Sacramento day-trips to regional secret gardens

Gardens grow everything from edibles and flowers to botanical history and strange works of art. Use leisure time to explore nearby secret gardens – conventional and not. Slow down. Enjoy the landscapes. Getting there is half the fun. To unearth these secrets use GPS, Google Maps, road maps, and age-old technology of calling ahead for directions.

Go Discover! Lotus Valley Nursery & Gardens
Petersen Lane, Lotus, CA 

Lotus Valley Nursery & Garden Credit Barbara L Steinberg3A quick retreat up Highway 50 east to Ponderosa Road, left across the highway and right on North Shingle. Wind your way and stay left at the ‘Y’ onto Lotus Road, left at the Bassi Road stop sign and stay straight onto Petersen Lane. Views of the American River are on your right before turning into Lotus Valley Nursery & Gardens’ secreted entrance.

Owners, Joe and Bob, turned a three-acre old homestead into a heaven of ornamental grasses and demonstration gardens. They invite you to come and discover. Bob’s handcrafted sculptures and water features are cleverly displayed in the “Tin Room Gallery” and throughout the garden. You can spend quiet hours strolling, picnicking, and contemplating. A variety of serene sitting areas beckon. Clearly, they want you to stay.  Plenty of other nearby distractions keep you close, including local wineries. Open Wed-Sun 9am to 5pm through November. Open in the winter by appointment. Lotus Valley is magical.

Continue down Lotus Road to Highway 49 north to the Dave Moore Nature Area along the south fork of the American River; half the trails are wheelchair accessible. If you skipped the picnic, there are plenty of breakfast, lunch and dinner options at Lotus and Coloma. You can loop back to Sacramento along Highway 49 to Interstate 80 – enjoy the scenic route which is about 100 miles round-trip.

Go Explore! Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture
Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture Credit Barbara L Steinberg30
South Burson Road, Valley Springs, CA

Take Highway 99 south to Highway 26 east towards Valley Springs. Ready yourself for scenic vistas. Two-lane country roads framed by orchards, vineyards, and small towns are visually soothing. On 52 acres, owners Denise and Kresimir are cultivating art and relationships along groomed trails and undulating hillsides. The winding road delivers sculptures, hospitality, wine tasting, spring wildflowers, and beautiful views. Ranch hikes are an adventure in search of sometimes elusive art installations and views of Calaveras County foothills from the “Top of the World.” Call ahead for an appointment and directions.

If you still have time on your return, Lodi wineries are plentiful and freeway-close.

Go Seek! Regional Parks Botanic Garden
Intersection of Wildcat Canyon Road & South Park Drive, Berkeley, CA

It’s a straight shot down Interstate 80 to urbane and sometimes eccentric Berkeley. Day-trippers overlook that East Bay Regional Park District protects
secret gardens and thousands of acres of open space in the Berkeley hills. The Regional Parks Botanic Garden is a charming destination and less than 90 miles from downtown Sacramento. Ten acres of California native plants are organized by geographic regions of the state.  The garden was established by James Roof in the 1940s and contains rare and endangered species such as Presidio Manzanita and Small-leaved Rose. Regional Parks Botanic Garden Credit Barbara L Steinberg3Built along meandering trails and bridges the garden feels primordial. Grassy areas are perfect for running; children are welcome to do so.


The annual April spring plant sale is a rare opportunity to purchase plants propagated from the Garden’s collection. Many of these California native plants are available nowhere else.  All proceeds benefit the Garden. Free public tours are held most rain-free weekends and group tours are available by special arrangement.

Just a few miles away, the stunning University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley is 34 acres of formal gardens and glasshouses, with more than 13,000 different kinds of plants from around the world.

Go Sac! Go Yol! Go Sol! Gardens Galore
Gardens at Sacramento Old City Cemetery Credit Anita Clevenger3Sacramento gardens are many. Don’t be surprised, but none more special than those at the Old City Cemetery! The 3-acre Historic Rose Garden gives life to nearly 500 antique and old garden roses many found in abandoned sites, homesteads, cemeteries, and roadsides throughout northern California. The aroma is heavenly.  Hamilton Square, named after Alexander Hamilton’s youngest son, contains perennials from all five Mediterranean climates of the world.  A California Native Plant Society has created a garden among the headstones. It’s phenomenal in the springtime.

