Healdsburg was named one of the best small towns in America earlier this year, but business owners aren’t willing to rest on their laurels. An exciting crop of new restaurants, tasting rooms and cultural activities have debuted recently in Sonoma wine country’s hottest township. Here’s what’s new in Healdsburg food and wine:
Dry Creek Kitchen opens White Oak pop-up restaurant
Chef Dustin Valette of Dry Creek Kitchen grew up in Sonoma County, so grilling has been a part of his lifestyle year-round since childhood. This summer, he opened White Oak Grill, a casual, outdoor pop-up restaurant offered exclusively on weekends during the summer. Located in the courtyard between Dry Creek Kitchen and Hotel Healdsburg, White Oak Grill features local, summer ingredients with a lively, al fresco atmosphere where the chef and his flaming grill are just a few feet from your table.
Dry Creek Kitchen/White Oak Grill: 317 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA; 707-431-0330 or charliepalmer.com; Hours: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 2:30 p.m.
Walking Food Tours
It’s no surprise that there are now two companies operating food tours in the tiny town of Healdsburg, which boasts nearly 30 restaurants clustered in just a few blocks of its charming downtown square. Kirsten Jones of Wine Country Walking Tours just launched a new Flavors of Healdsburg food tour this spring, which takes guests to eight destinations—many of which are newish eateries and tasting rooms—over four hours. Savor Healdsburg Food Tours also debuted this spring with two different food tours; stay tuned for a blog post with an in-depth look at Healdsburg’s best walking food tours.
Wine Country Walking Tours: 1083 Vine Street, Suite 182, Healdsburg, CA; 707-758-4725 or winecountrywalkingtours.org. Tours $49-$99. Hours: Wednesday & Friday at 11 a.m. (Other tours and times available on their website.)
Chalkboard patio debuts
Sonoma County’s ultra-fine dining restaurant, Cyrus, closed its doors in 2012 after an apparently hostile transition, making room for Le Mars hotel owner Bill Foley to open a small-plates concept called Chalkboard. Foley has purchased a string of wineries in the last decade, including Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery, Chalkboard’s namesake. Last month, Chalkboard unveiled its new outdoor patio, former home of Hotel Le Mars pool, which was drained, filled with concrete and transformed into an interior courtyard with a modern Tuscan feel. The old pool house for towel service is now a fully stocked bar, and casual couches clustered around fire pits are intermingled with bistro tables. Only a few restaurants in Healdsburg have spacious outdoor patios (Bravas, Mateo’s, Healdsburg Bar & Grill, Campo Fina), so Chalkboard’s transformation is a smart and welcome addition to the Healdsburg food scene, especially during summer and fall when living outdoors is the norm.
Chalkboard: 29 North St, Healdsburg, CA; 707-473-8030 or chalkboardhealdsburg.com; Hours: Daily at 5 p.m. and weekends at 11:30 a.m.
Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar
The owners of Healdsburg’s popular cupcake shop and bakery, Moustache, just opened a hip ice cream and pie bar with inventive recipes that showcase Sonoma County ingredients. Farm-fresh rhubarb, apricots, strawberries and loganberries all find their way into delicious pies, keeping with Moustache’s “farm-to-cake” philosophy. (Their Black Pig bacon cupcake helped put them on Sonoma’s culinary map.) Try the almond cardamom, juniper honey or ube (Japanese purple yam) ice creams, three of our favorite flavors sampled so far. If that wasn’t reason enough to visit Noble Folk, there’s also an ice cream float stand inside, featuring ginger beer, sarsaparilla and other exotic mixers.
Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar: 116 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, CA; (707) 529-2162 or their Facebook page. Hours: Daily from 12 to 9 p.m.
Tasting rooms open late
One of the main complaints I’ve heard from friends vacationing in Healdsburg is that the tasting rooms on the square close too early. A few winemakers seized the opportunity to fill this gap and recently debuted tasting rooms open later than most. Cartograph Wines (pictured above) new space next to ZIN restaurant, which is open until 6:30 p.m., features wines on tap, window seats for people watchers, a sleek lounge area and a private room for seated tastings. Banshee Wines calls its new tasting room “Sonoma-heritage style that meets comfortably modern décor,” but I’d call it Pottery Barn meets Restoration Hardware. It’s a very hip space, and the last reservation taken is for 6:30 p.m.
Cartograph Wines; 340 Center Street, Healdsburg, CA; 707.433.8270 or cartographwines.com; Tastings $10; Hours: Daily from 12 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Banshee Wines: 325 Center Street, Healdsburg, CA; 707-990-3615 or bansheewines.com; Tastings $10-$25; Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Private garden tasting at DaVero Farms
Premium olive oil producer DaVero Farms just finished construction on a charming shed in its organic gardens, which doubles as an intimate space for private wine tastings. The biodynamic producer released its first vintage of wines in 2006 and focuses on intriguing Italian varieties that pay homage to the heritage of Sonoma County’s first wine pioneers. Private tastings are offered by appointment; DaVero’s recently completed winemaking facility sits in a modern barn attached to the tasting room, giving guests an inside look at the 2014 harvest. DaVero Extra Virgin Olive Oil became the first California oil to earn the prestigious extra-virgin grade from the International Olive Oil Council.
DaVero Farms: 1766 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA; (707) 431-8000 or davero.com. Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.