This Week at the Barn and the Farm……
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.
Apples are pretty much on our minds all year long. Winter to spring we are grafting, pruning, planting and nurturing (20 new baby trees this year alone) then we hit early summer and thinning followed by staking begins. Finally, mid-September, we’re faced with the decision of what to pick first, and the challenge begins to find able bodies to help harvest over the next month, as our dry farmed heirloom varieties all ripen differently. The labor crunch in Anderson Valley only gets worse every year, as vineyards proliferate.
Apples are an exhausting, perplexing, challenging piece of our farming life. We get cider and syrup, juice and vinegar out of the trees, for which we are justly proud. We get to tell the history of this ridge, honoring the commitment we made to it three decades ago, and to participate in the County Fair, which allows us to cross paths with a community we admire. But the sweetest moment in any year of farming apples isn’t looking over a barn filled with product, as laudable as that is - it’s a moment that comes and goes quickly, but with a promise that always delivers: when we finally lift a glass and have that first drink straight from the apple press. How to describe it? It’s apple skins that taste of hot sun and baked earth mingling with juicy flesh that has bathed in the gentle fogs that roll over the ridges every evening from the ocean, enfolding the trees, often lingering on through morning. It’s fragrant apple mist, with honeyed top notes followed by a whisper of dried cinnamon and chaparral. There is a barest hint of something green in the finish, not herbal but close. Wild mint maybe. Spruce tips. That first sip is the moment you think, holy shit, drink the view, yes.
To that moment we get the added joy of sharing that first draught just down the road at The Philo Apple Farm. We’ve been honored to raise our families, crops and more than one glass of g&t with Karen and Tim Bates for over the years; seeing their lovely daughter Rita and our son, Lukka, and their respective partners, Jerzy and Dan, working together at crush gives rise to one of those rare moments when the words ‘family’ and ‘farm’ still glow with promise. These are supremely talented kids that could be off doing something else - yet here they are, bonhomie personified, making juice on a glorious sunny day, air redolent with cooking apples. It isn’t something to take for granted.
If you don’t already know about the Philo Apple Farm, which sits on the Navarro River just across from Hendy Woods, you should. Hanging out there is a truly exquisite experience, all the more so for not being full of itself. This is a hard working apple farm with greenhouses, fields of vegetables and flowers, an old fashioned packing shed, a cooking kitchen for classes and private dinners, five charming cottages, and acres of orchard walks leading down to the river or into the redwoods.
To the familial cast of characters at first crush (there will be at least two more) were several good spirited interns that kept the apples bouncing through the grinder and up to the ladies on the platform, in full yellow aprons and white boots, who gently wrapped layer after layer of pulp into apple soaked linens used to line the press trays. Only Rita really knew where everything was flowing, good thing the kid has a mind like a steel trap. This is a decidedly old fashioned way of pressing apples, outdoors on an old crusher and even older press, with fall leaves and lots of good bacteria floating around. In an increasingly technological world that is compartmentalized and insulated from nature, first crush is a step back to a time when experience was visceral, memory relied on bites not bytes, and fellowship mattered.
Next Wednesday and Thursday, for as long as it lasts, we will have fresh pressed Barndiva Farm apple juice to share with our guests and neighbors in Healdsburg, a tradition we love to keep going this time of year, so come on by. Once Chef Mark is settled in and working alongside Andrew and Scotty, we will, no doubt, have more to share from this year’s harvest.
Even if you throw huge dinner parties for a living, as we do, it’s not every day you see a single table set for 220 people. On the top of a remote mountain surrounded by vineyards. But Jim Denevan, founder of Outstanding in the Field, does this for a living, traveling to remote, always stunning locations across America (and now Europe), outsourcing food and spirits to one night only partners. They rarely, if ever, visit the same location twice, or work with the same chefs and vintners.
We’ve always wanted to do an Outstanding event, and thanks to our good friends at Flowers Vineyards & Winery, we were afforded this opportunity on June 23. Outstanding handles all the logistics, from choosing the location to picking up the last dessert spoon, but the task of pulling off a remarkable, locally sourced menu that does justice to these truly outstanding locations falls to culinary talent working without a net, with no refrigeration and only the most basic cooking implements (think fire).
Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyards, where Flowers Vineyard & Winery is located, is on the Extreme Sonoma Coast on the top of a rolling mountainous range two miles above the Pacific. When an unexpected heat wave made their original choice of location, which Flowers had spent weeks grooming, untenable, they took it in stride, relocating a 300' long, single sinuous table to a graceful setting under an oak tree grove whose boughs dipped and dived over the heads of bemused, but now happily shaded diners. Earlier in the day, when the Barndiva team arrived at Camp Meeting Ridge (elevation 1150') in a refrigerated truck, Ryan, Andrew, Jordy, Lukka and Cathryn were met by a dozen or more OITF staff beneath two spacious tents, adjacent to four long charcoal grills. As the evening progressed it increasingly felt like the last night extravaganza of a foodie summer camp. If the group had broken out in song midway through the four hour dinner service (more Celebrate than Kumbaya) no one would have been surprised. It's obvious that for OITF pulling off a great event every time has to be, first and foremost, chill for all the participants. While that starts and ends with the guest list, it happily includes chefs and vintners who cannot help but be inspired by the hip professionalism of OITF's team of expediters and servers.
In honor of that spirit, here then is an album of the evening as viewed from BOH. From the oohs and ahhs reported by the servers who scaled dark hillocks loaded with groaning platters, I'm happy to report the food was a success; for anyone fascinated with the speed and timing and smallest details of food production, the real action was down in the tents, redolent with grilled duck smoke, sounds of laughter, the pulling of numerous corks, low recitations of the ingredients and purveyors of each dish headed up to diners.
First Up: As the OITF bus ferried diners to the tasting room lawn, Flowers poured copious amounts of their Rosé, while Barndiva began the evening with a modern take on a precolonial cocktail, Fleurette @ Flowers, a collaboration with New Alchemy Distilling. Canapés consisted of lemon verbena infused watermelon cubes, Dungeness crab tostadas, deep fried goat cheese croquettes sprinkled with lavender flowers and honey, and Scotty Noll's caviar crème fraîche black pepper panna cotta cups .
