Healdsburg is hot. This verdant area has award-winning wines, acclaimed restaurants, a zeal for local products and friendly residents. And it’s an easy drive from San Francisco – when you gauge the traffic correctly.
Pomo Indians inhabited Healdsburg thousands of years ago. After the Gold Rush of 1849, the town prospered and grew exponentially. And in 1872, the railroad reached Healdsburg. Farming has always been important, but what started as mostly fruit orchards has now turned to vineyards.
The town is centered around a lush 19th century plaza with streets lined with boutiques, restaurants, tasting rooms, bookstores and more. The valleys surrounding Healdsburg are known for the quality of the grapes. It’s fun driving in the countryside from winery to winery, but this trip my husband and I stayed in the vibrant downtown area to savor what the region has to offer.
Stay: We chose the eco-chic h2hotel. Not missing a beat in the quest for LEED gold certification, the property includes reclaimed wood and other materials throughout, an undulating roof with succulents, solar panels and smart sensors for in-room electricity control.
Our spacious room (with patio) included bamboo flooring, organic sheets, towels and robes and refillable carafes of sparkling and flat purified water (water stations on every floor). The artwork even reflects the hotel’s hip, green philosophy – the Spoonfall waterfall incorporates rainwater from the roof and espresso spoons from their restaurant Spoonbar (see DINE).
In the morning, we picked up a newspaper, coffee, fruit and muffins at the hotel’s complimentary breakfast bar before heading back to the City.
Dine: SHED is bursting with everything food-related. It’s a high energy sensory experience. You can feed your needs with books and tools as well as find delicious food – most everything is sourced locally. The interior is open, full of light with an industrial chic design (roll-up steel garage doors extend the indoor space outside). The owners are farmers who are passionate about every aspect of SHED – it’s part marketplace, gathering place and café.
We sat at the counter and began with drinks from the fermentation bar all made in-house: Kombucha by the tap, several shrubs including one with huckleberry-bay and apple cider vinegar and a sampling of freshly made juices like one with Sibley squash, Asian pear, ginger and lemon (turns into a beautiful orange color). The daily mezza plate with feta, olives and house made crackers, a great play on the Greek dish, comes with beet tzatziki, quinoa salad and squash hummus. The cocotte of smoked trout (in a small terrine) is yummy on a seeded toast. Save room for the Mozzarella, tomato sauce, Ricotta and basil pizza with a savory crust. Enjoy with wines and beers chosen from neighboring regions.
Before you leave, peruse the selection of goods at SHED. You’re bound to take home specialty foods and other artisanal products (or shop later online).
A popular local destination, Spoonbar is located off the h2hotel lobby. It’s named after the “Spoonfall” sculpture described in Stay (above). Open, airy and bustling on a recent Sunday evening, the marketplace drives the cuisine. You’ll find whatever is coming from nearby farms on the menu as well as in the hand-crafted cocktails like the New East Side with gin, lime, mint, yuzu and cucumber-elderflower foam.
The sashimi (served with trout roe, Kampachi, barbequed eel, fluke and more) comes with yuzu and sesame gelée, picked herbs, fermented chili, scallion vinaigrette and grilled citrus. Or indulge in the grilled quail and crispy pork belly with pasta, trumpet mushrooms and cabbage. Save room for the decadent dark chocolate torte with banana fluff ice cream, toasted coconut consommé and banana crisps. Luckily we could take the elevator home.
Upcoming Events: The Great Russian River Race (May 2); Taste Alexander Valley (May 15-17); Antique Fair (May 24, 707-431-3325); Healdsburg Jazz Festival (May 29-June 7).
Healdsburg Visitors Bureau; Sonoma County Tourism Board
PATTY BURNESS can be found @pattygb