Cruising Sonoma: Sonoma County’s on farm stands & markets; Summer 2015

Experience the real local food scene in Sonoma:  On-farm stands, Markets & U-picks

first light farm stand

This is one of the best times of year to soak up everything that’s wonderful about living in Sonoma County. Of course, there’s a fantastic array of Farmers’ Markets in every town and enclave you might visit, but there’s something to be said for breaking up the weekly grind, cruising a country road, and tasting an heirloom tomato in the very spot it was grown.  The friendly faces of your local farmers are always an added bonus.

Now is the time!  Harvest season is upon us and the weather is fine.  Here’s a listing of local on-farm stands and markets around the county:

  • Green String Farm       Summer Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Daily    3571 Old Adobe Road, Petaluma   *Also offering free farm tours, every Saturday at noon!
  • “The Red Barn” at Oak Hill Farm       Saturdays, May – December, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.    15101 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen (Just north of Madrone Rd, eastern side of Hwy.12, turn in at the giant tree root)
  • First Light Farm Stand       Wed-Sun 11-5    4588 Bodega Avenue, Petaluma     Featuring organic veggies, u-pick flowers, local meat & eggs
  • Dry Creek Peach & Produce       Fri, Sat, & Sun, 12 – 5 in July, August, and the first half of September (Please call 707-433-8121 to confirm store status and hours)    2179 Yoakim Bridge, Healdsburg
  • What’s Up Farm       Sunday, Monday & Friday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.    385 Mark West Springs Rd, Santa Rosa
  • Crane Melon Barn       Open September 1 – October 31, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m    4935 Petaluma Hill Road, Santa Rosa   (Please call 707-795-6987 to confirm store status and hours)
  • Laguna Farm     Open to the Public Fridays 10-3    1764 Cooper Road, Sebastopol
  • Preston of Dry Creek     Daily 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.     9282 W. Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg   (farm store is adjacent to tasting room)

Now go hug a farmer!

(Anyone we missed on this list?  Leave a comment below!)

IMAGE CREDIT (TOP): First Light Farm Blog

Campovida

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Traveling north from Sonoma County into Mendocino, the landscape shifts.  Towering redwoods fall away and are replaced by sparse oaks.  Buildings become fewer and farther between (people, too), the Russian River narrows from a mud-colored sprawl into channels of deep blue that appear and disappear among the trees that run alongside the highway.  It gets hotter.  And quiet.  The air smells of earth and trees.  In the distance, a slow-moving tractor kicks up a trail of red dust.  You begin to realize there’s no reason in the world to rush.

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It’s little wonder that Anna Beuselinck and Gary Breen were so captured by the tiny town of Hopland and the 50 acre ranch now christened Campovida, the “Field of Life,” when they first visited the rural Mendocino County property.  Bay Area natives, the couple were drawn to a path less traveled by the forgotten gardens and then-vacant structures of the ranch, which had been empty for the better part of 5 years, and felt called upon to bring it back to life.

The collection of turn-of-the-century buildings has been, in its lifetime, home to “a cattle rancher, a railroad and timber baron, a hop broker, a lumber executive, and a host of winemakers.”  In the 1980s, the property became the Fetzer family’s renowned food and wine education center, Valley Oaks.  It was to change hands again in the 90s, eventually fall into disuse, and close its doors in 2006.

“It took a very big dream to get us here,” Anna says of their journey in bringing Campovida into this chapter of its life.  After making the leap from city dwellers to joining a community with a population of just 756 residents, Anna, Gary, and their very small team turned their attention to enlivening organic gardens, reclaiming and re-purposing historic buildings, transforming barns and outbuildings into cottages, guest suites, and the property’s first-ever wine making facility.  “That’s the legacy – leaving something better than you found it,” she says, and her painstaking attention to detail is no doubt what lends to the impression that every inch of this place has been touched by their hands; that it’s all been tended and loved and a new life breathed into it.

