Shop local this holiday season

Grown or Made in California by Barbara L. Steinberg

Brannigans Woodland1My continued quests to shop local and only Made in the USA has continued. Other then a few odds and ends, my entire retail experience has included products only from these American shores. As I contemplated my Thanksgiving feast, there was never any question that my turkey would be local. This year I decided it really would be farm fresh. Branigan's Turkey Farm in Woodland, California. The drive would include some of my favorite back roads -- so score on both counts. Even the rain didn't dampen my locavore spirit.

 Berryessa Gap Winery & Tasting Room tugs from Highway 128.  Berryessa Brewing Company at the same location makes this a double-hitter. The destination is extremely popular with bicyclists who love to brave the hills and curves of Yolo and Solano counties along Highway 128. The winery also has a tasting room in downtown Winters.

Locavore cravings have one last destination pegged at Ikeda's just off Interstate 80 at Mace Boulevard in Davis. Anyone who has ever shopped Ikeda's knows it is lcoavore Heaven on earth. Fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade tamales, pies, fresh-roasted coffee, salsas, tortillas, coffee cakes, cheeses, meats, poultry. You always buy something more than you intended. It's all so freaking delicious.

A speck of sunshine is breaking through the clouds. But more wet weather is ahead. I turned my Subaru east and headed up the road. An excellent day and happy for the contributions made to local economies.

This Local Locavore Shops Yolo & Solano Counties Slideshow: Barbara’s trip to 3 cities including and Davis was created with TripAdvisor TripWow!

Agritourism is About People Getting Close to the Land

California's Small Farms & Ranches are Agritourism Friendly 
Story & Photos by Barbara L. Steinberg


Erickson Ranch Dogs Know the Good Life Credit Barbara Steinberg 2009 Near Fairfield and just off Interstate 80, the turn-in at Erickson Ranch is almost as obscure as the road that leads you there. The driveway, dirt and gravel, is bordered by orchards and aging farm equipment. The “parking  lot” has no striping, but hay bales act as bumpers. Exiting your vehicle, you are likely to be greeted by a pack of tail-wagging farm dogs – old labs, some terriers, and a cheerful pit bull named Rocky.

Farmers Ray and Victoria Erickson lead a life from days-gone by and one that you may envy. A third-generation farmer, Ray’s known farming his entire life; his grandparents farmed this same land.  After a complete remodel, he and Victoria moved back to the family farm about six years ago.  But to maintain this life on the land they work hard. Really hard! Victoria’s day job is that of a full-time RN. While Ray, spends his days plowing, planting, pruning, and picking. During their agritourism season they are open to the public six days a week!

Erickson Cutting Garden Credti Barbara L Steinberg “The ranch has become more of everything,” said Victoria. “Originally it was just a farm stand.” One thing led to another. The Erickson’s increased their dried fruit production – the most popular item is their Blenheim apricots. Then Victoria started making jams and apple butter and they acquired a chili roaster. They also grow cut flowers, which are popular with local brides who cut their own bouquets. According to Victoria, the number of visitors has increased and the visitor type has changed. “It used to be mostly women who were canning and wanted a variety of fruit,” she said. “Now, we’re getting more families – folks who want to see where food comes from. Lots of people from the Bay Area have discovered us.”

A 2009 survey conducted by the UC Davis Small Farm Program (SPF) showed that many of California’s small farms are reaping the benefits of agritourism. Of the 554 responses (2,000 surveys were mailed), 332 farmers identified themselves as conducting agricultural tourism. “The total number of respondents hosted more than 2.4 million tourists,” said Penny Leff, SPF Agtourism Coordinator. “But this doesn’t account for the farmers who didn’t respond. Clearly there are many more people visiting. The Dell'Osso Pumpkin Maze in Lathrop had 140,000 visitors last year. That’s a huge number!”

