The leaves on the endless rows of vines have begun their sudden change from lush, emerald green to restrained shades of burnt orange and rust, to startling gold and scarlet. The long months without rain left a thick layer of sparkling dust on the drying leaves, reflecting the late afternoon sun brilliantly. But when this week’s first, cold drops fell, I was finally ready for the rain.
I am now okay that it is no longer summer, that tomatoes are dwindling and white wine is beginning to sound less appealing. (Yes, I am officially sick of tomatoes.) There is so much goodness surrounding fall in Wine Country that, when I am deep in the midst of a dreamy Sonoma summer afternoon, I understandably forget. While preoccupied with pool time and picnics, possibly while sipping that newfound Gewurz or nibbling on yet another dish of chilled seafood ceviche, I think it’s easy to forget just how amazing autumn here can be — and here are a few of my favorite reasons why.
The Red Barn Store
There cannot possibly be a more ideal autumnal setting than the Red Barn Store at Oak Hill Farm. Simply walking into that rustic barn is sensory overload. Heirloom pumpkins in the softest shades of sage, cream, and, well, pumpkin, spill out of an ancient wooden wagon. Artfully constructed corn stalks tower dramatically here and there, tin buckets hold the most gorgeous flowers and magically scented eucalyptus. The scene is movie set perfection. Apples and hard winter squash fill wooden boxes, snuggled next to the most fragrant herbs all in shades of green, from faded to blindingly vibrant. Now is the time to visit for beautiful, handmade wreaths and other decor that will look perfect, amazingly, through Thanksgiving. Oak Hill Farm is located at 15101 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen. Call 996.6643 or visit the website at Oakhillfarm.net for hours or more information.
In the past week or so local apples have been finding their way into our farmer’s markets and grocery stores. I am an apple-a-day sort of gal, so you can imagine how happy this makes me. I was meandering through Whole Foods’ cheese section this week, gawking longingly at the piles of Mt. Tam, when I randomly plucked a few apples from a strategically-placed wicker bin. These apples somehow called to me, snapping my attention from the gooey cheeses to the apples with their abnormal shapes and varying sizes. Their skin was strangely shiny, but not that waxy grocery store shiny, but perfectly apple red. Candy apple red without the candy coating. I took these apples home and placed them purposefully in a wobbly wooden bowl that my uncle made. They were so pretty, an October still life, that I almost hated to ruin it by eating one. When I finally did, it was one of those rare, perfect food moments, happy dance inducing. Those Gala apples, grown right over the hill in Sebastopol, were the very essence of fall.
Seasonal food and drink
In the middle of August, I could never imagine that I would utter the phrase, “I am sort of sick of tomatoes.” This year, the first ever, I seriously ate as many tomatoes as humanly possible. I am now craving the roasted root vegetables of fall. I am beyond ready to start eating my fill of hearty parsnips and Brussels sprouts swimming in olive oil, their corners charred, with maybe a scattering of some pork product. I am utterly craving fat noodles swimming in slow-cooked, super rich sauces containing possibly — yes, definitely! — more pork product. I want nothing more to do with white wine; I want a huge, thin glass filled with red. From here on I could sip nothing more than red wine, preferably coastal Sonoma Pinots or some obscure, funky varietal from Italy or another hot, dusty locale… like Baja. I couldn’t love Sonoma restaurants more than when the seasons change. Just about the time when these cravings take hold of my total being, they remarkably appear on just about every menu around town.
Getting a seat
And speaking of restaurants around town, a seriously sublime reason for loving Sonoma as the weather cools, the rains begin, and the crowds quiet is that we locals might just get a table.
Kristin’s event pick of the week
Mark your calendars and purchase your tickets for a fabulous sounding evening on November 11, that raises funds for the independent film “Breaking Bread, Kneading Culture.” The film is a documentary focused on Mike Zakowski, our amazing local town baker, otherwise known as “the bejkr,” Held at the Sonoma Community Center, this will be an incredible affair filled with farm to table food prepared by former Chez Panisse chef, Charlene Nicholson, flat breads from the bejkr, as well as entertainment from local artists, headlined by Arann Harris and the Farm Band. Guests will watch a prescreening of the film and can take part in a very special silent auction. Tickets for this event can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com/event/283469. To donate directly to this film project, or for more information visit thebejkr.com.
On The Menu
The Dining Club Rive Gauche throws a “Cuisine of Morocco” dinner party, with belly dance superstar Nathalie Tedrick, at the FAHA Hall, at 197 West Verano Avenue on October 24, at 7 p.m. The exotic, fun sounding menu consists of spicy chickpea soup, a plate of salads, lamb tagine with quince and vegetable couscous, and an almond-apple-cinnamon turnover. The meal finishes with mint tea, of course. The price is $35 per person, plus gratuity. BYOB. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 996.0900.
More Moroccan fun on November 14, when The Epicurean Connection hosts a “Dinner with Paula Wolfert,” boasting a complete Moroccan menu prepared by Sheana Davis. The Epicurean Connection is located at 122 West Napa St. Call 935.960 or visit their website at sheanadavis.com for details on the shop or these events.
Sonoma’s Best, our favorite little cafe, general store and wine bar, says to give yourself and your best friend a break by coming in for their “Yappy Hour.” Each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. cozy up in their lovely heated vegetable garden or the wine room while enjoying a selection of unique wines for just $5 or tap beer for $2.50. A yummy selection of cheeses, olives, and other snacks are the perfect pairing. Call Sonoma’s Best for more information at 996.7600.
Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents and writers, covering all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond. Email her with comments, questions, or your food related events at [email protected].