Sometimes a perfect breakfast is as simple as a great pastry and a good cup of coffee, or an afternoon break from exploring Sonoma Valley’s vineyards and quaint small towns.
Sonoma Valley is fortunate to have excellent bakeries with fresh-made croissants, galettes, scones and more for a little bit of carb loading to support an active visit.
Here are three great bakeries to seek out during your visit.
Baker & Cook
18812 Highway 12
Sonoma, CA 95476
The shop: Located in The Springs, just north of the City of Sonoma, tucked into a small building on the west side of Highway 12. The small, one-room shop includes the bakery case and loaves of fresh-baked bread and food-related retail items. The back patio is the place to relax and enjoy your treats among the flowers and planter boxes, with shaded tables for the afternoon hours.
The story: Jen Demarest is the baker, while husband Nick Demarest is the cook. The Culinary Institute of America grads made their way to Sonoma Valley by way of upstate New York, the Texas Hill Country, Cyprus and then in the Bay Area at Chez Panisse and BayWolf. The opened their first Sonoma Valley project, Harvest Moon Café on the Sonoma Plaza, in 2006.
The pastry: All of them. But the fig and almond galette appears in late summer through fall and is a wonder to both behold and taste. The sweet, locally grown figs and the flaky crust of the galette are perfect with a small latte or cup of coffee. Gluten free options abound, and beyond baked goods there are sandwiches and breakfast and lunch items. Staff is friendly and fast.
Sweet Pea Bake Shop
720 W Napa St.
Sonoma, CA 95476
The shop: Located a few blocks from the Sonoma Plaza, Sweet Pea is in a small collection of storefronts on West Napa, a section of Highway 12 that wends its way through Sonoma and up Sonoma Valley. Easily walkable from the Plaza and nearby hotels like the retro-hip El Pueblo Inn, the shop is a gathering spot for visitors as well as locals stopping by the library and Pilates studio across the street.
The story: Wife and husband team of Zaclyn Rivera and Albert Rivera have been baking and cooking for a long time, remarkable for their young age. Zaclyn specializes in classical breads and pastries, with a career that has taken her from Silicon Valley to Napa Valley and now Sonoma Valley. Albert has been at Napa’s Boon Fly Café prior to opening Sweet Pea. But the star of the shop is their young son who comes out to greet visitors and occasionally show off his new toy trucks as you wait for a treat.
The pastry: The showstopper is the Kouign-amann, a French pastry (by way of Brittany) and pronounced like "queen a-mahn" that is by Zaclyn’s admission, “a lot of butter and a lot of sugar.” She mixes up the versions of it using local flavors in season (figs, apples, almonds) as well as classic bakery flavors like chocolate and seasonal tastes like pumpkin and pecan. On weekends the cronuts are also popular, the magical marriage of a croissant and a doughnut. A locals’ secret – Albert reaches back to his upbringing in the Philippines as be prepares Filipino boxed meals Thursday through Sunday. The dishes change often but have included pork adobo, pancit noodle salad, red snapper and the popular crispy pork belly. Ordering a bit ahead is encouraged.
Les Pascals Patisserie
13758 Arnold Drive
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
The shop: A bright yellow spot of sunshine on a curve of the road that snakes through Glen Ellen, Les Pascals is across from the Glen Ellen Village Market. Customers are always greeted with a bright “Bon jour!” from Pascale, the owner who is married to Pascal, the chef and baker. The back patio sits in the shade of a lovely tree and where customers linger over their meals.
The story: Pascal plus Pascale equals Les Pascales, two French expats from Lyon who found their way to Sonoma Valley after a stint in Carmel, California. Prior to their arrival in the U.S., Pascal was a chef at leading patisseries in France, while Pascale worked the front of house. The banter between the two during a rush is fast, furious and French all the while customers are greeted, the food is plated and the pastries keep appearing from the back.
The pastry: Pain au chocolat – the chocolate croissant – is a classic, and Pascal does it right: not too much chocolate to be cloying and just enough light flaky crust to hold it like a soft pillow. Pair it with a café au lait and sit outside under the tree to start your day in Glen Ellen. Take home a baguette or one of the other breads available, and don’t forget to get a meringue for an afternoon sweet treat.
Be sure to check websites of each bakery for hours - some of the best treats sell out quickly and many of these locally-owned shops open early and close midafternoon. For more great spots to try during your visit to Sonoma Valley see the complete dining section at SonomaValley.com/dining.