Wintertime may not necessarily be the time of year you think of Wine Country as a prime destination, but I love visiting this time of year. The fall crowds are gone, you can drop into restaurants on the fly without a reservation, and you can get a spot at a tasting room bar without feeling like a sardine in a tin can. It’s lovely.
My husband and I recently visited Healdsburg during one such wondrous weekend and decided to really go off the beaten path by not doing a single wine tasting (I know, gasp!). Instead we did a distillery / ice cream tour, which is a particular paring I highly recommend.
We started with a gin and whiskey tasting at Alley 6 Craft Distillery, which is located in a warehouse / office park-like area a couple of miles north of downtown Healdsburg. Since this is an ice cream blog, I won’t go into the booze tasting notes. But, suffice to say, we had a lovely time sampling their small batch provisions and learning about their distilling process. After tasting a couple of their whiskeys, the Harvest Gin, a delicious apple brandy, and their hand-foraged Candy Cap Bitters, I was thoroughly inspired for the next tasting.
After relaxing (and detoxing) a bit in the cozy comfort of the distillery’s charming old-school wood-paneled lounge, we journeyed down to the main town square in search of something sweet. We landed at local favorite pie and ice cream shop Noble Folk.
Tucked into the Southeast corner of Healdsburg Plaza, this place is notoriously busy in the high season, with a line typically snaking out along the sidewalk. As one of the few non-drinking activities in town, the crowd at this very hipster place is a mix of well heeled families pushing the Rolls-Royce of strollers, hoodied hipster teens, and giggling bachelorettes between wine tour stops. It’s a hot mess on a warm summer day.
Today, however, we are able to get out of the crisp air and huddle inside with a relatively modest crowd. In fairly small quarters, it doesn’t take many people to make it feel cramped, though. Luckily were able to snag one of the few parlour seats and stay a while.
Noble Folk is one of two shops the owners have set up in Healdsburg, the other called Moustache Baked Goods. Both shops are all about creating handmade goods from scratch with locally sourced ingredients (except maybe those unicorn tears they claim are in their pie).
They are also highly experimental with their flavors. If you’re looking for traditional, this is probably not the place for you (though they do keep a standard Vanilla Bean and Swiss Chocolate on the menu for pie ala mode pairings and picky children).
You can go one of a few ways here: pie, ice cream, pie + ice cream, or any combo of the above with toppings – some of which are decidedly upscale. Dried raspberries or Maldon sea salt, anyone?
This recalled for me a glorious summer day in Florence a couple of years ago, where we visited the very chic Magnum ice cream store at the Piazza del Duomo and created the most artful ice cream bar you’ll ever lay eyes on. I could not resist designing an ode to that treat.
And so I topped my two scoops with rose petals.
My husband went for bold, sampling the Almond Cardamom and Dutch Cookie flavors. The Almond Cardamom was strong and spicy, the spice unfortunately overpowering the almond, in my opinion. The Dutch Cookie was a lovely season-appropriate ginger snap theme, with chewy cookies sprinkled through a creamy smooth ginger spice base that was strong, flavorful, and quite lovely.
I opted for a zen theme and sampled the English Breakfast Tea and Almond Matcha. The English Breakfast tea was as smooth and soothing as an actual cup of tea. The Almond Matcha was bright and “awake,” but also delightfully soothing. Unlike my husband’s Almond selection, this one perfectly balanced the bitter matcha against the creamy almond. Delightful.
Ultimately the rose petals didn’t add much other than a pretty pop of color and a subtle flower-flavored chewy bite here and there. But it certainly supported the zen experience.
While there are a number baked goods venues to choose from in this corner of Sonoma, ice cream options are fewer and farther between. So while this might not otherwise be my go-to place, it’s a solid option for swanky-sweet treat and some entertaining people watching when passing through town.
I also highly recommend going for a tasting of some kind beforehand, both for the experience and so that you’re numb enough to not care quite so much about the price tags!
Total score: 4 scoops