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For the past few weeks, I wasn’t sure if blogging about my September visit to Sonoma County would ever be appropriate. As the fires began to be put out and evacuations were lifted, however, it became clear to me that sharing a place I love, shouting it from the rooftops even, could be one tiny way I can help the region heal and move forward.

When it comes to dining out in Sonoma County, Stark Reality Restaurants  are some of my favorites. Sadly, Willi’s Wine Bar, where I have had many great meals, was destroyed in the fires, but the owners plan to rebuild.

On our September wine country trip, we dined at two Stark restaurants, including Bravas Bar de Tapas, which is a consistent favorite that I discovered on a Savor Healdsburg food tour.  I was excited to bring Healdsburg first timers to their patio on a gorgeous day for a delicious lunch.

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 Tapas with friends is one of my favorite ways to eat, especially when paired with a chilled Hanna Winery  rosé.

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Plate after plate of food made its way on to our table, a beautifully presented gazpacho, a Spanish and local cheese plate, to-die-for bacon wrapped dates with blue cheese, goat cheese toast, a classic tortilla. . . we just kept eating.

 

 

 

 

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Every bite at Bravas is delectable, and the dining experience is just what you would hope for on a wine country getaway, relaxed, coursed out perfectly, and difficult to leave.

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One Stark restaurant I hadn’t been to, Bird and the Bottle, was at the top of my must-try list for this trip, and again, it turned out to be perfect for our group of five. The only downside was that I was impossibly full when we left!

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I passed over the creative cocktail list in favor of a glass of bubbly since it had been a day of wine, but I would love to go back and make my way through the list.

sparkling wine

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We shared cold and briny oysters on the half shell and hot and garlicky local Dungeness crab to take advantage of the West Coast’s bounty.

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And I will never turn down macaroni and cheese, especially studded with fried kielbasa and crispy kale. So good!

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Local corn with miso mayo and fried potatoes were our vegetables. :)

 

 

 

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If I could have eaten more, I would. Going back to Bird and the Bottle to sample the rest of the menu is a priority for our next Sonoma County trip, which will hopefully be soon!

Sonoma County is largely open for business and could use food and wine loving tourists’ visits or wine purchases to help boost the local economy and beautiful spirits.

 

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To read about family-friendly fun near the Sonesta ES Suites Andover Boston, head over to the Sonesta Hotels blog!

My recent travel blogging for Sonesta brought me close to home, just up the road from Boston to Andover, Massachusetts and the Sonesta ES Suites Andover Boston. It turned out to be a beautiful, warm fall weekend, and our friends who live in Andover were home for us to visit.

 

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The first order of business was to check into the hotel, which is an extended stay property conveniently located near 93 and a variety of businesses, but set off from the road making it a quiet place to relax.

There’s a real emphasis on guests feeling at home throughout Sonesta ES Suites, with welcoming areas for meeting and breakfast (which is hot, delicious, and included in your stay!) and suites that offer full kitchens and living rooms. Our one bedroom suite was larger than our last apartment! I loved that we had the ability to cook right in the suite or even just to grab a proper wine glass from the cabinet for a glass of wine.

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The setup of the rooms is perfect for family travel; not only can the kids be put to bed and the adults stay up, but two TVs in our room meant no fighting over the remote.

Since Sonesta ES Suites are often the home-away-from-home for many on business travel, a spacious work area is a welcome addition.

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We were excited to get out and explore Andover, which is  beautiful New England town with plenty of our favorite things, including hiking trails and places to eat.

Our first stop was the campus of Phillips Academy, which, on a perfect blue sky fall day, was very pretty and very classic New England. Right on campus is the cozy and historic Samuel’s, and since it was 5:00, we decided on cocktails and a cheese plate.

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My Old Fashioned was delicious, and a well-stocked cheese plate hit the spot and got us ready for exploring some more. The Addison Gallery was already closed for the day, and we decided to add it to our itinerary for our next visit to Andover.

