Mickey Abbey, Artist, Custom GlassWorks at High Hand

Mickey Abbey and Wonder Woman Credit Are You That WomanMickey Abbey, a Sacramento native and Midtown dweller, started his stained glass art business more than 40 years ago at 18th and L streets. Next door to Mario’s Italian Cellar, now Crepeville, Custom GlassWorks survived changing times, while other familiar Sacramento haunts faded away. Mickey’s Wonder Woman (circa 1982) which graced the Crocker Museum and the glass canopy over Kupro’s Craft House are Midtown landmarks.

In his own words:  "I took a painting class at San Francisco State and discovered my art DNA. After four years working in Macy’s Union Square display department, I returned to my Sacramento roots. You come home because it’s comfortable.  Back in the day, Midtown was happening. We were just a group of guys doing a craft shop – Beginning – with woodwork, metal, sculpture, and stained glass.  There was nothing else down here at that time. 

I have come full circle doing today what I did in the '70s. Work and live in my studio, the doors open, impromptu music. It hasn‘t changed much. There weren't so many people living down here and everyone gathered at a handful of places – most no longer exist. Now, the choices are unlimited."

Mickey GlassNever one to be idle, Mickey continues to create and share his art. A new display at High Hand Nursery & Cafe in Loomis features more than 20 original stained glass works of art. All pieces are available for purchase or have the glass master design something custom. The possibilities are endless. You'll be smiling wide the first time sunlight shines through and streams a rainbow across the room. Find time to visit Mickey at High Hand Nursery & Cafe. It's a true destination – art gallery, cafe, nursery, flower and gift markets – a day-trip adventure.

 

 

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Relax Sacramento Spaaaaahs

Day spas and resorts promise to set you free to release and relax from daily hassles. In our hurried world, close your eyes, breathe, soak, massage and meditate your cares away. Here are some of Sacramento’s best, newest and trending spa escapes. An hour, afternoon, overnight - you deserve it!

My Sacramento – Cori Martinez, Owner
Asha Urban Baths
2 Cori Marinez owner Asha Urban Bath Credit Evan E DuranBathhouses are a rich part of many cultures throughout the world. A place to gather and socialize or peacefully retreat, the Greeks thought tidal waters were blessed by gods for healing. Asha Urban Baths, Sacramento’s first and only bathhouse has created a sanctuary to sooth your cares away and, yes, heal body and spirit. Therapeutic steam or sauna, cold plunge and sea salt waters are healing and invigorating. On a quiet alley off Broadway, the baths and yoga studio raised the bar on relax Sacramento. Cori Martinez, owner, had a dream 20 years in the making. Close your eyes and say, “SPaaaaah!”

After college, we moved to Hawaii and opened a yoga studio. Seven years later, my husband and I returned to Sacramento to be near family. Within a year we opened Asha Yoga. Now there are so many yoga studios, I became interested in creating inspired fresh spaces for community and so Asha Urban Baths was born. It took a lot of years of entrepreneur to build up the courage to do a project this big. It took six months to find the right space.  This building was perfect and gave me a clear indicator to make that leap of faith. My vision was to create the new happy hour. Do something that’s healthy, a place to socialize and have quality time with friends Asha Urban Bath Credit Evan E Duranand feel great the next day. This is not a spa, but another option for self-care. You can get a massage and make a whole day of it. I hope this area stays a little funky, but additional urban and cultural blends would be nice. 

We’re really happy here – the health and food scene has grown and both are things we enjoy.  However, it’s really the gigantic family and friends community that we love best.
2415 – 27th Street, Sacramento, CA

(916) 837-3290
Tuesday-Sunday 10am to 10pm

Spa at Thunder Valley
Spa at Thunder Valley Massage Courtesy of Thunder Valley Casino Resort
AAA four-diamond rated hotel and spa, no detail has been overlooked. Every spa guest is a VIP at this suburban oasis. Wrap yourself in a yummy Boca Terry robe and unwind in the Meditation Room.  Not just traditional luxury treatments, they embrace holistic practices. Aromatherapy, a wellness therapy, is added to all treatments at no charge. Wine-inspired grape seed-crush body scrub restores and leaves skin baby soft. Chocolate is trending in the spa world; ask about decadent Esthechoc – blessed by gods. Spa guests lounge at the resort pool and can reserve cabanas and cabeds. Skip Las Vegas and make Spa at Thunder Valley a weekend escape.
1200 Athens Ave, Lincoln, CA
(916) 408-7777
Open daily 10am to 7pm