Garden lovers rejoice! The options are many and close-by. In adjacent Yolo County, the 1.5-acre UC Davis Good Life Garden at the Mondavi Center Institute for Wine and Food Science is an edible and ornamental Fairfield Suisun Valley Glashoff Sculpture Credit Are You That Womanlandscape. Learn new gardening concepts and eat healthy, too!

Cross one more county border into Solano. A well-kept secret, Suisun Valley hides the fantastical Phillip Glashoff Sculpture Garden. Williams Road, a country lane off Suisun Valley Road, does not easily give up this secret. Wander the driveway and no farther. Dozens of sculptures along the way and in the field will leave you wide-eyed.  Easier to spot is another small collection on Rockville Road.

 

Are You That Woman

Elk Grove Subaru

If my Subaru can't get me there, that's a good reason not to go!


It's all about the bats in the Yolo Basin

Bat flyout Credit Are You That WomanMost people run screaming in terror at the site or thought of a bat. Visions of Vincent Price and Count Dracula horror films quickly come to mind. The movies and stories of old have convinced us that bats -- all bats -- are blood-sucking vermin. Nothing could be further from the truth. A recent visit to the Yolo Basin Foundation chased away any fears and squelched the myths and lore of vampire-ish behavior.

Every summer, the Yolo Basin Foundation and NorCalBats, dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of bats throughout Northern California, conduct educational seminars about local bat colonies, their ecological importance, and efforts to conserve California bats. Specifically, Mexican free-tailed bats in   the Sacramento region.

Bats are not flying rodents. The truth is, bats are more like humans then you probably realize or care to know. Bats are mammals. They are warm-blooded and have fur. Bat babies are live births and they drink milk. Most bats only have one baby at a time, though occasionally they have multiple births. Sound familiar?

The majority of bats eat bugs. Some eat fruit. And of the 1,100 species worldwide, only THREE species actually "drink" blood! Of those, two species drink the blood of birds and one actually drinks the blood of mammals -- though mostly cattle and not that of beautiful young maidens. Now don't get too nervous. Unless you're traveling to Central or South America, you aren't likely to encounter any of these three blood-hungry creatures.

Another myth eliminated on this trip: Bats are not blind! In fact, they see in black and white and use echolocation to find their prey in the dark. It's a remarkable navigation system. What I'd really like to know is how someone figured out the B/W thing!

The bat presentation was fascinating and lasted about an hour. But then the big excitement and the thing we were all waiting for: the bats! Public tours can be packed and usually sell out, but we were a small group of maybe 7 or 8 being guided by Corky Quirk who is a lover of bats and expert in the field. We piled into a van and bumped along the dirt roads into the Yolo Basin, a flood plain between Davis and Sacramento. The land is farmed during the dry months and flooded in the rainy season. Bodies of water (some natural and some manmade) attract a bevy of wildlife year-round. During drier months, you can actually drive into the basin but for most people it's viewed from Interstate 80/The Yolo Causeway which crosses the basin for almost three miles between Sacramento and Yolo counties.

Little did they know that constructing the "Causeway" created the most perfect of bat habitats in the form of expansion joints under the bridge. How perfect? Well, how about 200,000 - 250,000 bats perfect! This is actually a maternal colony. Females only! (The guys hang-out in another location. Hmmm, not such a bad idea!) When the females give birth in early July the colony will more than double. I don't know about you, but that's a lot a bats!

Bat flyout and tours kid friendly Credit Are You That WomanAlong about sundown we traveled approximately three miles into the Basin to the portion of the bridge where the bats colonize. Along the way we saw great egrets, snowy egrets, and night heron. Avocets tip-toed through shallow rice paddies and great blue heron strutted slowly, gracefully across the field. The dots of red on black bird shoulders bounced and bobbed among the tule and rushes. And the flash of one lone yellow-headed black bird elicited a gasp from me. A clutch of baby ducks skittered away as we passed and three young Canada geese ran comically down the road in search of their parents.

We arrived at our destination and waited for the big moment…the bat “fly out!” It comes just around sundown and on this particular evening, somewhere around 8:35 p.m. And just as promised and on cue tens of thousands of female bats poured – in a steady stream – out from under the bridge. Strangely there is one exit point. They fly out over one particular tree. Up into the sky and then begin to disperse into smaller groups, heading off for an evening of bug gorging. There’s one major exodus followed by several smaller groups.

