There is an undeniable coziness at Farmhouse Inn. Tucked into a clearing amidst the redwoods along River Road in the Sonoma town of Forestville, the resort seems to stand guard against the world, its two restaurants and lobby acting as a fortress against the bustle outside. Walk through the main farmhouse building which houses the fine dining restaurant, Farmhouse, to find the guest rooms and spa, slung along a hillside and, facing a wide patio that hosts the property’s more casual all-day restaurant, Farmstand.
The unifying theme here is farm, the pastoral idyll that informs the setting and the cuisine at each restaurant in equal measure. Owners and siblings Joe and Catherine Bartolomei represent the 5th generation of a local farming family. Under their guidance, a deep knowledge of the bounty of Sonoma and a finely tuned sense that what belongs on the table should come from your own backyard is clearly conveyed in the dining experiences.
What to Eat
Farmstand’s all-day fare is handled by chef Trevor Anderson and focuses on in-season live-fire cooking. Nab a seat on the sunny patio for beets with smoked beet puree and cocoa nibs or a grilled pork chop with apple-sherry glaze. Chef Trevor literally saved my bacon when I arrived, starving, at 4 pm, producing a pear, arugula and prosciutto pizza from the wood-fired oven within minutes of sitting down. Happily, the gluten-free crust bristled with dough bubbles and boasted a light, chewy texture. The bits of caramelized onion added a high note to the bitter, savory and sweet toppings. It was one of the better GF pizzas I’ve eaten. As ever, pizza is eternal.
Inside the main building is the property’s showcase restaurant, Farmhouse. Candelabras cast light on cream-colored, tufted chairs and tables napped in pale grey linen. Candlesticks crafted from clay hearken to an earlier era yet feel decidedly modern as plates of hand-thrown pottery begin to arrive. There is an undeniable warmth and coziness here – the Germans would call it gemütlichkeit. I call it subdued and comfortable. Joe and Catherine brought in chef Jeremy Cabrera to manage the 2021 Michelin one-star kitchen and build a tasting menu around the flavors of place.
The menu is divided into two parts: From the Garden and Land and Sea. The meal is five courses, plus a bread course (gluten-free available) and a cheesy intermezzo. Choose as you like – chef Jeremy is equally conversant in the language of vegetables as proteins, a gift that is rarer than I’d expect in California dining. Witness a dish of roasted root vegetables, the turnip coaxed into chewy sweetness, the translucent honeynut squash a crisp counterpoint. Or the foraged wild mushrooms, a splash of beetroot power creating a potter’s wheel effect from two traditionally earthbound ingredients.
Though the glazed quail with fermented persimmon and chicories was nicely executed (I do prefer quail to be cooked medium) and the Oz family farm duck roulade was inventive and flavorful atop Meyer lemon kale, my favorite dish of the evening was black cod. A “jus” of manzanita dashi was intensely flavorful, wild mushrooms and sea grapes spoke strongly of the local terroir and the sweet flesh of the cod basked like a Royal on a million-dollar yacht, happy to sun itself amidst such finery.
Pro tip: Ask the Sommelier, Jared Hopper, for wine pairings with each dish. His passion for exquisite bottlings benefits the local flavor expressions of each dish in a way that leaves you wishing he was present at your dinner table each evening.
Is it Worth It?
Exceptional cooking. Intensely local flavors. Real candles on the table. Beautiful linens. A knowledgeable Somm. Well-trained staff. Dining at Farmhouse is a reminder of the beauty of fine dining, it’s grace and charm. It’s a tip of the hat to old-fashioned values while minding the angel of modernity to elevate the experience.