Comment

Introducing The Somm's Table

And just when we thought there wasn’t any more room on our dance card ... what with keeping the Barn and Bistro dining rooms humming, dodging rain for some of our best private parties of the year, pressing apples and bottling our cider vinegar......cue the music.

Having Alexis Iaconis, a master sommelier on staff now, and winning ‘two glasses’ from the Wine Spectator which vaulted us onto their Best Restaurants in America list, surely gave us the final nudge. But truth be told The Somm’s Table is something we’ve been contemplating for a while. 

For me it started with the Taste of Place exhibit we threw here in the Studio when the artist Laura Parker traveled the breadth of Sonoma County collecting soil samples you could smell and even taste alongside the food grown in them. A brilliant way of connecting food to landscape, landscape to farmer, it started me wondering if there wasn’t also a better way to talk about, and experience, wine.

Most of our diners fall somewhere in the gap between ‘the experts’ who approach wine with serious science and a mouthful of jargon and the traveling hordes wandering Healdsburg, glass in hand, during wine tasting weekends. 

I’ve got nothing against expanding a command of wine nomenclature (or for that matter, getting a buzz on), but too often the convoluted ways we talk about wine end up circumventing the very experience of tasting, and enjoying it, taking us further away from a meaningful connection to landscape and the stories of the many hands that pilot the grape on its journey to the glass.

True learning moments are the ones where you step off from what you know into unfamiliar terrain. Too much information and the brain fogs, too little and you’re running on the steam of subjective opinion. Travel helps expand our understanding of terrior and different wine cultures, while spending time with someone whose wine knowledge is deeper than your own helps incubate curiosity. 

But living in the heart of Sonoma County, surrounded by extraordinary producers and an excess of tasting rooms often leads us away from curiorisity and experimentation. Most of us know what varietals we tend to like best, which names to gravitate toward when perusing a restaurant menu. If you're not in the industry, when was the last time you lifted a glass and felt really excited to take that first sip?  

 I don’t expect a revelation every time I pick up a glass. But those moments when I breathe in deeply, close my eyes, sip and experience something exhilarating brings back all I love about wine. It's a moment easily forgotten in the ease of daily quaffing in this glorious terrain. Sure, there’s the buzz you get when alcohol travels through your bloodstream, the romance of circumstance, where you find yourself imbibing, and with whom. But the ability, some say talent, to detect flavor and scent and nuance is the thrill of a hunt we shouldn't lose. It's the fun of making personal connections - animal, vegetable, or mineral your call - that elevates drinking wine to another level.  

Louis Jadot’s legendary winemaker Jacques Lardière calls the collaborative endeavor of making wine “seeking the unconscious of the earth.” I thought a lot about this quote when I first read it. Jadot’s reference, to a vine's ability to pump minerality from the ground while pulling molecules from the air, speaks to, and honors, the mysterious transformation that ultimately takes place in the bottle. It can't be fully explained. Beyond the science, beyond the art, beyond the incredible labor it takes to make wine, there is a connection we make to wine which has held sway over us since recorded history began.

To rediscover or remember this we need to recognize that what's in the glass is a living entity. Wine is alive. 

Leading the team behind The Somm's Table, Alexis Iaconis, with some of our first picks.

Leading the team behind The Somm's Table, Alexis Iaconis, with some of our first picks.

The Somm’s Table, if nothing else, will be a celebration of that life. Over the holidays Alexis will help us curate selections of our favorite wines and with Lukka, Cathryn, Chef Ryan and Gallery Manager Ryan Birrer's help, we will try to communicate what we love about these vintages. The Gallery, filled with so many beautiful objet ancien du vin, has grown over the past year into a wonderful space in which to dine. Over the winter we’re going to grow it even more. 

Another goal: to provide an opportunity for lesser known, but extraordinarily talented winemakers who may not have a presence in Healdsburg to feel they now have a beautiful space where they can strut their stuff to our open minded, increasingly discerning patrons. Stay tuned - sign up by visiting barndiva.com/wine - for these occasions.

A club, a salon, a room in which to break bread and laugh, to eat and tell stories. At heart TSM will be about exploring the limits of what we know and love about wine, and going just a bit further. The truth is that right now while we have a great many ideas, we don’t really know where this venture is going. That’s going to be the fun of it. And, we sincerely hope, the joy.  

Come visit The Somm's Table in Studio Barndiva and join us as we embark on this journey. 

Cheers

Comment

Comment

Celebrating Excellence

With the exception of the Mendocino County Fair in Boonville, where the sight of gold ribbons festooning our apples has been known to make us giddy, we are not generally award seekers. Sure, it’s great to be acknowledged, but the desire to impress critics and judges too often shifts focus from the real people we should be pleasing... our customers. Take your eye off the ball for even a minute with a dining experience like ours, which strives to engage all the senses, and you can blow it. Talent without consistency is like only being able to sing a perfect aria in the shower. You need to hit the high notes with every performance.

At the end of day diners here know Ryan holds their pleasure as the hallmark of our achievement. We’re with him.

That being said, earlier this year we made an exception and gave our deeply talented wine director and somm Alexis Iaconis the resources to expand our cellar, and giddy we were when we learned Barndiva has earned a coveted 'two glasses' in the Wine Spectator’s Best Of Awards “for excellent breadth across multiple wine growing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation."