According to the survey, farmers are looking to increase revenues from direct sales and/or event fees.  More farms are figuring out how to do weddings – especially wineries – and events in orchards. The survey found that pumpkin patches and corn mazes have become incredibly popular.  Erickson’s has a small pumpkin patch as one of their seasonal offerings.  Not far away in Dixon, Cool Patch Pumpkins’ roadside pumpkin stand has evolved into the “world’s largest corn maze” authenticated by the Guinness World Book of Records.  The combined effort attracts thousands of people each year. 

“Wineries are still the most popular part of agritourism,” according to Penny Leff.  “The wineries taught everyone else...set an example...of how to do it." To prove her point, try a visit to Fairfield’s Suisun Valley. Equidistant between Sacramento and San Francisco, just a few years ago there were only two tasting rooms in  Fairfield Suisun Valley Vezer Family Vineyard Sign Credit Ba the valley. The numbers are multiplying and agritourism is flourishing. Vezér Family Vineyard and Blue Victorian Winery owned by Frank and Liz Vezér are but two of the newcomers. The wineries welcome guests to their tasting rooms and provide a spectacular backdrop for weddings, meetings, and concerts. Both the Blue Victorian and Ledgewood Creek (another Suisun Valley winery) offer guests and groups the rare occasion to enjoy the agricultural setting, a wonderful glass of wine, and a little bocce ball.

Training Rush Ranch Nature Center Courtesy of Solano Land Trust Agritourism is also about education. Rush Ranch Open Space and the Center for Land Based Learning are prime examples. Both offer educational opportunities on the importance of farming and the preservation of the land. Interpretive displays, living history, wagon rides, docent-led hikes, and team building opportunities are closely tied to agritourism programs and bringing guests close to the land. Craig McNamara, owner of Sierra Orchards, founded the Center to educate students about agriculture.  “Educational field days elicit a huge amount interest even with adults to come see the farm,” said Marion Adams, Center for Land Based Learning. “And there’s a huge trend for farm weddings.” Revenues generated from special events help support both nonprofits.

Day-of coordinator Genevieve Roja, owner of Lily Spruce, loves the Center for Land Based Learning. “The facility is gorgeous – the 100-year-old house is and a huge olive tree-lined drive leading up to house. It’s like something from a movie,” she said. “Some clients are more thoughtful andI  encourage them to use as much local produce as possible. Someone who interested in recycling and composting.“ All of this is part of the Center’s philosophy, too.

CFairfield Suisun Valley  Ray Erickson Credit Barbara Steinberg 2010ommunity Supported Agriculture (CSA) is the growing trend for smaller farms according to Penny Leff.  “You become a member and get fresh produce delivered from the farm.” The CSAs have open-house days for members and invite you to the farm and do tours. “It’s a direct connection to fresh food and a place for families to visit,” said Penny.  Eat Well Farms near the Center for Land Based Learning does everything from Summer Solstice to Pumpkin Harvest events for their members. 

The “from farm to table” principles are growing and many more people are seeking out local farms and agricultural programs as getaways. Farm and wine trails exist as far south as San Diego County and in Tehama County to the north.

Back at Erickson Ranch, a tall and lanky Ray is the picture-perfect farmer. Torn jeans, mustache, and broad-brimmed hat. “People come here to see Ray,” says Victoria. “They want to talk to the person who does this and Ray loves to share his story.”

Sacra-Tomato move over for Vaca-Tomato


Magical Mendocino County

We All Need More Mendocino

Long and Winding Roads Lead to Mendocino County Credit Barbara Steinberg 2009 The long and winding road to Mendocino County isn’t all that long. Roaming some of California’s most pastoral back roads, past rustic farmlands and small towns, Mendocino only seems far away. That’s half the allure. The other half is its untamed and undisturbed beauty. The landscapes, the views, the breathtaking coastline…Mendocino is more of what we need! More of everything that makes for a tranquil and splendid retreat.

