Sonoma’s fabulous farm stands
The small town farm stand. There may not be a means of shopping for food that brings me more joy.
Saturday dawns and I begin plotting my day, which will inevitably revolve around an unhurried stop at one of Sonoma’s many delightful farm stands. We are so utterly blessed to have not one, but several stands to choose from, each more lovely, more bursting with beauty than the next.
It is here at a farm stand, on a Saturday, preferably in the cool of a summer morning, latte in-hand after an early morning hike, that I will dreamily meander among the artfully arranged piles of lovingly grown vegetables, flowers, and herbs, selecting what will become that weekend’s simple, but sure-to-be spectacular, dinner.
It is here, amongst the veggies that I will linger and chat with the farmer who actually grew them, dirt still under his nails and happy, smiley creases in the corners of his eyes from working under the bright Sonoma summer sun. We will surely swap ideas for how best to prepare that gnarly root of the celery plant — in a very French remoulade of course — or I might request a festive recommendation for using up that entire flat of tiny, super-sweet strawberries I couldn’t resist but cannot possibly eat all by myself. The farmer might even be the one who carefully places my goodies in the old-fashioned scale which hangs from the timbers of the barn’s cobwebbed roof, adding an extra something to my bag… just because.
There is just something magical about reaching for an apple that may not look like a perfect, glossy, grocery store apple, which might even have a teeny spot or blemish, but was grown on that tree, right there, and actually tastes like an apple. It tastes like honey and flowers, and possibly of the farmer’s love and hard work, and dedication.
There is something about choosing a few tiny zucchini that are still damp from that morning’s dew, or when reaching for a massive bunch of just-picked herbs, the aroma altogether intoxicating. The flowers are always swoon-worthy. Each Saturday, I will surely pick up the most glorious bunch of flowers, so fresh they will last a lifetime and bring me joy than their eight-dollar price tag should allow.
Saturday morning as the fog lifts, is nothing more than a few soft wisps tucked into the corners of the Valley, the air still cool and sparkly, you will find me contemplating a dozen eggs in a pale hue of pastels, from the softest sky blue to rich buttercream, and milky cocoa. These eggs will simply be heaven when poached and served on top a griddled slice of rustic bread Sunday morning in my sunny breakfast nook. If I am lucky, there may even be a few coveted jars of homemade jam, which I will spoon luxuriously on my Greek yogurt all week long.
One of the happiest parts of farm stand shopping is that with each visit the goods naturally will change. It is a beautiful, thoughtful way of noticing the seasons as they quietly come and go. A way of appreciating the tragic, short appearance of asparagus, or watching as the sweet peas are replaced by sunflowers, and the spring favas by summer corn. Visiting a farm stand not only helps support our small, local farmers, but most importantly reconnects us with our food. Two very delicious ideas indeed.
Watmaugh Berry Patch: The Mini automatically turns into the dusty gravel lot of this farm stand every time I happen to drive by. I pull in, thinking of grabbing a pint or two of the sweetest, juiciest, still-warm-from-the-vine strawberries I have ever tasted. Ever. I somehow end up with an entire flat. Everytime. I devour an entire pint simply on the way home. In addition to these epic berries, find black-red cherries, fuzzy-sweet raspberries, golden skinned onions, and the occasional other homegrown goodies. Located at the corner of Watmaugh and Arnold Drive.
Oak Hill Farm’s Red Barn Store: There cannot possibly be a more ideal summer setting than the Red Barn Store at Oak Hill Farm. Simply walking into that rustic barn is sensory overload. Heirloom vegetables and fruits are whimsically displayed in antique wooden crates, snuggled next to the most fragrant herbs in shades of green, from faded to blindingly vibrant. The most massive, gorgeous flowers and magically scented eucalyptus are works of art merely plunked in oversized tin buckets. Apples and pears fill an old wooden wagon, while beautiful, handmade wreaths and other decor hang on the walls. The scene is movie set perfection. 15101 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen. 996.6643. Oakhillfarm.net.
Seventh Street Harvest Garden Park: After a stroll through the many vegetable plots, though the towering stalks of cheery sunflowers, and a brief rest in the shade of the ancient fig tree, visit the Garden Park’s dusty barn where all sorts of goodies can be found for sale amongst the aromatic bunches of lavender and herbs hang drying from the rafters. The produce here is always lovely, but the area’s most beautiful eggs come from the many, doted on, fat hens that call the garden home. 19996 Seventh Street East.
The Patch: What this teeny stand on Second Street East, just north of Spain, lacks in atmosphere, it more than makes up for in the quality and variety of their goods. Required items: juicy corn, gargantuan red onions, and without a doubt, Sonoma’s most amazing tomatoes.
Sweetwater Spectrum Farm Stand: This ‘sweet’ little farm offers a changing-with-the-seasons array of beautifully grown produce including zucchini, basil, little gem lettuce, romaine lettuce, kale, chard. 730 West Spain Street. Sweetwatersprectrum.org.
Paul’s Produce Stand: To find the county’s most beautiful salad greens head to Candi and Paul’s little, hidden gem of a farm stand located on their farm, just off of Arnold Drive a bit north of Leveroni. One of Sonoma’s most beloved market vendors, Paul’s offers their spectacular greens, in addition to other pristine produce here on most summer Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 19655 Arnold Drive. 939.8706.
Celery Root Rémoulade
This unusual, gnarly root vegetable makes the most delicious, summer side slaw. Serves four.
- 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of cayenne
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed, dried, and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped cornichon (French sour gherkin)
- 1 tablespoon drained capers, rinsed
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 (1-pound) celery root, peeled and coarsely shredded
Whisk together 1/4 cup buttermilk, cornstarch, salt, and cayenne in a small heavy saucepan until smooth. Whisk in yolk, then remaining 1/2cup buttermilk. Cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a simmer and thickens, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Whisk in oil, herbs, anchovy, cornichon, capers, shallot, mustard, sugar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Chill rémoulade, covered, at least 30 minutes. Whisk water into rémoulade to thin and toss with celery root.
Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers 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 Foodandwine@sonomasun.com.