To win in this category you need a minimum of 350 or more selections (or faces) within two specialties. Ours were California and France, which befits our food profile. For all his drive and innovation Ryan has never strayed far from a love of a California/French style of cooking in great part inspired from his years working alongside Thomas Keller at both The French Laundry and Per Se.

Here in town, Dry Creek Kitchen has justly held two glasses for many years, with Charlie Palmer’s deep bank of California wines and his wonderful Pinot Festival a hallmark on the wine calendar. This award puts us in some esteemed company with restaurants we admire -Atelier Crenn, Coi, Quince, Auberge du soleil. (To check out all the winners, click here.)

Also breaking news: three of the selections on our “award winning” list will soon have a Barndiva label on them. Thanks to Alexis, Wells Guthrie, and the talented folks at Copain Winery, we are adding three Barndiva Label wines this Fall: an elegant Chardonnay with aromas of honeysuckle, jasmine and lemon curd, with a lively palate of fresh orchard and crushed stone; a Tous Ensembles Syrah in classic Wells style, exhibiting great tension and balance; a Pinot Noir with a nose of fresh red fruits, rose petal and vanilla, a body redolent of dark stone fruit and apple skins. (don't you just love wine nomenclature?) All three will be available BTG in Barndiva and The Gallery Bar & bistro this Fall. We are especially pleased the organic grapes for the Chardonnay were grown not far from Barndiva's Farm in Anderson Valley. 

 Alexis, Cathryn and Lukka have also been hard at work this year expanding our reach in wine events, especially those which showcase excellence, talent, and, yes, as important to wine making as it is to food, consistency.  In the gallery and gardens we've twice hosted the wonderful local collaborative that throws the White and Pink Parties, catered many individual winery launches and tastings, and will continue through Fall to host a very special “last Friday of the month" lunch with Lioco winemakers, which is open to the public.

Working with Alexis - a new mom again - we have all been reinvigorated by the depth of her passion. Though her knowledge is prodigious, (Our Cup Runneth Over), her abiding goal is that our cellar reflects an expansive range that's exciting but approachable. She is just as happy to discover a unknown gem from a small vineyard as she is to go deep with classic producers and vintages that never fail to make intriguing connections to the finer nuances of Ryan Fancher menus. She does not miss a beat.

 It’s not just that Alexis understands the connection between wine and food. It's that she 'gets' the connection between wine and life, the almost magical way that by enhancing the experience of one, you invariably lift all there is to celebrate about the other. 

If you craft or represent a superior wine you'd like us to consider, you can reach Alexis at wine@barndiva.com. To host a wine related event in The Gallery or in one of our beautiful gardens, contact events@barndiva.com.

Cheers!

Read: 13 World Class Restaurants in Napa and Sonoma Wine County

 

Comment

Comment

#inthegardensnow #intheorchardsnow #inthekitchennow

First up: Beauty Plums. To be followed by Laredo Sweet Purple, Pluot Greens, French Prunes

First up: Beauty Plums. To be followed by Laredo Sweet Purple, Pluot Greens, French Prunes

Scotty Noll's Summer Plum Cobbler - The Gallery Bar + bistro

Scotty Noll's Summer Plum Cobbler - The Gallery Bar + bistro

Summer vacation? You're kidding, right? We are all too busy juggling Barndiva, The Gallery Bistro, two dining gardens, and a full roster of stellar celebratory private parties to think about taking a summer vacay, not that we're complaining. Living between Sonoma and Mendocino Counties we are blessed to see and smell and taste summer in all its glorious forms every minute of every day. Here are a few visual shout outs to some of our favorite people this summer who are growing, jamming, cooking the bounty coming in through the kitchen doors. 

Summer doesn't last forever. Both glorious gardens are now open for libations and dining. 

Herbal bounty from our new collaboration with Big Dream Ranch

Herbal bounty from our new collaboration with Big Dream Ranch

A bumper crop of genoa figs  - most of our trees are over 80 years old

A bumper crop of genoa figs  - most of our trees are over 80 years old

Pancho - our pasta program's secret weapon ("release the secret weapon!")

Pancho - our pasta program's secret weapon ("release the secret weapon!")

Summer farm program: cherry toms

Summer farm program: cherry toms

Chanterelles drying on the gallery bar

Chanterelles drying on the gallery bar

wild salmon, herbs and flowers - Barndiva

wild salmon, herbs and flowers - Barndiva

Summer farm program: mesclun greens

Summer farm program: mesclun greens

Daniel sowing

Daniel sowing

The Ridge Mesclun Salad - Barndiva

The Ridge Mesclun Salad - Barndiva

Lioco and the last Friday of every month!

Join us Friday July 29, as Lioco winery hosts lunch "somewhere" in Barndivaland - a wonderful opportunity to meet some extremely talented winemakers and strangers who may become friends. You don't have to be a member of their wine club. You do have to love wine.

 

 

Comment

Comment

and the beat goes on...

A few months ago we were confronted with a quandary. Our lives at Barndiva have always been, first and foremost, about creating exciting food and drink experiences. We strive to do this by nurturing new talent, pushing the creative envelope, consistently strengthening the ties that keep the farmer to chef connection thriving.