It was out of this world! And just another in a long list of California ’s most amazing natural wonders.

For more information on the Bat Talk & Walk, visit the Yolo Basin Foundation website: www.YoloBasin.org and NorCalBats at www.NorCalBats.org.

NorCalBats is funded through donations and presentations. No money is received from California Department of Fish & Widllife, U.S. Department of Agriculture, any state or federal agency, or major corporation. Tours are $12 each; children 15 and under are free.


Yolo County might just be the new Mediterranean for Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Capay Valley and California Blue Ridge Mountains Courtesy of Yocha Dehe Wintun NationMarch winds sweep across lowlands to undulating hills and valleys, where deep grasses rush like waves to an imaginary Mediterranean shore. In olive orchards, silvery white and green leaves shimmer on the zephyr and on warm autumn days, rich fruit dangles as precious jewels. Throughout Yolo County, they promise a bountiful treasure of liquid gold.

As in ancient times, the ripened fruit delivers a heavenly elixir. Among the oldest cultivated trees in the world, olives spread from Asia Minor (Turkey) to the Mediterranean thousands of years ago. The Mission varietal brought to Mexico as cuttings by Jesuit missionaries was first planted at Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá in 1769. Eventually growing as far north as San Francisco Solano de Sonoma (Sonoma Mission), these same Mission olives made their way to John Wolfskill’s ranch along Putah Creek in what is now Winters, California. Thanks in part to Wolfskill’s horticultural expertise, California’s olive industry flourished. Over time, supply exceeded demand, olive prices fell and so did the olive oil industry. Only in the past few years have producers and consumers renewed their love affair with California olive oil. Today, Yolo County olive oil is gaining a reputation as some of the best in the country. It’s time to discover it for yourself.

Why Yolo Olive Oil
Olives Courtesy of Visit YoloTerroir, a French term, literally translated means “earth” or “soil”. While most commonly associated with wine, terroir of olive oil is equally significant referring to the natural environment where olives are grown, including factors such as soil, topography and climate. The combination of warm days, cool nights and no fog create the perfect terroir for Yolo County olive orchards. Not only has California olive oil made a meteoric rise, but Yolo County might just be the new Mediterranean for Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO).

“One of the most interesting micro-climates for growing olives, Yolo County gets warm but generally cools off at night. Olives like fog in the winter when they go to sleep after harvest,” stated renowned gourmand Darrel Corti of Corti Brothers gourmet grocery in Sacramento and Chairman of the Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competition. “They like the kind of climate that humans like—where the living is easy—not too hot, and not too cold or damp. “ 

Olive trees Courtesy of Visit YoloYolo County has been proven as a top olive oil producing region because of the increasing amount of acreage, the perfect mix of sunshine, soil and water—that Mediterranean micro-climate—becoming a tidal wave of both planting and milling.  Prior to 2011, olive oil wasn’t included in the county’s Top 20 Commodities. According to the Yolo County Agricultural Crop Report, olive oil burst on the scene at #20 in 2012 and then leaped ahead to #12 in 2015.

“We are quietly becoming the nucleus of the new wave of California EVOO production, not only because of the dramatic increase in plantings and improved technology, but because UC Davis’ Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science contains the UC Davis Olive Center,” said Dan Flynn, Executive Director, UC Davis Olive Center. “Escalation of the California industry has been dramatic, growing from 500,000 gallons in 2008 to more than 4 million in 2015-2016.” UC Davis Olive Center is doing for olive oil what UC Davis did for wine by elevating it to be some of the world’s best. Established in 2008, the Center put UC Davis on the map for olives and olive oil research and education.

Boundary Bend, Australia’s largest producer of extra virgin olive oil, arrived on Yolo County’s olive oil scene in 2015 – growing, milling and producing – shining a spotlight on Woodland, California. “Climactic conditions in Yolo County are some of the best suited for EVOO production in California. While the county has not historically been a large olive oil producer, there are a number of groves in the county that are among the top producers for both yield and quality,” said Boundary Bend’s president Adam Englehardt. “We’re betting heavily on the quality of olive oils produced in the county and, so far, we have seen results that have matched our expectations. Residents should expect to see the industry grow for both large and small producers. Especially with the support of local residents and retailers.”

