In a week that saw unseasonably glorious spring weather we spent much of our time inside finalizing design, drinks, music, films, and a sweet little bar menu in anticipation of opening The Gallery Bar in Studio Barndiva this week - finally!
We did make time for walking the length of West Dry Creek (above), biking to Cloverdale, trenching and pruning at the farm, and surviving the first of two busy Barrel Tasting weeks. We even ended the week eating succulents (yes, succulents, see below), but hats off to Chef, who in the middle of all this delicious, madly beautiful din also managed to preview a brilliant dish that takes a beloved old classic out for a new spin.
Though they seem to exist at opposite ends of the comfort food spectrum pork belly and microgreens make an indelible pairing. If you have a jones for a compact package of protein and saturated fat that can be soft and crunchy, rich yet lean, you gotta love pork, especially the belly. If the clean earthy taste of leafy greens gets your blood flowing, then the Lilliputian world of microgreens is happyville. Both are delicious but curiously, both lack the hallmark that makes the other so special. Enter Ryan, with an inspired move to pair them with only the creamy yolk of a perfectly poached quail egg binding their disparate but delectable flavors together.
For me, most pork belly dishes lose it at the crust. The trick is to make the most of the fat cap, cooking it so you render a perfectly golden crust sprinkled with Maldon salt flakes. Satisfying crunch needs to easily give way to a rich moist layer below of meat - we use Niman Ranch - that has all the fulsome flavors of good breeding and sustainable husbandry, grass and sunshine.
The real surprise player in this dish was a fantastic new microgreen our friends at Mix Garden are growing called Spreen, a gloriously colored forest green and magenta tipped leaf that looks like it's been sprinkled with fairy dust. Seriously, if you said elves grew this stuff I would not be surprised. I call Spreen’s flavor buttery, but the good folks at High Mowing Seed Company describe it as nutty. Close enough, it's a brilliant addition to our ever expanding microgreen shortlist which in this dish plays off the sharply sweet edges of Red Russian kale and amaranth. The dressing was appropriately light - Cab vinegar, crème frâiche, fines herbes from the garden.
If you want to try growing Spreen this spring - they only takes 12 days - High Mowing Seed Company would be glad to help by supplying the seeds. They describe Organic Magenta Spreen (Chenopodium), as "A beauty in the field with sparkly green leaves and a pink powdered center. Known not only for its densely packed nutritional value but also for its ability to color the lips pink." To taste it quicker, buy it fresh right here in Healdsburg, at Mix Garden where they are about to expand in-store retail sales to include the microgreens, vegetables and roots they contract plant for Barndiva and some of our more discerning chefs in town, notably Campo Fino and Diavola.
My recommendation? Come on down to the Barn, grab a glass of wine, snag a table in the sunny garden and order this wonderful first course on what we’re provisionally calling an “early spring” menu. What else can you say when you look out the window and see all these flowering trees? Is more rain on the way? While we certainly only hope so, it seems downright churlish to deny how beautiful the weather’s been, and not celebrate what’s coming through the kitchen doors every day now.
As for those edible succulents, they were the sublime creations of Pâtisserie Angelica, enjoyed by all who were lucky enough to attend the incomparable Bonnie Z's Birthday Party at Dragonfly Farms on Sunday. Angelica's Deb said she had more fun making them than any confection "in years," and given the extraordinary range of cakes she and sister Condra produce in their bakery and custom cake studio in Sebastopol, that's saying a lot. Even the giant "terracotta" planter was edible, filled with chocolate beet "soil" that was knock your socks off delicious. Pâtisserie Angelica is a county treasure for its artistry and impeccable sourcing. But then so is the lady we were all celebrating, Bonnie Z. Great news - Dragonfly is expanding its wonderful schedule of classes this summer in a new studio on the farm. We are truly blessed to have such dynamic women around. Enjoy.
The Gallery Bar in Studio Barndiva, hitherto used only for our private events, has now "officially" opened to the public! Expect classic cocktails, a very special curated selection of hard to find spirits, fine wines and unusual beers, and a delectable bar menu from Chef Ryan Fancher and Drew Wycoff. The Barndiva aesthetic, as well as our commitment to sustainable sourcing, stays the same, but in The Gallery Bar we've amped up the music, thrown our favorite old films on the wall, and filled the gallery with lounging sofas. Kick back without reservations (seriously, you do not need reservations). Hours will be flexible but we will start stirring and serving at 3:30 and stay open late.
Drop in for a drink after work or just before heading off to bed. Here's looking at you kid.