We are blessed with a Chef who remains fully committed to ‘touching’ every plate that leaves the Barndiva kitchen, but increasing numbers of people want to experience Ryan Fancher's food in spaces we’ve designed. The time had clearly come for us to expand, and where else but next door, in the shiny new kitchen we had built for our events and private parties.

Ryan was hankering to put a new spin on classic French Country, cooking which would reflect the easy, brassier style of our early days in town, and he has an extremely talented sous chef, Andrew Wycoff, raring to lead the new kitchen. I have been longing to curate a highly edited selection of fine artisanal spirits;  daughter Isabel was game to produce a series of B&W film montages and a playlist that wasn’t just about filling space with white noise; Lukka wanted to book more live music. 

The only question that hung over all this enthusiastic dreaming was what would become of the art gallery inside the studio. How could we move forward without giving up what we cherished most about Studio Barndiva as it began to fill with bistro tables, wire couches, deep leather armchairs. 

When we first opened the Studio we produced a card that proclaimed: “We All Forage,” and I still believe that sentiment to be inherently true. We filled the space with "Beautiful Objects, Made with Respect" (another of our early aphorisms), handmade arts and crafts that resonated in a way that things designed by algorithm, easily found on the internet, cannot. Sourcing Vetiver nests from Africa, recycled glass chandeliers from Syria, handwoven Balinese batiks, stinging nettle runners from Kathmandu, brought the world closer, in a meaningful way. Perhaps it even helped a few small artisan economies survive.

But over the years it had become increasingly clear that the real heart of the gallery lay closer to home. Whether showcasing remarkable singular talents like Manok Cohen, Seth Minor, Ismael Sanchez, Susan Preston, Jordy Morgan, John Youngblood, Chris Blum, Wil Edwards, or hosting collaborative exhibits like Laura Parker's Taste of Place and Salon de Sens, the art which captured our attention the most returned again and again to explorations of a similar theme: how we define and encourage meaningful connections to the landscape that surrounds us. One that, like it or not, is rapidly changing. 

 

There is no reason to think a bistro within a gallery that hews to this directive won't inform and delight; if anything it might even allow us to burrow deeper into performance art and music,  venue underrepresented but very much alive in our exceptional and happily expanding north bay community. 

It has been an incredible honor to have a space in the center of town that’s continued to flourish while being able to change, to do its own thing in its own inimitable style. For that we give thanks for your support all these years. We have loved every new incarnation – but it’s a love that needs to keep growing, as much for Ryan, Drew and the kitchen, as for our artists.

While many of the artworks and antiques that surround you as you drink and dine in The 'new' Gallery are now part of our permanent collection, we hope you'll look around for the tags, spend some time with some of the remarkable local artists whose work we will continue to exhibit for sale.

The Gallery Bar & Bistro has only been open for a few months (our prix fixe Sunday Suppers are probably the worst kept secret in town) and we're incredibly pleased it's already become a space that encourages a lively exchange of energy and conversation- for us,  an integral and joyful part of the experience of dining.

On Friday, June 17th, we will add one more piece to 237 Center Street's portmanteau as we open The Gallery Garden to the public for the very first time. Come enjoy the music of Sunday Gravy, the first band up in what we hope will be a monthly series. 

The exhibit that opened Barndiva, coming up on 12 years ago, was called "A Taste of Art."  While so much has changed for Barndiva, and for Healdsburg, in the ensuing years, there is sweet irony that we continue to explore, honor, and expand what those words mean. Having an art gallery- with a bistro inside- is our version of having your cake and eating it too. Come by and have a taste.  Eat the View!

 

 


Comment

Comment

The new Artisan sells out

IMG_1628.jpg

Ryan was in his early 20’s, working every station at the San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, when he came to the sudden realization he’d found his path in life. One night he glanced over at the Chef de Cuisine, standing at the pass in his whites, and just knew. What I didn’t discover until last week was that his epiphany flowed, in great part, from the style of cooking he was learning at the time which celebrated classic Latino flavors “that just got into my head, and really have never gone away."

Through his years at Redd, The French Laundry, and Per Se, which brought an intimate understanding of European (especially French) cuisine, he found himself returning again and again to that place where Mexico and California meet: a land of layered heat, spices that shimmer, fat, rich, sharp flavors that burst in the mouth, a confirmation of life through food. It hasn’t hurt that for the past 20 years he’s cooked alongside some very talented Mexican chefs who have generously shared influences and techniques. We got onto the topic of what guides our food paths when I shot these images of the newest version of the Barndiva Artisan, an instant sell out in the bistro last week.

The Artisan has been with us, in one form or another, since we opened in 2004 with “The Works.” Lukka reminds me it featured four obscure handmade cheeses (long before the word “artisan” caught fire and, some would argue, imploded), charcuterie by Paul Bertoli (his early Fra' Mani days) and breads by Della Fattoria(before they stopped delivering this far north). It’s never left the menu, traveling through dozens of iterations since, with terrines and pâtés and condiments that pulled their inspiration from across the European continent. For some reason no one here can parse (but makes us crazy happy) this is the first time we’ve had a Mexican Grandmother as our muse. 

