Before I start this post about Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, I’d like to take some time to talk seriously about the English muffin experience we had in St. Helena. If you read the First Stop: Yountville post, then you know we made a stop at The Model Bakery on the way to Calistoga to get our very first taste of Oprah’s favorite English muffin. After reflecting on this experience over the last couple of months, I’ve decided I need to tell more of the story so you can fully understand the magnitude of visiting this bakery. Because I’m still thinking about those muffins…
So here goes:
While I skipped into the bakery with enthusiastic glee to eat what I knew would be life altering, Paul sauntered in slowly and skeptically stated, “I’ll be the judge of this English muffin.” (I’m glad he said this quietly and only so that I could hear.). Because…
WHO QUESTIONS OPRAH?
I now know that Paul does.
We took our little bundles of English muffin ecstasy to an outdoor table on the sidewalks of St. Helena and took our first bites into what was the most incredible English muffin ever made.
And that’s when Paul said, “Okay, she’s right. That’s really good.”
Oprah doesn’t lie about her favorite things, Paul! She literally throws her favorite things at people so that they can love them too!
I don’t think I can find the words to describe the intensity of these fluffy, buttery pillows of nooks and crannies. All I know is that for the rest of your life, after this first bite, you’ll be saying, “Thomas who?” when it comes to English muffins. You’ll be ruined, and life will never be the same because you’ll have to either move to California or stop eating English muffins. I’m strongly considering the move. They do ship nationwide via Goldbelly, but I’m sure that would cost more than moving.
End of English muffin story. If you haven’t been, WE highly recommend you book a trip just for this because you’ll finally know the truth about what an English muffin should really taste like. I just had to tell you that because you should know.
On to Healdsburg!
After coming to terms that I couldn’t take the Calistoga bungalow home with us, we packed up the rental car and headed north to our favorite little town in Sonoma.
It is no surprise that we landed in this adorable town again after our last visit with the moms in 2019. We’ve been talking about it ever since. In fact, if we had it our way, we’d have an East Coast home and a West Coast home, and that western one would be within walking distance to the Healdsburg Plaza. Note: We’d have to restrict Paul’s visits to the Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar to just once a week (and not every day) if we had this kind of lifestyle. But it’s not something that couldn’t be worked out. We just need to find a few million dollars. In the meantime, we’ll just visit frequently.
On our first trip to Healdsburg, we stayed at the Four Sisters Healdsburg Inn, which was a lovely hotel right on the plaza (and right next to Noble Folk) within walking distance to everything. This time we stayed at the Hotel Trio Healdsburg which is situated on the outskirts of town but directly across from Big John’s Market. Big John’s Market is INCREDIBLE, so it’s almost worth it to stay outside of downtown. Go there if you are into eating insanely delicious breakfast burritos, picnic sandwiches, and cheese. They have lots of cheese!
The Hotel Trio, owned by Marriott, is like a glorified Residence Inn. Aside from having a life-sized wine bottle in the lobby, they have a free shuttle that will drop you off and pick you up from the plaza throughout the day and night. It also borders an old rail line turned walking path that runs the length of the town. If you are looking to work off some of the calories from the constant wine and cheese consumption, you can walk to the plaza by utilizing this path. It’s quiet and safe to do so. The most redeeming quality of the Hotel Trio is its adorable robot, Rosé, who tends to your every need while you are there. Paul was enjoying calling her up for extra towels. She carries them up to your room and your phone rings to let you know she is there. The highlight of our time in this hotel was when we coincidentally ran into her waiting for the elevator and took the ride up with her. Thanks for your hospitality, Rosé!
This trip to Healdsburg centered around a Williamson Wines lunch that just happened to be scheduled for the same time we would be visiting. We became members of the Williamson Wine Club during our first visit to Healdsburg. We have their wine shipped to us four times a year, and we adore their business model, as it is a family owned enterprise that combines two of the most important things in life: good wine and good food. That’s a winner in our book. Bill and Dawn Williamson host member events throughout the year both in Healdsburg and abroad, and they all seem extravagantly enticing. We are always perusing their website and reading up on the events wishing we could transport ourselves to Healdsburg and back for a long weekend here and there.
