Whether it’s beet greens for braising or halibut trim for Brandade, Danny Girolomo is one of those chefs who thinks long and hard about sourcing and technique before moving forward with any dish he intends to create, plate and send out into the dining room. What he’s trying to represent most fully are the lives that go into providing our ingredients, be it farmer or animal. Keenly aware of the mutable line between definitions of local and sustainable, his desire to push into new creative directions jockeys with the logistics of commanding an increasingly busy kitchen here at the Barn. It’s going to be exciting to watch him pick up the pace now that he is cooking with a great team behind him. Take a look below if you think I’m overstating: these are vibrant plates of food that manage to deliver layers of delicate flavor- yet they are, each and every one, comfort dishes that satisfy. It’s food we need to eat right now. Menus are going to change as the fall season shifts into high gear and we hurtle towards the holidays, so don’t miss this season. We are proud that more than any chef we’ve had leading the Barndiva kitchen, Danny honors Barndiva Farm and is further expanding the products we source from small farm purveyors. Chef Girolomo puts the heart back into the phrase farm to table. Enjoy.
I cannot remember a time we’ve had more divas behind the bar than in front of it, but if the new Fall Cocktails are anything to go by, we have entered a golden age. What I’m loving about this team of Alessandra, Andrew, Terra and Linda, all solid when it comes to mixology, is that they are more interested in hitting the notes customers long for than grandstanding with liquid arias to their formidable collective talents. Our six new libations are habit forming in the extreme, crowd-pleasers yet still retaining intrigue. Some of the ingredients are more ephemeral than others, but the pared down sensibility they’ve taken when it comes to layering flavors achieves complexity through simplicity, no easy feat… except when you know what you’re doing. I’m loving these drinks. Take a look.
The Last Aristocrats of Summer is all about our award winning pear juice, which clever Terra claimed dibs on as soon as she heard Dan and I had spent the night at Tintin juicing the last of the Hosui and Shinseiki pears. Our Asian pear orchard sits on the edge of the ridge facing northwest, apart from the other pears and the acres of apples and chestnuts. They make best use of that first hit of fog as it rises up from the draw, and soak in the last rays of sunlight as it chases the ocean. They are an elegant fruit, flavor wise, with subtle sweetness high on florals, especially on the nose. The Last Aristocrats of Summer is held aloft with an Earl Gray infused vodka, and a spike of St George spiced pear liquor, but it’s luxurious body and texture is of fragrant pear juice. Terra’s pumpkin rim is six roasted spices - she won’t say what - but Starbucks eat your heart out. Shaken and served martini style, icy cold, for as long as the juice lasts.
After hanging out for years with my friend Sandra Jordan I have come to love the taste of a good Pisco Sour, but even when you use an artisan Pisco, it lacks complexity. Rum, on the other hand, is usually too complex, especially when combined, as it usually is, with bold competing flavors. What makes Andrew’s Dreamland Sour one of my favorite new cocktails is that it evokes the memory of a tropical pineapple and rum concoction but makes the case for rum with rounder more fulsome flavor, courtesy of his ginger honey chamomile syrup. In this cocktail Andrew has managed to temper those powerful Jamaican and Peruvian spirits while still giving them their due. Finished with a fall fan of bitters that floats on a surprisingly foamy (vegan!) topper in lieu of egg whites which can adversely affect aroma. What you get here is a wonderful burnt pineapple scent with a hint of spicy undernotes.
Arrakis Kiss is the newest mind boggler from Alessandra, who is fearless when choosing her impetus spirits, terribly clever in what she pairs with it. This is only the second time in our history we’ve had Aquavit on the chalkboard. Aquavit tempered with Luxardo Bitter Bianco and paired with agave? Well, yes. Orange flower water with lemon juice and cardamon bitters? Yes again. There is great finesse to all of Alessandra’s creations and Arrakis Kiss is no exception. It’s a perfect fall libation we wholeheartedly dedicate to all those Frank Herbert readers out there, as the name is an obvious nod to Melange, the drink of choice on Dune. To which we can only add yes again. Make love not war kids. There is enough of that floating around these days.
Permission to Flirt is Linda's first foray onto the board. She is our newest bar team member - and happy we are to welcome her and her contributions to the Barn. Permission to Flirt is one of two new cocktails Lynda re-imagined for fall (the other, Black Buffalo, is a bourbon drink similar to Why Bears do It) and it’s by far the most accessible new cocktail on the list. Before the Cosmo became obsequious (and dumbed down) it began life at the fabled Odeon, a simple but elegant (and only lightly blushed) cocktail great to drink at the start or end of an evening. Permission to Flirt has those same simple chops to become a standard. It works for brunch, it works late night, you can down a few and still feel better than fine. Made with honey-crisp vodka, pomegranate hibiscus syrup, ginger bitters and fresh citrus which lifts the flavors and the mood. The addition of bubbly from Roederer Estate makes it festive, yet still a balm for a restive spirit.
It’s not a misnomer, especially in a room as pretty as the Barn’s bar on any night, to want to enjoy everything about a cocktail lounge - the music, the flowers, the tall windows to the beautiful Sonoma County sky - without alcohol. We come together to drink for so many reasons, we too often forget that only one of them - and probably not the most important - is to get a buzz on. Even without the addition of any signature spirit, The Trickster is a terrific cocktail. Seedlip makes it easy to devise new ways to present N/A drinks without disappointment. Seedlip Garden 108 is fully herbal without being medicinal, and it’s wonderfully dry. There is little that needs to be done to it unless you are a Barndiva diva - looking at you Andrew - in which case you add a splash of Schezwan Pepper syrup and top a highball filled with ice with dry farmed heirloom apple juice. Welcome to The Trickster.
When you work at something as consistently challenging as farming it’s wonderful to stand among your peers every now and then and feel you have excelled. That we won a total of 23 ribbons at the Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show this past week-end was remarkable to us. Our main ‘competition,’ Tim Bates of The Philo Apple Farm and Stephanie Tebbutt of Filigreen Farm, are neighbors and friends of many years; both superb full time farmers. They grow organic fruit, as do we, but on farms along the Navarro River which provides them with the ability to water their orchards, whereas we are on the top of a ridge, dry farming gnarled old trees grafted many times over. While we believe dry farming concentrates a fruit’s sweet redolence, our apples are necessarily smaller than fruit that drinks water. And judging is done by sight alone. Suffice to say we’re all feeling mighty proud of our little old orchards right about now, channeling the inventive enduring spirit of the Cassanelli family, who had the foresight to plant the first fruit and nut trees up here during the Great Depression.
But for all of us farming apples these days, these personal little victories are bittersweet. Manzana, the company in Sebastopol where small organic apple farms have taken their apples to be juiced and pasteurized for decades was recently bought by a huge French multi-national that has decided, following a corporate directive, to no longer make room on their production lines for small farm apple producers to crush at their facility and retain their own juice. Trucks roll in non-stop from Washington, Oregon and god knows where else and apples are juiced there all year now. They are buying local organic apples and reportedly paying well for them. But what Manzana buys and bottle itself under it’s eponymous and sadly ironic “North Coast” label and what they custom crush for other single label apple juice is sadly no longer juice connected to any one farm, terroir, or history.