Emperia Wellness & Spa
Emperia Wellness & Spa Credit Barbara L Steinberg2This intimate boutique spa provides the perfect retreat for weary travelers. Just steps from Sacramento’s AAA 4-diamond Hyatt Regency Sacramento in the heart of downtown, peace and tranquility reigns at Emperia Wellness & Spa. Don’t be deterred by the fitness center entrance. Swedish massage spoken here – 5-star on the Yelp meter! Experienced therapists tranquilize tight muscles and reduce stress.  Grapeseed oil, aromatherapy and customized massages available. Room service? In-suite massages offered, too!
1109 – 12th Street, Sacramento, CA
(916) 321-3718
By appointment only: Tuesday-Thursday 10am to 7pm
Friday-Saturday 9am to 6pm
Sunday 9am to 1pm
Monday, closed.

Spa LaLe
Spa LaLe Meditation Room  Courtesy of Spa LaLeLocated inside the Westin Sacramento, this inspired haven embraces an unwind and recharge mantra. Say “Spaaaa,” at your next corporate event! Go all out with LaLe’s Golden Tao Body Treatment, 110 minutes of bliss. Wellness and hot stone massages or customized spa experiences practiced here. Spa guests access hotel pool and saltwater Jacuzzi to create a full-day of ahhh.  A local’s member discount includes monthly and weekday wellness specials. Enjoy a little retail therapy at Spa LaLe’s boutique and dining at Scott’s Seafood Bar & Grill overlooking the Sacramento River.

4800 Riverside Blvd, Sacramento, CA

(916) 379-5980
Monday-Thursday 10am to 7pm
Friday-Saturday 10am to 8pm
Sunday 9am to 5pm

Heavenly Salt Spa
Heavenly Salt Spa Credit Even E DuranWalls lined with iridescent pink Himalayan salt bricks are relaxing and restorative. Halotherapy (halo is Greek for salt) or salt therapy, lightly disperses a breathable salt mist good for many health issues including respiratory, skin, sleep and stress and remains a top spa trend nationwide. At Sacramento’s first salt spa, you’ll drift off on a pink cloud. Mined from deep within the Himalayan Mountains, the salt is millions of years old. Protected from modern day pollution, it is the purest on Earth. Infrared Sauna and massages are also available.

3325 Folsom Boulevard, Sacramento, CA
(916) 455-1525
Tuesday – Friday 11am to 7pm
Saturday 11am to 6pm
Sunday & Monday, closed

The Spa at Arden Hills
6Arden Hills Credit Barbara L Steinberg2
A suburban retreat, there are many options to relax at award-winning Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa. Sacramento’s only full-service spa is the play-cation for lovers, friends, bachelorette parties or just some personal pampering. Unwind in the sun-drenched Serenity Room. Savor a detoxifying steam or distress in the hydrotherapy whirlpool. Indulge in signature facial and mani-pedi to make this a daylong affair or extend your stay with an overnight at The Villas.

1220 Arden Hills Lane, Sacramento, CA
(916) 480-1150
Tues – Thurs 11am to 7pm
Fri – Sun 9am to 6pm

Happy Day Spa
Foot massage
Chinese foot massage is a centuries-old tradition. Reflexology focused, massages include pressure points in your head and feet. Not a traditional massage by any means, this clothed experience leaves guests stress-free and begging for more. In a communal setting, foot massages are a price you can’t resist.  Located in Little Saigon since 2008, Happy Day Spa has three locations – Little Saigon, Natomas Crossing and Folsom – to keep your feet smiling.
6911 Stockton Boulevard, #500, Sacramento, CA
3890 Truxel Road, #100, Sacramento
1004 Riley Street, Suite 3 & 4, Folsom
10am to 10pm


Sacramento Visitors Guide Summer 2017Originally published in the Visit Sacramento Visitors Guide Summer 2017
Digital version linked above


Barbera Festival Highlights California's Celebrated Varietal Wine

Barbera festivalCourtesy of Balzac Communications & Marketing

More than 70 California wineries will present their wines at the 7th Annual Barbera Festival, taking place on September 16, 2017 at Terra d’Oro Winery in the Amador Foothills. New this year, wineries will not only showcase Barbera varietal wines, but also a limited selection of other Italian varietals, such as Sangiovese, Vermentino, Montepulciano, Fiano, and Nebbiolo.

