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Wine Country Blog: Innsights to the Wine Country

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THREE DAYS IN WINE COUNTRY: A SONOMA PLANNING GUIDE

  
  
  
Wine Country, Sonoma and Napa

Planning a long weekend (or more) in wine country? Interested in seeing what the grape harvest looks like? You’re not alone. Many  visitors to Sonoma and Napa during September and October come for a long weekend. While 3 days may seem like plenty of time in wine country, it really is  considered to be a quick visit. There is so much to do in Northern California that those 3 days will fly by quickly. Fear not: there is a team of experts on hand to help plan your visit so you won’t end up spending too much of your time in the car. The Farmhouse Inn concierge team can help plan your visit to Sonoma County. They have suggestions on everything from where to fly into, on where to dine and what activities are worth considering.

 

The major airports in Northern California are located in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento. If you’ve been to Sonoma or Napa before then you know that it is at least an hour and a half from any of these airports to wine country. Alternatively, you might fly into our regional airport.  The benefits are endless; they include shorter drive time, a free checked box of wine (they want you to bring the hooch home with you) and a very short security line. That alone will convince you to use the Sonoma County Airport every time. The closest airport to the Farmhouse Inn is just 10 minutes away – a convenient cab ride but you really should rent a car of your own to get around the wine country. You can reserve a rental from one of several counters at the airport. The Sonoma County Airport has direct flights to LAX, Portland, Seattle and San Diego (we’re hearing rumors of additional flights coming soon, so stay tuned). To check flight availability into Sonoma County Airport click here.

 

Where you dine also affects how long you spend in the car (if you like to drive the back roads of wine country this section may not be for you). Our concierges always recommend dining locally – and if you’re staying at Farmhouse Inn “local” can mean a 20 foot walk from your room to the Restaurant. In addition to the Farmhouse Restaurant, Sonoma County is fortunate to have many other wonderful dining options. Be it a specific cuisine, setting, or location; Sonoma has what you’re looking for within a 30 minute drive. (While we understand the appeal of Napa, you might save those restaurants for another trip.) Some of the concierge team’s favorite local restaurants include River’s End and Terrapin Creek on the Sonoma Coast, Chalkboard and SCOPA in Healdsburg, and Twist and Backyard in Forestville (just 5 minutes from Farmhouse!). If you’ll be in town for harvest check the online event calendars at WineRoad.com or WineCountry.com for special winery dinners and events. There is much going on most weekends and especially during September and October.

 


Once you’ve bought your tickets, booked your room at Farmhouse Inn, and made your dinner reservations, let's start planning the fun stuff. Interested in a harvest tour at your favorite winery? Check. Want to visit the coast and redwoods one day? Check. Hot air balloon ride sound appealing? Check. Check. Check. You can do all these things in three days, just plan wisely. Most wineries don’t open until 11 am so the mornings are when you can do things like the hot air balloon ride and a visit to Armstrong Redwoods- sunrise and communing with nature – exactly what you expected on a wine country vacation, right? Once you’ve knocked out your morning activities and have filled up on the Farmhouse breakfast, it is off to the wineries. Harvest is the busiest time of year for wineries, both in the cellars and tasting rooms. For the most exclusive and best of experiences make reservations ahead of time. In addition to tours consider some wine and food pairing options. These experiences are typically stand outs for wine country visitors and availability is limited.

 


Our team of wine country experts is waiting for your call. If you’re more of an email person click here to send us a message. To check availability at the Inn for an upcoming wine country vacation click here. To stay up to date with all of our latest discoveries and recommendations be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



HARVEST IN WINE COUNTRY: GRAPES NOT INCLUDED

  
  
  
Wine Grape Harvest

Sonoma County is a great place to visit if you love wine country (and wine), and of course the most popular time to visit is during the  grape harvest. While we love the grape harvest as much as the next person, every year we also get excited about things like tomatoes, peaches, apples, onions, beets, walnuts… we could go on but we’ll stop here for now. We recently had the pleasure of getting out and about in Healdsburg and were able to experience harvest in several different ways. We spent the day visiting Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Shop, Dragonfly Floral and Dry Creek Peach.

