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. I reported on Part I of my trip last week, which included Downtown Bakery, Willie Bird Turkeys and Matos Cheese Factory.
Friday night, we went to dinner at Scopa -- a small restaurant on the square in Healdsburg that focuses on Northern Italian dishes. Melanie did a great job of reporting on our meal on Chowhound, but a few highlights: deliciously light polpette with an addictive tomato sauce, perfectly textured papardelle with duck ragu, and a remarkable side of bread that we used to dip in anything and everything. We sat at the bar, which I would highly recommend. Scopa serves a small list of wines by the glass, but I would recommend skipping wine for a bottle of Pliny the Elder beer. Crafted by Russian River Brewing Company, this strong, double IPA has botanical overtones and a scent of elderflower. I daresay it changed my point-of-view with regards to beer, as I had never experienced the exact flavor combination I had in Pliny the Elder. William Brand's blog has more tasting notes about Pliny the Elder.
I had never been to the Santa Rosa Farmers Market and was excited to check it out on Saturday morning. This market is really the best of all worlds -- it's a small, mellow feeling market that attracts top-notch vendors. Those who attend the San Rafael market on Sundays will recognize several vendors: County Line for gorgeous vegetables, De Santis and their wonderful citrus, and Black Sheep Farm who used to attend the San Rafael market with their delicious meats. Middleton Gardens attends this market with their perfect vegetables -- farmer Nancy Skall is well known for selling to restaurants such as The French Laundry and Chez Panisse (you can read more about Middleton Gardens on Eggbeater).
I can't emphasize enough that this market is well worth a visit. Close to closing time, we picked up a couple fish tacos from Nellie's Oysters and enjoyed them at a long communal table adorned with hot sauces and condiments. The taco was made from fresh rock cod and topped with a sweet salsa. While the fish was delicious, the star of the taco was definitely the homemade tortilla which was pretty close to perfect in texture and flavor.
Headed back to Cloverdale after our afternoon adventures, we stopped by the Windsor Green Grocer. North Bay locavores had been mentioning Windsor Green Grocer to me since it opened eight months ago. Owner Joe Rueter and his wife are producing delicious prepared foods with a goal of using products from within a 150-mile radius, and doing an excellent job at it. While I am obsessively concerned with where food is coming from, it doesn't register with me unless it actually tastes good too -- and Windsor Green Grocer is achieving great flavors with local foods. We shared a pastrami sandwich made from Zoe's pastrami and chatted Joe up for a few minutes. I am really excited about what he is achieving with this small grocery and cafe.
Just when I thought I didn't have room for one more bite, we popped into Snow Bunny frozen yogurt on the square in Healdsburg. Snow Bunny is making small batches of frozen yogurt using Straus organic milk, and the tart creations are delicious. We shared a vanilla yogurt with olive oil and fleur de sel. While that flavor combination was good, my favorite taste at Snow Bunny was of the plain-flavored yogurt.
A week later, I feel like I am still recovering from the food coma of this trip -- I can't wait to go back and further explore what this area of Sonoma county has to offer.
109A Plaza Street
Santa Rosa Farmers Market
at the Veteran's Building
Santa Rosa, CA
8.30 am - noon on Saturdays
Windsor Green Grocer
434 Emily Rose Circle
Snow Bunny Yogurt
312 Center Street