Be a Tourist in Your Hometown – Part 1 West Sonoma County


I bet many of you are probably a lot like me. You have lived in your city for years, but rarely go out and explore your domain. When you do go somewhere for a day-trip, it’s usually to San Francisco or the East Bay, or maybe a jaunt out to the coast. I mean who doesn’t love Bodega Bay or Pier 39, right?  We tend to go to places that we have been before, locations that are easy to find.

I challenge you to take at least one day this spring or summer and try out something new. Go be a tourist in your county. Get off the beaten path and go explore. Take a road you have never driven before or have no idea where it will lead to. (No cheating using GPS or Googlemaps.) If you are an obsessive planner, like me, you might want to choose your direction first, then search the net for at least one or two new places to stop at. Then let the rest of the day’s activities just happen.

I know what questions are roaming around in your head right now: “I am not spontaneous”, “I like to have a plan” or “What if sucks and it’s a huge waste of time?”. Or you might be saying:  “What if the food is disgusting?” or “I am awful with directions, what if I get lost?”  Well, the answer is quite simple: TAKE A CHANCE – DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT – HAVE AN ADVENTURE !  Seriously when was the last time you just got in your car, picked a direction and then went off to explore? No timelines, no GPS, just drive and see what happens? I guarantee even if the places you go are terrible, the adventure will become a fond memory.

If you are seriously nervous about this concept, then you can do a little research before heading out. But to save you time, I have already done some research for you. I will be posting separate blog entries by region with a list of my top must-stop locations. All you have to do is pick at least one of them, then jump in the car, and go enjoy. So what are you waiting for?

I find it best to take a friend with you. You will want someone to experience this with; to share in the triumphs and the defeats; to laugh when you get lost, and to be there to push the car if you run out of gas. A group of 2-4 people is perfect. I prefer a smaller group. Sometimes the more people you have the more opinions you get and the more stress you can have. This is meant to be fun. As adults we think we can’t have fun anymore, and boy we could not be more wrong. [ Note: taking silly photos of you along the way makes the trip even more fun!]

In 2014 so far I have been exploring the towns of Sebastopol, Bodega, Sonoma, and some locations in Napa County. I have mainly gone out on weekdays with one or two friends at a time.  If  you can take a day off work I highly recommend this. For one, there are less crowds and you tend to meet more locals that are really friendly. I tend to get more tastes at wineries because they are slower, and I have often received complimentary snacks as well. The pourers are chattier and I have met several wine makers and got to talk to them about their products. I was lucky enough to get a photo with a winemaker, have him sign the bottle, and got to experience the bottle of wine he personally bottled only 6 hours earlier that same day. You won’t usually get these opportunities on the weekends.  If there is a special place you really are dying to try, make that your focal point, then see if you can find some surprises along the way.

WEST SONOMA COUNTY – Sebastopol, Forestville, Bodega Bay

::: Wild Flour Bread :::

::: Hours: 8:30am to 6:30pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday
::: Location: 140 Bohemian Hwy, Freestone, CA 95472

Wild Flour

The glorious selection of fresh bread

Wild Flour

Yummy samples to try

Wild Flour

Myself in the garden

Wild Flour

Audrey & Melody in the garden


What’s Awesome about them: If you are heading out to the coast or just happen to be in Sebastopol, you should stop in here at Wild Flour for some truly remarkable crusty bread. All their bread is baked in a wood fired brick oven, that has pretty much stayed lit for the last 10 years. They offer free samples of lots of breads, you can eat in the beautiful garden where they grow vegetables, herbs and flowers.  They have many vegan items including scones, and they  have coffee, tea and other beverages, Be sure to check out all the beautiful murals inside.

Best Bets:  The (ginormous) Sticky Bun, Fougasse, Goat Flat and the scones {Please note they only take cash or checks.}

::: Enduring Comforts :::

::: Hours: not 100% sure – but seem to be open when Wild Flour is
:::  Location: 142 Bohemian Hwy, Freestone, CA 95472

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{From L to R: Audrey finds the hats : Melody admiring the wares : My friend Dusty looking dapper in a top hat}

What’s Awesome about them: Enduring Comforts is located right next to the Wild Flour Bread. They have a unique selection of new items and antiques. Its fun to stroll over and try on hats and scarves and then browse through the store checking out some of the more interesting antiques. Prices are reasonable, but I am not sure of the days they are open. I did go once when Wild Flour was closed on and they were also closed.

Best Bets:  Fabulous bar soaps, fun hats, jewelry, silly photos

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{Photos above: Some of the antiques and unique items in Enduring Comforts}

::: Patrick’s Salt Water Taffy :::

::: Hours: Mon-Thurs 10AM-6PM / Fri-Sun 10AM-7PM 
:::  Location: 915 Hwy 1 Bodega Bay, CA 94923

Patricks Salt Water Taffy

Best taffy on the whole West Coast!

What’s Awesome about them: If you are out at the Bodega coast, you just have to stop here at Patrick’s (look for the pink and white stripes). They seriously have the BEST salt water taffy I have ever devoured. And so you don’t wind up with a bag full of a flavor you hate, just ask for a (free) sample. Their prices are very reasonable. A small bag runs about $1.50, while larger bags are about $3.25. All taffy is sold in pre-portioned bags, some are one flavor per bag, but they also have great mixed bags as well. They have other candy for sale if you are one of the few people who do not like taffy and they do accept credit cards. There’s also a neat little eclectic shop next to them in the same parking lot. They carry a lot of nautical treasures, including mermaids, anchors, picture frames, pj’s, sweatshirts,  etc.