 

 

To start our day in a pie and ice cream shop is a pretty good indication of how the remainder of our day was going to be- extraordinary. We were fortunate enough to be the first ones to experience pie making with Noble Folk owners and bakers, Ozzie Jimenez and Christian Sullivan. Noble Folk is the second store for the duo, who also have Moustache Baked Goods in downtown Healdsburg. While the bakery’s focus is on cupcakes and special occasion cakes, Noble Folk offers classic pies and Japanese inspired ice creams.

 

July and August are prime peach and berry season in Sonoma County, so our pie was a reflection of the summer time harvest. We learned how to make a filling and a proper crust. We were also schooled in the artistry of lattice work for the top of the pie. Noble Folk, like many Sonoma businesses, stresses the use of in-season ingredients. We’re looking forward to apple and pumpkin pies this fall. Noble Folk will soon be launching their website and online shopping cart – be sure to get your holiday pie orders in early.


After pie making (and taste testing) we headed over to Dragonfly Floral, just west of downtown Healdsburg. Dragonfly is a six acre farm that specializes in flowers for a variety of events. In addition to flowers they also grow vegetables and raise ducks and chickens. We popped in for a quick tour of the farm and were fortunate enough to meet the duck duo Fred and Ethel.

 

 

Dragonfly has about 4.5 acres of cutting flowers that they use for their arrangements. Our visit to the farm was full of color – roses, dahlias and sunflowers were all in bloom. In addition to providing flowers for events, Dragonfly has been hosting flower arrangement classes. We’re big fans of succulents and their selection was amazing – check out their online calendar for a schedule of classes or stop by for a picnic in their beautiful gardens.

 

Our last stop of the day was at Dry Creek Peach, located on the northern end of Dry Creek Valley. Dry Creek Peach is the only commercial (commercial in this case is only 6.5 acres) organic peach farm in Sonoma County. Dry Creek Peach grows several varieties of peaches including Snow Kings, Red Havens and Arctic Gems. In addition to supplying several local restaurants with peaches (Farmhouse chef Stevo is good friends of the owners), Dry Creek Peach operates a farm stand that is open 4 days a week. You can purchase fresh peaches, their jam and even peach wood cutting boards (we loved these!).

 


SONOMA WINE COUNTRY OFFERS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

  
  
  
View Sonoma Wine Country

Why should you plan a visit to wine country? The answer is, why wouldn’t you? If you like sunshine, good food, amazing wines, friendly people and spectacular views wine country has a place for you. Sonoma and Napa are no longer reserved for those of a certain age, bank account status, or even for wine lovers only.

You can visit Sonoma and do and see plenty on any budget, even if  you aren't a fan of the grape. Wine Country is great for an ultra-romantic honeymoon, a quick weekend trip, or even an exciting outdoor adventure. Sonoma County has it all and we’ll tell you how to do it right no matter the occasion or budget.

 


At the Farmhouse Inn we’re finding that more couples are opting to skip the multi-country honeymoon and instead are coming to California’s wine country to simply relax. (Martha Stewart lists the Farmhouse as one of the top 10 places to mini-moon) If you’re visiting this area for a honeymoon plan to book at least 4 days- that will only touch the high points .

On the day of arrival (at Farmhouse Inn, of course) you’ll likely be exhausted. An in-room picnic is a great option for your first night- it doesn’t require that you drive anywhere and you can eat it out on your private deck (or even in bed).  Schedule romantic couples spa treatments for the next day- they can work out all the kinks and you may really be needing a foot massage (after all that wedding dancing). Then head on down to the pool for some lazing in the sun and a glass of wine (swimming not necessarily required). Sonoma has many great romantic restaurant options including our own Farmhouse Restaurant; make reservations in this area ahead of time with the help of your concierge. Your third day you might have the energy for a private wine tour- we love the Alone Time Tour for our honeymoon couples. And maybe by the fourth day you can fit in a float down the river or a hike in Armstrong Redwoods to work off some of the reception over-indulgence.

The Farmhouse Inn offers a Honeymoon Package which can be added onto any 3 night or longer stay- we set the mood; you create the memories.