Fleurette @ Flowers featured New Alchemy's Arborist gin, pink grapefruit juice, BD Farms rosemary honey, In Pursuit of Tea's Jasmine Pearls, and clarified whole milk. It was finished with Fleurette gin and garnished with bachelor buttons from the Barndiva gardens.
Following a 2nd course of Bernier Farms baby gem lettuce Caesar (plated in the refrigerated truck), the 3rd course was grilled "ratatouille," with rosemary brushed romesco sauce, green and gold squash, roasted tomatoes, garlic sherry vinaigrette, vibrant basil pistou and Pennyroyal Farm's delicious Laychee sheep and goat milk cheese (milked and made in Boonville, the heart of the Anderson Valley. Laychee is Boontling for milk.)
4th course was Liberty Farms grilled duck breast and legs, served on a mount of stone ground polenta, finished with Barndiva pickled ramp bulbs, fresh chives and a glistening stream of roasted Flowers Pinot Noir duck jus. Grilled halibut and vegetarian entrées were also provided.
All hands were on deck for the dessert course of Russian River Farms macerated strawberries, Scott Noll's brown butter financier cake, cream quenelles, and a light sprinkling of lavender, lemon zest, bachelor buttons and black pepper.
A big shout out to the OITF staff, especially ace expediter Matt. To Chantal and all the folks at Flowers Vineyard & Winery, you rock it, especially Jake Whiteley (and I’m not just talking wine). To Ryan and Andrew, for the planning, organization, prep, cooking and presentation, wow, what a meal, accomplished with the same finesse you manage in the Barn and the Bistro. Caps off to Jordy, in charge of the fires, who remained extremely cool under Chef's steely glare while managing to keep four enormous charcoal grills to an exact temp before the “fire duck now!” order went down.
Lukka had the most arduous and greasy jobs of the event: driving the precariously loaded truck from Healdsburg up the 18% Meyers Grade without spilling the jus, then jumping into the heart of the smoke when Jordy and Andrew just could not handle the number of duck breasts and legs that had to hit the heat at the same time. Our restaurant manager Cathryn was everywhere, as she is here at the Barn: mordantly funny but a dead calm participant. Last but certainly not least, a huge thank you to New Alchemy Distilling's Jason and Chandra Somerby. When OITF asked us to provide a celebratory libation to start the evening we wasted no time roping them in to help. They not only devised the kick ass cocktail (a two day process to clarify the milk tea infusion until it was crystal clear, thank you Isabel!), they somehow managed to serve it chilled without breaking a sweat.
While I have only been a watcher to the entire process (not counting a 6am bachelor button harvest for the cocktail garnish), the OITF event with Flowers has been an unmitigated delight. There are so many complicated pieces to serving great food to large groups and family-style is not our usual approach, but oh how we love its abundance, and the joy of watching everyone dig in. While the beauty of each course did not suffer for the speed at which the platters needed to be assembled, the flavors sang a beautiful song of summer in this time and place.
We were all pretty exhausted by the time it was growing dark and we hauled out huge containers of macerated strawberries for a financier shortcake, but it presented a final perfectly syncronated moment for the Barndiva team: Andrew forming perfect vanilla whip cream quenelles, Jordy sprinkling lavender flowers, Ryan grinding black pepper, Cathryn grating lemon zest (lightly, no rind!), Lukka sprinkling blue cornflowers. It did not matter we were on top of a mountain, what I saw in their teamwork was analogous to what we do everyday here at the Barn. Great food is the product of great producers and chefs who are inspired and, yes, obsessive to every detail - wherever that food is served. The Outstanding in the Field event with Flowers on June 23rd was an Eat the View moment to remember.
Wish you were there.
Our floral program has been an essential component of The Barndiva Dining Experience for the past 16 years, but since Daniel Carlson moved to the farm and began guiding it two years ago it's taken a leap forward, nudging into the sublime. It isn't just his energy and passion, which extends to what we grow for our food program, Dan has a naturalist's understanding of what works together and what doesn't. I've seen him build arrangements of such elegant simplicity they fill the dining room with the same lambent joy we feel when we happen upon flowers growing in a garden. It's color, it's form, it's a talent to combine an affinity of elements, sure, but the heart of any truly beautiful floral arrangement is how it connects you back to nature. A connection, I believe, we are missing all the time, on some level.
Besides filling the Barn and the Bistro with blooms, Dan works with many of our wedding clients, but it's a little known fact that he is more than happy to create an arrangement for any special occasion. Last Wednesday morning (below) I managed to crawl out of bed to pick with him; it was a thrill to see what he created, later in the day, on the Barndiva and Bistro bars, in the bathrooms, and decorating the windowsills as diners munched away and raised their glasses. For every gardening enthusiast who swoon and ask our hosts the names of our blooms (Kendall and Fern keep a running list) most of our guests seem oblivious to the gardens in glass surrounding them. Which is fine. The best flower arrangements don't stop your progress through a beautiful space, they fragrantly lift you up in anticipation as you continue on your journey. Join Dan's growing fan club. Follow him @daniel.james.co or check out his new website: www.danieljamesdesign.co
Truly, our vase runneth over.
To not swoon into the glories of a Spring like this one you must be nursing massive allergies to the natural world, or are one hell of a curmudgeon. Either is pretty tragic, for there is manifest joy incubating in the Sonoma and Mendocino air right now, a green and fragrant world, alive and seemingly oblivious to all our human missteps. Up on the ridge, while we could always use more rain, our dry farmed orchards got a nice long drink and, for the moment at least, the redwoods can breathe a sigh of relief.
