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My fantasy trip to gourmetland, CA

  • r

Hello All,

My absolutely fabulous mother is going to take me on a long-needed vacation to San Franciso in September. She's agreed that we can do all the gourmet things that I can find for us to do, so I need some advice.

We are going to stay in SF but will have a car to be able to take some trips outside the city. We've talked about Napa and the area surrounding that as a possibliity.

I'm not overly familiary with the area, but I'd like to find places to visit including:
• olive grove where they press fresh oil
• cheese makers, cheese shops
• date farm
• small town types of places that make wonderful, delicious local products
• fabulous restaurants
• interesting food markets
• farmer's markets

I plan to bring a cooler and a large suitcase so that I can bring all kinds of goodies home to Chicago with me.

Thank you in advance for your help identifiying some of these kinds of places!

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  1. Here's as link to some of my favorites for Sonoma County.

    Don't think you'll find date farms nearby, but you can purchase fresh dates on the branch at the farmers markets in the fall.

    1. The date farms would be in Southern California, in the desert, as in Palm Desert.

      1. Recent topic on artisanal cheesemakers:


        McEvoy Ranch (olive oil producer) has a tour on September 22:


        1. That's an insanely large topic, but here's a really good post about olive oil tasting in Napa Valley. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/332757

          There's also been some recent discussion of honey tasting in the Napa area. The farmers' market on Saturday at the San Francisco Ferry Building (which is also an upscale food mall), is justifiably famous, but you might also want to check out the Marin farmers' market, which is supposedly almost as good (and in some ways better), and a lot less crowded and touristy.

          I also suggest heading to Berkeley, including a trip to Chez Panisse and the mandatory visit to the Cheeseboard -- a great cheese shop.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            In addition to carrying a mind-blowing selection of cheese, Cheeseboard also carries very good EVOO, all of which is available to sample, although it's no substitute for Round Pond's tasting and tour.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              Round Pond has recently opened a Wine Tasting room as well. It's really beautiful and they are producing a pretty tasty Cab.

            2. re: Ruth Lafler

              Here's a thread about a Berkeley food tour I did with a visiting NYer: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31323

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Housewives Market was unfortunately torn down to build condos. They moved some of the vendors to a new space nearby but it's not the same time-warp experience at all.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The link is to the current location. I agree it's a mere shadow of its former self, but there are some interesting vendors there still (like the sausage maker).

                  I also linked it because the location is the same as the Old Oakland Farmer's market.

            3. Cheeseboard! http://cheeseboardcollective.coop/ind... Not sure about their hours but if you are there between 3-7 there is also an all organic farmers market at Rose and Shattuck.

              The Cheese Board Collective
              1504 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

              1 Reply
              1. re: hulan

                That farmers' market is on Thursday evenings only.

              2. Your trip would not be complete without a lunch or dinner at Chez Panisse, and you must make reservation NOW!!!


                1. If you come to Berkeley, you must visit the Berkeley Bowl. More produce, and more varied produce, than you can believe. Just don't wander around aimlessly blocking the aisles -- the people who shop there mean business, and the place is busy and crowded.

                  The Cheeseboard in Berkeley is another mandatory stop. Come by at lunchtime for a slice of fabulous pizza.

                  And for your out of town trip, I would suggest going to Pt. Reyes Station in Marin. It's the home of Cowgirl Creamery and some other good places, and it's not on the usual tourist path. It's also a beautiful place to go hiking and work off the cheese.

                  Sonoma over Napa. Try Healdsburg.

                  Have fun. September is the perfect time to visit. You should have excellent weather and excellent food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: redchair

                    Definitly visit West Marin and West Sonoma counties. Pt. Reyes and also Olema are great spots in Marin if you wanted to tour small towns.
                    In Sonoma County be sure to visit Bodega, Sebastopol, Occidental and Duncan Mills.
                    Here are some links to check out:
                    http://www.sebastopol.org/ (chamber of commerce VERY HELPFUL

                  2. I second Round Pond and also BR Cohen

                    Round Pond-
                    Tour & Tasting (Daily by appointment for 1.5 hours; $20 per person)
                    Enjoy a sensory exploration of Round Pond’s handcrafted olive oils and red wine vinegars. Savor the difference as you journey through the elements of oil and vinegar tasting alongside a delightful selection of gourmet bread, cheese and fresh organic produce.
                    Thier lunch and tasting is also very good, i believe its $40 or $45 per person but Im not positive.
                    Also, check this out, I have heard some good reivews lately from a few guests of mine:

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: fyoulady

                        I've been to the McEvoy tours and they're fun and interesting.

                        As for wine tours, Domaine Chandon actually offered new info, after having been on *many* tours.

                        Also there's the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield.


                        The Budweiser factory is also nearby, in case you are interested.

                        And there are food tours of Chinatown. Google on wokwiz.

                      2. When in Sept? Travel by car might be difficult Labor Day Weekend b/c of the closure of the Bay Bridge.

                        1. Cowgirl Creamery tour -- Point Reyes, CA (West Marin). West Marin is a stunning place; you might consider driving up via beautiful Hwy. 1 and then back to the city via Sir Francis Drake through the San Geronimo Valley, which is often neglected for a drive up Hwy. 1. If you do take this route, stop amid the redwoods at the little shop/deli in Lagunitas (can't miss it) and have an incredible late day malted or shake if you have room. Alternately, they have great coffee.


                          1. There are oyster farms:


                            I don't know which have picnic areas or other offerings, hopefully other hounds will chime in.

                            1. And how could I forget? Search on the SF Area board for 'taco trucks'.

                              1. And there's Hangar One Vodka, over in Alameda. They have tours on Saturdays at 1pm, check their web site. My review is here:


                                Anchor Steam brewery has tours during the week, google or call for the schedule.

                                Really, when it comes to good stuff to eat and drink, the SF Bay Area will just about electrocute the pleasure centers of your brain with overstimulation.

                                You may want to inquire as to carry on rules regarding bringing back your purchases. We all know the 'no more than 3 oz liquid in carry on', it would be a shame to have to ditch good olive oil or other good stuff.

                                And remember to check business hours, Chez Panisse is closed Sunday, and the Cheeseboard is closed Sunday and Monday.

                                Can you tell I love this topic?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Louise

                                  Good point -- anything liquid will have to be checked (I bet you even have to check honey), so if you're carrying on your cooler, it will have to be all "solids."

                                2. Go up to Tomales Bay and have some oysters fresh from the sea.
                                  Scharfenberg Chocolate has factory tours - they're in the East Bay.