The Farm Downtown

In awe of Imwalle? Well, if you haven’t been to Imwalle Gardens yet, you will be. That’s because Imwalle Gardens is a freaking farm hiding right in the middle of the city!

Imwalle Gardens

This has to be one of the coolest old farms in Sonoma County. It’s a nursery, farm stand, market and heavenly munchie merchant all in one. A living, and growing, piece of Santa Rosa history, the original business has been owned and run by the same family since 1886.

Imwalle Gardens

Located on busy 3rd street, the farm seems magically out of place, as the world has virtually modernized and grown around it. Here in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Santa Rosa you might think you’ve wondered into a whole different part of town. Or maybe back in time to SR circa 19th Century.

Imwalle Gardens

As you make your way down the driveway, the view opens up to giant lush fields, endless garden beds and, of course, the big old barn at the end of the road. The people in the shop could not be any nicer and more chill. Seriously peeps, the customer service and vibe of this place is super-duper old timey and warm. Fido is absolutely welcome at Imwalle Gardens, so long as he keeps you on your leash and you are well behaved. There’s plenty of fresh produce and even more plants to start your own garden (which you should definitely be doing).

Imwalle Gardens

Both organic and conventional, there is an endless variety of plants and produce. Looking for advice on what to buy or what place to hit next? No prob! As this is a popular local hang, there’s plenty of friendly advice and good conversation going on around there, too.

Imwalle Gardens

In addition to fresh produce, they make a variety of delicious products, including their popular line of salad dressings. Vidalia Onion Creamy Cucumber Dressing, anyone? Um, yes please! If cycling is your thang, Imwalle Gardens would be the perfect stop. Never mind the line, it’s ultra-popular, so there’s almost always a queue, but it moves.

Imwalle Gardens

A wander around the garden and a picnic? This is the right spot to make it happen. Check out Imwalle Gardens if you want to get a taste of living like a local Santa Rosan and Sonoma County aficionado. Grab your squad and hit it before places like this disappear.

-5This is guest blogger Robyn Grace Jennings' second OutThereSR post. Robyn is a freelance writer, enthusiastic gardener and cook and crazy chicken lady.  She can be reached at rng@rocketmail.com.

 


Fill Your Hunger Script At Pharmacy Cafe

Want a unique eating experience that only Santa Rosa can provide?  Visit The Pharmacy Café on Sonoma Avenue.

Yup, that’s what I said – a food pharmacy full of healthy fast food!  Shove the chemically laden fast food wrap and the wallet emptying famous chef owned restaurant  aside and grab a bite of this place. Sorry not, sorry – I prefer my food healthy and affordable. Unlike a real pharmacy, the place is super cozy.

-2Time to put down your phone, kids, and take a look around!  With a variety of already packed and freshly made meals loaded with veggies, and a culinary cosmos of noms to shop for, you will leave happier and healthier than when you walked in. The atmosphere is a good balance between farm country style and its older years as a real mom and pop run pharmacy. The open kitchen, high ceilings and modern touches create a totally calming vibe. With the big decision abreast of what to eat (the struggle is real!), I was forced to choose something from the list of wholesome and yummy looking menu items. With things like avocado sandwiches, strawberry salad, root beer kefir and house made cream cheese, you seriously can’t lose. Vegan, vegetarian, health conscious and hearty eaters alike will find themselves happy here.

-4I enjoyed an awesome beet sandwich with the house ginger kombucha.  The sandwich was as gorgeous as it was tasty with perfectly balanced flavors and just robust enough to make me feel energized. The ginger kombucha was perfect, light and refreshing and probably one of the only kombuchas I would drink even if it wasn’t healthy. Just to make sure I didn’t starve to death an hour later, I took this dreamy little doughy, cheesy, pretzel-like ball of love with me. The memory of it alone will haunt me until I return for another.  Seriously, it was on point.

-1In addition to all of this, they have super cool garden plants to shop for too. I was unable to leave without a couple of lovely pepper plants and two packs of heirloom beans. Although, I could have gone hog wild with all of the temptation, sadly I have no trust fund to fall back on. Will I be back?  Without question. The place is totally unique to anything I have seen before! And yes, they serve rad coffee (not bitter) and espressos.

-5Special Shout Out There to guest blogger Robyn Grace Jennings for this post. Robyn is a freelance writer, enthusiastic gardener and cook and crazy chicken lady.  She can be reached at rng@rocketmail.com.

