I should have known that when my ultimate food friend, Melanie, invited me to her house in Cloverdale this weekend that the days would be filled with chowing my way through Sonoma County. When not hanging out at her house chatting by the fire and drinking delicious wine, we were cruising the county having nibbles and bites in Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Cloverdale and the surrounding areas.
"Can you leave work at 2:30," she asked via email late last week, "I'd like to get to the Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg by 4:30pm for the half-price markdown."
On the way to Healdsburg, we exited Highway 101 to avoid traffic and came to our first stop: Joe Matos Cheese Factory. The Matos family sells their St. George's cheese to many cheese stores and restaurants in the Bay Area and their unassuming "retail store" (consisting of a wheel of cheese and a loud bell announcing customers) is located in Santa Rosa. The cheese is a bargain at $7 per pound, and I bought a large $10 slice for our weekend. This is a delicious cheese. Cowgirl Creamery's Library of Cheese describes the St. George as a "full-flavored cow milk cheese with a cheddary depth and a rich texture."
Next, we stopped at Willie Bird Turkeys to pick up some bones for stock. Many of you know Willie Bird as the purveyors of a large number of sustainable turkeys around the holidays. Their retail store is worth a stop and many bargains can be found inside. The bones were seventy cents a pound, and we bought a flat of 20 delicious turkey eggs for $4. I left the store noshing on their peppery turkey jerky and we were on our way.
We pulled into Healdsburg at 4:40 pm, and Melanie was in a hurry to get to Downtown Bakery. "I've never gotten here this late," she mentioned as we quickly walked to the bakery. Each weekday from 4:30 to 5:30, Downtown Bakery marks down many of their items to half-price. We walked in and took a number (18 people were ahead of us!) and perused the mark-down menu to make our decisions. What followed was an oddly stressful ten minutes as we watched item after item be completely sold-out by the earlier customers. Still, by the time it was our turn there were many items left and we bought a large bag of baked goods (a lot for freezing) for $15. I've always loved Downtown Bakery's croissants, which I purchase at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and happily had one for breakfast the next morning. The highlight of our purchases was a delicious almond tart which was quite sweet, full of nuts, and perfect when toasted.
Next week, I'll let you know about the rest of our trip which included a trip to the delightful Santa Rosa Farmers Market and more Sonoma county wanderings.
Joe Matos Cheese Factory
3669 Llano Road
9 am - 5 pm