The Barbera Festival is an outdoor wine and food festival highlighting Barbera varietal wines from more than 70 wineries from throughout California and beyond, including the Sierra Foothills, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Paso Robles, Livermore, Ventura County, Lodi and the Bay Area. In addition, noted area restaurants and chefs will again offer prepared gourmet food for sale, and more than 60 vendors of art and artisan crafts will be showcasing their wares.

“While Barbera becomes more and more popular in California, these wines still remain fairly obscure,” says Brian Miller, founder of the festival. “We started the festival several years ago to draw focus to this delicious varietal wine, and it’s grown into a huge success. Each year is a sell-out and we constantly get feedback from wine enthusiasts how much they love it.”

Barbera originated in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. John Doyle (Cupertino Wine Company, and later Las Palmas Winery) first imported Barbera into California and produced his first Barbera vintage in 1884. Post-prohibition, Louis Martini was the first to produce a varietal Barbera (a wine labeled as Barbera) in 1954. Today, about 7,000 acres are planted in California and nearly 200 California wineries produce Barbera wines. Barbera can also be found from Washington State, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa.

The 2017 Barbera Festival will again be held at Terra d’Oro/Montevina Winery, from 11:00am to 4:00pm on September 16, 2017. Tickets are $50 and must be purchased online in advance at http://barberafestival.com. Tickets include admittance, wine tasting, and commemorative wine glass. Food is sold separately. Free parking is available on-site. Attendees must be 21 or older to taste or purchase wine, and will be required to show photo I.D. as proof of age.

Check here for lists of participating wineries, artists, restaurants, and musicians.

All proceeds from the festival benefit the Amador Community Foundation.

Terra d'Oro Winery
20680 Shenandoah School Road
Plymouth, California 

Balzac Communications & Marketing


Sacramento's Best Cookies

Goodie Tuchews wears the crown for more than 35 years! 

It’s shocking tGoodie Tuchewso hear that some of you are not into sweets! A box of expensive chocolate truffles holds no fascination and luscious cakes aren’t your Achilles’ heel. You don’t wait breathlessly for all those candy-laden holidays – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, or Christmas – to be swept away into a sugar coma. However, on the rare occasion when your sweet tooth is itching to be scratched do you know where to go? A place – special above all others – called Goodie Tuchews. Sacramento’s bona fide cookie castle and where Terry O’Reilly, owner and lone baker, reigns as the Cookie Queen.

It’s amazing – nay, stunning – that longtime downtown residents and workers say they’ve never noticed the cookie heaven at 1015 L Street (circa 2007)-- and for many more years at 10th & J streets. Terry’s love affair with cookies pre-dates Goodie Tuchews’ 1981 opening. For five years she honed her cookie skills as a regional manager for Cookie Magoo, a Berkeley cookie chain (which eventually succumbed to the wilds of Mrs. Fields.) Terry had a short-lived break on the road to cookie connoisseur when she went to “live” in Europe . Three months later she was back in Sacramento working at the family-run Goodie Tuchews.

Terry’s dad came up with the 10th Street location. Though lackluster, the rent was cheap. And the name? Just a fun play on words, Goodie Tuchews, it was somehow fated. They found out after the fact that people use to call the Cal Western building the “Goodie Two Shoes Building ” because it housed so many non- profits. Terry, along with her father, Gerald, and six siblings crafted their cookies. Six Cookie Magoo recipes (Terry was granted these as long as she stayed out of the Bay Area) evolved into 19 and a local cookie legend was born. Eventually the other family members left the business and Terry became the cookie maven in 1994.

