A Fabulous Festival

By Kate Riley September 17, 2012

Embracing the seasons is one of my favorite things in life, especially when it comes to cuisine.  There’s a local festival that goes on every year here in Sonoma County at the Kendall Jackson Tasting Room, one that’s hailed as one of the best in this region, but it’s a festival I had never attended until this past weekend. 

Our good friends had extra tickets to the Kendall Jackson Tomato Festival so we were invited along and what a great time we had!  It’s a one day event where 50+ Wine Country restaurants and food purveyors create tomato inspired dishes to compete for the top prize.  It’s a spirited competition and all of the local Bay Area favorites prepare creative tomato infused dish, and attendees reap the benefits by sampling them all and casting a vote!  

culinary institute

 country fresh tomatoes cg


Prizes are awarded including a golden spade for Best of Show.

best of show tomatoes


Our sweet friends who invited us to tag along show off how well thought out the festival is. They hand you a wine glass (but of course) and a bamboo platter that holds it when you walk in and then they send you on your way to all the wine, food, tomato, and cheese samples you can devour, yum! And how cute is my friend’s red striped dress??

dino and heidi


These beauties are everywhere on display, perfectly ripe, and so fresh they’re nature’s candy. 

vine tomatoes in glass vase cg

wine grapes and tomatoes


Please forgive me, this next part will make you drool but I must share.  There were complimentary samples we were encouraged to gobble, such as Heirloom Tomato Bread Pudding, Italian Zaleti Cookies, Chicken Tacos with Heirloom Tomato Salsa, and Flatbread with Summer Vegetables and Bacon.  We did not protest one bit.

tomato bread pudding cookies tacos flatbread

Don’t forget Tomato Smash on Hot Dogs, Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, Risotto Croquettes, Tomato Mousse with Lemon Crème Fraiche, and Grilled Pate and Cheddar Sandwiches with Tomato Chutney.  *burp* 

smash gazpacho risotto mousse pate


And there were recipes with words that we didn’t understand at first glance but it never stopped us from digging in.  “Heirloom Tomato Parmesan Cannoli with Crispy Pancetta and Purple Cherokee Vichyssoise”  Sure!    

parmesan cannoli

   And there was so much more!  No one, I mean no one, leaves hungry. 

Over 170+ varieties of tomatoes are grown on the property and guess what?  You can sample them all, if you’re willing.

tomato samples on table

tomato varieties


Cheese pairs perfectly with wine don’t we all know, so there were plenty of vendors from across the fruited plain sharing their fresh cheeses, from our local goat varieties to mozzarella from Wisconsin.

cypress grove chevre goat

caprese on stick


I learned something new… flour is now made from grape skins for gluten free cooking, and I sampled some incredible cookies and breads made with it!

grape skin flour

   loaves of bread


The Kendall Jackson Tasting Room is one of my favorite architectural structures, I absolutely love its stunning French chateau style.   So much so, I copied the color of the stucco among other things – see this story with details on when we built our house.

kendall jackson tasting room


Inside the tasting room, there was even more sampling happening, and the mustard color on this hutch caught my eye, gorgeous, right?  

kj tasting room hutch cg

tomatoes in tasting room


Look who we spied as we were walking into the Tasting Room!  Mr. Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives himself – a local celebrity, Guy Fieri chatting it up with some fellow chefs during one of the many live food challenges.

guy fieri


Speaking of, did you catch Guy’s feature in the latest Better Homes & Gardens?  And did you see the recipe in the article for his Candied Apple Pizza?  Oh em gee!!

guy fieri in bhg


The Kendall Jackson Tomato Festival was a really big hit!  If you’re local, definitely snag some tickets next year, you won’t regret it. 

fig branches in glass vase cg

And for anyone planning a visit to Northern California’s Wine Country, September is one of the best  months to make the trip, so come to the Tomato Festival where you’ll be lucky enough to taste the very best of everything we have to offer.

Tomorrow kicks off the Fall Link Parties, I have a fun idea to share for Layla’s Tablescape party, see you then!



