Berry Me At Farmer Lao's Fruit Stand

If there was ever a cult following for a Sonoma County food, it may just be the strawberries grown by Farmer Lao.

IMG_8092And rightfully so. These berries are amazing. Always perfectly ripe, refreshing and juicy, they will fill your kitchen (or car on the way home) with the sweet, fruity smell you can only experience with high quality produce that was picked at its peak.
If you've driven West on Highway 12, you've seen the stand. Its an unassuming white plywood structure in a dirt lot, just outside of the city limits. When it opens for the season depends on the berries, and the hours are more or less inconsistent. But while it's open, you'll likely see a line of people and a lot full of cars. A few years ago, a facebook group started, allowing Farm Loa strawberry devotees to crowdsource if the stand is open. You can often find cherries and stone fruits available as well, which Loa brings from his brother-in-law's farm in Lodi.
IMG_8094Now is the perfect time to stock up the freezer and get your preserves made. The berries are plentiful and perfect. As the season continues, he gets so busy and berries often get rationed, allowing only one basket a person. At only $3 a basket, they are a perfect snack to bring home. My favorite way to eat them is sliced and tossed with just a drizzle of honey for a divine and simple dessert, or topped on toast with fresh ricotta cheese.
These berries are a cry away from stiff and cardboard-like ones you can get at the supermarket. And forget about the pesticide-loaded ones sold on street corners! Even the beautiful berries found at the local markets don't seem to be quite as amazing.
I have yet to figure out exactly what the secret is. While not certified organic, Farmer Lao says he doesn't use pesticides. Perhaps his fruit is so great because he treats the plants with respect. Maybe it is a special variety he's developed for just himself. It could be they are picked at the perfect moment. Regardless of his methods, I'm glad Farmer Loa is here to share them with us!


You're good art, Charlie Brown.

Follow the trail of Peanuts comic characters and you may find yourself at the epicenter of the Santa Rosa art scene.

Most visitors to Santa Rosa are well familiar with the random and motley sculptures of Peanuts comic strip characters around town. Words like whimsical and cute may pop to mind but probably not thoughts of contemporary culture nor high art.

IMG_9277Zoom in - Made entirely of Peanuts comic strips

As an advocate for public art and place-making, I’ve had mixed feelings about these figures for years. And yet, the more I learn about the artistic heritage, culture and vibrant art scene here, the easier it is to look at Santa Rosa's iconic comic as a kind of gateway drug to appreciating what one might consider more challenging or intellectual arts.

To start that journey, you need only follow the Snoopy trail back to the Charles M. Schulz museum. There you'll discover not a pop art tourist trap, but a very contemporary museum that honors not only the artist, but also the person who was Charles Schulz.

IMG_9285

The museum hosts some permanent exhibitions as well as a great history of rotating shows. It offers residency programs to visiting artists and hosts book signing events. Most recently The Chuck hosted a book signing and artist’s talk by the well-known artist Camille Rose Garcia. Garcia is a favorite artist in the Low Brow art world of such magazines as Juxtapose and Last Gasp Publishing. Originally from the Los Angeles area, she recently relocated to the Northern California redwoods and has just released a book of her work.

100_0039-1180x841Camille Rose Garcia

Visit online at SchulzMuseum.org

Meanwhile, at the Art Museums of Sonoma County, the high king of Low Brow will be showing his work at a couple of special events over the next month. Robert Williams is a true maverick who sought to create vital work that channeled the shifting energies and immediacy of counterculture, from the 60’s onward.

Death-by-ExasperationRobert Williams - Death By Exasperation

As the founder of Juxtapose Magazine, Williams’ enduring influence on the New Contemporary movement is undeniable. The current exhibit, SLANG Aesthetics! The Art of Robert Williams, runs June 5 through September 20 at the Museums of Sonoma County.

Williams-Pathos-in-Paper-MacheRobert Williams - Pathos In Paper Mache

SonomaCountyMuseum.org

 


Hello Nomad Roadside Biscuits 

The other day, while trolling facebook, a picture caught my eye. It was of a menu on a chalkboard sign. A menu for biscuits. I love biscuits. I had to know more.

IMG_8882This menu, which listed smoked gouda with prosciutto caramelized onions, and vanilla bean with lemon cream and boysenberry preserves, was of this weeks offerings from the new biscuit pop-up, Hello Nomad Roadside Biscuits.

After following all of her social media accounts, I learned that she normally set up shop out in West County, at either the Camp Meeker fire station or the Occidental Farmers Market, but she was going to be in Santa Rosa the next day. So in the morning, I bustled out early, urged by the desire for delicious baked goods and sought them out in the alley behind Monkey Wrench tattoo.

in alley behind Monkey WrenchI got both a savory and a sweet biscuit, and hurried home with a stamped paper bag to sample my treats. They were both amazing, but the combo of the vanilla lemon cream and preserves on the slightly warm biscuit was what sold me. I came back the next week, this time just getting the sweet combo (navel orange biscuit with honey cream and boysenberry preserves). This week, she was at Sonoma County Meat Company, and I quickly munched up a a delicious cheddar and scallion biscuit with mustard and SCMC bacon.

victoria in front of scmcHello Nomad is the brainchild of artist and pastry purveyor Victoria Wagner. She bakes buttermilk biscuits, fills them with amazing combinations at her home in Camp Meeker, then loads up the back of her car and sets up shop at various locations around the county. Her locations are advertised by social media. Once there, she sets a table out with coffee and props open her car’s hatch to share her biscuit creations. Victoria is a trained pastry chef, but has been working in the art scene in SF for the past several years. She missed the community of Sonoma County, and decided to start Hello Nomad as a way to bring people together. And I’m so glad she did, because I can't think of a better way to spend my Wednesday mornings than gathered with people who love good food!

savory SCMC biscuitFollow Hello Nomad on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for locations and current offerings.

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hellonomadbiscuits

twitter: @_hello_nomad

Instagram: hello.nomad.roadside.biscuits


Public Display of Deliciousness

Heritage Public House’s menu is a testimony to the state of California’s craft beer business.

IMG_0057Roman D​’Argenzio is an imposing figure. The beard. The ink. The leather. At a glance you’d be more likely to take him for the leader of a biker gang than the GM of a gastro pub. But this is Santa Rosa and around here out there is the norm. So Dino (as his friends call Roman) seems perfectly suited behind the bar at Heritage Public House, the drinking/dining establishment he established on Mendocino Ave. in downtown SR.

IMG_0188-2Eat well. Drink up. Those are the words you pass under on the way in. And, while there’s an eclectic selection of pub food on the menu, it’s the beer list that draws crowds here, and rightfully so. Deep and ever changing, it’s a veritable who’s who of California’s best brews.

IMG_0046As Dino tells it, there are lots of great beers made in the world. But the beers of California are good enough, diverse enough, and endlessly interesting enough to warrant a place of their own. He created Heritage Public House to be that place.

IMG_0178As much creative director as general manager, Dino deliberated over every last detail. From the light fixtures to the artist-painted walls. From the pop-up art shows he puts together to his dabbling in brewing his own beer under the guidance of a classically and internationally trained brew master.

IMG_0125Heritage Public House is the kind of place that could only come from the imagination, passion and calloused hands of a Santa Rosa native like Dino. So take our recommendation and swing by. Eat well. And drink up.

www.heritagepublichousesr.com