One hears the term “Home for the Holidays” so often in the run up to Christmas it starts to feel positively anxiety inducing. Of course Home is the best place to be on Christmas Day (duh), but out of love, not obligation. And it’s not the only place to be. Sometimes it feels like everything is conspiring to turn us into holiday machines, instead of acknowledging and building on the obvious: people just long for a connection to other people of good will this time of year. Not so long ago even war stopped for Xmas. Now we’re encouraged to start rushing towards it before we've even given Thanksgiving its due. 'Tis a season to be joyful, and thankful, folks. In equal measure if we can manage it.
It takes a lot of creative minds - and hands - to decorate two public spaces for the holidays in ways that will continue to surprise and delight our patrons, whether they come bundled with their extended families, or in ones or twos, seeking the warmth and succor of a bar stool or a banquette, a cocktail or a great meal. Dawid, ever the track star, hurdles over most creative challenges, but we've both loved working with the HEW team this year. With Daniel in Paris with his family over Thanksgiving, Alexis drove up from LA to help put the finishing touches in the Studio, even as workmen crashed and bashed through the final stages of the Gallery Bar, which we hope will be fully operational by New Year's. What’s it going to be? Come in and find out!
Consensus around town is that as Healdsburg rushes to embrace its future as a year round tourist destination, those who live and work here need places to unwind and relax, and share news of the day. The gallery is often busy with private events, but with a new kitchen and now a wonderful new bar, we're going to do whatever it takes in 2015 to open it regularly to the community, and to stay open late.
But I digress - back to Christmas. I gathered an assortment of found treasures to hang this year - heavy Indian silver balls, red dogwood, recycled tin angels from Alabama (he’s a king, she's a ballerina). Geoff and I cut long boughs of conifer and brought them down from the Farm for that fresh green smell of forest that should always be a part of Christmas. The night before Alexis arrived I had a strange dream that we were standing in the gallery filled with poinsettia plants. I know, beloved at Christmas, but with their dull red leaves, definitely not a personal favorite. I remember shouting “but I hate poinsettias!” then I woke up. We laughed about it on the way to Safeway where I’d heard a local flower wholesaler has been selling roses. It was early in the morning, the Healdsburg time I love best. Inside the flower shop blooms were just arriving, and low and behold there were eight poinsettia plants at my feet, unlike any I'd ever seen before. They were ivory, with just a light sprinkling of crimson across the leaves. We bought them all and Dawid hung them upside down from the highest beams, burlap tightly wrapped to keep the dirt, and the whole plant, from plopping on the heads of customers.
While we were hard at work in the gallery, over in the kitchen Octavio was putting the finishing touches on a giant Croquembouche, which thanks to his considerable talent is fast becoming a Barndiva Christmas tradition. Like culinary paparazzi, Dawid and I circled him with cameras as he carefully made his way through the gardens to the gallery. There was something wonderfully incongruous in seeing this towering sculpture of choux pastry balls and spun sugar, first created by Marie-Antonin Carême for Talleyrand, moving through our gardens in Healdsburg. The mulberry trees have begun to turn from green to brilliant canary yellow, and thanks to the recent rain everything else is green green green. A shaft of sunlight reflected off the medallions of sugar as Octavio maneuvered down a series of steps and through the narrow Tunisian gate. Producing things that delight the eye and excite the appetite is what the holiday season is all about for us. This was one of those moments.
The croquembouche is gone, but there is a lot to see in the gallery right now, not least some enchanting statues of French Saints that once played their role in traditional market nativity scenes, circa 1950. Their edges are chipped a bit, colors faded, but they speak to an era when the holidays still revolved around something spiritual, and communal. I rarely find pieces like these anymore but I'm so happy to offer them in the gallery when I do. Mention to Dawid or Fatima that you read the blog and we’ll see if we can’t find a sparkling libation behind the new bar to help keep your holiday spirits from flagging. Be they ever so humble or ever so small, there is great joy to be found in this holiday season. Enjoy.
Here’s the New Year's Eve menu hot off the press - with a beautiful wine pairing for each dish from the talented Alexis Laconis. Should you wish to forgo the pairing, we will have exciting Champagnes poured from the Magnum and a by-the-glass selection, as well as special cocktails created for the night. After dining we'll be opening the new gallery bar for an after party with great music. Book your table (or tables) in the next week or two if you’d like to ring in the New Year with us. We’re also excited to be able to welcome larger parties this year. Shaking it up this New Year's Eve, for smooth sailing into 2015! Join us!