As she toured me around Campovida this summer, moving from the Butterfly to the Mediterranean and Tuscan Gardens, past organic vegetables rows that supply “Taste of Place” as well as their eatery in downtown Hopland, under a canopy of grape vines on which each varietal grown on the property is represented, Anna explains, “this whole garden is intended to educate.”  And indeed it does.  In fact, you might already know of Campovida for the series of Do Lectures presented there each year – a series described as an “inexplicable cross section between a festival and a conference,” gathering people together and compelling them to get out and DO.

Inspiration abounds in this place.

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Around every turn in the garden was a new surprise on a tour which ended, happily, in their tasting room where I had the pleasure of meeting Campovida’s very talented wine maker, Sebastian Donoso.

Campovida is now in its third year of wine production and is walking the walk in this endeavor as in all of their undertakings.  Grapes are sourced locally from like-minded, organic, and bio-dynamic growers, and focus on small lots that have been sustainably produced.  Donoso’s approach to winemaking is described as minimalistic, terroir-driven, pure, and expressive.  Current offerings include a selection of Rhone varietals – which we are always thrilled to include on the girl & the fig’s wine list.

This particular day, some highlights included the 2013 Carignane, made from old vine, dry farmed, organically grown grapes, the estate-grown 2014 Late Harvest Viognier, a wine created for the sweeter palette (and a perfect dessert pairing), these grapes are harvested later in the season with raisins on the clusters, and the 2013 Grenache bottling from Dark Horse Vineyards, a biodynamic farm just up the road from Campovida.  All unique, luscious, absolutely delicious.

Anna, Gary, Sebastian, and the rest of the Campovida team will be joining us at Suite D on August 15th for a very special winemaker’s dinner.  This is a chance to meet the people whose hearts and vision are behind the beautiful farm and stunning wines, share a meal, be inspired – truly an experience not to be missed.

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‘Till then – Campovida’s wines are available directly in their Hopland or Oakland tasting rooms, in select restaurants (we’re happy to be one of them!), and through their wine club, Pura Vida.

Seasonal Eats – March edition, part 2

Spring is officially here, and new ingredients are popping up throughout our menus.  As always, our weekly Plats du Jour is featuring the best of the season, with grilled California swordfish served with meyer lemon tapenade, spring cheeses, strawberry-rhubarb preserves.  Additions also include newly available spring peas (served in our local chicken thighs, with espelette spaetzle, pea tendrils, preserved lemon, & smoked pea purée), fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, and green garlic.

The selection at our local farmers’ markets are changing as well, and becoming much more colorful!

Here’s a guide to what you’ll find in season and local in Sonoma County right now, along with some recipe inspiration.

Lettuces & Young Greens
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These hardly need explanation, just toss with your favorite dressing and devour!  There is nothing better than the earliest salads of the season, with their delicate texture and sweet flavor.  At the girl & the fig, our current salad of the season includes a mix of baby greens, pickled spring onions (“fridge pickle” recipe here), carrots, watermelon radish, brioche croutons, and green garlic vinaigrette.

salad of the season March

Inspiration from around the web~

How to make a Simple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing This might seem way too basic (it’s really cooking 101) but I love the “cheater” method of this post!  This is the only salad dressing anyone could ever want or need, so I’m going to stop here.

Radishes

Photo Credit: Megan Steffen

Photo Credit: Megan Steffen

Have I sung the praises of heirloom radishes lately?  They grow nearly year-round here in the valley, require only 6 weeks from planting to harvest, and are so varied in shape, color, flavor and texture, the only requirement to enjoying them is a good quality sea salt.  (I recommend lavender sea salt.  On everything.)

Inspiration from around the web~

Sondra’s Heirloom Radish & Mâche Salad, Sweet Onion Vinaigrette
Pearl barley & puy lentil salad, with chorizo and baby radish (Okay, I have to confess that this does contain an out of season tomato, but the recipe is too beautiful not to share.  And, if you’re as fanatical as we occasionally are, you could easily substitute roasted pearl onions for sweetness and texture.)

