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What is farm-to-table dining?

Farm-to-table dining is a food movement that emphasizes the connection between restaurants and local farmers. It’s about fresh ingredients and amazing flavors. This relatively new trend toward fresher ingredients has taken off only within the past 15 years. But think back to Berkeley in the early 1970s, and you may recall the opening of one of the first farm-to-table restaurants, Chez Panisse.

Why does farm-to-table matter?

Sourcing food products that are grown close by means that chefs get the freshest ingredients for their restaurants. And fortunately, Napa and Sonoma counties have plenty of outstanding farm-to-table eateries to choose from. Always changing, daily menus are built on what’s in season. And many restaurants simplify the supply chain even further by cultivating their own gardens.

There’s no doubt about it: locally raised food is fresher, more flavorful, and richer in vitamins and nutrients. Packed with natural flavor, locally sourced ingredients inspire a simpler menu where the dishes speak for themselves without being buried under sauces. Plus, because transportation across long distances isn’t an issue, farmers are able to supply more delicate heritage and heirloom products. And there’s the added benefit that when restauranteurs purchase food from nearby farmers, the local economy benefits.

Is there really a farm-to-table movement?

With the farm-to-table dining movement, consumers have become more conscious of how animals are treated, such as free-range versus caged, about the use of antibiotics in meat production, and GMO produce. Where you choose to dine in Wine Country today means more than a five-star review. A demand for local ingredients is creating a fundamental shift in the quality standards and production practices of the food industry.

This global shift toward farm-to-table sprouted a program from Slow Food International called “Snail of Approval.” Now popular among “progressive-minded food lovers,” the Snail of Approval recognizes restaurants that “promote regional cooking traditions, local agriculture and artisans, and enjoying the good life.” The standards are rigorous. You can’t get any closer to home cooking than a Snail-approved eatery. The ingredients are guaranteed fresh and humanely raised, but the home-cooking comparison stops there. These restaurants offer inspired, innovative culinary delights that raise the bar on your dining experience.

So next time you’re in Wine Country, you may want to check out some of Sonoma County’s snail-approved restaurants. Besides having gained Snail of Approval status, these eateries share a comfortable atmosphere, casual ambiance, and food that is beyond your expectations.

Backyard — Forestville

Pizzeria & Salumeria — Geyserville

Naked Pig —Santa Rosa

Shed — Healdsburg

Zazu Kitchen + Farm —Sebastopol

Are you willing to try a farm-to-table dining experience?

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Wine Country — a foodie’s paradise

Did you know that foodies are everywhere? A foodie is a crossbreed. You can be a jock, an artist, or a go-getter and, at the same time, appreciate good food and drink. Almost everyone likes to sample and compare culinary experiences. In fact, that’s exactly what entices so many to visit Sonoma and Napa Wine Country.

Culinary tourism is defined as the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences.  And the experiences are always changing — new recipes, new vintages, new flavors, new seasonal ingredients. And with so many restaurants, food events, and ways to immerse yourself in the food scene, people keep people coming back.

More and more travelers are choosing their destination because of specific restaurants they want to visit. Shopping and culture are secondary. And unlike museums or architectural sites, which are more or less always the same, sort of a “been there, done that” sort of thing, food and drink offer a new sensory experience every time. And foodies love to share.

Food tourism is about experiencing local gastronomy with friends — farm to table eateries, breweries, wineries, cheese shops, markets, harvest dinners, and wine tastings, as well as learning about food and interesting food and wine pairings. And we’re not just talking about gourmet food. Foodies are keen to taste their way through a new city’s street vendors and food carts. The emphasis is local.

Wine Country offers up lots of ways to immerse yourself into its foodie paradise. So make yourself at home at a Wine Stay luxury vacation rental. Use it as your home base to explore local food and drink. Here are three ways to deep dive into the local food experience: tasting tours, cooking classes, farmer’s markets.

Guided Food & Wine Tasting Tours

One way to experience the flavor of Sonoma and Napa Wine Country is to join a walking tour. You’ll find several options to choose from online. Although each tour has its own spin, the common thread is sharing delicious food and drink with others. This is a fun way to find out what a local foodie is up to and enjoy fresh, seasonal food and local beer and wine. Plus, because the itinerary is planned out, it’s easy.  Here are a couple of tours we recommend:

Wine Country Walking Tours — Healdsburg

Stroll around downtown Healdsburg and satisfy your taste buds on this easygoing, guided wine and food pairing walking tour. Perfect for a real foodie!

Gourmet Food and Wine Tours — Sonoma / Yountville

Here are a couple fun tours nearby Calistoga. There’s an interesting guided tour that couples wine or beer tasting with the history of the town of Sonoma.  And they offer a guided food and wine tour in Yountville, the foodie heart of Napa Wine Country, which highlights Michelin-guide restaurants.

Cooking Classes and Demonstrations

To immerse yourself in the “foodism” of Wine Country, why not check out a cooking class or demonstration? There’s nothing like getting hands-on with local produce to fully experience the bounty of this rich agricultural wine land. There are plenty of opportunities where you’re welcome to play with your food. The ones below are within easy reach of your Wine Stay vacation home.

Relish Culinary — Healdsburg

Located in the center of Healdsburg, this is where you can learn about food and wine at cooking classes taught by local chefs or attend culinary events that will inspire your cooking!

Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — Napa

Close by Calistoga is the renowned Napa culinary arts school, which also offers a full calendar of food demos and hand-on classes at Copia food and wine center in the town of Napa — a delightful way to explore wine and food.

Farmer’s Markets

If you’re inspired to whip up your own meal in the privacy and comfort of your vacation rental, shopping local markets is the way to go. Just about every town in Wine Country hosts a farmer’s market. Products are always farm fresh and seasonally ripe, and often organic. Some markets include handcrafts from local artisans, as well as entertainment. The markets below are held Tuesdays and Saturdays. Pick out your favorite ingredients and get cooking!

Farmer’s Market — Healdsburg

Shop for fresh-from-the-farm produce, meats, cheeses, honey, and much more. Snack on food to-go, enjoy entertainment — a true foodie’s paradise.

See our blog post for more about the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market.

Farmer’s Market — Napa

Frequented by locals and tourists alike, this market often hosts food demos, offers gardening info, specialty foods, in-season produce, and handmade items and homemade goodies.

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