It is perhaps not surprising that profit again trumps intrinsic value and in this case a remarkable family history as Manzana dates back to 1923. But that is beside the point now for us and The Philo Apple Farm. They will go south with their apples to the only other organic facility that will allow them to pasteurize, bottle and label juice from their own orchards. Barndiva, with far less product, will make do juicing (but not pasteurizing) locally, smaller batches we will turn into cider, vinegar, balsamic, syrup and brandy. Fresh apples for the restaurant will be jammed, dried, and served baked and fresh over the next weeks.
The real tragedy here is that Northern California’s heritage of apple growing is almost gone as the few remaining orchards across Sonoma and Mendocino continue to be pulled out, primarily for grapes. Celebrating what we do almost feels like popping a cork on the titanic. While we may well need a drink contemplating the inevitable, we all know it’s around the corner.
Nevertheless, for a few days we put all that aside and went to the county fair, enjoying being part of traditions that may be fading, but still hold a vital key to what it means to be part of a caring farming community. We raise a glass in joy to the incredible FFA kids and their parents, who instill in them the worthy goals of raising healthy animals; to the handlers at the sheep dog trials for reminding hundreds in the stands every year what patience and guidance look like; to all the small farmers and gardeners and craftspeople across our beautiful county who continue to exhibit what they grow and make with pride, in this place we all call home.
Barndiva Farm’s ribbons included three First Place for Dan’s Dahlias, and Third Place for both his themed wheelbarrow and collaborative garden with Rita Bates. We also won a Blue Ribbon for our Asian pears. The Apples which won First Place were: McIntosh, Connell Red, Granny Smith, Jonathon Red, Red Gold, Red Rome, Rome Beauty, Wickson and Yellow Bellflower (all below). We won Second Place for our Cox Orange Pippin, Golden Russet, Jonagold, Jonathan, Fiji and Red Delicious. Third Place for our Sierra Beauty, Winter Banana, and Golden Delicious. A huge shout out to the judges and to all the wonderful volunteers at the Boonville Fairgrounds. For as long as you can and in every way that you can, Eat the View!
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SHEEPDOG TRIALS IN 2 MINUTES!
Nostalgia for it’s own sake tends to skew maudlin, but when you have the rare opportunity to revisit the past in a life affirming, beautiful and delicious act of bringing it forward, you hit pure joy. Jim Reichardt was with us at Barndiva the day we opened, his 14 year old daughter Jen in tow, and we have been proud to feature his Liberty Ducks on our menus ever since. Beyond pleasing guests, which keeps us going, it has been the friendships we’ve made with dedicated and talented farmers, winemakers and purveyors like Jim that has kept us whole. His return to our table on a perfect Labor Day evening with that same beautiful daughter, all grown up and in command of a winemaking talent as deep as it is humble, made for one of the loveliest dinner parties anyone here can remember.
The evening unfolded beneath the trees at a leisurely pace as befits old friends meeting and making new ones. It was a labor of love for Chappy Cottrell, our wine director, who worked assiduously with Chef Danny Giromolo and Jennifer over the past few months to create a menu that not only used every part of Liberty’s Pekin ducks but was paired to enhance the range of qualities Jen brings to her winemaking.
A welcome glass of Love Ranch Viognier Madera, with it’s bright citrus and florals, began the evening along with two amuse: Duck rillettes on toasted brioche topped with Barndiva Farms Hosui Pears, and duck prosciutto on Randy’s house made focaccia, Pt. Reyes Blue and saba.
Once seated, guests were treated to a Grenache Rosé from Trails End Vineyard in Potter Valley with the delightful name ‘Fleur Pour Ma Mère.’ Tart peach and Lady Apple aromas lifted the tenderness of the duck carpaccio with a plum gastrique, pickled fennel and Jackson Family pea shoots.
Then we switched gears, and glasses were filled with the fresh, dry, herbal notes of a blended red called Antonella, from Dry Creek Valley. It was paired with two distinct presentations of that redoubtable duck organ: crispy duck liver arancini over a piquillo vinaigrette, and a fluffy light duck liver dirty rice with arugula, drizzled with strawberry coulis.
The ultimate comfort duck dish, confit, was next up, along with a 2017 Besseré Vineyards Sangiovese from Butte County. Its classic Italian herbs and pizza spices were a wonderful complement to what has become a Barndiva favorite dish. Then Danny pushed the boat (or Raft) out with the perfect intermezzo - duck tongue ‘oysters’ with blueberry lemonade granita served with a clean, crisp, chilled light red Madera from Love Ranch.
Jim’s Pekin Duck breed was given the Peking treatment for the next main course. Served with forbidden rice, Sayre Farms rattlesnake beans and pillowy Moo Shu Crêpes, two remarkable reds were offered to compliment and compare: a 2017 Grist Vineyard Syrah with a punch of blackberries and bramble, and a 2017 Weed Farms Syrah, an earthy old world nod bringing the sanguine, damp loam, bitter bakers chocolate and what Chappy describes as young leather. Both Syrahs were from Dry Creek Valley, similar terroir, but remarkably different. The table was by now filled with glasses. No one was complaining.
The only dish not paired with one of Jennifer’s Raft Wines came at the end of the meal: a centuries-old distillate of 131 herbs and spices, Green V.E.P chartreuse - served as a digestif in a chilled rocks glass with a duck crackling rim, duck fat gelato, brown butter streusel and carbonated grapes.
In the end Chappy was right to keep the number of guests to one long table beneath the trees, so while we offer our apologies to those who called looking for tickets when the dinner sold out, he made the right call. The size of our group allowed Jim and Jen to spend real time with every guest. Jim has a remarkable history here in Sonoma County and stories to go with it, while Jen, charming and informative to a fault, is a serious talent who has worked with some of the leading winemakers in California. There is heart in everything they do. To have their family here on Monday, with ours, was golden.
A huge shout out to the stellar talent of Daniel Carlson who colored the summer evening with an abundance of candlelit grasses and wildflowers from our Greenwood Ridge gardens. To Chefs Danny Giromolo, Randy Dodge, and Bobby Hartley, hats off for a delectable, intriguing and ultimately satisfying series of dishes. To Lukka and Cathryn, Caitlyn, Hayden and Isabel, thank you for a seamless service that kept the platters coming and our glasses full.
Though the night was very special for all of us, it’s clear that Chappy Cottrell will continue to raise the bar on all our SommTable events. Next up: Fête Rouge, on November 24, which will showcase the finest reds of the season along with artisan delicacies to taste and to buy, market style. Thinking ahead to the run up to Thanksgiving, with Christmas right behind, this is an event you do not want to miss as you plan your Holiday tables and consider edible gifts. It will be held in Studio Barndiva and The Gallery will indeed be all dressed up for the holidays. Stay tuned as we announce winemakers and purveyors. Tickets have just gone on sale.
ALL THAT WINE!
