It tears my heart, when a superb, forward-looking restaurant shuts down. Ahead of its time in its particular location, SHED CLOSED just before the global mayhem of 2020. In my review bellow, perhaps some other restaurant sources its inspiration once this challenge to humanity, namely the Covid 19, passes. We will need way many more Earth-friendly dining options in the years, decades, hopefully millenia to come. Noma has transformed already, yet we need more everyday eateries like SHED built sustainably, sourcing locally.
SHED was a locally sourcing superb eatery, farmers’ community centre, event space, and a sustainable food market under one roof in Healdsburg. The up and coming rural hub draws millennial California techpreneurs, families, and globetrotting wine lovers to Sonoma County.
Healdsburg on the rise and challenged
SHED materialised in the peek of the blooming season for the farming town. Since 2013, the gourmandise-inspiring space has been casually connecting the local farmers, fishermen, guest chefs, winemakers and artisans with the town’s visitors. The local community needs the life-vest after the unfortunate wildfires hit the region this autumn. Natural calamities savage whatever steps in their way, so many hectares of vines and cherished farmland were burned to ashes. SHED and other leading local businesses like its neighbour, the incredible two Michelin-starred restaurant – Silver Thread, contributed to the disaster relief for the affected small farms.
Green-flagging sustainability at SHED
Envisioning a transparent modern grange, Doug Lipton and Cindy Daniel created the imprint of the complete food cycle – from growing, preparing, to the enjoyment of food through their SHED dining, event and retail space in Healdsburg. Being established local farmers themselves, they found inspiration in the words of Wendell Berry: “An agrarian mind begins with the love of the fields and ramifies in good farming, good cooking, and good eating.” This affirming quote is also used on each bottle of the SHED branded produce sold at the Larder and Pantry space in the building. There is even a mill where the flours are freshly and gently ground.
Jensen Architects took over the sustainable design as “a utilitarian pre-engineered metal building, conceived as a barn that is contemporary rather than nostalgic, authentic and honest, resonating with Healdsburg’s past while also engaging in its present-day culture”. Local salvaged wood, reconstituted scrap clay, 70 percent recycled steel, Photovoltaic panels for energy, natural ventilation scraping air-conditioning for most of the year and trees were planted to cast shade from the sun radiating through the glass front. Read more about the fascinating use of eco-friendly building materials, techniques and even the purpose of having a Rain Garden on the architects’ website. There is plenty of outdoor seating in front and at the back garden, where composting facility turns uneaten leftovers into a biodynamic fertiliser.
Sourcing the produce within 10 miles, the Californian food at the SHED Café is fresh, seasonal, sustainable (organic or biodynamic), and brought to spark by the executive chef Perry Hoffman, stared 1 Michelin at the former étoile restaurant at Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley. I was smitten by his cooking back then, but now he has a wood-burning oven to play with (pizza in unexpected seasonal transformations like Summer Squash, Nettles and Porchetta with Espellette and a blend of mozzarella with Parmigiano Reggiano or Jimmy Nardello, Eggplant, Aztec Spinach with Fontina, Giardiniera, Chile Oil) in his open kitchen and supplied by dozens of Sonoma County farmers.
Enjoy the generously portioned à la carte seasonal plates on your own or share daily from breakfast (in fall try the wholesome SHED Porridge with chestnuts, Medjool Dates, Apple Cider Syrup, Butter or I loved the Anson Mills Stone Ground Polenta with Slow Poached Egg, Garlic Scapes, Wild Mushrooms, Swiss Chard Conserva) with a slight tweaks of the menu through lunch until dinner (Tue & Sun closed from 3pm). The brightly white turnips, as if ink touched their core with purple and pink pigments feather out towards their olive hued skins. Physallis joined the palette of house grown herbs, melon puree and freshly ground black pepper in the Summer Melon Salad. River trout cured in-house, Mendocino sea urchin, local seaweeds, wild foraged mushrooms in summer and fall, Channel Island yellowtail, Liberty Farms Braised Duck Leg, even green strawberries, they all join the seasonal bounty at the SHED Café. Pickling and fermenting is embraced wholesomely to preserve seasonal fruits, vegetables and mushrooms for the less fortunate months. Fermented Kumquats, Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, and some more typical roots served in an appetiser plate. The weekend brunch blends the weekly breakfast and lunch offerings. Picking three plus cheese mezze from the Larder is still very popular kick off at most tables. For dinner, the chef offers a four-course prix-fixe offering “Let Us Cook” ($68 per person, beverage pairing for $32). We have been returning annually from the opening, but always for brunch or lunch only.
Eat quality when time pressed in the wine country
To go the Larder and Pantry offer warm prepared dishes, original salads, charcuterie, artisanal cheese plates in the daily changing selections. You will find plenty of biodiversity sourced from sustainable California farms such as Rancho Gordo, Koda Farms, but also from some European purveyors such as the rare pinecone bud extract syrup by Muglio and real balsamic vinegars from Italy at the market corner at the SHED. From tomatillos, through fresh hibiscus flower to freshly milled flour from the ancient grains, all grown locally in California. If chai to go or other liquid caffeine boost is what you crave, the Coffee Bar is a quick answer. Roasted by Healdsburg’s Flying Goat Coffee the brew is also locally made.
At the communal tables and the long Fermentation bar sip original organic or biodynamic juice blends, cider, mead, beer, kombucha and local wines on tap, sparkling by the glass and bottles of local vinous delectables. The SHIMS (off the beaten track low alcohol cocktails) such as Roederer Brut, Jardesca Aperitiva, Sea Buckthorn with Grapefruit or Wakatake Sake, Elderflower Tea, Ume Plum Syrup with Lemon or Lillet Blanc, Ginger Juice, Mint, Berry and Bay Syrup with Lemon Kefir, are worth pondering over the lunch time. Fermented Purple Sauerkraut or Fermented Celery Paprika shots inject probiotics into your gut. Even the beverages are sourced mostly from local, organic, or biodynamic producers.
House products like high quality spices, SHED’s own unique herb mixes, dehydrated seasoning like Kale Togarashi, Smoked Onion Powder, Purple Sauerkraut, Shiitake Mushroom and Charred Eggplant Powder that I bought and recommend, but also house-made fruit shrubs like Blackberry and Cilantro, Plum and Shiso, Strawberry and Tarragon, Peach, Geranium and Rose tease curious foodies.
In the tools part of the store, the now in Japanese affection stretches from buy seedlings, donabe earthenware for a shared meal in one pot (nabemono), artisanal knives and even garden tools. These artisanal garden helpers are carefully selected from around the world and that is reflected in the higher price. There is so much practical house-ware like a jean pie carrier, soba cutter, that won’t leave you without being tempted to buy just little something.
Sustainability promoting events – Zero Footprint Dinners (the Perennial chef came from San Francisco), workshops – from vinegar and shrub making, through practical kitchen tricks shared by the local chefs and cookbook authors, biodynamic farming know-how, to wellness or local wine indulgence (Scribe winery, Davis Family winery will bring their bottles over soon). Cultural events welcome happy hour concerts and food-related film screenings, while seed exchanges between the farmers complete the sustainable cycle exhaustingly. Thumbs up for the SHED team to do so much for reducing food waste, energy and to support committed artisans and the stewardship of the local land responsibly. There should be more spaces like the SHED.
25 North Street, Healdsburg, Ca 95448
+1 707 431 7433
Daily from 8am-9m; except for Tue & Sun till 3pm
Larder, Coffee Bar, and Shop open 8am – 6pm daily.