 


Restaurant Week, Reviewed

Last week was Sonoma County Restaurant Week, and the Santa Rosa Out There blog ambassadors are here to tell you what was on the menu around town.

If you haven’t heard of, or gone out to eat during Restaurant Week, you’re going to want to. Participating eateries offer great values on prix-fixe menu options that highlight their locally sourced offerings. So mark your calendar for next March, and get all the information you need here. SonomaCounty.com/restaurant-week 

Amber Lucas, The Tudor Rose English Tea Room

Amber hit a few of her favorites during Restaurant Week, starting with one of the more unique spots in Downtown Santa Rosa, The Tudor Rose English Tea Room.

unnamed"On Friday afternoon I sat down to lunch (after choosing my hat from the wall), selecting their $15 prix fixe menu. It included a pot of tea, a selection of finger sandwiches, a savory pastry, a scone, and a cookie. The selection of sandwiches included cucumber and cream cheese with herbs, egg, and chevre with fig and candied pecans. For my tea I selected the Tudor Rose: it is a fragrant tea with hints of vanilla, and it is delightful with milk and sugar.

unnamed-3But it was the savory pastry that stole the show: buttery and flaky, it was stuffed with vegetables in a brown gravy sauce. My teapot shaped cookie was also a highlight; light and buttery while not being overly sweet. I hadn’t expected to leave full, thinking that I would be going for a “snack experience.” However I ended up leaving with leftovers!"

TudorRoseTeaRoom.com

 

Amanda Janik and Melissa Keyser, CIBO Rustico Pizzeria

By some incredible case of Out There coincidence, Amanda and Melissa both went to the same restaurant. That means you get CIBO Rustico reviewed by two of Santa Rosa’s leading voices on the local gourmand community.

Amanda had an old college friend in town. They chose CIBO Rustico as a way to hark back to their days of pocketing bottle deposit money to buy pizza.

"The space itself is inviting, with its long, family-style tables where you might be seated next to a stranger, but will almost certainly leave having made a new friend.

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Love of community is a clear presence at CIBO. The menu showcases the wine, beer, juice and produce of their neighbors. Behind the restaurant is the CIBO Organic Garden, where much of what you’ll find on your plate or pizza is grown.

We were seated right away and soon presented with a taste wines from around the neighborhood. First the D’argenzio Sagrantino. Then the Krutz Chardonnay. Then the D’argenzio Super Tuscan. Let’s just say: they were generous with their tastes. And, with everything for that matter. While technically they were participating in the 3-course dinner option of Restaurant Week, theirs was a 4-course meal which included an appetizer, second course, main course and dessert.

A quick glance at the menu shows that they make good use of their wood-fire oven. Many dishes are roasted and come out with that amazing smoky flavor. Between the two of us we sampled their Bufala Mozzarella and prosciutto-wrapped roasted asparagus appetizers, their organic arugula salad with shaved parmigiano and roasted prosciutto and their organic roasted cauliflower, broccolini, asparagus, string bean and green onion dish to start. We mulled over our many pizza options for a while - because pizza! - but finally settled on a pesto, garlic and prosciutto for Mary Ellen and a truffle oil, red pepper, mushroom and shaved parmigiano for me.

cibo

Before we had to fret over which dessert to choose, the owner presented us with all three - all local and organic, of course. We shared a cold-pressed coffee with cashews, dates, vanilla beans and sea salt, a vanilla bean cashew milk with dates and sea salt, and my personal favorite, apple slices with burrata and black pepper honey.

After a very long and incredibly busy week, we were their last customers of Restaurant Week, and we were treated with such friendliness and warmth we barely noticed they’d turned off their ‘Open’ sign and were probably waiting desperately for us to leave so they could all go home and sleep for the next two days.

No amount of bottle deposit money could have given us such a nice evening back in our college days. Thank you, CIBO Rustico, for helping me impress my friend!"

Melissa’s experience was no less welcoming.

"Tucked between D’argenzio Winery and Fogbelt Brewery on Cleveland Ave., I had no idea that CIBO Rustico existed. My husband and I were the first to arrive for lunch, and the owner Ray welcomed us with a small pour of a voignier blend. I liked the place already!

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The menu for Restaurant Week consisted of 4 courses, and for lunch, you could choose two. I opted for the buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto and olive oil appetizer, and the fennel sausage mushroom pizza. My husband ordered wood fired mixed veggies and a margherita pizza. While chatting with Ray, we learned that they use veggies from local Imwalle Gardens and import special flour for the pizzas from Italy. The flowers gracing our table were from bolted broccoli, picked from their small patio garden outside.

