48 Hours in Sonoma: Where to Eat, Drink, and Stay This Summer
In 2017, Sonoma County was devastated by three weeks of aggressive wild fires. Thousands of homes were reduced to ash, winemakers lost hundreds of acres of vines, and ongoing projects ground to a halt. Many producers were left with unusable wine that was either tainted by smoke or boiled from the heat. There is still a long road to recovery ahead of Sonoma County, but it’s clear when you visit today that locals are eager to move forward. New houses are sprouting up, many wineries are reopening with new and improved facilities, and tourists are returning to the area. There’s a buzz of energy in a community that has spent much of the last year and a half focused on rebuilding.
Whether you’re visiting for the first time or returning to an old favorite, Sonoma is as charming as ever. Book a room at a luxurious new hotel, dine out at a crop of new restaurants, and sip on free-flowing local wine. There are a lot of reasons to head to Sonoma right now, but the most important is to visit, explore and show your support for this historic wine region. To help you plan your next trip, here’s how to spend a dreamy 48 hours in Sonoma County.
Check in at MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa
This luxurious 64-room property is located just outside Sonoma Plaza and has been a local institution for over 125 years. After an extensive renovation, MacArthur Place reopened in the spring of 2019. From the exterior, the bucolic villas and winding garden paths have not changed much, but each building has undergone a complete gut renovation. The rooms are light, airy, modern, and cozy and come equipped with every thoughtful amenity you can imagine. Snack on complimentary local chocolates and olive oil potato chips, relax with a lavender sheet mask (from Petite Amie Skincare), or wash up in your own outdoor shower with the in-house Grown Alchemist soaps. Each night of your stay, MacArthur surprises you with new simple luxuries (think a box of warm cookies waiting by your bed after dinner, or a CBD bath bomb by Onyx & Rose for a late-night soak). When you visit you can book a romantic stay for two, or reserve the entire ten-room 1869 manor house for a home-away-from-home experience. Rooms starting at $409/night, macarthurplace.com
Head Out with Bohemian Highway
For a truly unique wine excursion, book a day trip with Bohemian Highway Travel Co.. One of their knowledgeable local guides will pick you up at the hotel in a retro 1987 Land Rover and then escort you around the region for the day. This is not your average tasting experience: Bohemian Highway specializes in off-the-beaten-path wineries and helping you with those impossible-to-get tasting appointments. Visit three very different boutique producers, or opt for an in-depth experience with one winemaker. For lunch, choose between a gourmet picnic in the vineyards or lunch at a winery. $175/person, bohohwy.com
Tasting at Hudson Ranch
Hudson Ranch is a dreamy destination for serious wine people. Just over the border in Napa, the owners are longtime grape-growers who have been supplying reputable wineries with grapes for over 40 years. The serene, rolling property expands over 2,000 acres, but only 200 of that is devoted to vines: the rest of the land is for nature preservation, ranchlands, gardens and olive groves (they make an award-winning olive oil, too). Hudson has been making their own wine since 2004, from bright, French oak-aged Chardonnays to juicy red blends. They’re only producing about 5,000 cases a year. In September 2018, they opened their brand-new tasting rooms and facilities. The industrial adobe-style buildings blend in flawlessly with the surrounding views. This winery is by appointment only, so be sure to plan ahead. Hudsonranch.com
Lunch at Scribe Winery
You know that gorgeous California Hacienda you keep seeing on Instagram? This is it. Your first glimpse of Scribe Winery’s renovated 1910 home is from the palm tree-lined driveway. Upon arrival, you’re greeted with a glass of rosé and escorted to a table under their shaded veranda. Peek your head into the open-front kitchen and you’ll see a team of impossibly good-looking people working their way around a center island heaped with fresh produce, wild flowers, and bowls of toasted almonds and marinated olives. It’s peak California aesthetic. Scribe added their full kitchen two years ago, and now you can dine here for lunch. The food is simple, but flawless: perfectly roasted chicken sprinkled with za’atar, house-made cucumber pickles, a creamy potato salad with chive blossoms, and fresh fava beans. A reservation is required, so book early! This place fills up fast on weekends and holidays. scribewinery.com
Recharge with a Spa Treatment
For a post-wine tasting reboot, book one of MacArthur Place’s rejuvenating Uppercase Tea treatments. This local, women-run company provides phenomenal, single origin teas for the entire property, plus tea-infused essential oils for the spa. Kick off your massage or body scrub with a meditative tea ceremony, then relax by the garden-enclosed pool or outdoor firepits.
