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Restaurants & Bars 3

A little time in Healdsburg

Tida | Feb 10, 2002 02:48 PM

Yesterday my husband and I went an a drive up to Ukiah in search of a natural hot spring. On the way, I voiced my desire for a little snack so we stopped in Healdsburg. I wanted to go to Downtown Bakery and then check out the Cheese Course store per Melanie's post about 3 weeks ago or so.

At Downtown Bakery, I couldn't decide at first what I really wanted. Everything is ridiculously good so I pondered for a minute, trying to scan quickly past the cheese scones, past the olive bread when my eye caught sight of a funny looking boule shaped bread on the cooling rack that was on the side. Curiousity was piqued by that so I asked what it was and was told it's the volcano. Hmmmm?!? Their volcano bread has chopped tomato, caramelized onion, cheese, chopped kalamata olives, and I think sauteed white chard piled on the top of the bread and baked in. It was delicious, savory, and a nice light snack that my husband and I split. The bread was soft, chewy and moist in a way that made me wonder if olive oil was used in the dough.

Though my tastes run toward savory things, my husband's runs toward sweet. At the sweet counter he asked about which was better - the practically black in color 1 1/4" thick brownie studded with nuts or the 3" x 1 1/2" almond tart. The girl helping him extolled the virtues of the almond tart and he was sold. Besides, you can get the brownie on Saturdays at the Ferry Farmers Market whereas you can't get the almond tart. She was helpful, friendly and patient. Great service and we left with some wonderful baked goods that we were anticipating.

Hit Flying Goat Coffee and got some strong bitter java that later provided a wonderful contrast to the almond tart. The tart was layered with slivered almonds and bound with luscious sticky caramel. The bitterness of the coffee was a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the caramel. We took small bites off the tart and were actually able to make it last a few hours.

Our last stop was at the Cheese Course. My husband bought some manchego and a 3" pre-wrapped log of a goats milk blue cheese from Massachusetts called Capri.
He enjoyed the cheese well enough but I we will not return to this store. I'm not sure if the woman helping us is also the proprietor but she made the experience a very poor one. We tend to be very curious cheese eaters and are always looking for a new cheese to try. Our experience in cheese stores has typically been positive as we ask for recommendations and genuinely are interested in learning about new cheeses. Most people behind the counter have been happy, if not eager, to share their impressions of a cheese they like and to give a taste. This woman was not helpful in the least. She made no recommendations outside of responding that she didn't have this and only had that. She offered no suggestions about something that she enjoyed and why. She offered no tastes of cheese though only a few items were pre-wrapped. Overall, the experience here ( and we were the only two in the store around 1PM so there was no crush of customers we were diverting her from) was very poor. Our service was unfriendly, sour, cold, and quite off-putting.

All in all, Downtown Bakery was great as usual but I'd recommend going to the Cheese Course with reservations. If you know what you want going in and they have it, great. If not, cross your fingers that you can get some help.

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