Healdsburg / Point Reyes with Kids
Our report on 2 weekends in San Francisco with our 7- and nearly 10-year old is here:
In between we spent a few days in Healdsburg (including one baby-sitter night that we went to Cyrus) and a couple more in Point Reyes. Here’s the recap. I’ve also added notes on wineries including places where we were able to keep the kids entertained.
Lunch – Cantina, Santa Rosa. After leaving SF and visiting Muir Woods, we ended up roughly half way to Healdsburg with starving kids and stopped off in Santa Rosa, basically picking the first thing we saw. Thoroughly mediocre Mexican-ish food. Oh well. They did have a kids’ menu.
Wine – Seghesio – kids amused themselves on the bocce ball court while we tried the wines. Pretty grounds, one of the folks working there showed my kids a cork tree and pulled off some of the cork for them to see. Sad that the border collie who was there during a visit some years ago has passed away.
Dinner – Zin, Healdsburg. Salad with a grilled peach and Smithfield ham was a great combination, bruschetta w/ homemade mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes was nice, as was seared calamari w/ bacon and beans. My duck breast entrée w/ blackberry-chili glaze was something of a disappointment. Duck was burned on the outside and tough on the inside. The kids surprised me by scorning a fried chicken blue plate special for a grilled salmon instead, also wrapped in bacon. Lots of use of the home-cured bacon, lots of heavy dishes here. Nice Rochioli Zin for under $50.
Breakfast – croissants and bear claws from Costeaux bakery. Decent but somewhat doughy croissant.
Wine – Chateau Montelena, August Briggs, Sterling. Not much for the kids at the first two, though we first distracted them with the “Old Faithful Geyser of California” in Calistoga (which also has a fine collection of goats, sheep and llamas – including “Tennessee Fainting Goats” that are no longer inclined to fainting). The gondola and winery tour at Sterling was a hit with the kids though I don’t particularly like their wines much.
Lunch – Brannan’s Grill, Calistoga. Kids got plain pasta with butter, I had an overdone burger topped with good Point Reyes blue cheese. There was a good candy store across the street with a wide selection of taffies. Is there anywhere good to eat in Calistoga?
More Wine – Preston, Bella (back to Sonoma Valley side and up to Dry Creek). Preston was a fun place to visit, lots of cats roaming around, fruit and veg from the garden for sale, and one of the nice folks at the tasting room was really excited to take the kids around the back to see their chickens (and a quite impressive group of chickens they were!). She also let the kids each pick an apple from their trees, though I’m not sure papa Preston was too happy about that. The folks at Bella were also very gracious. The tasting room in the cave is cool and one of the staff walked the kids around, including back into the cave space where they keep the barrels. Bella’s resident border collie was tired after a long day and had little interest in the kids, but they were placated with homemade chocolate peanut butter cups. Wines at both places were very good, and we got some shipped home.
Dinner - Willi’s Seafood. Tried a lot of items, hamachi ceviche, flash fried calamari w/ orange chili gremolata, BBQ salmon, hanger steak kabob, cheese & chorizo fondue (with “not house-made fritos”), lobster roll. The calamari in particular was a hit for all, including the kids, with the sauce almost like a sweet-and-sour glaze, the fondue also went over well. The steak kabob, which we asked for w/o sauce for the kids, nonetheless came with an aji panca glaze, but the kids ate it anyway. I really enjoyed the lobster roll. It was a relief to eat several smaller lighter dishes, after having done a lot of rich eating. Quivira Grenache rose seemed somewhat overpriced at $40+.
Breakfast – more croissants for the kids from Costeaux (we were staying right upstairs from it), egg bacon & cheese sandwich for me from Bovolo (house-cured bacon of course – as noted in my SF post, everyone and their brother in northern California now appears to be curing their own pork products). Wish we could have gone back to Bovolo for lunch, but it wasn’t in the cards.
Wine – Westside Road tour – Rochioli, Porter Creek, Gary Farrell. Rochioli had only limited selections available to pour, but did have a fat, friendly Maine coon cat. Porter Creek’s tasting room was a tiny little shed, and their wines were great. A couple of wild-looking dogs were also not so enamored of the kids, however there was an interesting collection of exotic birds. Gary Farrell is a much more posh place with a choice location at the top of a hill and great views, but without much to entertain the kids.
Lunch – Tex Wasabi in Santa Rosa. I recalled seeing this on our first day in Santa Rosa and saying “sushi … and BBQ … umm???” Then I learned that the place is run by Guy Fieri of “Next Food Network Star” fame, and it all started to make sense. Well, out of perverse curiosity we had to try it. I could not bring myself to try some of the more out-there rolls, and the more typical ones I did try (a “White Dragon” and a “Red Dragon”, as I recall) were so-so. The kids liked the BBQ baby-backs OK. Is there good eating in Santa Rosa or is it all college-kid fare?
Dinner – OK, so we cheated and got baby-sitting one night and snuck off to Cyrus. A very grown-up escape. I’m sure much has been said about Cyrus on this board, but I’ll add my 2c. Loved the caviar & champagne cart, and the grit cakes in particular are a surprisingly good delivery mode. Also love the ability to choose a number of courses (with portions adjusted accordingly) and “make your own” tasting menu, or do the chef’s tasting menu (all of which are items not on the regular menu). Already feeling a bit overstuffed, we each opted for four courses. Mine – black cod w/ uni, papaya and ginger broth; foie gras 3 ways (menu has 3 different preparations, you can get all 3 for a $10 supplement); hoisin squab; and cheese course. Mrs. F’s – thai lobster, gnocchi w/ favas, bacon & chanterelle froth, bacon wrapped pork loin, sampling of chocolates.
