Living in Healdsburg is getting ridiculously enjoyable, especially if you're a foodie. New restaurants open frequently, almost always to good reviews. Just the past six months have given us The Parish Café, Campo Fina, Bravas Bar de Tapas, Café Lucia, Taverna Sofia and Pizzando.
Have we missed any?
But anchoring the local food scene in some way is not a restaurant at all, but Relish Culinary Adventures, tucked behind tasting rooms on Matheson west of Healdsburg Ave.
Owner Donna del Rey opened the business in 2008, hoping to share her own love of home cooking, fresh ingredients "to create a convivial culinary adventure that, hopefully, inspires you to be more adventurous in your own kitchen."
Relish offers culinary events on a wide range of topics from wine country cuisine to ethnic specialties, and recent courses have included kids holiday treats workshop to do-it-yourself canning, cheese making and mushroom foraging.
Coming early next year, January 5, is the return of the Snout-to-Tail Pork Butchering Workshop, led by Chef Dino Bugica of Geyserville's Diavola Pizzeria, Perfect Winter Stocks and Soups on Jan. 11, a Bread Baking Workshop Jan. 26, and other classes.
But the highlight of the month is surely the five-part dinner sequence on successive Mondays, featuring five of the most highly regarded chefs in town. In Healdsburg, that's saying a lot.
The Healdsburg Chef's Table series lets you explore recipes, learn secrets and ask questions of the chefs themselves, while savoring a four-course meal prepared tableside, paired with appropriate local wines.
Now that's an adventure!
Monday, January 7 brings us Ralph Tingle, Bistro Ralph's eponymous executive chef, who had the vision to open a white-tablecloth bistro in Healdsburg over 20 years ago. His training includes the celebrated Cordon Bleu, and his dishes the Bocconcini bread balls (which, be warned, he says he's discontinuing in the new year) and other French classics.
Monday, January 14 it's Ari Rosen of Scopa & Campo Fina, two of Healdsburg's most popular restaurants to judge by the waiting lists. At this dinner Chef Ari will share his authentic old world techniques, gleaned from his time cooking in Tuscany to the much-missed Santi Restaurant in its Geyserville days, for perfect polenta, handmade papardelle and persimmon pudding.
Monday, January 21 we find Geyserville's own Dustin Valette, now Chef de Cuisine at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen. His ultra-hands-on approach is evident in his house-cured salumi, housemade pickles, and other personal touches. Expect seared scallops with Celeriac Moussoline, melted leek soup with black winter truffles, and roasted Duroc pork loin to highlight this gastronomic indulgence.
Monday, January 28 brings Jeff Mall of Zin Restaurant once more to Relish, where the chef-turned-vegetable farmer will show the secrets behind some of his restaurant's classics, including corn masa blini with Dungeness crab, zinfandel-braised Liberty Farms duck, and the Meyer Lemon meringue tartlet you can't forget.
Monday, February 4, Mark Stark will be on hand to demonstrate why he's been able to create a mini-empire of area eateries. He introduced the "small plates" concept to Sonoma County, and has selected one favorite from each of his restaurants to create a small plates menu for our dinner. Expect Maine lobster rolls from Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, Tortilla Española from the new Bravas Bar de Tapas, plus dishes from Willi's Wine Bar, Monti's Rotisserie and Stark's Steak & Seafood, all in Santa Rosa.
All Healdsburg Chef's Table programs are Mondays, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Relish Culinary Center's intimate instructional kitchen. Cost is $98, including the four-course dinners and 12 ounces (that's about three glasses) of wines, chat time with the chefs, and copies of the recipes to take and try at home.
Register now at 707.431.9999 or www.relishculinary.com.