What Ryan and Andrew have done is take a classic duck confit (one of three alternative proteins you can order), and put a carnitas sizzle in it. Served on the bone, you pull off pieces, moo shu style, building each mouthful on a handmade tortilla from a board heaped with gorgeous pico de gallo, slivers of vinegary purple onions, sweet hot red peppers, a stack of baby bib lettuce, a dollop of crème frâiche, fresh limes and cilantro. A velvety smooth guacamole with an intriguing, layered heat plays the role of master of ceremonies, pulling all these brilliantly disparate flavors together. It's a riff on a family recipe which came to us from Chef Poncho's Abuelita Carmen and carries the indelible flavorprint of tomatillos, cucumber, jalapeños, fresh lemon and a mortar full of dark red and brown spices. (Sorry, I am sworn to secrecy). Veronica's tortillas are just the right size and weight, thick and moist, with crispy edges, the better to catch all the mingling sauces.

There's a good reason we will always have an Artisan on the menu at Barndiva... it embodies our general philosophy of food and hospitality. Give us a big wood board overflowing with delicious bites, a bottle of great wine to be shared in a languorous green shade pervasive with the smell of roses, and we are happy. All joy is temporary. Isn’t that the reason they invented summer?

The new Latino inspired Artisan comes with a choice of three proteins - duck carnitas, chimichurri steak, chicken asado. Chef Wycoff is happy to send vegetarian Artisans out as well, upon request.


 

Comment

1 Comment

Sweet Sundays

Food and joy are inextricably tied, often in unexpected ways, but more often than not bound up in celebrations around tradition. Easter is a special joy, coming as it does (and not by accident) at the start of Spring, when the world around us is bursting with color and promise.

Our Gardens were chock full this Easter Sunday with beautiful families coming back from church, regular brunchers, and friends from out of town meeting up for farewell mimosas. Among the bustling crowd were two little girls in matching Easter dresses who made the day extra special for all of us here. Rylee Fancher is an old hand at hunting Easter eggs by now, but this year was baby sister Reese's first go at hunting eggs in the gardens. Coming at the end of a busy week our Sunday brunch service, with it's split second timing, can be a challenge. This past Sunday, all that hard work to make it memorable never felt so good.

Weather permitting the Barndiva Gardens are now open for lunch, brunch and dinner service. The Gallery Gardens will serve cocktails, wine and our full bistro menu. Get ready to be blown away by this new use of the space - previously only available for private parties.  The Gallery Bar Garden is slated to open May 1. 

Coach with Brioche French Toast for a little guest, Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese and Bacon Tart

Coach with Brioche French Toast for a little guest, Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese and Bacon Tart

Omar with Quiche Florentine & Baby Hearts of Romaine Salad, Eggs Benedict with Prosciutto di Parma, Lobster Huervos Rancheros

Omar with Quiche Florentine & Baby Hearts of Romaine Salad, Eggs Benedict with Prosciutto di Parma, Lobster Huervos Rancheros

Ryan in the thick of things - Barndiva is blessed to have a chef that still insists on 'touching' every plate that leaves our kitchen.

Ryan in the thick of things - Barndiva is blessed to have a chef that still insists on 'touching' every plate that leaves our kitchen.

Ryan and Reese find the golden egg.

Ryan and Reese find the golden egg.

"Funny Face" cocktails; Barndiva Farm lilics

"Funny Face" cocktails; Barndiva Farm lilics

George making Flying Goat lattes

George making Flying Goat lattes

Scott Noll's Easter dessert: Carrot Cake with Toasted Pecan Streusel and Cream Cheese Ice Cream. 

Scott Noll's Easter dessert: Carrot Cake with Toasted Pecan Streusel and Cream Cheese Ice Cream. 

Going, going...

Almost but not quite gone are tickets to the fabulous Terrie Odabi concert and the Pink Party, a tasting of Rosé from some of the finest wineries around (when I say finest I'm talking Banshee, Claypool, Copain, Front Porch, Idlewild, La Pitchoune, Limerick Lane, Lioco, Passalacqua, Petrichor, Poe, Red Car, Reeve, Rootdown, Unti, Westwood and Wind Gap!) You can purchase tickets for Terrie's concert on Friday April 22 (and make reservation for dinner on the same night) here in Studio Barndiva, or at Copperfields Bookstore. Pink Party tickets can be had at any of the participating wineries or online at brownpapertickets.

 

 

1 Comment

Comment

Joy in the Drenching

Navarro River at Hendy Woods

Navarro River at Hendy Woods

Flower Fields at Front Porch Farm

Flower Fields at Front Porch Farm

Water was everywhere last week, overflowing the banks of the Navarro, battering the buds and first blooms on the trees, flooding fields and vineyards. But oh, it was a welcome deluge as we gratefully worked through our own perfect storm of Restaurant Week, round 2 of Barrel Tasting and a loyal local clientele who all bundled in, wet but happy, filling both the barn and the bistro to capacity. There were moments Saturday and Sunday evening that felt like we were in the middle of a massive community huddle. 

Through all this controlled mayhem Chef found time to finalize our initial Spring menu. First up was a gorgeous sweetbread ravioli “salad”  with mascarpone, crème frâiche and bright green stinging nettle. Sweet little turnips and carrots, plump favas, leaves of toy box romaine and crispy nuggets of Zoe’s bacon played off the richness of the ravioli, with thin slivers of  Abbaye de Belloc  cheese harmoniously bridging the umami and bright spring flavors.