We are in the magical week (or two) after the cherries and pears have bloomed and the apples begin to bud, open, set fruit. Singular flowering wands on newly grafted trees as small as children, play hide 'n seek behind old timers planted last century by the Cassanelli's, their hollow trunks still producing surprising profusions of blossoms that twist and wrap around gnarled branches. Meanwhile, fields and forests surrounding the old homestead orchards go on about their glorious business guilelessly, with luxurious carpets of Ixia, Blue Dicks, California Poppies, Buttercups, Blue Eyed Grass, and borders of deep blue Ceanothus. The wildflowers will all be gone soon, part of their charm perhaps, but in this moment they bloom in tandem with the trees and our formal gardens, just starting to awaken for their 7 month run. Smoke Bush, Jasmine, Dutch and Bearded Iris, overwintered Snapdragons, Columbines, Mexican Mock Orange, Mock Orange (such a difference! Dan would say) Iilacs, Foxgloves, Snowballs, and Roses Roses Roses. Lady Banks climbs the dock at the pond, Cecil Bruner covers the outhouse, while all along the path to the great lawn old David Austins open and divinely dive into efflorescence.
As we fumble towards a future filled with so much uncertainty, it's important to stop and take measure, to anoint ourselves with a season like this Spring. The responsibilities attendant with keeping our beautiful little corner of the world humming can be as simple as paying attention, supporting the people who are working at things that make a difference. Or it can be a bit more complicated, but in a good way, like getting out there and making a difference. But respect should be paid, and we are most humbly paying it.
Attention now shifts to production for Barndiva: propagating, timing when to plant out, pest control, checking off Ryan's list of new varieties we as yet have no idea will thrive up here as much as we do. These images were all shot at sunset one day last week. Normally fog creeps over the ridges that ride in from the Pacific after the sun has set, but a magical backlit foggy light began drifting in as Lukka was making dinner. Dan and I shouted "Takacs Light!" in unison (Claire Takacs is a garden photographer we both admire, who claims to only shoot at dawn and dusk) and dashed out to glory in the incandescence. There is a line in the Mary Oliver poem The Moth I always return to (the poem and this line) "If you notice anything, it leads you to notice more and more." So get out there and fill your eyes to the brim with the beauty of green and flowering life beginning again. It's going to be a long Summer.
Yes, it's not yet May and Healdsburg can already feel as crowded as Summer while round-about construction and lack of downtown parking (still) sucks, but damn. For bonhomie and style, not to mention a refreshingly up close and personal interaction with a merry and talented band of winemakers and vintners, the Pink Party rocks it. What makes our Northern California wine shed truly great isn't how many grapes we grow, but the personal stories and passions behind the wines we produce. It's something you just can't read off a label. And it was on full display this past Sunday.
This is why we love the Pink Party: with the first hint of Spring, along with wildflowers and roses comes bud-break and a fresh desire to make wine tasting relevant to a 'local' crowd. The loose knit group who come together here in our gardens re-affirms that to love wine is to celebrate where and how it's grown.
We have two more collaborative Wine Events in the same spirit as The Pink Party, both before harvest: Fête Blanc and Fête Rouge. Secure tickets before they too sell out! Barndiva also has two upcoming Sommtable spotlight series dinners early Summer, with Flowers Vineyards & Winery and Peay Vineyards. And, starting in May, every Wednesday we will host a different 'local' vintner we admire in the Gallery Gardens. How do we define local? Susie Selby is down the block from Barndiva. Alison Story and Eric Smith are down the road from Barndiva Farm. Barndiva is stretching its wine wings in new ways to connect our lives with what we continue to love about this community. For information on all upcoming wine related events check out barndiva.com/wine or sign up for Eat the View, our blog.
Apologies to anyone we missed in this Pink Party 'who poured' album, and mea culpa to the two vintners left out of the group shot! No worries identifying who is who if you didn't meet them: A complete list of vintners and wineries is listed below.
A great big shout out to all our chefs - especially Andrew, Thomas, Deron and the gang in the Gallery kitchen. There was killer food and plenty of it (ok you had to be quick when those platters hit the orchard table). To DJ Jeremy and the beautiful Janine, and to Daniel Carlson for the incredible blooms - all from Barndiva Farm, we love you! And a special tip of the chapeau to our awesome wine director Alexis Iaconis who, along with Chef Ryan, Lukka, dear Natalie and Cathryn, pulled off another great annual Spring party. To all the beautiful ladies and gents who dressed in pink, thank you!
Our definition of a diva is someone who strives to 'hit the high notes', who perfects their art, or indeed their craft, not giving up until they’ve nailed it. At Barndiva’s opening 14 years ago our divas baked bread (Lou Preston), made exquisite vinegar (Karen Bates), award winning chocolate (John Scharffenberger and Michael Recchiuti) and handcrafted charcuterie (Paul Bertoli, pre-fra’ mani).
It is hard to imagine, five decades ago, what Merry Edwards faced as a woman trying to gain entrance into the ego driven, wholly male dominated wine industry. Yet against great odds and challenges anyone but Merry would have called setbacks, she has lived a life filled with high notes, balancing soil and weather as if analogous to life and craft.
In the course of her remarkable journey she steered an entire industry away from the dangers of lead capsules, and did pioneering work with clones that unarguably changed the history of California wine making. She won a James Beard award and was inducted into the Culinary Institute’s Vintners Hall of Fame. From early acclaim producing Pinot Noir for Mount Eden and Sauvignon Blancs for Matanzas Creek, hers is a passion for choosing small sites where the right rootstock, clone and farming techniques might produce exceptional grapes. It’s a lifelong curiosity about soil that extends to farming, food and flowers.
Merry didn’t do it alone, of course. And she is the first to acknowledge the importance of having great teachers who have your back. In her career this included Dr. Maynard Amerine, Dr. Harold Olmo, and Joe Swan; she and husband Ken Coopersmith have worked as a team for two decades making exceptional estate wines at Meredith and Coopersmith Vineyards, and most recently from their new home and vineyards in Sebastopol, planted with Merry’s Clone, UCD 37.
The two other woman winemakers in our spring SommTable Spotlight Series, though still early in their careers, share in their own way the diva drive and focus. Both work within strong namesake and family partnerships - Chantal Forthun with Walt and Joan Flowers, Vanessa Wong with Nick and Andy Peay. Both have something else in common - making wine with fruit grown in one of the most thrilling but risky regions of the world - the "Extreme Sonoma Coast."
