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A Healdsburg Saturday

Melanie Wong | Oct 2, 200509:36 PM

Last weekend, I rolled into the farmers market downtown late Saturday morning. This trip was more for entertainment and chance conversations with friends than food shopping, as I'd have few meals at home in the coming week.

At the Jimtown Store's booth, I bought a blueberry corn muffin for a wee breakfast. Very moist and packed with blueberries, this was a small size muffin, not one of the behemouths that have overtaken the world, with a nice chewy crust. It tasted of itself and not the chemical residue of industrial leaveners. A big snickerdoodle was okay.

The rest of my morning meal came from samples of Santi's housemade sausages, grilled on site for tasting. It no longer sells cooked single sausages, per the restrictions on its permit. The linguica, calabrese and luganega were all great, but my allround favorite was the "Sangre de Cristo", a New Mexico-style made with pork and beef and seasoned with an intricate blend of dried chili powders and bits of fresh habanero.

Ridgeview Farms of Alexander Valley had some gorgeous specialty melons on display for 60¢ per pound. I bought a wonderfully fragrant French-type Charentais that I hope has held up well in my fridge.

Armstrong Valley Farms of Guerneville was offering a boatload of heirloom tomatoes. It promotes them as "springfed vegetables" with better taste from purer waters. In my own sampling, I didn't find them any different from other tomatoes, but this has not been a great year for tomatoes.

From Tierra Vegetables, I picked up a curlicue Armenian cucumber and some marrowfat beans. The fresh shell beans were wonderful braised with a bit of garlic and a splash of good olive oil and topped with some sea salt. This was Tierra's last weekend at the market for the season, as its farmstand by the airport would be open on Saturdays in the month of October.

For more on the Healdsburg farmers market -

Afterwards I headed over the the Sonoma County Wine Library to do some reading in air-conditioned comfort and make use of its free wi-fi. For my lunch break, I walked to Ravenous Cafe on the next block. Here's the account of my burger there -


On the community bulletin board at the library, I'd noticed a poster promoting a Jambalaya feed at St. Paul's Episcopal that night with a $10 minimum donation to the Katrina relief effort. When the library closed, I walked over to the church's multipurpose room that is a stone's throw away from the Oakville Grocery. I was pleased to see a crowd of people ahead of me writing out checks.

I went through the food line for a serving of jambalaya made with sausage and chicken and a mixed green salad. Members of the local 4-H club circulated afterwards with plates of brownies and tollhouse cookies for dessert. I was seated at a folding table with a 3-year-old named Diamond who told me that she was from New Orleans. Her mother said they'd gotten out ahead of the floods and had been staying in a motel in Baton Rouge. But soon they couldn't afford the $50/night anymore and moved to a shelter where they were in fear for their lives. The Red Cross helped her get tickets on Amtrak to the Bay Area. She said that the big-hearted church members in Healdsburg and Santa Rosa had taken them into their homes until they can go back to their lives in New Orleans or find jobs here. Her own parents and siblings are all scattered across the country, but she counts herself among the lucky ones because they're all accounted for.

Diamond had nibbled on a chocolate chip cookie, then put it down and started on one of the brownies. She said the brownie was better. I tried them both and agreed with her. The cookies were good, but whoever made the brownies made some magic.

Afterwards I stepped over to the plaza to catch a few lines of Shakespeare in the Plaza and to have some wine with friends. It was impossible for me to be this close to Bovolo without giving in to the call of gelati. I had a sugar cone with a single of amaretto and blueberry frozen yogurt. The amaretto was lightly flavored, but what was special about it was the texture. This was much denser and less icy/stiff than previous samplings. The blueberry was fabulous with the dairy tartness and tannic-like bite of the berries playing off each other. For more about the ice cream options downtown -


This capped off my Indian summer day in Healdsburg and I made my way back to Asti. Again, I thanked my lucky stars to live in such a wonderful place.

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