Friday, March 20, 2009

A Tale of Two Bakeries

When I was up in Sebastopol and Forestville recently I came across two bakeries, each wonderful in their own way.
Early in the morning, just before I walked up to Florence Avenue to see Patrick Amiot's art (see previous post), I tracked down Patisserie Angelica, a bakery that I had heard about for some time. I wandered around lost a bit because it's a little difficult to find. When you get to the Whole Foods in downtown Sebastopol look east and you'll see a nondescript A-Frame building (the address is 6821 Laguna Park Way). That's Patisserie Angelica.
Step inside and you're in a different world -- a Parisian type of world. The display case of cakes and pastries is a jewel box of treats. I love almond croissants and the one I had was the real deal: buttery, flaky and still warm from the oven. I savored it with a caffe latte. Not surprisingly, the pastry chef, Condra Easley, trained in Paris and it shows.
A few hours later, I headed up the winding old Cazadero Highway out of Monte Rio on the Russian River.
The goal was Raymond's, a totally different type of bakery than Patisserie Angelica. People drive from miles around for Raymond's breads, pizza and focaccia served in a cozy, neighborly atmosphere in a spot in a curve of the road, nestled under tall redwood trees. The old logging town of Cazadero is a mile away. I loved the rustic-style mushroom-onion-olive focaccia, pillowy and baked crisp, and friends in Forestville raved about the Italian ciabatta loaf I brought them that evening. Raymond's would be an ideal place for picnic supplies when you're on your way to Jenner or other spots on the north Sonoma coast but call ahead because their hours are limited. It's only open three days a week: Fridays, Saturday and Sundays. On Fridays, Raymond's stays open until 9 p.m. but on weekends it closes at 3 p.m. and some breads or pizzas sell out earlier than that so call ahead to make sure they have what you're after (I took the photo above at left at 1 p.m. on a Saturday and some of the shelves were already bare).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Neighborhood Gallery of Sorts

A few years ago, Patrick Amiot, a French-Canadian who lives in Sebastopol with his wife, Brigitte, and two daughters, came across an old rowboat at a flea market, bought it and transformed it into a sculpture: a giddy fisherman holding his catch.Amiot displayed it out on his front lawn and found it soon drew a lot of people who couldn't help but smile when they saw the whimsical sulpture on Florence Avenue. It was the start of an outdoor art gallery in Sebastopol, which has undergone a relatively recent transition from agricultural town to a leftist mecca, a kind of Berkeley for Sonoma County. Today, many of Amiot's neighbors on Florence -- and friends all over Sebastopol -- have placed Amiot's sculptures, made from objects he's found on scavenger hunts, in their front yards.
Some of the residents selected the pieces and bought them, but others are simply displaying them (if there's one that you fancy, you can ask the artist about making a purchase or having one custom designed). You can't help but grin as you stroll through the pretty neighborhood of old Victorians just a few blocks from downtown. In one yard, there's a skeleton riding a motorcyle. A few steps away there's a farmer with a chicken on his tractor and, across the street, blondes in a red convertible. Amiot's house (top) is the funkiest, with a scattering of sculptures and an old fire alarm box with free guides to his works in front.
To get to Florence from downtown, begin at the corner of Main and Bodega and head west on Bodega, turn right on Florence and walk the few blocks. One of the houses is the George A. Strout House (at 253 Florence), a 1903 Queen Anne Victorian on the National Registry of Historic Places. Continue on Florence until Healdsburg Avenue turn left to make a loop back downtown.