The Restaurant: Towne House
Stone Fruit Salad
½ cup Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup grape seed oil
Whisk vinegar, vanilla bean paste and extract together. Whisk in the oil.
3 cups sugar
3 cups seasoned rice wine vinegar
4 red onions, cut into ¼-inch-thick rings
Bring the sugar and vinegar to a boil. Place the onion rings into bowl, pour vinegar mixture over onions and cover with plastic wrap. Let cool to room temperature and then place in refrigerator.
1 sliced peach
1 sliced apricot
1 sliced nectarine
10 pitted cherries
3 cups arugula
8 ounces vanilla bean vinaigrette
6–8 ounces crumbled goat cheese
10 pickled onion rings
Toss the fruits and the arugula with the vinaigrette. Divide the mixture evenly among four plates. Place the crumbled goat cheese on top of each salad, and garnish with the onions. Serves 4.
Bokisch Vineyards Vista Luna Vineyard Garnacha Blanca (Borden Ranch)
The Chef: John Hitchcock, Towne House
In addition to growing a wide variety of wine grapes, Lodi has long been a chef’s dream—a breadbasket of wonderful fruit, produce and meats, with working farms within easy reach of the town center.
The Wine & Roses Hotel’s Towne House Restaurant serves as Lodi’s hub for local vintners and hosts many events from poolside barbecues to comedy shows. Farming runs deep in its soul, and the restaurant nurtures its own trees and gardens, taking a farm-to-table approach to breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Once referred to as “The Towne Corner,” after original farm owners Burt and Alice Towne, Towne House proprietors Russ and Kathryn Munson do their best to maintain the spot’s sense of community. Chef John Hitchcock and his culinary team offer cooking classes for all levels of expertise. Sessions range from Cooking 101 for College Students to demonstrations on braising and holiday baking.
For Hitchcock’s signature Stone Fruit Salad, a deliciously colorful display of Lodi’s prowess with fruit, the chef sources his ingredients from The Fruit Bowl, a local fruit stand.
In downtown Lodi, tempting eating establishments abound. For foreign intrigue, several serve fine Chinese, Thai and Mexican fare. Crush Kitchen & Bar is known for organic salads and its impressive wine and beer list, with some choices only available here.
As its name implies, Dancing Fox Winery and Bakery is a destination for both Dancing Fox wines (including one made entirely from local Bing cherries) and brick-oven bread.
Fiori’s Butcher Shoppe and Deli offers marinated cuts of local meats, including tri-tip and lamb and its own line of seasonings. Joe and Barbara Fiori also cure pastrami and corned beef, prepare smoked salmon and homemade bratwurst and make Chinese pork and beef jerky.
Favorite Farm-to-Table Finds
Blueberries: Many Lodi farms invite visitors to pick their own during the May through July season. Giusto Farms [Acampo] fields 15 different types of blueberries. The Lodi Farmers Market holds a Black and Blue Pie Contest to determine the area’s best blackberry-blueberry pie.
Cherries: A superfood, cherries are high in iron, vitamin C and antioxidants. A fourth-generation farmer, Dean Devine has grown cherries for almost four decades. He’s got mostly Bings as well as Rainier, Chelan, Brooks, Garnets and the delightfully named Coral Champagne.
Flame Tokays: Called Lodi’s forgotten fruit, this seeded table grape was widely desired until supplanted by a seedless variety. Look for these rare, tasty grapes at roadside fruit stands between August and December.
Ostriches: Country Lake Ostriches [Linden] raises ostriches for local restaurants and runs farm stays at its ranch house among the birds. It also carries fresh ostrich eggs: one giant equals two dozen chicken eggs. —Virginie Boone