For those looking for a quick weekend away Sonoma is a great option. Whether you’re camping or staying at the luxurious Farmhouse Inn, there are great accommodation options for all budgets. One of the best things to do while visiting Sonoma County is to visit one of our many regional and state parks- they provide great views and are often the best places for a picnic. Of course the most popular activity among weekend visitors is wine tasting. Prior to your Sonoma getaway, visit www.wineroad.com to explore the 300+ wineries with tasting rooms open for visitors- the Farmhouse concierge team can help you narrow down the list.  Wine Road is also a great resource for finding wineries that offer food pairings, have picnic grounds, are dog friendly and much more. If you’re a guest of Farmhouse, be sure to ask about our Winery Partner Program.

 



A PERFECT DAY IN SONOMA COUNTY: A FEW OF OUR SECRETS

  
  
  
Morning in Sonoma


Living and working in Sonoma County offers many benefits; one of which is that we get do all the things the press write about as being a “must do on your next visit to California’s wine country".  It's no secret that summer is an amazing time of year to visit wine country and only next to harvest in terms of things to do and general excitement .  Here's a few summer perks we enjoy every day : Farmers’ markets, floating on the river, Music on the Green, and an all time favorite; dining al fresco with wine and friends. The Farmhouse Inn concierge team is often asked what we would do for a perfect day in the wine country. Fear not- we’ve done it before and are excited to share the wonders of life in Sonoma County with our guests.

  

If you’re anything like us, the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning is “where is my coffee?” 

 


SONOMA COUNTY FARMERS' MARKETS: A WINE COUNTRY MUST DO

  
  
  
Sonoma County Markets

Its no secret that Sonoma locals take great pride in being an agricultural epicenter. Our varied microclimates, terrains and soils make our little slice of heaven the perfect home to many of our favorite farmers and artisan producers- oh yeah, AND grapes grow pretty well here too. In Sonoma we love our farmers’ markets- there is one happening somewhere in the county every day of the week. The Sonoma County farmers’ markets showcase everything from spring lamb to heirloom tomatoes and ground dried chiles. Local Press Democrat reporter Michele Anna Jordan often writes about the local farms and markets of the area. In one of her recent articles Michele talks about being in the kitchen after visiting a local market: “surrounded by ingredients that, as I touch them one by one, conjure images of farmers, ranchers and dairy men and women - and, of course, the winemakers - who tended to them” - pure poetry in our opinion. We’ll take you through a few different markets, what makes them unique and why visiting them on your next trip to Sonoma should be on your to-do list.

 

SONOMA SUMMER: MUSIC, RIVER, FOOD, WINE, FESTIVALS...

  
  
  
Wine Country Summer


Summer in Sonoma is all about lazy days on the Russian River, music events all around the county,  festivals and more fun.   Sonoma has a lot to do year-round but we especially love the summer months. If you’re planning on visiting soon or are taking notes for next year, be sure to check out our guide to summer living in wine country: outdoor activities, local happenings and events, and farmers markets. We couldn't include everything here, so if you're curious about something we don't mention be sure to email us  at innkeep@farmhouseinn.com or via Facebook.



Summer in Sonoma County is fun- it's hard to fit it all in. Between the Sonoma Coast, the Russian River, our local parks, and Lake Sonoma we’re blessed with an abundance of outdoor activity options. Out on the Sonoma Coast we have Bodega Bay- an excellent spot to spend the day at the beach; be sure to grab a crab sandwich or some of the great clam chowder. Schoolhouse Beach in Bodega is one of our favorites but be sure to get there early- on really hot days locals flock to the beach (and our natural air conditioning) and parking can be an issue. Closer to the Farmhouse Inn and with a variety of activity options is the Russian River. You can kayak, paddle board, tube or just float down the river. Healdsburg and their Memorial Beach is a perfect choice for a river swim (they have the river dammed for swimming). We recommend contacting River’s Edge for your river activities or if you just want to park it than we suggest heading out to Sunset Beach in Guerneville. Another perk to living in Sonoma County are all the wonderful Regional and State parks. Between Goat Rock Beach in Jenner and Annadelle in Santa Rosa, Sonoma has some of the best hiking and mountain biking in the Bay Area. If you’re more of a walker give Riverfront Regional Park a try- just a five minute drive from the Farmhouse Inn. If boating is more your speed then head up to Lake Sonoma in Healdsburg. The lake is at the top of the Dry Creek Valley and a great spot to spend the day. You can rent patio boats for the day, as well as jet skis. We love the patio boats-  bring a picnic lunch with you and enjoy a day relaxing on the water.