Fête Blanc 2019
From the top: Cristal Louis Roederer; Aperture Cellars; Rochioli Winery; Failla Wines; La Pitchoune Winery; Medlock-Ames; brick & mortar Wines; Reeve Wines; Kosta Browne Winery; Jordan Winery; Purple Pachyderm; Drew Wines; Handley Cellars; Dutton-Goldfield Winery; Guthrie Family Wines; Idlewild Wines…along with Satyre Wines, Senses Wines, Trombetta Family Wines, Valkyrie Selections, Zeitlos Cellars, Cruess Wine, Copain Wines, Crux Winery, J Vineyards, Preston Farm and Winery, Smith Story Wine Cellars, Scribe Winery, Red Car Wine, Ryme Cellars, Comstock Wines, Carboniste, Gary Farrell Winery, Gail Wines, Pax Wine, Ramey Cellars, Read Holland Wines, Rootdown Wine Cellars, T. Berkley Wines
Caviar blinis, BD farm Gravenstein apples with honey, heirloom fig tarts, spit roast Rosie chicken in Randy’s pita with slaw and confit tomatoes, lemon curd wine-spiced blondies…
Everyone came to drink, to eat a bit, to enjoy a perfect summer day in the gardens, which we did in style. But generosity was also on the menu as participating wineries once again contributed bottles to a raffle to benefit the essential services of Corazón Healdsburg. BD wine director Chappy Cottrell led the charge.
from chef de cuisine Danny Giromolo
It is midsummer and everyone here, in the kitchens and at the farm, feels the increasingly relentless pace. Boxes upon boxes of fat ripe figs arrive, delicious dishes in luminous colors sail out into the dining room, weddings get prepped, pump problems get solved, glorious blooms fade and are replaced. Fatigue and pride live side by side. We all know that to make it to winter when things might slow down we first need to surf through harvest, when things are bound to get even crazier. Watching new faces settle into our existing Barndiva family, there are small moments, honest and kind - Lynn baking a cake for someone’s birthday, the chefs all shaking hands at the end of service- that remind me the only way to embrace change is to bring our best selves forward. The challenge is not to survive, but to thrive.
With laser focus and a super abundance of talent Danny Giromolo has taken command of the Barndiva kitchens this summer with a renewed dedication to expanding our small farm partners that has been a joy to watch. It helps that his wingman, Randy Dodge, brings an incredible skill set of his own along with remarkable kindness and patience. The food coming out of our kitchens right now is brighter and lighter than ever, bursting with summer flavors. The buzz you are hearing around town is all true. Come in and meet him.
Above: Jackson Family Green salad with shaved roots, roasted pistachios, strawberries, society garlic flowers and Johnny Jump Ups from the gallery gardens. Below: salmon rillette with whipped house made boursin, frisée salad, Danny’s parmesan focaccia; heirloom tomato gazpacho with chive oil drizzle, feta, and watermelon rafts meant to be pushed overboard, eaten before they sink.
40 incredible white wine producers pour their hearts out
Our midsummer fête next Sunday promises magnums of 2009 Cristal from our esteemed friends at Maison Louis Roederer, a Caviar Co. bicycle cart, Randy vertical spit roasting chickens in the garden, heirloom fig tarts, Barndiva ‘classic’ goat cheese croquettes with honey, Blondies with white wine scented spices, and plenty more delights. The big news, of course, is that 40 of the best white wine producers from Sonoma and Mendocino Counties will be pouring in the two gardens. The most gratifying news is that, like our other two fabulous fêtes, spring’s Pink Party and winter’s Fête Rouge, mixed cases of all wine being poured is donated by the winemakers for a raffle to benefit our neighbors and co-workers who depend upon the expertise and largess of Corazón Healdsburg. This is going to be a great day in the gardens you will not want to miss, and it’s almost sold out. The champagne will (obviously) run out, as will (I suspect) the caviar as we are bad bougies after all, but goodwill, good eats, and great white wines will be available in abundance.
All of Barndiva’s wine events are curated with passion by wine director Chappy Cottrell. Find out what he’s tasting (and thinking) as he builds our award winning lists @sommtablehealdsburg.
our seasonal, weekly floral show continues
With Dan out of town for his birthday last week, I was happy to jump back into the joyful job I held for many years, but boy had I forgotten how much work it is to harvest and arrange flowers for every corner of the Barn, plus one or two big ones for The Gallery! He is back now and not a moment too soon. Be sure to ask our host if you want to know the names of some of the more exotic blooms in his arrangements, all grown at the farm. You can book Dan for your next private event here at the Barn, or elsewhere as his busy schedule allows. Follow this talented young man’s extraordinary journey through the seasons here in Philo and on his many garden travels. @daniel.james.co
Visit us @barndivahealdsburg.com
We throw parties all year round - telling a visually stunning, delicious story to people who travel from near and far to celebrate singular events is written in Barndiva’s DNA. The Fêtes, public events we throw three times a year, are different.
We host them because we relish the opportunity to say thanks to the local wine community that has supported, and in many ways, grown up with us the past 15 years. We’re honored that winemakers are here in person to meet their fans, and to hang with fellow winemakers, many of whom are close friends.
We host the Fêtes because, as in-house parties, we get to kick back and have some fun, Barndiva style. What is that exactly? Depends on the season. For Fête Blanc, mid summer, with the gardens resplendent, we’re thinking vertical spit-roast chickens, platters of Barndiva Farm heirloom fig Tartines, a bicycle caviar cart with all the fixings. A Tracebox challenge where you can test your sense of smell.
But perhaps the most compelling reason we love having the Fêtes here in our gardens is the opportunity it affords to support Corazón Healdsburg through funds raised with an exciting wine library raffle - every winery pouring at Fête Blanc contributes. Corazón is a vibrant non-profit that serves the northern Sonoma County Latino community providing educational, legal, and cultural resources. They have also been a relentless voice in support of affordable housing in Healdsburg.
So. Great times, incredible wines, delicious food, a meaningful sense of community. If that ain’t the makings of a great party, we don’t know what is. Come celebrate the vibrant white wines of summer with us.
To CBD or not to CBD - it’s an increasingly popular topic of conversation these days. Most of us have come to believe in the efficacy of the cream for aching backs, but the jury is out on whether it can cure a whole range of afflictions from epilepsy to anxiety. The healing attributes of so many herbs and tinctures seems to ride a thin line between knowledge and faith; then again both are pretty potent integers, whether you are contemplating a cocktail or coping with daily life.
What I can offer definitively is that our two new summer drinks are trippy, for all the right ‘restorative’ reasons. Flower Child uses vodka made from a distillation of hemp seed from Humboldt Distillery, where they know a thing or two about Cannabis Sativa L. There is nothing psychotropic in the spirit, which is earthy on the nose, slightly resinous on the palate. Chappy, our wine director, who also takes great interest in our cocktail program, said from the get-go that a martini was the only way to go with the distinctive flavor of “Humboldt’s Finest,” but our bartenders, notably Terra, disagreed. By adding a hint of tarragon infused Noilly Prat vermouth, a skosh of peach bitters, muddling cucumber coins in fresh lime juice and an exuberant shake, she came forth with a truly surprising cocktail. While we may not be entering a summer of love in this country, all the more reason a little liquid joy in the glass is not amiss - which Terra has supplied in this cocktail. It’s intriguing, it’s new, and its pretty pansy and cornflower garnish comes from right here in the gardens.
I am on record for initially turning my nose up when I heard the ingredients in our other new cocktail - I honestly thought there was no way it could work. Not only does it work, it’s one of my favorite concoctions. The artful way Alessandra has combined seemingly refractory flavors is secondary to the fact it is simply delicious, without being simple. The drink starts with a St George Chili Vodka, to which she added liquefied corn (aka corn water, puréed and strained) and Falernum, an Orgeat-like liqueur from the Caribbean with hints of ginger, lime and almonds. Lost you yet? It’s also got a Mezcal spray which lightly coats the glass before the liquid is poured, and a stellar Piment d’Ville salt rim. The Piment d’ Espelette we are using is grown and refined in Boonville by Johnny Schmidt, a friend for over forty years. You can purchase it at The Boonville Hotel in Anderson Valley or cage it online. This is a product that’s good for just about anything that ails you, and, as Alessandra proves, it makes the perfect rimmer.
