Farm to Fermentation Festival

For the past 6 years, on a weekend in August, Santa Rosa has been the convening point of people all over to talk about, to learn about and to try, fermented foods.


This past weekend was that time, and purveyors and lovers of all things fermented gathered to celebrate this ancient method of food preservation at the Farm to Fermentation Festival. I got a crash course in fermentation when attended a few years ago, which I wrote about here and this year was just as enjoyable.


This year, I attended two of the many lectures offered. I learned about how to make yogurt from Janet Fletcher, local author of several books including her new book, Yogurt. I was surprised at how easy the process was- heat milk, add a bit of yogurt, and then rest at a certain temperature for a given length of time.


In Lynda LeMole’s lecture “Fermented Medicine,” I learned more about the health benefits of fermented foods and how they interact with our bodies. She demonstrated how to make Fire Cider, and explained the dizzyingly long list of its benefits, ranging from being an anti-inflammatory to helping nausea. We all tried a sample of it, which burned my throat but I could easily see how it would kill any germs or illness. I was excited to take the recipe and make a batch myself at home.


After leaving Lynda’s lecture, I sought out my husband, who was in the Libation Lounge. I’m not a big drinker, but he had already tried all the samples of beer and cider, and directed me to the ones he thought I’d like the best (so thoughtful, right?). I really enjoyed a strawberry saison from Woodfour and a pour Moonlight Brewing that was made with redwood instead of hops.


Back in the vendor hall, we checked out samples of all things fermented- from cheese to pickles to bread to chocolate. I was excited that there were samples of natto, fermented soybeans that are very traditional in Japan. I had heard some horror stores about the dish, but wanted to try it. I found them quite delicious, and much different from other ferments like pickles or sauerkraut.


The chocolate samples were of course very popular, both from companies Firefly and Cacoco. I really liked trying 4 different types of drinking chocolates, and came home with a box of Cacoco’s ‘Original’ to make some of my own at home.
Make sure to keep an eye on the Farm to Fermentation website for next year’s date, or follow them on Instagram at @farm2ferment- it’s an event not to be missed!

Red Bird Bakery

If I had to identify a signature dish coming out of my kitchen this summer, it would be food on toast.

I take produce fresh from the garden, maybe add some cheese, and I’ve got a meal. Sautéed zucchini with feta, slices of stone fruits with ricotta, or ripe juicy tomatoes with basil and balsamic; layered on a slice of bread.

bread at Red Bird BakeryBut not any bread will do. I need a hearty country loaf, one that I can cut into thick slices, to take on the weight of my ingredients. And lately, I’m really loving the bread from Red Bird Bakery.

I had first picked up a loaf of their rustic white from Oliver’s, and with a limited ingredient list of organic flour, culture, water and salt, I was sold. It's crunchy and fluffy and delicious - all the things an artisan bread should be. It became a regular addition to my shopping list to supply me with the toast portion of my food with toast meals. Then one day, while waiting in line, the women in front of me noticed my cart and said she loved their bread, and asked if I had been to the bakery yet. I didn’t know they had a store front.

sandwich board I had been wanting to try the chai whole wheat with apricots and walnuts loaf, as listed as an option on the bread bag, but I had never seen it on the Oliver’s shelf. I was sure I would be able to get it from the bakery, so the next time I needed bread, I headed out to the south end of Santa Rosa, in the industrial area on Dutton Avenue, to seek out the elusive chia and apricot bread.

I stopped by on a Monday, and as I later learned, they don’t sell bread on Mondays to give the bread baker and owner, Isaac Cermak, a day off. But the trip was not a waste, because they also sell pastries. This was a complete and pleasant surprise to me, as I thought they only produced bread. I choose a cheese, spinach and tomato croissant from the selection of muffins, scones, and sticky buns. They also make cookies, cakes, and have a selection of sandwiches to-go. My croissant was amazing, and it was devoured before I even made it back on the freeway. I prefer my pastries on the savory side, and really loved the cheese and tomatoes combined with the buttery croissant.

sweet pastriesThe pastries are made by Linda Cermak, the other half of the owner/baker duo. She went though the culinary program at Contra Costa College, before transitioning to baking full time, and was previously the head pastry chef for Della Fattoria, in Petaluma. Her husband, Issac, in charge of the bread, went through the baking program at the Santa Rosa JC and continued his learning tough a variety of places, including Model Bakery in Napa and Della Fattoria. They opened Red Bird Bakery in March of last year. They are producing about 3,000 pieces of delicious pastries and treats a week, and about 250 to 400 loafs of bread daily.

