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Exciting News!

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Saveur

EAT THE VIEW won the most votes in the documentary category in Saveur Magazine’s Video Festival last week, taking home the People's Choice Award.

How cool is that? Very! In addition to bragging rights (Saveur’s Editor-in-Chief and Top Chef Masters judge James Oseland commended us for a video that “really stood out to us for strong sense of place and story”), we will be getting a check for $250 which will go directly into the video kitty. Making EAT THE VIEW with Drew and the crew was a joy. It is ganache on the cake to have been recognized in this fashion.

To each and every one of you WHO TOOK THE TIME TO VOTE  ~ THANK YOU! We are especially grateful to the social media mavens who helped get the word out ~ Carey Sweet, Elizabeth Cosin, Tod Brilliant, Scott Keneally, John Mamus, you are the best! E.A.T. (all the way in Richmond, Virginia) thank you for your infectious support. As for our co-stars, a shout out to Preston Family Farm, all the guys at MIX, and the Callahan’s and Lenny at Bellwether, who also urged folks to vote through their websites and blogs. Drew and I are sincerely grateful for the continued support we’ve felt on this project ~ with a special nod to the indomitable K2’s, who entered us in the competition and kept the energy flowing. As a result more people will come to know what we mean by eating the view here in Healdsburg.

Saveur is running all the winning videos on their site.

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales, Dawid Jaworski.

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VOTE FOR US!

eat the view topper

It's coming down to the wire....

Ok, so let's cut right to the chase: We're thrilled we made it to the final round with a chance to win Best Documentary in Saveur Magazine's Film Festival 2013. To win would sure feel good ~ and be a much deserved pat on the (aching) backs of all the incredibly dedicated chefs and farmers who work to make the food experience at Barndiva something we are truly proud of.

But we also believe that if we win, more people ~ most of them living far from our small corner of the world ~ will get to see EAT THE VIEW. This is what farm to table looks like ~ what the word sustainable can mean ~  when it's not just a buzz word in an article, or a marketing description on a menu.

Please vote for us, and consider putting the link on your Facebook page and/or tweeting about it! VOTING WILL BE OVER BY WEDNESDAY,  so do it TODAY.

Whatever the outcome, a heartfelt thank you for reading the blog, and for your continued interest and support of Barndiva and the beautiful food-shed that surrounds us here in Sonoma County.

Eat the View!

Jil, Ryan, Drew Kelly (our talented cinematographer and Eat the View’s director) and the ENTIRE Barndiva and Studio Barndiva cast of food obsessed characters.

Click here to vote:

vote-for-Barndiva

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Wednesday at the Barn.......Primal Brain Food......Ginger and Pierre's Wedding...

Dish of the Week

Crispy Ballantine of Marrow & Pan Roasted Scallop

 Summer Corn, Micro Greens & Basil Coulis

Long before we were hunters, we were foragers eating what scraps of meat we could scavenge off fallen prey after the apex predators with full stomachs had moved on. No one knows where the impulse to raise a stone and break the bones of those animals to get to the nutrient rich marrow inside came from, but the fat gleaned from them helped us survive the early winters of our civilization. Many scientists believe the fat-soluble vitamins found in those bones, and the interior columns of marrow, were crucial to hominids developing larger brains.

With the invention of weapons we moved on, to whole animals and choice cuts of meat, but marrow never disappeared from the playing field of cuisine. Every country has classic recipes using it ~ to thicken soups, as a base for sauces, to inspire pasta fillings, or just slathered on bread instead of butter. When served on its own, you usually get the roasted bone with a scoop, a tradition for which we have Louis XV to thank. But whether you eat it off an elegant silver spoon in Monaco (at Alain Ducasse’ Louis XV) or chow down in East London with a platter overflowing with bones in a sea of parsley (at Fergus Henderson's St. John), marrow is delicious. There are some things you put in your mouth ~ oysters and foie gras come to mind ~  when sensation precedes all thought and taste. The flavor of marrow is fragrant and meaty but secondary to its texture, which is incredibly light. It’s fat, yes, but fat with attitude.

