We saw a lot of beautiful places in the short time we were in Northern California, but there's no question that one of our favorites was Point Reyes Station in Western Marin County, just north of San Francisco. I'd been in the area many times before, but I'm not sure I'd ever set foot in Point Reyes Station until this trip. The first time we went there was the same Saturday that we went to Copia, and when we were done in Napa we made a quick stop in Sonoma for lunch, then decided to make our way back to SF slowly by taking a long detour through Petaluma and then Marin County. It was a gorgeous afternoon and the rolling hills and the ranches that dotted them were particularly picturesque. It had been really hot in Napa and Sonoma counties, so it felt really good to be heading towards the ocean and the cool breezes that were coming from the west. Michelle became smitten with Marin County quite quickly--she loved the winding roads, the beautiful trees, and the cute little farmhouses we kept passing. Then we hit Point Reyes Station, and she fell in love. It's attractive, it's got a wonderful little Main Street that cuts through the center of it, it's a hub for a thriving local organic farming community, it's got a perfect blend of rural seclusion and big-city sophistication, and it's a food lovers' paradise. We liked Point Reyes Station so much we ended up going there twice.
The darling of the local scene (or the sweetheart of the rodeo, as the case may be) is without a doubt Cowgirl Creamery, one of a number of Northern California small cheesemakers that have revitalized cheese production in the region. Inside a refurbished barn just off the main drag, the fine people at Cowgirl Creamery produce an impressive array of cheeses using organic milk from the nearby Straus Family Dairy. These include their heavenly and completely irresistible triple-cream "Mt. Tam," their signature cheese. They also sell an excellent selection of cheese from around the world, including Neal's Yard Dairy's phenomenal line of British cheeses (check out their website at http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com and you'll find an excellent "library of cheese" they've compiled, too).
Our other favorite Point Reyes Station stops were the two markets just down the street. Toby's Feed Barn is a combination organic market--featuring only Marin County organic produce--general store, and (you guessed it) feed barn that sells everything from candy to pet food to t-shirts to livestock fee (including bales of hay for the local farmers and ranchers). We got some excellent local apples and some of the sweetest cherry tomatoes I've ever had there. Just a couple of storefronts down is the Palace Market, which was opened about a decade after Point Reyes Station was founded back in the 1870s as a whistlestop for the narrow-gauge North Pacific Coast Railway. Today it's more or less a small supermarket, but, oh!, what a supermarket. Lots of organics, a great-looking deli counter, and just check out the comprehensive wine selection--and the decor--in the photo above. We also noted that they had about 12 bourbons for sale (which means that their bourbon selection is about 12 times as good as any of the SAQs [Société d'Alcools du Québec] here in Montreal).
As we drove south towards San Francisco, we passed a boarded-up old farmhouse about 10 miles out of town. It didn't take long (about 1/8th of a second, actually) for Michelle to decide that this was the fix-me-up-special that we were looking for. It was cute, it was somewhat secluded, it was only 45 minutes or so from San Francisco, and, best of all, it was just outside of Point Reyes Station. It was also boarded up and abandoned. She didn't stop talking about that place for days.
When we got back to Montreal a number of people asked us, "So, are you guys thinking of moving to California?" Must have been something about the way were telling our vacation tales.
Cowgirl Creamery, 80 Fourth Street, Point Reyes Station, CA, (415) 663-9335
Toby's Feed Barn, 11250 Hwy 1, Point Reyes Station, CA, (415) 663-1223
Palace Market, 10300 Hwy 1, Point Reyes Station, CA (415) 663-1016