HEALDSBURG, CA – Welcome to the New Healdsburg…Who knew?

On approach to the Santa Rosa Airport on a typical Sonoma County day.

On approach to the Santa Rosa Airport on a typical Sonoma County day.  Morning coastal fog still burning off.  The climate, helped by fresh ocean breezes, results in thriving vineyards.

Not so long ago, Healdsburg, California was a sleepy town on the banks of the Russian River on the north end of Sonoma County. A few wineries like Italian Swiss Colony, Seghesio and Korbel were familiar names but more winemaking was happening over the hill in the Napa Valley, which has gained global fame.

The chic and comfortable Hotel Healdsburg was designed to fit into the Town Square area.

The chic and comfortable Hotel Healdsburg was designed to fit into the Town Square area.

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The chic and comfortable Hotel Healdsburg was designed to fit into the Town Square area.

Easy to relax anywhere in the lobby and adjacent lounge in the Healdsburg Hotel.

Not so much anymore. Healdsburg and vicinity have arrived. The town itself now boasts a world-class hotel in the chic Hotel Healdsburg and a stable of top restaurants like Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, Spoonbar, the newish Valette and others.  With a tree-covered Norman Rockwell-ish town square (free Wi-Fi) surrounded by an old-timey bakery, a gourmet ice cream shop, art galleries, chic clothing and unique furnishing shops such as The Shed, Healdsburg is hosting international visitors without the traffic jams and tasting room crowding sometimes found elsewhere in the region.


At the Hotel Healdsburg we experienced a very comfortable stay and were impressed with the range of guests, from young families with dogs (the hotel is pet-friendly) to older folks savoring the peace and quiet of the Sonoma wine country. The hotel was designed to fit well with the rest of the town square area and the rooms are spacious and well-appointed.

Breakfasts at the hotel are a casual affair in the spacious lobby bar area, complete with made-to-order omelet and waffle stations and an array of fresh fruits and bakery products.

Bicycles are provided by the hotel and, with a location right on the square, stores and restaurants are an easy, enjoyable stroll nearby. The Spa is another amenity offered by the hotel, with an excellent staff and an outstanding array of body and beauty products, some with local Meyer lemon and sage ingredients.

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Two wineries that have become synonymous with Healdsburg are the now legendary Seghesio Family Vineyards and the Jordan Vineyard & Winery. The Seghesio winery and tasting room are right in town and the hosted Family Tables program is something to experience. Every Friday through Sunday, by reservation, Seghesio serves seasonal family recipes paired with their most limited wines in a lovely setting. Our locally-sourced menu included an arugula and fennel salad with spring radishes, first crop strawberries, almonds and chèvre followed by a second course of pappardelle with spring lamb and fava bean ragout. Midnight Moon Cheese from Cypress Grove Creamery with a cherry compote, coffee and house made truffles finished the meal. Executive Chef Peter Janiak oversees the food and the serving staff is top notch and informed. Wines paired with our courses included tastings of the 2012 Burnside Road Pinot Noir, 2005 Chianti Station, 2010 Block 8 Zinfandel, 2007 Home Ranch Petite Sirah and the famous 2009 Home Ranch Zinfandel.

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Edoardo Seghesio, who planted his first vines in the valley in 1895, would be very proud of his 4th generation winemaker, Ted Seghesio, the latest of an uninterrupted line of Seghesio family cellar masters.

The authentic Jordan Winery chateau.

The beautiful Jordan Winery chateau, housing the winery, offices, elegant dining rooms, library and kitchen.

Just a few minutes outside Healdsburg and up an elegant winding entrance off Alexander Valley Road sits the stunning chateau of the Jordan Vineyard and Winery. This is not some faux knockoff, but 58,000 square feet of working winery, intimate gourmet dining and living focused on the compatible crafts of winemaking, sustainable agriculture and hospitality. Originally the vision of Tom and Sally Jordan in the early 1970’s, the vineyards, now under the guidance of son John Jordan and long-time winemaker Rob Davis, produce only two wines: Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, in the French tradition. Year after year Jordan wines have won prestigious awards. They are regularly served at The White House and appear on the wine lists of most fine restaurants.


