Friday, November 20, 2015

West Marin Food and Farm Tours Review (★★★★★)

If you are looking for things to do in the Bay Area (San Francisco, CA) look no more!

West Marin Food and Farm Tours offers amazing tours where you will learn about the history of the Point Reyes Station and West Marin areas and taste some of the best things in Marin County. West Marin and Point Reyes Station are both part of Marin County in California, West Marin being the largest rural region in the county.

We took the Flavors of West Marin Tour thanks to Elizabeth Hill, the genius behind it. This tour is guided by her, and it covers seven (7) culinary destinations where we tasted local delicacies that made us crave for more when the day was over.

Let me tell you a bit about Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a certified Natural Chef, Master Gardener and a Teacher. She definitely is the best tour guide in this area. You can tell how in love she is with West Marin just by the way she talks about the area, the history, the food… she has a passion for it and that makes you love West Marin just as much as her by the time she starts talking about it.


Our first stop was the Cowgirl Creamery. Sitting on a country picnic table in the big barn we tried some goodies from the Bovine Bakery while we all listened as Elizabeth told us about the history of West Marin. I loved how she told us about personal stories of her childhood in West Marin, made us connect really well with her and feel comfortable. I learned some amazing things about the Point Reyes area too that were really interesting. For example how the Point Reyes National Seashore is a "park on the move", since the area moves two (2) inches every year! Interesting, right?

But, let's talk about the tour AND the FOOD! Yum.

Like I mentioned, our first and meeting spot was the Cowgirl Creamery, a factory that makes award-winning cheeses, and that was born from the love for food and a dream that two friends had. Read their amazing story HERE.

The cheese tray arrived at the table, and it was just beautiful. Wedges of different cheeses were arranged in rows for each of us. As we tasted each of them, Elizabeth told us a bit more about them (how they are made, how how to use it in recipes, etc).

Left to right: Wagon Wheel, Devil's Gulch, Mt Tam and Red Hawk
We tried six (6) different cheeses (two categories). For the Fresh Cheeses we tried Creme Fraîche and Fromage Blanc, both really delicious and light. In the category of Aged Cheeses we had Mt. Tam, Red Hawk, Devil's Gulch, Inverness and Wagon Wheel. My favorites were the fresh cheeses and the Wagon Wheel.



We had some time to explore the Cowgirl Creamery shop and buy our favorite cheeses. Then we headed to the Bovine Bakery for warm chai tea, perfect for the chilly weather we had. Aromatic, warm and really nice spice flavor. I am not a fan of teas, but this one made me think of Christmas day in front of the chimney. The Bovine Bakery has been serving delicious baked goodies, coffee and tea for more than 20 years. They use fresh, local and organic ingredients and make their pastries by hand. It doesn't get better than that!

Or maybe it can! Because they also have delicious breads from Brickmaiden Breads  a bakery that provides high quality breads with the environment in mind. They are committed to sustainable business practices and produce as little waste as possible. That is always a plus for a business!

We had the privilege to get an insiders look of the Brickmaiden Breads bakery and see their famous brick oven, as well as some sourdough in raising process.




Sharing a loaf of bread from Brickmaiden Breads, we walked our way out of the bakery and noticed that there are edible gardens around the lots. Kiddo had the chance to grab some cherry tomatoes and eat them straight from the vine. Really cool!

Another thing we noticed while walking around, and Elizabeth told us about, was little wood stands in corners that had fresh vegetables and signs that said "Table Top Farms" and other messages including "Honor System Farm Stand"




Honor System Farm Stands are self serve "kiosks" that are open 24 hours. Customers are responsible to deposit the money equivalent to whatever produce they are going to take home and there is always a little notebook where you can write how much you took, how much you paid and gratitude notes for the farmers.

   
The Honor System Farms Stands are a great way to build trust in the community while serving them with high quality products from local farms. I reminds me of the little libraries that people are placing in front of their houses to promote reading to the community. Lovely, lovely.

 But, let's go again to the tour… 

When lunch hour arrived we stopped at Marin Sun Farms  a butcher shop and restaurant. We had appetizers, entree and dessert for our meal. It all started with candied jerky (totally delicious, so good that I had to buy more to take home with me), then we had their Beet Salad followed by Brussels Sprouts (not any Brussels Sprouts, they were deep fried in pork lard!!! Y-U-M-M-Y!).

Marin Sun Farms' Beet Salad
After sharing with everyone how good everything was, multiple times, our entrees were brought. Four (4) different burgers: lamb, beef, beef and blue cheese, and goat. Holy Cow! IF there is something better than amazing, that would be the word to describe these. Marin Sun Farms served some of the best burgers I have ever had in my life. My favorite being Lamb and Beef. They were perfectly cooked, juicy, flavorful, just plain perfect.


And, of course, after a great entree there's always a nice dessert. For us, dessert was Water Buffalo Gelato. Our of the three flavors (Milk, Chocolate and Candy Cap Mushroom) my favorite was Milk. Even though water buffalo's milk is richer than cow's milk with more fat content, I found the gelato to be lighter. It had a nice milk/vanilla-ish flavor and was creamy and light. Perfect end to our delicious meal.