Not from Kansas Anymore would have been a cool name for the drink - the creaminess of the corn water is key to the drink’s elevation of the Falernum- but that was too easy- Alessandra’s ingenuity demanded more. Then something the brilliant theoretical physicist Lisa Randall said in an interview with Krista Tippett in the always wonderful podcast On Being struck me: “we can go beyond our prejudices about things that seem obviously wrong…as they may just be obviously wrong to us.” In her new book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, Randall writes about what she believes is the astounding interconnectedness of the cosmos’ history and our own, fascinating, but the take away she sparked in me with this interview was that there are profound connections to be made all the time, whether we are setting about unraveling the mysteries of the universe’s hidden dimensions or just getting on with our daily lives. “The most interesting kind of creativity is constrained creativity, where you have some rules. There’s certain formulas that you have to stick to, at some level, but within that framework, can you make it interesting? Can you see how things fit together in more complex and surprising ways?” The journey I made from an initial flat reading of the ingredients in Alessandra’s drink to what she actually created was a lesson in constrained creativity, and for staying open, not letting assumptions impede passage to something interesting, revelatory, joyful. Warped Passage, the name of Alessandra’s drink, was borrowed from an earlier Lisa Randall book. Read her.
We are proud to have four distinct divas guiding our bar programs (yes, we are looking at you too, Andrew). Come in and meet them. Not dining? No problem, it’s a big bar, with a lovely garden. We will help you confound gravity.
The Gallery Gardens are usually home to our elegant wedding receptions and private parties so it was a particular thrill to see them filled with local families and well behaved dogs this past weekend as we officially kicked off summer with two Memorial Weekend garden parties. We had an exotic menu, a rockin’ all girl band, great beer and sangria, and with the exception of a brief rainstorm Sunday, clear skies and sunshine to enjoy. One visitor who traveled up from LA quipped “Well, this is certainly not the Beverly Healdsburg we keep reading about.” Indeed. Our goal is to keep The Gallery Garden open through summer when not otherwise booked, including Mondays, when Chef Randy Dodge (seeing double, above) will create off-the-menu specials. Thursday through Sunday we will continue to serve his scrumptious Mediterranean menus - but expect the return of one or two Barndiva favorites (the BD burger is back!)
Huge thanks to all our chefs, notably Randy, Danny and Shae, who took my Shawarma challenge to heart - and most especially to brilliant Healdsburg sculptor Jordy Morgan whose vertical spit-roast Bicycle Grill must be seen - and the succulent results tasted - to be believed.
The brilliance of vertical spit-roasting is that whatever protein you slide onto the giant stake will self baste over time, fat melting down as the spit rotates. As soon as a gorgeous char develops you can start carving; feed the fire, wait a bit, then carve some more. Jordy’s ingenious spit-roaster even has three levels, the better to spread the wood fired heat. Our Shawarma was grass-fed Preston lamb shoulder which had been ‘marinated’ in a spice and citrus peel rub for 36 hours. Jordy carved and Randy stuffed his signature flat breads with tzatziki sauce, feta and onions all day Monday, to gratifying oohs and ahhs. Randy’s promises to keep his flatbreads on the new Gallery menu, along with another sell-out dish- his fried chicken with killer Barndiva Farm BBQ fig sauce. He is also planning daily garden specials and signature salads. Check out the new gallery menu here.
Barndiva’s chef de cuisine, Danny Girolomo with Randy Dodge, who has taken charge of The Gallery kitchen in the studio. Bromance going on here, folks.
Grillmaster Jordy Morgan has agreed to leave the Bicycle Grill in The Gallery Garden through summer. He’s an increasingly busy man these days, but if a commission intrigues him, he may just find the time to build you one. Contact him through Studio Barndiva.
We are huge fans of Seismic beer because yes, it’s delicious. But our admiration also extends to the fact that it builds on the founder’s commitment to a grain to glass sustainability. Seismic’s Anthony Ayez (shown above) was on hand to serve Namazu Oat Pale Ale and Alluvium Pilsner, which we will continue to serve in The Gallery Garden (Thurs- Mon, 3pm on). Chef Girolomo and our wine director Chappy Cottrell are already planning a special Seismic Brewing Company paired dinner party in August. Stay tuned. @sommtablehealdsburg for details.
While the grill masters sipped Negronis, most guests imbibed Isabel and Terra’s white and red sangria. It’s a misnomer that you can use anything less than an excellent wine if you want to make great sangria, quite the contrary, but you do need wines with great texture and earthiness, the better to hold up to fresh citrus and light spice. We tapped Rootdown Cellars for the wine because we love that Mike Lucia’s approach to every wine he makes is reflective of his respect to the same indelible landscapes Barndiva draws from in Mendocino and Sonoma County. His focus is on varietal wines from single organic vineyards, fermenting with native yeasts, using no new oak and sulfur only in amounts equal to what is found naturally on the vine. For our sangria we used his ‘Es Okay’ Portuguese grape red blend and Pinot Gris white, all from Mendocino.
Barndiva’s pastry chef Shae made both walnut and classic pistachio baklava. She wasn’t the only one who teared up when a long time Egyptian patron, after tasting one, told her it was as good as his late Mother’s.
#wearefamily: Gallery bartenders Isabel and Hayden; Lou and Susan Preston enjoying (literally) their Lamb Shawarma; Randy and Jordy stoking the fires and making flatbread; K2, who assists in all Barndiva creative projects, enjoying the day with her lovely daughter Teagan. Below, Monse, who will help guide The Gallery Garden bar, with Jessica and Christina, two of our essential - and favorite- long time back waiters.
The consummate musicians that comprise Foxes in the Henhouse: Alice Fitzwater; Pamela Joyce; Hanna Jern-Miller; Dorian Bartley. This is soulful Americana with historical roots, interpreted in a thoroughly modern and joyful temperament. If you fell in love with them on Monday - how could you not - we urge you to check out their upcoming performances.
Monday is the beginning of the weekend for us here at the Barn, as it is for so many in the hospitality industry, and we hope to see familiar faces with our new Gallery schedule. No reservations are needed, but it’s best to call on Fridays and Saturdays in case we are closed for a private event. Bring the kids, the dogs, or come alone to booze, schmooze and have a bite to eat. Chappy will be opening magnums, and we’re happy to waive corkage if you bring your own.
Here’s the new Gallery menu for Thurs-Sun. Don’t forget to come to Off-the-Menu Mondays. The Gallery Garden opens at 3pm.
We are very excited to share four new Spring Cocktails, photographed here in the Barndiva and Gallery gardens, where clear skies and a surfeit of sunshine has hurtled us into the heart of the season. Not a moment too soon.
Bachelor Buttons and mint from our raised beds brighten Terra Greathouse’s “Barefoot Julep”, a fresh take on this classic bourbon cocktail. It makes great use of the farm’s apple cider vinegar in a seasonal fruit shrub with wonderful herbaceous notes from muddled basil. This drink is long and elegant, like the gal who created it.
Wisteria is in full bloom here at the moment, and those vibrant lilac hues carry over into “My Little Bebop Pony”, Andrew Radabaugh’s contribution to the Spring List. Butterfly Pea Flower give this drink it’s extraordinary color, with St. George’s Raspberry Brandy, Citrus Vodka, a dash of Peach Bitters, fresh lemon juice and a color coordinated garnish of pansies from the gardens. The Sour Raspberry sugar rim is another clue to the My Little Pony connection, but the Bebop is all about Andrew, whose infectious spirit is as uplifting as spring.