The Jordan Winery Winemaker Rob Davis, celebrated his 40th Jordan harvest in 2015.


View of Mt. St. Helena from The Jordan Vineyards and Winery.




Further, John Jordan and his team have brought the winery into the 21st century by establishing a solar panel array that supplies nearly 90 percent of the entire operations electrical needs and have established a certified program of sustainable farming on the property.

The Jordan Estate itself includes 112 acres of grapevines, 18 acres of olive trees (producing their own Extra Virgin Olive Oil), two lakes and a robust 1-acre garden, supplying the kitchen with organic vegetables. Chef Todd Knoll oversees the cuisine at Jordan Winery and his talents are evident in the dining room and on the winery and estate tours. Tours range from a 90-minute walking and seated library tasting to a 3-hour estate tour to all parts of the vineyards, with its spectacular views and includes tastings and food pairings at scenic stops along the tour. Jordan Winery has also partnered with the Hotel Healdsburg to offer a Farm to Fork Culinary Journey from June through October that includes the estate tour and tasting dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen along with a 2-night stay at the hotel.

Overnight stays at the magnificent chateau are part of a generous rewards program created by the winery. 

Chef Todd Knoll supervises all the food at The Jordan Winery. Chef Knoll has established a sustainable agriculture program that now includes both garden and livestock.

Chef Todd Knoll supervises all the food at the Jordan Vineyard and Winery. Chef Knoll and John Jordan have established a sustainable agriculture program that now includes both garden and livestock.


Part of a tasting featuring paired food items with Jordan Winery vintages.




A view from the chateau over the garden, livestock fields with the olive orchard and vineyards beyond.

A view from the chateau over the garden, livestock fields with the olive orchard and vineyards beyond at Jordan Vineyard and Winery.

In addition to the remarkable Farm to Table meal we enjoyed at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen (created by Executive Chef Andrew Wilson), we strolled from the Hotel Healdsburg down to Spoonbar (named for artist Ned Khan’s 2000 espresso-spoon water sculpture installation) and enjoyed artisan cocktails in the bar and a delicious locally-sourced meal by Executive Chef Louis Maldonado.


Spoon Bar is a great local watering hole (and restaurant) in the H2 Hotel, sister to the Hotel Healdsburg.


Master Mixologist Tara brings a two-fisted passion for her profession behind the plank at Healdsburg’s Spoon Bar.


Spoon Bar, so named for the remarkable water sculpture made from espresso spoons.

Across the street from Spoonbar is another notable restaurant called Mateo’s, with its Yucatan-influenced cuisine and al fresco dining as well as a popular Tequila Bar. We also got a chance to sample the great menu at Healdsburg newest eatery, Valette, a gorgeous place run by Chef Dustin Valette and his brother Aaron. The one piece salvaged California redwood bar is dazzling. Across the street from Valette is a great tapas and cocktail bar called Bravas which, like Spoonbar, is a popular social hub.


Dustin Valette and his brother Aaron run the kitchen and front of the house at their terrific new Healdsburg eatery.


The solid plank of California Redwood that forms the bar at Valette was rescued from a shed out on the Northern California coast.

As you can tell, you’re not going to go hungry or thirsty in today’s Healdsburg, and we barely scratched the surface here. It is a peaceful town with the Russian River nearby.  Alaska Airlines flies direct to the nearby Santa Rosa Airport.

World-class wineries and food set in the extraordinary northern Sonoma Valley is a recipe for an excellent getaway.

When you go:

Hotel Healdsburg

Mateo’s Cocina Latina

The Jordan Vineyard and Winery

Bravas Tapas Restaurant

Seghesio Family Vineyards

Spoon Bar

Healdsburg Visitors Bureau

Valette Restaurant

Dry Creek Kitchen

Richmond, B.C., Asian Food Lover’s Paradise


The Richmond Night Market runs May thru September

With so many readers traveling through Vancouver B.C. we like to inspire side trips and special places that we think our readership would like.  Richmond, B.C., is one those special gems we want to share with you.

Minutes from the Vancouver, B.C. airport, Richmond is an Asian food lover’s dream.

With a setting along the famous Fraser River, Richmond has about 400 Asian restaurants for its 200,000 residents, or, one for every 500 people, and the quality bar is very high, even in the mall food courts.


