Leaving San Francisco was somewhat painful in that we discovered the most excellent bar round the corner (Rye - they KNOW how to do cocktails) the night before after a day of drinking margaritas, red wine and eating lots of cheese and had a rather crazy, drunken night that neither of us fully remember…though I’m 95% sure it involved lots of gin Martinis, some Dutch air crew and Mr B eating pasta in his pants…perhaps it’s best that I forget the rest?
So packing and leaving the San Francisco flat was pretty painful, not least because of the massive hangovers we had but also the fact that we had “lost” the keys to the flat. An hour of searching later, Mr B lay on the floor exhausted with no keys and found them on the floor, camouflaged in the carpet, where we’d thrown them in our drunken idiocy – a most awesome start the day!
Onwards to the hire car place where we managed to get our SUV whilst many, many others had to wait for hours for their convertibles (I saved money and 95% of the time it was too hot to have the top down/you would have eaten A LOT of flies!). Driving for the first time in the US whilst hung over was something of an experience but driving over the Golden Gate Bridge was the fulfilment of a dream for Mr B so he managed to crack a few smiles
Arriving in Sonoma was just what we both needed, it was only about a 2 hour drive there through some gorgeous scenery and the place itself is just so beautiful, calm and relaxing.
Arranged around a square with a lovely park in the centre, Sonoma centre is full of amazing gourmet restaurants, little boutiques and cool architecture. The host where we stayed described it as “a more chilled out, beautiful Napa” which doesn’t even come close to how lovely the place was.
But the big win for me was our accommodation - I found Beltane Ranch online in some massively lucky moment, amongst all the many, many other accommodation options in the area. I was drawn by the idea that this was a working ranch, with its own wine and olive oil, and the pictures…surely nothing can look that beautiful in person…?! Why, yes it can! If you are ever in even the same continent as Beltane Ranch – go. I can’t possibly describe how wonderful it is so the pictures will just have to speak for themselves…
Whilst I am so looking forward to our wedding next year, it actually made me wish I was American so that we could have our wedding there! They have a stage out back of the house under the shade of a tree, complete with fairy lights, a dance floor and a hammock. The party would be magical!
We were only there for one night but visited the ‘hottest’ restaurant in Sonoma whilst we were there – The Girl and the Fig - run by Sondra Bernstein – who coincidently mentions Beltane Ranch in her recent book! We chose to sit out in the patio garden and all the staff were so concerned that I’d be cold (?!?) that they gave me a massive hand knitted blanket and kept checking on us to make sure we’d not frozen It wasn’t even close to cold by our standards!
The food was amazing, simple and well-tried and tested flavour combinations, but with fantastic, amazing ingredients! Mr B had roasted squash soup followed by wild flounder meunière with Yukon potato purée, cello spinach and a lemon-caper brown butter. I had fig & arugula (rocket to the rest of us) salad with toasted pecans and dried figs followed by grilled pork porterhouse with celery root & quince purée and a pancetta vinaigrette. I accompanied mine with a wine flight and we just about managed to cram in a pudding that we shared of profiteroles which weren’t your usual but rather ”tahitian vanilla bean ice cream-filled cream puffs with a bittersweet chocolate sauce” – wow!
After an amazing nights sleep (probably the best I’ve ever had – no ambient light and no noise) we awoke to an amazing breakfast cooked by the Ranch’s chef with ingredients from the Ranch. I’d thought that the food the night before was good but this was superb! We had fruit salad and freshly squeezed fruit juice followed by sweetcorn pancakes with fried onions and ham and maple syrup, all served on the Ranch’s veranda just outside our bedroom. Once again all the Americans thought we were crazy for sitting out there in our shorts…it might have been more than a little cold before the mist got burnt off by the sun…but I came for breakfast on the veranda and that is what we had!
And that was the wonderful Sonoma, one night out of many on our holiday but by far and away my favouritist place that we stayed/visited. Now onwards now to Monterey Bay…