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Archive for the ‘Artisanal and handmade’ Category

IMG_2213The time-space continuum was definitely a wee bit out of wack that afternoon. One minute we were in downtown Healdsburg, the next, a Tuscan olive grove. Strange, yes, but not in the least bit unpleasant. We decided to explore.

DaVero is a beautiful olive ranch and biodynamic farm in the Dry Creek Valley. Not only do they produce amazing oil, but the rich, buttery green Manzanilla olives haunt me to this day. They also farm herbs and Meyer lemons (some of which make their way into a lovely Dry Creek Vally Estate Meyer Lemon Olive Oil that is phenomenal on fish, and even more of a revelation on simple steamed veggies. In fact, their regular Extra Virgin Olive Oil on steamed veggies takes the edge off the “greenness” making a steamed vegetable side more compatible with dry white wine, which can be challenging!)

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They also do a range of estate wines, mostly Italian varietals as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. For the most part (some exceptions) these are mid-priced ($22-$30) wines easy drinking, nothing too complex. The revelation, however, hailed from Portugal, the 2011 Tinta Cao ($28) with a Zinfandel nose but a Chianti palate. Tinta Cao is made from the same grapes that are used for Port, but isn’t at all heavy or Port-y, it’s more port as a young lass, all red cherry life saver sass and a kicky black pepper back. And at a relatively tame %11.7 alcohol, it’s perfect for a weeknight red sauce pasta dinner.

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Wandering out onto the patio with a glass of the DaVero Estate Sangiovese ($45) taking a snoot-full of the rich petrol nose followed by rich black raspberry and tar and a long, acidic, cayenne pepper finish, my thoughts turned to food. Hearty, Italian food. At that moment, another apparition appeared. A wood burning oven, rich, yeasty dough. The Rosso Pizza truck was there! Marone! I will get into a more detailed ode to Rosso in the coming days, but for now, just know there was much weeping, long stretches of blissed out chewing, and maybe, just maybe a little smooching of the biodynamic ground that made this perfect Tuscan afternoon in NorCal possible.

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The rustic tasting room is a lovely spot to try both the wines and the oils (and those incredible olives, if you’re lucky!)  So, if you should find yourself stepping through that tear in the fabric of space and time and wandering into Chianti, or even on the Westside Road, DeVero is definitely worth a stop.

DaVero Tasting Room
766 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
 
Open 10-5 daily
davero.com
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I had the good fortune to come across Made Local Marketplace on a morning stroll in Santa Rosa. I was drawn in by a mannequin bedecked in hula hoops (who hasn’t had THAT experience once or twice? I’m hearing the voice of Stefon in my head…”There were plushies, mwarfs…) No, it wasn’t “New York’s Hottest Club.” but it was an eclectic collection of local handmade gifts, jewelry, books, clothing, food and beauty items.

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I’ve found over the years that the more wine country becomes a brand, the harder it is to find the places that made it a brand in the first place.

IMG_2566That’s what I loved about Made Local Marketplace. Every lovingly crafted item is made by an honest-to-God local artisan, their shop display has a photo and bio attached and none of it is mass produced junk.

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I was lucky enough to chat with one of the jewelry makers, Laura Lee Brazier, who was doing a co-op cashier shift over a smooth cup of Bella Rosa Coffee (the locally roasted brew.) She moved here from Michigan recently and immediately found a community in the artists at Made Local that wouldn’t have been possible if she’d stayed exclusively on Etsy.IMG_2548

Interestingly enough, of all the beautiful jewelry on display, the one pair of earrings that kept drawing me back (and eventually ended up on my head) were a pair of hers, a random occurrence since she didn’t have her bio card on display.

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Made Local is attempting something bold. Not only building an entire retail business out of small creators, but in a location a bit off the main square and without any mass market boutique filler. The back of the store is a gallery space that features exhibits by, you guessed it, local artists.

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Is it so wrong that in my wildest dreams I’m half as cool as bird girl?

With so many unique micro-shops in one  it was tough to choose favorites, but in addition to the earrings, and the coffee, I am now completely addicted to Three Sisters Apothecary soaps.IMG_2546

Not only do they have a great look, hand cut and striated like colored marble, but many of the scents are an instant olfactory  trip back to God’s Country when I’m far away.  The Gravenstein Apple Clove is August harvest season in Sebastapol and the Eucalyptus Peppermint is like that first whiff of a Dutton-Goldfield McDougall Vineyard pinot, all cool north coast breezes and elegance.

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The Perk’s Pollinators Citrus Cooks Balm is not only yummy smelling but ingenious as well. The beeswax keeps your hands moisturized through food preparation and the attendant continuous washing. (My uncle is a beekeeper and I have found that beeswax is the only moisturizing ingredient with real staying power. Keep it up bees! Don’t disappear on us!) The citrus aroma helps tackle kitchen odors on your hands, but isn’t so strong that it adds off flavors or scents to your food. They also do one for gardeners, different scent, same idea.

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For the Anna Karenina or Huggy Bear fan in your life, either way, fab-u-lous!