Luckily, for us, there was a Malbec Lunch event scheduled for the day of our arrival. For $35 per person, we each got a multi course lunch with four tastings of wine. Each course of food was made with Herbie’s spices, the exceptional line of spices that they sell as part of their spice club.
The Williamson culinary team is extremely talented, and you can tell that the family holds the kitchen to high standards in creating memorable dishes with intense flavor. Lunch began with a glass of wine and a personal bag of spiced popcorn. Each course was small, but filling, and each bite was one of those ‘close your eyes and sing’ kind of experiences. The standout dishes included delectable bites of pork and short rib each seasoned to perfection and super tender.
We spent our second day in Healdsburg hitting up a tasting room in town, and indulging on cocktails and a small lunch at Barndiva. Of course, we started our day with a breakfast burrito at Big John’s Market before taking a stroll through town, stopping in and out of the shops along the plaza. Then we randomly chose to do a tasting at Soda Rock Winery for some early morning/afternoon wine time. Manny, our server, was very kind and while the wine was good, it was he who made our visit worthwhile. It was nice to talk to him about the wine, the winery, and the town. A lovely way to start the day in wine country, if I do say so myself.
Talk to anyone who knows Healdsburg and Barndiva will always be mentioned. This Michelin star farm-to- table restaurant is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. We recommend heading here for lunch because it is much more affordable than dinner. This was our first time visiting, and we shared the goat cheese croquettes and the fried chicken sandwich. We enjoyed every bite. Everything was presented beautifully, especially my cocktail. Look at this work of art:
Yes, Barndiva has a Michelin star and an extravagant barn and grounds, but it didn’t hold a candle to our newest find in Healdsburg.
The best meal we ate in Healdsburg was at the smallest restaurant in town: Guiso Latin Fusion. There are only about five tables inside this restaurant, and everyone is trying to reserve one. This is because Chef Carlos and his family welcome you home as if you are part of their family. They are the sweetest, kindest group of people, and they are serving up some incredible and authentic Latin American and Caribbean cuisine. This meal was like nothing we’ve ever had before. When we arrived for our reservation early because we were so eager to eat here, we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and apologies for not having a table ready for us. It was not something we expected since we arrived a half hour early, but they were so accommodating and happy to have us, that they did all they could to make us comfortable while we waited. When we were seated, our server explained everything about the menu to us, even explaining Grandma’s tomato Guiso sauce. We feasted on papusas filled with pork, beans, and cheese and Central American loroco flower bud & cheese. The main events: Cuban sliders with ingredients piled onto homemade sweet rolls and camarones borrachos, spicy shrimp in Grandma’s tomato sauce with potatoes and arugula. We were so full, but so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to eat here. This place deserves a Michelin star, and when they get one, I hope they keep the small space and intimate atmosphere when diners are making reservations months in advance. Thank you, Carlos and family, for treating us like one of your own for our short time at your restaurant.
Our time in Healdsburg came to a close the next morning with a farewell coffee and breakfast burrito at Plank Coffee just across from the Hotel Trio. They have a pretty killer vegan breakfast burrito here that would be a frequent stop for me if we had that house near the plaza.
Our final leg of this trip was Healdsburg to Santa Rosa. We spent one night in the city of Santa Rosa, and I can confidently say, we didn’t see much of the place. It is the former home of Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. Statues of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, and Woodstock can be found all around the city in honor of Mr. Schulz’s work, and there is even a Charles M. Schulz Museum. We considered visiting, but had limited time to do so.
The limited time might be because we prioritized standing in line at the local In-N-Out Burger for what is always an essential California meal when visiting.
We also didn’t have time for the museum because we happened to walk by a place called Grossman’s Noshery and Bar, and my curiosity led us to spending a good deal of time eating matzoh ball soup and cheese knish. When you only have 24 hours to see a city, that’s not a bad way to spend the time.
So there you have it. That’s the final stop. Another amazing trip to California wine country in the books.
Stay tuned for our next post: San Diego and Los Angeles and follow me as I take on the tacos of Southern California.