Unearthing the Unexpected On the Sonoma Square

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sonomasquare.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

It happens to everyone at some point--you find yourself in wine country on a sunny afternoon, and everything seems like you've seen or done it a million times.  Wine tasting? Sigh... nothing could sound less appealing.  Artisanal cheese and bread?  Snore.  Fortunately, there are plenty of more unusual activities hiding in plain view on and around the Sonoma Square.
laughingqueen.JPGJust a few steps east down Napa Street takes you to one of the most unique, affordable, and entertaining experiences in wine country... assuming you have a good sense of humor.  The Laughing Queen sells every manner of hilarious card, toy, costume, stationery, magnet, coffee mug, and naughty gift you've never seen.  Thoroughly inspecting the wares at this tiny store requires close to an hour, and deciding what to purchase demands at least another fifteen minutes.  There is no finer place outside of the Castro District to shop for colorful cards, gag gifts, and snarky delights of all kinds.  122 E. Napa Street, (707) 935-6611.

Weary wine country warriors can get a taste of something refreshingly different at the tiny Nepalese restaurant tucked away down a cul de sac off First Street East.  Taste of the Himalayas has a warm, welcoming, family vibe that draws a crowd of loyal regulars and lucky visitors who followed their noses off the square.  The rich, creamy, and golden-hued chicken tikka masala is a family favorite here, but fish lovers should absolutely order the immense and delectable tandoori salmon with caramelized onions.  Either dish will jump start wine-soaked tastebuds and set you on a clearer course.  464 1st Street East, (707) 996-1161.  Open lunch and dinner.

mission.jpgFourth graders grappling with the California mission project can check out Mission San Francisco Solano on the north side of the square, which just celebrated its 187th birthday on the 4th of July.  The tiny, ultra-basic buildings would be a piece of cake to build as a model, and the short but history-packed tour can bring them up to speed on most of what they/you need to know for the written report.  114 East Spain Street, Sonoma (707) 938-1519.

When post-wine tasting beer cravings hit, head west along Napa Street to Sonoma's very own, very small microbrewery.  Sonoma Springs Brewing Company offers a handful of intense, delicious, German style artisanal beers on tap in their miniature brewhaus tasting room, which is open sonsprngsbrew2.jpgThursday through Saturday from 1pm to 8pm, and Sundays from 1-6pm.  In addition to the usual pale, red, wheat, and dark options, look for more unusual brews like the wormwood fermented Green Purl, which introduces flavors (and a risk of insanity) that you may never have tried before in a beer.  The beers rotate seasonally, though, so make sure you go frequently to sample them all.  750 West Napa Street (707) 938-7422.

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