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Sonoma County, CA: It’s all local in Sebastopol, Part 1

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Time to brighten up your winter with a trip to the friendly farming community of Sebastopol in the lush Russian River Valley. Settled in 1812 by Russian explorers, the beautiful landscape was first planted with Gravenstein apples. Sustainable farming practices have prevailed for more than 150 years.

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If you haven’t visited in awhile, this West County town, a short drive from San Francisco, has changed. Find more award-winning wines, great chefs inspired by area products, a vibrant community and the newest artisanal gathering place: The Barlow.

Stay: Unfortunately, there aren’t many places to stay in Sebastopol yet. On the west side of town, try the Avalon Luxury Inn. Set in a redwood forest, you’ll find privacy, comfort and a gourmet breakfast. The decks, the fireplaces and the walks in the woods, make this a bit of a magical place.

Right in the middle of town, The Sebastopol Inn offers a quiet respite. Set back off the street behind the old Gravenstein train station, the two-story property sits alongside a hiking and biking trail. The outdoor balcony of our second floor room overlooked the woodlands. The room was good-sized and reasonable, but overall, the Inn would benefit from a redo.

Dine: First up was brunch at Peter Lowell’s. On the western edge of downtown, this neighborhood favorite is a food lover’s dream. The cuisine showcases organic produce from their own farm and from farmers who incorporate organic and biodynamic farming practices. The wines are chosen for these same reasons.

The Tuscan apple cake with “Cowabunga” cow milk cheese with goat milk caramel was a luscious beginning. Don’t miss the textures and flavors in the Brussels sprouts hash with butternut squash, desiree potatoes with a poached egg and crusty bread crumbs on top. In addition to a variety of yummy farm fresh egg dishes, there’s a Macro Bowl – an earthy combination of brown rice, roasted root vegetables, proteins like tofu or seitan with a tangy miso ginger or lemon tahini sauce. With the meal, we paired La Collina’s Lunaris Secco Malvasia dell Emilia – a great bubbly to kick start the day.

Zazu Kitchen + Farm recently relocated to The Barlow with a spacious dining area and bar adjacent to the open kitchen. In keeping with the Barlow design find high ceilings, exposed beams, lots of windows, a casual style, and of course, delicious food.

The Black Pig bacon-wrapped dates are an amazing way to start. The snout-to-tail sampler offers smoked paprika pig ear with pickled watermelon rind, crunchy pig tails and decadent chicharrones. Next we savored the butcher’s ribollita – rich and flavorful with pig head, succulent gigante beans and a farm egg – and the “zasugo” – perfectly cooked fusili mixed with a yummy tomato sauce and tender short ribs.

Not everything is pig-related. We also had the plump, juicy mussels in a tasty onion and fennel broth. Pumpkin mezzalune delivers luscious flavor and a crunchy finish from the sprinkled amaretti. We paired their Black Pig Pinot Noir, made by Thomas George Estates, with the meal.

OTHER ESSENTIALS:
Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center; Sonoma County Visitors Bureau; Sonoma County Vintners

Patty Burness can be found on Twitter @pattygb

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