 

Monday dawned bright and sunny and while we are all hoping more rain is on the way, we welcome this brief respite. So much to plan: construction for the new portable bar in the Studio Garden, Pigs n' Pinot this weekend, publicity for exciting upcoming events, including the Pink Party and our second Lioco lunch. And let us not forget Easter is in the wind.

I will be writing more on all these special menus next week- right now Lukka is telling me we need to give a special shout to our readers that tickets for the Terrie Odabi concert have already gone on sale at Copperfields Bookstore and here in Studio Barndiva.  Terrie is a rising star in the music world - The San Francisco Chronicle calls her "easily the most dynamic blues and soul woman to have emerged in the Bay Area since Etta James." 

Terrie will play one long set with an intermission, which will afford ticket holders ample time to wander into the gardens and enjoy a libation at the new Gallery Garden Bar.  What you won’t find on the posters around town is that we will be serving a special bistro menu in the gardens before Terrie's set begins - reservations are a must.

Her evening in Studio Barndiva on April 22 will be the hottest ticket outside of the Healdsburg Jazz festival this year. Don't miss it.

 

 

 

 

Comment

Comment

A busy, beautiful weekend of events

From the look of the trees around town we are in the middle of a warm, beautiful spring in Healdsburg, with a full dance card of events this weekend in the Restaurant, The Gallery and out at Jordan Winery. Here are a few of the things we're up to, in addition to our regular lunch and dinner service.

Keep scrolling for the March prix fixe menus for every Sunday's French Country Suppers. Reservations advised. Enjoy the weather!

 

 

Today we launch our Spring through Fall Luncheons with Lioco Winery. These last Friday of the month gatherings will move around the property and feature delectable fare paired with special wine selections presented by the extraordinary Lioco winemakers.   http://www.liocowine.com/events

On Saturday Chef Fancher joins 11 other wine country chefs in support of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Cooking for Solutions." Ryan's contribution will be wild bbq salmon with caviar, crème fraîche and accoutrements all wrapped in soft green scallion crêpes. This is a wonderful event to support - with a vital message to take home about sustainability as it effects the ocean's bounty.   http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/visit/special-events/cooking-for-solutions/healdsburg

Our 10th annual Oscar Evening kicks off at 5:30 on Sunday evening. It's informal this year- with an incredible prix fixe as we will be serving our French Country Supper menu. Full bar and big screen. Going to be fun.

Speaking of our French Country Suppers here is the full March board of Menus with some favorites and loads of new "classic" dishes as Winter turns to Spring. Cheers! 


Comment

Comment

Down Home Moves Uptown, Spirit Intact

One of my fondest memories growing up was rushing in from a hard morning of play terrorizing the neighborhood to one of my mother’s infamous tuna fish sandwiches. Though she started out a purist: just tuna, Hellman’s and celery, by the end of my childhood she had expanded into a Daliesque oeuvre that included apples, pickles, capers, red onion, sliced hard boiled eggs, even - quelle horreur - a dash of mustard. All were delicious. So it was all smiles when I saw many of these same ingredients laid out in the kitchen the other day as Chef worked through a first course for one of our French Country Sunday Suppers in the Gallery. 

The fish did not come out of a can, it was line caught and pan seared in butter, garlic and thyme; the mayo did not come out of a jar, it was house made aioli. The baby kale had been harvested that morning and the bread - from a new supplier, Red Bird - was not Jewish Rye but perfectly crusted Levain, toasted, with a light slick of garlicky olive oil. 

But with the exception of a bouquet of bright yellow rapini flowers and some tiny breakfast radish Mom would have smiled in recognition at Ryan's artful display of quail eggs, capers, red onion (marinated to take the raw edge off), cornichons (instead of huge kosher pickles) and kumquats (which technically never appeared in her tuna fish, but we used to pilfer for her from a neighbors tree). Even with the upgrades, served open faced, more bruschetta than sandwich, all the signature flavors I loved were there, and then some. 

Thanks Ryan. We may not be in Kansas anymore, but the only thing missing was Mom.

 

Comment

Comment

Why grow flowers?

Most obsessions are formed early in life, but 40 years into a passion for gardening which has led me down a fragrant, if financially imprudent path, I’m still wondering how I got here. Until the age of ten my floral universe was pretty much a blank, relegated to what I saw at weddings or funerals. Except for my friend Dave's crazy uncle who grew orchids in a greenhouse he rarely left, no one I knew had a house full of roses, much less a garden to cut them from. 

As it happens, I had been born somewhere with exotic, sensual flora and sometimes, exploring the canyons above the Pacific, I’d come across a bloom growing wild that stirred a memory. Then one afternoon on a school trip to the newly opened LA County Museum I wandered away from the group and found myself in a room filled with Dutch still life paintings. A canvas on the far wall depicted flowers in a vase, but oh, what extraordinary things they were - tight buds, opulent blooms, and one wilting rose whose molding petals were so luminous they seemed rendered in pearl. There were a few pieces of fruit on the table beneath the vase, grapes and a half eaten pear which had begun to rot, drawing a single black fly with filigree wings as intricate as old lace, transparent as glass. There was nothing still about the painting. It pulsated with dangerous, beautiful life. 

