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Sonoma County's Delectable Food Scene

Sonoma County's Delectable Food Scene

Sonoma County puts the culture in agriculture. The region’s passion for food starts with its cultivation, where the focus is on quality above all. Next, Sonomans are obsessed with tenderly moving the prized produce into the kitchen as directly as possible via farmers’ markets and farm-to-table restaurants to ensure ultimate freshness. Preparation is merely the final step designed to enhance and present the bounty that nature has provided, and the county's restaurants turn these fresh, local ingredients into unforgettable feasts. Here is our take on the best food-related things to do in Sonoma County.

Locavore Central

Although Sonoma County is most famous for its wine grapes, the region is also a major producer of milk and cheese, olives and olive oil, honey, vegetables of all kinds, apples, nuts, berries, beef, poultry, and lamb. Its coastal location and hilly, sometimes mountainous terrain create dozens of microclimates perfect for each crop, making locavore living a pleasure. For those who like to see where their food comes from, farm tours offer a glimpse into the magic behind the meal. McClelland’s Dairy invites visitors to pet the baby calves, watch the goings-on in the milking parlor and even try milking a cow themselves. If you’re visiting in the fall, pick out a pumpkin and enjoy seasonal treats and events at Peterson’s Farm and Adobe Pumpkin Patch. You can even opt for a farm stay instead of a traditional hotel. Full House Farm offers three guest spaces as well as tours of its organic gardens and livestock including horses, sheep, goats, and chickens.

Farmers’ Markets

From spring through autumn, there’s at least one colorful farmers’ market in Sonoma County nearly every day of the week, where you can choose produce harvested that morning and browse wares made by local artisans such as European-style butter, infused olive oil, beeswax products, and soap made with fragrant lavender. Nosh on fresh baked goods or sample the ripest, juiciest seasonal fruit. One of more than a dozen markets in the county, Healdsburg holds events on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Santa Rosa offers markets every Saturday, plus a new downtown night market on Wednesdays and certified organic markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The town of Sonoma offers a market in Sonoma Plaza, a National Historic Landmark, on Tuesday nights.

Fabulous Food Festivals

Food festivals are another way Sonoma County celebrates its succulent bounty, and well worth planning a trip around. Each August, the Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol serves up cider, fritters, pie, caramel apples, and every other form of apple goodness imaginable. In late August, try seafood chowder, barbecued oysters, and Dungeness crab at the Bodega Seafood, Art & Wine Festival. At Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival in Fulton each mid-September, visitors can sample more than 175 varieties of heirloom tomatoes grown in the winery’s gardens and watch celebrity chefs try to top each other’s best tomato recipes.

Delicious Dining

Sonoma County’s renowned restaurants present the most sublime expression of local food culture of all. From the most casual café to haute cuisine, quality ingredients and impeccable preparation are what they have in common. True locavores flock to farm-to-table restaurants such as Zazu in Santa Rosa and Estate in Sonoma. The county boasts several Michelin-starred restaurants such as the French Cyrus in Healdsburg and Applewood Inn Restaurant in Guerneville for French-influenced California cuisine; Italian spots Cucina Paradiso and Risibisi in Petaluma were both recognized by Michelin as offering affordable excellence. For the freshest seafood, head for the sea. Bodega Bay is home to the Duck Club and the Bay View, among many others. Tiny Café LaHaye in Sonoma is consistently top-rated for its New American flavors, and the venerable, family-owned French eatery La Gare in Santa Rosa never fails to impress.


—By Kelly Crumrin
Kelly Crumrin is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.

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