While we waited for the pizzas to be baked in the wood oven, Ray treated us to a sample of roasted asparagus wrapped with prosciutto. This may have been my favorite dish of the afternoon. Pretty sure the only way to eat asparagus is to roast it at a billion degrees and surround it with salty ham. My sausage pizza was good, but I loved the margherita that my husband had. The sauce was intensely tomato-y and sweet, and you can’t go wrong with buffalo mozzarella. To procrastinate on having to adventure back out in the rain, we decided to also order dessert: burrata with apple slices, honey and black pepper. Because if there is burrata on the menu, one must always order burrata!

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It was a fabulous lunch, and I’m excited to know of another great place to eat in Santa Rosa."

CiboRustico.com

Amber Lucas, La Rosa Tequileria & Grille

Now back to Amber and her big day adventure taking in all the flavors of Sonoma County Restaurant week.

My next top was the La Rosa Tequileria & Grille. I had their $15 lunch menu, selecting the kale-citrus salad, black bean burger, and Mexican chocolate mousse for dessert. I have a thing for kale; I love to eat it while dining out, however, I cannot seem to master preparing it at home. I was excited to see vegetarian menu items (which can be a challenge to find during Restaurant Week), and couldn’t wait to dig in.

bar_3The kale and citrus salad was unexpected: I haven’t seen kale, grapefruit, red onions, and candied walnuts paired together before. The earthiness of the kale paired with the sharp sweetness of the grapefruit and oranges was interesting with the candied walnuts. The spicy black bean burger came topped with avocado, lettuce, garlic sauce, and cheese. Bean burgers can be a challenge, as they often can be dry. However my burger was dense and moist, and absolutely delicious. I was delighted to have such a hearty vegetarian option, and was beginning to wonder if I was going to have room for dessert.

mousse_0Thankfully, there is always room for dessert. The Mexican chocolate mousse was an absolute delight. Rich and creamy, without being too thick. The spiciness of the cinnamon was at the perfect balance, making this an instant favorite of mine. I could see myself returning just for this, when a strong craving for chocolate hits (which is often).

LaRosaSantaRosa.com


Romancing the Farmer Side of Wine Country

The Agrarian Lovers Ball -- not your grandparent's barn dance.

By Guest Blogger Evan Wiig

Between rolling hill after rolling hill of sprawling grapevines there simmers in Sonoma County an insurgence of agrarian romance, thanks to the Farmer's Guild. Nodding to yesterday’s traditions but also beckoning a future that’s within reach, these green-thumbed guerrillas and carbon cowboys gather to speak not only of tractors and the price of alfalfa, but of using soil to reverse climate change and collaborating towards a system of true food justice. And on behalf of visitors to Santa Rosa and its surroundings, this same community is working hard to assure that you’ll have something to eat alongside that glass of Chardonnay.

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Each February, brought together by The Farmers Guild, aspiring ranchers, well-seasoned farmers, local food advocates and more all converge in Sonoma County. Attracting crowds from across the state, their annual “Farmers Guild-Raising” concludes with an open invitation to the general public: come stomp some boots, share the bounty, and show your love for a new generation of sustainable agriculture: the Agrarian Lovers Ball.

IMG_6806Three years running, this month, on February 20, the ball takes place at the pavilion of Shone Farm, the gorgeous outdoor educational facility of Santa Rosa Junior College. A homegrown meal, local beer and wine, plus swingin’ live music to keep the crowds moving, this amorous celebration welcomes lovers of the soil, food-centric families, farm-bound couples ready to rekindle a post-season romance and yes, plenty of single young ranch-hands looking for love.

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This isn’t your wine-country Pinot Noir tasting stuffiness that some associate with Sonoma County, but a down-to-earth, DIY, dirt-under-your-fingernails kind of crowd. And while you’ll certainly find epicureans among them, the collective vision forged at The Farmers Guild and the upcoming Agrarian Lovers Ball is one in which good, honest food is a basic human right, one that is threatened each day by global warming, monopolization and the simple yet dangerous fact that America’s farmers are aging faster than we young clod-hoppers can fill their boots. So to preserve that right, that legacy and that basic human necessity, we must work hard, fight for food system reform… and, yes, make some love while we’re at it. Come celebrate with us!

For more information, visit www.farmersguild.org

evan wiig headshotEvan Wiig is the Director of the Farmers Guild, a statewide organization promoting the next generation of sustainable agriculture headquartered in Sonoma County.