When served as an entrée marrow is usually paired with red meat, the classic ‘whole animal’ connection. Makes sense, but ultimately, a bit limiting. After a few bites, with nothing for the rich flavors to play against, umami on umami cancel each other out.

Ryan has found a way around this conundrum by creating a dish that features marrow as a luxurious condiment in a main course. It’s an inspired pairing with scallops that results in a frisson similar to the one you get with Chorizo and Clams ~ disparate ingredients that compliment each other, but ultimately stand alone.

While this week’s DOW is probably not a ‘try this at home dish,’ if you want to cook marrow out of the bone all you need do is soak the bones first in ice water. This will pull any remaining blood out (even yellow marrow will have some), while time in icy water chills the fat making it oh so easy to slide out of the bone. Drew rolls the marrow in sifted flour before sautéing in grape oil and finishing with Maldon salt. Timing is crucial. You need just enough heat to warm the marrow through, stopping just short of its melting point. Drew, always admirably stoic even when facing a full incoming board of orders, handily coordinates a perfect scallop with the perfectly cooked marrow, but it could be nerve wracking for a lesser chef.

This isn’t a straight up surf and turf attraction, but something far more subtle. Ryan's is a very modern presentation which explores marrowfat’s incredible lightness of being, taking it out of the context of the bone altogether. Visually, on its own, marrow is but a white plug of fat, so Chef surrounds it with color ~ a single gorgeously golden pan roasted scallop with late summer corn and a vibrant basil coulis. The dish is finished with a conga line of pungent micro greens with just enough punch in the Russian Kale and Bull’s Blood to refresh the palate.

Reading up on marrow I came across a highly entertaining blog called Mark’s Daily Apple written by a body builder with a discernible jones for primal brain food. No silver spoon for this guy ~ according to Mark Sisson “paleo reenactment is the only justifiable course of action,” when eating marrow.  Just have at it, he says, like our ancestors used to. He (and Fergus) have a point, but when it comes to the evolution of this remarkable ingredient,  I think I’ll stick with Ryan.

Best of the Blogs this Week...

No one would argue that Barndiva isn't extremely photogenic, but though we see ourselves frequently in food and weddings blogs we rarely link you to them. Mea Culpa. My extremely talented goddaughter Zem Joquin (ecofabulous.com), no slouch when it comes to all things 'virtual,' implores me to remember the internet is all about SHARING. And hey, it's ok to blow your own horn. I know she’s right, but I fear I come from another time and place. Chef and I have wanted to keep the blog ‘clean’ looking and ad free, with original copy and images every week that aren't just re-posted. But I'm coming around to see that for those of us dedicated to DO EPIC SHIT (more on this next week) we are stronger in numbers.

So here are two blogs that came across the desktop this week I really admired. The first is the beautiful wedding album of Ginger and Pierre, shot by Traci Griffin. By any accounts, this is a pretty stunning couple. But it’s the warmth of these images, which flowed from the wedding couple and every one of their family and friends on the day that makes this album so special. These guys are from New Orleans, so they started with a surfeit of soul, but Traci captured all the sweet details that made this wedding remarkable. The couple even skipped out during the salad course to quickly shoot the fading sunlight of their wedding day in random vineyards and fields around Healdsburg. (It was nice to see Hotel Les Mars in the early shots, and Dragonfly's florals, which captured the casual elegance of the day.)

Amber got an email this week from the newlyweds, back in the Big Easy, bailing out water from Hurricane Issac, still high from their nuptials. No worries: these guys can float.

The second link is to a personal blog by a couple who travels to ride their bikes, eat and drink wine. Lots of it. Not a day goes by I don’t walk through the dining room and see someone lifting a cell phone to take a snap of their meal, and while I think visual diaries are fun (in small doses), rarely do I see blogs as tight as the one Katie posted about her and Whit's trip to Sonoma on her blog,  Is There Any Wine Left?. Was it laudatory? You bet. Would I have posted it if it weren’t? Probably not, but I sleep better knowing there are bloggers out there who put real time and effort into relaying their lives to friends, especially when what we do is involved. There is so much crap on the internet. And while we’re long past the point of thinking every image taken steals our souls (if true, then we have none), I still believe when you come into someone else's house and take an image away, you should try and make it a good one. Katie can write, as well.

