Posts Tagged ‘Healdsburg’

Center Street Cafe & Deli – Healdsburg, CA

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 by virginia

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On the morning of our friends’ wedding, we couldn’t bear the thought of stomaching another breakfast at our hotel (which admittedly was not so terrible, especially considering it was free, plus there was even an automatic pancake machine!) so we headed into downtown Healdsburg to grab some brunch. We walked around the square for a while contemplating our options and came across the Center Street Cafe & Deli, which was perfect for us because some of us wanted breakfast and some of us wanted lunch, and the diner-like menu offered both.

I was firmly in the lunch group while Josh was sort of in between, but we both wound up ordering sandwiches and splitting them. Josh picked the hot corned beef sandwich with swiss cheese on rye toast. The corned beef was surprisingly good – thick cut, flavorful, and appropriately fatty, and the rye toast was appropriately studded with lots of caraway seeds. We both upgraded to french fries, which were thin cut and looked like they were made from real potatoes. They tasted fine but were a tad soggy.

Corned beef sandwich with swiss, and french fries

Corned beef sandwich with swiss, and french fries

I selected the Thanksgiving sandwich, which featured thick cut turkey, provolone, lettuce, onions, mayo, and cranberry sauce. The turkey was tender and moist, but the cranberry sauce totally overpowered everything. I appreciated that it was made with real cranberries, not stuff that comes out of the can looking like cranberry jello, but it was overwhelmingly sour and completely detracted from the otherwise fine sandwich. Josh and I both agreed that the corned beef sandwich was the better choice.

Thanksgiving sandwich

Thanksgiving sandwich

Overall we thought the Center Street Cafe & Deli was just ok. It served its purpose, in that everyone found something they wanted to eat, and its location on the square couldn’t be beat. The food was decent. Not great, not awful, in line with what you would expect from a regular diner. Service was friendly, our glasses were always refilled, and prices were reasonable.

Center Street Cafe & Deli
304 Center St.
Healdsburg, CA

Campo Fina – Healdsburg, CA

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 by virginia

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By Thursday, all of our friends had arrived in Healdsburg for the wedding festivities. First we stopped at the Healdsburg Bar & Grill for a group happy hour on the back patio, and then we walked along Healdsburg Avenue in search of a restaurant for dinner. Campo Fina drew us in with it varied Italian menu and immediately available seating.

At first we were crowded around a small round booth by the door, which was cozy and intimate and perfect for conversations, but not practical for the amount of food that would wind up on the table. Fortunately some more tables opened up in the front and we were able to spread out more comfortably.

Because we were all couples with different food preferences, we decided to order our own dishes rather than share with the table, even though the menu is pretty conducive for sharing. Josh and I decided to split two appetizers and a pizza so that we could try several dishes.

First up was the burrata cheese with grilled bread, prosciutto, and aged balsamic. It was a twist on our favorite mozzarella/tomato/prosciutto dinners that we indulge in almost weekly during the summer. The burrata was soft and milky in the middle and while the prosciutto was very lean, it still melted in mouths. The aged balsamic was intense in flavor and very sweet, which contrasted nicely with the salty prosciutto. There was arugula on the plate as well, adding a bit of bitterness to cut through the richness of the burrata. The grilled bread doused with good olive oil was the perfect vehicle for the ingredients. Even though it was a simple appetizer, we enjoyed it so much that it inspired us to grill our bread and eat more burrata all summer long.

Burrata with grilled bread, prosciutto, arugula, and aged balsamic

Burrata with grilled bread, prosciutto, arugula, and aged balsamic

Our second appetizer was pork belly sliders. We had enjoyed the pork belly biscuits at Chalkboard the night before so much that we were in the mood for more pork belly. These were served with fig and red onion marmellata, sauerkraut, and pickled mustard seed. The pork belly wasn’t as crispy on the outside but it was still tender and deliciously fatty. The fig and red onion added a sweet glaze to the pork, while the sauerkraut provided a tangy contrast and crunch. The mustard seeds were a nice touch, adding a little extra burst of flavor with each bite. My only complaint was the bread, which was just toasted white bread buns. They were soft and squishy and pretty mundane, especially compared with the delicate biscuits from the night before. Plus there was too much of it, which detracted a bit from the delicious pork belly.

