Hip in Healdsburg: A Restaurant Renaissance Arrives
Late last year Healdsburg saw the opening of Campo Fina, Pizzando, Parish Cafe, Cafe Lucia, Bravas Bar de Tapas and Taverna Sofia, but that was just the beginning. While those restaurants represented many different styles of cuisine, openings in the last two months show a flair for modern cuisine and a “hyper local” focus.
Kendall Jackson closed their tasting room in favor of a new “wine tasting and food pairing cafe” in a larger space just a few blocks away. The casual yet classy space has tables, a bar and cozy couches where you can enjoy a taste, glass or bottle. The focus is on their fine reserve wines and each is listed on the menu with a set of chef’s recommendations and that’s where things get interesting. Utilizing up to 80% produce from Jackson Estate Gardens and Orchards chef Justin Wangler creates many original and seasonal dishes like beet tartare, with black sesame, Japanese ume plum and shiso to pair with Pinot Noir and red wine braised turnips, dates and hazelnuts to go with Syrah and the ever popular red wine fries with cabernet ketchup. Signature flights take the concept even further with five wines paired with five dishes--either vegetarian or not at $35 and $45 respectively.
Expectations were high for the restaurant that would replace Cyrus adjacent to the posh Hotel Les Mars and Chalkboard does not disappoint, though its concept is completely different. Hand forged iron and Carrara marble add elegance to a casual spot where diners can nibble or feast. The small-plate format with wine flights emphasizes locally grown ingredients, with the produce from Chalk Hill gardens organic garden highlighted on the menu. Executive Chef Shane McAnelly leans toward the whimsical with starters like a bouquet of fresh and pickled vegetables and dips, dungeness crab “tater tots” and a dessert called “healthy breakfast” with warm donuts and a bowl of yogurt panna cotta topped with candied corn flakes and berries resembling a bowl of cereal and milk. While many restaurants may be making fresh pasta, McAnelly offers several different versions of house made extruded pasta each night.
Most ambitious of all is Healdsburg Shed, inspired in part by Wendell Berry’s concept of the “modern agrarian.” It’s mercantile for garden, home and kitchen, fresh market, coffee bar, fermentation bar and cafe, plus event space with a full schedule of classes and workshops. It’s all happening at Shed, from milling of grain, to aging cheese and smoking fish. While it’s easy to spend hours perusing the carefully curated products--everything from local vinegars to imported beehives and deBuyer pans--there’s also good stuff to eat and drink. The food here runs the gamut from Mediterranean style mezze and flatbreads to sandwiches, soups and salads particularly reminiscent of those from Chez Panisse, no surprise since Chef Niki Ford clocked 6 years there. Baked good from crackers to shortbread and scones are also outstanding.