As promised in my Healdsburg walk-about article, here we are back at the SHED for an in-depth look at this incomparable place. I had noticed this remarkable Enterprise-hangar-meets-barn style building upon stepping out of the parking lot, and immediately took a photo. Seriously, you cannot miss it. It was clear that it was a café, and a popular one at that, but beyond that I was not sure what to expect. The building, by the way, won the 2014 James Beard Award for restaurant design.
When I found my way back a few hours later, I found out that SHED is not just a café, but an experience, an event. You want to take your time in there, truly explore, then sit down and taste. Your taste buds will dance the jitterbug, and you will be thinking of the food eaten here for weeks to come, months maybe.
SHED opened in 2013, and is the love child of Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton, who came to Healdsburg nearly twenty years ago to raise their children and start a farm. That they did, passionately.
“SHED is a market, café, and community gathering space designed to bring us closer to the way we grow, prepare, and share our food. Our modern Grange reflects the best of our local farming culture, delivering a seasonally curated selection of workshops, wares, and freshly prepared foods to our guests. Our mission is to celebrate and nurture the connection between good farming, good cooking, and good eating.” ~ from the SHED’s website.
As I approached, I noticed vegetables and edible flowers growing in planter boxes just outside. Then I stepped inside, and it was so much more than I expected. It may not have been on my Boston Globe short list to shoot, but it instantly went on mine. I started shooting wide angles first, then switched lens for detail shots.
Look left… A lovely coffee shop!
Indeed, a mini indoor farmers’ market and specialty food store offering produce from the owners’ HomeFarm, as well as other local farmers, and artisanal foods from local crafters. Most of what is sold and eaten here sources from suppliers located within a ten mile radius.
Have you ever eaten Halva Spread? Until I saw it at SHED I had no idea what it was, and had to google it to find out more. I am not a fan of sesame so I cannot imagine I would enjoy it, but I could certainly taste a little on a teaspoon.
Marshmallows on the other hand, especially hand crafted ones, are definitely up my alley, and my Mom’s.
As I followed the flow and moved towards the Larder section, one of the employees noticed I was taking photos and asked me about it. I explained it was going to be for a blog post, and asked her more information about the place. She spoke with such enthusiasm and light in her eyes that it was obvious she was, one, happy to be working there, and two, she really loves SHED and what it stands for. She gave me a business card and encouraged me to get in touch with the owners for any further information I might need.
Above: a special climate controlled “cellar” for cheeses and cured meats. Looks almost like an Italian salumeria.
Below: I know most of these locally-made artisanal cheeses, and they are one better than the next.
Above and below: a few of the take-home offerings from the Larder.
Below left: fresh herbs are a part of the mise-en-place at the chef’s prep counter.
Below right: Tartines with Pork Rilettes, Peas, Cipolline and Watercress from the Larder.
I walked through the café to the other side and found an area dedicated to gardening tools, seeds and also crafts. Everything that is sold at SHED is lovingly curated, including the books, which will match the section you find them in.
The amazing assortment of organic heirloom seeds made me want to start a backyard garden. But I would have to settle somewhere, get a house and backyard first, and I have not found the right somewhere quite yet.
As I moved back through the café I grabbed two quick shots of plated food on the way to its diners, and decided it was time to sit down, rest and eat something. After all I had seen, I could not walk out of SHED without trying some of their food.
Above: Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage Gravy with Piment D’Espellette ($15).
Below: Heirloom Grain Waffle with Jam, Maple Syrup and Cultured Butter ($13).
Seating at the Café is either at a communal table, at a row of small tables along the retail divider, or at the bar. During the summer, that garage-style glass door you see on the left can be rolled up so that inner and outer dining are connected. Indeed there is a lovely patio dining area just outside. A private dining area is also available in the garden, just outside the Farm section doors at the back.
I sat at the far end of the bar counter, by that lovely bunch of flowers, but most of all, by the window light. This, by the way, is a fermentation bar – possibly the only one in the whole United States – where you can find things like house-made kombucha, kefir water, shims and Shrubs, but also local wine, beer, hard cider, honey mead and natural sodas. It all sounded wonderful, but all I wanted was water – which came in a lovely bottle and was filtered – and a latte. Then I was ready to look at the menu, which given the time and day of the week, featured brunch.
Chef Perry Hoffman is the creative force in the kitchen, also known Culinary Director, arriving at SHED after seven years at Domaine Chandon’s Etoile restaurant in Yountville, where he was awarded a Michelin star three years in a row. Perry Hoffman concocts vibrant, and often unexpected, combinations of flavors and textures that are a delight for both palate and eyes, and follow the seasonal bounty of the garden. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the SHED team also mill their own flour and cure their own meats. SHED is quite the farm-to-table experience, and on so many levels!
