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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A new Bay Area hot spot: The Barlow in Sebastopol

Have you heard of it? You might not have just yet. Its grand opening was on November 2, 2013 and is located in Sebastopol, CA off HWY 101 (N) using the 116 West exit about an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Barlow consists of 18 buildings, several of them large warehouse style structures, set on 12.5 acres of land that is now home  to a blend of wine makers, organic coffee, hand-crafted beer, food producers, and artisans that visitors can not just shop from, but interact with.

Links to all of our stops are at the end of the post

From the moment I'd learned that ZAZU Kitchen + Farm restaurant would be a tenant (relocating from their previous Santa Rosa location) I'd been wanting to visit The Barlow even before it opened. You may recall I had the pleasure of meeting ZAZU's co-owner John Stewart at the Wine Road's Wine and Food Affair last November. His Ribollita soup left an indelible impression that day and though I'd tried to make it to ZAZU a couple of times since then, it just never worked out.

So, you can just imagine how thrilled I was to be invited to a media tour of The Barlow that included dinner and visits to tasting rooms. I wasn't sure where the dinner would be but I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be at ZAZU. What other stops we'd make would also be a fun surprise.


We began our afternoon at Taylor Maid Farms, an organic coffee bar.  We were in the middle of one of the coldest cold snaps I've experienced in the 2+ decades I've lived in California and it was a particularly chilly day so a warm beverage sounded great. I loved the milk paint look of their name on the front of the building. It definitely made it feel more farm-like.


Inside was warm and cozy. The glowing warmth from the polished wood countertop stood in contrast to the more raw, lighter colored wood beneath and the stained timbers spanning the vaulted ceiling and front wall combined to create a wonderful rustic ambiance.

One of the first things I thought was I'd love to live in this building. Make the upstairs loft my bedroom, the central work area/coffee station my personal kitchen, and the rest could be living space. Maybe someday I'll have an empty building and I can do just that, have a home where the kitchen is literally the heart of the house.


Taylor Maid offers pour-over coffee where each cup is individually brewed using a small dripper. That's a ceramic dripper and small carafe in the picture to the left.

The upper right was my cup of organic peppermint tea. I have to tell you a few things about the tea. One was I ordered it because it was after 3:00 and I can't drink caffeine after 3:00 or I'll be up until 7:00 AM. Also, the decorated tree inside the shop made me crave something that tasted like Christmas. Last of all, I don't even like peppermint tea. LOL. At least I never had before. But Taylor Maid's Pure Peppermint tea was phenomenal! It reminded me of the fresh mint, liquid nitrogen ice cream I had at Smitten in San Francisco. The mint flavor was so pure it actually tasted beautiful. I don't know that I've ever wanted to describe a flavor as beautiful before but this was so pure, strong, soothing, and natural it was.

Best thing is they sell their tea to take home. Worst thing? I didn't realize that while I was there. But I'll be back for more the next time I head north on HWY 101. If you don't live in the area, lucky you can order some online.


Our next stop was really a treat. The Tibetan Gallery & Studio is where Tashi Dhargyal (a Tibetan Thangka Master and Teacher) is creating an incredible piece of art. Tashi is a native of Tibet and the first Tibetan to be producing an authentic Thangka painting in the United States.

The canvas frame is Douglas fir and the cotton was sourced in Healdsburg.

We learned all about the design, process, and religious significance of his undertaking. It will take five years for him to complete the 15' x 20' painting. At that time it will be displayed in the United States before being donated to a monastery in Tibet. To create it simply building the canvas was a tremendous undertaking that required both time and machinery to rotate the canvas as it was stretched. The pigments to create the painting are hand ground from stone. We were able to see and hold a sample of cinnabar which will be used to create the red pigment.


We also learned about thangkas (upper image), stupas (middle row left), and mandalas (middle row center and left). I'd read about mandalas before but hand't ever seen one in person. Made by Buddhist monks they are highly intricate colored sand pictures delicately poured from a tool like the one above beside the mandala. It's a long, almost horn-shaped funnel that drops a few grains of sand onto the canvas from its narrow tip. After the mandala is completed it is usually destroyed, swept away with a broom. It represents impermanence.

I recall reading about a mandala Monks created in the Bay Area several years ago and was disappointed I learned about it too late to view before it was destroyed. I did find it touching that after it had been swept apart some of the sand was given to visitors to take home as a blessing.

You can visti Tashi and see him at work on his thangka Wednesday-Sunday at his Barlow studio. There is a small gift shop to support his efforts and donations are accepted.


When one is in Somona County one should expect to taste some wine. And we did at La Follette Wines.


Their tasting room was spacious and elegant adorned with photos of the people who grow and make their wines. As we gathered around to sample wines produced by one of the world's top winemakers, Greg La Follette, I tried the 2011 Sangiacomo Chardonnay and two other wines but as usual my supertaster taste buds held me back from enjoying the experience the way the other writers did.