Best Bets: Chocolate mix, birthday cake, caramel swirl and rum

::: Red’s Apple Roadhouse :::

::: Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
::: Location: 4550 Gravenstein Hwy. N (next to Mom’s Apple Pie) Sebastopol, CA

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{From L to R: Dusty at the entrance : Checking out the awesome menu }

What’s Awesome about them: If you are heading out Sonoma County’s west side (towards Forestville), Red’s Apple Roadhouse is a tasty stop to grab some of the best homestyle comfort farm-to-table food out there.  They also recently added a small tap room, so you can grab a local beer (or wine) with your meal. Some nights they have live music and they have seating inside and some outside on thier deck. I heard their Apple Cider doughnuts are to die for, but I have yet to order them.

Best Bets for Breakfast:  (Juicy & flavorful) Chicken & Waffles, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Best Bets for Lunch:  Pulled Turkey Sandwich, Pastrami Burger, don’t forget the onion rings!
Best Bets for Dinner:  (Juicy & flavorful) Fried Chicken Southern Dinner, Red’s Hot Brown

::: Kozlowski Farms :::

::: Hours: 9 am – 5 pm 7 Days a Week Closed:New Years, Easter, Thanksgiving & Christmas  
:::  Location: 5566 Gravenstein Hwy N (Hwy 116) Forestville, CA 95436

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{From L to R: Dusty at the entrance : Audrey with a trio of mustards to sample}

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{From L to R: Selection of wares : It’s the best chocolate sauce – TRY IT OR ELSE :  Delectable Pies }

What’s Awesome about them: If you are heading out Sonoma County’s west side (towards Forestville), past Red’s Apple Roadhouse, be sure to stop at Kozlowski Farms Visitor Center to try all sorts of jams, jellies and sauces!  They have a larger variety of flavors than you can find in the grocery store. You can pick up a few jars or make a custom gourmet gift basket with all sorts of goodies. They also have amazing PIES (better than Mom’s Apple Pies) and they come in two different sizes. Grab a smaller hand pie so you can get a variety of flavors and they are more portable. I tried almost everything they had out to sample, and when I asked about a few flavors that were not available to try, the clerk opened the fridge and let me pick out of all the ones I wanted to try that they had not put out that day!

Best Bets:  My favorite jams are the Apricot & Mango, Pear Butter, Pineapple, Blackberry, Fig & Muscat Wine, and the Strawberry Rhubarb. All of the pies are great and the Oatmeal Fruit bars are da bomb!

::: Russian River Vineyards  :::

::: Hours: Tasting room is open daily from 11 am to 5 pm
:::  Location: 5566 Gravenstein Hwy N (Hwy 116) Forestville, CA 95436

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What’s Awesome about them: At Russian River Vineyards, you will be treated to a beautiful location and greeted by Chester the sweet rescue dog, who also graces the label of one of their zinfadels. Also if you go to their website, they have a coupon for a free wine tasting for up to 4 people. This is one of the oldest vineyards in the region and they have been slowly upgrading the property to be 100% organic & green. Love the purple front door, and the tasting room staff is very friendly, knowledgeable and they have some really great wines. Also if you unable to drive after tasting so many scrumptious wines, you can stay there and grab a bite to eat at Cork’s. I have not have the chance to eat there yet, but I have heard the reviews were great. Be sure to ask about the bats in the belfry!

Best Bets: 2013 Sonoma Coast Gewurztraminer, 2012 RRV Chester’s Zinfandel, 2011 Estate Grown Pinot Noir

::: SUB ZERO Ice Creamery :::  

::: Hours:Mon-Thur: 12pm-9pm, Fri-Sat: 12pm- 10pm Sun: 11am-9 pm
::: Location: The Barlow @ 6760 Mckinley St. #11, Sebastopol, CA 95472

Sub Zero

The entrance to the most glorious ice cream in all the lands

What’s Awesome about them: So if you haven’t heard of the BARLOW yet in Sebastopol, then click here to find out all about it. It’s a new concept bringing together the community with artisans, wine makers, art and food.  They still have many open spaces just waiting for the right tenants to sign their name on the lease. SUB-ZERO  is one store within the complex that already has a line out the door most of the time. Don’t worry its usually not a long wait, and even if it is, I promise it will be worth it.

So here’s how it works (click here for the  MENU). They have no pre-made ice cream here. It’s all made fresh right before your very eyes using the highest quality and freshest ingredients. You start of by selecting a cream base, an ice cream flavor, and things to blend in (“toppings”), then sit back and watch as your bowl of ice cream is made instantly with liquid nitrogen!  Its dessert and a science lesson, how cool is that? You can even choose how soft or hard you like your ice cream. The flavor combinations are endless and you can’t go wrong with adding a freshly made waffle bowl or cone.

I have to admit that I am totally spoiled now, and no other ice cream compares to Sub Zero. It’s literally the creamiest, richest, smoothest, ice cream you will ever experience in your lifetime. Additionally, if you’re looking for a low-fat alternative, They are very smart and also have soy and rice milk on hand for anyone that is lactose intolerant or vegan. They have something for everyone! Also Friday nights beginning at 7:00 pm they have Fire-pit Fridays. Sit out by the pit and chat with the locals while you slurp up your delicious concoction. There’s also a bocce ball court next to the pit for anyone who wants to use up their energy.

Best Bets:  Specials of the month are pretty much always going to be a win win (February’s flavor was stellar), but another favorite was Marshmallow Custard Cream, with graham crackers and chocolate chips. It tastes just like a s’more.

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{From L to R: Melody, Audrey and myself with our amazing treats : Looks like a zombie movie, but nope it’s just the liquid nitrogen }