In more than 25 years at her 10th Street shop and now 10 years at 1015 L Street, Terry has baked thousands and thousands of cookies. About relocating she said, “Everything happens for a reason. The new space is luxurious by comparison and a better location.” Though she’s joined the ranks of prettier storefronts, her cookies will never be cookie-cutter. Each one is made with love. The most popular cookie is always the semi-sweet, chocolate chip without nuts. The only cookie to ever be retired was the gingersnap – due to lack of interest. And rumor has it that the chocolate cookie with peanut butter chips is a real “adult cookie”…try it with red wine. My personal favorites are Snickerdoodle and Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut!

Quoting the Cookie Queen:  “People said, ‘We thought you’d never make it!’ I never imagined after more than 35 years that I’d still be doing this. I made myself a job that I love. My motto has always been, Peace & Cookies on Earth!”

I say, "Amen to that and eat more cookies!"  You can also enjoy Sacramento's Best Cookies and Ice Cream Sandwich!


Isabella Corsetry a Sacramento Maker

Isabella  Erin Bray croset designer and maker Credit Jim CoatsErin Bray, Isabella Corsetry designer and maker, was a stay-at-home mom who fell in love with period costumes and architecture. Her passion inspired a foundation collection of extraordinary modern-day and traditional corsets. You don’t have Isabella Corsetry Credit Barbara L Steinberg 2016to be a dedicated tight-lacer, but “waist cinchers” can trim up to 10 inches. Endless combination of fabrics, trims, buttons and bows, patterns are drafted by hand and cut based on real customers. All finish work is under Erin’s careful watch. The well-loved and most popular Josephine “under the bust” corset is ideal for daily wear.

Isabella Corsetry
2311 S St, Sacramento
(916) 612-4075

Open by appointment




World of Flavors in Sacramento

Babylon City Market 2016 Credit Are You That Woman10Babylon City Market
1745 Watt Avenue, Sacramento; (916) 486-777
Six years young, this Mediterranean specialty market, bakery and café features halal meats, dairy, produce, spices, and traditional Iraqi breads prepared right before your eyes. You’ll swoon over fresh-baked samoon stuffed with chicken shawarma, pickled onions, garlic and tomatoes. Kabobs, falafel, chicken tikka, and hummus are all available to eat-in or takeout.  
Baking Samoon Bread Babylon City Market 2016 Credit Are You That WomanAre You That Woman Tip:  Ask about the anise cookies.


Back roads lead to Vannatta Wine in Elk Grove

Vannatta winery Credit Are You That Woman 2016Sweet, warm, welcoming. Country charm, family-friendly, so unexpected! The back roads of Elk Grove lead to Vannatta Wine. So glad I took that long and winding Sheldon Road under oak canopies to their "front door". Jamie greeted me so fantastically -- big hug! Steve was hurrying behind the pour on this Harvest Festival weekend. A good crowd, but not overwhelming. Live music on the patio under shade and sunny, blue skies. Tiny feet tirelessly enjoyed their first time on the grape stomp while the adults savored reds and whites paired with handmade pizzas by Flour Dust Pizza Company. I sampled the Chardonnay 2015 -- peachy and tropical -- and the Batalla 2014 aged for 24 months in French Oak -- it's yummy!  This is wine country the way I like it -- slow and easy. Many people I spoke with said, "It's my first time - it's amazing!" I agree and I'll definitely be back. Bocce ball and dog lovers head this way! 
Tastings are $5. If you purchase a bottle, the fee is deducted. 

Hours
M-Th by appointment
F 5-9pm
Sa-Su Noon-5pm
8718 Grant Line Road
Elk Grove, Ca 95624

 
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Locavores love Old Town Elk Grove Farmers Market