Made Local Marketplace is a real gem, the kind of place you can get lost for far longer than you expected (so plug that meter!)

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It’s an always changing cornucopia, and a beautiful example of the true Sonoma spirit of creativity and community. I hope you’ll give it a visit when you’re in Santa Rosa.

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Made Local Marketplace
531 5th Street
Santa Rosa, Ca 
(on 5th between Mendocino and the mall)
707-583-7667
M-F 9am-6pm, Sat. 11-5
madelocalmarketplace.com

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IMG_2616On a recent visit to Petaluma I picked up some Marin French Cheese. I couldn’t resist I’d never heard of “Breakfast Cheese” and who am I to question the authority of a cheese that has been around since the Lincoln Administration? I had to have it for breakfast, right? Right???

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A bloomy rind and brie-like texture with a tangy bite, it was lighter in mouthfeel and flavor than your average brie. I guess that’s why it’s a breakfast cheese, even The Sonomaist has to pace herself!

Feeling rainy day adventurous I whipped up a recipe I’ve been eyeballing, from Danielle’s wine country kitchen blog, Sonomagirl. A one day sourdough for when Acme Bakery is just too far away.

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Sonoma Girl’s fabulous one day (direct dough method) sourdough recipe.

It definitely wasn’t a classic “crunchewy” sourdough, in the estimation of The Mister. But it was dense and delicious. The whole wheat flour made it eat like a meal. Very nice with butter, but off the chain with the Breakfast Cheese, a side of seedless red grapes and some citrusy 2006 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs sparkling (89 pts.)

What are some of your favorite wine and/or cheese breakfasts? I’d love to know (any excuse, right?) As far as The Sonomaist is concerned, it’s okay to drink before noon as long as you call it ‘brunch.’ And you can quote me on that.

Thank you Marin Cheese and Sonoma Girl for upping my breakfast time game!

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So I trust you enjoyed your dim sum brunch at Yank Sing from A Half Day in San Francisco Part One? Of course you did. You’re welcome. Time to walk it off.

With your back to the SPEAR ST. entrance of Rincon Center walk half a block to your right to MISSION. Walk two blocks towards the water (can’t miss it.) The big street bisected by trolly car tracks is EMBARCADERO. Cross the street so you’re on the water side and take a left on EMBARCADERO heading away from the bridge.

In a couple blocks you’ll be at the Ferry Building Marketplace. Go inside. You’ll dig it. Trust me.

Inside is a treasure trove of local artisanal food, flowers, produce, skin and body products, cookware, you name it. If you’re still on your way to Sonoma, this is a great place to whet your appetite for what’s to come. If you’re like me, and you can never cram in enough food and fun in your always too short time up north, this is a great place to pick up culinary souvenirs from delicious Sonoma spots you might have missed on your way back.

• Cowgirl Creamery is a Northern California institution. They have been making amazing handcrafted organic cheeses since the 1990’s and have facilities in both Pt. Reyes in Marin County and Petaluma in southern Sonoma County. Both are open for tours when booked in advance. But, if you can’t make it, this is the perfect place to get a taste of their  pungent, decadent triple cream Red Hawk, their tangy, teeny Inverness and, one of my favorites, the Humboldt Fog, a partnership with Cypress Grove creamery, a truly unusual goat cheese that is tangy and crumbly at its center, but runny and almost brie-like around the edges under the bloomy rind. With a thin layer of signature ash shot through the center, it’s a cheese as dramatic as it is delicious.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/natanyap/5304560915/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Beekind is an emporium of honey and bee related products from around the world. Candles, cosmetics, soaps, and of course, plenty of the unfiltered sweet amber itself. There are quite a few Sonoma County honeys represented in their ever changing repertoire. They also have a location in Sebastapol (921 Gravenstein Highway South) a great stop when you’re up there.

Benedetta, founded in 1996 in Sonoma County specializes in botanical skin care utilizing farm sourced ingredients from California and around the globe. Recyclable packaging, no animal testing, no chemicals or toxins. But the most important thing to me, is that these products smell and feel like heaven!

Other personal favorites include —

Acme Bread Company, The Mister spent many childhood years in the Bay Area and has become a self-styled sourdough aficionado. His criteria is based on 1) heavy sourdough flavor and 2) “Crunchewiness” which I’ve come to understand as a crisp, well baked crust, bonus points for a hint of brick oven smokiness, and an elastic bounce back from a dense interior. A loaf of Acme’s had to be purchased if only to compare to his childhood gold standard down the road a spell, but I’ll save that for part three.

• I think top sweet honors go to the Black Jet Baking Company. Caramelized coconut macaroons? Apricot crumb hand pies? Besides the diabetic coma you’re about to slip into, what’s not to like?

If you haven’t stopped off for a second brunch, and believe me, the temptations are many, time to move on down the Embarcadero, remember Sonoma is on small town time, they roll up the sidewalks early, you don’t want to miss that first sip of pinot!

So on to large, grunting, foul tempered, lazy beasts…no, not him! As we move on to A Half Day in San Francisco Part Three: Pier 39 ghastly!

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