From that moment on I began to really look at flowers - how their symmetry and myriad of textures delighted the eye and eased my brain, slaking a deep thirst for natural color that living life in the fast lane of big gray cities had engendered. It would be years before I wandered into the gardens at Sissinghurst wanting to know more about the kinship between Virginia Woolf and the great diarist and gardener Vita Sackville West and discovered in myself not just the need to look at beautiful gardens, but the desire to get my hands dirty. To echo, if only in the smallest way, some of the intrinsic beauty I began to see in great gardens all over the world.

I've always felt a connection with the untamable parts of the natural world. Jungles, forests, and bodies of water you cannot see across test one's bravery, feed a boy's own (and girl's!) desire for adventure - they astound with a fearsome, beautiful inevitability. The untamed world is a Russian novel. A tended, truly loved garden, no matter how large or small, is a middling poem striving to be a great haiku.

And while the pride I've felt harvesting crops and orchards is inestimable, it's prosaic. Grow food and the result, a full stomach, is its own reward. A flower garden feeds something else. You must suffer through many cuts and something that looks an awful lot like death to get there, but as counter intuitive as it seems the end result - a garden in bloom -  does not just fill you with it's beauty, it's also incredibly optimistic. For a soul like mine that leaned toward the melancholic, flowering gardens held a sort of salvation. They were the opposite of Virginia's pocketful of stones. 

In a wonderful short piece which appeared in the NY Times Magazine last June the horticulturist Umberto Pasti writes “To become a gardener means to try, to fail, to stubbornly plug away at something, to endure serious disappointments and small triumphs that encourage you to try and fail again.” It also sounds like the quintessential definition of a romantic. Or an artist. Or a mother.

What the garden doesn’t do in so many words, that partners and children can and do, is talk back. It speaks of itself or for itself, but in its total obliviousness to your imprudence in trying to control it, frees you in a way that loved ones and work - which depend on approbation -  cannot. It encourages you to risk, to take chances. Even when some grand plan fails, you know winter is coming and with it rain and spring and something remarkable rising from the soil. It’s hard to remember that happiness follows sorrow in life, but it can and more often than not does. The garden is a reminder of this, and the great truth that sometimes what doesn’t grow in one place often thrives in another. 

For me, time spent in the gardens is a guiltless way to recharge an appetite for joy and in a roundabout way, to dig away at sorrow. It's a place where you learn not to take yourself too seriously. It may be a garden you've created and encouraged to thrive, but Nature rules and you inevitably contend with the truth that you are not much more than a part of the equation. I see this as a good thing. Being constantly self-referential is a boomerang, not a kite.  

Of course once you succumb to a garden’s magic, it will take all you have to give it, in both time and money. I could have circled the globe a dozen times for the amount I’ve spend in four decades fighting, then learning to work in tandem with the wild forests that surround our gardens on Greenwood Ridge. It has never felt, not for an instant, like time or money ill spent. The flower gardens have been my emotional tuning fork in life. Just below the sound of the wind and in among the bees, whose buzzing happily attests my irrelevance, is a place where I can really hear myself think. 

There is a prescient line in Sherry Turkle’s Ted Talk about how technology has made being alone feel like a problem that needs to be solved. It isn’t, it’s a solution, for to be comfortable in your own skin and to do so (sometimes at least) without other people is to be receptive to a state of being honestly alive, free from false exigencies. 

The art of being yourself and losing yourself, this is what I find when I wander my gardens now, especially in the early morning or just before dark. Whether I am filling buckets for the restaurant arrangements, raising the camera, or just wandering, I do not really have a predetermined agenda. For while gardening reawakens the recognition that all we have is time, it reaffirms there is no time to waste. The preciousness of the present is so easily lost in the rushed way we are incessantly encouraged to live our lives, it's a message you need to hear whatever your age. I think this was the whisper I heard from that painted vase of flowers I came upon so many years ago. In any case, it is a meditation that lingers.

Moving forward...

2016 is going to be an even more exciting year for florals in Barndiva.  

For the past two years Daniel Carlson has been Head Mover of Soil at the farm and Instigator in Chief behind apple cider production, while overseeing the edible floral beds in the Studio Garden.  In the same time frame he has also been designing extraordinary floral displays for weddings and private parties across the country on his own and under the auspices of our great friend Danielle Rowe at Brown Paper Design. This year Dan will launch an in-house floral program at Barndiva and offer his exquisitely designed natural arrangements to all of Barndiva's dinner parties and weddings, large and small. He can be reached directly through his new website: www.dcwestgarden.com

A short list of "local" FLORAL RESOURCES

NOW is the time to start thinking about expanding or even starting a flower garden. Some of our favorite flower farms and nurseries offer retail accounts and fantastic educational opportunities. When it comes to buying seeds and flats remember: Like most everything else in life, you get what you pay for.

