For many, the term farm-to-table, or it’s trendier cousin, farm-to-fork, has worn out its welcome as major chain eateries and just about everyone else have staked a claim on the phrases, deserved or not. However, in Sonoma County, or at least in Sebastopol, it still seems to have meaning.
Sebastopol, known for its antiques stores sprinkled along highway 116 as you head into town, and for what used to be apple country, has had a major infusion of activity in the town center. After the apple industry gave way to grapes, developers and residents were imagining a new identity for the warehouses and Barlow processing plant. Adjacent to its downtown, the city wanted to replace the buildings with 300 condo units interspersed with retail stores. But in 2007 the failing economy brought an about-face, locals weighed in as to what they wanted for their town, and The Barlow was reinvented.
A campus of corrugated metal-sided buildings is now home to over 50 tenants: boutiques, eateries, wine tasting, beer brewing and the Community Market. Taylor Maid Farms Coffee and Zazu Kitchen + Farm have outposts there, and future plans call for The Barlow Hotel to move in with 60 rooms, a pool, gym, spa and restaurant.
Our party of four headed to Sebastopol primarily for a few hours of antiquing, starting early and returning home to an afternoon of honey-do’s and grilling. We figured we’d knock out several shops, have lunch in town, and head back before traffic. We were wrong. But in a good way—our quick trip turned into a full day of serendipitous meanderings.
We stopped first at Llano Antiques’ two cottages, one of which claims to inhabit the oldest building in Sonoma County. A treasure in its own right, the historic marker says the rear structure was built in 1849. We found some highly unique items there, including a wonderfully preserved wooden cobbler’s bench, and antique tools, kitchen implements, miniature iron coin banks and a delightfully creepy upstairs filled with an assortment of old wooden chairs.
Next up was Food for Thought, a bright, two-story building packed with artfully displayed nooks and crannies to explore. Featuring Asian, European and American antiques and vintage items, the shop sells donated and consigned merchandise, and all sales are donated to the Sonoma County AIDS Food Bank. Inside we stumbled across a rare find: a pewter mug with a glass bottom to add to a childhood collection. But the real fun was out in the garden, full of whimsy, from industrial finds to mid-century chic outdoor furniture. Being outside helped set us up for a lengthy foray into the collective next door, Antique Society. Its website declares it one of the largest on the west coast, with over 125 dealers. The quality of the displays kept us lingering, but there’s way too much to see in one visit. Hunger finally wore us down, so we headed into town to Woodfour Brewing Company at The Barlow for lunch, and to compensate the guys for their patience.
Woodfour’s large deck with brightly-covered umbrellas was the perfect spot to quench our thirst and assuage our hunger. A new-world take on European-inspired beer includes specialty brews on tap and 40 bottled choices from around the world, as well as tasting flights. The beer is brewed on site in small batches and the food is seasonal, designed to complement the beer. For lunch, there are plenty of tasty small plates, cheese and charcuterie boards to share, and salads, sandwiches and desserts.
From there we walked a block to Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt, where every order is a custom-designed creation. You choose your base milk (there are also lactose free, vegan and sugar-free options), then your flavor (eighteen of them from blackberry to vanilla), and finally your mix-ins (nuts, candies, cookies). These go into a bowl and are hand-mixed, then flash-frozen in seconds using liquid nitrogen. The cream base with chocolate flavoring, topped with coconut flakes and almonds, was sinfully rich and delicious, and a fitting end to a fun-filled day in Sebastopol.