The cod disappointed some; the fish itself was a bit bland, the uni flopped on top seemed somewhat gratuitous and not really incorporated into the dish. Prefer a standard Japanese miso-rubbed black cod. The foie gras on the other hand was excellent (1) terrine w/ pluot jam (the jam actually a little bit too tart and overwhelming, but a small gripe); (2) seared w/ lentils and vanilla gastrique; and (3) the real standout – torchon with peanut butter and jelly. Yes, the latter is a bit Elvis-like, but trust me – it’s delicious. The lobster dish was nice, served cold, with an herb paste that complimented rather than overwhelmed. The gnocchi were delicious and a great combination of ingredients. The hoisin squab was very tasty, with some fermented black beans, a nice rice cake and some candied kumquat. The pork was a bit of a letdown, nicely prepared but nothing particularly inspired (wrapped in bacon, w/ rich potato puree, wild mushrooms, chard). Very nice cheese cart (can’t remember a single one I chose), chocolate desserts also very good (flourless cake, soufflé, something else that escapes memory). My wife said the soufflé was better than mine, which are fighting words – but true. A Failla Hirsch Vineyard Pinot was excellent, if a bit pricey.
A little take-home treat of candies was a real hit with the kids (they gave us 2 boxes when we mentioned the kids divvying up the treats). Service was completely professional and polished yet also completely unstuffy. My expectations were very high and I was a bit let down by a couple dishes, but nonetheless the place is a very classy dining experience.
Breakfast – Center Street Deli (Healdsburg) – perfectly serviceable little diner type place, had a nice scramble w/ avocado, green chilis & cheddar, w/ a biscuit. Decent oatmeal too.
Wine – stopped in at Martinelli on the way out to Point Reyes. Lots of little doo-dads to look at in their little shop, and the kids got a kick out of all the Jackass Zinfandel merchandise. Picked up some nice fruit at a little fruit stand up the street, too. A detour to the Guerneville Pee-Wee Golf was payback to the kids for days of winery visits.
Lunch – on the way to Point Reyes, stopped off at the Union Hotel Pizzeria in Occidental for lack of seeing anything else on the way. Pretty good panini with a dozen or so ingredients to assemble into your own.
Dinner – Olema Inn, Olema. Nice little spot where we’ve dined before, happy to learn they have a kids’ menu. Kids had a corn dog and a pasta. We started with a BLT salad and another salad w/ pistachios and goat cheese (I thought the BLT salad was much better, the other was too heavy on lettuce and not enough “stuff” for me), followed w/ a charcuterie plate and a red wine risotto w/ braised beef heart and Mt. Tam cheese. The latter was a quite interesting dish, and quite good too. Very good wine list with several interesting items “highlighted” on the list, and pretty reasonable prices too.
Breakfast – home made oatmeal in our cottage; a little slab of Humboldt Fog (from the Tomales Bay Foods market) and a Gravenstein apple (from the fruit stand near Martinelli) for me.
Lunch – Pine Cone Diner, Point Reyes Station. Neat little place, I had an excellent club sandwich (w/ whole chicken breast, avocado, and an herbed mayo), with a lousy side of chili (all beans, no flavor). The kids’ pancakes, both regular and with blueberries – a little breakfast for lunch – were excellent.
Dinner – Station House Café, Point Reyes Station. Had an appetizer of fried oysters w/ oyster mushrooms and an herbed aioli. I’ve had lighter fried oysters before, but these weren’t bad. Meatloaf w/ mashed potatoes and vegetables was as simple as it sounds, not a great meatloaf but certainly passable. Kids’ menu had an OK burger, a very good macaroni & cheese (homemade, not the kind out of a blue box), nice fruit bowl. Kids had desserts of a brownie sundae and a lemon pot du crème (which my daughter loved).
We ran into some duds along the way, but overall we ate well, the kids ate well.
Porter Creek Vineyards
8735 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
106 Matheson St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
29 North St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
500 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Seghesio Family Vineyards
14730 Grove St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar
344 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Costeaux French Bakery Cafe
417 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Chateau Montelena Winery
1429 Tubbs Ln, Calistoga, CA 94515
August Briggs Wines
333 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, CA 94515
1111 Dunaweal Ln, Calistoga, CA 94515
Old Faithful Geyser of Ca
1299 Tubbs Ln, Calistoga, CA 94515
1374 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, CA 94515
Preston Vineyards & Winery
9206 W Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
9711 W Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar
403 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448
J Rochioli Vineyards & Winery
6192 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Gary Farrell Wines
10701 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
515 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Martinelli Vineyards & Winery
3360 River Rd, Windsor, CA 95492
Union Hotel Restaurant
Main St, Occidental, CA 95465
10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Olema, CA 94946
Glad you liked Willi's Seafood and Raw, as I have been meaning to go. I'm sorry that you chose Tex Wasabi and the Cantina. Santa Rosa is definitely not a college town, but those are the two restaurant/bars are the most popular on Saturday nights and that block gets mobbed by 20-somethings. This twenty year old, however, will be more than happy to give you recommendations should you ever stop by Santa Rosa in the future, as we do indeed have delicious food.
Thanks for your thorough report. What a shame about the duds you picked, guess your chowhoundy senses were out of kilter in a foreign land. Santa Rosa has fantastic food but it sounds like you had more fun revisiting your college years, you can get a much better brekky in Healdsburg than Center Street, and Calistoga is no slouch in the food department either. But at least you've reconfirmed the earlier bad reports on those places and future visitors will benefit.
re: Melanie Wong
This is one of the consequences of traveling with kids. You can research and plot out some of your meals, but other times "I'm hungry!" prevails over all and you make an unwise choice. Any suggestions for Santa Rosa or Calistoga should we find our way back again? (extremely likely as this was probably visit #4 or 5 to Sonoma Valley). Zazu looked great but its opening hours didn't quite work for us.