Last Friday morning, I flew off to meet with my travel buddy Teresa for a weekend in the Bay Area. One of her friends is the publisher of East Bay Express, an alternative newspaper in the area– she hooked us up with VIP passes for their annual ‘Best of the East Bay’ festival located on the Oakland waterfront. This year’s theme was ‘Home Grown’, celebrating the arts and culture that originated in the area. One of my favorite stops there was the art gallery!
We picked up a rental car from Oakland airport to make our way north to Sonoma. It took about 2 hours, including traffic (and some frustrating freeway signs). Our plan was to stay in nearby Roughnert Park– Teresa’s friends who are originally from here refer to it as Rodent Puke so that should give you some idea of how that town is like!
I recommend going north to catch Highway 2 from Roughnert Park to Sonoma– it’s much more scenic that way. Without traffic, it took about 20 minutes. The main part of Sonoma is centered around a medium-sized park, with the majority of restaurants and hotels lining the perimeter. Unfortunately, most shops and wineries close around 5 or 6pm, which we weren’t prepared for. Oops!
Sonoma is a cute little town. There are many intact buildings dating back to the 1800s such as the Barracks, which were very cool to check out. There are also little alleyways between buildings that open out into a courtyard with even more shops, wineries, restaurants, etc so it was fun discovering all of that! Before dinner, we decided to grab a drink at the Ledson Hotel. Unfortunately, the bartender was fairly clueless when it came to drinks that didn’t involve wine.
Dinner was at Harvest Moon Cafe, located in a quaint, remodeled house with a yard that makes you feel like you’ve been invited to a friend’s nice little outdoor dinner party. Service was great, food was alright for the price. The dessert is what I fell in love with. Vanilla bean panna cotta, with local mulberries and gingersnaps. Our server explained that there are only three restaurants in Northern California that get to have local mulberries, picked off the tree from a man that lives nearby. It. Was. So. DELICIOUS. These little unassuming mulberries pop in your mouth and the juice just about runs down your chin! The flavor is sweet and a little tart, so it’s well-balanced by the vanilla panna cotta. Nibble a little bit of the gingersnap for texture, and it’s heaven!!
Before leaving Sonoma, we were determined to at least have brunch at The Girl & The Fig, a highly-rated-on-Yelp restaurant that was fully booked the night before. It’s in another remodeled house, across the street from the equally-popular El Dorado. We managed to get a table right away, and we started off with a cheese plate. The server seemed fairly knowledgeable about the cheeses; we were satisfied with the selection she picked out for us. Teresa and I treated ourselves to mimosas and bellinis. I had the duck confit and potato hash, which also had carrots, celeries, and peas, topped with a soft-boiled egg. Another delicious dish– so simple, so good! This place is truly as they describe themselves: French, with a simple country twist.
We only had enough time to stop by one winery, so we picked Gloria Ferrer. It’s beautiful there– after you turn off the highway, you drive through a large wrought-iron gate, up a windy road through the vineyard until you get to the top of the hill. They’re known for their sparkling wines so I decided to try their brut rose, which I was very happy with (the people there were awesome too). We grabbed a table outside, overlooking the entire sun-filled estate and snacked on spiced, smoked almonds while enjoying our drinks, trying our best to not moan about the long journey back home.