The getaway begins along scenic byways that provide spectacular distractions. The favorite road less-traveled (especially from Sacramento or Napa) would be the length of Highway 128. Meander up the Napa Valley, past endless vineyards and fields. From Cloverdale to the redwood giants of Navarro, the road twists and turns. Take it slow and enjoy every moment. After all, you’re heading to the place where “back in the day” people went to escape and drop-out. Those same adventurers fashioned the eclectic, art-centric, and natural lifestyle so many of us seek. Mendocino County long-ago embraced their organic roots, and so will you.

Pace yourself. There’s so much to see, eat, and drink! Highway 128 winds through bucolic Anderson Valley. A small but mighty American Viticulture Area (AVA), it reads like a who’s who of wineries: Goldeneye, Husch, Navarro, Roederer, and Scharffenberger; all pretty heady stuff and just a few of the outstanding wineries in the valley. 

Mosswood Sign Passing through the counter-cultural town of Boonville, stop at the Mosswood Market for the first of many culinary pleasures. Over and over you will hear the refrain, “handmade, homemade, freshly made, and locally made.” Mendocino County has been living locavore for decades and aren’t you glad? A fresh Meyer lemon, artichoke Panini, small salad, and a home-baked cookie are lovely beside a glass of local Pinot Noir.

Next stop along the route is Goldeneye Winery, where, according to Wine Spectator, "Pinot Noir is king!" Just a few miles away in Philo, Goldeneye provides a perfect setting to wine and dine – well, picnic in this case. A yummy wine flight beside vineyard views and you feel yourself melting into the Mendocino pace. The annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival is hosted at Goldeneye in May. Just one of the county’s many eco-friendly wineries, Mendocino County is known as “America’s greenest wine region!”

Once you reach Highway 1 you will be swept away by rugged headlands, vast expanses of Mendocino Coast, crashing waves, blue skies, and a sense of freedom. Inhale deeply. Some of California’s most remarkable state parks – 22 to be exact – provide extraordinary opportunities to relax and unwind. Ocean and river beaches, redwoods, waterfalls, sand dunes, grasslands, and a historic lighthouse are all part of Mendocino’s magic.

There is no end to the captivating places to slumber and feast without restarting your car. Each offers its own brand of green living, style and grace…past and present. Farming’s past has blessed the Glendeven Inn & Wine Bar[n] in Little River. Original buildings, circa 1867, house plush suites many with ocean views. The stylish Wine Bar[n], yes, in the old barn, features local wines and art. Evening wine-tastings and hors d'oeuvres are a sign of good things to come. Breakfast baskets delivered to your suite include farm-fresh eggs laid by Glendeven’s brood of chickens. Homemade scones and fresh-squeezed orange juice…life on the farm is good! Enjoy a quiet moment overlooking the gardens, the surf, and a pack of docile llamas.

Through Glendeven’s gate, literally, you cross over to the contemporary, 10-room AAA 4-diamond Stevenswood Spa Resort. Surrounded by towering trees, this chic inn and eco-friendly spa endorses the farm-to-table lifestyle. Local chef, Patrick Meany, is at the helm of the Zagat-rated Stevenswood restaurant. Every item is a freshly-made and crafted gastronomic work of art. Imagine…homemade sea salt accompanies local olive oil and house-baked breads. These people are serious about their locavore existence! Oh, and very pet-friendly, too! Four legs or less…inquire within.

Just north, Brewery Gulch Inn personifies the concept of recycling. Built from old-growth redwoods, the trees were eco-salvaged from the Big River. These imposing timbers are the heart and soul of the 10-room inn. An evening reception of local wines, beers, and a variety of inn-made specialties is a gourmand’s delight.

With pounding surf below, the Albion River Inn overlooks the Albion River and Pacific Ocean. Words fail to describe the dramatic cliff-top vistas. However, room with a view defines all 22 cottages and suites. The oceanfront restaurant building dates back to 1919, but the cuisine is all about the here and now. Executive Chef Stephen Smith is known for his award-winning ‘coastal cuisine.’ Like so many other culinary masters, his creations are inspired by Mendocino’s bounty, from land and sea. An intimate corner bar flaunts a single-malt scotch selection compared to none – more than 150. Tastings – a flight of four ½-ounce shots – is a “virtual tour” of Scotland’s finest distilleries.