With no hope of an affirmative reply I asked if La Follette produces any dessert wines. One thing I've learned in all of my days of wine tasting in Sonoma County is for every 30 dry wines I sample there's one dessert wine that was produced in very limited quantities. Imagine my shock when I was told "Yes," La Follette did in fact have a dessert wine.

Following the first three samples I was offered a glass of La Follette's 2011 Late Harvest Chardonnay. A botrytis wine, sweetened by a particular fungus that naturally occurred in the vineyard, it possessed that wonderful sweetness that mellows the harsh acidity my taste buds simply can't handle in the dry wines. It was a delight to be able to sample such a special wine and was definitely a highpoint for me that evening.


There are also small shops and boutiques at The Barlow. We made a quick stop in Tamarind, a boutique that offers predominately women's apparel but I noticed a table of men's items towards the rear of the shop. If you know a guy who loves skinny ties they had some nice ones there. They also had jewelry and quite possibly the cutest French Bulldog I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Basil was adorable but wouldn't stop wandering around long enough to get an unblurry picture of him. He didn't move fast but he was always on the go or would look away when he saw the camera on him. You'll have to drop in and see for yourself how cute he is.


We walked past the Marimar Estates tasting room earlier in the day and I had to stop and take this picture of their dog-riding-a-bike-with-a-basket-full-of-wine sculptural sign out front.


It wasn't unti later when we stepped inside on the tour that I realized family is an important theme at Marimar Estate and part of their family are their Springer Spaniels, hence the dog in the sculpture. You can see photos of their pet dogs right on their website home page.


One of their best selling wines, Chico's Run, is named after one of their dogs :) That made me smile. I loved that.

Their wine club, Club Marimar, offers a plethora of opportunities that will interest both the novice wine consumer and the connoisseur. From workshops to luncheons, dinners, wine tastings, vineyard events, and even a trip to Spain, there's something for everyone interested in learning more about Marimar Estate's splendid Chardonnays and Pinots.


After two wineries it was time to break things up with beer. At Woodfour Brewing Company there is no shortage of beer. When we walked in there were already flights awaiting us. Historically I've never cared for beer (I blame my supertaster taste buds) with the exception of the very sweet apple and strawberry beers I once tried that had been imported from Belgium. So I held back on sampling upon our arrival.


Plus I was too busy taking pictures. Woodfour is quite the photogenic venue. I particularly loved their beer bottle display wall. I was told by a local that all of the available beers are on the wall. When one sells out someone goes up with a ladder and covers that bottle with a brown paper bag. What a fun system!

While sitting at the bar I noticed their tap system was also unique.


The taps come straight out of a the chalkboard-sign wall. Very cool.

There's also a kitchen. I can only assume the food was good because every table I saw that had food was either on it's way to cleaning their plates or their plates were already empty. Dining at Woodfour is now on my list of things to do the next time I visit The Barlow.


And I did sample a beer, but not just any beer. This was the coffee porter. I love the way coffee smells but don't enjoy the flavor at all. Deep and dark the coffee porter tasted the way coffee smells and was much more palatable to me than actual coffee, or beer. Go figure. It wasn't bitter or sweet. I did mention that a scoop of ice cream wouldn't hurt it, kind of like a coffee beer float. Hmmmm something to think about. Maybe a scoop of coffee flavored ice cream in a glass of coffee beer on a hot summer day, or a cold winter night. Sounds good to me.


Our final stop was the restaurant I've been looking forward to trying for over a year! Can you believe it? I'd waited more than a year to get there! ZAZU is the creation of Duskie Estes and John Stewart. They are a husband and wife team and certainly two of the most outstanding chefs in Sonoma County, or for that matter, the entire country. Duskie may be familiar to Food Network viewers for her appearances competing on "The Next Iron Chef."

I love everything about their business model: Fantastic food, humanely raised farm animals, using all parts of the animals (there is virtually no waste), sustainable organic produce, and dishes that feature local ingredients in-season.


The interior of the restaurant was expansive, cozy, and inviting. A long row of tables set with rolled linen napkins that looked like dish towels and aqua blue Ball jar drinking glasses set a casual picnic mood.


As we perused the menu I was served my seventh sample of wine that evening. To be honest at that point I was more interested in photographing it than drinking it. Six wines and a beer sample and I hadn't eaten in over seven hours. . . So, I got out my macro lens and got to work figuring out my shutter speed and aperture settings so that I'd be able to photograph dinner when it arrived. As I played with the camera settings I did compose this shot which turned out to be my most favorite of the entire day. I really love the barely decipherable red "ZAZU" on the menu and that the wine was swirling in the glass.


Without a word our servers appeared with each of that evenings appetizers. Clockwise from the top left were: Chick Pea Hummous + grilled zasumac flatbread (center), Tumeric Roasted Cauliflower + preserved lemon, Backyard Barlow Radishes (not pictured) + bagna caude, and Backyard Ruby Beets, verjus, pine nuts.