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We took the daylight time to explore more of the campus and decided on the sanctuary for our hike the next day.

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Since we’re always up for a meal, we headed to the downtown of Andover, which is adorable, and again very New England. We’d heard of Elm Square Oyster Co. from a few people, and never ones to pass up oysters, grabbed bar seats and wine specials while we browsed the menu.

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My Gruener Veltliner was perfectly acidic, great pairing with the Pemaquid oysters we slurped down.  A homemade hot sauce made it all more delicious; I am a hot sauce fiend!

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We added the shrimp tacos and chilled lobster, which came in the most incredible lemony sauce, to our feast. The Gruener and the lemon sauce were heavenly together!

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Elm Square Oyster Co. is a definite must-visit if you are in Andover, and there were several other restaurants in the area I also wanted to try.

Andover, while to many thought of as just a Boston suburb, is a destination in itself, and it was nice to get away without driving forever or dealing with airport lines.

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My stay at the Sonesta ES Suites Andover Boston was hosted; all opinions are my own.

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Tags: Andover, Boston, cocktails, getaway, hotels, New England, oysters, Travel, wine

Sonoma sunset

I can’t really get back to normal blogging without first sharing my heartfelt heartbreak over the devastation that has occurred to Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino Counties places near and dear to us. I just got back from Sonoma a few weeks ago, and while I am holding off on blogging, especially because the danger is not yet 100% over, I do hope that someday I can, in a sensitive and appropriate way, share some of that trip and help to promote the businesses that we visited that remain. Sadly, not all of them are still standing, but knowing the spirit of the people of wine country, I know they will rebuild.

We have always received the warmest welcomes in the region, and all I can hope to do is share resources, prayers, love, and hope.

In times of tragedy it can be tempting to just give to any donation site that pops up;  below I’ve shared a few links shared by people from the area who I have met/known through social media for years.

Redwood Empire Food Bank

http://refb.org/

“The REFB is currently providing critical food to evacuation centers and shelters for our neighbors displaced by fires. In addition, we are working to ensure that those who needed food assistance before the fires are still able to access our help.”

Sonoma Humane Society

http://sonomahumane.org/

“Your donation is crucial as the days & weeks of this terrible disaster unfold. Your support will help us care for homeless injured stray animals and provide no-cost burn treatment for fire victims.”

Rebuild Wine Country, partnered with Habitat for Humanity

https://www.rebuildwinecountry.org/

We are pleased to announce a partnership with Rebuild Wine Country, spearheaded by a group of local wine industry professionals from both Sonoma County and the Napa Valley. With the funds they raise, we will be distributing financial support to the counties most heavily affected by the North Bay fires, and help individuals directly impacted repair and rebuild their homes.

Anova Center for Education

https://www.gofundme.com/anova

“The Anova Center for Education, Sonoma County’s only nonprofit school for children living with autism was demolished by the wildfires that are ravaging Northern California. Thankfully, none of the school’s students were injured in the fire, but the blaze now leaves 120 students ranging from 5 to 22 years old without a school.
All donations will go toward rebuilding our K-12 classrooms, transition program, occupational therapy equipment, and many other specialized needs of our students.”

For additional organizations, please refer to this blog post by Sip on this Juice.

http://siponthisjuice.com/sonoma-county-fires-in-california-what-you-can-do-to-help/

Buy Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake County wine!  Helping to support the local economy is a delicious and easy way to help the rebuilding process.

Here in Boston, I know that the Himmel Hospitality Group is doing wine promotions at Grill 23, Post 390, and Harvest  in the coming days/weeks. You can find details on their Facebook pages:

https://www.facebook.com/dineatharvest/

https://www.facebook.com/Post390/

https://www.facebook.com/grill23andbar/

I would love to update this list of Boston fundraisers, so please feel free to share those you know, and keep an eye out for updates.

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