Historically, we do not favor sweet cocktails so this simply elegant libation from new bartender Alessandra Ziviani hits all our favorite bitter notes, hence the name, “Bitter ‘Burg”. A sloe gin based drink with Nonino Amaro and Bruto Americano lending it depth and a caramelized nose. Alessandra works days at Preston Family Farm and Vineyards; she is very much a woman with her feet in the soil, reflected in the cocktail’s rich earthiness. We are very pleased she has joined our pirate ship. Fennel garnish from our gardens.
Isabel Hales’ ephemeral cocktail makes surprising use of Datu Puti, a Thai drinking vinegar which she’s infused with fresh rhubarb, a great foil for Benham’s, one of our favorite local gins. The mysterious lingering flavor upon first, second and third sips is Reisetbauer Carrot Liqueur; dehydrated rhubarb and carrot slivers garnish the drink. The name, “Bod Electric” is a nod to Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” which speaks to a life long desire to connect essential elements: our bodies to our souls, and both to the energies which always surround us. Not a bad thing to ponder as you sip your way through this glorious spring. Or you could take the name as an ode to Isabel, as electric as they come.
These layered, nuanced cocktails are all available in Barndiva. If you prefer experiencing some of the world’s finest artisan spirits on their own or in classic libations perfectly executed, head over to The Gallery in Studio Barndiva where you can check out a “framed” curated collection, wander the gardens drink in hand, or just plop down into a sofa and watch exquisite old film clips while listening to the best playlists in town. Different strokes. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Pink Party Participants, 2019
They came, they poured, they talked - all of which they do all the time with great panache and patience. On Sunday they also donated wine for our raffle which raised money for Corazón Healdsburg. This is a great group of what I would call graciously competitive winemakers and tasting room managers - who make working a room (or in this case, gardens) seem easy. Perhaps because while it is work, they actually love what they do, and where they get to live while doing it. So here’s to that. Raised glasses to all. We love throwing this memorable Spring Party.
Here is the complete list of some of the smiling faces above in case you can’t pick them out in the crowd! Most have tasting rooms…connect the dots ad go visit! Many of their wines are also on our lists here at Barndiva. Come Visit!
Banshee Wine * brick & mortar wines * Campesino Cellars * Claypool Cellars * Pachyderme Wine * Copain Wines * County Line Vineyards * Crux Winery * Domaines Ott * Dutton-Goldfield Winery * Enfield Wine * Ernest Vineyards * Flowers Winery * Gail Wines * Gary Farrell Winery * Guthrie Family Wines * Handley Cellars * Idlewild Wines * Joseph Jewell Wines * La Pitchoune Winery * Lioco Wine * Littorai Wines * MacRostie Winery * Mauritson Wines * Moshin Vineyards * Peay Vineyards * Preston Farm & Winery * Raft Wines * Reeve Wines * Relic Wine Cellars * Roederer Estate * Satyre Wines * Scribe Winery * Smith Story Wine Cellars * Sophie James Wine * Spire Collection * Fieldstone Vineyards * Trail Marker Wine Co * Unti Vineyards * West + Wilder
Incredibly, we had over 80 superlative Rosé wines to pair with food that flew out of our kitchens (some wineries brought more than one.) A huge Thank You to chefs Danny Girolomo, Randy Dodge, Ashell Cunningham, Thomas Mulligan, Francisco Alvarez and their entire team. We are so proud of the food Barndiva is producing. Every day.
Spinach Wrapped Beet Cured Salmon Lollipops * Housemade Duck Prosciutto w/ Boursin, Cherry Compote, Crostini * Dashi Tamago w/ Wakame Powder, Kewpie Mayo, Calabrian Chili, Shiso * Tuna Tostada w/ Avocado, Pickled Fresnos * Beef sliders w/ Pickles & Ale Mustard * Housemade Pizza Fritta w/ Truffled Artichoke Pesto, Journeyman Salumi, Parmesan Crema * Mini Ham & Cheese Hoagies * Raspberry Rosé Scented Macaroons * Rosé Sorbet Shooters….
Special shout out to Natalie Nelson and her engaging event staff, and to Chappy Cottrell, our extraordinary wine director. Special love to the incredible Bonnie Z of Dragonfly Farm, who augmented the flowers we brought from the farm and made a few of her extraordinary arrangements. To Dan, who always exceeds expectations, for his stunning floral wall. And thank you Isabel, who stepped in and saved the day in multiple ways and Matt Iaconis for donating brick & mortar Rosé for our shooters. And big love always to our good friends Dj Jeremy and the gorgeous Janine (brains of the family) without whom The Pink Party simply would not groove in quite the same way.
Finally, kuddos to all our guests for showing up in such great style, ready to celebrate a very pink spring. You were just the right amount of sassy, and we were pleased with the mix of familiar faces with many new ones in this sold out crowd. Tracebox was a hit (winners will be notified) but even if you didn’t get a change to ‘game your nose’ this Sunday, no worries, we keep the Traceboxes fragrant in the SommTable room in The Gallery (where we usually tell you what you are smelling).
Thank you to all who donated to the raffle. The fact that we were very blessed to enjoy a day like this one is not lost on any of us here. When we talk community, and there is a lot of that going around in Healdsburg these days, we are only as strong as our most vulnerable. Row on.
By six in the evening on Sunday, when our intrepid office manager Cathryn Hulsman took this shot, it did not look like over 300 people had been mingling, drinking, eating, laughing, and launching into the first great weather of 2019. If you missed it, or are already ready to plan another day with us here in the gardens, fear not! Fête Blanc is up next! Get your tickets as soon as you can. The Pink Party was very sold out.
OK, here goes: One is sun-splashed by day, a long graceful room which lends itself to a candlelit flirtatious elegance by night. The other is speakeasy dark, with deep leather armchairs and french antiques, the kind of place where you can turn the music up and kick back. Look, we admittedly traffic in these descriptions of how The Barn and The Gallery differ - but the truth is they don’t really answer the question of where you’d rather be on any given day or evening. Talented chefs, check. A focus on seasonality, check. Sourcing locally, whenever we can, double check. These are dining rooms after all, where you come to eat. Yet I’d venture that while the savor of the meal is the ultimate litmus test when one dines out, and while we all crave enticing spaces, we return only if we’ve been taken care of, body and spirit.
If you don’t need a bit of cosseting for a few hours these days, I’d like the name of your therapist or yoga master. Life, for all its joys, can be bloody hard. The living of it. The making sense of it. We dined at a ‘fabulous’ restaurant in NY recently where we were made to wait before being seated cheek by jowl on designer friendly butt numbing seats, rushed through a meal wherein we could barely hear ourselves think much less talk. I honestly don’t remember if the food was good or not. At some point it became immaterial. Nobody around us seemed to mind - or did they? Dining out should not be an Emperor’s New Clothes conundrum. Food is social communion. The nourishment we seek longs to satisfy all our senses.
Frank Bruni’s article in the NYT recently made the case for ‘older’ diners needing a familiar, softer experience; where the food was not a challenge so much as a return to flavors that made them happy. Call it old fashioned. Call it whatever you want, he’s not wrong, except- it isn’t just older folk who want to be cared for, not just fed. It’s a desire we see in anyone of any age who arrives at your door willing to give you a few hours of their precious time and part with money in exchange for leaving refreshed and truly satisfied. A tall order, for sure. The first step is humility.