When Walt and Joan Flowers purchased 321 acres of ridge top land only 2 miles from the Pacific in 1991 and planted grapes, they were the definition of outliers. Their belief was that the dramatic variables in weather in this rugged coastline, if farmed the right way, could be harnessed to produce uniquely remarkable cool climate varietals. If the idea seemed crazy at the time, they soon put paid to naysayers.
Chantal arrived in 2012, two years into the Flowers' adoption of organic farming practices and native fermentation for 100% of their winemaking. Born and raised in the Central Valley, she had studied botany at Chico State and become an enologist before moving, fortuitously as it turned out, to Bonny Doon in 2008. A mentorship with Randall Grahm impressed upon her the importance of biodynamic farming, winemaking using native yeast, the practice of gravity flow. It was working as an associate winemaker with Randall that Chantal adopted his mantra, which she defines as "a dedication to transparency in an industry filled with smoke and mirrors." In 2011 she returned to the Santa Cruz mountains to make wine for acclaimed Pinot producer Rhys Vineyards, which brought two great loves into her life: the man who would become her husband, and small batch Pinot Noirs made in the Burgundian style.
Chantal produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the two organic, bio-dynamically farmed Flowers estates - Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard and Sea View Ridge Vineyard. Great care is given to every stage of winemaking, starting with hand harvesting grapes in the early morning. Pinot grapes have long cold soaks before wild yeast fermentation, the better to showcase the terroir; they are left in contact with the skins, which brings out resplendent color and flavor. Chardonnay grapes go directly to the press and are allowed to settle before going into French Oak barrels for 100% barrel fermentation. Every step Chantal takes strives to enhance the breezy, foggy and intermittently hot coastal climate.
Vanessa Wong has been working her mountain top vineyards since 2001, five years after the grapes were planted by brothers Andy and Nick Peay, who had scraped together the money and purchased and planted these remote vineyards in 1996. A Davis alum, Vanessa worked in California at Peter Michael Winery and Hirsch Vineyard, spending crucial years in France at Château Lafite-Rothschild in Pauillac, Domaine Jean Gros in Vosne-romanée, with course studies at l’Institut d’Œnologie in Bordeaux. One of those people who know what they want to do from an early age - Vanessa has worked with wine and food since she was 14 - the blogs she writes from her aerie above the Pacific are full of wine musings and great meals with this incredibly close winemaking family (Vanessa is married to Nick Peay, who manages the vineyards, while brother Andy is Peay's conduit to the world.)
Vanessa's practices are minimally manipulative following the belief that when great care is given to soil health and drainage, mindful cultivation that results in low yields will produce the rich, concentrated flavors she is after. Working with ancient maritime soils and sea-bed fossils she uses Peay’s slow growing season to produce vintages, especially their Scallop Shelf Pinots, which have remarkable depth, justly lauded as “judicious and elegant.”
Both Chantal and Vanessa, though distinctly different winemakers, capitalize on the cool weather of their unique locations for a slower ripening season, which allows for delicate aromatics in the skin. Both young women, dedicated to sustainable farming practices, craft earth-driven wines of elegance and complexity.
But more to the heart of what motivates our wonderful Spring Spotlight Series of remarkable women, as Merry Edwards discovered many years ago facing manmade boundaries she longed to cross, when you know what you love and work very hard to become good at it, no borders can stop you from the promised land.
We are honored to have all three of these powerhouse women winemakers join us at The Somm’s Table this Spring and early Summer. Merry Edwards on Friday, March 2; Chantal Forthun on May 25; Vanessa Wong with Nick and Andy Peay on June 15.
Ryan cannot wait to cook for them, and Alexis will join us to host.
The stories continue, the wine will flow.
To the extent the term ‘god is in the details’ can be applied to food, specifically to the food created in both Barndiva kitchens, the prix fixe dinners we served NYE were not exclusive. Incredibly delicious, check. A joy to behold, see for yourself. But on par they followed an arc well established by Ryan Fancher. To cook with layered complexity ‘à la minute’ you need to master split second timing and coordinate multiple stages of a dish. His belief in an uncompromising mastery of prep starts long before a single dish reaches the table. From the moment raw product arrives at our kitchen door, through chopping, slicing, mincing, shredding, carving, poaching, sautéing, frying, rolling, baking, braising, simmering, steaming, whipping, (I could go on, it is seriously insane) a plethora of ingredients must be nurtured to a point of suspension and held at the ready, before the final act begins. In those last moments everything has to come together - perfect temperature, brightness of flavor, presentation - or that satisfactory moment of ‘à la minute’ loses its hot little heart of pleasure.
This is a crazy business when you are dedicated to capturing and extending what I’d call original flavor. But each and every day I've spent documenting (and eating) the food that comes out of our kitchens what I experience is a consistent, ego-less respect for what happens when rigorous labor and great ingredients meet. This is where the true alchemy of ‘fine’ dining begins. Ryan is the inspiration and always at the helm, but he’d be the first to issue deference to teamwork. His ability to teach and uphold standards of perfection is what makes him a great chef.
New Year's Eve we had two menus: they were not in competition, and there was nothing experimental about them - that wasn’t the intent. Below the different streams of energy and design we’ve created in the Barn and the Bistro, which flow from a desire to perfect and deliver nuanced approaches to different styles of dining, our course is to consistently re-create and extend classic flavor profiles we are wired to love. If that seems simple, well, it’s not. You are the judge of any success we enjoy. Looking around both dining rooms on NYE it was clear we ended the year on a high.
As our staff takes up their positions in the kitchens and the dining rooms after a much needed week off, we look forward to welcoming you in 2018 with continued enthusiasm for our mission. Because we understand, like never before, the importance of joyful dining in troubling times.
For many in Sonoma and Mendocino, and around the world, 2017 will not be remembered with much joy, but if you go with the premise that it's important in life to take the good as an antidote to the bad, we were gratified that along with the challenges Barndiva's year has also been filled with exciting new collaborations with people we admire and projects that pique our curiosity (and hopefully yours).