COOC SipSwirl, Sip, Slurp, Swallow
Olives are to olive oil what grapes are to wine. Wine is generally better when aged. Optimally, olive oil should be consumed within a year of production as it degrades over time. (When buying EVOO always look for the “harvest date”.) As with wine, EVOO tastings and pairings are encouraged through Yolo County tasting rooms. The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) also encourages learning the “4 Ss”: Swirl, Sniff, Slurp and Swallow. Aroma and flavor are subjective and, as with wine, you should drink what you like. Positive attributes of EVOO are fruity, buttery, pungent, bitterness (fresh olives), black pepper, tomato; the list of descriptors is long.  The COOC’s rule of thumb is to sip EVOO “neat,” on its own without bread or other food. Savor the oil as you would any vintage wine.

Awards and Accolades for Yolo Olive Oil
Made with the most up-to-date technology, the quality of Yolo County EVOO is improving every year. Gone is the romance of granite wheels turned by horse or mule. The best oil is made with modern technology, which is something that no other food industry can say. According to Darrel Corti, “What we have today was unthinkable even 20 years ago.” 

LA Logo Olive OilYolo County olive oils are top winners at prestigious competitions internationally and statewide. The Los Angeles International EVOO Competition, New York Olive Oil Competition, California Olive Oil Competition presented by Yolo County Fair, California Olive Oil Council and California State Fair have heaped honors upon some of Yolo’s best including Bondolio, Grumpy Goats, Hillstone, Séka Hills, Frate Sole, Bariani, Yolo Press, Cobram Estate and Buckeye Creek Farm.  Celebrating its 25th year, the COOC put California EVOO on the world stage by establishing strict standards with its Seal Certification Program. A trade association, they encourage the consumption of certified California EVOO through education, outreach and communications. The COOC Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition is open to member producers only.  Yolo County’s Grumpy Goats Farm’s (Capay) took Best of Show 2017 for their Picual (Medium Producer) along with two gold medals for their Picual and Italian Blend. Cobram Estate’s (Boundary Bend/Woodland) Sevillano also brought home gold. The California Olive Oil Competition presented by Yolo County Fair is the state’s largest competition. Established in 2005, only nine oils were submitted and judged. A huge learning curve, the competition now attracts some of California’s best – tasters and producers—and more than 100 individual oils annually. The Los Angeles County International Olive Oil Competition is the top ranking EVOO competition in the U.S.

Olive Friends – A sample of tours, tastings, and stories
Seka Hills Olive Oil Mill Tasting Room Seka Hills Tasting Room Courtesy of Yocha Dehe Wintun NationWhile some producers are only available online or through retail outlets, other Yolo County EVOO producers and tasting rooms welcome visitors.  “The number and diversity of facilities varies from very large to small mom and pop.  It’s amazing!” stated Jim Etters, the director of land management for the Yocha Dehe tribe. A magical journey up Capay Valley offers a wide array of options including Séka Hills Olive Mill. Opened in 2014, this beautiful state-of-the-art facility was thoughtfully designed by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the owners and operators. The estate-grown Arbequina is milled at the 14,000-square-foot facility; you can try it, along with other Séka Hills products (like wine and balsamic vinegars) in the spacious tasting room. “It’s consistently wonderful,” Executive Chef Steve Toso, Biba Restaurant, remarked. “A nice fresh flavor and not too spicy. Wonderful on cooked fish and Mozzarella di Bufala.”  

Many growers are relative newcomers, but they are a dedicated and passionate lot. The couple behind Grumpy Goats, Pamela Marvel and Stuart Littell, traveled the back roads of California looking for the right weather, soil, water and community. Yolo County’s Capay Valley had it all. “This is it!” they exclaimed and relocated about 10 years go from the Bay Area. Why olives? Well, Pam and Stuart didn’t want to be completely tied down and olives are more forgiving than seasonal row crops. They require less water and love the heat. You’ll hear this again and again in a land of sometimes little water, where olives rule. The orchards are Coratina and Picual varieties whose Mediterranean roots are well-suited to the region. Grumpy Goats' Picual brought home gold from the New York 2017 competition,

Kim and Paul Consol, Star Rose Ranch, tell a similar story. Ten years ago they bought a horse. Soon after, 20 acres in Capay Valley followed. Olives planted as a hedgerow thrived with minimal irrigation and provide habitat for their heritage livestock and poultry. Probably the smallest producer in Capay, their grove contains 200 trees, mostly Italian varietals and a few California/Italian hybrids.

