St. George's Cheese, Matos Cheese Factory

I should have known that when my ultimate food friend, Melanie, invited me to her house in Cloverdale this weekend that the days would be filled with chowing my way through Sonoma County. When not hanging out at her house chatting by the fire and drinking delicious wine, we were cruising the county having nibbles and bites in Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Cloverdale and the surrounding areas.

“Can you leave work at 2:30,” she asked via email late last week, “I’d like to get to the Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg by 4:30pm for the half-price markdown.”

St. George's Cheese, Matos Cheese Factory

On the way to Healdsburg, we exited Highway 101 to avoid traffic and came to our first stop: Joe Matos Cheese Factory. The Matos family sells their St. George’s cheese to many cheese stores and restaurants in the Bay Area and their unassuming “retail store” (consisting of a wheel of cheese and a loud bell announcing customers) is located in Santa Rosa. The cheese is a bargain at $7 per pound, and I bought a large $10 slice for our weekend. This is a delicious cheese. Cowgirl Creamery’s Library of Cheese describes the St. George as a “full-flavored cow milk cheese with a cheddary depth and a rich texture.”

Next, we stopped at Willie Bird Turkeys to pick up some bones for stock. Many of you know Willie Bird as the purveyors of a large number of sustainable turkeys around the holidays. Their retail store is worth a stop and many bargains can be found inside. The bones were seventy cents a pound, and we bought a flat of 20 delicious turkey eggs for $4. I left the store noshing on their peppery turkey jerky and we were on our way.

We pulled into Healdsburg at 4:40 pm, and Melanie was in a hurry to get to Downtown Bakery. “I’ve never gotten here this late,” she mentioned as we quickly walked to the bakery. Each weekday from 4:30 to 5:30, Downtown Bakery marks down many of their items to half-price. We walked in and took a number (18 people were ahead of us!) and perused the mark-down menu to make our decisions. What followed was an oddly stressful ten minutes as we watched item after item be completely sold-out by the earlier customers. Still, by the time it was our turn there were many items left and we bought a large bag of baked goods (a lot for freezing) for $15. I’ve always loved Downtown Bakery’s croissants, which I purchase at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and happily had one for breakfast the next morning. The highlight of our purchases was a delicious almond tart which was quite sweet, full of nuts, and perfect when toasted.

Next week, I’ll let you know about the rest of our trip which included a trip to the delightful Santa Rosa Farmers Market and more Sonoma county wanderings.

Joe Matos Cheese Factory
3669 Llano Road
Santa Rosa
9 am – 5 pm

Willie Bird Turkeys
5350 Highway 12
Santa Rosa

Downtown Bakery
308A Center Street

48 hours in Sonoma County, Part I 3 March,2009Jennifer Maiser

  • Oh, that São George cheese. Please tell me you brought back enough to share with everyone.

  • Cheese and bread, add a bottle of wine and you have my favorite dinner (or lunch).

    If you want to visit Sonoma County and don’t have a friend who lives here, you’ll find lodging and other visitor information at

    Cheers! I can’t wait to read part 2.

  • Caroline

    Please let us know how the turkey eggs tasted — I am very curious. Also, is turkey stock just like chicken stock? Hmmm…a special trip up to Willie’s may be in order. A fun post, and look forward to part 2!

  • Hi Caroline – the turkey eggs were great. Larger than chicken eggs, tougher shell, and seemed very creamy to me. The turkey stock was delicious — seemed to be lower fat, to me, than chicken stock but very rich flavor.


Jennifer Maiser

“My passion for food began young.”

I am the editor of the influential website which encourages readers to support local farmers and producers.

I began my personal website, Life Begins at 30, in 2003.

I have been published in Edible San Francisco and Fine Cooking, write regularly for Bay Area Bites, Serious Eats, and have been quoted in many nationwide publications. Photography is a passion, and I have had photos printed in National Geographic Traveler and Travel + Leisure.

I contributed to a Williams-Sonoma cookbook: Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, which was released in February 2010.

I live in San Francisco, California and can often be found at local farmers markets seeking out the best of what’s in season and chatting with farmers.

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