The drive for our positivism as we look toward 2018 comes from the year just past, which saw the arrival of LouLou, Enzo, Lucie, Birdie and last, but certainly not least, Remy Fancher, the third utterly captivating daughter of Bekah and Chef Ryan. Despite the frustrations of making sustainably farmed food viable in a commercial arena, the arrival of these new little members of our community is inspiring. Their future depends upon healthy food, water and air. Everyone has a role to play, especially as consumers. For your continued support of all things Barndiva this past year, we thank you.
the somm's table
Without a doubt the thing that obsessed us the most this year, tailgating the extraordinary food coming out of our kitchens, has been wine. It was our second year earning two glasses from Wine Spectator which we are quite chuffed about, as the list is gorgeous and getting better all the time. But we've long believed that the conversations we could be having around the crop that grows as far as the eye can see in every direction should be about more than points, price, and an often silly nomenclature that keen winedrinkers view with more skepticism than delight. The winemakers we've had the pleasure of befriending over the last decade are super smart and passionate. They are scientists and weathermen, farmers and artists. To dumb down the complexity of what they create from soil to bottle isn't just an insult, it's a lost opportunity. A chance to connect to the landscape which surrounds us, to learn a language that is scent, taste and memory driven. And crucially, to accumulate knowledge about what you personally enjoy most when you lift a glass of wine and sink into its essence.
Our wine director Alexis Iaconis is a remarkable young woman. In addition to guiding our growing wine programs, she moonlights at Meadowood (though I'm sure they think it's the other way around), is studying to take her Master Sommelier exam, and is a partner to husband Matt's exciting brick & mortar label. All of that is driven and no doubt sustained by being a great mom. Yet she still managed to find time to help us start The Somm's Table this year. Together we hosted group wine fêtes (all sold out, now annual events) and singular winemaker spotlight dinners. We published wine set notes every month and inaugurated 'Trace' - an interactive scent based wine identification system, er, art piece. The Somm's Table approach to wine is agricultural, sense & scent driven and idiosyncratic - i.e. very Barndiva. Along with a changing wine literacy window and its 'location' in Studio Barndiva, which still displays and sells the work of local artists, the art aspect is not a misnomer.
For all the work that went into The Somm's Table, the biggest wine news was delivered by our stealthiest player, Lukka Feldman. Under his direction we now have six Barndiva label wines that will be poured in both restaurants in the new year and shortly thereafter sold on a new website, Shopbarndiva. Stay tuned.
We'd like to use this last post of the year to give heartfelt thanks to all who helped us launch The Somm's Table this year. To Small Vines, Alysian, Leo Steen, DuMol, brick & mortar, Littorai, Black Kite, Radio Coteau and especially to Roederer and Domaine Anderson, who supported our fire relief efforts by turning their spotlight dinner into a fundraiser. Along with the money we raised tableside, by New Year's Eve we will have donated over $20,000 to RCU and Undocufund. Thank you to winemakers Dan Fitzgerald, Eric Sussman and Kai Kliegl for helping us expand the Barndiva label.
Finally, we'd be remiss to end the year without thanking our incredible FOH staff, starting with Cathryn, our restaurant manager, who keeps us all marching in the right direction and Paula, Ryan B, Isabel, and Lalo for keeping food, cocktail and wine service humming. Without them we could not concentrate on new projects like The Somm's Table. To Barndiva's Farm Manager Daniel Carlson and sculptor Jordy Morgan for help with Trace. To Bob Signs for help designing our Center Street Somm's Table windows. To Campbell Hay for our incredibly elegant wine labels. Last, but never least, my assistant K2, without whom I could not keep the ideas, images and words flowing in the right direction.
We have our doubts about our voice on social media platforms, namely how to be heard and still be true to our mission without adding to the cacophony of self aggrandizement which seems to be swallowing the culture whole. But in the new year we hope to make more videos @barndivahealdsburg, so stay in touch. We love to hear from you.
Happy New Year!
Jil, Geoffrey, Ryan and Lukka.
*Barndiva and The Gallery Bar + bistro will be on hiatus from January 1-7. We look forward to cooking for you and filling your glass when we re-open (invigorated!) on Wednesday, January 10.
Top Ten lists tend to wax toward the superlatives, but there is a fine but distinct line between 'best' and 'favorite,' especially when it comes to food. We try to make every dish we serve as beautiful, seasonal and delicious as we can, but every year there are a few that linger for us as truly memorable, and often it's for reasons even we can’t always define. They aren't our most complex creations, and it isn’t necessarily their wow factor, though we love delivering that. A dish that is classic Barndiva is a nuanced dance across the plate. It's fueled by eat the view ingredients, their essence unobscured, and masterful technique. Every step that lands on the plate needs to connect, and resonate.
Food is political, yes. But like the political, it starts out as personal, a subterranean urge to recreate (on our part) and rediscover (on yours) a taste or smell which once upon a time gave immense pleasure.
Here then, is a very personal shortlist of dishes we loved sourcing, fabricating and serving to you this past year.
In 1st Place The Ratatouille Board was hands down the dish that just made us grin from ear to ear every day it appeared on the menu. Tommy's 'wheel,' the tempura squash blossoms, cherry toms, pearls of fresh green peas, baby vegetables grown by Daniel at the farm, the flowers from the beds here at the Barn. Every vegetable on the plate sang of summer.
#2 Heirloom Tomato Soup. Truth be told, Ryan's favorite. Just, well, because.
#3 Kale Cesar is a favorite of the Barndiva lunch crowd, with a mast of white anchovy and pale wilted onions, grated pecorino and enough minuscule chives to set sail. Every time we think we're over kale, it pulls us back in.
#4. Chestnut Flour Frangipane Apple Tart, the best use ever of chestnuts from our very old orchards on the ridge. Served with the last of the summer apples (not a bumper year, which only made us appreciate our dry farmed beauties all the more).
#5 Tuna Niçoise (sort of). We don't use the word deconstructed around here anymore, but damn if this dish wasn't a Proustian homage to a South of France summer. Why it tasted so good: runny egg, check, flash grilled fresh tuna, check, charred cherry toms, check. There were perfect haricot vert, and the dressing was a bright tapenade in which olives were only part of the charm. Split second timing and consistency are hallmarks of Ryan's cooking. As for freshness, all this dish didn't do was swim.
