The Apple Farm is a B&B, with a twist. Or should I say, ‘Farm, Stay & Cook’.
Sally and Don Schmitt were the original owners of the French Laundry in Yountville. They transformed what was once variously a bar, laundry, brothel, then run-down rooming house into a destination restaurant with a prix fixe menu. It opened in 1978, Don was the maitre d’ and Sally was the cook, serving up five French-comfort-style courses that topped out at $46 per person.
In 1994, after a number of restaurateurs eyed the property with interest, the couple decided to take the chance to sell it to a young chef named Thomas Keller. Together they built a world renown restaurant. They decided to sell the French Laundry and went on to refurbish yet another run-down property — a 30-acre swath in Philo in Mendocino County near the Navarro River. They turned what was once a decrepit sharecroppers farm into a thriving biodynamic farm specializing in heirloom apples. The family now have over 25 years of homesteading behind them. They welcome you to come and take advantage of what they’ve learned.
The Apple Farm is family run and aside from being a spectacular apple orchard, they host weekday and weekend cooking classes and farm stays.We’ll, not exactly, they don’t call what they offer cooking classes since there is no formal curriculum. They don’t call them demonstrations since guests take part in the cooking rather than just observing. For experiences where guests stay overnight and join in the preparation and enjoyment of meals, or the term “Stay & Cook”. It might be a weekend or a midweek dinner. Either way, you will get a taste of cooking and staying on a working farm, and will come away with recipes, new ideas, and inspiration.
Karen leads the way in the kitchen with help from her daughter Polly being her assistant, and both have many years of practical garden and landscaping skills to share as well. Tim is a wealth of knowledge about apple varieties and orchard management on both a large and small scale. He loves to talk about his passion. Rita has taken the vegetable garden to new heights and keeps us well stocked in produce. Sophia adds animal husbandry to the mix and often provides meat for our meals.
Their cottages sit in a group among the apple trees, forming a little village of sorts. Each has a porch to sit on, a wonderful big bathroom and a comfy queen sized bed. Our original guest room, the “Room with a View” continues to be a favorite, probably because of the view and all the open windows.
The guest room and three cottages—Red Door, Green Door, and Blue Door—are all handsome, spacious and comfortable. All rooms have gas fireplaces for warmth and ceiling fans to keep them cool in the summer.
Whether you are a novice cook or a serious practitioner, gathering in the kitchen with like minded folks is always a treat. Over the course of our weekend, they include many different ingredients, techniques, and flavors, and there is plenty of time to answer questions and delve into our subjects. The farm is more and more productive and menus are inspired by the best of what we produce. We send you home stimulated and inspired with a rejuvenated sense of what it means to live the good life.
The weekend includes 3 hands-on meals and a minimum two nights stay in our cottages or room with a view. Guests help prepare and enjoy Saturday Lunch and Dinner and Sunday Brunch. We start out both mornings with delicious coffee, biscuits, toast and jam and fresh pressed apple cider.
The cost for our weekend cooking experience is $375 per person + a minimum two-night stay in one of our rooms. The experience includes three hands-on meals, recipes, instruction, and of course, plenty of good local wine. The total for a couple should come to $1,416 with tax.
Every few weeks we hold a midweek hands-on dinner. Up to eight people participate, and the cooking starts at 4pm. A wonderful way to take a break in the middle of our busy lives to take pleasure in good food and good company. We have a minimum 6 person requirement for all Wednesday dinners to be a go. To guarantee that your preferred Wednesday does not get canceled, bring your own group of 6 friends!
The Midweek cost is $125 per person plus a minimum of one night in one of our rooms. It includes hands-on instruction, recipes and wine. The total for a couple should come to $585 with tax.
Contact Karen for reservation questions, special events, and general questions firstname.lastname@example.org
THE APPLE FARM
18501 GREENWOOD RD
PHILO CA 95466
The town of Philo is located in the Anderson Valley
The Anderson Valley is only 155 miles north of San Francisco but the vibe feels decades back in time. The valley is filled with rolling hills shaded by Oak trees, dotted with woolly sheep, apple orchards, vineyards and tiny wildflowers everywhere. Head to the Anderson Valley, where you’ll discover a country lifestyle rich in adventure and beauty.
Home to a hermit?
As you walk along the trail small rays of the sunlight trickle down from the canopied skies while the Scrub Jays weave through the massive tree trunks racing to locate that perfect acorn before the squirrels do. A lush green blanket of ferns lines the mile-long loop hiking trail that runs along the side of the Navarro River at Hendy Woods State Park. You can sense the majestic serenity around you from some of the oldest redwoods alive today and the lingering smell of Christmas.
For an inspiring eye experience, come gaze at the towering 1,500-year-old redwood trees in Hendy Woods State Park while you hike along two different trails.
The parks Upper Loop Trail is a self-guided trail winding through 80 acres of pure discovery known as Big Hendy. This part of the park was home to the “Hendy Hermit” Petrov Zailenko, who lived there for over a decade in the 1960s and 1970s hunting local game and taking produce from local farms. The Hermit Hut Trail in the park passes one of the huts built by Zailenko from fallen redwood debris. Zailenko, who died in 1981, is still part of the park as his ashes were scattered around. Use your imagination and try to find where he hid out all those years, there are some traces of his hut if you look hard enough.
The Little Hendy Trail, which covers about 20 acres of easy terrain, meandering alongside the Navarro River with many picnic sites to choose from.
The wine Trail
According to Food and Wine Magazine, ” The Anderson Valley may be one of the best places in the country to grow Pinot Noir”. AV’s’ answer is 28 boutique-style tasting rooms pouring varietal delicacies of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Zinfandels from the valley, with a side of laid-back country hospitality.
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
The Tap Room is where the beer and stories flow
Doing the same since 1987, they still brew their world-class and award-winning Ales in huge Bavarian copper kettles. Tours of the brewery are daily at 1:30 and 3 PM. After your tour, and samplings, try your hand on the 18 hole disc golf course. It’s become wildly popular, and is so easy to play that just about anyone of any age can enjoy it.
Surprise their team during your visit by speaking a secret language native to Boonville, Boont;ing! Created by local farmers during the 20th century and consisting of 1600 words. It was once used by all, then over time, forgotten. But it is now being taught in local schools again. Here are a few words to start you out.
Bahl Hornin’: good drinking Kimmie: man or father
Mink: a woman or girl Harp: to speak Boontling
Hairymouth: a dog Gorm: food or eat
Jape: to drive a car Brightlighter: a tourist
Pike: a stroll Zeese: coffee
Cheesemaking at Pennyroyal Farmstead
Where every goat, sheep, and cheese has a name
They are committed to producing handcrafted cheeses exclusively from goats and sheep have been raised at the family farm. Their pampered animals munch on wild grasses and pennyroyal mint that blanket their sixty-six-acre farmstead and vineyard in Boonville. Their milk is transferred twice daily to the adjacent creamery in small containers, ensuring head herd manager and cheesemaker Erikc McKenzie-Chaper receives the freshest ingredient to craft her cheeses.
Their tour is fantastic and informative. It’s a delightful way to learn about farm steading and cheese making.
Call ahead to schedule a tour at 707-895-2410. They are located at 14930 Hwy 128, Boonville.
Isn’t it time for you to experience the Anderson Valley for yourself!
words and most photographs by Shelley Pittman