Thursday, August 31, 2017

Enchanting weekend getaway to Sonoma County

Story and photographs by Stephanie Wright Hession

Turning off Highway 12 at the Quarryhill property in Glen Ellen, we rambled down a paved road flanked by vineyards, where a rafter of wild turkeys appeared and goldfinches chattered in the fields.
Just up ahead, we spied the guest cottage perched on a knoll. Next to its rustic front steps, gentle trickling sounds emitted from a small pond dotted with water lilies on its surface. Inside the living room, windows afforded views of oak trees draped with gauzy, lace lichen, hilltop vineyards, fields and woodland.
Vintage and antique objects adorned shelves throughout the airy space, which features a living room, kitchen with a window seat, dining room, two bedrooms and a bathroom with a bathtub. There's also a laundry room with a washer and dryer. 
In the midst of this haven you'll find Quarryhill Botanical Garden, a lush, 25-acre Asian woodland. The flowering plants and trees grown here began as wild-sourced seeds collected during more than 20 annual expeditions to East Asia. 
Among the walking paths, waterfalls and ponds you’ll find dogwoods, magnolias, lilies, roses, maples and much more. Open to the public, Quarryhill Botanical Garden offers self-guided tours or docent-led tours by advance reservation. It encourages visitors to meander, explore and enjoy lunch brought from home at one of the picnic tables in this peaceful, tranquil place.
The focus of the garden is upon conservation and education. The staff works with the California Academy of Sciences, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and other research organizations to preserve exotic and endangered Asian plant species threatened by rapid development and climate changeIt conducts tours for local fourth and fifth grade students and tours, workshops and lectures for adult
Founded in 1987 by the late Jane Davenport Jansen on part of her land, which she purchased in 1968 to escape the chilly, San Francisco summers, this breathtaking garden continues to flourish under the care of Bill McNamara, its main plant hunter, executive director and president, staff, volunteers and members. 
In the late afternoon, we headed over to Jack London State Historic Park to see the Transcendence Theatre Company’s production of  “Fascinating Rhythm,” part of its annual “Broadway Under the Stars” outdoor summer concert series. The sun cast a golden glow over the Beauty Ranch meadow as we listened to pre-show music and munched on tasty picnic fare from The Girl and the Fig.

The high-energy cast sang and danced through Broadway numbers and songs including “Arthur in the Afternoon,” “Greased Lightnin’” Andra Day's “Rise Up” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” If you missed this concert, you can still attend the company's gala celebration, September 8-10, which promises more dynamic performances, community tributes, etc.

The next day we drove  to downtown Sonoma for brunch at The Girl and the Fig.

 At this beloved restaurant, proprietor Sondra Bernstein and executive chef/business partner John Toulze continue to serve up delectable, French-inspired fare in an inviting and unpretentious atmosphere. Guests savor an unhurried meal from a seasonal menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients and receive attentive service by a knowledgeable, amicable staff.
In the main dining room, we sipped fig royale aperitifs created with a house-made fig liqueur and French sparkling wine. 

The cheese and mano formate cured meat platter featured the server's superb choices: Bleating Heart's Death & Taxes, a creamy, pasteurized cheese made with organic Jersey cow milk; St. George, a tangy, semi-hard cheese made with raw cow's milk and a silky, sheep's milk cheese from the Central Coast Creamery Ewenique. 
We rounded out the meal with hearty entrees. The first, a ham hash, made with roasted onions, bell peppers and crispy potatoes tucked beneath two fried eggs along with a swipe of harissa aioli. The second, a croissant sandwich, stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and thick strips of house-cured bacon, accompanied by a side of crunchy potatoes.
All in all, an enchanting weekend.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden, 12847 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. (707) 996-3166,

Transcendence Theatre Company’s “Broadway Under the Stars,” Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen. (877) 424-1414,

The girl & the fig, 110 West Spain St., Sonoma (707) 938-3634,

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