#6 Osso Bucco, another bistro star. With roasted root vegetables, and a three day, marrow rich reduction, the definition of cyrenaicism. Look it up.
#7. Barndiva Farm Figs, lightly poached, then set to rest in a flaky Custard Tart. The finished dessert came with a scoop of balsamic sherbet and dried fig chips. For a brief two weeks in August our heirloom figs flood the kitchen. We serve them fresh, we make compote for charcuterie and cheese platters, we work them into savory dishes. And our wonderful pastry chef Scott Noll bakes. Boy, does he bake.
#8: Wild Salmon. Strawberries, kumquats, red and gold beets. Shaved burgundy carrots. Pansies and nasturtiums and pea shoots from the gardens. A plate of beauty and nourishment that just made you glad to be alive.
#9: Short Rib Wellington, which we also offered as a vegetarian entree. At one point in the season I counted 10 different vegetables, all cooked à la minute or lightly pickled.
#10: Scotty's play on S'mores for the Barn dinner menu, mid summer: triple layer devil's food cake w/ graham ganache, honey ice cream, campfire 'mallows.'
Team Barndiva! They worked (and rode) together through the year like champs. And this was some year for us: bad (the fires of October) and very good (the births of Remy & LouLou and the launch of Somm's Table). Barndiva thanks each and every member of our incredible kitchen brigade for putting heartfelt effort into a year unlike any other. For all the trials and tribulations here in Sonoma County, and across the country, and around the world, we continue to gather over food and drink and that, dear friend, is a good thing. Onward!
Natural and human-made catastrophes have made us all a bit slaphappy this year, but as our rooms of drinkers and diners fill up again we are seeing a bracing new awareness of what constitutes joy. It feels good to sit in well lighted rooms with other people, listening to music and the sound of our voices raised in story, with cures for what ails us - though they may run the St. Vincent gamut from voodoo to zen. When beautiful plates of food arrive, an easy gratitude descends. Whatever is coming next we would all do well to try and find common ground, to face the future together. To be well fed and lubricated is not amiss, but the season offers many opportunities to give something of ourselves as well.
THE STUDIO BARNDIVA OPEN HOUSE kicks off our season. One of our town's best traditions is to 'make the rounds' as dusk descends just after Healdsburg's traditional Tree Lighting Ceremony in the Plaza. This year Chef Wycoff will be sizzling up hundreds of our infamous quail egg BLT's, Isabel will keep the crystal punch bowl topped up with a spirited "Why Bears Do It," and the consummate musicians that comprise the John Youngblood Quartet will glide through a remarkable mix of blues, bluegrass and New Orleans jazz. Swing by. Help us start the season off right.
Tickets are now on sale for the fire relief and recovery fundraiser RISE UP SONOMA, an incredible collaboration of chefs and restaurants, winemakers and purveyors from across the North Bay. Six charities vital to recovery will benefit. Barndiva is proud to be participating.
This is a chance to spend time with an extraordinary winemaker, innovative and caring land and vineyard manager, video producer and supporter of the arts. In an era of 'look at me vintners', Eric Sussman is the real deal. The Somm's Table is thrilled to have him here for the last of our inaugural vintner spotlight dinner of the year. Ryan is a big fan and has created an extraordinary menu for the wines Eric will bring. Book Online or call 707 431 7404
DECEMBER 24: We are open.
DECEMBER 25: Happily closed for Christmas Day.
Ryan has not finalized our New Year's Menu yet, but tantalizing details are starting to emerge: in the Barn we are hearing it will be elegant and very classic, six courses, prix fixe. Think house smoked salmon and caviar bellinis, cold poached lobster salad with wild greens, velvet cauliflower soup, roasted quail, prime sirloin with black truffle mac & cheese. Scotty has promised dark chocolate butter pecan bonbons. Over in the Gallery Chefs Fancher and Wycoff are conspiring to craft something more casual, but no less delicious, with interactive pieces as befits NYE. We will publish both full menus, with two Alexis Iaconis wine pairings, next week. A very special guest DJ will join us around midnight. Let's dance!
Throughout the holidays we invite you to explore our new, 70+ champagne list, lovingly compiled by Alexis and Cathryn, with a gleeful assist by Lukka. We trust there is something here for just about every palate and budget.
One bottle you will not find is handcrafted from 1000 vines grown on a south facing hillside in the Axe Valley, in West Sommerset, England. We met Rob Corbett, the winemaker & dairyman of Castlewood Vineyard and Farm for one windy, sun splashed afternoon last May. That's him in the image at the top of this page. Works hard and plays hard, which is our mantra this Holiday Season. Rob has a prominent place in our next blog, "Barndiva Approves of this Message," wherein we will endeavor to tip our hats to some of the most extraordinary people we've met during the year that is ending - fellow travelers in the food and wine, farming and floral worlds who bolstered us up in a year we sorely needed it. Stay tuned.
We feel damn lucky the fires didn't reach Healdsburg but hearing the words ‘we were blessed’ the other day, though well intended, was disconcerting. There is no blessing, that I can see now, for Sonoma County, where everything good is interconnected. The food and wine we produce, and the communities and economic networks that form around them fuel our lives and our projects. Many friendships have grown out of these connections, which also extend to Mendocino and Napa Counties.
Another word I am prickly upon hearing is 'entitled', which before the fires you would still hear all the time in conjunction with the words 'lifestyle' and 'wine country'. When you work at our end of hospitality where what is grown outside our windows takes long careful hours to prepare, cook and present to the world, you may feel grateful, but never entitled. The thing about exquisite plates of food is that they disappear in minutes, and you need to start gathering and making them again. It's humbling, which it turns out is a good thing.
The generosity we’ve watched spread across the county since October 9th may not be endemic to human nature, much as we’d like to hope, but it clearly resides at the heart of our North Bay culture. If the fire is ever to be remembered someday as having an upside, this will be it. We have been reminded, in these times of great distrust, that we are indeed a generous community, one with shared goals we want to protect, others we are proud to nurture.