Eat the View!

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted.)

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Wednesday at the Barn.......A Love Supreme......

Barndiva welcomes a very special Justice of the Peace

Since we opened our doors eight years ago, weddings have been a part ~ some would say the very heart ~ of the definition of hospitality we have sought to honor, always taking its cue from the landscape surrounding us. We will move small mountains to deliver indelible dining experiences served in rooms and gardens filled with flowers, art, and music.

But ultimately it’s up to the bride and groom, and their family and friends, to make their wedding speak to them in a way that is unique to the union they hope to forge. Only they know what that means, drawing from how and why they fell in love, the importance of family and community, the contours of the things that make them glad to be alive and for that reason want represented on the day they say their vows. It’s not, after all, a vow of silence.

So when we use the word ‘bespoke’ to describe our wedding services, we’re not just offering to accommodate the curious nuptial request, we’re pretty much saying ‘bring it on.’ As a result, we’ve had our share of unusual moments ~ dueling bag pipes, full gospel choirs, New Orleans jazz bands, dogs as ring bearers, the entire USC marching band, even the odd fortune teller (prediction: a long and happy marriage).  A few weeks ago the best man gave his speech via a live link from Afghanistan, where he’d been suddenly deployed.

But by any standards the wedding on Saturday, August 18 between Miriam Seifter and Robert Yablon was exceptional. We are used to hearing the words “by the power vested in me by the State of California (or increasingly, the Universal Life Church) but it’s quite another thing, and thrilling indeed, to hear a member of the Supreme Court utter the words “by the authority vested in me by the constitution and laws of the United States,” knowing she is one of only eight other people in the world who can do so.

Before Associate Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pronounced Miriam and Robert 'husband and wife' (words she alternated throughout the ceremony with 'wife and husband'), she spoke eloquently about the meaning of the chuppa the couple stood beneath, a cloth canopy supported by four poles, open on all sides. The Chuppa is meant to represent the ideal of a Jewish home. Justice Ginsburg made the point that it has no furniture to indicate that the basis of any home always starts with the people in it. It was a great reminder to all of us gathered, of how easy it is living in a culture overly obsessed with possessions, to lose sight of what is left of any relationship when stripped back to its essentials.

Though a living symbol of the most august institution in our land, standing there in the late afternoon sun as a sudden breeze scattered yellow and white rose petals across the ground was a small, delicate women, speaking from her heart. And so it goes. Whether your reach in life is grand or singular (in her case, both) the depth of any genuine connection we hope to forge with other human beings has the best chance of thriving when it starts with empathy. This is true in a marriage of two, or a nation of millions.  We build from the ground up, hopefully, with common purpose, shared goals, hard work. Somewhere in the mix is the desire to be loved. In this last respect at least, it's a good idea to give as good as you get.

We want to thank Miriam and Robert for allowing us to use these images from their wedding. And for entrusting Lukka, Amber, Ryan and our entire staff to care-take and hopefully inspire their wedding day.

Yes, we loved this article (and so will you)

I worked in journalism for a number of years in London and I know how hard it is to control what you write vs. what is eventually printed. The English dailies are among the best written and rigorously researched in the world, and it helped that some of the people I interviewed were important ~ with fully swinging legal departments if you got a quote wrong. In my own small way, being on the other side of the equation these last few years I am constantly reminded of the power writers and editors and art directors have. So I am doubly grateful for articles like Elizabeth Cosin's in last Sunday's Press Democrat about our video Eat the View. I've been a fan of Elizabeth's since she took over for Scott Keneally for Healdsburg's Towns section in the PD, writing wonderfully about neighbors like Dino Bugica and Doralice of The Healdsburg Cheese Shop. I think The Town's articles are the best thing the PD has done in a long while. We were thrilled to be included.

Here is the link to Elizabeth's article, In Healdsburg, you can Eat the View

For a link to the video go to our website, or directly to Vimeo or Youtube.

Eat the View.

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted.)

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Wednesday at the Barn..... A New 3 Minute Version of Eat the View.....

THE NEW 3 MINUTE VERSION ~ CHECK  IT OUT!

