Driving through vineyards, the leaves still green with just a hint of rust creeping in. Relaxing by the deep blue pool, the autumnal sun—lower in the sky, warming your toes. Lazing on a massage table as the therapist drives away the knots. Gazing on an endless blue sky and watching it turn into an inky dark, starry night, around a dancing fire. Enjoying the fruits of the season as they become spectacularly mouth-watering dishes under the magician’s touch of a world-class chef.
These are just some of the joys of sneaking away for 24 hours at the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville, north west of Santa Rosa.
We’re in the midst of an endless summer. Hard to believe it’s mid-October, and not August, and yet I barely enjoyed this summer. Too much work and fun travel adventures outside of the U.S., mean that lately I haven’t explored close to home.
I heard about the Farmhouse Inn, owned by siblings Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, a while ago. Situated on the River Road (7 miles east off the 101) it’s built around a Victorian farmhouse which now houses a 14-table Michelin-starred restaurant. A recent building project to add a pool and more accommodations has come to an end, and the result is a peaceful, soothing spot, complete with a gorgeous spa which is housed in a barn-style building. Each massage room has a horse’s outline sketched on the wall, as if in charcoal, though surely not. When the top of the stable door swings open, you spot a horse, mooching about in his stall. The ambiance is restful, calm and restorative, just as it should be, even if your nerves are jangling and you can’t settle into your skin.
The pool is now at the heart of this compact property, and just down the steps are two large fire pits which are lit at night so you can enjoy the complimentary s’mores set out in reception. Stone walls, low enough to peek over, and crushed granite pathways with plants lazily tumbling out of their beds, complete the European feel. The only drawback is the intermittent traffic noise which drifts up from the road.
Accommodations are pricey, starting at nearly $700 per night. There’s a series of cottages, each comes with an in-room sauna(!) and Jacuzzi tub (we felt too guilty filling it given the drought), while the newer buildings boast large suites, with fireplaces on balconies. Thoughtful touches are everywhere. At check-in, you’re invited to scoop spoonfuls of brown sugar body scrub to use in the shower. It smells so good I had to stop Monkey from eating it. Lavender salts, wedges of handmade soap, free soft drinks. They are all little touches of love.
Without doubt, the highlight of our stay was the food. The restaurant, closed Tuesday and Wednesday, offers a three course menu for $79 and four course menu for $94. Wine pairings are also available. For the most part, the food hits the mark. Portions are modest by American standards, but at the end of the meal you are left with a feeling of satiety, as opposed to being stuffed.
I started with the scallops, or should I say, scallop, which was halved and nestled between two pieces of pork belly along with a reduction of Mediterranean vegetables. The flavors worked incredibly well together, but an extra scallop wouldn’t go amiss. Monkey went for the ahi tuna, which came with avocado, cucumber and a wasabi dressing. This was my least favorite dish, lacking salt and acid to really bring it to life. The wasabi was too subtle—in Japanese cuisine, is invariably paired with salt, i.e. soy sauce, to enliven it.
For our next course, I had the black cod on poached vegetables in a divine dashi broth. Light, cooked to perfection. This was excellent. Monkey opted for beef tenderloin (filet by any other name?), which was rare and topped with black trumpet mushrooms. Highly recommended.
Also not to be missed is the complimentary three course breakfast: a pastry, cured meat and a main dish. I won’t spoil it for you. It’s a highlight of the stay and just as excellent as the meal the night before. Although the service wasn’t quite as good, with plates not cleared away and missing knives. No matter, that didn’t take away from the experience.
So, while you can’t leave yourself at home, you can bring yourself to an environment like the one so carefully cultivated at the Farmhouse Inn, to help you shut out the world for a few brief hours and try to restore a sense of balance and calm in this mad world.
The Farmhouse Inn is at 7871 River Road, Forestville, CA 95436
Don’t trust GPS – it seems to have mapped the location entirely incorrectly which resulted in a speedy exit off the highway on my part!