What makes the Sonoma Coasts charming? It is all of our small towns.
Coming in from Petaluma the first small coastal town is Valley Ford just 6 miles from the Pacific Coast. The main town has Valley Ford Market, Valley Ford Hotel, Dinucci's Italian restaurant, Estero Cafe and the new Valley Ford Creamery. One of the few remaining buildings dating from the 19th century, now houses Rocker Oysterfeller's Kitchen & Saloon and seven guest rooms.
You can stay at the Historic Valley Ford Hotel built by the Rein family in 1864. Owners Brandon Guenther, the chef, and Shona Campbell are down to earth folks who I have shared many a libation with over the years. Their restaurant & bar Rocker Oysterfeller is where you may find dishes like Molasses-Bourbon Braised Pork Shoulder, Petaluma Fried Chicken and Hamhock Soup. People rave about their fish tacos and of course Tomales Bay Oysters of course, either raw with Lemon-Honey-Jalapeno Mignonette or cooked up on the grill. "Southern Comfort" food is what is all about. Their craft cocktails are addictive, local beers and a great wine selection. I personally love hanging out in the bar with locals and visitors.
Karen Bianchi-Moreda of Valley Ford Creamery just opened a store in Valley Ford. It is now my regular stop on my way to Petaluma. Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery was founded in 2008 and is located on Mountain View Jersey Dairy, off the rural coast of Sonoma County, California. The Bianchi family has owned and operated the 640 acre ranch since 1918 is now occupied by the third, fourth, and fifth generations. When Karen Bianchi-Moreda decided to start making artisan cheese, it was only natural to produce that same cheese which was a staple in her family for years.
For more than 60 years, the family-owned Valley Ford Market has been catering to its residents and also the many tourists passing through town. This is a farmers and ranchers grocery, so you’ll find pretty much everything you could need It is my go to stop and have their butcher freshly ground meat for my meat sauce. They also make German bratwurst, Italian sausage and beer and garlic sausage.
Want a hardy farm to table breakfast or lunch? Go to Estero Cafe. Owners Samantha and Ryan Ramey use only locally sourced and organic ingredients, including a commitment to pasture raised eggs, local grass fed beef, sustainable seafood, local dairy and vegetables. You will see local art on the wall and their big custom grill cooking outside.
Feel like some great family style Italian food go to Dinucci's Italian Dinners. Dinucci's was built in 1908 by Mr. and Mrs. Barboni. Henry and Mabel Dinucci bought it in 1939. Some of Mabel's recipes are used to this day. The Wagners bought Dinucci's in 1968. Their menu has 9 steak and poultry dishes. Carved Prime Rib Friday & Saturday from 4pm until it's gone. Once I came later in the evening and missed out on the Prime Rib. I make sure to be there early from now on. Being near the ocean they have 6 seafood dishes. If you come for the Pasta you will have 7 dishes to make your decision even harder.
Being only 6 miles from the Pacific Coast stop in the Northern Light Surf Shop in the historic Dairymans Bank. Owners Ben and Sarah Dougherty strive to maintain a laid-back and relax feel. In addition to surf equipment they have a custom line of rad clothing. They even created a Valley Ford collection.
Interesting Fact: Northwestern Pacific Narrow Gauge Railroad that ran through Valley Ford. The railroad started at Sausalito, going to towns and resorts along the Russian River as well as to Cazadero. The trains hauled passengers, lumber and farming supplies. It was dismantled in 1929, however some of the old trestle and hillside grades remain today.
So when you see the 35 mile speed limit ahead before you enter town make a stop. You will be pleasantly surprised.