We were all very excited with the reception our video Eat the View received after its "premiere" at the Salon des Sens opening in June, especially after Carey Sweet's wonderful article in SF Gate got the attention of the Huffington Post. We are re-posting it here for three great reasons: to give a shout out to all the kind writers who have been passing it along...and to present a brand new 3 minute version that our talented editor Amanda Larson just finished. We think it is EVEN BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL.

The third reason is perhaps the most important.  In November, Proposition 37, the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Initiative, faces the voters.  Eat the View tells a story that should be part of the discussion of why passing Prop 37 is so important to anyone who raises a fork and wonders what's on it. We're hoping after you watch our video again (or for the first time!) you will see the importance of sharing it on Facebook, as a Vimeo or Youtube link, or on your blog.

A big Thank You to all the great blogs below who gave us precious space in the last few months to tell this beautiful story. Check Them Out! (Elizabeth Cosin's article, posted last night on the Press Democrat's blog, will also appear in this Sunday's paper.)

Carey Sweet of SF Gate Huffington Post timvidraeats.com food52.com somethingaboutsonoma.com fantasticdl.wordpress.com thebraiser.com diaryofatomato.com beegs.com sfcitysbest.com slowlysmoked.com elizabethonfood.com splendidtable twitter acqtaste.com nourishyamhillvalley.org goodlifevancouver.com Press Democrat pipocaglobal.com Portuguese blog sabrosia.com Venezuelan blog curiosidadesgastronomicas.com Mexican blog

Eat the View!

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales and Drew Kelly.

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Introducing...

Our food... on film!

We made a movie because we could, because someone around here asked us to (I think it was Chef), because the words ‘farm to table’ started appearing everywhere, which was good, until it wasn’t. Like the use of the words 'organic' and ‘artisan’, it's begun to feel a bit promiscuous. There are incredible people behind each and every plate of food we send out into the dining room and it’s a beautiful thing to know who they are. If it helps fill the restaurant, to keep us all employed doing what we love, that’s great. Reminding ourselves why we fell in love in the first place is even better.

We call the blog (and now the movie) Eat the View because no one really knows straight away what that means until we explain, pointing out the window. It is time well spent. But eating the view isn’t just about food. Everything we take in needs a bit of time to be properly digested ~ broken down into a nutritious soup that keeps the human engine humming.

These are the people and animals and plants which keep our engines humming. Enjoy. And if you are so inclined, pass it on.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/43933864 w=500&h=281]

Written & Produced: Jil Hales Directed & Filmed: Drew Kelly

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Recipes for Barndiva Oscar Cocktails........Preparing for the Red Carpet..............

This Week's 'Dish' comes courtesy of "Homage to Oscar," an article by Diane Peterson in today's Press Democrat...

While I am still off visiting loved ones in London and Paris, we are once again relying on the kindness of strangers to supply worthy contenders for Dish of the Week. Last week we lucked out to have the talented folks at Mix Gardens and their beautiful photographic rendition of Ryan's Lobster Risotto to piggy back off of ~ this week our cup runneth over with an Oscar friendly article from the Press Democrat's talented Diane Peterson.  It comes complete with recipes for Barndiva Oscar Night cocktails, The Clooney and Dragongirl, in addition to two inimitable Chef Fancher dishes that are part of our six course, big screen menu.

Whether you plan to watch the Oscar's at home barefoot or come to Barndiva in boots or a ballgown, we urge you to consider getting together with friends this Sunday night and turning up the sound a little. Living up to our New Year's Resolution of taking every opportunity that comes our way to eat, drink and party with friends this year is not only incredibly fun and seriously delicious, it's turning out to be a direction that's wise beyond measure.

Click here for article.

The One (and only) Barndiva Annual Oscar Party Menu

Click menu to view.

Grace (or rather Gracie) Notes

I’ve been doing some serious eating over here in Europe, from chefs hitting their stride (Medlar in London, Comptoir here in Paris) and a few just starting out (the rock n' roll boys at Vivant).  Walked through some impressive gardens (yes, even in winter) and taken the requisite tour of winding rooms in great museums that never fail to inject my flagging spirit with a sense of wonder. Cézanne's apples and a walk in the winter sunshine through the Luxumborg Gardens with Geoffrey and trust me, it's a good day.