Every little bit will help in the months ahead. We are pleased to contribute over $10,000 from our Somm's Table fundraiser this weekend, but it's just the beginning. We hope to work next with Wells Guthrie (of Copain) and the ever stronger worker-focused network of CorizonHealdsburg. In early December we will join other chefs, restaurants, and wineries for a Rise Up Sonoma group fundraiser. Stay tuned.
But back to Saturday Night. It was a joy to be able to welcome Arnaud Weyrich of Roederer Estate and Darrin Low of Domaine Anderson after weeks of missed calls and frenetic half conversations as we expanded what had been scheduled as an intimate Somm's Table spotlight series dinner into a larger North Bay Fire Relief Fundraiser. It was harvest - and we were all still reeling from the fires - but both wineries were on board, donating all the sparkling and wine. The menu subtly referenced Roederer and Domaine wines - rehydrating dried fruits for the marmalade, poaching the quince - in classic Fancher style. For a complete list of purveyors who donated 100% to the dinner, please see below. The Gallery Bar kitchen team, guided by sous chef Andrew Wycoff, has been incredible these past few weeks, keeping the doors open while helping Chef coordinate feeding those in need who were temporarily re-located to Healdsburg from their lost homes and schools. The extraordinary spirit of our staff is not a surprise, but we want to say grace.
Here is the Roederer/Domaine menu. We resume the spotlight series December 8, with Eric Sussman of Radio Coteau. Join Us!
All of us at Barndiva wish to thank:
Adrian Hoffman at 4 Star Seafood
Kim Huynh at Hobbs Applewood Smoked Meats
Sheila Angerer at Angerer Farms
Issac Cermak at Red Bird Bakery
Bonnie Z at Dragonfly Floral
Encore Event Rentals
And a special shout out to Katrina at Abstract Loren for the powerful artwork (weheartsonomacounty, top image) she has donated to the City of Healdsburg,
...and to everyone who supports #sonomastrong.
Dia de los Muertos, Plaza de Healdsburg
It was a wonderful day on Sunday as we celebrated the living by honoring the dead. Live music, Baile Folklorico, pozole, traditional alters. Drums and dress up, kids and dogs.
Many Healdsburg restaurants and businesses participated in the Dia de los Muertos celebrations this year. All proceeds from food and drink went in support of The Healdsburg/Windsor Fire Departments/Cal Fire First Responders and CorizonHealdsburg. Corizon is a vital bilingual community support organization which Ari and Dawnelise Rosen, of Campo Fina, were instrumental in starting through their non-profit, Scopa Has A Dream, two years ago. To find out how you can get involved contact Leticia@corazonhealdsburg.org.
Seeing the sun rise in a clear sky over Healdsburg Wednesday morning, two feelings prevailed. The first was immense relief that we were safe. The second was sorrow, knowing what so many of our friends - neighbors and patrons - must be going through.
Over a decade ago we lost all our family possessions when our beloved farmhouse on the Greenwood Ridge in Philo burnt to the ground. We were never in physical danger and we had a place to shelter, an empty flat with a few beds on the second floor of a barn on Center Street we were in the final stages of building. We were devastated, but not in the way so many across Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa Counties are now, some having lost whole communities, and in the most tragic circumstances, family members.
We never intended to open a restaurant in the barn when we lost our home on the ridge. The journey toward what our life has become today was born from the impulse to just keep moving. 'Barndiva' came at a moment in our lives when all we really wanted to do was dive headlong under a bed of grief. But we threw ourselves into creating a life and a business in Healdsburg which slowly came into shape. It didn’t come swiftly; there was a period of stunned disbelief, then a very dark time. It was the indelible beauty of this landscape and the kindness of strangers who seemed open to all our crazy ideas that slowly dragged us back into the light. We could never replace what we lost, but the people and community Barndiva brought into our lives saved us.
From the beginning, because it was the local community which welcomed and bolstered us, it was the local community we were primarily focused on serving. To be sure, we have embraced and been sustained by tourism - but the focus has never been about fostering a line between neighbor and stranger. A truly viable notion of sustainability is one which supports local farms and purveyors, invests heavily in a local work force that prepares and serves food and drink to our tables. But it offers the same dining experience to anyone who passes through our doors. So many of the calls of concern we received the past week have been from couples who were married on our property who hold Healdsburg and Sonoma County close to their hearts. Its health is important to them too. Sonoma County doesn’t just rely upon hospitality as an industry, it thrives because being hospitable is character, and (in the best instances) passion driven.
We have a long road ahead toward recovery of our emotional and economic equilibrium. Even as we welcome the world back, it's clear the immediate needs of this community are paramount - it will require all of us, using our best skills, to bring back what so many have lost. So we don’t lose them.
We are a small family business that has, as its first responsibility, keeping our incredibly dedicated work force employed. We will be here, with all the love and talent Ryan Fancher puts into our food, cooking our hearts out. We look forward to welcoming you soon.
We want to extend heartfelt and awe-struck gratitude to the many brave first responders who put their lives on the line in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino. A special shout out to Supervisor James Gore and State Senator Mike McGuire for their immediate and laser focused help when and where it was needed most. To all our elected representatives across the North Bay who are stepping up, Thank You.
Eat, Drink, Gather!
It was one of those days you want to hold on to forever - the smell of fresh soil, laughter, hammers ringing on steel. Ole, our builder of many years, stood off to one side with a shadow of a smile (the Milt Jackson version) that expressed how damn good it felt to see a greenhouse rising with strong, much younger backs carrying the weight, bringing with them a world of new ideas. And there was this: with all the anger and disillusionment free floating around right now, there is nothing so optimistic as tilling soil for seeds where food may grow that fills more than our bellies.
