A couple of weeks ago, I was inspired to take a drive to Sonoma, about 45 minutes NW from where I live. When I'm off work during the summer, I like to get and go, often not really knowing where I might end up. Adventures I like to call them, patterned after day trips my mom and I used to take when I was a little girl growing up in Pasadena. We didn't drive our car (Mom never drove), but instead we'd take the bus. Hand in hand, we'd hop on, and off we'd go to some new and exciting place. These adventures were very well loved by me, and nowadays, if I've been on my home turf for more than a week or so, I feel the itch for another adventure.
A few weeks back, I had spent a wonderful few days with a couple of equally wonderful girlfriends in Sonoma. We had stopped at this great little store on Hwy 121, called The Fat Pilgrim. This place is as sweet as could be and we had no trouble finding lots of things to like, no..love, including their massive vegetable garden sitting out back. This morning, I decided to head back to the store (again..3rd visit) to take another peek at all they have to offer.
The drive to Sonoma is pretty ho-hum...BUT, once you get past Hwy 29 and veer onto The Carneros Hwy, man, it's something else. It feels and looks like you're driving along the autostrade in Italy (or France, depending on your mood). As you come down into this valley full of neatly lined vines dotting the lush hillside, villa's and wineries that beckon you to taste, take your time and experience this lovely area. It's breathtaking. Continuing on to Hwy 121, you'll come upon a huge favorite of mine for breakfast, Fremont Diner. DON'T PASS THIS PLACE UP! Trust me, you'll love it. Unfortunately I missed it this time, as they were closed for the holiday.
A bit further on down the road, you'll find Fat Pilgrim. I know, weird name, but I have no doubt they named it well. I love wandering in their back yard. Yes, it is a backyard. Back there, just behind Fat Pilgrim and it's sister-Modern Farmhouse, you'll find a chicken coop, and sitting under a majestic old oak, you'll find some amazing pieces of handmade tables and lovely aged iron pieces. But the main attraction out back is a huge organic garden that you can wander about in. Lovely stuff. But here I was, admiring all these beautiful veg, and out comes the owner, a real nice guy. We chatted a bit about what he's growing (everything) and how well it was doing (amazingly). I admired the beets, onions, squash, and was in complete awe at the tomatoes. He said he hadn't done anything but till the soil some. I smiled to myself at what a cool place this was, and he reaches down and pulls up some beets. "Here he said, I bet you like beets". The guy grabbed a few more bunches, and recited the names as he picked, "chioggia, cylindra and golden", and off he went. What a cool guy. I also found out that Fat Pilgrim grows for local restaurants. And another cool thing, did I mention that it's all organic?
Had a glorious day. Ate a fantastic salad at The Carneros Inn (a night here would make all your dreams come true...yes, trust me again), and came home with another bag from Fat Pilgrim along with a beautiful bunch of beets to cook up. I know not everyone is into beets, but really, what's not to love?
One last thing...BEETS ARE GOOD FOR YOU...EAT YOUR BEETS!
Health Benefits of Beets! (excerpt reprinted from WebMd magazine)
Before passing on that bowl of borscht, consider the health benefits of its main ingredient: beets. This often unloved veggie contains fiber and potassium and is an excellent source of folate -- just a half cup of cooked beets provides 17% of the recommended daily folate intake -- and, like all vegetables, has no saturated fats or cholesterol. Researchers believe the red pigment (called betacyanin) in beets could protect against development of cancerous cells and might play a role in reducing the inflammation associated with heart disease.
ROASTED BEETS WITH FETA AND WALNUTS
|Heat the oven to 400*. Peel em' and cut into quarters|
|drizzle with really good olive oil|
|Add a good sprinkle of coarse sea salt and roast until fork tender, about 35-45 minutes|
|My friend, the owner/organic gardner told me to splash a bit of champagne vinegar on them as soon as they come out of the oven, and let them sit for a while...smells divine|
|Add feta cheese and roasted walnuts...Simple, eh!|
If you're anywhere near Hwy 12/121 in Sonoma, check these places out!!