Mendocino Coast Credit Bruce Lewis Viewed from across the headlands or up-close and personal, the tiny Village of Mendocino is postcard perfect. Its Victorian splendor is frozen in time, but fantastically evolved. Tucked away on Ukiah Street, a yellow cottage and gardens conceals the acclaimed Café Beaujolais. For many years, the café has been a food-lovers destination. Seasonal menus showcase the freshest ingredients from near and far; Beaujolais’ “brickery breads” deserve their world-famous status; and award-winning Dungeness crab cakes are a café specialty.

In Fort Bragg, feed your garden spirit with a visit to the 47-acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, the only public garden that sits directly on the Pacific Ocean. The many gardens – perennial, Mediterranean, heather, dahlia, vegetable, rhododendrons – flourish in the ocean air. More than 400 dahlias put on a stunning display July through August. As if the gardens weren’t enough, more than 150 bird species and bluff-top whale watching are reasons to stop by.

Mendocino County Fort Bragg Skunk Train 3 year old Brian and Dad David Enjoy a Moment Creidt Barbara Steinberg 2009 5 In our hurried world, the slow-moving Skunk Train is a delightful way to decelerate and let go. This historic 1911 transit system, known as the crookedest track in the West, ambles past primordial redwoods and fern canyons along the Noyo River. The trip from Fort Bragg to North Spur is truly a journey back in time. Summer trains include a barbecue and entertainment at the North Spur station. Oregonians, Rick and Terri Korner, were loving their first Skunk Train experience. “It’s delightful…we’re so glad it’s still here,” said Terri. And it’s a wonderful way for parents and children to reconnect – joyful moments captured between David and three-year-old son Brian were testament to that.

There’s so much more to remember. The ebb and flow of the Pacific tides, the gentle cooing of a mourning dove, and a small circle of forget-me-nots…who could forget Mendocino?

For more information, visit: or and Slide Show

Mendocino County Crab & Wine Days – January
Mendocino Coast Whale Festivals - March
Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival - May
Mendocino Film Festival – June
Annual Mendocino Coast Home & Garden Tour - June
Annual Summer Arts & Craft Fair, Mendocino - July
Mendocino Coast Music Festival - July
Pure Mendocino Celebration, Premier Organic Food &  Wine Festival - August
Winesong!, Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden, Fort Bragg – September
Mendocino Wine & Mushroom Festival - November

Post holiday celebrations in Fairfield's Suisun Valley


Keep the Holiday Spirits Alive...Literally! by Barbara L. Steinberg

So, it's the 26th of December -- are you feeling those day-after holiday blues? All that pretty wrapping paper is now just so much trash. Maybe you're not part of the post-holiday sales crowd frenzy...enough retail already! But you've got family in town (or not) and you're just looking for that something special to maintain the seasonal glow. Well, that "something" is about 50 miles away in Fairfield's Suisun Valley.

December 26 - 27, 2009 celebrate the 3rd annual Suisun Valley Anniversary Weekend. This wine tasting adventure honors Suisun Valley's 27 years as an official AVA (American Viticultural Area). One of California's lesser-known wine regions, Suisun Valley is small but offers amazing opportunities to enjoy great wines and beautiful scenery...and it's just so close, convenient, and uncrowded. What a fantastic after-the-fact gift to yourself and that special someone (or someones) in your life.