Of the four entrees offered that evening I chose the Petaluma Chicken Under a Brick with black rice, romanesco, persimmon, and agrodolce (an Italian sauce). The dish was delicious. In part of my effort to only eat the most humanely produced and slaughtered meats I hadn't eaten chicken in ages. But I did that night because I knew the meat on the menu at ZAZU would meet my standard.

The funniest part of my meal? I thought the orange cubes were squash and marveled at how deliciously it had been prepared. It tasted so good it didn't even taste like squash! Well, that's because it wasn't squash, it was persimmon. LOL

This dish inspired me in several ways. First of all I went to the Farmers Market two days later and bought a romanesco for the first time. I'll take pictures when I prepare it and show you what I did with it. It also made me realize that to add a sour profile into a dish that was both savory and sweet can make it even better. I can't say I'll undertake making an agrodolce but the flavor reminded me of some pickled beets I have in the fridge that would be equally delicious incorporated into other dishes, not always served as a side dish.


I'd barely finished my dinner when dessert arrived. A luscious, moist, rich, fig and chocolate, pannatone bread pudding. *Gasp, gasp, thud.* It was as wonderful as it sounds. I could taste a bit of citrus in each bite and learned that pannatone has bits of dried fruit in the bread. What a treat! The dish had a warm and cozy feeling to eat, almost like you're eating a hug :) It left me feeling that good.


After dinner we stepped back out into the cold evening air where ZAZU's giant metal pig, perched on the corner of the building, stood as sentinel of The Barlow, it's eyes glowing in the darkness as it surveyed the street below. The sculpture appears to be constructed of two horse water troughs, a metal barrel and a few other pieces of metal. It was created by local, Sebastopol, eco-friendly, junk artists Patrick Amiot and his wife Brigitte Laurent. If you were in doubt as to what The Barlow is all about its presence creates part of the vibe that lets you know you're in an authentic artsy community.


Because it was late (almost 10:00 PM) by the time dinner was over, we were offered lodging for the evening at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Sebastopol. It was a two hour drive home for me so the gesture was very much appreciated.

The staff at the Fairfield was kind and helpful and the rooms were spacious, fresh, and clean. I made use of the in-room wifi checking my emails before turning in for the evening.


Because I wanted to beat the morning rush hour traffic back to San Jose I came up with the brilliant idea of leaving Sebastopol by 5:00 AM. Um, remember that cold snap I told you about?  Yeah. This is what it was like at 5:00 AM.


Of course I had no ice scraper with me. I live in California for Pete's sake. Cassette tape cases are a thing of the past so what to do. . . *Thinking*. . . I realized I had a camera lens filter case in my camera bag. It's made of the same hard, clear plastic as a cassette case so I dug it out and used it to scrape all of my windows clear. And I really had to scrape. The ice was thick and firmly attached to the glass. I would have taken an after photo but my fingers were too frozen to feel the camera. LOL


An hour later I was driving through San Francisco and was surprised by how little traffic there was on the streets as I made my way down to the freeway. Was it worth it? Leaving Sebastopol so early in the morning? Turns out it was but not to beat the traffic. The best part was the sunrise I saw on the way home.


For the opportunity thank you to Lou Hammond & Associates. And for their time that afternoon and evening thank you Tim Zahner and Birgitt Vaughan from Sonoma County, Sara Cummings from Sonoma County Vintners, Sean Carroll from Sonoma County Winegrowers, and April V Karr from Social Elements. I know I'm going to have a fantastic time whenever I get together with any of you, all of you and I know it's going to be something special!



I'll definitely be returning to The Barlow to watch Tashi's work evolve, to pick up some peppermint tea at Taylor Maid, to dine at Woodfour, and to return to ZAZU. If any of my friends would like some company on their first trip to The Barlow let me know. If my schedule is clear I'd love to join you :)

The Barlow
www.TheBarlow.net
6770 McKinley St
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 824-5600

Taylor Maid Coffee
www.TaylorMaidFarms.com
6790 McKinley Street, Suite 130
Sebastopol, California 95472
(707) 634-7129

La Follette Wines
www.LaFolletteWines.com
180 Morris Street Suite 160
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 827-4933

Tamarind
www.ShopTamarind.com
180 Morris Street #170
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 861-9513

Marimar Estate
www.MarimarEstate.com
6780 McKinley Street
Sebastopol CA. 95472
(707) 823-9910

Woodfour Brewing
www.WoodfourBrewing.com and on Woodfour Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon
6780 Depot Street
(Entrance at 6780 McKinley St.)
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-3144

ZAZU Kitchen + Farm
www.ZazuKitchen.com
6770 McKinley #150
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 523-4814

Fairfield Inn & Suites
www.winecountryhi.com
1101 Gravenstein Hwy S
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(800) 627-7468

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