But the best thing I’ve experienced by far has been looking into the eyes of baby Gracie ~ whom I’ve just met for the first time ~ as she attempted to form words last week as we sat with mother Elly in a bistro in West London. She had no idea what she wanted to say ~  but boy did she have a go. And there wasn't an ounce of frustration in the extraordinary joy she had in trying.

Ryan, K2 and I talk a lot about what the words and pictures we’ve been sending out into the blogosphere over the past year really mean. Truth be told, OUR attempts often come with a surfeit of frustration. But every now and then I get a glimmer that all this talk about food, farming, art and friendship is good. Even if we don't get it right, our attempts to plant seeds for things which can be truly nourishing keeps us going in the right direction. Maybe that's the connection between all of us when we try and communicate. Even imperfectly, there can be, should be,  joy in the effort.  We just need to keep digging.

If you missed this last week, click below for Mix Garden's blog, and don't overlook the slideshow of Chef Ryan's Creamy Celery Root & Lobster Risotto with Mix Garden Greens and Edible Flowers.

Diners' Choice Award 2012

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted).

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Two Great Reviews..... Xmas in the Gallery.......

 

Octavio's Pièce Montée

Octavio's gorgeous Croquembouche (aka pièces montée) garnered some of the biggest oohs and ahhs in a night filled with them  on Friday as Healdsburg celebrated its annual downtown Christmas party. Festooned with hand-blown glass birds, swirling ribbons of spun sugar and topped with a Tin Mali Angel, while we may not agree with the great Carême that pastry is the highest form of architecture, Octavio was definitely channeling Gaudi when he created this baby.

Pièces montées are architectural towers made of cream filled pastry, traditionally meant to be devoured piece by piece at the end of a special meal. Barndiva's was decorative only ~  hopefully we can keep it around for those of you who missed the party!  What we can't recreate was the mellow mood of the friends and families who stopped by on their walkabout through town. There were platters of delicious Barn Chapeau (cream filled choux you could eat), lovingly decorated Christmas cookies and pitchers of Cosmo Killer Cocktails. Can't wait to see what our talented pastry chef has in mind for Christmas Eve when the holiday party traditionally moves next door to Barndiva. Stay tuned.

Great Articles Starring Two of Barndiva's Favorite Go-To Guys

Reading The Sunday Papers was especially sweet this weekend as we woke up to find two wonderful articles in the Press Democrat about remarkable men we get to work alongside every day.  Chef Ryan Fancher's artful culinary prowess was the focus of the Jeff Cox restaurant review, accompanied by very cool photographs by Christa Jeremiason.  While we were hardly unbiased when it came to the denouement, which we hope you'll read, whether or not you always ~ or ever ~ agree with his critical assessments every week, there's no denying Cox is a wonderful writer whose reviews are keyed to nuance and unusual details, not just about food. (He's certainly the first to get the visual synchronicity in the way we choose the John Youngblood's photography in the dining room).

Click here for the Jeff Cox review

Over in the financial section the cover story was all about how Studio Barndiva's Gallery Manager Dawid Jaworski is "living his dream" in America since immigrating from Poland. Everyone who works at Barndiva has fallen in love with this man and the infectious passion he brings to everything he touches.

Dawid's Amazing Savers Contest

And Don't Forget...

Dining Out For Life ~ Thursday December 1- countywide, a wonderful once a year event to support Food For Thought, which in turn supports the Sonoma County AIDS Food Bank.

Strolling Dine Around ~ December 7, 8, 14, 15- a chance to enjoy a delicious multi-coursed meal served at various restaurants across town, benefiting the Healdsburg Shared Ministries Food Pantry.

Great Gifts in the Gallery

Yeah, well, it IS a great message for the times ~ Keep Calm and Carry On ~ but if there had been room on the ball we would have liked to add  "and for Christ's sake, be joyful," because we mean it, literally.  Joy is the spirit we hope the Gallery conveys this Holiday Season.  Studio Barndiva may not have loads of shelves stacked with merchandise in multiples, but everything we do have is beautiful and meaningful, made with respect by artists and craftspeople who are upholding traditions we hope will survive these crazy times.