We are doubling down on the ridge this year, intent on bringing more to our dining tables in the Barn and the Bistro than ever before. At the heart of all this new activity is Daniel, who has spent the winter pouring over seed catalogues, networking with neighbors and experts (usually one and the same). He has searched out the best techniques to feed the soil, sourced heirloom varieties of new fruit trees that may flourish in our remote dry farmed location, double dug beds and dealt with our sudden infestation of voles. (The gentlest of souls, Dan turns into a 'Taboo' Tom Hardy when it comes to voles.) We now have forty new plum and peach trees. Rows of berry vines. Spinach, arugula, baby radish, beets, and turnips, sweet peas, zinnias, snapdragons, scabiosa and cosmos all in the ground. Once the greenhouse is finished we will endeavor to grow a signature mesclun salad that Chef has longed for - an enticing blend of crisp, herbal, floral, with bright notes of hot and sweet. It will not be easy to produce enough to supply both kitchens that even now must serve hundreds of diners a day. There has hardly been any slow down in Healdsburg this winter - despite the torrential rain storms - a good thing- but an early indication it will be another wild west summer.
The build has been stop and start because of the storms, but we need more rain still. The tops of the redwoods are green again, the rivers, creeks, streams and ponds across Sonoma and Mendocino overflowing. I’d say our cup runneth over in Anderson Valley - verdant and lush, every hillside speckled with grazing animals - but ever mindful that most of the world is stepping gingerly through these perilous times, informed humility is what we are all feeling. That, and incredibly lucky.
A heartfelt shout-out to Daniel, and to Chris, Mitchell, Jonathan, Antonio, Ole and Vidal, and of course Geoff and Lukka. Big love to Alexis, Olga and Alisa, who went shovel for shovel with the guys, and then some, before heading back to their lives set-designing, looming, and growing the best flowers on the East Coast. We were a gender, age and ethnically diverse group raising our greenhouse, and the better for it. Pass it on.
It has always bummed me out that we're forced into having such a fixed idea of how to celebrate Valentine's Day. Yes, yes, it's for lovers - and we plan to wine and dine lovers of all ages with a superb menu on February 14th - but why waste an opportunity to spread the wealth a little? As millions are gathering today to peacefully try and find common ground based on fairness, it's a good time to remember that to celebrate love in all the many forms it comes to us... is to honor life.
Because there are so many kinds of love, other than romantic, that awe, confound, excite, and humanize us. That keep us going. The picture above of Lukka and his just born niece, Loulou, is that rare thing, love at first sight. I believe in love at first sight - my daughter Isabel was born on a Valentine's Day, fathered by a man I fell instantly in love with - a love that's still going strong 30 years on. It happens. But spontaneous love of any duration is the rarity. Love can come in all shapes and sizes. Be for a person or a calling, someone or something we truly believe in. It takes patience, and respect, to keep it going. It's mark is indelible; the greatest self fulfilling prophecy we have.
Here are five enduring reasons that make life worth living around here, all year, not just on Feb. 14. Write a list of your own, then get out there, and grow it.
#1 Loving Fathers (Uncles and Grandads!)
#2 Farmers who give a damn
#3 Chefs who give a damn
#4 Animal Love
#5 The delicious art of eating the view
All images Jil Hales, with the exception of Big Dream Ranch produce, courtesy Kristee Rosendahl. Graphic design by Kirsten Petrie.
Throwing Barndiva dinner parties on New Year's Eve for the past 13 years has meant I never have to worry about a reservation - or for that matter a date - on the ultimate night of the year. But like pretty much everyone else I still find myself devising New Year resolutions, as if winning strategies might help make sense of the year as history moves on.
For 2017 it’s abundantly clear the resolution that tops the list - something we all need to do more of this coming year - is to Listen. As carefully, and thoughtfully, as we can. Where Empathy leads, follow. It’s going to be a tremendously hard year for the human race as we continue to stumble and bumble our way towards an uncertain future. And considering the veritable brain trust of indelibly talented people we lost this year, it would also be wise to add Finding Ways to Celebrate and Support the Arts.
I only had the luck of meeting two of the powerhouse creative people who died in 2016, (Zaha Hadid: formidable; George Martin: the definition of graceful erudition), but I’ve been struck how the passing of loadstar figures like David Bowie and Leonard Cohen has felt so personal. The way singular creative voices touch our lives is part of what draws us together; grieving public figures is one of the few things we all still, thankfully, have in common. Listening to Desperado after Glenn Frey died the line “come down from your fences, open the gate,” jumped out at me. One of the greatest things about growing up in the 60’s - which we are so in need of now - was belief in the idea that we might find a national anthem not based upon religion, or race. Or money.
The poignancy of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher dying within a day of one another, while tragic, was an apt ending to this upside down year. Singing in the Rain was an anthem for American possibility, a paean to the happiness my parent's generation felt for this country. Finding her true voice in the depths of a painful recovery, Carrie did more than tell her own story. She and her mother were in fact two sides of the same coin. Beyond her illness, or because of it, she bravely spoke to the various systems that bind and obscure us as women.
In a year when politics let us all down (and this goes for everyone, even if you think your side won) giving thanks to the distinct creative voices that pose answers to difficult questions, offering us solace as we soldier on, is more important than ever before. At Barndiva we are all about enabling healthful food systems, but even in this regard enlightenment comes from many directions: I’ve learned what not to do as a restaurateur from AA Gill, how not to lose the passion of appetite from Jim Harrison. When I frame a shot or design a new space, somewhere in my memory bank sits the cool images of Raoul Coutard, the filigreed humanity of Vilmos Zsigmond. That these visionaries - cue your own Quixote in here - are gone now does not erase their contribution to our lives. But in giving thanks for the gifts they left us, we need to do more than tip our hats and raise our glass. Prince was a brave artist, and if not with the same historic reach as Ali, of a similar mindset, that speaking truth to power comes at a cost you must be willing to make. For our part, we must be willing to listen.
We drag the past with us, but it should not be as weight so much as a ballast. And, if we’re listening carefully, the mast to hold tight our sails. Aaron Taylor’s “I Ain’t Worried,” reminds us of another brave voice from past who spoke hard truth, with honesty and hope. We send it out to you, glass half full, along with our heartfelt thanks for your support this past year, with wishes for a New Year in which you eat and drink well, and make exciting, meaningful, joyful choices.