Dish of the Week
Mother's Day Brunch
Mother’s Day for me has always been about honoring up…it’s nice to hear the great things your kids feel compelled to say about you, but at the end of the day all you really want is your own mom to hug. Mine is not with us anymore, so Mother's Day is bittersweet, but in the most important ways ~ how I choose to conduct my life every day ~ in spirit she’s still very much here. Mother's Day is a great time to celebrate the most important lesson she taught me ~ life is short. Love with an open heart. What you get in return, even after those you cherished are physically gone, is indelible.
As there wasn't a free table until after 2 on Sunday, by the time we finally did sit down brunch service was almost over and the calm before the dinner storm had settled over the lounge. The room was flooded with sunlight, tall windows filled with trees shaking their green tresses in a blustery wind. Music was jazzy, upbeat and cool, champagne cocktails arrived swiftly, flowers from Dragonfly ~ which I’d gotten up early to arrange ~ graced every table. As my absent and missed daughter might say, Barndiva was chill.
In addition to stalwarts like Eggs Benny and Chef Ryan’s infamous duck hash, brunch has started to encompass an English approach to Sundays, especially if you choose the three course prix fixe menu that always includes a roasted joint and loads of veg. Mother's Day is a great tradition but it's only once a year, while Sunday Lunch at Barndiva can now be savored every week. Which is what Geoffrey, Lukka and I decided to do.
I started with a lovely carrot soup, carrots from Early Bird’s Place, which had been braised in organic carrot juice. The goal with such a simple soup is that it arrives at the table tasting of pure carrot. Whipped crème fraîche was flavored with Mix garden chervil, Preston OO, and Barndiva Garden chive blossoms ~ which gave a nice bite that played against the sweetness of the carrots. A swirl of balsamic and a spear of tempura asparagus finished the bowl.
Lukka and Geoff ordered the halibut, a beautiful dish chef had finished with a single perfect artichoke ravioli and some of the tiniest radishes I’ve ever seen. Seeing it arrive, I had a moment of indecision that I’d chosen the wrong entrée, but once Tommy had carved the lamb (tableside) and spooned fresh peas and baby purple and yellow potatoes all around, I was a very happy camper indeed.
The leg of lamb had been trussed and whole roasted at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, basted during the cooking process with butter, garlic, shallot and tarragon. A ladle of Paloise finished the dish. Paloise takes the best thing about a good Jus, clarity and a perfect balance of herb to salt, and the best thing about gravy, heft, something to cling to the meat, and marries them together. Ryan’s is perfect. He makes it by first cooking down a lamb stock for six hours ~ roasted lamb bones, mirepoix, tomato, aromatics like thyme, black pepper and garlic. This stock is then poured over a second round of roasting bones in a large saucepot, with more aromatics. The final sauce is strained through a chinoise and reduced to the desired consistency, finished with a knob of butter.
Dessert celebrated the return of Rhubarb ~ more about this vegetable that usually masquerades as a fruit, in next week’s blog. Also in next week's blog, a proper introduction to our remarkable new pastry chef who has been working with us for a few months now. We are moving into a new phase with our dessert program that is generating a lot of excitement in the kitchen and the dining room, and this dessert was no exception. The thinly layered (as if pressed) Frangipane Tart with almond streusel crumble and crème fraîche ice cream had lightly poached slices of rhubarb on the side that nailed what is, to my mind, rhubarb's truly unusual taste profile. My gripe with rhubarb ~ which I have a love hate relationship with ~ is that it’s too often served soft, mushy and stringy. And overly sweet. The crunch of these batons was a revelation, bittersweet and delightful. Along with a visually stunning, almost balletic presentation of a frozen Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, the desserts on Sunday were a fitting end to a lovely afternoon with two of my favorite people in the world.
Wedding of the Week
The kick off to wedding season for us happily starred a couple we’ve fallen in love with during the past year, as Lukka worked with them putting all the pieces for the big day and night together ~ Taya and Sean, aka Schmoops and Poops. Every step of this couple’s planning was filled with inspired choices and the least fretting we’ve seen in a long time. They 'got' what too many other couples sadly forget in the hectic run up, weddings are supposed to be serious and joyous, yes, but the planning should be fun! Aside from the glorious weather, it wasn’t chance that everything came together for them: the great menu they had chosen (more couples should opt for lamb as an entrée), the casual elegance of the table decor, and the surprises that just kept coming were all down to their style and confidence as a couple. They just take such joy in each other it was infectious.
True to form they each had a classy surprise for the other that in both cases turned out to be musical. Lukka and Taya had managed to smuggle the Oakland Interface Gospel Choir into Healdsburg without anyone spilling the beans to Sean. He was stunned when they marched out just after the vows to sing heartfelt praise that blessed the day and everyone in attendance. Then the meal kicked off in the gallery with drinks and appetizers and the choir doing a full set. During dinner in the Studio Gardens Sean got his own back when his surprise guest arrived ~ a French accordion player who took over where the choir left off. This was all music to make you smile. I trundled off early, just as guests were dividing into two groups: some dancing in the gallery to a DJ while others lingered in the garden as Edith Piaf’s spirit hovered beneath the trees. Lukka tells me at the end of the evening the accordion serenaded the couple through town as they and a few dozen happy friends made their way across the plaza to continue the party back at the cottages. Schnoops and Poops rocked it.
All text and photos, Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted)