Sonoma: Favorite Purveyors?
I am traveling with a small group of people to Sonoma in mid September for a weeks vacation. We are renting a house and our game plan is to spend the days visiting area wineries and markets and return to the house and prepare dinner and enjoy the "fruits" of our labor.
My question is this: Does anyone have some great local sources for picking up ingredients? Looking for small markets, farmers markets, artisans etc...
I am a chef and the kitchen in the house is fairly well equipped so we should be able to handle most anything..:)
Any suggestions you have will be appreciated
Thanks in advance!
Will you be in the Town of Sonoma or based elsewhere in Sonoma County? There are great purveyors throughout the greater area, and being more specific will let us hone in on the ones most convenient to you.
Where do you live? If outside of California, I think you'll be impressed with our local foodshed.
For the grape harvest of 2007, I made 30 meals from locally sourced ingredients for the Eat Local Challenge. Here's a link to a post with the daily menus that will give you an idea of the diversity of meats, seafood, cheese, breads, and produce available in the fall:
In downtown Sonoma on Tuesday evenings is their Farmer's Market with a ton of local purveyors. That would be your best bet for starters...
There is also a shop called Sonoma's Best on the corner of East Napa Road and 8th Street that fits your criteria.
Farmers market at the Civic Center in San Rafael Sunday and Thursday.
Bud's Custom Meats in Penngrove.
The Marin County Farmers' Market at the Civic Center in San Rafael is a must for killer produce, fresh juices, flowers and artisan products. Kid-friendly and a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning. Maybe a 25 minute drive from Agua Caliente. Go early (I think it runs from 7:30 to noon) you will not be disappointed. The "farmers market" on the Square in Sonoma is not very good! It consists mainly of food truck vendors and craft/art items and little in the way of produce, flowers or artisan food items. There is a wonderful Whole Foods a few blocks from the Square and better than Sonoma Market on Napa St. Basque Boulangerie Café near the square has great artisan breads and baked goods. Absolute best breakfast is at The Big 3 (in front of the Sonoma Mission Inn) or the Garden Court Cafe and Bakery in Glen Ellen. Favorite restaurant in town of Sonoma is Le Haye. Have a great trip!
One more note - you could drive to Larkspur or Sausalito and take the ferry to the SF farmers market that is held on Saturdays in front of the Ferry Building and on rear plaza with views of the Bay. I copied text below from http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.c.... They offer fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, meats and eggs from small regional farmers and ranchers, many of whom are certified organic. Also regional artisan specialties such as breads, cheeses and jams. The Saturday market also has local restaurant vendors. It is renowned throughout the country as one of the top farmers markets to visit.
Vella Cheese Co off the Sonoma Square has delicious aged jack cheese which is hard to find.
Closed on Sundays,
The Marin Farmers' Market at the Civic Center is incredible. Went there in Feb. couldn't believe amount of vendors. Many more meat options (and everything else) than farmers' market in Sonoma County.
Will try to follow up with specifics like addresses before your trip, but here's a list purveyors/merchants/markets in the area...
On Fridays at 9:00am off the plaza. Excellent little market that time of year. Mike the bejkr makes great bread especially the Yecora Rossa. Great lamb and beef, eggs, and Sept will be perfect for summer fruit and veges.
Sonoma Tuesday Night Mkt
More of a party meets farmers mkt, lots of prepared food, music, etc. I avoid it like the plague
Glen Ellen Farmers Mkt
Sunday a.m. - very small, sort of quaint I guess
Oak Hill Farms
Very good "boutique" produce. Expensive but top quality weds-sun 10:00-6:00
Just off the Plaza great tomatoes, amazing sweet onions
There is one south of town on Watmaugh Road, and another north of town on Hwy 12 in Kenwood
Sonoma Market - Far more extensive that Whole Foods, with a better selction of virtually everything except maybe supplements (I do think that WF cheese department is better), better service. Really first class meat and fish.
VARIOUS PLACES WORTH A VISIT
Sonoma Homegrown Bagels - still better than anything I have found in many trys in Manhattan
Sonoma Springs Brewery
Vellas Cheese (mostly for Dry Jack - ask if they have any CA Gold)
Crisp Bakery has some intersting "american" baked goods (their description) but sadly not much of anything yeasted here - all about baking powder and soda leavened items
El Brinquito Market - In Agua Caliente - you'll see them grilling chickens out front
The taco-trucks of The Springs area - La Bamba is still the best
The Fremont Diner - best breakfast in the county! artisinal "diner-style" food
If you're into taking a day-drive - skip Napa and head west to the sonoma/marin coast. Oyters from Hog Island, beef from Marin-Sun Farms, and Point Reyes National Seashore
re: Sam B
Also wanted to add The Rare Wine Co - It's on 8th street east in Sonoma's warehouse row. A mail-order retailer of great wines (huge selection of Barolo/Barbaresco, Spanish rareties, Chateauneuf, Chablis, Champagne, with a smattering of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Northern Rhone etc) They are happy to sell store door, but bear in mind this is high-end if that is of interest to you. Sonoma Market has a large local selection at more down to earth price points
re: Sam B
This is such an excellent rundown of what's not to be missed in Sonoma. I would add that the wine shop across from Sonoma Market is great, (next to the mortuary) with many affordable bottles, and lots of imports, not so focused on the California stuff.
The owner used to run William Cross Wine Merchant in SF.
This time of year there is also an excellent little veg stand over by Sebastiani winery on East Spain St. You could almost miss it, it's hidden by fruit trees in front of a house, but they have the biggest, sweetest figs, and some other equally good offerings. Only until early fall though, IIRC.
I miss Sonoma, gotta get back up there soon.
Dry Creek Peach and Produce, Healdsburg (they have a farm stand opened on weekends and also a table @ the Healdsburg Farmer's Market)
the best peaches in the world imo (not just my opinion--Chez Panisse buys their peaches--and when asked about a last wish, Alice Waters named one of their fall peaches--called Last Chance Peach--as the one thing she'd ask for)
I live here. And while I'll visit San Rafael or San Francisco for food treats, September in Sonoma is so delicious, I wouldn't leave the region to drive for more of the almost-same-thing.
Okay, maybe I'd go to Healdsburg and Dry Creek Peach with a stop at Downtown Bakery and for wine (if I drank).
But heading south on two lane roads or even 101 is draining.
Love Sam B.'s list - it's quite inclusive.
I do disagree though about Crisp Bake Shop - I enjoyed a cookie and would have bought more if hungry. Pretty sure they'll expand their selection with time and experience -
If you make it to El Molino Central, be sure to check out their refrigerator case for sauces including mole and sakil pa'k (pumpkin seed dip). Excellent tamales and prepackaged meals too. The tortillas are in a plain brown wrapper - unmarked and often still warm.
I'd head down Highway 12 to La Michoacana for ice cream and popsicles - will be hot in September.
And don't miss Sheana Davis' cheeses at 122 West Napa Street, Sonoma, CA 95476
We're pretty serious about food around here. :)
I totally agree witb Columba that it is not necessary to leave Sonoma County, nor even to venture too far from where you are staying, to experience great food and wines. Sam B's list is indeed very informative. I'll second the recommendations for Oak Hill Farm, Vella Cheese and El Molino Central, as the three from his list with which I'm very familiar. I often stop at El Molino Central to pick up ingredients for a home made Mexican feast, or sometimes to buy prepared food from the refrigerator case. I'd let them do the refried beans either way, though. I don't know what is their secret, but they are the best! The sakil pa'k is amazing!
If you're anywhere near Penngrove (5 min east of Hwy 101, between Santa Rosa and Petaluma, there's the tiny shop of Yanni's Sausage Grill and the Full Circle Baking Co. (the latter open only until 1p, but they sell at a few places around the area). John was written up in the SFChronicle recently, which of course got a couple of things wrong - John's in the photo misidentified as James, and the "lamb gyro" eaten by the celeb isn't a traditional gyro. It's John's "Gyro in a link" lamb sausage. His other sausages are chicken based and very lean, very good.
John used to work at Columbo Bakery, then retired and opened his own little - very little! - storefront. You can get the sausages (only 7 kinds, all ones he invented) fresh or frozen, open only Wed-Sat. When they run out of something, that's it until he can make some more!
The bread was so good I asked John where he got it, and was directed to Full Circle, a block down the street (towards 101). It's perfect bread for pressing - divine the way John brushes it with lots of EVOO, presses it down on the grill, serves it with grilled sausages and our preferred toppings - grilled onions and that super-hot Greek chili he makes! (which BTW, just keeps getting hotter and hotter every day you keep it). Yoghurt dip and Greek salad are excellent, as well.
John and Francesca are delightful people. Even though you can buy everything and grill up those sausages yourself, take the time to try one of his sausage sandwiches, and you'll understand why Yanni's is one of the very, very few unanimous 5-star companies on Yelp:
re: Melanie Wong
Variability of the Greek chili's spiciness is probably because when it's freshly made, it doesn't taste that hot. By the end of the day, it's getting much better chile heat - and like I said, if you keep it, by the fourth day it's as hot as the hottest Thai food!
We stop in a day before, put in an order and pick everything up to take home. They make a single pot of chili - 12 qts - and that's it. Like the sausages, when it's gone, you've gotta wait for a new day.
If you are staying in the springs, you can also find some good (cheap) produce at the Fruit Basket. I also like the Carniceria Chapala for Mexican style butcher products.
You can also get great eggs at El Molino in addition to great corn tortillas and sauces.
Also on Saturday morning is a small farm stand at Sonoma Garden Park, which is lovely to visit. It is on 7th Street East, just north of MacArthur. Run by the Sonoma Ecology Center, it is also a teaching center for young people.
I like Tortilleria Jalisco for their fabulous flour tortillas. I don't know how they get them so thin.
Right next door to Jalisco is Community Cafe, great breakfasts and lunches. They just opened an Annex for wine tasting, I haven't been there yet.
Valley Wine Shack (close to Sonoma Market on Napa Street East) is a fun place to buy wine. They have tastings every Wednesday evening for $1 per person.
Also in the springs is the Creekside, which is a great breakfast/lunch stop. Nice space, nice folk, good food. It is on Boyes Blvd about a block from Sonoma Mission Inn.
re: Melanie Wong
I've tried broadway market a few times. THey have decent deli style sandwiches - nothing special but classic and reliable. I've also eaten meat from there and it was good. Friends who live on that side of town and are fussy about their meat shop there.
Dont think it's worth a detour and it caters more to middle of the road than Sonoma Market