Today on Weekend Meanderings, how to spend an afternoon or weekend in Sonoma, including a couple of hidden gems, fall to Thanksgiving window boxes and front porch decor, plus more.
Happy weekend, friends!
It’s Saturday and I’m joining Kim and Elizabeth for Weekend Meanderings.
Our weekly roundup of inspiration and goings on.
Did you catch Ina Garten on 60 Minutes last Sunday?
She and Jeffrey are the cutest and I love her story and their story.
And I was thrilled when her latest book, Go-To-Dinners, arrived on Tuesday.
How was your week?
I had one of those epic weeks where everything that could go wrong did.
In a big, major, spectacular way.
One of those weeks where there’s only one solution.
To draw the curtains and take to ones bed.
Then get up the next day and jump back in.
And on that note …
ARE YOU READY?
AN AFTERNOON IN SONOMA
If you live in the Bay Area, the charming town of Sonoma is quick and easy drive. For us it’s less than an hour. Sonoma is a great town to spend a weekend, a day or just an afternoon. And a few weeks ago that’s what we did. We made a lunch reservation (much earlier in the week) at one of our favorite restaurants, The Girl & the Fig, and off we went. We got lucky and found a parking spot right on the plaza. (We have a secret spot just in case the plaza is full … if you need to know, just ask.)
Did you know I used to live in Sonoma? For about 12 years. It’s where I met Jim. At work. He was a muckity muck at a large wine and spirits company. They bought Buena Vista Winery, where I was the human resource director. We had to work together through a difficult acquisition period. And if you’ve ever worked for a company that’s been acquired, you know what I mean.
But back to lunch. We decided to eat on The Girl & The Fig’s back patio which is completely charming. I ordered a frose, which you might not expect to be served in the serious wine country, but this is not your slushy, machine produced frose. No this is a tiny scoop of strawberry sorbet topped with rose … not too sweet and so very good. I’m not usually a day drinker, but when in Rome …
Jim had this gorgeous (look at the color!) radish salad and a grilled cheese with matchstick frites.
I had the fig and arugula salad with roasted chicken and potatoes. Oh my. Delicious!
For dessert we ordered box of chocolate chip cookies to go. They come in 4’s. We shared one and took the rest home.
There’s a cute pop up coffee cart in the alley next door.
There are so many wonderful shops, restaurants and tasting rooms on the plaza it’s impossible to name them all. These are some of my places to eat ~
The Girl & the Fig. Obviously.
Swiss Hotel (The front patio tables are a highly sought after spots to enjoy cocktails and nibbles while watching the world pass by.)
Mary’s Pizza Shack is a kid-friendly favorite (the original location is a real shack up the road a bit in Boyes Hot Springs)
Speaking of late nights, the historic bar and front patio at the Swiss is a great way to end a night with their signature drink, the Galarify.
A trip to Sonoma is not complete without a stop at The Chocolate Cow. Candy, handmade chocolate treats, and ice cream … something for everyone. We bring home their chocolate dipped s’mores. When my nieces were young they wanted to do only two things in Sonoma. Feed the ducks in the plaza pond and go the ‘the cow.’
Holy cow! I just discovered they have an online store.
Working backwards, be sure to start the day at the Basque Boulangerie. Score a table on the sidewalk out front (easier now with pandemic-expanded outdoor seating) and enjoy coffee and pastries with the locals. Oh, and they have the best inch-thick cinnamon raisin toast. Slathered with butter, of course. They’re open until 2pm and serve wonderful, casual lunch options. Oh, and the freshly baked bread … take some home.
Of course, there are many, many opportunities for wine tasing on and around the plaza. Where to begin? Well, you’ll have no trouble figuring it out. But if you have time to venture off the plaza be sure to visit Buena Vista Winery. Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is one of oldest, if not the oldest, winery in California. My memory is hazy, but it might be the oldest continuously operating winery in California. During prohibition they made wine for the Catholic Church – there’s always a loop hole. Since I left the winery in 2004 it’s undergone a much needed earthquake retrofit and renovation allowing visitors into the historic, original winery building. Jean Charles Boisset, the winery’s current owner, has a unique style and point of view and I’m half curious, half horrified to see it for myself.
Of course, there’s so much history in Sonoma. Bear Flag Revolt anyone? On the plaza you’ll find Mission San Francisco Solano, the Sonoma Barracks, and a tad bit off the plaza but still walking distance, General Vallejo’s home. Jack London State Park is just a short drive north to Glen Ellen.
If you’re staying over night you can’t beat MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa. Emphasis on the spa. It’s a wonderful property with two amazing restaurants, and fabulous, intimate pool area. The perfect place to regroup after a hard day of wine tasting. And did I mention the spa? It’s less than a mile off the plaza so you can walk into town … or its an easy bike or Uber/Lyft ride. Wait, I just heard that the spa and pool may be undergoing renovation … so check first.
A little further down Broadway, The Lodge is also a convenient and lovely place to stay. They have a larger pool area and a very nice spa. I used to live across the street and used their restaurant as my auxiliary kitchen. It’s exactly a mile into town. I know this because when we got married and Jim moved into my house, we adopted our dog, Sasha, and walked her each morning to the Basque Boulangerie for cocoa, coffee and cinnamon raisin toast. Two miles round trip.
Sonoma’s known for being a more casual, laid back town in the wine country. They don’t take themselves as seriously as the Napa Valley folks. Read, it’s a lot less hoity toity. There’s a great book, The Tale of Two Valleys, that offers up an enjoyable romp through the amazing history and scandals of both valleys.
Napa: The Story of an American Eden is another excellent book on wine country history and, if you really want to be scandalized, The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty is a must read.
I should do an entire post on visiting the wine country, it’s history, it’s scandals … and I could tell tales of some present day brouhaha.