December 26th & 27th
12 pm – 5 pm
$5.00 fee includes Anniversary Weekend Logo Glass, Special Tastings & Small Bites
Purchase tickets at participating Suisun Valley Tasting Rooms during event hours or in advance

Winemakers Dinner

Visit with the Winemakers and taste their Suisun Valley wines
Tuesday, December 29th
Clubhouse at Rancho Solano
Reception 6 pm – 7:30 pm
Dinner 7: 30 pm – 9 pm
$75.00 Advanced Sales Only

Particiating Wineries
Ledgewood Creek Winery
Tenbrink Vineyards
Winterhawk Winery
Wooden Valley Winery
Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative
  Blacksmith Cellars
  King Andrews Vineyards
  Mangels Vineyards
  Sunset Cellars


OWAC Logo BATW CA Watchable

Pumpkin Patch open in Fairfield California's Suisun Valley

Suisun Valley Pumpkin Patch is Fun for Everyone

Pumplkin Located inFairfield, California just off Interstate 80, Suisun Valley is a short drive from Sacramento. It's the perfect time of year to visit. Vineyards are at their autumn best with colorful fall foliage. With recent rains, the valley will be greening up soon. Enjoy the drive...stay for the fun!

More than 25 varieties of pumpkins, gourds, squash, ornamental corn and more for all of your fall decorating needs!

The Suisun Valley Pumpkin Patch
Open daily until Sunday, November 01, 2009.
10 AM - 6 PM
Admission is $3
Children 4 and under are FREE!

Includes five-acre corn maze, scarecrow gallery, pumpkin monster, hay pyramid, pumpkin bowling, picnic area. Lots of parking!

For Directions:  4443 Suisun Valley Road

Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory One-Day Sale in Petaluma/Sonoma County


Sales-Specials_timg[1] It's a Sticker Extravaganza! 
Mrs. Grossman's One-day Summer Warehouse Sale!
Drastic Reductions! Way Below Wholesale!

All you scrapbook fans won't want to miss this sticker sale!


9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
3810 Cypress Drive
Petaluma, California

  • Stuck on Pets – retail: $4.99  sale: $1.00
  • Lezaire Handcrafted Albums –retail: $19.95  sale: 2 for $5.00
  • Stickers on Rolls – retail: $25-$50  sale: $3.00
  • Lunch Box Notes – retail: $3.00  sale: $1.00
  • Sticker Bingo -  retail: $10.00  sale: $3.50
  • Stickerific Activity Kits – retail: $10.00  sale: $3.50
  • 25 sheets 12”x12” Vellum and Card Stock Paper – retail: $18.75  sale: $2.00
  • Create Your Own Adventure Kits – retail: $6.00  sale: $2.50
  • Ribbon Balls – retail: $8.00  sale: $2.00
  • Sticker Rolls in a Clear Clamshell – retail: $90.00  sale: $7.50

For directions visit their website at:

Because of very crowded conditions
Please - no strollers and we recommend keeping precious toddlers at home

Extra Added Attraction!
From 9:00 to 1:00 Dogs from the Sonoma County Humane Society will be Available for Adoption.
They would love to see you and, perhaps, one of them just might be right for your family.
 Woof! Woof!


Dining in Midtown Sacramento Just Got Fresher

Locavore Magpie Market & Cafe on Sacramento R Street corridor the New Hot Spot Story & Photos by Barbara L. Steinberg©  

The sign of good things to come is already here at the new Magpie Caterers Market & Cafe along the R Street Corridor in Midtown Sacramento. The owners, Janel and Ed, have been faithful followers of the locavore- and sustainable- style of cooking for many years. Both Sacramento natives and locals -- they live nearby in Midtown -- their catering gigs and culinary professions have taken them around the state and across the borders.

Story and photos available for reprint. Contact:

Solano County California Offers Bountiful Holiday Gifts

Solano County Banner

Solano's Bounty isn't Just Seasonal by Barbara L. Steinberg©     

 On just another beautiful day in Solano County, I found myself enjoying good things from the Earth at local farm stands and bakeries.

Previous visits to the region brought me good news about Pure Grain Bakery. I will say this more than once along the way, I am a glutton for great bread. I would rather have a fresh loaf of bread -- warm, crusty, chewy, whole-grains, cheesy, full of raisins, coated in nuts and seeds -- then chocolate cake, fresh cookies, or most any other sweet you can name. I have had Pure Grain breads before, but had no idea this honest-to-goodness German-style bread bakery was nearby.  So during a return trip to the region, I Googled Pure Grain and put the Subaru on remote. 

