While spending time in the neighboring town of Sebastopol, it was confirmed that sometimes you don’t need to travel far from home to find bucket list worthy adventures. Just fifteen minutes from my Northern California house there was a place that quenched my new experience thirst, The Barlow.
The Barlow is a brand-spanking new marketplace that is home to artisan craftspeople specializing in foods, art, wine, fashion and more.
This is not your typical shopping center, which is perfect because I am not a typical shopper. There has to be something unique to get me to stray from my convenient online spending habits.
And this place is it. It is special. It is a diverse collection of creative eateries, passionate winemakers and visionary artisans with quite a few bucket list worthy things to do to fill up an afternoon itinerary and then some.
1. DRINK AN ORGANIC GOAT ROCK POUR-OVER
What the heck? Goat Rock? Pour-Over? I asked myself the same questions. Goat Rock is an organic, medium dark coffee, made by Taylor Maid Farms, that is all the rage in my neck of the woods (and beyond). “It is named after a local landmark lying at the mouth of the Russian River on the Sonoma coast.” Add to that the trendy, Japanese pour-over method of brewing one cup at a time and you have found a nearly perfect cup of Joe. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
photo credit | tmarsee530
2. WITNESS A 2-STORY THANGKA IN THE MAKING
On most days at the Tibetan Gallery you can get a glimpse of Tashi, a Tibetan thangka master artist, working on the completion of a traditional Buddhist scroll painting. His 2-story piece, a thanbhochi or large thangka, is being made with hand-ground mineral pigments, 24k gold and lots of passion.
Its 15′ x 20′ hand-prepared canvas is made from 100% cotton, sourced from Healdsburg, and the artwork is comprised of 37 intricate characters. Tashi estimates that it will take 4-5 years to complete. He has much more patience than me.
3. SPLURGE AT A TRENDY BOUTIQUE
I have always wanted to walk into a trendy boutique and purchase a unique article of clothing or accessory without ever looking at the price tag. Tamarind would be the perfect place for that.
They specialize in stylish products “from around the world, selected to complement the finest local designers and independent American labels”. Owner Andrea says that each piece tells a story and I wanted to create my own tale while wearing many of them.
If nothing else, just stop in to pet Basil, the adorable resident pooch who is usually there to greet you with the wag of a tail.
4. DO A PROGRESSIVE WINE TASTING
Shopping and wine? Could there be a more perfect duo? The Barlow offers a few spots to get a taste of some of the finest local vino. Stop by Marimar for a taste of their organic La Masia Pinot Noir or pop into La Folette for the Manchester Ridge Chardonnay or maybe even a little Grenache at Wind Gap. Or just try them all. That’s the best idea.
5. DRINK A BEER TASTING FLIGHT
It takes something extraordinary to get me to part from my beloved red wine, especially if you tell me my only other option is to drink…beer. Gasp. But, I will make a temporary exception at Woodfour Brewing Company to partake in their beer tasting flight. You have your choice of five…count them, FIVE…house-crafted beers served in cute, tulip stemmed glasses that resemble mini-wine glasses, which gives me a disturbing amount of comfort.
Make sure to try the coffee porter, it’s made from Taylor Maid’s Goat Rock coffee (see #1).
6. TOUR & TASTE AT A DISTILLERY
You may be sufficiently buzzed by now, but you can’t leave the Barlow without tasting and touring Spirit Works distillery. Using whole grains is always the starting point for this distillery and what a great start it is. Taste the Gin made with organic California wheat, the Sloe Gin made from steeping sloe berries and vodka made with organic California-grown Hard Red Winter wheat. Then tour the distillery to see how it is all made.
7. EAT A NOSE TO TAIL DINNER
Whether you order the pig face poutine or snout to tail sampler or just a simple hunk of tender flatiron steak, Zazu restaurant will not disappoint. Their style is ingredient driven, using the local farm to table philosophy while concentrating on nose to tail dining.
8. INDULGE IN LIQUID NITORGEN MADE ICE CREAM
How often does ordering ice cream results in a dazzling cloud of smoke? Uh. Never. That can all change at Sub Zero Ice Cream where they are using gastro-molecular technology to make one of the most popular desserts in the world.
The science experiment starts with selecting a cream base and then using liquid nitrogen to flash freeze the cream, blasting it to a chilly -321 degrees. After the texture is firmer, choose your crunchy, sweet and/or fruity mix-ins and you have some of the creamiest, freshest and entertaining ice creams.
Disclosure: I was a guest of The Barlow and Sonoma County Tourism, but all the words I write come straight from my, sometimes distorted, mind. Just as it should be.
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