When I asked Linda what her favorite item is that she’s baking right now, she replied, “I love to make anything rustic with the outcome of deliciousness, which can only be accomplished if you bake with your whole heart and soul. We love pulling from farmers markets and making delicious baked goods, desserts, breads.”

savory crossiantsAnd they are certainly achieving that outcome of deliciousness. I returned the following week, and was able to get my sought-after chai whole wheat loaf. This also, was perfect, and I enjoyed it not in a toast meal, but just in simple slices, lightly toasted, topped with butter. I love the giant chunks of apricots, and will be sure to return for it again. And most likely another pastry. Or two.

In addition to selling at the store front and at Oliver’s Market, you can find their breads at local farmer’s markets, which they have posted on a chalkboard outside their door.
3279 Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa
See and like them on Facebook here.

Tierra Vegetables Farmstand

We are so lucky in Santa Rosa to have such a variety of places to buy fresh vegetables.

And if you manage to miss one of the almost daily markets, thankfully, our urban farms are open and can help you stock your kitchen with the freshest in-season produce.


My favorite is Tierra Vegetables, located on the far north end of town, off the Fulton exit. You can see their fields from the freeway, and the big white barn greets you when you pull off the exit. Despite being situated between the freeway and busy roads, once you pull in to the family run farm, its easy to forget exactly how urban you are.


When I visited last week to pick up some onions (one of the things I fail epically at growing in my own garden), I took some time to wander around in the fields to see what else they had growing. While not certified organic, its easy to tell that Tierra Vegetables is a sustainable farm.


The fields are full of life, and in my short visit I spotted bees, 3 different types of butterflies and even a pair of quail, who scurried away under the tomato vines before I could get a picture. I admired the stands of dill they had growing between the crops, which I made note of to remember to come back for when I started another batch of pickles.


Back at the white barn patio, I picked out some red onions from the bins, which were next to cucumbers, early tomatoes, and cabbage. Inside I took some time wondering if I wanted to buy a boat of strawberries, and admired the assortment of kettles and pots filled with dried heirloom beans, in all different colors and sizes.


This bean selection is one of my favorite offerings from Tierra, but not wanting to cook up beans in this heat, I passed this time; knowing I'll be back in the fall to stock up for soups. In the corner, you can also find a freezer full of sauces and prepared foods. They also have a wide selection of hot sauces and dried peppers.


In the side room I chatted with a women who was packing up the basil portion of her CSA share. Weekly CSA members can opt-in for a delivery, or come to the farm and put together their own boxes from the carefully laid out selection, with the offerings and weight written on chalkboards. She said she loved supporting the local farm, and having fresh produce was just the best.


There are about 13 acres under cultivation at the barn location, and another 10 a ways down the street. All of the prepared foods are made in a commercial kitchen in Windsor. I really love supporting business that support both the community and the environment, and which are obvious core values of this urban farm. Tierra Vegetables accepts EBT payment for both the CSA program and the produce sold from the farm stand. When I asked the women working at the counter, she said that unfortunately not many people know about it, and they only have a customer once every few days taking advantage.


So instead of running to the grocery store, I encourage you to stop by Tierra the next time you need some fresh produce!
651 Airport Blvd., Santa Rosa

Summer Hours:
Tuesday thru Friday: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Wednesday Night Market

Santa Rosa’s famous Wednesday Night Market is back in full-effect, for all of our eating, dancing, shopping (hold on, have to take a breath…), listening, spending and viewing pleasure!