Pure Grain Bakery Sign Vaca Valley Road Credit Barbara Steinberg 2008 Visiting the "mother ship" in Vacaville,California was akin to Mecca. Located in a commercial district off Vaca Valley Road, it's no wonder I had never passed this bread haven before. But once there, I loaded myself up with a fresh-baked seeded baguette, pumpkinseed and caraway rolls, a Christmas stollen for my father-in-law, some holiday cookies, and one German pretzel to quell my bread cravings. The pastries looked and smelled yummy. Eying the cinnamon rolls, I had to pull myself away. Though small and obscurely located, the bakery was doing a brisk business on Saturday morning. In fact, they had sold out of rye bread to a single customer. Grrrrr...what I wouldn't give for a loaf. Talk about glutton. What about the rest of us poor bread junkies?

Pure Grain Sandwich Sign Vaca Valley Credit Barbara Steinberg 2008As if this wasn't enough punishment, I had to check-out the Pure Grain Cafe's Main Street branch in downtown Vacaville. The place was packed. Not hard to figure out why. Coffee, tea, pastries, bread, and made-to-order sandwiches...moms, dads, kids, friends, out-of-towners (me)...the cafe was humming. And so was I by the time I left.

Pure Grain is family owned and operated by boyhood friends, Michael Miethe and Holger Seibert, Pure Grain Bakery Bread Display Credit Barbara Steinberg 2008graduated from the same high school in a small town near Saarbrucken, Germany. They opened the Vaca Valley bakery in 1991...what more can I say? All the details are available online at Pure Grain Bakery.

After departing with my bread bonanza, I headed into the rolling hills and green fields nearby in Fairfield's Suisun Valley. I have visited many times but I always run out of time before I run out of travel...this is my new favorite phrase. This latest outing I have two very specific places in mind: Willotta Ranch and 99 Cherry Orchard. It's very convenient because they're both on Rockville Road.

The Rest of the Story.....

Fairfield California's Suisun Valley is Farm Fresh Heaven

   Suisun Valley is this Locavore's Delight by Barbara L. Steinberg©                                           

                                                             Susiun valley logo

After departing with my bread bonanza, I headed into the rolling hills and green fields of Suisun Valley. I have visited many times, but I always run out of time before I run out of travel...this is my new favorite phrase. This latest outing I had two very specific places in mind: Willotta Ranch and 99 Cherry Orchard. This was a very convenient because they're both on Rockville Road. And unbelievably, just a few miles from busy Interstate 5 and Fairfield California.

Suisun Valley Willotta Ranch Kiwis Credit Barbara Steinberg 2008 1 The Willotta Ranch was named after William and Loretta (Lottie) Pierce who owned and operated the ranch in the early 1900s.  Their grandson, Lewis Pierce III, introduced Kiwifruit to the ranch in 1972 before it became popular.  Lewis' daughter, Linda Pierce Wedemeyer inherited the ranch in 1991 and operated it for only two years before she died of cancer leaving the ranch in trust to her three children. Linda's husband, Austin, operates the ranch today.

The Willotta Ranch farm stand is open seasonally. Located on Rockville Road inside an old roadside market it doesn't Willota Ranch Kiwifruit Courtesiy of scream, "HEY! The best darn kiwis this side of kiwi heaven!" And organic too, by the way. There's a few small signs along the way directing you. Slow down, enjoy the ride, and don't miss the turn-in. They'll be closing down December 31. They box and ship domestically anywhere you want kiwis to be. Makes a great gift! Margie was there to greet me the day I stopped by. Her family has worked at the ranch for decades. She makes kiwi-pineapple jam and dried kiwi, which is also sold at the stand.

Hurry over! Next year fruit stand is in question as Austin heads off on a newly-wed adventure -- congratulations!We hope that future generations won't be deprived of this Suisun Valley gem. But farming is hard work, requiring lots of dedication. The Willotta Ranch legacy has been all that...and more!

More to come on neighboring 99 Cherry Orchard...stay tuned.