Dinner at Layla
Finish your first day strong with dinner at MacArthur Place’s restaurant, Layla. Executive chef Cole Dickinson (who has worked closely with reputable chefs like Wolfgang Puck and the Voltaggio brothers) is creating playful, fresh Mediterranean food in a stunning space right out of a Nancy Meyers movie. The food is creative, but accessible, and not your expected Mediterranean fare. The food goes beyond Greece and Turkey and incorporates flavors from Spain, Portugal, and France. There’s also a bit of New American familiarity on the menu, like the Parker House Rolls with Broken Chicken Fat Gravy and the Hamachi Crudo with Seabean Tartar Sauce and Panko Crispies that eats like a spin on fish and chips. Whether you’re stopping in for a few light bites (Dickinson is a master of dips and spreads) or a lavish dinner, this food does not weigh you down. Macarthurplace.com
Nightcap at The Bar at MacArthur
Adjacent to Layla is the very sleek Bar at MacArthur. Before the renovation, this bar was known for its cowboy-themed horse murals and saddle-clad bar stools. Now, the space is unrecognizable. The Western décor has been replaced by plush velvet armchairs in rich jewel tones and modern brass light fixtures. In a town where few places stay open past 10 p.m., The Bar at The MacArthur is the go-to late-night spot for people looking for a good cocktail. We recommend The Forager, an herbaceous drink made with Italicus, a bergamot-scented liquor, fresh cucumber juice, and Butterfly Pea Tea. When the tea mixes with acid, it turns from a vibrant blue to a deep purple. Macarthurplace.com
Breakfast at The Porch
This sunny, all-day café and market is next to the entrance to MacArthur, so it’s easy to pop in for coffee and a bite even if you’re not a guest at the hotel. Do not miss their insane gluten-free pastries like the buttery Maple Bar (if asked to have it warmed up, always say YES) and the creative coffee menu. Layla’s chef Cole Dickinson is also behind the drinks here and it’s clear that they’re from the mind of a chef. In addition to your classics, you’ll also find an Espresso & Tonic with Lime and a Brown Butter Bullet. Macarthurplace.com
Bike into Town for Some Shopping
MacArthur Place is a short walk from downtown Sonoma, but to truly explore the area, reserve their (complimentary) electric Blix Bikes. Each bike has a basket on the front for your shopping bags and a bottle of wine. Take a spin around the historic Sonoma Plaza and check out some of the downtown shops. A few favorites are Frenchie, a must-visit for Francophiles and picnic-lovers. Check out their collection of cookbooks, kitchen gear and gifts and then grab one of their ready-to-go picnic bags. If you’re looking for modern home goods, go to G’s General Store. They have everything from Marimekko bedding to Swedish clogs.
Lunch at West Handmade Burgers
Located about two miles from the downtown square, West Handmade Burgersserves up perfectly griddled patties on squishy potato buns. The popular burger spot, which opened in April 2019, serves a limited menu of burgers, shakes and fries made with local, high-quality ingredients. Go all out and order the epic Pt. Reyes Burger with Pt. Reyes blue cheese, bacon, garlic-basil aioli, and grilled onions. Or, keep it light with the West Salad, a mix of local greens, roasted vegetables, crispy chickpeas, blueberries, quinoa, chicken and a creamy tahini-cilantro dressing. You’re guaranteed to leave here full (thank goodness for those electric bikes).