Photography, ceramics, jewelery, lighting, furniture, textiles, paintings, sculpture, wine antiques, amphora, knives, books, CD's, glassware, vases, UK card collections, candles, puzzles, even hard to find bitters ~ The Studio has one hell of an eclectic collection of art and functional craft pieces we top up at Christmas time. With prices that range from the inexpensive ornament to a painting or sculpture you will treasure forever.

Support artists, artisans and local shops with a joyful, mindful, point of view this Christmas!

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski (unless otherwise noted).

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Dish of the Week.....In the Gallery..... Barndiva Weddings........

Dish of the Week

White Wine Poached Pears with  Chocolate Ganache, Coconut Sorbet & Graham Cracker Crumble

For as long as I can remember the Red Bartletts at our farm have fallen to the ground each year uneaten and unloved.  Big and ungainly, they are a cooking variety so low in residual sugar even the bears ignore them. To make matters worse, unless you spray them in Spring before the green tip stage of flower bud development ~ which we never do ~ they are especially susceptible to something called Black Spot which, while harmless, looks as bad as it sounds.

This year was different however ~ strange weather patterns in Spring left the Bartletts almost blemish free for the first time in memory; by September the pears had begun to turn a lovely deep russet, a beguiling color that caused me to wonder what had led the Cassinelli's to grant them in their own little orchard a few steps from the old house. The word 'heirloom' has great cache these days as we seek to re-discover the great variety of fruits and vegetables we once had access to, before corporate mega-farming interests hijacked control of the journey almost all our food takes from their "farms" to our plates. But not all heirlooms are inherently better in flavor then modern varieties. I was curious what a gifted modern pastry chef like Octavio would make of Victoria Cassinelli's pears. He liked them, as it turned out, but not exclusively for their flavor, which was mild and lightly floral. What he valued most was their size coupled with the fact that because they were bred to be "keepers" their dense flesh would take poaching extremely well, crucially in the way they absorbed liquid without sacrificing texture. A great poached pear takes on the flavors of the infusing liquid without losing its shape ~ softening just enough so a knife with a good edge could glide easily through the flesh.

The trick to ripening pears is to refrigerate them as soon as they are picked,  2-3 days, then let them finish ripening outside the box for a few more days. Once they are ripe they really need to go back into the fridge. So it was that five days after I brought them back from the farm Octavio peeled, cored, and poached our Bartletts in Sauternes, a great cooking wine with its own subtle floral attributes.

After they cooled, the poached pears were filled with a lightly scented vanilla crème fraiche and chilled. To plate, the pear was placed over a disc of crushed candied walnuts around which Big O gently ladled a warm pool of dark chocolate ganache.  The walnuts did more than provide a stabilizing base for the pear; their sweetness hid a surprising back-of-the-throat smoky tannin that worked brilliantly against the soft texture of fruit but complimented the rich liquidity of the 61% bittersweet chocolate. The final components of this elegant 'pared-down' dessert was a lovely coconut sorbet, cool respite to the chocolate, which sat on a small mound of crumbled house-made graham crackers. The comforting, old fashioned flavors of the cinnamon graham crackers brought the dessert full circle for me.  I could imagine Victoria Cassinelli cooking up a storm in the old kitchen on a chilly day in late Fall, poaching pears for dessert, perhaps in the heavy red wine the family made from the grapes which before prohibition grew in abundance on the ridge. I wonder what she would have thought of all the steps Octavio had taken to create a modern dessert around her old Red Bartlett's.  At the very least, I'm willing to bet it would have made her smile to see and taste how we’d re-discovered them.

In the Gallery

We rarely source pieces for the Gallery from catalogs but when this chair from Roost showed up in New York Magazine a few weeks ago on their 'design pick' page we fell in love with the way it looked, suspecting it was wonderfully comfortable as well. We are always on the look-out for chairs that can live inside or out, so we got on the horn to Roost and snapped up the last six.  Good news: our eyes did not deceive.  They are beautifully made of washed and sanded bent bamboo with a sinuous line that cradles the body from the neck all the way down to the lower back.  Called The Lanai, they have an unusual bulb out for the elbow. They are designed long in the seat, the better to support your legs.  Color is a light blond which will darken with age.

