Going Beyond Napa: A Gastronome's Day in Healdsburg, California

The 1.5 hour road trip to reach downtown Healdsburg made me realized that there is more to this quaint town than cheaper (read: free!) wine country. They even had a new tea room that offered tea tasting- something that is rare in the more popular Napa Valley.

The most magical revelation of this gastronome tour is Chalkboard's cocoa rigatoni, an adult version of cocoa puffs of sorts. Sweet and savory, the soft shredded duck confit swimming in al dente housemade rigatoni with foie gras butter and caramelized hazelnuts was a home run. This lifted up my spirits after driving over to the Michelin-rated Madrona Manor only to find out that they were closed for a wedding. It also didn't hurt that Chalkboard is situated in the former highly-acclaimed Cyrus but now with a more affordable, bistro vibe.

Chalkboard's cocoa rigatoni to die for.
Our first stop took us to Williamson Wines, one of the very few wineries that doesn't sell bottles anywhere else but at the winery. I was surprised with our pre-booked complimentary tasting since it came with cheese pairing mostly in a form of Irish cheese topped with their homemade jams. The jam mixed with truffle salt was a standout indeed! Extra kudos to our server who also manages their social media. He encouraged us to take more photos and tweet them.      

No food tour would be complete without a pit stop to an ice cream shop. At Healdsburg, the popular Noble Folk doesn't only attract ice cream lovers but also those looking for freshly baked pie. I am not a big fan of pie to begin with so I ordered the quiche instead, while my eating buddy got the blueberry pie with cardamon ice cream topped with balsamic vinegar.

We were sugared out so while passing by a new tea shop, we immediately decided that a cup or more of tea was exactly what we needed. The Taste of Tea has a cute interior decor with knowledgeable tea barristas who were more than willing to chat with us, while we took out our dslrs for a photo op and started our tasting flight of black blend teas. They even gave free matcha covered pocky sticks, my fave!

Stay loose.
Black bend tasting flight- sunburst orange, luscious cranberry, vanilla bean
Thank goodness for palette cleansers, we were able to nibble once more on baked goodies. This time from Noble Folk's sister bakery called Moustache.
Love the logo and branding for Moustache.
The Mustache-O. Super sweet oreo cookie. Never again.
Passed on the cupcakes but looking good nonetheless.
Going full circle as we head to Chalkboard for dinner. Most wineries close at 5 or 6 pm so we were early for our dinner reservation. While waiting for our seats, we were able to peruse the luxurious lobby of Hotel Les Mars, Relais and Chateaux. 

Finally, our dinner started with a tasting flight of rose (for me) and red (for him).

Here is the actual chalkboard.
Hamachi crudo drizzled with meyer lemon, white soy, chives
Chilled english peas
Healthy kale bucatini with poached egg.
That's it folks! Our day tour at Healdsburg was so worth it- an under $100 dinner with a mind blowing cocoa rigatoni, free wine tasting with cheese pairing, a little bit of baked goods and ice cream, and tea tasting ($15 to share for 2). What more can you ask for?

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