Tracy Dempsey’s Favorite Spots in Sonoma County

Brianna LeeMay 16, 2023
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A salad made with local farmers market finds, garnished with borage from the yard of Dempsey’s hosts | Photo courtesy Tracy Dempsey
A salad made with local farmers market finds, garnished with borage from the yard of Dempsey’s hosts | Photo courtesy Tracy Dempsey

Tracy Dempsey says that what made her recent trip to Sonoma and Bodega Bay so great was being able to relax and decompress from her usual routine. That, and eating cheese. The iconic pastry chef and owner of Tracy Dempsey Originals and ODV Wines in Tempe says it was not only the breathtaking beaches and natural scenery that she loved about these Northern California hot spots, but their location on the California Cheese Trail. “If you enjoy cheeses, you can get a little booklet, and it tells you where you can go and taste them,” she says. Dempsey tells us more about this tour de fromage and her other favorite haunts in the Sonoma area.

California Cheese Trail
This trail is an opportunity to meet the people behind California’s cheeses. About 30 farms and creameries are featured on the trail, so you could make a full day – or more – out of exploring them. It is for cheese lovers and cheesemakers alike. “There are so many opportunities to get a hands-on experience,” Dempsey says, from dairy tours and cheese tastings to classes for cheesemongers and cheesemakers.

Healdsburger
A fun place that Dempsey recommends to anyone going to Sonoma is Healdsburger in nearby Healdsburg. “It is a little, divey burger joint that serves excellent burgers and fries with delicious milkshakes.” She enjoyed the Bobo Burger, which is “just a little cheeseburger, but they are really well done,” Dempsey says. “This place is not fancy, but a fun local place that my family and I really enjoy.”

Hazel
The husband-and-wife team of Jim and Michele Wimborough run this farm-to-table restaurant a few miles inland from Bodega Bay in the town of Occidental. They serve rustic, Mediterranean-inspired dishes, including pizza and roasted chicken, from their wood-fired oven. One of Dempsey’s favorite dishes there is the Brussels sprouts. “It is really simple, but from the wood-fired oven, they are so good,” she says. “This is just a cute place with great food.”