Bondolio Credit Barbara L. Steinberg 2017In 1986, Karen and Malcolm Bond bought a 10-acre almond orchard in Winters but it wasn’t very profitable.  Six years later, a vacation in the Italian countryside changed everything.  Some crusty bread, fresh EVOO and sea salt and the rest is Bondolio history. After additional journeys to Italy, more tastings and research, the almonds were replaced with 1,200 olive trees. Awards soon followed including California State Fair 2017 Best in Show EVVO and Best EVOO by an Artisan Producer. ““If you smell our oil it’s very fruity and grassy, sometimes herbs—the flavor profile of traditional Sicilian oils. Our very first year, we won gold at the New York show. Our phone rang off the wall,” Karen said. Bondolio offers private tours by appointment only and groups are welcome.

Originally from Italy, the Bariani’s moved to a 4-acre orchard near Sacramento. Necessity is the mother of invention. So when they couldn’t find good olive oil, they decided to produce their own, bottling their first oil in 1991. However, Californians had little interest in locally-produced EVOO. “We would go from store to store, but the response was always, ‘It’s too expensive,’” Sebastian Bariani said. Selling at farmers markets, devoted customers asked local stores to carry Bariani. A segment on Martha Stewart changed everything. By 2004, they needed more room and relocated to 200 acres in Yolo County. “We stumbled on this property and just loved it.”

Frate SoleLocated in Woodland, Frate Sole (‘brother son’ in Italian) EVOO is available at the farm, Davis Food Co-op, IKEDA’s (Davis) and Masullo Pizza (Sacramento). Additionally, the oil is used at The Press in Midtown Sacramento in preparation and as a menu item for dipping. Frate Sole’s robust Tuscan blend took Best of the Best at the California Olive Oil Competition presented by Yolo County Fair 2017.

Where to Buy Yolo County Olive Oil
Yolo County EVOO is regularly available at kitchen specialty and gourmet markets including Corti Brothers, Taylor’s Market, Bi-Rite, Market Hall Foods Oakland/Berkeley, Sprouts, Ikeda’s California Country Market/Davis, Well Stocked Kitchen & Home and Nugget Markets. Producers large and small can also be found at farmers markets in Sacramento, Davis and Palo Alto.

UC Davis Olive Center’s Estate EVOO is available at the UC Davis Bookstore and at Picnic Day.  Proceeds support the self-funded Olive Center.

Events
Bici and Bevi Yolo Wine and Olive Oil Ride – Yolo EVOO and wine is presented by Hot Italian and set to benefit the UC Davis Olive Center. Cap off Bike Month this May and join Hot Italian and Bondolio for a benefit ride to explore olive oil, wine, and pizza in Yolo County.

Olive Crush Festival – Enjoy a fun afternoon at the Séka Hills Olive Mill and Tasting Room celebrating the olive crush. The afternoon will be filled with olive oil and honey tasting, wine and sangria by the glass, mill tours, and live music, local vendors, food trucks and more.


Roots to Wine in the rolling green valleys of Yolo County California

Barbara Matchbook Wines Credit Janet Fullwood 2016

After too many years of little rain, California's valleys are lush with agricultural bounty thanks to plentiful rainfall. The back-roads of western Yolo County are shaking off their winter blues for the rich greens of spring and summer. Vineyards and orchards are humming back to life and soon will be burdened with luscious fruit. Family farms will labor to produce world-class wines, olive oils, and jams and jellies -- providing eager visitors with Mother Earth's very best.

That "best" isn't just about buttery Chardonnays and deeply rich Tempranillo or grassy olive oil. It's also about a sense of place, restful views, and family-friendly farms full of smiles. Bring a map and leave GPS behind. Let a quieter pace guide you through rolling hills and along numbered county roads -- a simpler time. Allow yourself to get lost in Yolo.

Roots to Wine, a guide to western Yolo County, is everything you'll need for this idyllic getaway either day-tripping or overnight. More is always better! Like so many before, you'll be saying, "I never knew this existed!"

Now you do!


How Much is that California Doggie?

The Rest of the Tale in Yolo County

Davisfest_hotdogger_credit_barbar_2 Pretty darn cheap at The Hotdogger in downtown Davis, California. For more than 30 years, Hotdogger has walked many a joyful diner down ‘the dog’ path. This wiener-sized café provides limited counter-seating. The dogs, on the other hand, are not your tea-cup variety.