Tastings in Town
Return to downtown Sonoma and enjoy a few tastings around the central square. Pangloss Cellars has a stunning tasting room in a renovated historic building. The handsome space has deep leather sofas, sky-high cobblestone walls, and towering redwood pillars. Pangloss’s wines are diverse and only available for tasting at this location. If available, be sure to try one of their full-bodied pinot noirs from Anderson Valley. For another unusual tasting experience, make an appointment at the Three Sticks Adobe. Three Sticks makes phenomenal wine (mostly chardonnays and pinots), but it’s worth visiting just to see their adobe tasting room designed by Ken Fulk. The rooms are adorned with handmade Mexican tiles and a mix of custom and antique furniture. The tasting room opens up to a private enclosed courtyard with a veranda and trickling fountains.
Grab a Cone at Sweet Scoops
Before cruising back to the hotel, stop for a treat at Sweet Scoops Homemade Ice Cream. Situated on the northeast corner of Sonoma Plaza, they have a rotating menu of over 200 flavors made with fresh, local ingredients. The Mint Chip tastes like fresh garden mint and sweet cream and is studded with generous bricks of dark chocolate. For you dairy-free ice cream eaters, try their shockingly-good Pistachio made with coconut milk. sweetscoopsicecream.com
Dinner at El Molino Central
Located in neighboring Boyes Springs, this fun local taco shop has been around for a few years. When you arrive, walk through the kitchen and grab a seat at the dining room in the back. The food is authentic Mexican made with very fresh California ingredients. All tacos are made on homemade corn tortillas and served with heirloom tomato salsa. Do not miss the massive enchiladas or the guacamole (ordered by the avocado!), either. This spot is beer and wine only, but they also allow BYOB. elmolinocentral.com
Drinks and Live Music at Starling Bar
Head back towards downtown Sonoma, but first stop for a drink and some live local music at Starling. This place has a New Orleans vibe and serves up “backyard-to-table” cocktails made with seasonal ingredients from their own garden. The menu is constantly rotating, but expect drinks like the Meyer Lemon Smash and the Li Hing Margarita made with Li Hing plum syrup and salted plums. If you’re still hungry, order their signature Bird-Dog, a Chicago(ish)-style hot dog. starlingsonoma.com
Sonoma chefs share French-inspired spring picnic ideas with pizazz
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | May 15, 2018
It’s an incontrovertible fact that the French have mastered the art of le pique-nique, whether it’s a simple repast of bread and cheese or a more elaborate feast.
Just add a few good friends, a bottle of dry rosé and some fresh, seasonal fruit, and you’ve got all you need for a veritable “déjeuner sur l’herbe” this spring in Wine Country.
At Frenchie Picnics and Provisions, opening soon on Broadway just south of the Sonoma Plaza, chef/owners Sarah Pinkin and Elizabeth Payne are hoping to lure both locals and tourists alike with a menu of delicious French picnic fare to go, from cheese and meat platters to salads, sandwiches and dinner entrees.
“The French have really perfected the art of picnics in keeping it simple yet really delicious,” Pinkin said. “In our cooking, we stick to the basics — to what’s in season — and not overdoing it.”
Customers will also be able to stock up on beverages like beer and wine, fresh bouquets from Tesoro Flowers and all kinds of picnic supplies, from wine openers to picnic blankets. It’s one-stop shopping for those who want to maximize their time à table, with friends.
“You can grab snacks, lunch, dinner, wine and flowers for somebody,” Pinkin said. “You can even build a picnic gift basket as a hostess gift.”
Decorated in modern hues of navy blue and gold, the shop will offer a stand-up bar for a quick bite and open-air refrigerators to store the prepared foods to go, which the women will cook at their off-site catering kitchen.
“We’re trying to get people excited about picnics again,” Pinkin said. “We want to encourage people to go outside, bring your blanket and go sit down and enjoy nature.”
The business partners — both busy moms who have lived in Sonoma for nearly a decade — also plan to stock kids’ sandwiches and veggie cups, plus all kinds of yummy snacks.