Many of our guests are visiting Sonoma for our amazing wine and food but sometimes  need suggestions for evening activities. Summer hours and the extra daylight provide us with great options June through September.  A very popular evening activity during the summer months in Sonoma County is attending one of our many outdoor music concerts. They take place almost every day of the week but the big ones are in Healdsburg, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, and Windsor. Every week there are new acts, mostly local Sonoma County and Bay Area musicians, and the accompanying food trucks make it a must-do if you’ll be visiting the area. We’re most excited about the upcoming Kay Marie show on June 10th in Healdsburg- check out some of her music by clicking here. Tied to many of the evening concerts are Farmer’s Markets. The summer in wine country is prime farmer’s market season- you can stroll through one on  Saturday morning in Healdsburg and find everything from local breads and cheeses to artichokes and peaches and even local meats. If you’re interested in enjoying the finished product at night than you have the best options to choose from, and during summer you have the added bonus of being able to dine al fresco. Our favorite outdoor dining options are Bravas Tapas and Barndiva in Healdsburg, SolBar in Calistoga, Corks in Forestville and Zazu or Woodfour at the Barlow in Sebastopol.




Every summer we have multitudes of events that range from wine and cheese festivals to summer concerts to balloon festivals. It all kicks off with BottleRock in Napa Valley this weekend- 3 days, 60 bands, numerous wineries and other vendors, it is a festival packed with things to do. The headliners at this year’s festival are Outkast. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing check out the Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival in Guerneville. Past performers have included Bozz Skaggs and B.B. King. This year’s lineup promises to deliver as well with Gary Clark Jr. headlining. The two day event includes a wine garden along with gourmet food vendors and other artisans. Just hang out on the beach; you will see the locals paddling their boats/canoes down to catch some tunes.









FARMHOUSE INN CONCIERGE: SONOMA SUMMER WINE PICKS

  
  
  
Summer in Sonoma

Locals living in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys associate spring time with the release of the newest vintages of white and rose wines. It is the time of year when we start making our summer plans and stocking our refrigerators for the coming months of picnicking near the Russian River and music on the square in Healdsburg. These delightful new releases always seem to perk us up out of our “winter” stupor. Whether your favorite is a Chardonnay or a Rose of Pinot Noir, we’ll go through the range of some of our favorites being released just in time for summer.


Let's start on the lighter end of the white wines,  with the Sauvignon Blancs from the area that we can’t resist. For Sauvignon Blanc we recommend you head up to Dry Creek Valley where the warmer climate, limited daytime coastal influence and combination of gravelly and sandy loam soils make it ideal for Sauvignon Blanc. Our favorites come from Preston and Quivira. Preston’s Sauvignon Blanc has the classic citrus qualities of grapefruit and lime with touches of green apple. Perfect with summer vegetables and of course a selection of your favorite cheeses! Quivira’s Sauvignon Blanc comes from their well-known Fig Tree Vineyard on their estate. Quivira’s Sauvignon Blanc tends to exude more of the tropical notes like pineapple and passion fruit. Always high in acid, the Quivira is a perfect match with veal piccata or a tangy chevre. Be sure to inquire about other white wines available at both Preston and Quivira- the Madame Preston and Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier blend from Quivira are also at the top of our list.


If you like a little more body on your white wines than consider this next category of unique whites. We’ll start with RYME Cellar’s Vermentino. RYME is a small artisan brand from former Farmhouse Inn Sommelier Megan Glaab and her husband Ryan. Ryan and Megan have varying opinions on what Vermentino should taste like so they decided to a His and a Hers. Don’t tell Ryan, but the Concierge team all votes for the Hers. Classic Vermentino tends to have a stony, saline minerality and both versions at RYME exude this. Vermentino can sometimes take on an orange hue (depending on skin-contact during fermentation) and therefore contains tannins making it more robust on the spectrum of white wines. We recommend most seafood dishes and the occasional pesto with your next glass. Another unique white wine coming out of the Russian River Valley is Wind Gap’s Trousseau Gris. With intense mineral aromas (think wet rocks) and pineapple, the Trousseau Gris is zesty and lively on the palate. This wine is one of our favorites with fresh oysters on the half shell. Both the RYME Vermentinos and Wind Gap Trousseau have large followings and quickly sell out every year, so be sure to place your order soon.