These California dogs may not be AKC line-up, but they are pure-bred delicious! Your classic all-beef Chicago Dog with German mustard, tomatoes, diced onion and relish will set you back $5. From across the border, the spicy Ortega Dog with green chilies and pepper jack cheese will light your fire for $5.75. The Gut Bomb ($6.50), The Bandito ($5.50)...Louisiana hot links, chili, salsa, onion…where’s the Tums and Scope? Of course they also serve the PC Veggie Dog breed ($4.75). Well-groomed with mustard, ketchup, relish, onion and a sprouted wheat bun, it’s just like the real thing. Well, maybe.Davisfest_hotdogger_all_beef_credit

Oh, and about the buns! An often overlooked, but integral part of the whole doggone dog experience. Hotdoggers’ buns are locally made at the Village Bakery – another closet-sized establishment. Davis may just be a breeding ground for this kind of thing.

The second owners, the Franks – no, I’m not kidding – have been Davis’ tube steak mavens since 1993. 

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Woodland a dining destination: Restaurant Week 2017 and beyond

Sunflowers WoodlandIn California, every season is splendid and bountiful along Yolo County's back roads. Part of the Central Valley, this agricultural heartland is situated between coastal foothills and the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Rolling hills, verdant valleys and mountains overflow with a profusion of vineyards, orchards, pastured livestock and row crops. All the best, the finest and most delicious ingredients take center stage at local restaurants and cafes.

Taste of YoloVisit Yolo is way ahead of the "foodie" curve and I will cease to refer to use that descriptor here and now! They are inventing their own culinary fiefdom. Nowhere is this more evident than historic Woodland, your new gourmand destination.
Historic Woodland
’s up-and-coming restaurant scene is skyrocketing! Just remember you heard it here! Culinary stars are creating locavore magic showcasing regional meats, fish, nuts, honey, olive oil, organic produce and local wines and craft beer. Beyond the creative and tasty offerings, I was most impressed by a true sense of family throughout the Woodland community. There’s no happier way to dine than with family and friends. Are You That Woman Tip: Housed in historic buildings, Woodland pairs dining with extraordinary architecture.

Lamb Loin Chops Celery Root Gratin seasonal Veg of the day (Capay Organic) featuring Frantoio EVO from Buckeye CreekFather Paddy’s Public House
435 Main Street, Woodland, CA
(530) 668-1044
While approaches may vary, at Father Paddy’s house recipes are a true collaboration.  Owner Pat Redmond and Executive Chef Justin Severson have created a fresh, honest, common sense approach. “Comfort food with a flare!” said Pat. Less than a year on Main Street, Justin and Pat found what works between their flavors. During Restaurant Week, your taste buds will understand why! Paddy’s red carpet presentation includes local Lamb Loin Chops with Buckeye Creek Blueberry Balsamic Reduction, Celery Root Potato Gratin, and seasonal veggies. Take a deep breath, Pastry Chef Anya Redmond reinvents eat, drink and be merry. Dessert is an Irish Toddy-inspired parfait of Meyer Lemon Cake, Tullamore DEW (legendary triple distilled Irish whiskey) and Henry’s Bullfrog Bees Honey Mousse. Are You That Woman Tip: Savor Whiskey tastings and Father Paddy’s primer in the Whiskey Vault!

Maria's Cantina Chef William's Cochintia PibilMaria’s Cantina
306 – 6th Street

Woodland, California
(530) 402-1540
Kellie Morgan dipped her toe in the restaurant world. She’d never owned a restaurant. “I had a concept and wanted to bring it to life. Good food. Good ambiance – a fun place,” she says. “Hiring Executive Chef John Gamboni was the final key.” Maria’s Cantina clearly hit the mark. Feeling lucky to be in the center of fresh agriculture, Head Chef William Jeffries utilizes as much local product as possible. For Restaurant Week, a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Peninsula, Cochinita Pibil with an Achiote Glaze served over Poblano Jícama slaw with Cilantro Vinaigrette, garnished pickled red onions and micro cilantro. Plenty of Cantina chips and salsa beside a “damn good” house margarita, it’s a palate fiesta! Are You That Woman Tip: The fine art of sipping tequila spoken here. A tequila menu sports more than 30!