It took a little while, but when my latte arrived, it lived up to my expectations. It was heaven in a cup. The menu offered a little problem, the kind that I like to deal with *wink*: there were so many things I wanted to order that limiting myself was difficult. I narrowed my choice down to three items, figuring I would take what I did not eat to go. And I still limited myself, because there were at least two or three more items that I really wanted to try.
My first choice was the Anson Mills Stone Ground Polenta with a Slow Poached Egg, Ramp Conserva and Asparagus ($15). I do not like soft, runny eggs, so they offered to switch to a fully boiled one. I was happy. This was a highly satisfying dish; the polenta creamy the way it is supposed to be, and the vegetable and egg toppings unexpected but a wonderful match. It also arrived looking like living art on a plate, just like everything that followed.
The next un-renounceable choice was the Spring Peas and Farro Verde with Manchebo, Melted Shallots, Bread Crumbs, Mustard and Mushroom Vinaigrette ($15). This turned out to be another, beautifully presented, winning combination of flavors and textures. I had a few bites, and was very happy to take the rest of this home.
How could I resist Roasted Potatoes and Fiddlehead Ferns with Green Garlic Aioli and Fines Herbes ($12)? Of course I couldn’t. A prefect dish to be shared, with gloriously sweet assorted potatoes, and fiddleheads that brought me back to Hawai’i (image below). A couple of bites and I took the rest to go. I actually wish I had ordered more food to go. If I lived in Healdsburg, I would probably eat at SHED 3-4 times a week. It would be my go-to place.
The other dishes I really wanted to try but resisted were: Halibut Ceviche with Avocado, Parsley Juice (can you imagine?), Pickled Onions and Puffed Wild Rice ($17); Quiche with Bacon, Braised Greens, Onions and Asparagus ($8); Frittata of Potato, Mushrooms, Onions and Mozzarella ($9); and Baked Lemon Ricotta Pancake with Syrup and Whipped Cream ($13).
I could say I will try those next time, but the menu changes seasonally, which I actually think is wonderful, or things can get boring after a while, for those who eat and those who cook. I was there towards the end of April, so that would have been the spring menu.
I still do not know why I did not ask about dessert. I must have been full, or have temporarily been out of my mind. I have since found out that they have a few desserts on the menu – which I will eventually get to try – as well as fresh pastries and cookies at the coffee shop.
Some of the brunch items find their way to the lunch and dinner menus. Here is an idea of what the lunch and dinner menus featured at the time.
Oysters on the Half Shell with Pickled Buddha’s Hand and Olive Oil ($3 ea.); Charcuterie Board: a selection of Salumi, Tarrines, Pâtés, Cheese and Rillettes ($25-35); Spring Onion Pizza with Picholine Olives, Thyme, Crescenza and Espelette Pepper ($15); Liberty Farms Duck Breast with Red Quinoa, Beets, Rhubarb, Little Gems, and Pink Peppercorn Vinaigrette ($24); Roasted Artichokes with Charred Onion, Miso and Rosemary Almonds ($15); Sonoma Goat Tartare with Chili, Lime, Little Gem Lettuce and Mint ($17); Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Fennel, Asparagus, Cardoons, Niçoise Olives and Mint ($26).
Image below – Doug’s Eggs: two Slow Poached Eggs on Levain Toast, with HomeFarm dried Oregano, Arugula and Balsamic Vinegar ($13).
Restored by my delectable meal, I completed my exploration and photo taking by entering the Cook section, where a beautifully curated selection of kitchen and tableware items are to be found.
Above: assorted Weck jars, my favorites!
Below: I was so tempted by the lush blues of those bowls. But my storage units (three of them) already hold more than I care to confess. So I passed, this time.
The twig nest was unexpected, and so beautifully done you would want to bring it home for the young couples among your birds, who are still not experienced at setting up a new home and could use a little help.
And for the beekeepers among you…
The only area I did not explore was the community room upstairs. I did see the stairs, but saw nobody go up or down, and it did not occur to me to take a peek. At the back of my mind I had decided that it probably housed private offices. Instead, upstairs is a spacious and light filled space with tables and a full kitchen that is available for all sorts of gatherings, from private parties and events, to performances and workshops. Indeed, SHED regularly hosts interesting events, that can range from cooking workshops to wine tastings, to film screenings. You can see what they have coming up at this page.
I know. Now you want to plan a trip to Healdsburg. And I can’t blame you!
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