Old Town Elk Grove Credit Are You That Woman

Rating:  Star*Star*Star*Star*

Still uber cool, I know I must be getting older. How many times do I now say, "back in the day"?  Too many to count. So, back in the day...we use to go to Old Town Elk Grove! Comfy and quaint and ahead of the curve,we enjoyed Elk Grove Brewery brews and German food. That was then this is now. Lola's now lives at what was once the brewery. It's been too many years, seriously! Why? It's still so sweet and getting sweeter all the time. Motivated by news of a new farmers market, I made the short trek to Old Town Elk Grove and was not disappointed.
Old Town Elk Grove Farmers Marekt Sign Credit Are You That Woman
The new Old Town Elk Grove Farmers Market is finding its way—just five months new—it will get there. Allan D'Anneo, Market Manager, Living Smart Farmers Markets, is bringing locally grown, locally made, locally good to Elk Grove. Watsonville, Capay Valley, Sacramento, Lodi, Escalon—all good things from the earth— raspberries, apples, carrots, heirloom tomatoes, cheese, honey, peppers YUM! Bread, baked goods, tamales, good dogs (and I do mean tube steak) kettle corn (of course) and more! Delicious homemade goodies for your pooch, handcrafted soaps and body products, colorful tees, sea glass jewelry, and exotic goods, Yes, they're off to an excellent start.

Fruit and Veggies Old Town Elk Grove Farmers Market Credit Are You That WomanIt was quiet on this Labor Day Sunday—okay by me, but I know the vendors are eager to greet and meet you! Fabulous live music—this time the incredible and so mellow Jessica Malone and Matthew Hevesh!  More events coming to this corner including the 6th Annual Tomato Taste-off, September 18, 2016 and Pumpkin Patch and Paint, October 2nd and 30th.

The fifth star is coming for this rising star on the ag-tourism, farmers market circuit. And Old Town, I'll be back sooner than later! Are You That Woman is the ultimate omni-local. Lola's Lounge is now on the bucket list along with Bob's Club, a dive bar after my own heart. And just up the street, Boulevard Bistro! Stay tuned and @Visit Elk Grove


Nixtaco street tacos in Roseville, yes, Mexican perfected

Rating: Star!Star!Star!Star!Star!


Pork Belly Taco with pickled onions Credit Are You That WomanI fell in love with Nixtaco last year at the Auburn Farmers Market. The owner, Patricio Wise, had a small booth with a limited menu. Despite it's diminutive size, the descriptions were so delicious I couldn't decide and asked for guidance. He suggested the pork belly taco with pickled onions. I'll keep this brief and simply say, "OMG!" An explosion of flavors danced in my mouth. Sadly, the party was over too soon. And that's what I kept saying to everyone I met.


Elated to hear a storefront was in the making, I whined and begged a bit, "Please come to Sacramento!" But Patricio and Nixtaco opted for an obscure corner in Roseville — damn you Placer County! I waited with bated breath. Once I heard that opening bell, I made the drive from downtown Sacramento. Wild horses wouldn't/couldn't keep me away. And so, as part of my birth-month celebration, I posted to Patricio, "I'm on the way!"

The location is generic, but that's where it ends and deliciousness begins. Everything — I mean everything — is made with love and true to its Mexican roots. Honestly, most ethnic foods are dumbed- or watered-down for American taste buds. Plus, Americans expect huge portions heaped and spreading over the edges of plates. At Nixtaco, diminutive street tacos and burritos are bountiful and flavorful as they should be. Not stuffed to the point of exploding — three perfect bites — eat them slowly savoring every morsel.

IMAG0892On this birthday lunch, friend Barbara R. joined in as a first-timer and was thrilled. We both opted for the three-taco special(s) and over-lapped in some choices which included: Pork Belly, Pollo en Mole, Short Rib Barbacoa and Asado Norteño. I love, love, LOVE the black beans. We watched fresh tortillas being made, ate too many house-made chips, guacamole and salsa(s), and chatted away happily long after finishing every scrap. I like the simplicity service on metal trays and mason jars for the salsa. Less waste in our landfills or water wasted washing dishes. I would love to see some really fabulous art - maybe a cool mural by friend Dos Hermano/Gabriel Romo next time he visits from Mexico!

For those who commented about prices being high and portions small:  This is a small, locally grown, genuine experience. Quality. You get what you pay for which doesn't always mean a plate piled sky high. Nothing artificial here. Everything is made in-house. And just like any new business, there are bound to be hiccups. The owners are there watching carefully and putting heart and soul into what I hope will be a very successful venture.

