Dish of the Week:
Frog Hollow Peach Frangipane Tart
Once upon a time the valleys surrounding Healdsburg were filled with commercial stone fruit farms ~ dozens and upon dozens of plum, peach and apricot varieties which flourished in the temperate climate and rich soils of all three valleys. Sadly, we now have only one lone peach farm left in Dry Creek Valley, a result of rising land prices and the ongoing difficulties of making a living farming any fruit that cannot be made into wine. Thankfully some parts of Northern California are still known for superlative fruits and nuts; for our dessert this week we ventured down to the San Joaquin River delta where our featured farm ~ the beautiful Frog Hollow Farm ~ is located. One of the first stone fruit farms in the country to move to large scale organic farming methods twenty one years ago, besides supplying restaurants like Barndiva and Chez Panisse, Frog Hollow thrives by selling its fruit at farmer's markets, online, and servicing a thriving 400 strong CSA. With fruit like this, only picked when it is hanging fully ripe on the tree, imagination and talent ~ rather than a whole lot of sugar~ is all you need to create memorable desserts.
Closer to home the man responsible for Dish of the Week is our wonderful new pastry chef Octavio Alcantar, who started his professional career ~ as many great chefs have ~ at The French Laundry as a dishwasher way back when the restaurant first opened. He quickly graduated to the pastry station and worked there learning his craft for 11 years, eventually becoming an integral part of the opening team at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Over the years he has had the opportunity to learn from a number of world class pastry chefs including Stephen Durfee and Sebastian Rouxel.
Ryan and Octavio, who met when their stations faced each other at TFL, remained friends always hoping to connect again professionally. We were truly pleased when he joined our staff earlier this summer as his consummate baking and chocolate skills have lead to a remarkable following in just a few short months. In addition to inspiring our dessert menu and baking all of Barndiva's wedding cakes, Octavio brings a deft hand to ice cream and sorbets ~ it would seem there is nothing this guy can't do.
For this Frangipane Peach Tart ~ the natural almond flavor of Frangipane is a beautiful partner for fruit with aromatic floral notes ~ Octavio macerated Frog Hollow peach halves in vanilla bean infused white wine overnight, leaving the skins on to impart a beautiful color to the liquid which was then reduced for the peach syrup that completed the final dessert.
Before baking, the macerated peaches were slipped into the light frangipane batter which had been poured into a shallow baking pan just deep enough to leave all but the surface ~ which softly crisps in baking ~ submerged, resulting in an exceptionally moist cake filled with succulent, almond infused peaches.
Octavio paired his Peach Frangipane Tart with a Vanilla Bean Lemon Thyme ice cream, a seemingly unusual combination which played off the natural sweetness of the peaches bringing the slightest hints of citrus and green aromatics to this delightful summer dessert which was elegant, timeless... and delicious.
In the Gallery:
When Karma Palmo walked into Studio Barndiva unannounced two years ago this slight, extremely shy Tibetan woman was dragging a rather over-sized suitcase behind her full of exquisite naturally dyed rugs, tightly woven table runners and intricately crocheted scarves made by the women in her village which she explained was little more than a refugee camp in Nepal still under Chinese rule after a half a century. To hear her describe it, each day they trekked outside the gates of the compound to harvest the only raw materials available to them to practice their craft, which thankfully grew wild (and free).
One of the joys of owning this gallery for the past four years has been to support talented artisans whose work is often made from found, as opposed to bought, materials. But while we have seen a lot of hemp and stinging nettle products over the years, admired for their sustainability and sought after because they are so durable, as raw materials they are actually not easy to work with. The pieces from Karma's fledgling company ~ Tibetan Organic Textiles ~ are elegantly designed and constructed pieces, expertly hand made, that will only get softer and more beautiful with age.
Karma now lives in the Bay Area with her father, Ngodup Tsering, who finally received his green card after decades of waiting and helps her run Tibetan Organic Textiles as she goes to school and they both acclimate to life in America.
Moving story, beautiful useful objects made by people we are proud to support.
Nettle place-mat/runner (shown below) $18 per 20" section Hand crocheted scarves $130 Rugs priced per piece.
All text Jil Hales. All photos, Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski, (unless otherwise noted)