It’s been awhile since I have posted because I have been vacationing in Florida and taking day to Apple Hill, Occidental, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa. It’s hard to decide which foodie day to talk about, since all of them were exciting. I will start out writing about last Saturday’s trip to Healdsburg with my niece Michelle. We had the best day tasting wine, eating great meals and Michelle was treated to a few very special cocktails at the bar at Bravas Restaurant.
I don’t know when it started, but a few years back I began taking my nieces and nephews out for their birthdays. It’s been super fun having these twenty somethings around, spoiling them and mostly enjoying time together making memories. Michelle has always been open to an adventure with her Auntie Teri.
Last Saturday was no exception. Michelle and I started out the day early, making sure not to waste any time on our day together. I picked her up at 9:30AM and we drove directly to Healdsburg, only stopping briefly at Keller Estate Winery. We tried to make a quick stop there out of the blue, but they couldn’t accommodate the two of us short notice. We were disappointed because it was high on a hill, near a cute duck pond, but we trudged on ahead to bigger and better wineries.
First stop was Gustafson. We were treated especially well by a knowledgeable local who not only offered Michelle some of the best 2013 Estate Syrah, but she also gave us a map and recommended the names of other wineries that had to be on our “go to” list. She spoke highly of their vineyard overlooking Lake Sonoma and encouraged us to next time bring a picnic lunch and hang out at their gorgeous family estate. This generous girl also gave us several cards of other wineries in the area that offered free tastings. Of course, we were excited to catch a break and utilized a few of them that day.
Next we found a extraordinary cafe named Shed Shed. This place offers products from local farmers, ranchers, and sustainable artisan producers. When you walk in you are greeted with fresh flowers, garden and kitchen gifts, specialty coffees, exotic teas, a juice bar, a cheese section, charcuterie, gourmet sourdough bread, challah, seeded varieties and more. If you can find a spot to sit, you can splurge on their main dishes like Pear and Prosciutto Pizza, Wood Oven Mussels w smoked tomato, broccoli shoots, Calabrian Chili, cherry tomatoes and toasted bread just to name a couple. Everything is meticulously plated with fresh herbs and petite greens you’ve never seen before. Michelle and I didn’t eat here, but we did partake in their seeded loaf of bread. I’ve been making my own breads lately and very much appreciate what goes into the making of a good loaf.
Close by was Costeaux Bakery where we picked up a French Baguette (I told you I was into bread!) with goat cheese, salami and fresh greens. I behaved myself and didn’t buy the coconut macaroon dipped in chocolate (my fav), but I did go for the day old pastries which included a chocolate croissant, a few raspberry pastries and a plain croissant to take home to the family. We also had the clerk warm up and split in half their ham, veggie and cheese croissant. Oh my! I gobbled it up in two bites!
Spicy Vines had a table outside where we could enjoy our sandwiches alongside their 2015 Cabernet Franc Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak and Michelle’s favorite Peter’s Delight Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (her brother’s name and the area which my dad was raised.) We relaxed in the midday sun getting caught up on the latest in the life of an audiologist and talked about our upcoming trip to Cancun with our extended families.
Now we were ready to make our way into another local winery and found Portalupi. We took a seat on the comfy couch and were delighted by the generous pours and friendly guests. We loved everything from the old vine zinfandel to their pinot-noir. Of course I was pacing myself since I was the designated driver and made sure that the birthday girl was getting the most pours and tastes on her special day.
A couple hours later, on our way to the restaurant, we stumbled into Journeyman Meats a butcher shop, salumeria and tasting bar. This place is a one of a kind meat market/specialty foods store offering fresh turkey and salami sandwiches alongside cool cookbooks like The Art of Wood Fired Cooking by Mugnaini and In The Charcuterie by Boetticher and Miller.
Last but not least, we walked and googled our way to Bravas which had rave reviews by all the locals and it didn’t disappoint. We got lucky and found a spot at the bar where we could watch the bartenders Todd and Jordan (really expert mixologists) prepare some phenomenal cocktails. I didn’t partake in more drinking here, but Michelle was treated with the utmost care getting samples of spirits like Alameda’s St. George’s newest Malt Whiskey “Baller” and San Francisco’s Raff Distillerie’s Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin. There is a very cool story about the rescue dogs named Bummer and Lazarus in case you want to look it up on Instagram. Such a clever name as well.
We sat next to a couple of ladies named Lucy and Shellie from Menlo Park who kept us entertained and they graciously gave us the inside scoop as to what to order from the menu. Grilled octopus, foie gras with crispy serrano, and backyard marmalade and bacon wrapped dates with blue cheese. And we ended the meal by ordering their famous crispy yet flavorful Paella. We were in Heaven!
I haven’t even begun to describe the cocktails that my niece ordered. She tried the “Bang a Rang’ made with High West Double Rye, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, and Benedictine and another special drink made with Gin, her favorite. She was having so much fun learning about the various gins, whiskeys and spirits. It was a grand time checking out the local wineries, restaurants, bakeries and coffee houses and I can’t wait to go back.
Make sure you set aside a day to drive to Healdsburg with a relative or two. Why not take advantage of these glorious days of Autumn by spending time in the wine country with your loved ones. I guarantee you will have a good time enjoying good food and you won’t go thirsty either with the many choices of wineries and cocktail bars on every corner.
Thanks for reading.
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