At the end of the day, great food and intriguing spaces mean nothing if the welcome - the entire experience - is not genuine. The Barndiva family is made up of chefs, managers, front of house, bartenders, and event staff who understand this. Our greatest blessing, beyond living where we do, are the people who have chosen to work here alongside us.
The Pink Party is our favorite fête because of the two communities it brings together: winemakers from Sonoma and Mendocino Counties and a Bay Area tout va bien crowd that comes dressed to celebrate spring, drink superlative wine, and hug it out. Sound frivolous? Yes and no. Yes, as in we could all use a bit of frivolity right about now, and no, as in these are serious wine drinkers eager to meet iconic and rising star winemakers. We time the party just as the wisteria is blooming and the urge to see the end of winter is palpable. Tickets go swiftly, a testament to the fact that almost half the crowd that attends has been before, some since it’s very first year. The usual number of wineries pouring, when phenom somm Alexis Iaconis ran it was 30+. Behold, our extraordinary wine director Chappy Cottrell, who has blown that number up to 41. (see the complete list, below.)
We’ve added some bells and whistles this year, which we are keeping secret until the 14th. They will surprise and delight along with delectable Rosé friendly fare from the kitchens, great music from DJ Jeremy, and a raffle to benefit the important work Healdsburg Corazón is doing- every winery is graciously contributing. We appreciate the importance of strong community in times like these. And the value of throwing a great garden party where you can dress up and laugh among friends, old and new. Who says we can’t multi-task?
As for celebrating springtime with the family..….
Join us for Easter brunch!
There is serious talent in Barndiva and The Gallery right now. Above: Randy, plating his handrolled Cavatelli in The Gallery; Yazmin, in the Barn, plating a cornucopia of vegetables and salad greens under the watchful eye of Danny; The many colors of Terra. Image of Yazmin by our pastry chef Shae, a fan.
While At the Farm…
On the mornings it hasn’t rained, clouds as vaporous as dragon’s breath enfold the gardens and orchards at sunrise. Do we know what dragon’s breath looks like? We do not, but there is a magical fairy tale quality to the light up here on these early spring mornings. Below, Queen Anne cherries are the first to bloom this week; “Happy Rich,” variety of sprouting broccoli and shelling peas hides out in the tunnel alongside White Ranunculus beds; vibrant Analita tulips filled with eager Hoberflies.
Let the Fêtes Begin!
This Week at the Barn
Dan was sipping an insanely colored drink after a long, glorious day spent digging and planting in the gardens. Made with dried hibiscus flowers and heavenly scented lilac honey we infused at the farm last spring, it was a perfect drink for spring; bright and packed with sharp sweet flavors. It was so tasty I’ve asked Isabel to put a rendition of it on the Spring Cocktail List. For those craving a spirited lift, it will be paired with Barr Hill Vodka, made by honeybee loving friends in Vermont. An N/A version, with a hint of Seedlip, will be available as well, as elegant as it’s boozy cousin.
Our intrepid farm manager is also responsible for the profusion of Barndiva Farm bouquets delighting guests in The Barn and The Gallery. These blowzy arrangements are a visual history of our life up here on Greenwood Ridge. Marisa Moore and Miss Edna Camellias Victoria planted 70 years ago now bloom alongside Double Ruffle Daffodils, Panda Anemones, Apricot Beauty Tulips, and Thalia Daffodils as our collection, which we add to every year, continues.
Next up on the bars and in the windowsills: more Hellebores, flowering Rosemary and cascading wands of Cherry and Apple Blossom branches.
And more cocktails, of course.
Guests who came for lunch last week had to gaze wistfully out at the gardens, which won’t officially open until the Pink Party on April 14. Good thing Danny brought spring to the plate with a gorgeous salmon tartar, studded with pine nuts, bright with curry and citrus, served with lentil papadoms. Truly the ultimate gluten free Omega 3 spring lunch. Burrata is still on the menu, served with grilled Redbird Pain au Levain, great as a starter or to share over cocktails. And hey, if you’d love to sip extraordinary library wines but without committing to a whole bottle, check out Chappy’s three new chalkboards in The Gallery. We are justly proud of our wine director. Stay tuned for exciting wine news next week.
And expect to see new dishes from the kitchens as the season kicks into gear.
This Week at the Farm
Onion shoots started in the greenhouse made it to their own beds this week, while Bodega Reds, Ark of Taste potatoes gifed from Dan’s dad, were slit and put out in the sun to scar up. Our microgreen program is in full swing and we encourage you to put our servers to the test by asking them to identify what’s hot and what’s long on a buttery sweet finish.
We’re also confident Kendall and Fern can identify all the blooms in our floral arrangements should you inquire. Flowering bulbs swiftly come and go, therein lies their mystery, and magic. Up on the ridge they slumber underground most of the year, drinking up the rains and suffering through long hot summers. We don’t dig them up except to split and redistribute. Come spring they burst forth during those few weeks when the sun warms up for a few hours midday.
One of the great truths in life is that being in nature soothes something in the soul, with the power to make us healthier if not happier human beings. In a world which is overwhelmingly transactional, where social media has made us unabashed attention seekers, Nature is one of the last outliers offering the opportunity to just be, no agenda necessary. You don’t have to climb a mountain or cross a desert wilderness to get the hit I’m referring to. Sonoma and Mendocino Counties are resplendent right now - the perfect time to step off and wander through a garden, field or forest and touch the hem of renewal we all crave after a long winter - and this has been one crazy winter. There is nothing quite like the experience of being in Nature as it replenishes itself. Get out there. It won’t wait for you.
If you must take your phone, load it up with a great plant and bird identification app and just… go.
Just when we thought it would never stop, it did. The rain ceased and the sun burst forth, trees in the orchards dripping water like jewels. We got the tractor going, started a burn in the lower orchards, checked on vegetable beds. Then we just stumbled around, punch drunk, in this green and glistening world.
Across the valley neighbors were emerging like we were, surveying the damage, getting on with the work of spring. Up here on the ridge rivulets on the road had turned into gullies, there was much planting to do, row upon row of apple trees to prune.
But when your cup runneth over, you stop to drink.
This Week at the Barn and the Farm……
Sweet peas on mulberry coppice, Calypso Orchids and Black Trumpets in the lower forest, Alcosa Cabbage shoots in the beds; a burn. We stand around, warming our hands, watching the unusable bits of last year’s projects go up in smoke, plannng new ones.
Shae plates Chef Noll’s ethereal coconut milk carrot cake, bursting with dates, nuts and cognac poached raisins. Garnished w/ a carrot gelée, a scoop caramel ice cream and candy glass. Isabel harvests violas for cocktails from the beds behind The Gallery.
Dan feels out the space where guests will pose before a poloroid floral wall he will build for The Pink Party, now just weeks away. Randy gives the staff a taste of The Gallery’s octopus and ceci bean dish at line up. It goes on the Sunday Supper menu this week. Scotty cools a quiche on the windowsill, offering a thin slice for one hungry photographer.