On to the king of white wines, Chardonnay.  Bold, full bodied, round, lush and unapologetically barrel-aged, California’s classic Chardonnays continue to be as popular today as they were 30 years ago. While some wineries are experimenting with non-barrel aging techniques, the predominant style still exudes aromas and flavors of butter, popcorn, vanilla, toast and baking spices. Of the Chardonnays that fall in this category we have 2 front runners: Gary Farrell’s Russian River Select and Red Car’s Sonoma Coast. Both wineries have tasting rooms in the Russian River Valley but purchase all their fruit from local growers- this allows them to select the best of the best each vintage. We’re huge fans of Evan Goldstein’s “Perfect Pairings” and his latest “Daring Pairings”. Both books provide pairing guidelines as well as fantastic recipes. We highly suggest referencing one of these books the time you open your favorite California Chardonnay.


To round up our spring list we’re finishing with what might be our favorite category, Rose. Pink, slightly effervescent and smelling of summertime, what’s not to like? Our go-to both in the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant and by the pool is County Line’s Rose of Pinot Noir. County Line is the second label of Radio Coteauowner/winemaker Eric Sussman. The County Line Rose is consistently one of our favorites every year- smelling of watermelon and strawberries, the Rose is extremely quaffable and affordable. No need to hesitate on opening this wine- the $20 price makes it a wine to be enjoyed whenever, wherever. We drink it with everything but if you’d like a little more sophisticated recommendation try it with a scallop sashimi or the perfect naked oyster. Last but not least is Farmhouse Winery Partner Inman Family’s Rose- beautiful, pale, delicate pink and crisp and refreshing, it is without a doubt a standout among the pink wines. With more structure, higher acids and supreme balance, this Rose makes us want to throw a summer dinner party in the vineyards right now. If you want to get fancy on your brunch guests try pairing this Rose with a scrambled egg and smoked salmon or a Quiche Lorraine.


We hope this Concierge Guide to Spring Releases was helpful and that you visit a few of the wineries mentioned on this list during your next vacation to wine country. If you won’t be visiting soon be sure to look for them in your local wine shop or on the wine list at your favorite restaurants. For more winery recommendations, itinerary suggestions and information on the area be sure to email your concierge soon. For more information on the latest happenings at Farmhouse be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.






NAPA AND SONOMA RESTAURANTS: FARMHOUSE INN FAVORITES

  
  
  
Dining in Wine Country


The number one question our concierges receive is how far the Farmhouse Inn is from San Francisco Airport (about 1.5 to 2 hours in case you’re wondering). The second most asked question is “Where is the best restaurant?” That depends but a good place to start is by asking the Farmhouse concierge team where we go when we are hungry. Keep in mind that Wine Country is one of the best places to go if you’d like to indulge your culinary curiosity. With multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, 2 of which have 3 stars, Napa and Sonoma County are packed with dining choices for all palates and budgets. With so many choices it can be a little overwhelming so we decided to distill it down to where our concierges go most often. We’ll break it into 3 categories- best local hidden gems, best special occasion restaurants and bucket list eateries. Just be sure you check with the concierge before booking- there are some strong but varied opinions when it comes to the best restaurants.

 

Local favorite spots are often the hardest to find when traveling because quite frankly, the locals hesitate to share their neighborhood gems with visitors.

These favorite local spots are often the best, so its a good idea to ask your concierge or any local where they’d go for dinner. At the top of the list is Willi’s Wine Bar. Willi’s is located in an old roadhouse across the street from soccer and baseball fields- you’d never find it unless you knew it was there. Willi’s menu focuses on tapas (small plates)and has an international influence. Their back patio is a favorite hangout for Sonoma locals during the summer and their wine flights are excellent. Best part- they have a large bar seating section and they offer the full menu there.