For desserts, they plan on carrying two of their favorite cookies from Crisp Bakeshop — the blueberry oatmeal and chocolate chunk sea salt.
For those yearning to go on a warm-weather picnic this spring, the chefs came up with an appetizer and a couple of menus that include two tasty salads and two sandwiches.
To kick off the munching and crunching, the chefs chose a vibrant, spring option: a Golden Beet Dip with fresh crudités.
“The dip is gorgeous, and it’s vegan,” Pinkin said. “This time of year, we’ll do blanched asparagus and beautiful spring carrots, snap peas and radishes.”
The women also shared their healthy recipe for a simple Salmon Nicoise with haricots verts, hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes and potatoes dressed with a simple Champagne vinaigrette.
“It’s a classic salad from France,” Pinkin said. “Here, we can source better salmon than tuna, so we went with salmon.”
If you’re looking for something more exotic, they suggested heading to North Africa for their Moroccan Salad With Turkey-Quinoa Meatballs, sweet potatoes and a Cumin-Orange Vinaigrette.
“Moroccan food is so flavorful and amazing,” Pinkin said. “The meatballs are gluten-free, with quinoa instead of bread ... it’s the perfect lunch.”
For sandwiches, you can go stupidly simple with a French Ham Baguette Sandwich, made with high-quality ham, brie cheese, mustard, butter and lettuce on a baguette. The popular street food fills the tummies of tourists on every street corner in Paris.
“It is the perfect example of food that is simple but perfect,” she said. “It’s so unbelievable, between the ham and the bread and the butter and Dijon mustard. There’s nothing better.”
For the vegetarians in the crowd, the chefs suggested slapping together a hearty yet light sandwich of eggplant jam, goat cheese and arugula. The eggplant jam was inspired by a recipe developed by Mediterranean cookbook author Paula Wolfert of Sonoma.
“You take fried eggplant and canned tomatoes, let it simmer and reduce it down,” Pinkin said. “The goat cheese has some earthiness that brings out the meatiness of the eggplant, and the arugula brightens it and gives it pop and crunch.”
Although both women had worked in San Francisco at the same time, they didn’t meet until they moved to Sonoma, where they finally crossed paths through a shared babysitter. Both have been working in the culinary world for 15 years.
After attending boarding school in France during high school, Pinkin went to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, then worked at Globe in San Francisco, a favorite late-night spot for off-duty restaurant workers. She moved to Sonoma nine years ago with her husband, who works for Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena, and started cooking, first as opening chef for Mondo in Sonoma, then for Murphy’s Irish Pub.
After having two kids, she wanted a part-time gig so she launched her own meal-delivery service, Sonoma Meals, offering pre-cooked foods to local folks who do not have time to cook.
Payne, who went to pastry school in Los Angeles, studied in France for a year when she was 23. She moved to Sonoma about nine years ago with her husband, who works for Deutsch Family Wine and Kunde Family Winery. She landed a job at Ramekins culinary school, then served as opening chef for the newly reopened Williams Sonoma store in Sonoma.
The idea for Frenchie was inspired by Payne’s father, who owns a classic 1967 Citreon car in mint condition. Payne imagined using the car to serve up some authentic French food at catered events and called up her friend to see if she was game. Frenchie was launched about a year and a half ago.
The two chefs didn’t end up using the car, except as an occasional prop, but they did buy a cart and a tent to take to festivals such as Huichica at Gundlach Bundschu winery in Sonoma.
Their new space on Broadway, a former wedding studio where they have done pop-up events, became available last year, so they decided to lease it for the brick-and-mortar version of Frenchie, scheduled to open in late May or early June.
Having their own storefront will allow the chefs to not only highlight their own food but source condiments like honey and jam made by some of their favorite food crafters.
“We’ll have cheeses and salamis, and we’re finding really neat purveyors and artisans that we love and want to bring to Sonoma,” Pinkin said. “Most of the stuff we’re bringing in you can’t find around here, like the pork rillettes from Olympia Provisions of Portland.”
