TABLEHOPPING Not only is the Healdsburg area so damn beautiful (I'm talking about you, Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys) but there are some pretty fab dining and drinking options — and deals in the winter off season. There's always something new happening up there, so let's start planning your next overnighter.
One of the biggest projects to open recently is the ambitious SHED (25 North St, Healdsburg. www.healdsburgshed.com ), an almost 10,000-square-foot space with a market, café, and event center upstairs with a big kitchen. You can dine outside on the front or side patio, or just get a glass of wine from the tap list. Kombucha and kefir also come on tap, and the Home Farm peach-Champagne vinegar shrub cocktail is a dream. Yeah, it's all so homesteady.
The owners (Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton) also have the 16-acre Home Farm in Dry Creek Valley, so the menu's ingredients are peak-of-season. For lunch, I had a delicious salad with three kinds of squash spiked with cumin, herbed barley, tahini-yogurt dressing, cilantro, and sesame seeds. I returned for breakfast on the go before I had to head back to SF, picking up a cappuccino (beans from the local roaster Flying Goat), a house-baked kouign amann, and I was happy to score some pastured eggs to bring home. It's a fun place to browse, offering house-milled flours, unique products like sorghum, beautiful knives, and pottery, and be sure to check the schedule for cool events with guest chefs and talks.
Now that springy weather is here, I'm looking forward to hanging out again on the back patio of Bravas Bar de Tapas (420 Center, Healdsburg. www.starkrestaurants.com/bravas.html ) and pretending I'm in Barcelona, drinking a killer gin and tonic, and cruising my way through the tapas menu — like salmorejo, a plate of sliced-to-order Fermin jamón Ibérico, and pan tomate.
You could do like the tablehopper does and start your night at Bravas, and then amble on over to Pizzando (301 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg. www.pizzandohealdsburg.com ) for a salad and one of my favorite dishes in the area: crispy chicken legs. Chef Louis Maldonado brines the legs and then cooks them like Korean fried chicken, with a nice bit of heat. If you live for fried chicken, you'll want to check these out. There are also some creative pizzas that come out of the wood-fired oven (um, hi, porchetta pizza).
Another place firing up an array of tasty pizzas is Campo Fina (330 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg. www.campofina.com ), which also sports a bocce ball court in the back, a hit with the locals (who have teams!). The menu skews Italian — the owners are also behind nearby Scopa — with hearty dishes, including famed meatballs, tomato-braised tripe, grilled lamb chops, and popular honey-roasted carrots. The cocktails are good, and it's a fun place to hang out.
When I'm in the area, I find it hard to pass up a chance to dine at Dino Bugica's Diavola (21021 Geyserville Ave, Geyserville. www.diavolapizzeria.com ) in nearby Geyserville. Not only are his pizzas completely destination-worthy, but his salumi is excellent. Love the farm-fresh salads and seasonal vegetables, and the pastas also rule. Diavola's got a great, warm atmosphere as well — it's a good place to take in the Geyserville scene.
As for where to stay, if your budget allows (or maybe you're there mid-week), h2hotel (219 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg. www.h2hotel.com ) is the spot. It has a natural-modern style, and is very eco (it's LEED-certified). See if you can get a room with a deep Japanese-style soaking tubs. There's a solar-heated pool in the back, and the downstairs bar (Spoonbar) is tops — you can just stumble upstairs to bed when it's time to call it a night.
There are plenty of shops to browse — cute vintage shop Seahoney is a must — and tasting rooms dot the town: The new Cartograph (340 Center, Healdsburg. www.cartographwines.com ) features some nice, cool climate pinots, and the food and wine pairings at Partake by K-J (241 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg. www.partakebykj.com ) highlight produce sourced from its own farm and are really well thought-out, enough so to squelch any suspicion that you're just getting a run-of-the-mill touristy experience.
Last tip: Be sure to grab a donut-muffin from Downtown Bakery & Creamery (308A Center, Healdsburg. www.downtownbakery.net ), a perfect companion for wine-tasting jaunts.