Chef de Cuisine Benjy, Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs with oven roasted marble potatoes with honey glazed parsnips, turnips, and rainbow baby carrotsMorgan’s on Main
614 Main Street
Woodland, California
(530) 402-1275
The dynamic duo of Morgan and Gamboni wanted to bring something different to Woodland. “It wasn’t a big jump from Mexican to Morgan’s,” Kellie remarked. So they successfully made that leap of faith and delivered a great steak house! Originally the historic Cranston Hardware, the restaurant and the new “Big Bar” are Uber chic. Chef de Cuisine Benjy Head celebrates the feast of Yolo’s Restaurant Week with SunFed Ranch Braised, Boneless Short Ribs with oven roasted Marble Potatoes, Honey (Del Rio Farms) glazed Parsnips, Turnips and Rainbow Baby Carrots (Capay Organics). “Timing is unique for the season. Root vegetables are more bountiful, so we selected what’s available,” says Benjy. 
Are You That Woman Tip:  Shared plates included Pull Apart Bread and Bowl of Bacon a combination of candied lardons and spicy chicharrón con carne. Yes, everything’s better with bacon!

Mojo CocktailMojo’s/Kitchen428
428 – 1st Street

Woodland, California
 (530) 661-0428
“People are rediscovering Woodland,” Christy Hayes says with pride. “It’s a family vibe, local vibe—easy to make a connection.” And people are connecting at Mojo’s/Kitchen428. Kismet came calling to help Christy reinvent the historic Jackson Building once home to local landmark Morrison’s Restaurant and where she once tended bar.  Casual Mojo’s Lounge and stylish Kitchen428 share the same farm-to-fork philosophy under Executive Chef Efrain Hernandez’s culinary prowess. “The art of food fascinates me,” said Efrain. “I especially love working with seafood—in my region of Mexico I grew-up with fresh fish.” Christy and Efrain combine efforts crafting changing menus.  Come restaurant week, they celebrate Yolo and Sacramento counties winter harvest featuring Sacramento Grilled Sturgeon, Capay Organic Roasted Rainbow Carrots and Sautéed Swiss Chard, and Dragon Gourmet Oyster Mushrooms Beurre Blanc. Are You That Woman Tip: Ask about monthly Cocktail for the Cause. Proceeds (50%) from in-house crafty potions are donated to local charities.

Savory Cafe Housemade FettuciniSavory Café
722 Main Street
Woodland, California
(530) 668-4009
When it comes to family and farm-fresh, Juan and Toby Barajas embrace the mantra at Savory Café.  The brothers inherited their culinary acumen from their mother and grandmother along with an appreciation for sourcing local products. After navigating the family’s Knights Landing restaurant, Las Maracas, they wanted something different and, in 2015, acquired Savory Café. In slower winter months, they break from regular dinner service Thursday-Saturday. During Restaurant Week, their triple-threat lunch specials include a 10-ounce Grilled New York Steak with Brown Butter Sauce, Riverdog Farm Frites, Del Rio Botanical Greens and Citrus Vinaigrette; a Chicken Piccata with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Riverdog Farm Bloomsdale Heirloom Spinach and roasted Nantes Carrots; and house-made Pasta with Fried Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and garnish of Pomegranate Seeds, Pecorino Cheese and aged Balsamic Vinegar.  A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Toby proudly admits, “I’ve always loved cooking!” Clearly, it shows! Are You That Woman Tip: Not to be missed, Sunday’s Brunch spotlight Frittata with Lacinato Kale, Leeks, Chicken Apple Sausage, Potatoes and Toby’s Salsa Verde.

Are You That Woman Final Tip:  When it comes to local, Woodland’s dining establishments also feature local and regional wines and craft beers. Cheers!

 

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Bird Watcher Paradise -Sandhill Cranes Visit Sacramento River Delta


Day Trip to Woodbridge Ecological Reserve by Barbara L. Steinberg

Sunset at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve Credit Barbara L SteinbergSaturday was winding down. A perfect December day in the Sacramento Valley and along the Sacramento River Delta (or California Delta depending who you ask). Dry weather brings balmy days and very cold nights. It also means clear skies and stunning sunsets for birders who venture to the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve/Phil & Marilyn Eisenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve during the winter bird migration. A major stop along the Pacific Flyway, it's especially popular with the B-52s of birds, the sandhill cranes. Their annual visitation attracts birdwatching enthusiasts from around the region and world. And reason to celebrate the 20th annual Sandhill Crane Festival in nearby Lodi, California. 