Water Buffalo Gelato, milk flavor.
I was still thinking about the amazing lunch we had, when we hopped in the van for our next destination. Driving up a small hill we went strawberry picking at Table Top Farms (one of them). We entered through a wood stand, like the ones I mentioned before, from the Honor System.



I loved this farm, and Kiddo did too. Between rows of strawberry plants, we walked while picking some big fresh and ripe strawberries. They were juicy, sweet and so refreshing to eat.


 

Elizabeth told us about how it all started. This farmer had a neighbor who had a big lot with horses. She used to ride horses but after years she couldn't ride anymore, so there were no horses anymore. The farmer happened to notice the unused lot (since the neighbor didn't have horses anymore) and asked her if he could farm that land, since it was just sitting there… She agreed and in exchange for the use of her land, the farmer provides her with some of the crops he harvests there. Other people from the area leaned about this and started offering their lots to the farmer. This is a great way to promote local farmers and to provide neighborhoods with fresh food.

I wish everybody who had been a little bit of land, farmed it. Gardening is so rewarding when you harvest and eat that fruit that you work so hard on growing all year. Not to omit, the flavor of a homegrown vegetable is superior 500 times to whatever you buy in a grocery store (even in the organic area).

The scenery in Point Reyes is lovely. Full of farms, cattle… Just my dream home town. Appreciating the beautiful views we headed to Heidrun Meadery  They produce champagne-styles sparkling meads from honey. We tried fours varieties of mead: Orange Blossom, Macadamia, Alfalfa, and Radish Blossom. They are all light, dry and really aromatic.




We went into the meadery and learned the process used to make these meads. It was really interesting to see all the stages this beverage has to go through to be ready to drink. They have their bees and harvest honey on site, but they also receive honey from Hawaii, Oregon and Montana for the Macadamia, Radish Blossom and Alfalfa flavors. Can you imagine how many hives they would need to have enough honey for the 4 flavors in their meadery? No wonder why they get shipments from other states!


I don' drink and found the flavor of these meads really nice and light. We walked through the meadery, saw the hives, picnic tables, farming equipment and their cute greenhouse. After we were done tasting the honey mead we headed to our final destination: Hog Island Oyster Co.


Let me start by saying, I went to this place with my mind telling me: I am not going to eat oysters, I am not going to like them because of their texture/how they look… Maaaaaaaaan I was sooo wrong.

My husband made me try one against my will (lol). A raw one. I squeezed some (okay, a lot of)  lemon and nom nom. I ate it and I LOVED IT! So much that I ate another one and wanted more.


After we were done with these, Elizabeth brought the barbecued oysters. They are made with a BBQ Bourbon Chipotle Butter and O-M-G… they are DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They are so good that even my three year old liked them!!! (They have the recipe on their website, in case you are interested)

We had a little picnic where we tasted oysters and had cookies from the Bovine Bakery as a nice dessert after.

This tour from Food and Farm Tours, exceeded my expectations. I tried new things that I never thought I would even like. Every destination had a unique story and product. I do not have anything bad to say about the shops or guide, not even one thing. Elizabeth is definitely the best person to guide you through the Point Reyes Station and West Marin areas. Her love and passion for the region is shown just by the way she talks about its history and products. Since the moment you meet Elizabeth you feel comfortable and excited to be there. Food and Farm Tours provides a unique and high-quality experience that you will not forget. Our tour, Flavors of West Marin, was just the perfect fusion of all the things West Marin has to offer. Now, after the tour, we have found ourselves being frequent visitors of the area because thanks to Elizabeth we learned where to go. If you are looking for something different to do, a unique gift for a loved one, or a last minute getaway adventure, Food and Farm Tours is the answer. I recommend it 100%, you are not going to regret it. The best tour I have ever been part of. 

Food and Farm Tours offers many different tours. Ours was the Flavors of West Marin tour. If you wish to purchase tickets for a tour you can visit their website at: West Marin Food and Farm Tours.

Also, if you are interested in the places we visited during our Flavors of West Marin Tour, you can visit their websites, and in some of them you can even shop online :) 







*I received the product or tickets for testing purposes in exchange of my honest review. Although the product was free opinions are 100% my own.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, Food and Farm Tours sure looks like a lot of fun! These pictures look lovely too and I have heard a lot about their cheese but never got a chance to try them yet. This tour is perfect to spend time with family and i am going to look for more details. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I wish we had one of these near my hometown! This like foodie heaven. I also like that it is family-friendly. I believe it is important for kids to know and see where their food comes from and expose them to how fresh produce, dairy, and meats taste. Thank you for sharing this experience!

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  3. Love the cheese, bread, salad and the gelato you have featured here.. they all look so yummy!That's really wonderful that they get all the produce from their farm.

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  4. This looks absolutely amazing! I so wish I lived closer, but I'm definitely adding these to my places to visit list. Thanks for the heads up about them.

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