Dragonfly Floral is both a resource and an inspiration, it always tops our local list. They are not a nursery but do everything else: you can order an arrangement to be delivered, buy loose blooms directly from the farm, take a class or a degree oriented series, or ask advice from Bonnie Z, Dragonfly's beloved owner and a muse for three generations of Healdsburg gardeners. You're even welcome to stop and smell the roses in their magnificent gardens on Westside Road. www.dragonflyhealdsburg.com

Emerisa  is a great nursery that works both wholesale and retail lanes Don't expect a lot of help- do your homework first. www.emerisa.com

Goodness Grows in Boonville is Dan and Lukka's favorite "local" nursery in Anderson Valley, always helpful and they will order for you. 11201 Anderson Valley Way, Boonville.

Digging Dog Nursery all the way out in Albion is an acquired taste, but one you should acquire if you have any esoteric aspirations for your garden at all. Check they're open, and don't expect a lot of help, but it's always worth a visit for their unique plants. www.diggingdog.com

Occidental Arts and Ecology  - Become a member. Their plant sales in spring - though they have others- is a rite of passage. But get there early and leave time for a walk.  (Just don't trust they can look after your stash, even once you pay. Stuff your treasures in a back seat, with the window cracked.) www.oaec.org

CalFlora is worth a trip because it's one of the Bay Area's oldest California native plant nurseries. www.calfloranursery.com

Even farther down the road in Richmond but also worth the trip is Annie's Annuals for it's impressive table displays. They always have plants in all stages of bloom, so you can see what you're committing to.  www.anniesannuals.com

Finally, a second organic local farm where you can source superb cut flowers. Front Porch is a relative newcomer to the scene, but driven by the flower mad Mimi Buckley it has become one of our favorite suppliers. Front Porch grows over 60 varieties throughout the year for events, but they are equally happy to fill small custom orders that can be picked up at their beautiful farm. Contact zoe@fpfarm.com

 



Comment

Comment

Milk and Honey + Our 10th annual Oscar Party!

Winter is a curious time for desserts. There’s an abundance of glorious citrus around but for the most part the trees are bare of fruit, the vines bereft of berries. What’s a girl to do? In our case, have a pastry chef that rolls up his sleeves instead of just rolling his eyes. 

Last week Scott raided Vidal’s honey harvest, big time. He baked delectably light honey tea cakes, poached pears in honey water, spun the creamiest honey ice cream to rest on a little mound of pollen, dehydrated milk until it turned into flakes as light as snow. He even foraged velvety dark purple pansies from the garden which had manage to survive beneath a rain tent. If all that wasn’t enough for a sublime dessert, he fabricated tiny edible ‘hives’ from cocoa butter, and filled them with pure nectar.  

This dessert has all the hallmarks of becoming a classic. Especially as 2016 will mark an exclusive collaboration with Kristee Rosendahl's Dream Ranch to produce wild honey for Barndiva. We use a lot of honey on our goat cheese croquette plate, a tried and true BD classic. Stay tuned for more about Dream Ranch and the Barndiva hives in the wilds above Lake Sonoma. 

 

oscars-1.jpg

If there had been a boycott of this year's Oscar Ceremony, we would have supported it. Like many of our faltering institutions (yes, predominately run by cranky old white men) it's time for change, not just with how the Oscar's are chosen, but with who decides on what movies get made. As of this writing there is no boycott planned, so we're looking forward to having a great time watching the Oscar Ceremonies LIVE on the big screen in the Studio gallery on February 28th. As it will coincide with our Sunday French Country Supper, which is growing in popularity through word of mouth, we strongly recommend reservations - any size party is fine. It's going to be a great evening - there is a pretty cool field of movies and performances this year. Ballots will be available from Feb. 22, prize to be announced (though chances are it's going to be something award worthy you can drink...).

Our Oscar poster was designed by the ever talented K2 - Kirsten Petrie. 

Comment

Comment

Love Me Deux: 2 very special Valentine menus

Like our expectations of love itself, great Valentine's menus are a precarious balancing act that takes elements we cherish about the achingly familiar and tries to infuse them with flavors both fresh and new. And yes, while there are some luxurious ingredients on the Barn’s nuanced restaurant menu, in both our dining rooms on Feb 14th expect a truly romantic experience. We know it’s an evening many of our diners consider sacrosanct. 

I caught Chef working through a third course for the Barn's V day prix fixe last week, managing to get off a few shots of a magnificent spiny lobster from Santa Barbara he had poached in court bouillon, its shell as vivid as a five alarm fire. He likes to work alone when he's thinking through a new dish, and while he had not yet decided on the plating, he was almost there with the flavors he was after, working with a generous dollop of soft and luscious lobster meat enrobed in saffron pasta flecked with fresh herbs. The idea was to pair the tortellini with baby bok choi bathed in a mysteriously fragrant soy butter brightened with a few toasted fennel seeds. Brilliant.

Here are both menus. If you hope to join us for either dinner service, I encourage you to book now. Both rooms began to fill weeks ago, before we even published our menus (and curiously, not just with two tops!). Whatever your romantic status, have a good one.


Comment

1 Comment

Forever Curious Moonlight

I was never the most avid fan of David Bowie’s music, though Changes and Let's Dance were certainly anthems at some point. Yet I felt incredibly bereft to learn of his death, as did almost everyone I spoke with for the next day or so. Young and old, “did you hear” was the first thing we all said to one another, sotto voce, as it became increasingly clear something important in the world had been lost, leaving a gap we had no idea how to fill.