Another local spot is hard to find also due to its almost hidden entrance. SCOPA is an Italian eatery in Healdsburg and the only way to find it for the first time is to look for the large Barbershop sign painted above the entrance. With very few tables, a small bar and its mass popularity with locals it is often difficult to acquire a reservation. SCOPA’s menu is packed with such delicious offerings that you’re sure to walk away wanting to come back the next night. If you booked your vacation at the last minute and SCOPA is full we recommend trying their sister restaurant Campo Fina.

 


EXCITING NEWS FOR SONOMA COUNTY THIS SUMMER

  
  
  
rosso rosticceria eventi

If you’ve been to Sonoma wine country before than you know that it seems to be an ever changing mix of new wineries, restaurants, shops and places to stay. That propensity to constantly be changing and being on the cutting edge of what is new won’t be any different this summer as new restaurants, tasting rooms and even old fashion ice cream and pie shops open up. From Sebastopol to Healdsburg there are exciting new businesses coming in time for summer and we can’t wait to sample them ourselves. We decided to focus on three in particular- we want to pique your interest in hopes that you’ll visit soon!


Established in 2009, Rosso Pizzeria in downtown Santa Rosa has been a local’s favorite from the day they opened. So popular in fact that they now have a mobile pizza oven and have been catering events all over Sonoma County for the last several years. They were a hit at the Farmhouse Inn Christmas party a few years ago. Their newest venture will open in Santa Rosa but will be a new take on their other 2 restaurants- a mix of food, ping pong and cooking classes. What really sets it apart from their other two restaurants is the new location’s offerings and hours. Unlike the downtown Santa Rosa and Petaluma locations, Rosso Rosticceria + Eventi will be open for early diners beginning at 7 am and closing at 6 pm. They’ll also only be a Monday through Friday location. Offering espresso, pastries, pizzas and ping pong the new location is sure to appeal to the local set- that’s why we’re telling you - check out the wine country like a local.  Rosso Rosticceria + Eventi opens this month and we’ll be sure give it a try and fill you in on an upcoming post on Facebook; be sure to keep checking for our review.


The Barlow in downtown Sebastopol opened  about a year ago with a few wineries, a bakery and some distilleries. It is now in full swing with restaurants, a local market, coffee houses, art galleries and a lot of great events. One of the official Farmhouse Winery Partners, La Follette Winery, opened in the spring of 2013. Another unofficial winery friend is Wind Gap Wines and we’re incredibly excited to see their tasting room open at the end of April, beginning of May. Wind Gap is a favorite of Farmhouse Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth, who features several of their wines on the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant Wine List. Their “new” style of winemaking is popular with younger wine drinkers and local wine critic Jon Bonne (SF Chronicle). Wind Gap offers a wide range of wines from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley. Their claim to fame may be their skin-fermented white wines- skin fermentation often causes the wines to take on an orange hue and can really change the aromatics and body of a wine. While this technique is not new to the world of wine, it is a technique that hasn’t been popular in American wine culture until recently. Wind Gap’s wines are very high in demand so if you do visit their tasting room,  don’t be surprised to hear that many of their 2012 and 2013 wines are already sold out. We recommend stopping by on your next visit to the area and get on join their mailing list.


Our last teaser for new offerings in Sonoma is located in Healdsburg. This one is especially near and dear to us as it is the second shop for Moustache Baked Goods, a Farmhouse favorite. We often work with Moustache on special occasion baked goods for our guests, as well as the occasional dessert bar for staff parties. Their current shop on the square in Healdsburg offers everything from cupcakes to macaroons and Blue Bottle coffee drinks. If you haven’t visited yet we are telling you not to miss it on your next trip and take some items home to share. Their newest venture is Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar. They’ll be offering up truly unique ice cream flavors as well seasonal pies. If the shop is anything like the bakery we can’t wait to see what they come up with. 


For more insider tips on discovering our Sonoma county secrets be sure to contact your concierge today. For up to date news on happenings at Farmhouse Inn and in the area follow and like us on Facebook. We hope to see you at the Farmhouse Inn soon.





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















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