Second Time Around: Sonoma

If you're following me on the 'gram then you already know most of what I'm about to say. If not,  I'm here to fill you in on my awesome few weeks working in Sonoma County, CA!

I spent the end of June/beginning of July working for Benziger Winery to learn more about sustainability. Their steadfast commitment to the land and community was the inspiration I needed, both personally and professionally, to become a more productive, sustainable member of society. But now for the food.

In my down time I visited old favorites (Taylor Maid Farms, K+L Bistro) and discovered some new places to sip and snack in the area. The first of which is El Molino Central in Boyes Hot Springs. A shoebox of white concrete, turquoise trim and bright red lettering, El Molino is a favorite Route 12 stop of both tourists and locals alike. My first visit was with a colleague during our lunch break, which happened to be before the lunch crowd so we had the back patio to ourselves. The menu consists of typical Mexican offerings: tacos, enchiladas, tamales but they far surpass any floppy taco or soggy tamal I've had on the East Coast. My colleague ordered the fish tacos. The fish was battered to crisp perfection and laced with a generous drizzle of creamy avocado-lime mayonnaise. My tamales were stuffed with rich and savory pork, an essence of dark chili permeated every bite of masa. To finish, we each had a refreshing strawberry agua fresca. I visited three times during my stay, the same order each time, because when you find perfection you don't mess with it.

From the natural light and artful use of reclaimed wood to the leafy decor and blended menu, Handline just radiates those quintessential California vibes. As the website says, Handline is a "...celebration of our region’s bounty merges with the state’s diverse culinary heritage." The omnipresent tacos and tostadas are tweaked with California ingredients like local squash and avocado, even calamari tacos (ingenious, why is it the first I've seen?!) I stuck with the 'al pastor' and was not disappointed. Piled high with neon purple pickled onions and grilled pork, these tacos are impressive. The burgers are creatively topped and vary in true California style: fish, veggie, and beef. The sides and salads are also more California inspired like sauteed squash and mushrooms with green garlic butter. It sounds flat but when it is made with uber fresh, local ingredients it tastes like a different, better dish all together. Oh, and don't forget a side of fries!

Last is the newest addition to Sebastopol's Barlow complex, Crooked Goat Brewery. I haven't liked so much beer from one place in a REALLY long time. You can order by the glass or make your own flight (totes the best choice) and while they don't have a kitchen, they work with local restaurants that will deliver to the bar. I ordered the pork sliders from a barbecue joint down the road and not only were they speedily delivered they were supremely tender and dripping in tasty malt vinegar, Carolina style. My flight included their IPA, Tangerine IPA (winner, winner, liquid dinner!), Mountain Goat IPA and a blackberry wheat ale. The IPA's are stellar: brimming with hops but not overly resinous they are easy to enjoy and pair well with most foods.

California becomes more comfortable with each passing trip. This time I was even brave enough to drive through downtown San Francisco. Pretty sure that means I can do anything now. Perhaps a move is in order? We'll see what the year brings...should be interesting! Until the next dish, ciao!