Pork belly sliders

Pork belly sliders

For our main course, we split the salsiccia pizza, which was topped with sausage and roasted spring onions. I liked the mellow onion flavor that the roasted spring onions brought to the dish, and the sausage was also pretty mild, which I prefer. I would have liked a little bit more cheese (it was definitely on the saucier side), but overall it was a pretty tasty pie. The crust was nicely browned from the wood-burning oven and had good flavor and chew to it. We also traded slices with other people at the table and tasted a fantastic spiced lamb pizza (it was a special that night) as well as pizza calabrese, which was unfortunately did not have enough calabrese salame on top.

Pizza salsiccia

Pizza salsiccia

We were wavering on dessert but after hearing what the special of the day was, we couldn’t pass it up. The dessert special was grilled peaches with vanilla gelato, topped with olive oil and sea salt. The grilled peaches had a nice savory quality to them, which made them the perfect pair for the sweet gelato. The fruity olive oil bound the two components together, and the sea salt just put the whole combination over the top. As someone who doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, it was the ideal dessert for me.

Grilled peaches with vanilla gelato, olive oil, and sea salt

Grilled peaches with vanilla gelato, olive oil, and sea salt

Overall, we enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere at Campo Fina. While it was a more casual and warm environment where we were at the front of the restaurant, we discovered a huge crowd out back in the garden area where it was more like a boisterous party, complete with a bocce ball court. The dishes we tried were well prepared and flavorful, though nothing extraordinarily complicated or fancy. The prices were pretty reasonable, and I liked the “smaller plates” aspect that would allow you to share dishes. Service was friendly, and our waiter introduced us to a local trousseau gris wine that was fruity yet crisp – definitely one of the favorite wines we tasted during our trip. I would happily go back there again.

Campo Fina
330 Healdsburg Ave.
Healdsburg, CA

Chalkboard – Healdsburg, CA

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 by virginia

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We arrived in San Francisco on a misty and foggy (per usual) Wednesday morning. After picking up our rental and enjoying an awesome dim sum breakfast with my godparents, we headed into downtown SF to meet up with our friends Claire and Sean, and their adorable son, L. From their apartment we headed off to Healdsburg in our respective cars, stopping once at the Vista Point by the Golden Gate Bridge (which was completely whited out by the fog) to swap passengers (Claire and I needed some girl talk time).

The trip to Healdsburg took about 1.5 hours with minimal traffic. After checking into our hotel (make sure you never accidentally request a smoking room when filling out a reservation online!), Josh and I took a drive around downtown before meeting up with Claire, Sean, and L again for an early dinner at Chalkboard. During my usual pre-trip research, Chalkboard was one of the more heralded restaurants I read about, and the menu looked fabulous, so I had Josh book reservations for us well in advance.

We opted to sit outside on the back patio and enjoy the gorgeous weather. The menu features small plates, and our party of 4 (plus L, who picked off a little from every dish and has an incredible palate for a 1 year old) was the perfect size for sharing everything. We pretty much ordered to our hearts’ content, hitting almost every dish on the menu.

First up was the beef tartare, which had a wonderful texture to it and tons of beef flavor, as the meat was cut in larger chunks rather than the over-chopped mush we’ve seen in many other places. It was topped with a quail egg yolk that gave the beef a creamy richness, and was served with parsley, celery hearts, calabrian chile (which wasn’t too spicy), and smoked salt. We scooped up the tartare with the accompanying crunchy crostini, and it was a well balanced, well seasoned bite to start off our meal.

Beef tartare

Beef tartare

The trio of bruschetta featured duck rillete with peach mostarda, pickled beet with crescenza cheese and pistachio, and smoked salmon with smashed avocado, creme fraiche, and pickled onions. The rillete with peach was a nice combination of savory and sweet, while the tanginess of the pickled beet was mellowed out by the creamy and milky crescenza. Smoked salmon with avocado and creme fraiche is a pretty standard combination, but the pickled onions added a nice touch of acid and a bit of crunch to the mix. All three were pretty delicious.