Not so good news: only four left.

The Roost Lanai indoor/outdoor lounge chair is $525.

And The Beautiful Weddings Continue...

Photos by Studio Barndiva Manager and photographer, Dawid Jaworski

Follow more Barndiva nuptials check out  Style Me Pretty this week featuring Matt Edge's wonderful images...

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski (unless otherwise noted)

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Dish of the Week........ In the Garden......In Our Glass...In the Press

 

Dish of the Week:

Strawberry Salad

I forget how crazy busy summer gets until Friday rolls around and we haven’t shot or even discussed Dish of the Week. Last Saturday I found myself shooting it guerrilla style in the middle of the hot line during a busy dinner service which had come hard on the heels of a wedding in the gallery.  More than my nerves got singed.

So when I drifted into the kitchen on Wed morning and saw Lou Preston had just dropped off a box of the most beautiful strawberries anyone had seen in a long time, Chef and I jumped on the idea of a super quick summer salad that would star these glorious babies, grown in some of the most loved soil in the county at the height of their season.  We momentarily toyed with the idea of just putting them in a bowl and calling it a day but that begged the question of why berries, especially strawberries, are often just so much better on their own. The truth is they don’t mix well with proteins, or most vegetables, which is why they are almost always relegated to the desert column.

There’s nothing wrong with a natural sweet food profile but it needs a foil to stop it going flat on you after the first few bites. Chef used the strawberries themselves to provide this counterpoint by compressing half of them in verbena, which took most of the sugar out, replacing it with a nice soury kick and a woody floral aroma. Not quite pickled, a step before fermented.  The process of compressing the strawberries deepened their color to a bruised red which saturated the berry all the way through, creating a nice confusion between the brain, expecting sweet, and the taste, which was uniquely savory.

Edible flowers, with their delicate shapes, colors and earthy taste profiles, were a natural bridge between this Janus-like strawberry presentation and the other ingredients:  the purslane, the gentle heat provided by the arugula and the radishes, the creaminess of the avocado and the great crunch of the tempura squash blossom.  We are particularly proud of the bachelor buttons, which we grew from seed here at the Barn.  I thought vibrant saffron Calendula petals would have been a nice touch as well, but Chef demurred ~ he was on a groove with his muted color palette.

All this attention to detail isn't just about taste, and the tiny petals are a case in point: most chefs in the middle of a hectic service would have just sprinkled them on, but that wouldn't satisfy Ryan's belief that we eat with our eyes first.  No matter how involved you are in conversation when you're dining out and a plate arrives there's always a moment when you pick up your fork and look down.  The eye really does luxuriate in color and form and the result of Ryan's artistry in that moment~  brief as it may be ~  has the effect of slowing everything down.

A few days ago Sandra Jordan dropped off a precious allotment of her exceptional balsamic which Chef used as Morse code on the plate, instead of dressing the salad. Jordan’s balsamic is a thing of wonder, not cheap mind you, but like everything this classy lady does (her exquisite alpaca fabric line, sandrajordan.com, is now sold worldwide), worth every penny. We use it sparingly to finish dishes ~ it’s so full flavored it even works with desserts ~ and the bar uses it in Sandra’s Ballsey, a sparkling cocktail we created for Sandra because, well, she is.  Whatever it takes.

Enjoy the fine weather.

In our Glass

We’ve gotten a lot of offers over the years from winemakers who want to collaborate with us on a Barndiva label wine. And we’ve been tempted, boy have we been tempted. But we suffer from this particular disease ~ passionitis controleria ~ which strikes whenever we put our name on something. And wine, most especially, is not to be trifled with around here.

