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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















FARMHOUSE INN AND OUR MOST ROMANTIC GUESTS...

 
Julie, Farmhouse Inn concierge

A guest post from Julie,
Romance expert and star concierge at Farmhouse Inn!  




"I don’t normally like to write....unless it’s something I am passionate about...and romance is one thing I am most passionate about.

I came to Farmhouse Inn last year to help shoot a video for the their new website.  By the time the video was finished I fell in love with the people, the property, and most of all the great care they take of their guests.  It seems no request is too great and the romance of the wine country is threaded through everything they say and do. I found this hidden gem hidden away just minutes from my Healdsburg home and so wanted to be a part of their great team and share the philosophy of the Inn....they hired me four days later to join their Concierge team.  By the way, if you haven't seen it here is the Farmhouse video and you can find me in a few of the shots if you are looking...

 

In a world sometimes full of doom and gloom – the Farmhouse Inn is full of smiling faces and wonderful people.   Each and every guest that I speak to on the phone or have the pleasure to meet in person makes me smile.  They seem so happy and are excited and eager to spend their wine country vacation or special celebration with us here at the Farmhouse.

Being able to assist guests with their itinerary is probably the most fun and rewarding part of my job.  Sonoma County is such an amazing place to live and  we love to share it's charms with our guests. I am a hopeless romantic and want each and every person that visits with us to leave here with the very best experience possible.










FARMER'S MARKETS TAKE OVER SONOMA COUNTY

 
sonoma farmer's markets

I HAVE BEEN WAITING (ALMOST PATIENTLY) FOR ALL OUR FARMER'S MARKETS TO REALLY GET GOING TO TELL YOU ABOUT THEM AND HOW MUCH I LOVE SUMMER IN SONOMA.  IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYTHING IS COMING IN ALL AT ONCE- STILL SOME CHERRIES AROUND AND I SAW APRICOTS YESTERDAY THAT I THOUGHT WOULD BE GONE BY NOW.  SUMMER SQUASH IS EVERYWHERE AND THE EARLY TOMATOES AND ALL THE STONE FRUITS AND... THAT'S THE SUMMER SEASON IN CALIFORNIA AND PARTICULARLY IN SONOMA COUNTY. 

FARMHOUSE INN AND 10 WAYS TO CELEBRATE SONOMA SUMMER

 
wine country ballooning

Driving in this morning there were 3 hot air balloons hovering almost directly over the Farmhouse Inn...


made me think of all the wondrous things we love to share with our guests every season in the Sonoma Wine Country.  But summer...aah...wonderful summer.  So many things to do and see and new experiences around every corner. You know that old Porgy and Bess song..."summertime and the livin' is easy"- that is summer in Sonoma all over.  

Very rare heat waves and they never last more than a couple of days (sorry to the whole rest of the sweltering country- don't mean to rub it in).  So most of the time that perfect warm temperature of 75-85 degrees during the afternoon so you know it is really summer but then it cools down nicely (at least 20 degrees) once the sun goes down.  (And no humidity and NO big bugs either.)

INDEPENDENCE DAY ALL OVER SONOMA COUNTY

 
Farmhouse Inn Fourth of July

In case you don't know, Farmhouse Inn sits right in the middle of the Russian River Valley and the wine country, almost smack in the middle of the large and very diverse Sonoma County (the size of Rhode Island, actually).  You would think we are all about the vineyards and wineries- BUT the Independence Day holiday brings out the patriotism in all of us.  What is it about the Fourth that brings out the old-fashioned, family-style celebrations that Sonoma County excels in?

SONOMA WINE COUNTRY AND SUMMERTIME BOUNTY

 
Anna, Farmhouse concierge


Farmhouse Inn Lead Concierge,
Anna McPeck chases down the
wild and wonderful new food
(and drink?) offerings in
Sonoma Wine Country.

               


That's our Anna...


Thanks to Sonoma County’s temperate Mediterranean climate, the area has long been a haven for farmers, vintners, and chowhounds alike. Summertime is the season chefs look forward to most; when produce everywhere is lush and plentiful and when some of their favorite fruits and vegetables to cook with come into their prime. It is officially summer and Sonoma County chefs, residents and visitors all have a lot to be excited about in the delicious world of food and wine. Freshness is all around us here in Sonoma from the guy standing on the corner selling his cherry crop, to the little farmstands sprinkled around the county, to the amazing of Farmer's Markets (remember, there is one somewhere in the county every single day of the week except Monday)!  Truly, truly we do not need the grocery store this time of year. 

  The Farmhouse Concierge team is super excited about the number of great new restaurants popping up around town!  (We get to try them first, you see...) 

Scopa restaurateur, Ari Rosen, has just opened the doors to his new hot spot, Campo Fina, just a block off the square on Healdsburg Avenue. Scopa’s overwhelming and loyal following gave Rosen the incentive to expand and try something a little different with Campo Fina.
Heather Irwin's blog "biteclubeats" was all about them opening today. Here's a couple of her pictures to whet your appetite.

   

Their back patio features a beautiful new outdoor bar and bocce court and you can expect the great standard of food you’ve experienced at Scopa, presented in a small plates format.  We have been a couple of times already and love the new space and the menu is amazing.

