgeous days of Indian Summer and cool nights hanging around the firepit with the other guests. As a concierge here at Farmhouse part of my job is to get a sense of how people want to spend their time in the Wine Country. We create custom itineraries based on a guests' preference of activities - it is not always just about the food and wine. 

Sonoma County has been getting quite a name for itself in the cycling world.  This year the beginning and end of the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California was in Santa Rosa, Levi's GranFondo was just last weekend with over 7,000 bikers participating, and the Vineman Triathalon events in July brought the athletes out in droves. With our rolling landscapes (one guest said it was like a picture postcard around every turn) two-wheeled wine country adventures can really help burn off some of those extra calories you might consume from wine tasting and dining at our amazing restaurants. (I promise you Chef Steve does not pay attention to calories when he cooks for you.)  Biking along the Russian River throughout Sonoma County is an incredible way to enjoy the wine country.

Our friend Dave, over at Adventures in Cycling , has created custom tours (something for all levels of cycling expertise) for the guests of Farmhouse Inn interested in cycling the county. Here are a few examples and some pictures of some of our guests (and new friends) enjoying the wine country.

  • The Pinot Cycling Tour....We start our ride from The Farmhouse Inn, riding up Westside road through the Russian River Valley visiting our winery partners that specialize in Pinot Noir; Arista, Porter Creek, VML Wineries, for example. The distance we ride is up to the guest, I've had guests ride 12 miles up and 12 miles back. Other guests want to taste more so we ride 6 miles up and 6 miles back. All the tours include a wonderful picnic lunch at a winery, that includes meats, cheeses, salad, and dessert, stops along the way to admire scenery and the vineyards. Tour time 10:00 am to 3:30.

  • The Zin/Cab Biking Tour.... We drive up to the Dry Creek Valley (a 15 minute drive) to start our ride. We visit some of our winery partners, Dry Creek Vineyards, barrel tasting at Zichichi Winery, or Lambert Bridge who specialize in Zinfandel and Cabernet. Again the riding distance and number of wine stops is up to you. Riding 15 to 20 miles though Sonoma County we will have time for 3 to 4 tastings. Picnic lunch at one of of our partner wineries. Tour time 9:30 to 3:30.

  •  The Serious Cyclist Tour.....whether you bring your own bike or want to rent a road bike, we can take you out to ride King's Ridge, Coleman Valley Road to the ocean, or set up a 50 mile flat loop- all part of Levi's famous GranFondo. A great day / ride is to ride from the Farmhouse Inn over to Occidental, across Coleman Valley Road to the Sonoma Coast, then north up HWY 1 to the Russian River, turn inland along the Russian River ending our ride at Armstrong Redwoods for a BBQ lunch.

  •  Easy Bike Ride  Guests depart the Farmhouse Inn and we drive over to Graton to the Joe Rodota Trail, part of the West County Trail ,we ride for an hour or so, stop at Taft Street Winery or a couple of the West Sonoma County wineries (optional), when we finish riding we load back in the van and go on to Iron Horse Winery or Armstrong Redwoods for a picnic lunch.  This is the perfect ride for the not so aggressive rider that doesn't feel comfortable biking our back roads.  Most of the trail is an old railroad bed that has been paved and is completely removed from traffic. You can actually pick up the trail right behind Farmhouse Inn in Forestville and bike all the way to Santa Rosa (about 18 miles) and it is just slightly hilly in a couple of spots.

    So next time you are headed for the wine country...give me a call and let's see if we can't include one of Dave's custom tours in your itinerary.  Of course,  the perfect finish for the day is a glass of wine out by the pool or how about a spa treatment at the Farmhouse Spa to finish off the day!


One more photo op...up at Hop Kiln Winery on that Westside Road tour- probably the most photographed winery in the county.











100 COOLEST WAYS TO EXPLORE THE WINE COUNTRY

  
  
  
San Francisco Endeavor flyby

What--you really thought I was going into 100 ways right now?? Not enough room on this page but how about 5 cool ways to start and I will fill in the rest later.  A guest on their way to Farmhouse Inn for the weekend called this morning to relate that they were just crossing the Golden Gate bridge and were stuck in way cool traffic because the shuttle Endeavor was making a flyby over the bridge.  We saw a posting on Facebook of all the people on rooftops in San Francisco.  What an event!

Anyhow, I had to tell the guest that we have a very special event up here in wine country this weekend too.  So the newest, coolest way to see the wine country is from one of the only 3 Zeppelins in the world still flying.   The Airship "Eureka" is in Sonoma County this week and is offering "Pop the Cork" flights over Sonoma County, the wine country, the Russian River, all the way out to the Coast.  There have been quite a few sightings already and you must know by now how fascinated I am by all things that fly.  Even after groundschool and learning all about aerodynamics I still have trouble believing that the plane carrying the shuttle actually can fly.

 

So that would be number 1-  for coolness! 




SONOMA SUMMER WINDS DOWN ...LAST FLURRY OF EVENTS

  
  
  
Sonoma county Rainbow

We are hearing people lamenting summer soon being over...but in California and in particular in Sonoma County we still have at least 2 more months of summer AND IT IS PACKED FULL!  We got our first hint of fall the other night when we actually had some clouds in the sky (the remains of some storm from the southland that got pulled in) and we were all out in awe of the beautiful sunset...sunny skies and perfect weather every day gets kind of boring, you know. Take a look at this picture of gorgeousness our lead Concierge, Anna, took the other night.

SONOMA COUNTY HARVEST...NOT JUST GRAPES YOU KNOW!!

  
  
  
Dry Creek Peaches

The end of summer is the perfect time to explore Sonoma County. Sunny days, a little cooler evenings and all the flavors of summer harvest around us. It is harvest time in the wine country and the grapes are making their way on their magical journey from the vine to the bottle.

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