Bruschetta trio

Bruschetta trio

The only vegetable dish we ordered was the caramelized baby carrots, which came with kohlrabi sauerkraut, caraway-dill yogurt, and rye crunch. I’m usually not a fan of carrots in general, but these were bursting with flavor. The sweet carrots were soft but not mushy and paired nicely with slightly sour sauerkraut. The yogurt was bright and fresh-tasting from the dill, and the rye crunch added a nice textural contrast. It was a great combination that I never would have thought of in a million years, nor did I think I would enjoy it, but it was a sleeper hit on the table.

Caramelized baby carrots

Caramelized baby carrots

The crudo of the day was ishidai (a Japanese fish) with pickled nectarines and fried olives. The fish was mild in flavor but definitely fresh, and the nectarines and olives added a burst of brininess without overwhelming the fish. Definitely an interesting combination, and the fried olives were a nice twist.

Crudo of the day

Crudo of the day

From the pasta section, we chose the squid ink gigli with dungeness crab, calabrian chile, black truffle butter, and lemon verbena. We couldn’t detect any truffle flavor in the dish, but we also didn’t miss it. The pasta itself had lots of depth and savoriness to it from the squid ink, and there was tons of crab meat mixed throughout. We could taste the fruitiness of the chile but it wasn’t overly spicy. My only complaint would be that the pasta was slightly mushy.

Squid ink gigli

Squid ink gigli

The lamb meatballs were another huge hit at our table. The meatballs were gamey but not overly so, and juicy and tender. They were served with charred grapes, mint, harissa, feta, and saba (a grape syrup). The sweetness of the grapes and syrup was unexpected but paired well with the meatiness of the lamb, and the fresh mint finished the dish on a bright note.

Lamb meatballs

Lamb meatballs

The dungeness crab tater tots were well executed, with perfectly crispy tots and a big heap of dungeness crab meat on top of each cube. The crab meat was sweet and fresh, while the tots had great potato flavor and were not the least bit greasy. Compared to the other dishes on the table, however, these were tasty but not as exciting.

Dungeness crab tater tots

Dungeness crab tater tots (some of the crab bundles fell off en route to the table)

The PEI mussels steamed with white wine was another more classic dish that was well executed. The mussels were plump and juicy though, and the broth had a lot of flavor from big pieces of bacon and fennel mixed throughout.

Steamed PEI mussels

Steamed PEI mussels

The hamachi crudo featured summer squash, kimchi, and crispy quinoa. It was a surprisingly large portion, which was not a bad thing, and I liked that the hamachi was cut into large chunks rather than the thin slices we were expecting. The kimchi flavor on the summer squash was present but mild, and I liked the textural crunch of the quinoa. It was definitely a more rustic dish than the crudo of the day, but both were tasty in different ways.

Hamachi crudo

Hamachi crudo

Last, but definitely not least, we had the pork belly biscuits. The pork belly was glazed with maple and perfectly cooked so that it was crispy on the outside and meltingly tender on the inside. The biscuit itself was fluffy and delicate, and pickled onions and chipotle mayo rounded out the little sandwiches. The salty sweet flavors were spot on, and I could have eaten all four of them by myself.

Pork belly biscuits

Pork belly biscuits

Overall, Josh and I both thought our meal at Chalkboard was one of the best that we’ve had in recent memory. The company was definitely part of it (it’s always a pleasure dining with Claire and Sean), but the food itself was well executed, and most of the combinations of flavors were innovative and exciting. The restaurant tries to use local produce and ingredients, and the care taken with each individual component was evident on the plate. At about $9-$16 per dish, the prices were very reasonable for the quality of the food and the portion sizes. We all walked away satisfied but not overwhelmingly full. Service was attentive, and the back patio area was just lovely. I highly recommend checking out the restaurant if you’re ever in the Healdsburg area.

Chalkboard
29 North St.
Healdsburg, CA