Frenchie Picnis and Provisions will be located at 521 B Broadway in Sonoma. Salads cost from $12 to $15; sandwiches from $10 to $12.
Golden Beet Dip
Makes about 2 cups
4 medium golden beets; quartered
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon cumin
¼ cup water
— Salt to taste
In a medium sauce pan, boil quartered beets in slightly salted water for 30ish minutes, or until fork tender. Strain beets and allow to cool. Next, peel the beets and toss into a food processor or blender. Add vinegar, olive oil, turmeric, cumin, water, a pinch of salt and blend until smooth. Add more water if necessary. Taste the dip and adjust seasoning (more salt, spices or vinegar) as needed. Serve with crudités, chips or crackers.
Salmon Nicoise Salad
Makes 1 serving
6 ounces wild salmon
4-5 baby potatoes
— Handful Nicoise olives
— Handful cherry tomatoes
— Handful of green beans, trimmed
1 hard-cooked egg (cooked to desired doneness, 9-12 minutes)
3 small handfuls of mixed greens (or other lettuce of your choice)
— Champagne vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Liberally salt and pepper salmon. Squeeze one half of lemon over salmon and place on a foil rimmed sheet pan, skin side down. Roast for about 15 minutes or until salmon is medium rare and not raw in the middle. Remove from oven and let cool.
Fill one pot with water. Salt it heavily and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until easily pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Pull potatoes from water and let cool.
Bring water back to a boil. Add green beans and cook exactly 4 minutes. Remove from water and drop into ice bath.
To assemble salad: Place mixed greens on plate. Add tomatoes, cooled potatoes (halved if big), olives, hard-cooked egg sliced in half, green beans. Dress and serve.
Makes about 2/3 cup
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
— Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup good quality olive oil
Whisk first 4 ingredients together until combined. Slowly add olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Alternatively you can use a Vitamix or blender using the same method, adding the olive oil last.
French Ham Baguette Sandwich
Makes 1 to 3 servings
3-4 slices Fra’mani Little Ham (or other good quality ham)
6 slices d’Affinois cheese (or other brie)
— Dijon mustard
— Salted butter (softened)
1 good baguette (from a bakery such as Model Bakery)
1 head of lettuce (or other leafy green)
Cut baguette in half. Then cut one half again lengthwise. Save the other half for later or double the recipe.
Spread Dijon on one side (we like quite bit.)
Spread salted butter on the other side (we like quite a bit of this, too.)
Layer ham on one side, then brie. Add lettuce. Close sandwich and enjoy.
Eggplant Jam, Goat Cheese and Arugula Sandwich
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 loaf Della Fattoria Semolina bread (8 ½-inch slices cut from the loaf)
1 small bag arugula
8 ounces spreadable goat cheese (Chevoo is our favorite)
1 medium eggplant
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
— Kosher salt
For eggplant jam: Using a peeler, strip your eggplant lengthwise. Slice eggplant into 1-inch rounds. Place eggplant slices on a plate with a few layers of paper towels, season eggplant rounds very generously with kosher salt. Allow the eggplant to sit in salt for at least 15 minutes.
Once the eggplant has sat long enough, heat about an inch of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Using more paper towels, pat the rounds dry and gently place in the hot oil. Turn the heat down to medium high and allow the eggplant to get a dark golden color on both sides. (Most of the oil should be soaked up by the eggplant.) Finally add the can of crushed tomatoes, turning the heat down to low. Allow the eggplant and tomatoes to slowly cook for 1 to 2 hours ... or until the eggplant has fallen apart. Use a whisk to help break up the eggplant as it cooks.
For sandwich assembly: Line up the bread slices on a large cutting board or counter, applying cooled (or cold) eggplant jam to one slice of bread. Spread the goat cheese on the other slice of bread.
Toss arugula with some lemon juice, a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Taste arugula and adjust seasoning if needed. Place arugula salad on one side of bread and put slices together, slice in half to serve.