So there we were busy planning The Pink Party, thinking spring was just around the corner, when it started snowing. This isn’t the first time in living memory we’ve had snow on the ridge, and it’s no indication we will have a milder summer, but boy were we intoxicated with it’s brief beauty. Redwoods and orchards dusted in glittering snow, dense fog drifting off to reveal blue skies. These lovely images were taken by Daniel on Feb 1; it snowed again Feb 9. When you know a landscape so well, know it down to the bone, it’s both exhilarating and disconcerting to wake up one morning and find it transformed. A poem you forgot you wrote. The fragment of a song you know by heart, sung in a different language.
O ye of little faith, here it is: Return of Sunday Supper!
FARRO POMODORO SOUP, PARMESAN FRICO
JACKSON FAMILY GREENS, APPLE & BURRATA CROSTINI, CELERY & PANCETTA
PORCINI LASAGNA, PEPPERED RICOTTA, FONDUTA, TOMATO CONSERVA
PORK COLLAR MILANAISE, ESCAROLE, SULTANAS, PINE NUTS, LEMON
MASCARPONE, ESPRESSO, CHOCOLATE
Prix Fixe $39
Wine Pairing $35
Reservations Recommended 707.431.7404
vegetarian entree upon request
THINK PINK 2019
Tickets for Healdsburg’s unofficial launch to summer, The Pink Party, went on sale last week and they are going fast. Chappy Cottrell, our intrepid Beverage Director and Somm is leading the charge this year, and we are excited to see which winemakers and vintners will be added to the fabulous collective that gathers in both of our gardens on the second Sunday in April. First winemaker invites always go out to the group founded by Alexis, who will be here with husband Matt pouring their Brick & Mortar Rosé, Pét Nat and Sparkling. DJ Jeremy has agreed to come back (with a very personal playlist!), Chef Mark and team will send out (seemingly) endless bites to delight, and yes, there will be a draw for a bounteous collection of wines in support of the vital local charity, Corazón Healdsburg.
If you’ve attended before you know The Pink Party is about more than drinking superlative Rosé - though it is that as well as a beautiful time of the year for friends to meet up and hoot a bit. It’s also a chance to re-assert the belief that Healdsburg’s obsession with wine should not begin and end in the tasting room. An opportunity to come meet the people who make some of our best wines, as they will be there, standing right in front of you. We are thrilled The Pink Party has found a home here at the Barn alongside our other two seasonally inspired larger SommTable wine events, Fête Blanc and Fête Rouge.
FYI: If you read the blog, mention Eat the View when you check in - a small gift of appreciation will be waiting.
Tickets for The Pink Party: CLICK HERE
A few minutes before the last service of 2018 began our entire staff gathered in the Barndiva garden to celebrate having reached the end of another crazy year of hospitality in Healdsburg. We are a lucky bunch, and we know it. Surrounded by an indelible landscape where we are able to source extraordinary food and wine, in a beautiful part of a state that will continue to protect the environment, we feel blessed indeed. But that is only part of it. Our ‘little’ quarter acre in the heart of Healdsburg is an oasis, and we savor it. Early in the mornings, long before guests arrive, when the air is clear and crisp and a lingering scent of chicory from Flying Goat Roastery co-mingles with whatever is baking here in the ovens, the town feels like it did when we first arrived 15 years ago, small and familiar.
Great restaurant teams have this in common, they rise or fall together, constantly juggling the challenges of a balancing act of so many visceral elements.
This year was an especially momentous one as Mark Hopper joined us as executive chef, along with a new director for all our many wine programs, Chappy Cottrell. If the last service of the year was bittersweet, as beloved Drew Wycoff took his leave after nine great years and the dining room’s Paula Morais headed out of Healdsburg with husband Samuele, sadness was tempered by the knowledge that what has kept the Barndiva experience relevant, an ability to take what the family is passionate about and channel it from the farm back into food, wine, cocktails, art and design, is alive and kicking.
Here then is a short album of the last day of the year. When we re-open on the 9th (12th in The Gallery) with Randy Dodge leading The Gallery kitchen, there will be an evolving menu with new dishes. We are taking it one step at a time; Mark is a chef who does nothing in half measures. Sunday Suppers will resume in Feb and showcase more of the Mediterranean classics he loves. Everything we’ve tasted so far is fresh and exciting with much more to come as new farmers and purveyors Mark has worked with in the past join us.
As for those first few hours of 2019, Tory Teasley and his incredible band did not disappoint. They rocked the house with a great set starting a few minutes before midnight - the perfect end to a tumultuous year in Northern California, and let’s face it, around the world. Tory is a beautiful force of nature - at this crossroads we need all the positive energy we can harness if we are going to do more than survive. Our goal is to thrive. And to bring you along with us.
So yeah, It Takes A Village. We love ours.
Come visit in 2019.
Happy New Year
The leaves turn yellow, gold, and fall, yet there is a few weeks before the rake or boot when both gardens glow in early winter. The first rain, drifting music from downtown holiday parties. In the early mornings the scent of Scotty baking has a nutmeg and cinnamon edge. With this amped up appetite for an abundance of food and drink comes the ever present desire for joy we all hold within us, somehow easier to access and act upon in the run up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
It will be Chef Mark Hopper and Wine Director Chappy Cottrell’s first holiday season with us. They are already having a wonderful effect on our food and wine programs, as you can see for yourself from the photo album of the past week, below. Chappy organized the Billecart-Salmon dinner and he and Lukka have launched our new wine club. Meanwhile, in both kitchens, Chef Hopper is stealthily adding programs and fine tuning everything. All this new creative energy even has the bar team picking up it’s collective head with smashing winter cocktails.
The Christmas we know and love is but a few centuries old, while the floral and herbal scents we associate with the season, like Frankincense and Myrrh, were revered and traded as gold for millennia. The decorated Christmas tree is but a 17th century German invention, and we only began celebrating gift giving on the 25th (or evening of the 24th) during the Victorian era. But long before the birth of Christ this season was celebrated as humans turned to nature for remedy of physical and spiritual need during the long dark months of winter. Primitive small farm communities brought bows of fir and spruce indoors from the time civilization had doors. It’s lively, oily, greenly pungent scent was a visceral and often mind saving reminder that no matter how seemingly endless and gloomy, spring would come. So what must a ‘pagan’ Christmas have smelled like? K2 and I researched through a plethora of early Winter Solstice traditions; Dan foraged farm and forest and all the way down to Cloverdale, and…voila! Our love letter to the season will hang from the rafters until the first of the year. Don’t miss checking out the warm scents of Frankincense, Myrrh and ‘Gold,’ in the Somm’s Table trace boxes.
Holiday food and drink:
The Billecart-Salmon Dinner
Holiday Libations from Rojo, Terra, Andrew and Isabel
Food, drink, parties, & the wine club are all redeemable with a Barndiva gift certificate.
I’m of a mind that the best moments of any voyage are serendipitous, often costing little or nothing if you are ready to receive them. So when I managed to huff and puff my way to the top of the Bruton Dovecote in Somerset and came face to face with a small grazing herd of the most splendid dairy cows on this green earth, I stopped and plopped down. We were on the way to Hauser & Wirth to see Piet Oudolf’s gardens in their late autumn splendor after a gratifying lunch At the Chapel. I was full up. All I wanted to do was sit.
Cows are thought to be dumb, insensate creatures, but that is not my experience of them. One in particular took an interest, and in the ensuing, doleful yet intense staring contest, she clearly asked the most pertinent question of the day, and in fact the journey : what are you doing here?
