Eggs from Tara Firma Farms
Happy Easter! And where better to spend this egg-centric holiday than Petaluma, land of butter & eggs? This pretty Sonoma town is worth a drive anytime, especially now while the surrounding hills are green and the cows contented.
Start your Sunday with brunch at Della Fattoria Bakery and Cafe. If you shop at the Ferry Plaza or Marin County farmers' markets, you've probably ogled Della Fattoria's big brown loaves many a time as you try to choose that week's purchase: pumpkin-seed or polenta? Meyer lemon-rosemary (my favorite) or olive? A square Pullman loaf for slicing and toasting, or a crunchy-crusted epi to rip and dunk?
At the heart of Della Fattoria's operation is a farm and bakery, where their breads are baked in wood-fired ovens. The farm doubles as a site for outdoor, communal "ranch dinners"; there's also a small cottage available for rent by the week or by the night.
Easter brunch menu at Della Fattoria
In downtown Petaluma, Della Fattoria runs a bakery-cafe that serves breakfast and lunch 7 days a week, plus dinner on Fridays. The menu shifts a little with inspiration and the seasons, but farm eggs, local meats, and bakery products are always front and center.
Polenta, asparagus, and egg at Della Fattoria Bakery & Cafe
This Sunday, you'll find eggs bennie (eggs Benedict), of course, made with poached ranch eggs, ham, and spring asparagus under a cloak of hollandaise sauce over husky whole-grain toast. Creamy polenta comes topped 3 ways: with braised artichokes, with Italian-style meatballs, or with asparagus, a poached ranch egg, and some rosettes of proscuitto, a lovely, luxurious way to start the day. Bigger appetites might start with fruit salad bathed in brown sugar and champagne, followed by scalloped potatoes with eggs and black-pig bacon, biscuits in gravy with maple-pecan sausage and poached eggs, or a hot pressed ham-and-Gruyere sandwich.
The room is high-ceilinged with walls the color of terra cotta and two long communal tables in the center, plus five smaller tables against the walls. Bouquets of sweet peas and ranunculus add a bright splash of color to each table, where diners share newspapers while kids gnaw on house-baked bagels. At the back is a pastry counter filled with croissants, bear claws, cookies, and tarts, plus a wall of tempting breads.
Enjoy yourself, sip that perfect cappuccino, but don't linger too long; it's time to take a scenic five-mile drive out of town, along meandering, bumpy but beautiful I Street, past horses, cows, and California poppy-studded green hills to Tara Firma Farms. If you're a farmers'-market shopper, you've probably been handed a flyer advertising their pasture-raised meat CSA program and weekend farm tours. Every weekend, from 10am-3pm, owners Craig and Tara Smith do on-the-hour walks around their property, where they're raising pigs, beef cattle, and chickens for both meat and eggs. (There's also a small market garden, three very friendly pet goats, and Roland, the farm dog.)
Craig and Tara started the farm in 2009, raising about 40 head of pasture-raised cattle who move around the farm daily, grazing on three to five acres a day. (Craig still has his day job as the owner of a large long-term-care insurance company; Tara left her job at the same company and now does much of the day-to-day farm management.) They gather about 500 eggs a day from some 700 hens, all of whom spend their days out in the fields, scratching, grazing, pecking, and laying fertile eggs of all sizes and colors. Staunch proponents of the Joel Salatin method, they practice rotational grazing for all their animals. "Everything is always on the move," said Craig, noting that adopting this system made "a huge difference" in revitalizing what had been worn-out, heavily overgrazed land.
Chicken at Tara Firma Farms
After meeting Olivia the sow and her 12 adorable, two-week-old pink-and-black piglets, we walked up to one of the chicken tractors, a shed on wheels kitted out with nesting boxes and secure predator-proof roosts for nighttime. The chickens are busy earning their keep: every straw-lined nesting box we peered into held a clutch of three or four still-warm eggs. It's prime egg-laying time right now, said Craig, as the days get longer and warmer after winter's molting season.
Olivia the sow and her piglets
Pointing out the pond stocked with fish (catfish and large-mouthed bass, for catch-and-release fishing) and encouraging everyone to come back for a hike, Craig said, "We want all our members to feel like this is their farm. We really want to help people understand where their food comes from."
About 80% of the farm's production is sold through its CSA program, which offers both meat and veggie shares; members can pick up boxes at the farm or through one of its 12 drop points between Santa Rosa and San Francisco. After the tour, visitors can browse through the small farm store, where fresh eggs and a small area of produce is on display, featuring a mixture of farm vegetables and produce from County Line, a nearby organic farm. But those in the know head straight for the freezer, where the farm's beef, chicken, and pork are packaged for sale.
As for me, I'm happy to go home with a box of souffle-ready eggs, perfect alongside some Della Fattoria toast.
Della Fattoria (The Cafe)
141 Petaluma Boulevard North
Phone: (707) 763-0161
Hours: Mon-Thu & Sat: 6am-3pm, Fri: 6am-9pm, Sun: 9am-3pm
Facebook: Della Fattoria