Dining in Northern California’s wine country is always a great pleasure. Chefs have access to unusually fine local produce, allowing them to create seasonal dishes that showcase ingredients at their peak. Indeed, restaurants in the region can have surprisingly strict definitions of “local” and “seasonal.” At Hazel Hill in the Montage Healdsburg, for example, I asked our waitress if the Liberty Farms duck on the menu was local. She replied, “No, it’s not local to Healdsburg. But it is from Sonoma County.”
We ate exceedingly well throughout our trip at both new and established venues in the county. In addition to the restaurants below, consider dining at the aforementioned Hazel Hill, Chalkboard at the Hotel Les Mars and Layla in the MacArthur Place hotel. I had also hoped to review the Matheson, a new multi-story eatery in Healdsburg, but it hadn’t opened at the time of our August visit. (The soft opening was on September 2.)
In need of a break from wine, we tried this brand-new cocktail bar facing the Healdsburg Plaza, a short walk from the Hotel Les Mars. It has a streetside patio, but I couldn’t resist the chic interior, with black walls and leather chairs along a matte-brass bar. Milk-glass pendant lights and gold-embellished glassware added some vintage flair. Drinks are expensive but creative and carefully mixed. My Josephine cocktail, for example, combined gin, a wild ale reduction, lemon and sparkling wine, resulting in a drink with notable depth that finished quite dry, almost tannic. Nor did the short menu of appetizers disappoint. Some savory gougères, for example, had the ideal light and crisp texture. They were luxuriously garnished with creamy whipped brie and Israeli osetra caviar. The Spanish-style octopus could not have been more tender, and it came accompanied by saffron crema and new potatoes. Healdsburg may have a better cocktail bar, but I doubt it. Burdock would stand out even in a major metropolis. Closed Monday-Wednesday.