On my way to Mendocino recently from the Bay Area I stopped in the Sonoma wine country town of Healdsburg to stretch my legs and grab a quick lunch. Usually, I head to the swell Oakville Grocery right off the square but I'm on a budget these days so I decided to look around for something less dear.
Friends in the area have raved about Big John's, the high-end supermarket about a mile north of the town square. I headed over there, finding one of those independent, old-fashioned grocery stores with warm and friendly service and a big assortment of local produce, fruit and products -- Redwood Hill Farm cheese, Sonoma County olive oils, mustard and jam -- which make wonderful souvenirs to bring home from a trip to the wine country. Prices are probably less than you'll find at fancy winery gift shops.
I later learned that the "Big" in Big John's doesn't refer to the girth of the owner but is an acronym for Better Independent Grocers and that the store is not the decades-old institution that I assumed but actually relatively recent to these parts, having opened in 1994.
With a turkey-and-tomato sandwich on sourdough (for less than $7), some juicy local nectarines and a bottle of water I headed back the Healdsburg square for a quick picnic in the shade of redwoods.
Flying Goat Coffee (right off the square) for a strong and rich macchiato. I picked up a gift for my hosts in Mendocino County -- a pound of Flying Goat's most popular roast, Mrs. Garland's Blend, forgetting that I was traveling to Thanksgiving Coffee Co. territory.
We'll let fans of Sonoma County's Flying Goat and Fort Bragg-based Thanksgiving, which is beloved on the north coast and by my friends in Mendocino County, battle it out. It's remarkable that we've got such choices in good coffee in these parts.
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