Speaking of awesome back patios,  our already favorite Diavola Pizzeria just opened a great enclosed back patio addition to their little hamlet up in Geyserville. Check it out!  Open for lunch and dinner --we are all about outdoor dining these days.         

Another scoop from the Farmhouse with a quick explanation on the Zagat blog...Zazu on the river has  just opened at Davis Family Vineyards. Beloved lunch spot, Bovolo, is no more, but John and Duskie from Zazu are replacing it with this new venture. 
           
And while details are still a bit mysterious about what exactly is going to become of the old Ravenous Café, we know that it has been purchased by Stark Restaurants, and Bite Club Eats posits that it may be turned into a Spanish/Greek style tapas restaurant. No matter what the outcome, we are excited for a new Stark restaurant in Sonoma County!

So where do the talented chefs of Sonoma County get ahold of all the great produce that they use to create their wonderful Wine Country Cuisine? They build great networks with all of our local farmers.
Take for instance, our very own Executive Chef Steve Litke. Wednesday is his preparation day for the Farmhouse Restaurant and getting to work on Wednesdays takes him a good two hours. That’s because he is stopping at farms all along the way to work to pick up the fresh ingredients he will be using. One stop is at his neighbor’s farm, La Bonne Terre. Owners Mary & Bert Villemaire are like a second set of parents to our chef and are staple farmers in the Healdsburg community, a permanent fixture at the popular Healdsburg Farmer’s Market (a stop our chef makes every Saturday morning). He can be found sorting through baskets of Favas, snap peas or tomatillos at Tierra Vegetables, a beautiful organic farm stand located in North Santa Rosa.

Or on his days off you might hear him on the phone with Charmoon, owner of Wild About Mushrooms, his go-to guy for all things fungi,
or perhaps he will be chatting with Bryan at Mix Garden, figuring out his order of micro-greens and beets. All of these relationships come together in the beautiful plates his kitchen team brings to you in the restaurant each night. 
 It’s great to know about these close-knit ties between chefs and farmers, but what about some hands on experiences you can partake in yourself? One of the biggest draws to West Sonoma County is the amazing cheese we produce in this area. The Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail is a great resource for planning a visit to some of the wonderful dairies and creameries making world class cheeses in our backyard

Many of these multi-generational Sonoma and Marin county families have been producing on family farms for years. A few are open to the public – Marin French Cheese Company and Cowgirl Creamery, for instance, and a few are open by appointment only (Achadina & Pug’s Leap), while some are simply too small and too busy to host the public. One particularly unique and exciting opportunity is The Fork Culinary Center at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Here they offer hands on cooking classes and demonstrations.

And while you’re down that way trying all our Sonoma decadent cheese, why not go the extra mile and indulge in a picnic with some oysters too at one of our local favorites, Hog Island Oyster Company? They even give you a video guide on how to shuck an oyster, in case you aren’t a pro yet.


Whatever your reasons are for visiting Sonoma County, the food and agriculture (and wine) here is sure to enhance your experience. We hope you’ll enjoy some of this fun foodie news and some of our own local favorites on your next visit to the Sonoma Wine Country. 

SWEET (SIZZLING) SONOMA SUMMER AT FARMHOUSE INN

 
Farmhouse kitty jasper

YES, IT IS OFFICIALLY SUMMER...ALL WEEK HAS BEEN ABOVE 80 DEGREES AND A COUPLE OF DAYS ABOVE THE 90 DEGREE MARK.  THE FARMHOUSE INN GUESTS HAVE ALL BEEN HANGING OUT BY THE POOL AND CHARLOTTE AND JASPER (THE KITTIES) ARE FOUND IN ANY SHADY SPOT.  THAT'S A SHOT OF JASPER THAT BRANDON, OUR BELLBOY JUST SHOT THIS EVENING.  OUR GUESTS KIND OF HAVE THAT LOOK TOO CAMPED OUT IN THE LOUNGE CHAIRS.

SUMMER DAYS IN SONOMA- WINE COUNTRY MUSIC VENUES

 
Lagu-mini Amphitheater-ette

This is the time of year that we all get to play tourist in the wine country.  Summertime in Sonoma just has so much going on.  Art shows, farmer's markets and garden tours, festivals and celebrations of all things Sonoma, and then all the normal, all the time winery stuff going on (Passport to Pinot, anyone?).  Just can't cover it all in one blog post.  So this week's feature- the music venues going on all summer.

Right now one of the biggest (longest) events is the 10-day Healdsburg Jazz Festival going on right now in Healdsburg- check out the schedule - it closes June 10th. 


If you work it right this weekend you can take in the Beerfest in Santa Rosa on Saturday, sneak in to a couple of the artists studios at the West Sonoma County's Art at the Source open studio tours and still fit in some of the Jazz events in Healdsburg.  The Summer Concert Series in the Healdsburg plaza started this last Tuesday.  June 12th- Gator Beat and Zydeco-  listen up - mark it on your calendar!  Always manage to see them at least once sometime during the season.  Everybody dance!!



This acting like a tourist can be exhausting...I don't know how our guests at Farmhouse Inn do it. 

The Krush backyard free concerts started last week and this week features the Comatose Brothers (what a name for a band) .  It's that time of year when you just pull up a piece of grassy lawn and kick back- sometimes a lazy summer afternoon and sometimes under the stars. There is some kind of music event going on every single day of the week and a lot of them free. 

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