The bar is set very high for Asian food in Richmond, B.C., and that includes mall food courts.


Great store, with products not easily found in the U.S., abound in Richmond, B.C.
Yes, you can stock up on Malteesers, too!

With a nearly 70 percent Asian population, almost half of which are from China, a visitor can count on some scrumptious and varied fare.  Add to this amazing variety of restaurants the renowned Richmond Night Market with its 80 food stalls, and you’ve landed yourselves in the middle of a foodie heaven!


Many Richmond, B.C. restaurants put their fare right on the window.

We checked into the Radisson Hotel, just a short walk from the Aberdeen light rail station.  There are plenty of well-known hotel brands in Richmond, but the Radisson is particularly handy to the airport and light rail.  What this also means is that you can get to downtown Vancouver without getting into a car by walking the short distance to the light rail.


The Radisson at Richmond, B.C. is steps from the light rail station that will take you to downtown Vancouver.

A foodie friend and I found ourselves dining a deux on the first night of a 3-night stay and headed for the Shanghai River Restaurant after walking the borders of the main restaurant district.  Note: Walking, very good idea.  Much food. Fortunately Richmond is flat and great for burning off a big meal on foot or bicycle.


The Parker Place BBQ store.

The first thing we noticed at the Shanghai River Restaurant was that its gorgeous dining room was full of happy Asian families and tables full of intriguing looking plates of food.

Courteously greeted and seated, we tried the soup dumplings which were absolutely delicious, followed by vegetables wrapped in bean curd, pork with preserved vegetables and Black Cod.  That’s about all two people could handle, but it was exquisite and, reminded us that the best way to eat Asian food out is with a larger group so you can sample more menu items.

Soup Dumplings at the Shanghai River Restaurant

Soup Dumplings at the Shanghai River Restaurant

The large group issue was handled the next morning when the gracious hosts of Tourism Richmond gathered a table full of us for Dim Sum at Fisherman’s Terrace Restaurant in the sprawling Aberdeen Center, another short walk from the Radisson.


O, boy!  And out came the prawn dumplings, 3 mushroom soup, pork buns, barbecued pork pastry. tapioca cake, turnip cake, deep fried prawns, egg custard and steamed mini-sponge cake, to name a few items.  A hearty Richmond, B.C. breakfast!


Dim Sum Breakfast at the Fisherman’s Terrace Restaurant.


More of that Dim Sum at the Fisherman’s Terrace.


The OMG Egg Custard at the Fisherman’s Terrace Restaurant.


Yes, all of this!

Not only does Richmond have remarkable gastronomic attractions (more on those in a moment) but a short bus, bike or taxi ride will get you to Steveston Village, an engaging working seaport steeped in regional history. Plan to visit the beautifully restored historic Gulf of Georgia Cannery, built in 1894, at the Steveston Harbor. The Cannery reflects the multicultural heritage of the area and the guided tour will convince you of the rough and tumble life of the Gulf of Georgia fishing and canning industry.


Gulf of Georgia Cannery, Steveston, B.C.


Take the guided tour of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. The history of Steveston, B.C. is fascinating.

As you walk along the wharf on your walking tour of Steveston, check out the fresh fish being sold right off the docked fishing boats.  On the wharf numerous restaurants specialize in fresh seafood dishes and the friendly locals are welcoming. (It’s Canada!).


Fresh fish for sale along the Steveston, B.C. fishing docks.


And don’t forget the crabs!

Heading back to central Richmond, just about 2 miles away, perhaps it might be time for your afternoon Pineapple Bun at the intimate Lido Restaurant and Bakery.  This place is so popular that sometimes you have to order and pay for your Pineapple Buns in advance and the hostess will tell you to come back in 10 minutes when the next batch is due out of the oven.  The buns are a real treat, with a nice pot of tea.  There is no pineapple in them, but the tops resemble pineapples, hence the name.


Pineapple Buns at the Lido Bakery in Richmond, B.C.