There was just something about Bowie, beyond the music, beyond Ziggy and Major Tom and the Thin White Duke, that made him remarkable. Whether he was Aladdin Sane or a lad insane, here was a man hiding in plain sight, mocking the profane while mourning it. Did he have the pulse of a beautiful victim masquerading as a survivor, or was he the ultimate poseur, a glorious high wire act we watched in amazed amusement all these years, mouth agape at the chutzpa. What is clear and increasingly rare is how Bowie, for all his fame, seemed to remain true to himself. He managed to escape the maw of our horrible sinking music culture, even, in his last year, instigating interesting new projects. His was an art that strove to levitate. He leaves us with a rich monologue of aural and visual invention that at the very least (and there was so much more) defied gender limitations before most of us even knew they existed.

Creativity like that comes at a price, and it’s rare. But that’s not the reason true creatives are few and far between while their imitators proliferate. There was always a sense behind David Bowie’s mannered, beautiful glide through life that kindness had an inestimable value, that we could all do with being a bit classier. All you hear talk about these days is “class” with respect to the growing gap between the rich and poor. Yes, well. But Bowie’s kind of class wasn’t about money (not everything is!) or even power, really. Fashionistas and wannabes of every stripe skimmed off the top of his aura but it was the disenfranchised outliers, the weirdos, the kooks, the sleeper extraterrestrials in our midst - anyone who understood longing - who loved him best. 

In 1984, when Lukka was 5, I took him to a Bowie concert in Inglewood. For reasons lost in the fogs of time it seemed imperative he witness the Starman before he stopped touring or worse, burned out. We had dreadful seats. I can’t recall the playlist. But what I do remember and have never forgotten was an abundant feeling that energy was expandable. No one even noticed the little guy I kept hoisting onto my shoulders above the crowd as we all clapped and swayed. Lukka kept asking if I could see Bowie’s shoes - so I hoisted him higher - but in reminiscing about that night a few days ago he remembered differently. “There was a lot of fog on the stage, but I swear it looked like his feet never touched the ground." 

In naming a constellation after Bowie last week Philippe Mollet, from the MIRA Observatory in Belgium aptly, though perhaps unintentionally, noted “it was not easy to determine the appropriate stars." Generally, the more massive the star the faster it burns out. Small comfort then the seven little stars they choose for Bowie are in no danger of burning out anytime soon.

 

We’d been playing around with the idea of a “music video night” in the gallery for a few weeks before David Bowie died and we’ll kick it off this coming Friday with an evening of Bowie videos. In future weeks we’ll comb back through early MTV, letting eau d'bowie and Barndiva's own eclectic creative spirit guide us. We welcome your suggestions - music videos that have panache and point of view, groovy visuals wrapped around great tunes.  

The Studio Barndiva Gallery is open Wed – Sunday from 10am; The Gallery Bar, with its bistro menus and great cocktails, begins serving at 3:00 until closing. Sunday night we offer a  prix fixe Classic French Country Supper, reservations suggested.

1 Comment

1 Comment

Who We Are Now....

THE BARNDIVA BAR, December 31, 2015

THE BARNDIVA BAR, December 31, 2015

When people smile when you snap their picture you can instantly tell whether they're just putting it on or they are genuinely happy to have someone there to record a particular moment in their lives. These two albums attest to the latter. On New Year's Eve both dining rooms were full to bursting with great eaters, drinkers and after midnight dancers... there was a big table of doctors, a newspaper editor extraordinaire, a local design guru, an archaeologist, a leading water conservationist, a bikeshop owner, a wine maker (or three), even a beloved world famous actor... and lets not forget the girlfriends and boyfriends of our chefs, managers and bartenders. Incredibly, some of the happiest faces I saw all night belonged to our staff.  Despite the fact they were working their butts off, they just seemed to be making a great time of it. Which they have been doing all year.

So here are a few snaps from NYE of some of our favorite people, whom we are lucky to be able to work alongside every day. Their commitment, professionalism, work ethic and sense of fun have made us deeply proud of each and every dining and private event we produced through 2015. 

Lukka, Ryan, Geoff and I want to give a big shout out to Andrew, Poncho, Tom, Deron, Manny, Raul, Saul, C.J., Veronica, Rosalia, Teresa, Javier, Nico, Daniel and Scotty... and to Cathryn, Jason, Omar, Maritza, Cristina, Kevin, Jessica, Tori, Alex, Camille, George, Chris, Essie, Liz, Coach, Matty, Lynn, Davey, Russell, Fatimah, Natalie, Dawid, Daniel and Isabel. Heartfelt thanks and Happy New Year!   Here's hoping for more of the same in 2016.  Cheers!!

 

SLIDE SHOW #1:  In the Barn everything was polished, elegant, and Fancherlicious...

SLIDE SHOW #2: While over in the Bistro,  before the last desserts sailed out of the kitchen the Gallery started rocking out...

 

Studio parties will continue all year, so keep in touch! And don't forget our annual Evening at the Oscars  ... February 28!

THE BISTRO BAR in Studio Barndiva, December 31 2015

THE BISTRO BAR in Studio Barndiva, December 31 2015

 

 

 

 

1 Comment