Deliciously Dry Creek: Eating Through Healdsburg: Despite a down economy, new restaurants are popping up throughout Wine Country like shittakes after a good rain. In Healdsburg, a rash of closures and timely real estate shifts have created a wealth of opportunities for iron-stomached restaurateurs. Longtime chefs are taking the dive into their first or second brick-and-mortar; expanding menus and playing a bit (barbecue, small plates, sauces); and newcomers are taking the opportunity to dive into the local food scene.
What's obvious, however, is the trend toward lowered price points, more ethnic eats and family friendly comfort foods, a new twist in the sometimes high-priced fare of Santa Rosa's tony neighbor to the north. What hasn't changed, however, are the inspired Healdsburg ingredients and of-the-season dishes that continue to set the mark for Wine Country cuisine. See what's new to the table . . .
The Rosen Project: There are few secrets in the close-knit hamlet of Healdsburg, but one that's got everyone guessing is chef Ari Rosen's interest in the former Divine Affair Restaurant space on Healdsburg Avenue, just off the square. The restaurant went dark in March, and a number of chefs have copped to checking out the space. But a change of ownership application in the window names Rosen, who heads the wildly popular Scopa just around the corner. The former Santi chef will only say that he is in the midst of wrangling the deal and can't announce his full intentions until later this month. Here's to patiently waiting!
Two eateries on the verge of opening: Moustache Bakery and Mateo Granados' Cocina Latina. The latter will be a sit-down version of the authentic Yucatecan dishes Granados has been serving up at North Bay farmers markets and his popular pop-up Tendejon Calle dinners for years. Mixing Granados' high-end experience (as former exec chef at Dry Creek Kitchen) and rural roots, the Cocina is slated to be a fusion of humble street food, family recipes and California cuisine -- something Granados calls Modern Yucatan Cuisine. Hailing from the Yucatan peninsula, Granados creates dishes that combine influences from Spain and the ancient Mayans to compliment the produce and meats of Sonoma County. And though the names may sound familiar -- tacos, tamales, empanadas, comidas and chorizo -- Granados painstakingly seeks out local farmers and purveyors he often works with at the farmers markets to flavor his dishes.
With the bounty of late summer to fuel his opening menu, Granados plans to have squash blossom emapanadas with Redwood Hill cheese, White Crane Farm greens and Soda Rock tomatoes; suckling roast pig from Black Sheep Farm wrapped in banana leaves; Tierra Farms' beans and Preston Vineyards' pork chorizo. On this menu, farmer name-dropping isn't chef grand-standing as much as a shout-out to friends and neighbors. Tortillas will be made in-house with ingredients like Mendocino sea salt and local olive oil mixed into the masa. Desserts are simple, seasonal ice creams, fruits or cool-weather flan with sticky buns from the Downtown Bakery and Creamery. At each table will be bottles of Granados' El Yuca sauces made from local chiles and peppers.
Signed on to help barside is mixologist Scott Beattie of h2hotel. He'll help formulate a variety of tequila-inspired libations. Wine will be on-tap only. Expect prices in line with the kinds of ingredients Mateo sources, meaning $15 to $19 for larger dishes. Lunch and dinner will be served daily, and he's just announced plans for a weekend brunch (he's currently perfecting blue-corn pancakes with honey) and possible late-night tamales at the bar, which will stay open until midnight or so. Expect a late August opening, 214 Healdsburg Ave.
Just down the street, two young bakers, Christian Sullberg and Ozzy Jiminez are putting the final touches on Moustache Bakery (381 Healdsburg Ave.,). The menu's still baking a bit in the oven, but the duo plan on relying on plenty of produce from nearby farms and wineries: for example, using Dry Creek zinfandel in their red velvet cake and carrots from nearby farms for their carrot cake. Other treats they're working on include Mason Jar cupcakes, brownies and milk, macarons and banana cake with Nutella frosting.
Shed: The owners of Home Farm in Dry Creek Valley are about to break ground on SHED, a 9,700-square-foot multi-use market, cafe and event center in downtown Healdsburg. Replacing the former appliance store on North Street along Foss Creek, owners Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton hope to curate a space for local produce, kitchen and garden tools and sustainable living. Owners hope to have the space ready for occupancy this fall.