Hands on Healdsburg

To get to Healdsburg from my house in Marin (about 40 minutes) took less time then it did committing to the plan (4 days). The idea was to sample a few of the itinerary items for Hands on Healdsburg. It’s a 50-day, brilliant publicity ploy offering demos and tastings as well as deep discounts on lodging to bring people into this popular wine country town during the slow months.

Item one: Wild Mushroom foraging with Relish Culinary Tours. Fueled by Starbucks, we pulled into the designated dirt parking area off Alexander Valley Road ready to embark on the best Easter egg hunt imaginable. It wasn’t Easter, it was January, and the golden egg for the day was the Chanterelle mushroom, which someone mentioned in our group, was being sold at Dave’s Market in town for $25 a pound. After an unexpectedly fascinating chat about mushrooms by a local master chef and mycologist, our group of nearly two-dozen embarked on an hour or so of foraging. I found brilliantly yellow witches caps, some slimy specimens I named Faux-Chanterelle (turned out they were not edible and used for dye) and when I had given up on the gold I spotted a cluster of matted black discs amongst the leaf litter… the elusive black trumpets, aka (C. cornucopioides)! They were not quite the Chanterelle, but a pretty satisfying kill for my inner mushroom slayer. While the rest of the group continued on for a gourmet wild mushroom meal, Alexis and I made our way to the next stop on our itinerary.

Item two: Shrubs @SHED; No not plants, that was coming up in item number three. Wikipedia, helps me out on the definition of a drinkable shrub here:

In terms of mixed drinks, shrub is the name of two different, but related, acidulated beverages. One type of shrub is a fruit liqueur that was popular in 17th and 18th century England, typically made with rum or brandy mixed with sugar and the juice or rinds of citrus fruit.

A shrub can also refer to a cocktail or soft drink that was popular during America’s colonial era, made by mixing a vinegared syrup with spirits, water, or carbonated water. The term “shrub” can also be applied to the sweetened vinegar-based syrup, from which the cocktail is made; the syrup is also known as drinking vinegar.  Drinking vinegar is often infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices for use in mixed drinks.

We made our way to the Healdsburg SHED, a newish market and restaurant on North Street, a block north of the town square. I’m not sure if it’s the lighting or an undetectable pre-screening of anyone walking in the doors, but everyone here is beautiful, the food is beautiful and the retail offerings, were sure to make my home beautiful.  Not a surprise that the woman showing us how to make both kombucha and shrubs looked like a food network celebrity, or she should be as she explained the process and health benefits of fermentation.

Item three: Flower arranging at Dragon Fly Floral on Westside Road an expansive estate, gift shop and school guarded by a patrol of adorable ducks and a very fat orange tabby cat. Owner Bonnie Z, has tended the gardens for over two decades and creates floral arrangements for nearby businesses and weddings. She also offers hands on classes in for kids and adults in flower arranging and wearable flower arts. Our group learned the secret to making a boutonniere that wouldn’t stab your date.

Item four: Chocolate and Wine pairing at Ferrari-Carano Tasting Room. Full disclosure I do not have a refined pallet, I like wine and chocolate, but the nuances of how each variety of wine plays on the mouth feel of the fats from the chocolate or how it brings out the sweetness –is lost on me. Still, I am willing to exercise my taste buds to see if I could ever detect the cherry over the raspberry notes.  At the Ferrari-Carano Tasting rooms, people with appropriately refined taste buds will walk guests through pairings of wine and chocolate, with the enthusiasm of a conductor creating a momentary symphony of pleasure. I’m definitely going to repeat at my next dinner party.  

These are just a sampling of what one can do during the fifty days or Hands on Healdsburg, click here to learn more.


Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.