Thousands of sandhill cranes along with similar numbers of geese, swans, Sandhill cranes 2 Woodbridge Ecological Reserve Credit Barbara L Steinberg
ducks, and various shorebirds spend fall and winter months in flooded farm fields along Woodbridge Road off Interstate 5. Each day at sundown -- yes, you can set your clock -- the spectacle begins. And then there are those rare days where sunsets are matched by a full-moon rise. The sounds and sights are breathtaking. In the fading light, the cranes appear ghostly in the shallow water. They will spend the night feeding, resting and courting. Their frenzied dance -- jumping and wings spread -- is part of the display.


Self-guided visitations occur daily. The reserve, property of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, also has docent-led tours.These tours fill-up fast, so book ahead.

But whatever you do, don't miss this annual event -- migration and festival. I've been many times -- the wow factor is always the same. This video from 2011 tells the whole story. If you're really dedicated, morning visits can net you some spectacular views. Thank you to James D. Simon for this incredible YouTube video

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Yuba Sutter Harvest Dinner magically delicious

Rating:  Star*Star*Star*Star*Star*

First Yuba-Sutter Harvest Dinner exceeded all expectations!

There's something so special about dining outdoors, especially in early autumn when California evenings are warm and dry with a promise of cooler days ahead. On October 8th, more than 100 friends of Visit Yuba-Sutter gathered to IMG_0471celebrate a bountiful harvest and feast. We dined and wined enjoying all the best of the region.

Late afternoon on Plumas Street in Yuba City, glasses of chilled champagne with local pomegranate syrup garnished with rings of Asian apple pear greeted us. Small bites featured balsamic, prune, goat cheese, arugula and walnut bruschetta and smoked porkloin skewers with prune-chipotle glaze. Yes, those dried plums have grown-up and are delish!

Mustard crusted organic rack of lamb portabella mushroom risotto, golden kiwi demi glaze and roasted butternut squash prepared by Chef Keith Colusa Casino Wintun Dinner House paired with 2014 Estate Cabernet from Cordi WineryAfter an hour of lighthearted cheer, we made our way to alfresco tables adorned in autumn finery and flanked by sunlit sycamores. Once seated, we got down to the serious business of dinner! Between pleasantries and laughter, four incredible courses and wines were served and consumed. Many oohs and aahs. Smiles. OMGs! Selfies and cell phone food photos followed. 

Yuba-Sutter chefs, purveyors, farmers, vintners and organizers outdid themselves. The evening was over far too soon with everyone agreeing the intimacy, elegance and warmth of the Harvest Dinner was more than we ever imagined. The presentations and creativity -- well, you wish you were there! As flower arrangements and place settings were cleared, we all asked, "What's the date for next year?" I hope I'm on that invite list!

The Menu Credit Are YouThat Woman

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Solano Land Trust hike “Where the Wild Things Are" - Free!

Praying Mantis at the King-Swett Ranches_By Al Mendle
Get a great workout and search for wildlife on this hike through the hills between Fairfield, Benicia and Vallejo. Solano Land Trust docents will guide you on an up to six-mile hike through this area, known as the King-Swett Ranches. Explore these lands that are both natural areas and working cattle ranches, learn about the plants and animals that call these lands home, and see sweeping views of Solano County and beyond.  Participants will get a great workout while looking for birds and other wildlife that call this area home. Residents and visitors are encouraged to take advantage of this special opportunity if they can because these ranches in the hills between are otherwise closed.

When: Saturday, September 3, 2016 
Time: 9am-1pm
Where: King-Swett Ranches
What to bring: Hiking boots or trail running shoes with good grip, water, and snacks.
Register: Space is limited and pre-registration is recommended at conta.cc/2bKB7F3. Important details, including the meeting location, directions and registration information are available at the registration link above, and on the events calendar at solanolandtrust.org

Solano Land Trust protects land to ensure a healthy environment, keep ranching and farming families on their properties, and inspire a love of the land. For more information about Solano Land Trust, its upcoming events and to make a donation, visit solanolandtrust.org.

For more information on wildlife and nature tourism locations, visit California Watchable Wildlife.


Food, fun, wildlife and nature travel the best of Yuba-Sutter counties

Summer and autumn mean luscious blackberries - fresh fruit, jams, and pies.
Summer and autumn mean luscious blackberries - fresh fruit, jams, and pies.
Courtesy of Visit Yuba-Sutter