  1. Of course you would give amazing eye candy of some incredible table designs and food…. ohhhhh and I have eight tomatoes sitting on my counter now… hmmm….
    Just went and read the story of how you met your house and I was completely laughing, especially that you made a double stroller out of a single… Would you ever consider blogging about the story of how you met Matt and your wedding? It bet it was beautiful.

  2. WOW, WOW, WOW, is all I can say. The festival looks amazing. My head and taste buds would be spinning with all of those tasty tomatoes to try.

  3. This festival looks incredible! Sorry we didn’t know about it, as we were in Sonoma and Napa this past weekend for the first time ever. Of course, there was no shortage of wineries and restaurants to experience. I needed a few more days there!

    Have you been to French Bleu? I want to redecorate my home to look like that place :)

  4. Wow, I would have eaten myself sick! I loooove tomatoes! We went to a teeny tiny urban agricultural festival this weekend and for some silly reason they were only doling out prizes and didn’t have of the yummy-looking veggies available to taste! I’d love to go to the Kendall Jackson festival some day!

  5. Holy mercy, I hope I remember to look into going to this next year because it looks like something I would love! Beautiful pictures, I so love this place I live in and will be very sad when we move in a few years.

  6. Whaaaaat? Grape skin gluten-free flour? I’m definitely going to have to investigate :) That event sounds like heaven!

  7. Fabulous post Kate! What a great time….I’m ready to go back! We need to add pics of you to this posting.

  8. I’m drooling over the food and I’m not even hungry!

    You take gorg photo’s Kate…they are magazine worthy!

  9. My husband, sister, and her husband were in Sonoma this weekend and we enjoyed lots of tomatoes. We had lunch at Redd Wood in Yountville on Saturday (inspired by your day in Yountville post) and had a wonderful heirloom tomato appetizer. We have bought heirloom tomateos on two other days at area farmer’s markets. What a treasure of good food you have here!
    You pictures of the festival are fabulous! We will look for it the next time we are in the area…we usually visit this time of year.

  10. Hi Kate ! I live in France, near Vichy, and a vichyssoise is a cold potato/leek/sour cream soup … so now you know ! I love your blog and read it daily and I really enjoy your pictures ! Take care !

    • Thank you so much Ariane! It was divine, so glad to have a visitor from France!!

  11. Oh you are so lucky to live there!! I LOVE Guy Fieri – my daughter and I are hooked on Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives!! Looks like a wonderful day!!! Just curious which camera/lens you are using when you are out and about like that – beautiful photos!!

  12. I don’t even remember how I was first directed to your blog…but its truly one of my faves… I actually read it every time it shows up in my inbox. Are you willing to share a photo tip? How do you take those photos where something in the center is focused and everything around it is a bit fuzzy? It makes the photos look so professional!

    • Hi Kathleen, all of these images were taken with a 50mm Nikkor lens on a Nikon D90 DSLR – it’s my favorite lens!

  13. OMG!! This looks amazing!! Wish I could of been there! My husband and I will be in Napa/Sonoma Sept. 27-Oct. 5 and are looking for things like this to go to. Would you know anything off the top of your head? When I look at the websites, I don’t see much happening?!?!? Thanks!

  14. Wow! This looks like soo much fun and like there were some really delish food and drinks! I’ve been wanting to do something similar to this, but on a much smaller scale:) Thanks for some inspiration!

  15. Can I say yummy?? 25 years ago in October, my new spouse & I spent two glorious weeks in that area for our honeymoon. Not a big expensive trip, but one of the best bonding times for us. We stayed at my uncle’s “little cabin” on Lake Berryessa and made daily trips to see the area and added a couple of runs into San Fran. I love all the events that occur and every time we get up there, we try to get to one. But tomatoes, heaven on earth! Love those black zebras. Wish I could grow them but the only yard space is blasted by the sun from 8 am til 6pm.

  16. Oh, my dad would have loved this. I’ve never heard of it before, but he is all-knowing, all-tasting, when it comes to tomatoes. I remember reading an article by Martha a few months ago about all the different types of tomatoes, how they taste, how they grow. It was fascinating! And it’s so interesting how beautiful they look, and so many wonderful fall colors too!

    Thanks for sharing!

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