Another delicious option is to do this sandwich open faced!
Makes 4 servings (as main course)
For Turkey-Quinoa Meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey (dark meat preferable)
1 cup cooked quinoa (½ cup dry cooked with 1 cup water)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon salt
1 large egg
For the salad:
1 can chickpeas strained and rinsed
1 large sweet potato, peeled, medium diced and roasted in a 400 degree oven until soft
1 head butter lettuce, cleaned and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 small bag baby spinach, cleaned and sliced into 1-inch pieces
— Cumin-Orange Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Mix everything for meatballs in a large mixing bowl. In a small sauté pan, cook a small patty of the mix and taste to test seasoning. Adjust seasoning if needed.
To make the meatballs, use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop, or large spoon to make golf ball-size meatballs. Line up the meatballs on the sheet tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Touch the meatballs to make sure they’re firm before taking from the oven. If not, continue cooking longer until they are. Allow the meatballs to cool before serving.
To dress the salad: Place the greens, sweet potatoes and chickpeas in a big bowl then toss with half of the dressing. Add more dressing if it needs more. Arrange the salad on a beautiful platter, put meatballs on top and serve.
Makes 3/4 cup
1 orange, juiced
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients with a small whisk or fork. Alternately you can put all of the ingredients into a jar and shake with the lid on. Adjust seasoning if needed.
French food cart is expanding its ‘pique-nique’ empire in Sonoma
INDEX-TRIBUNE FOOD & WINE EDITOR | January 11, 2018
Chefs Sarah Pinkin and Elizabeth Payne enjoy great success with their Frenchie French food cart and will give everyone another chance at tastes in a pop-up appearance at 521 B Broadway in Sonoma on Thursday, Jan. 18.
On the pop-up menu will be roasted root vegetable soup, chicken tortilla soup, Vietnamese skirt steak salad, salmon Niçoise salad, goat cheese, fig jam and arugula baguette sandwiches, and a ham, brie and Dijon mustard baguette. 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Catch it while you can.
Not only that, but Frenchie will soon open in permanent digs at the site of the old Shone’s Market on Broadway, most recently occupied by Love and Lovely Studio. Their plan, according to Pinkin, “is to make a general store featuring Frenchie grab-and-go picnics, lunches and dinners.”
Says Pinkin: “We will also be selling cool local food products and hopefully beer and wine. A great spot to grab a picnic for the Plaza or a quick lunch or dinner for locals.”
Pinkin formerly worked at Mondo Café and served as chef at Murphy’s Irish Pub several years ago. Payne was chef and instructor at Ramekins Culinary School and at Williams-Sonoma. They hope to open before May 1.
New mobile food business launches in Sonoma!
INDEX-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER | JUNE 29, 2017
The new trend in food carts may well be food cars.
Business partners Sarah Pinkin and Elizabeth Payne, both 38, have recently launched Frenchie, serving French picnic food out of a restored vintage Citroen car.
Pinkin is a former chef at Murphy’s Irish Pub and a co-founder of Sonoma Meals. Payne is a former Williams-Sonoma chef and Ramekins alum. Payne explained that the friends have wanted to start a business together for some time.
“Sonoma’s picnic food scene lacks options beyond the boxed lunch,” said Payne. “We feel like this is different from what anyone else is doing.”
With the back seat removed, customers can reach in to a vintage cooler on a platform in the back of the retro grey Citroen. Payne and Pinkin converted a red hot dog cart to use alongside the car, which provides work and cooler space and a counter to take orders.
Frenchie offers French picnic food and provisions, with most items priced from $12 to $15. Choices include Croque Monsieur, Salmon Nicoise and Moroccan chicken salad.
Frenchie debuted at Gundlach Bundschu’s Huichica Music Festival, and the chef partners have plans to be at the Vintage Festival. The Frenchie Citroen has also been spotted this summer parked at 3 Sticks Winery and at the Panel on West Napa Street.