Their website says, "Three bites of pleasure!" Are You That Woman is here to say three thumbs up along with those five (5) stars above. Patricio you'll forgive me if I continue to whine just a little, "Please come to Sacramento...after you catch your breath!"


Nixtaco
1805 Cirby Way, #12
Roseville, CA  95661
916/771-4165

 


The Dish on Placer County Small Towns

Small Towns are Too Much Fun, Too Little Time by Are You That Woman

I am so blessed to live in northern California. My dilemma always, “Where to go, what to eat?”  Less than 50 from California’s state capital, Sacramento, in any direction, farm and wine trails offer tours, festivals, music, flowers, art, and baskets brimming with edible delights. Day trips or overnight, bucolic communities wait with open arms.

Historic Higway 40 Loomis 2016 Credit Are You That WomanThis time, I choose to head out of Sacramento via I-80 east to the pastoral foothills of Placer County's famed Gold Country.  At Rocklin, I turn onto Taylor Road/Pacific Street—also known as historic Highway 40—to travel back road routes towards my chosen destinations.  I have a long-time love affair with this great American road, and slowing down is the best part of this journey.

The way is mostly quiet through the small rural towns of Loomis, Newcastle, and Auburn, whose combined populations top out at 25,000.  Up at daybreak, I’m giddy with anticipation as I head for the Old Town Auburn farmers’ market, anxious to peruse fresh produce, jams, baked goods, and crafts. Every Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon, Placer Grown and regional vendors Nixtaco Taqueria Pork Belly Tacos with pickled onion Credit Barbara L Steinbergvie for space at this premier market. My recycled bags fill quickly: Snow’s Citrus Court Mandarin Fruit Spread, The Baker & the Cakemaker Meyer lemon rosemary bread, fresh roasted chilies, crisp watermelon radishes, and made-by-hand Jollity Farm Chèvre. Seasonally, local Satsuma Mandarins are in big demand and sell out fast.  Away from the market, the Mandarin Trail provides endless possibilities for this healthful citrus, touted as a cure for the common cold.  I can’t resist Nixtaco Taqueria pork belly street tacos with pickled onions. The feasting has officially begun! 

Old Town Auburn’s historic sidewalks and brick and stone buildings speak to another place and time. IMAG0605However, a selection of retail shops and restaurants are strictly 21st Century. Fine art, antiques, wine, and museums provide a full-day’s exploration.  Across town, less than a mile away, I am drawn to Mickey’s Boots. Specializing in custom-fitting for more than 35 years, Mickey’s tops the list for Western boots. I was drooling over the Lucchese Classic – handmade in Texas since 1883 – it’s the Rolls Royce of boots. General Gomez Arts & Event Center, Winston Smith Books, Auburn Alehouse, Victory Velo Bike Shop – it’s all about locals!

Carpe Vino Auburn Dining Room table tops are made from a recycled bowling alley lane  Photo Credit Keith SutterLocated in the historic Union Saloon (circa 1855), Carpe Vino – award-winning wine bar, wine shop, and fine dining restaurant – is a northern California Top 100 according to Open Table, and favored by Wine Spectator.  Guests select from more than 400 labels, 30+ wines by the glass, or a house flight. Chefs Courtney and Eric, wife and husband, trained in classical French cooking at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and describe their menu as, “refined New American using French techniques influenced by flavors from around the world.” Acquiring produce and meats from local farms, menus change every month. “This is the food basket of America. We embraced that the day we opened,” stated Eric. They walk the talk every Saturday at the farmer’s market.

Having lingered at the market, I’m behind schedule. When visiting Placer County, you soon discover why schedules are made to be broken. In this case, I am immediately derailed by the historic Newcastle Produce fruit shed. The assortment of locally sourced goods is dizzying:  breads, cheeses, olive oils, produce, chocolates, and wine – truly your farm-to-fork one-stop shop.
Newcastle Produce Credit VisitPlacer.com4
Agriculture was Placer County’s second Gold Rush.  In the early 1900s, Newcastle was the fruit shipping capital of the world, transporting more than 69 million tons of fruits and nuts. The diverse landscape – foothills and majestic Sierra Nevada – supports a wide-range of crops from stone fruits, flowers, grapes, persimmons, berries, and kiwi to celebrated Satsuma Mandarins.  Locavores rejoice at Newcastle Produce! Deli staff prepares fresh soups, salads, sandwiches and more from local ingredients. This menu attracts hungry cyclists who pedal here daily. Before departing, I grab a latte and poppy seed scone.

