December 1, 2018

Farmhouse Family Holiday

People are forever asking me, how and why did we purchase Farmhouse anyway?  I mean a sister/brother team, purchasing a run-down Bed and Breakfast?  Whaaat was up with that.  I know, we sometimes ask ourselves the same thing.  But the answer is always the same. We dreamed of bringing our family lifestyle, with its quirky traditions and deep and abiding love of all things hospitality, to a whole bunch of people who we didn’t know yet, but who we suspected would enjoy it as much as we always have. It’s amazing to look back and marvel at how many guests would become friends.  It was a vision of creating a true and authentic experience: one that involved a beautiful setting, buildings and décor coupled with heartfelt warmth and our desire to share our gratitude for the life and family we enjoy.

Joe and I have, really since he was in high school and I was in college at UC Berkeley (only an hour’s drive from here) been extremely close.  He’d come down to visit regularly (he even came and stayed for a pretty long and very adventurous visit when I lived in Italy) and every Christmas, we would come up with some crazy menu and cook Christmas dinner for the whole family (usually about 15 of us).  There was the year of gingerbread houses, but I’ll save that story for another time… I’d get home from school for the Christmas break, and we’d start in with the Gourmet Magazines and Bon Apetit and we’d put together a menu that was usually far beyond our skill set, and often not entirely edible when it reached the table, but was full of joy, creativity and a desire to please and impress our family.  They were always gracious and thankful, and sometimes still hungry… Thank goodness for the ravioli with our grandmother’s homemade gravy.  It still isn’t Christmas without them.  The long line at our favorite Italian Deli, smiles from friends on the same mission and a finished dish that was comforting in every way. From early on, Joe and I learned that what makes the holidays special is tradition and the special touches, but mostly it’s connecting with people we love.

Fast forward a few years, and here we are today.  With families of our own, re invented traditions (Joe raises our TG turkey for Pete’s sake!) and our extended family at Farmhouse.  Some traditions have stayed.  I still stand in line at Canevari Deli for those ravioli (yes they are still that good). And some have evolved.  In Joe’s blog he talks about the fact that Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve are his holidays to host.  Mine are Christmas Day (dry-aged prime rib, ravioli and Yorkshire pudding) and New Year’s Day (a huge open house for friends, family and whomever would like to join).  While Joe loves to dig in and get a little dirty, growing, harvesting and butchering his turkeys for example.  I really like to make things pretty and festive.  I’m also a sucker for those things that are “only available at the holidays”… that fabulous pannetonne that my friend Doralice imports form Italy, or Condra at Patisserie Angelica’s rose and peppermint macarons.  I always say that Joe builds it and I decorate it.   That holds true at Farmhouse and in the way we look at the season and the holidays themselves.

For years I’ve been in charge of the holiday décor at Farmhouse.  Because I enjoy it and probably more honestly because I’m a nightmare if I don’t like something.  While I absolutely love all things winter- getting cozy by a fire, long braised meals, the little luxuries that make up for the short, short days, I always come back to the word “authentic”.  And sometimes I think I over think a little.  I struggled for years to find just the right holiday ambience for Farmhouse.  Festive, and celebratory, but also I wanted big sweeping decorative gestures and unexpected moments of beauty.  Not too much, but not too little.  I’d stop and start, liking the look I was achieving, but never entirely satisfied.  My home is a totally different animal.  While Farmhouse is all about high ceilings, clean lines and farm-fresh fabrics, my own home is more of a jewel box- it was originally built by my great grandfather in 1931 (it took 11 years!)- and I adore every, totally-redone, square inch.  My home is saturated hues, traditional velvets, marbles, brass and warm wood; traditional and modern coming together (hopefully harmoniously…).  And it wants a more opulent décor.  Three trees, wreaths everywhere and endless lights.

In the last few years, I’ve finally arrived at my perfect mix for Farmhouse.  Working with the incredibly creative and talented team at Valley Flora, has brought it all together.  And I couldn’t be happier

Unexpected touches like fruit laden platters and oversized poinsettias set the tone for a feeling that is welcoming and yet different from what we see in every department store we visit.  Authentic pieces of what nature is offering during our beautiful Sonoma County winter mix so perfectly with wooden and more homey ornaments.  Locally made hot cider scents the lobby as do the cookies made daily by our pastry team.  Our beautiful breakfast, FARMSTAND and dinner menus turn from the warm flavors of autumn to the deeper, more savory ones of winter.  Fireplaces are lit, rich wines are poured and we hope our guests can relax into the slower more introspective pace that we keep here in Sonoma.

While the malls and online shops are bustling and bursting, the pace here is easy.  Tasting rooms are quieter, but filled with perfect gifts.  Winemakers are often around, and it’s a great time to pop in and stay awhile.  The coast is nearby, as are the oyster farms that help to fill our tables and the crab boats that catch our local Dungeness crab. The tree lightings and festivals that allow our guests to mingle and make new friends abound, and our concierge team can make suggestions for how to best experience winter in wine country.  I hope you’ll come and join us.  Consider this a personal invitation to come and enjoy Farmhouse; your home away from home from the holidays.  I and my team have been thinking about you!  If you’ve joined us before, we are excited to have you back.  If you haven’t visited before, maybe now is the time.  There is always room for a few more at the table!

Happy holidays!

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