While we are helping you burn off all this wonderful food, it is time to guide you over to the spectacular Richmond Olympic Oval, just west of central Richmond.  Built for the 2010 Winter Olympics and the speed skating events, it has been transformed into a public fitness center, in true Canadian fashion.  It is chock-a-block full of exercise machines, basketball courts, a climbing wall, badminton and, watch out, the best ping pong players you’ve ever seen up close!  You can get a day pass to use the facilities and it is big enough to not feel crowded.  The refreshing groups of young people engaged in athletics was wonderful to see.  This really is a “worth your time” attraction like Steveston.


You’ll see some rocket ping pong at the Richmond Olympic Oval.


The climbing wall at the Richmond Olympic Oval, now open to the public daily.


Exercise bikes open for public use at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

While on the subject of athletics, if you have ever been curious about Dragon Boating,the Richmond Rowing and Paddling Centre at the nearby University of British Columbia Boathouse offers visitors the opportunity to get out on the Fraser River, under the supervision of veteran coaches and trainers.  See sidebar for contact information.

All of these attractions can be reached comfortably by bicycle and there are several bike rental outfits in the Richmond/Steveston area to serve you. A good cycling map is available listing additional resources.

Returning to our foodie world, along Alexandra Road, (aka “Food Street”), are a couple of notable restaurants to try (among many).  The first is Jang Mo Jib Korean Restaurant.  The name means “grandmother’s house” and serves very traditional Korean cuisine and the excellent claypot cooking.


Pork neck soup at Jang Mo Jib Restaurant in Richmond, B.C.

We tried Pork Neck Soup, the delicious short ribs and Korean traditional sausage (Soon Dae Jub See).  The kim chee was varied and delicious as well.


East meets Northwest at Richmond, B.C.

Our moveable feast then lurched a block away to the Claypot Hot Pot and BBQ restaurant to have some fun with this great Cantonese-style cooking.


Claypot Hot Pot BBQ in Richmond, B.C.

In the middle of the large tables are gas burners divided into sections so that different broths can be used to cook the varied food items, which on our visit included soup bases of Szechuan Spicy, Parsley and Preserved Egg, Satay and Peppered Pork Stomach.  Into these sauces we cooked: Short ribs, pork belly, sliced lamb shoulder, and meatballs of fresh prawn and minced dace (fish).   We also deep fried some fish skin and spicy pork ear.   For our vegetarian palate we also cooked tofu, gluten, garland chrysanthemum and lotus root.  The tastes were amazing and this style of cooking is especially fun when you have a table full of people.


Famous Chef James, with his wonderful food and sparkling personality at the Richmond Night Market.


Lovingly cooked octopus at the Richmond Night Market.




Insanely delicious fried potatoes at the Richmond Night Market.

Lastly, if you are traveling to Richmond, B.C. between May and September, you are in for a special treat if you visit the Richmond Night Market, open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.   During our visit, there were 80-plus food stalls, ranging from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese and varieties in-between.  Bring your appetite and be prepared for some real fun.  It teems with people from all over the region as well as tourists and the management monitors food prep and keeps the grounds very clean. The Richmond Night Market is accessible via the light rail (Bridgeport Station) and sits close to the Fraser River, so bring a light jacket or sweater to keep the night chill at bay. Be prepared for lots of food and fun.


The wonderful, colorful and meditative Kuan Yin Buddhist Temple in Richmond, B.C.


Some of the extraordinary art at the Kuan Yin Buddhist Temple, Richmond, B.C.

From now on, spending at least 2 days in and around Richmond, B.C. is going to be part of our trips to Vancouver.  Discovering the convenience of the light rail system and recognizing that Richmond is a full-on Asian food celebration were two highlights of our visit.  One thing that stands out is how most people of Asian descent appreciate a wide range of cooking styles from around Asia.  This translates into a large community support base in Richmond and it is enjoyable to see.  Food brings the world together.  Perhaps that accounts for the happy families we saw in Richmond.  Don’t miss it!

Some helpful links for you:

Tourism Richmond: http://www.tourismrichmond.com

Richmond Night Market: http://www.richmondnightmarket.com

Richmond Olympic Oval: http://richmondoval.ca

Steveston Village: http://www.steveston.bc.ca

Gulf of Georgia Cannery: http://gulfofgeorgiacannery.com/