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Culinary Highlights of Sonoma County

Madrona Manor earned its Michelin star for its seasonal New Californian-global cuisine.

Whether they use ingredients grown from the fertile earth or harvested fresh from the sea, Sonoma County's restaurants embrace an eat-fresh philosophy that offers visitors a true taste of Wine Country. Discover a food lover's paradise: 500-plus restaurants ranging from Michelin- and Zagat-rated to casual Wine Country cuisine, all using freshly harvested, locally-grown produce. The Sonoma Coast is known for fresh seafood restaurants in charming towns such as Bodega Bay or Jenner.

“I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned.” Luther Burbank, 1875, about Sonoma County.

Sonoma County’s constellation shines with three Michelin stars, one each for:

  • Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant (7871 River Road, Forestville, 707-887-3300) earned a star for farm-fresh ingredients crafted into luxurious Cal-Mediterranean creations by chef Steve Litke, and presented in a gorgeous rural setting, with a master sommelier on staff.
  • Madrona Manor Wine Country Inn & Restaurant (1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 800-258-4003) earned its Michelin star for its seasonal New Californian-Global cuisine in an exquisite setting of crisp white linens, five silver, china, and candlelight in five intimate, parlor-style rooms, in a historic 1881 Victorian mansion.
  • Terrapin Creek Café (1580 Eastshore Road, Bodega Bay, 707-875-2700) bills itself as a casual neighborhood spot where friends and neighbors can gather to enjoy great local and international cuisine. Set in a relaxed but stunningly chic space in the quiet coastal town of Bodega Bay, the café earned a Michelin star for cuisine made with the finest ingredients in inventive pairings, with an emphasis on simplicity.

Of course, these are just three of the multitude of culinary options available. Pay attention as you explore the lush countryside; the bounty you see today may be on your plate tonight. An abundance of fruits, vegetables and herbs blanket the countryside. Cattle, sheep, and pigs graze the landscape, chickens and turkeys scratch in the pastures, and goats and cows offer up fresh milk and cheese. Dungenesss crab, salmon, and briny oysters expand menu choices.

While the “locavore movement” is changing the way the nation eats, here it’s been that way for hundreds of years. In fact, Sonoma County’s mild Mediterranean climate means farmers markets are active year round, and local farmers are an important part of the food process here.

For evidence of this rich heritage, visit the members of Sonoma County Farm Trails, which offers a map and guide to local agriculture. This nonprofit group is a culinary charm bracelet of more than 200 orchards, farms, ranches, and vineyards throughout the county, offering everything from apples to zucchini.

Vist the140-acre Green String Farm (3571 Old Adobe Road, Petaluma, 707-778-7500), which has been supplying Alice Water’s Chez Panisse from almost the moment the doors opened; free tours are offered Saturdays at noon, weather permitting. Discover fresh vegetables from the barefoot farmer at Tierra Vegetables (651 Airport Blvd., Santa Rosa, 707-837-8366)

Sonoma and Marin counties are known for their artisan cheeses. Follow the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail Map to visit the area's nearly 30 cheese makers who make cow, goat, sheep, and even water buffalo cheeses; some are open to the public on a regular basis, while others are seasonal or by appointment.

Visit cheese history at Vella Cheese Company (315 2nd St. E., Sonoma, 707-938-3232), a staple in Sonoma since 1931. Spread European-style butter from McClelland's Dairy (6475 Bodega Ave., Petaluma, 707-664-0452) on freshly baked sourdough rolls from a local bakery; 1.5-hour farm tours are available by reservation. Redwood Hill Farm Goat Dairy & Creamery (5480 Thomas Road, Sebastopol, 707-823-8250) produces award-winning goat milk cheese; they care for more than 300 goats and 400 fruit trees, with tours available during select Spring Farm Tour Weekends.

Located just 45 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sonoma County encompasses more than a million acres of Wine Country diversity. As America’s premier wine, spa, and coastal destination, the county features over 400 wineries, 50 miles of stunning Pacific coast, and a delicious multitude of chefs and restaurants embodying the farm-to-table, eat-fresh aproach to food.