Fava
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Yet another use for the incredible fava bean plant – the leaves are edible!  Of course, we grow favas at the farm for their amazing soil-feeding properties, and plump fava beans are also a tasty early-spring treat. But the leaves, when harvested from the top of the plant, are tender, with a mildly sweet and buttery flavor. They lend themselves to fresh or cooked preparation – lightly sauteed as you would baby spinach, or as an addition to a spring salad.

This week at the fig cafe, the grilled pork chop is served with fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, fava leaves, and green garlic pistou.  You must try this!

Inspiration from around the web~

For starters, Harvesting Fava Leaves, by none other than Garden Betty

Fava Leaf, Grapefruit, & Flower Salad by Sunset Magazine
Fava Greens, Sauteed with Garlic & Lemon

Happy seasonal eating to you!!

From the Farm: Spring Markets

Usually we like to give you a weekly update on our farming efforts (or, “the farm project” as we call it), and how the fruits of those labors are used at the girl & the fig and the fig cafe.  Sadly, the farm is quiet this week, and not much of our own produce is making it into the kitchens.  There is plenty to look forward to, with heirloom tomato starts in the greenhouse, blossoms in the orchard, and buds on all of the perennial shrubs.

Perennial herb beds at the girl & the fig

Perennial herb beds at the girl & the fig

This is definitely the time of year when we count on our local farmers – and they never disappoint.  This week on our menus, spring alliums (courtesy of County Line Harvest in Petaluma) are popping up in dishes like shellfish stew with braised bacon, white beans, & white wine-onion broth.

So in deference to all of the hardworking Sonoma County growers, I thought I’d share with you when and where you can catch up with them this time of year.

The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market www.thesantarosafarmersmarket.com

Photo Credit: The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market www.thesantarosafarmersmarket.com

Early Spring Markets, Sonoma County:

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At the Farm: Stands & Markets (just a few, to be continued as the season progresses….)

  • Bear Foot Honey     By Appointment     4989 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa
  • Green String Farm     Winter: 10-5 Daily     3571 Old Adobe Road, Petaluma (*Also offering free farm tours, every Saturday at noon)
  • Tierra Vegetables Farm Stand     Thursday-Friday 10-6, Saturday 10-5, Sunday 10-4     Airport Blvd & Highway 101, Santa Rosa
Green String Farm, Petaluma, www.greenstringfarm.com

Photo Credit: Green String Farm, Petaluma, www.greenstringfarm.com

Of course, more will be springing up as the season gets going!

Don’t forget to check out our posts on what’s in season, along with recipe inspiration.

Now, head out and hug a farmer!

 

from the farm: it begins

It’s amazing what change a week can bring!  There was lots of excitement at the farm, and the “little farm,” to report from the last few days.  Bud break throughout the valley, heirloom tomato starts tucked away in the small greenhouse behind the fig, and edible flowers and herbs sown through our raised beds.  While there’s little to show for it in the kitchen as of yet, there’s finally enough sustained warmth & sunshine to start the growing season.

We’re fortunate to have an expert team, Local Landscapers, in our farming efforts both at the Imagery Estate plot, and the half-acre we farm behind the restaurant itself.  (They are also responsible for the succulent creations you’ll find at both of our restaurants.)

First up, a walk through our orchard at Imagery revealed blossoms, blossoms everywhere!

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At the farm, rows of winter vegetables are now being pulled to clear space for new plantings~

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New leaves are budding on every branch~

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Willows growth over 2 weeks

And, most exciting, seeds that will become our signature salads of the summer months have been sown~

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Many people don’t realize that we have growing space directly behind the girl & the fig restaurant.  It’s smaller and a tad shady, but is the perfect space to house seedlings, flowers, and the herbs that our chefs and bartenders love to cut fresh on a daily basis.

spring collage

I hope you’re all enjoying this gorgeous weather in Sonoma!  We will keep you updated as the plants progress, and will hopefully have some fruitful harvests to share with you very soon!