Halfway between Newcastle and Lincoln, I navigate winding roads to sun-drenched Wise Villa Winery with 26-rolling acres of vineyards; the patio and tasting room are humming.  “I just wanted to make good wine!” Housemade flatbread and pulled mozzerella with tomatoes and balsalmic Dr Grover Wise Owner Wise Villa Winery Photo Credit Barbara L Steinbergasserts Dr. Grover Lee, owner and winemaker. Clearly, he has succeeded. Just six years since the first release, the winery was awarded California State Fair’s Winery of the Year, 2015. 

Estate grown and bottled, the winery consistently produces award-winning vintages, in particular, red wine. Partaking of a tour and full flight, I settle on the Touriga Nacional 2013, which has gold-medaled more than once. The complex flavors of berries, chocolate, vanilla and spice were luscious. The Bistro, under the guidance of Cher Tyler Huntley, is creating food and wine pairing magic. I enjoyed handcrafted flatbread with local tomatoes, house-pulled mozzarella topped with balsamic reduction, and house-cured olives with lemon, garlic and herbs. Other culinary delights, including house-made desserts, provide plenty of incentive to return.

Embracing the farm-to-glass experience Catherine and Michael Johnson converted their big red barn into the GoatHouse brewery and tasting room Credit GoatHouse BrewingIndulge your senses along Placer’s Wine & Ale Trail.  Small-production, family-owned wineries and craft breweries offer intimate tasting experiences. The granite soil and Mediterranean-like climate has provided the ideal environment for Placer’s liquid gold.  The burgeoning craft brewery trade shouldn’t be overlooked – family-friendly GoatHouse Brewing grows its own hops, 20 varieties.  A new generation is rushing to these award-winning wine and beer riches.

Crisscrossing back roads, I arrive at Loomis and The Flower Farm.  An inn, café, nursery, citrus and vegetable farm, produce stand, gift shop, winery, and events facility, it qualifies as a one-of-a-kind lodging destination.  Taking a breather, I stroll around the property.  The rooster makes himself known as I giggle over Gypsy Chicks, the resident flock of Silkies. Yes, farm living is the life for me!

The Flower Farm cottages provides porch provdes shaded comfort on a summer day  Credit Andrea's ImagesThe turn-of-the-century farmhouse offers relaxing spaces and three cheerful rooms upstairs. Shaded by century-old trees and flowering shrubs, serenity reigns. Just steps away, four cozy cottages are surrounded by expansive lawns and adjacent to citrus orchards, Bocce courts and blessed relaxation.  Sun porch or front porch, there are endless places to soak-up farm life. I collapse in my Climbing Rose Cottage, enjoying a quiet time in the spa tub before embarking on my dining adventure.

Loomis Basin Brewing, less than five miles from The Flower Farm, sits nearly unseen in an industrial park off Highway 40. In the dark, even I resort to GPS! With no food truck and the back patio empty, it’s a quiet scene tonight.  Inside, the tap room feels like old home week, and regulars invite me to their table. Looking for something light, the bartender recommends the Swetzer Pale Ale with notes of pear and citrus.  On tap, bottled or growlers, brewery selections range from IPAs and wheat beer to stouts and porters. It’s all local! 


With the day winding down, I’m happy dinner is less than a mile away.  Someone has suggested the Green Elephant, specializing in Burmese food. The lone server and owner, Rachel Lunt, greets me enthusiastically.  The dining room is empty, which gives us time to chat while I peruse the menu. I was told the Green Tea Salad is a must. “The younger tea leaves preserved with ginger, garlic and spices are imported from Burma,” Rachel says, “The salad is only available depending on the supply.” It includes cabbage, peanut oil, lime, tomato, peppers and an assortment of twice-roasted nuts. “Twice roasting Tea leaf salad Credit Tesssa Bmakes them crunchier,” explains Rachel. 

