As Sonoma Country wine thrives as a wine destination, Circe Sher is a star in the hotel and culinary renaissance of Healdsburg as co-owner and operator of Piazza Hospitality.
Sher opened Hotel Healdsburg on the Healdsburg Town Square in 2001 and attracted acclaimed chef Charlie Palmer to establish and operate his Dry Creek Kitchen next to the property.
When Sher opened eco-friendly boutique h2hotel in 2010 a half block away, I noted the stylish design and enjoyed dinner at the Spoonbar restaurant. Another Healdsburg property opened in 2018, Harmon Guest House, named for Harmon Heald, the founder of Healdsburg. The Rooftop bar at Harmon Guest House serves up views, craft beverages and small plates. Sher also acquired Hotel San Luis Obispo in 2019 and recently received approval for Hotel Sebastopol.
The three Healdsburg properties evince diverse perspectives on food and drink. I asked Sher what gives her the most satisfaction as a hotelier: “The restaurant concepts that we’ve developed become favorites in communities where we are located. On any given day, you’ll see as many locals at [our properties] as hotel guests.”
Sher also noted her food and beverage mission: “It’s important to support the local economy as much as possible, use fresh seasonal ingredients, and reduce our ingredients’ carbon footprint.” Our recent stay at Hotel Healdsburg with dinners at Spoonbar and Dry Creek Kitchen revealed the appetizing impact of her philosophy.
Known for seasonal California cuisine, Spoonbar offers a taste of Sonoma. Many local winemakers dine here on a regular basis. General Manager Matt Coon shares the story of highly allocated cult Sonoma Coma by George Wine. “I often see owner George Levkoff on the street and say I need wine. That night he brings two cases and dines with us.”
The menu includes several other exclusive wines and features seasonal cocktails and creative takes on the classics. Our favorite was Mangonada with mezcal, mango syrup, Fresno chili pepper and lime.
Sonoma foods are sprinkled throughout the menu such as Tomales Bay Miyagi oysters and salads such as local beet and Laura Chenel goat cheese are prime examples. We sampled the beet salad and charred Spanish octopus with Romanesco sauce. The pork chop and white cheddar mac ‘n cheese with fresh egg rigatoni piqued our interest. But we chose Petrale sole with gnocchi, Maine lobster and celery root purée and linguini with clams. We were pleased with the clean flavors and fresh ingredients of the seafood.
Our dessert of California Olive Oil Cake with vanilla crème fraiche, candied nuts and vanilla ice cream was a not-overly sweet finale.
Spoonbar is also popular for their weekly specials: On Wednesday fried Mary’s organic chicken dinner appears with special pricing, and Sundays feature the Three-Course Seafood dinners.
PizZando is the casual Italian restaurant at Hotel Healdsburg facing the town square, aka the plaza. Though we only sampled the morning pastries, the menu is tempting. Like Spoonbar, PizZando features prominent Sonoma purveyors such as Bellwether Farms ricotta in the peach and pancetta salad. Shared plates include fried pork belly polenta. Sandwiches range from American Wagyu burgers to porchetta on house made flatbread. Rigatoni all Bolognese with pork and rib-eye ragu is a popular pasta. Sher noted her favorite pizza is the mushroom, bacon and truffle oil.
At Harmon Guest House, The Rooftop bar provides an excellent view of downtown Healdsburg and Fitch Mountain plus craft cocktails and small bites.
Seafood is a specialty with $1 oysters on Mondays, wild caught prawn cocktails, a petit plateau with chilled lobster tail, and spicy yellowfin tuna tartare. Sher recommends lamb birria sope with handmade masa tortillas. When I return, I may eat dessert first—ricotta doughnuts with warm chocolate.
Co-founder Sher manifests a broad perspective on hospitality. The Spa Hotel Healdsburg offers a well-rounded services menu. But we opted for one of the “Experiences” she offers with local experts or in-house pros. Most programs focus on wine and food with hands-on experiences highlighting Sonoma such as local wine tastings, Hike the Coast with a private guide, or Hike the Valley through vineyards with lunch. We went on a Mushroom Foraging experience offered in February. Alas, the few mushrooms we found were inedible but the wine tasting at Notre Vue Estate Winery with a panoramic Sonoma views were memorable.
Later that evening we enjoyed dinner at elegant, white-tablecloth Dry Creek Kitchen. The top dish was the porcini and celery root doppio with back trumpet mushrooms. Though lacking our mushrooms, the double ravioli was delicious, and wine pairings were well-chosen throughout the meal.
The hospitality at Sher’s properties is high caliber and Sonoma-centric, and Healdsburg offers plenty to see and taste.
For more information:
Dry Creek Kitchen www.drycreekkitchen.com
George Wine Co. www.georgewine.com
Notre Vue Estate Winery and Vineyards www.notrevueestate.com
Piazza Hospitality www.piazzahospitality.com
The Rooftop www.harmonguesthouse.com/the-rooftop
Hotel San Luis Obispo www.hotel-slo.com