Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


Wine country notes

My super-spouse, Tad, and I met our good old friends Yvonne and Dennis in Healdsburg, for a Valentine's weekend celebration of life, love, food, and wine.

Healdsburg is a sweet small town about 1.5 hours north of San Francisco that's the epicenter of the Sonoma County wine country. Dozens of excellent tasting rooms within a 10-mile radius of the town square; wonderful restaurants on almost every corner; vintage rummage shops and chi-chi boutiques galore (to satisfy shoppers on both ends of the spectrum); great bakery, great cafe, great burrito joint. Use the public restrooms at the police station down the street if the line's too long at the wonderful but pricey Oakville Grocery. It's spacious, clean, and safe from terroir-ists (an in-joke for those wine snobs among us).

Lambert Bridge and Everett Ridge wineries publicized a joint Sweet and Savory tasting extravaganza for the Valentine revelers in the valley over the weekend. Everett Ridge won my heart by putting out a huge, whole round of Humboldt Fog -- the most mouth-watering goat-cheese ever made (just a hundred miles of so north of the winery, I might add). Lambert Bridge, on the other hand, won kudos for their sweets -- namely a house-made dark chocolate brownie with a baked-in sort of frosting/glaze. Amazing with the estate port.

Also included in our wine tasting (and purchasing) was Preston Vineyards at the northern end of the beautiful Dry Creek Valley. Lou Preston and his wife have lived on this land for 40 years and offer fantastic wine, bread, olive oil, and olives. It's a bucolic place to kick off your shoes and picnic under a redwood tree, or try your hand at bocci ball (weekdays only).

We've spent countless hours in Healdsburg, but didn't discover The Cheese Shop until this trip. It's owned and operated by Doralice Handal. Lovely person, lovely selection of artisan cheeses, bread, olives, and other gourmet goodies. Y & D insisted on a return visit on day 2 to replenish their supply of lucques (crunchy green olives in a mild brine) decimated by our gourmandizing on day 1. I purchased a Spanish smoked paprika for kitchen experimentation. I'll post some of my successes here for any interested cooks who happen by.

Sonoma County is an unabashed foodie haven, and I always comes alive there to the abudance of creative foodstuffs northern California has to offer. During the summer months, the Sonoma County Farmtrails program adds fantastic outdoor produce stalls to the wine road meandering.

I love hiking the coast and the mountains, but the Healdsburg area is all-in-all my #1 weekend destination. Check it out.


At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Your Friend Rocket said...

Great stuff Mindy...
Preston Vinyards is one of my faves too...

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Mindy T. said...

Hey Rocket. Thx for dropping by. Preston isn't one of the better known spots, so I'm happy you found it! We used to picnic there frequently with friends, playing bocci ball and drinking zin. Great times. (They eventually closed the bocci courts on weekends. I never found out why. Maybe wine and sports don't mix. Beer and sports, now that's more like it!)

It's still a great place to visit...


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