Baltimore Sun Sunday
Get cozy in Petaluma under the radar
PETALUMA, Calif.— Just 40 miles north of San Francisco, Petaluma might be overshadowed by the heavy hitters of Sonoma County, such asHealdsburg. But this town is rife with hidden treasures, not the least of which is a devotion to excellent food.
If you’re looking for food that typifies the area, head to Della Fattoria (141Petaluma Blvd. North.; 707-763-0161; dellafat toria.com; no item costs more than $16), a brunch and lunch spot with Italian farmhouse touches, walls the color of burnt earth, piles of fresh-baked bread (rosemaryMeyer lemon, currant walnut, ciabatta) and glass cases of cream-topped cakes.
Entrees are made with fresh, local ingredients. I ordered seasonal veggies on polenta from the specials list and am still thinking about its delicately done cauliflower and just-right chili seasoning.
For those whowould like to produce their own locally sourced foods, visit Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.’s Seed Bank, housed appropriately in a bright, grand, 1920s bank building (199 Petaluma Blvd. North; 707-7731336; rareseeds.com). It sells almost 1,300 types of heirloom seeds, arranged library style. Also on the shelves: gardening books and magazines, organic spices, bug and bee houses, soils, pots and garden tools.
I didn’t stay overnight, but I did drop in to scoutMetroHotel (508 Petaluma Blvd. South; 707773-4900; metrolodging.com). A stoic Frenchman gave me a comprehensive tour of the 140year-old building, whichwas restored in 2004. Most of the whimsical decor is from France: claw-foot tubs, vintage posters, cottage antiques.
There is a lot of color, especially purples and reds, and it all evokes a bit of a European-hostel feel. The14 rooms start at $99, which also pays for a basic pastries-and-coffee breakfast. For adventurous sleepers, there’s a parked Airstream complete with plastic flamingos out front.
Metro is half a mile from downtown and on a busy street, so bring earplugs if you’re sensi- The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.’s Seed Bank is housed in a 1920s bank building and sells nearly 1,300 types of seeds. tive to noise.
And though wine country isn’t exactly known as an econo-vacation spot, you can get by on the cheap.
At Della Fattoria, I spent $20 on polenta and a cappuccino. At the Seed Bank, $15went for pansies, cilantro and soil in which to plant them. Add $129 (at summer rates) for a one-night stay atMetroHotel, where breakfast muffins are free, and you’ve gotten by pretty easily.
Beyond food and the fact that you’re in Sonoma County, one of the biggest wine producers in the world, there are other points of interest. Three blocks from the seed bank is the Military Antiques & Museum (300 Petaluma Blvd. North; 707-763-2220, military antiquesmuseum.com), awarthemed antique store with a free-admission museum. Docents showoff artifacts spanning the CivilWar throughWorldWar II, many of which should probably be in the Smithsonian.
Stop in at the visitors center, in a century-old Mission Revivalstyle train depot (210 Lakeville St.; 877-273-8258; visitpetaluma .com), where I learned from knowledgeable volunteer docents that, thanks to Petaluma’s bedrock foundation, the 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco broke only one window here.
Nowback to the food. Coming Aug. 25 is the 7th Annual Taste of Petaluma. You’ll be able to dine at 40 locations for food, wine and beer, plus entertainment. Details are at tasteofpetaluma.org.