It's been a full day of indulging, the sizable salad qualifies as dinner.  Fresh and flavorful, there was a party happening inside my m outh! There’s a wide variety of items on the menu including Thai, Chinese and Japanese, and nearly every item can be made vegetarian. By the time I depart, the restaurant is full and clearly many are regulars.

After a good night’s sleep, I am up with the roosters. A country breakfast is included with the room, and I’m ready to eat, again!  San Francisco tablemates, Harry and Kate, are on a hiking adventure.  We’re dining in the café, which is open to the public for breakfast and lunch.  Eggs, applewood smoked bacon, homemade jam, local organic toast, and country potatoes; I’m a happy camper.  The menu includes vegetarian and gluten-free options and is crafted around what is grown in the one-acre vegetable garden.  “We love this place,” says Kate, “We’ll be back.” I agree, but so much more awaits. 

Baby Alpaca curious and smiling for the camera Credit Alpacas All AroundA short drive away, I pass over small bridge and head down a private road.  Pulling up to Alpacas All Around, five or six baby alpacas are racing around the pasture while moms quietly graze.  I immediately start to ooh and aah, completely enthralled by their antics. Tours are available on select weekends or by appointment.  Owner, Susan Peterson, is a gracious and informative host, and the alpacas provide endless entertainment. While they don’t like to be touched, some are curious and sniff me out.  Wonderful alpaca products are sold in a tiny farm shop. My feet love their new toasty alpaca wool socks.

There’s a lot of good living packed into Loomis’ 7.2 square miles and agricultural production, including Blue Goose Produce and High Hand Nursery & Café on Taylor Road. Part of the region’s fruit shed heritage, owners have taken locavore to the next frontier. Not just produce, but meat, cheeses, wines, art, clothing, and plants.

The historic Blue Goose Fruit Shed was preserved by the South Loomis Heritage Foundation and, today, houses Blue Goose Produce, Sarah Whitcomb Antiques, and The Loomis News.  Blue Goose Produce is open year-round and specializes in Placer Grown fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including their own Westview Growers’ Satsuma Mandarins. Recently opened, Popie Wines’ tasting room is open weekends, noon to 5:00 p.m.  

High Hand Nursery & Cafe 2015 Credit Barbara L Steinberg15A sensory experience, the centerpiece of High Hand Nursery & Café is an arboretum-like garden and nursery; High Hand-grown plants fill the greenhouse.  Allow plenty of time to eat, shop, relax, and to be amazed. Lunch or brunch, the café and deli are surrounded by light and greenery. Culinary delights crafted from the local best have me drooling. Shaded by trees, a glass of wine, a Rotisserie Chicken wood-fired pizza, and slice of Whiskey Pear Almond Tart – seriously, it doesn’t get much better!

High Hand Art Gallery, the oldest section of the fruit shed (circa 1901), houses leading artists of the region:  art glass, textiles, sculpture, jewelry, and paintings. A fantastic collection of shops include everything from flowers and garden art to olive oil and antique and vintage goods. The Tin Thimble, a creative sewing and fiber arts shop, tops my list. Hand-dyed felted wool, handcrafted children’s clothing, and vintage notions – it’s truly inspired. For the creatively challenged, classes are offered!

Carriage Loft and garden Courtesy of Carriage LoftFor this very local excursion, farm stays, bed and breakfasts, VRBOs, and Airbnb are a harmonious alternative to hotels and motels. On VRBO, the “Carriage Loft” included farm-fresh organic eggs, veggies self-picked from the garden, swimming pool, hot tub, foothill views, and luxurious décor. If comfort and close to the action is your preferred lodging, rest your head at the award-winning Auburn Holiday Inn. Elegantly remodeled, the new decor it's all that (snap) and more!  Amenities galore you can wine, dine, swim, workout and relax in the heart of Placer's gold country.

“People are nice here – a small town is like a big family,” observed one resident.  In Placer County, small towns deliver big on a promise of too much fun and too little time.  I can say without hesitation, “It’s true!”

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Originally published Food & Travel Magazine
April 2016

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