Real Food + Real People: Shed

Equal parts award-winning communal restaurant, grocer, fermentation bar, coffee shop, farm supply, and community gathering space, Shed’s two stories rise up in an organic, barn-shaped industrial-yet-modern cube of glass and metal. Fresh, seasonal local produce is available beside an aromatic abundance of cheeses and charcuteries. Espresso makers hiss steam into the air as baristas craft caffeinated drinks above displays of golden baked goods (try the biscuit with butter and jam). And of course, the coolers are stocked with our real-fruit Spindrift sodas and sparkling waters. This is real food on steroids, the holy grail of sustainable agriculture and artisan eats.

In the thick of wine country, Shed’s home in Healdsburg, California, is surrounded by endless rolling hills and fabled Zinfandel-heavy vines, but also shopping, world-class restaurants, galleries, and of course, more wineries. The phrase “heaven on earth” un-ironically comes to mind. Only a street away from the town’s central square with its fruit-laden orange trees, Shed is taking even this town’s high standards to new levels.

At its heart, Shed is a modern-day “grange”– meaning association of farmers, a communal effort spearheaded by owners Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton, who opened the space in 2013. Aptly described by Sonoma County magazine’s Carey Sweet as “Williams-Sonoma mixed with a designer farming store, a wine bar, and a touch of Dean & DeLuca,” Shed pulls together a predominantly local collective of farmers, winemakers, and craftspeople.

The open floor plan is centered by long tables displaying everything a foodie could desire, from high-end kitchen knives and curated home goods to hard-to-find mags like Lucky Peach and whimsical indie cookbooks. The space is divided into departments boldly labeled ‘COOK,’ ‘EAT,’ or ‘FARM.’ There’s a wall of carefully selected local wines in all price ranges, a massive array of seeds, beautifully crafted gardening tools – who would’ve thought a pitchfork could look good enough to hang above your hearth? – and curiosities like wooden rolling pins that stamp out patterns and a wooden slingshot, just like you’d expect to find dangling from the back pocket of a Rockwellian farm boy. They even mill their own flour in-house.

Then there is the restaurant.

Flanked by a fermentation bar dispensing beer, wine, kombucha, cider, juices and cocktails, a series of long wooden tables offer communal seating. The menu changes daily, a creative expression of seasonal flavors found locally and perfectly crafted by chef Perry Hoffman, who formerly put in seven years at now-shuttered Napa institution Étoile.

Hoffman came aboard just last November, and yet his handiwork already has the San Francisco Chronicle musing he’s transformed Shed into Sonoma County’s finest restaurant. A triumph in a region world-renown for its food and wine, even more so in a space that is so approachable and casual.

Not just a fine dining experience, Shed also offers sit-down menus for brunch and lunch, as well as a large meeting space upstairs that is free for community events. Shed is a beacon of what could be, a modern nod to the joy and reward of community coming together and working to become better as a whole. Here’s hoping word of Shed’s success spreads, and this sort of institution catches on beyond Sonoma’s borders.