This is the question it’s wise to start with every day when you travel, but one you rarely hear from the people you are interacting with - purveyors of hospitality - whose job it is to please, not to challenge. Just through the romantic veil of travel you can glimpse the financial exchange that’s going on, alongside the cultural one. You want adventure, great food, lots of drink, a room with a view! They want you to support them, will thank you for your temporary adoration as you’re heading out the door, see you again, bye! In London over a noisy dinner when I could not stop going on about the trees! The trees in England! My friend asked “you live in a forest…but you come here to see…trees?” Yes, in fact I do, they have trees to beat the band in England, but also, mostly, to try and see the forest for the trees, which is not always possible when you are well stuck in, juggling day to day, just trying to keep all the balls in the air. Back of House, Front of House, purveyors, managing the farm. When a guest finally goes out the door at the end of a long day it would be wonderful not to worry about the popularity contest social media has become and just trust you’ve had a delicious, worthwhile exchange with them.
The impetus behind publishing these personal images, places where we did have meaningful experiences, is to celebrate them in hopes you will seek them out. Hats tipped for the talent and dedication that make them work. And to leave you with this thought: while it often costs a great deal of money to create restaurants and hotels which are both sustainable and stunningly beautiful, it may not be inevitable that the joys of great food, drink and hospitality will be increasingly unaffordable to many, even given the economic disparity that’s growing in almost every sector of our country. Not if we support any enterprise that’s advancing the change we hope to see in the way animals are reared and crops are produced. Not if we really care where our food comes from.
We aim to Eat the View everywhere when we travel, and boy did we feast in England. In terms of creative, divine madness, where the talent was still at the stove (increasingly rare) the meal we had at David Toutain in Paris exceeded anything else we have eaten this year, but the food that inspired us the most was directly connected to a ‘view,’ i.e. the beautiful thriving gardens directly outside the windows where we dined. The Ethicurean, in the Barley Wood Walled Gardens of Wrington, and the two meals (and breakfast) we enjoyed at The Wild Rabbit, in Morton-on-Marsh, topped an estimable list. These two experiences span the distance between what sweat equity and fabulous fortune (which can afford the sweat of others) may engender, but both deliver and delight in meaningful ways, confirming that when your goal is a commitment to Farm to Table you can accomplish remarkable things that can affect people’s lives.
Ethicurean could do no wrong, they had us at hello. I urge anyone traveling to this little corner of the world just outside Bristol to dine, leaving a few hours to wander through the extraordinary walled gardens. The history is fascinating: four friends who took over a dilapidated, centuries old garden estate and brought it back to life and into the heart of their rural community. Some of the vines and trees in the orchards were planted in 1901, the year Queen Victoria took her final breath; all of it is vibrating with health today, reflected in the simply delicious food they serve. Can’t visit? Ethicurean has published a brilliant cookbook you can order online.
The Wild Rabbit in the heart of the Cotswolds manages to be a ‘local’ pub and a lovely fine dining restaurant, with thoughtfully designed rooms up a narrow winding stair. That a 20 minute walk down a (usually) muddy lane takes you through Daylesford Farm, a wonderland of gorgeous grazing fields and impressive greenhouses, would have been enough. That at the end of your walk you find a stunning Eataly style two story mega food emporium featuring vegetables, cheese, dairy, bread, flowers, all produced in the surrounding farmlands, owned by a single family, sold by an engaging informed staff, is beyond impressive. It is the jewel in the crown of the Daylesford brand which has been producing and delivering farm to shop food products across select London businesses for two decades. Several classes could be seen through the glass walls of the cheese room, the large cafe had been buzzing with punters of all ages, and several private parties were in full swing. This may not your local super, admittedly this is a posh part of the English countryside, but it’s a commendable achievement that does not skirt the fact that the price of great food, especially proteins ethically raised and produced, is expensive. If we learn to eat less at the top of the food chain, live seasonally, shop for the locally produced, and for god’s sake learn to cook, we may see that price inch down.
Both Belmond Manoir aux Quat’Saison, with it’s beautifully productive gardens studded with sculpture, glass and neoprene greenhouses, and the Pig Hotel near Bath, which like the other Pig Hotels spread across the most bucolic parts of England have remarkable edible gardens, base their menus on what comes from their view. In the Pig’s case the rule of thumb is that everything served which they cannot grow is sourced from sustainable purveyors within a 25 mile radius of each hotel. While we thoroughly enjoyed our time with James Nobel, farm manager at the newly opened Heckfield Place, it’s impossible to tell what their ambitious but nascent on site food programs of new orchards, multiple greenhouses, chickens, pigs, and sheep, will develop into over the next few years. It takes more than money to produce food the quality Ethicurean, Wild Rabbit and The Pigs. Dedication and education of a work force, engendering their love for what they are doing, is essential. Beyond that, but rarely found, is a connection to the politics of the greater food community even if unbeknownst to the guest. Which is why At The Chapel won our hearts. They manage, with impressive alacrity, to combine great food and challenging social forums. Follow their newsletter, better yet stay there if you travel to Bruton. The food is great, you are a few minutes away from Hauser & Wirth and Piet Oudolf’s Garden, and with any luck you can make a detour and spend time with the cows on the Bruton Dovecote.
The ‘five seasons’ gardens of Piet Oudolf at Hauser & Wirth, Somerset, (above) are only a 20 minute ride from At the Chapel, in Bruton and the Pig Hotel, Bath.
Barndiva is branching out from Apple Juice, Vinegar and Balsamic: we now have 50 gallons in copper stills that with the help from our friend Tara Jasper of Sipsong Spirits we hope to make our first ever apple brandy. Tasting the best of what Somerset and Devon had to offer with respect to anything apple was high on our list this fall. The Pig Hotels, which all have exemplary bar programs, did not disappoint. This was our first stay at their hotel near Bath (the Pig at Comb is a perennial favorite) and their engaging bar staff there, with Max at the ready, took us through all the local ciders, introduced us to the rising Non-Alcoholic Seedlip brand (which we hope to serve soon at Barndiva) and introduced us to the most extraordinary apple aperitif - Kingston Black - a Somerset Cider Brandy. Roaring fire, hundreds of white deer crossing the fields outside the windows, dusk falling over the gardens made for two memorable evenings. Dinner was a whole roasted chicken sourced just from down the road, a load of fries, a garden salad and a surprisingly great Pinot from Wairarapa, New Zealand.
Most of the wines we drank throughout the trip were French, as it turns out. At BRAT, a fish restaurant in London, they have a constantly changing Coravin program; at Lyles, also in London, it’s Pet Nat and other ‘raw’ unfiltered finds which may not be to every taste but challenge our notion of what we should be pairing. The best Somms listen before steering you in any direction. Chappie Cottrell, who has taken over Barndiva’s wine program, thankfully shares this skill. Stay tuned for lots more about Chappie in the coming months.
The adjustment upon re-entry from any trip can be (usually is) temporary - a mild re-direction in attitude from being reminded it’s a big world out there, which you are certainly not the center of. But it can also be large and resonate- encouraging you to rediscover an appetite for incorporating life with work in the ways they interact, support each other. Enjoy all those travel Instagram accounts, I know I do. At the airport I picked up Cereal, a life style travel and design magazine published in England by one Rosa Park whom, as chance would have it, I have been following on Instagram...wish fulfillment on a beautiful level. Just remember to put down your recording device before you pick it up again. Travel alone cannot change anything about the way you see the world unless you immerse yourself in the culture with an open mind, and crucially, an open heart.