IMG_1183 (1)While Santa Rosa boasts a healthy number of great neighborhood Farmer’s Markets, this one in particular brings Santa Rosa together as a whole, with members of each and every neighborhood making their way downtown to Fourth Street for the festivities. Spanning three-plus long blocks, the Wednesday Night Market feels like part traditional Farmer’s Market, part miniature Sonoma County Fair, part community building and education forum. Peppered among all of the food vendors (we’ll get there, don’t worry), you’ll find a mind-boggling amount of things to learn and see. Such as:

IMG_1241Art - Just one example is from artist Clay Vajgrt, who paints superheroes and villains in meditation pose; he calls them SuperMonks. His booth is a-bustle with people loving all up on his unique concept and artistic take on everyone’s favorite fantasy world.

IMG_1244Also not to be missed are the creative uses of small plants as fun decor. Tiny succulents planted in an otherwise questionable reminder of the night before, i.e. wine corks? Yes please! And air plants hanging from cool shells? Adorable. I do love repurposing things, and there were not one, but two artists selling their recycled clothing designs, too.

IMG_1196Kid Stuff - The Wednesday Night Market blocks off half of D Street just for the kiddos, offering two great big jumpy houses, crafts, and the ever present “Clown Making Balloon Animals”. There are also items throughout the market for your kids to beg you for, such as one booth selling all of the random shiny plastic-packed bits and baubles and bubbles any sugar-fueled kid could dream of.

IMG_1192Maybe better than all of those things, however, is the Kid’s Chess area. Open to all ages, this is a long row of pre-set chess boards, inviting any and all levels of chess players to sit down and play with friends, neighbors or strangers. Several walk-by’s showed each board filled many times over. Brain power for the win!

IMG_1229Music - Whichever end of the market you start at, you’re going to find some live music. From the main stage on one end featuring a local band and room to dance, to the street stage at the other with a rotation of musical options throughout the evening - from classical to blues just while I was there. About halfway between the two on Fourth Street was a lone violinist, just to keep things classy.

IMG_1232Beer and Wine - let’s face it, getting through swarming crowds of people sometimes calls for an adult beverage. Or is that just me? Anyhoo...I’m going to help you out and just tell you right now where to find said adult beverages: on the north end of E Street. Local beer and wine vendors set up shop so you can taste around before deciding what you may want more of. Bring your ID and be prepared to take home a commemorative tasting glass, which you’ll be purchasing in order to get said tastes.

IMG_1218Okay, okay...Food - If you just want to grab some fresh produce and run without taking advantage of everything else the Market has to offer, no problem. If you’re still at the ‘bar’ on E Street, just walk south and prepare to be dazzled by the gorgeous cherries, the early tomatoes, the greens upon greens, and the easy-going, relaxed pace of that end of the Market. It’s a welcome breather from the hubbub happening within the rest of the event, and the samples are worth the cruise-around alone. Be sure to buy some of these delicious, locally-grown treats from your friendly hardworking farmer, though. Don’t just eat the free snacks. Buy a peach to offset that giant turkey leg you know you’re about to go tackle, you’ll thank me for the suggestion later.

IMG_1207Speaking of turkey legs - Willie Birds might be the most popular option at the Market. Giant turkey legs redolent of the caveman-times are expertly grilled by the dozens upon dozens and served up wrapped in a no-frills aluminum wrapper. If I were a person who ate things involving bones I would buy two and just run around pretending I was a warrior woman from Paleolithic times, because that just seems like it would be amazingly fun. Also, turkey is delicious.

IMG_1188Add to that Thai, Indian, Italian, paella, Sushi Burritos (yes, it’s a thing!), oysters, crab, hummus, sausages, yummy vegan and vegetarian things, BBQ, hot dogs, churros, chocolates, cakes, cookies, and so, so much more. Seriously. SO MUCH MORE!

IMG_1186Finally, though, perhaps the coolest element of the Wednesday Night Market (for me), were the community and education booths. I saw people learning about energy efficiency, recycling and water management among the voter registration booths, LGBTQ awareness tent, Latino-culture information, free bicycle valet services, Veteran’s Resource Center, the North Bay Herpetological Society table with live critters (eeeee!) and tons of other resources for education and information.

IMG_1238Give yourselves a solid couple of hours to spend wandering through the Market to see all that it has to offer, then tell us...what was YOUR favorite part?

Wednesday Night Market runs from May 4th to August 17th, 5:00 to 8:30PM on Fourth Street in downtown Santa Rosa. Get all the info at