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Eating Napa & Sonoma
A Food Lover's Guide to Local Products & Local Dining
by Juliette Rogers and Barbara Radcliffe Rogers


Reviewed by Veronica Marian

Part epicurean guidebook, part travel narrative, Eating Napa & Sonoma is fun to read and hard to put down, offering a selective yet thorough collection of restaurants, markets, cheese shops, organic farms and wineries in Napa and Sonoma. The best part about it is the casual, inviting way in which the book teaches readers about a diverse breadth of locally grown foods, wine and regional subjects.

For instance, we learn how wine barrels are made. Did you know that it takes five cubic meters of log to make one cubic meter of barrel staves, or that depending on how toasted the wood is, the wine that will be kept inside it will gather a different taste? At Seguin Moreau, visitors can witness and learn about each step of barrel-making. We also learn that for half a century, Luther Burbank experimented with creating hybrid fruits and vegetables which could grow in severe conditions and which would increase the world's food supply. Among his inventions? The Idaho potato and thornless blackberries.

While containing a wealth of fun historical information on the area and the immigrants who transformed it, Eating Napa & Sonoma remains a foodie's where-to guide. Restaurant reviews feature the authors' favorite places, from tiny diners to established restaurants. Farms (mushrooms, oyster and potatoes) are also included, as are chocolate and sausage makers, wineries and tours, reviews of the best local farmers markets, mom and pop stores that sell only mustard and regional cooking classes.

Every now and then, a side bar offers even more interesting information about a related topic. You’ll learn the difference between Sweetwater, Atlantic, Kumamoto and French Hog oyster farms. One shocker was discovering that the fortune cookie was introduced to China in 1990 as "Genuine American Fortune Cookies." It is, however, believed that ancestors of the Chinese fortune cookies existed in the forms of secret messages baked inside mooncakes—these secret messages encouraged a wide-spread uprising and led to the foundation of the Ming Dynasty in the 1500s.

As for the actual reviews, they are concise, informative and highlight just why that venue was deemed worthy of inclusion in this volume. The authors, Juliette Rogers and Barbara Radcliffe Rogers, clearly know and love this part of California, as well as food and wine. They make it abundantly clear that the selections that made it into the book are particularly exceptional in their use of the freshest, locally-grown produce, and are somehow emblematic of the Napa and Sonoma area.

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Going to Napa and Sonoma? Check our guide.

(Published: 06/30/08 HC)

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