And that concludes my afternoon (or weekend) in Sonoma … but wait, here are a couple of hidden gems.
After lunch and window shopping, we headed over Vella Cheese Company to pick up a wedge of their amazing Dry Jack. Vella is a not-quite 100 year-old Sonoma cheese business still run by the founding family, the Vella’s. When I first started visiting Sonoma regularly in the late 70’s, I know, the dark ages, Ig Vella, the founder’s son presided from the mezzanine above the retail shop. He was quite a character, knew and chatted with everyone and was even polite to out-of-towners. Vella is a block off the plaza on Second Street East.
When I worked for Buena Vista Winery each holiday season we sent a wheel of Vella Dry Jack, and a magnum of cab, to our distributors throughout the country. For a couple of years, procuring the cheese and overseeing its disbursement was my job. Oh my gosh, what an ordeal. Our loading dock looked like a cheese factory, not a winery. And distributors would have their assistants call to inquire about the arrival date of their cheese … they counted on it for their holiday parties. I was relieved when I was able to pass this duty on to someone else. That said, I was also the recipient of a Dry Jack cheese wheel, which would last most of the year. My boss, the winery’s CEO, told me to treat it like Parmesan cheese. Delish!
I also love Vella’s Toma and dry cheddar. Make sure to ask for a taste!
If you’re in the mood for a picnic, you can pick up cheese, salami and baguettes made by Basque Boulangerie at Vella’s retail room then head to the plaza and enjoy.
Vella also has an online store for cheese and gift boxes, so order for yourself or people you like a lot. What a great gift.
Across the street from Vella Cheese is the Patch. I don’t know how to describe it, I guess it’s a farm stand. A local favorite, and a somewhat secret one at that. The sign is barely legible and the actual stand a bit hidden. Back in the day, it was an honor system where you selected from the day’s produce, weighed it and left your money in the till. It may still be that way on weekdays, but the Saturday we were there a charming woman was keeping a watch over things. We bought corn on the cobb and green beans and enjoyed both the next day for Sunday lunch which I mentioned here.
We left the Patch, toured a few open houses and headed home.
FALL TO THANKSGIVING FRONT PORCH DECOR
Monica Vargas, who’s been my blog photographer since before I had a blog, came by on Monday to photograph two upcoming posts. While she was here I asked if she’d snap the front porch. These days I’m doing ok with my photography, but her professional shots are next (next) level.
So here it is, unveiled at last, my fall to Thanksgiving front porch.
My porch is so simple this year. Who am I kidding, it’s simple every year. The magnolia and eucalyptus wreath came from our local grocery, Diablo Foods. The assorted pumpkins came from Orchard Nursery, Diablo Foods and Trader Joes. The lantern is from Anthro. And flameless candle from RH, Pottery Barn carries similar. I’m using an older Target throw with my treasured Snowberry pillow made by Karen on Bainbridge Island. The garden stool is from Ballard Designs. I purchased the potted plant from Trader Joe’s and it’s sitting on a thrifted chinoiserie china plate.
I experimented with mums for the first time and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. When I bought them the buds were still tightly closed and for the last couple of weeks they’ve been in full bloom. Every weekend I plop them in a tub of water to soak for 30 minutes, then I reuse the water to fill watering cans.
Get the look ~
FALL TO THANKSGIVING WINDOW BOXES
Our window boxes are one of my favorite things and the very first thing I bought for Snowberry’s renovation. They were also the last thing installed. Keeping them looking lush and thriving has been a huge challenge. First of all, they’re outside our fenced front yard and easy feasting for local deer. The next issue is uneven sun exposure. One window box gets more sun than the other and it effects plant growth quite a bit. Monica snapped these photos too.
Two weeks ago I replanted the window boxes to last through fall to Thanksgiving. I chose non-flowering plants in silvery hues. I’m hoping it’s less enticing to deer … and so far (fingers and toes crossed) so good. I also interspered the plants with mini pumpkins and gourds and the squirrels have left them alone … so far. These are some of the plants I used – centaurea gymnocarpa, artemisia, flowering cabbage, flowering kale, fistula and stachys.
The window boxes were purchased from Amazon. They’re 4′ in length. They come in different sizes starting at 3′, so be sure to measure your windows. Jim drilled holes in the bottom of the boxes for drainage. We also have drip irrigation connected to each box. And we placed these decorative brackets underneath the boxes.
When it’s time to replant I may go faux with something like this or this as base plants, buried in the dirt. And experiment with adding real annuals for color, sprayed with deer repellent. I hate the spray though, it smells like fish. Uck. No wonder it repels deer, it repels me.
So there you have it, this weekend’s meanderings.
Let’s visit Kim and Elizabeth to see what’s they’re sharing.
Odds & Socks ~
Jim’s been in Healdsburg for a few days.
On a boondoggle.
I couldn’t go because of my back.
Yesterday, he was on the winning bocce team.
He’s very proud.
Driving and sitting are murder on my back.
But, I do plan to join the boondogglers for dinner tonight at Madrona Manor.
And, for those of you who asked,
here’s a picture of my Zeebee, mentioned a couple meanderings ago.
As you can see, Abigail has become very attached.
Oh, and that’s the chair I mentioned as well.
Zeebee and the chair are here to stay.
Earlier in the week I shared my friend’s amazing, over-the-top Halloween home tour here.
I’ve been wearing it constantly in ivory and black.
It’s a great cool weather base layer.
And Happy Birthday to my grand-nephew, Beau, who turns six tomorrow!
If you missed last weekend’s meanderings, you can catch up here.
On Thursday I’m joining a fun group of bloggers for an Autumn Progressive Dinner.
Guess which course I’m hosting?!
As always, I appreciate your visit and welcome your thoughts in the comments below.
Cheers from Snowberry!