There is one winemaker we have believed in so much our own label Cabernet is all but a standing order.  Dan Fitzgerald was a very young winemaker when we met him a few months after opening Barndiva when he came to tend bar. We saw character twinned with talent which was remarkable.  He was just finishing school, after some years working in vineyards in France. Through his tenure at Williams Selyem until he landed at Pellegrini, where he is now head winemaker, we have been proud (but not surprised) at his progress in this most competitive industry. In partnership he now has his own collection of wines under the Ellipsis label ~ which dad Chris markets (stepmom Honor Comfort is the power behind Taste of Sonoma) but the wine he makes for Barndiva is a singular accomplishment.

The grapes are grown exclusively in the Fitzgerald's 55 year old Deux Amis vineyard, which sits behind their beautiful home on West Dry Creek. A true vin de terroir made the way they made wine 200 years ago, grapes are handpicked and fermented with wild indigenous yeast from the grapes, hand pressed in a basket press in six tiny loads. Aged in neutral oak for two years, this is a cabernet made in an elegant old world European style.  It has an extraordinary ruby running to purple color that speaks of rich black and red fruit, which you get instantly from the nose, along with a hint of green that rises like mist from the berry patch. Tommy says there is a slight intimation of cigar box in the nose, and that he gets lots of fresh acidity framed by oak in the 2008, which we all agree is the finest vintage yet.

This is more than Barndiva’s house wine, it’s a family collaboration even down to the label, which was designed by Geoffrey's goddaughter Elly and her talented mate Charlie who, like Dan, have risen to the top of their profession in London in only a few short years.

Love the wine, love the story, worth the wait. By the glass and by the bottle, while it lasts.

To learn more about Ellipsis go to www.ellipsiswines.com

To learn more about Campbell-Hay Design Studio (and yes, after the bubba is born they will once again travel for work) go to www.campbellhay.com

In the Garden

Final words this week: check out the ‘new’ Tractor Bar Trio soon. Last Wednesday they played two extremely mellow sets in the garden and it was  Gypsy Jazz at its finest, folks.  We are now serving lunch and dinner in the rear gardens throughout the week, weather permitting, but be warned, the summer's already flying by.  Catch it.

In the Press

Sylvie Gil, one of Barndiva's favorite photographers, recently posted a few pictures of a Barndiva wedding- Congratulations Sarah and Ted!  Click here to enjoy.

All text Jil Hales. All photos, Jil Hales, Dawid Jaworski  (unless otherwise noted)

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Dish of the Week........ In the Gallery

 

Dish of the Week:

Lunch at Copain Winery

I hadn’t planned on attending the lunch party we were set to cater at Copain Winery last Monday, until I happened upon the list of ingredients Chef left in the kitchen for staff to start packing up early Monday morning.  Charmed by the confluence of ingredients, it being a gorgeous day, and Copain being a beautiful winery, I decided to crash the party.

We are partnering with Copain on a number of weddings this summer and I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about it and about Wells Guthrie, the inordinately talented winemaker and driving force behind this state of the art facility ~ one of the most ergonomic around. Set on a hillside with a magnificent view running almost the length of the Russian River Valley, the facility is pleasing to the eye with a pared down, elegantly understated style.  Farmhouse meets Koolhaas.

Still, I was curious to take a closer look for myself.  Crucial to us with any off-site venue is whether or not the right pieces are in place which will enable us to pull off an authentic Barndiva experience when we aren’t on home ground.

According to Tommy, the critical trademark of the Copain wine list is lower alcohol wines that preserves the brightness and acidity of the fruit. It was to taste through this remarkable line up of vintages ~ which would precede Barndiva’s four course lunch ~ that key servers and chefs from The French Laundry were coming to Copain that day.

Scheduling off-site events on our days off happens very rarely around here, but such is the affection Thomas Keller and TFL inspire in many of our staff that Ryan, Pancho, Katherine, Bennett and Tommy were more than happy to work on their day off to provide a meal that would honor the ingredient driven, classical technique focus  TFL  is know for. That they are standards we too aim for with every plate that leaves our kitchen didn't lessen the tension on our end:  this would be a most discerning crowd to please. Restaurant folks ~ especially those who work at places like The French Laundry and Barndiva ~ eat out a lot. They are usually generous to a fault to your face (knowing how hard it is to pull off that level of excellence on a day to day, meal to meal basis) but intensely critical as a matter of course.  While Ryan planned four courses that would elevate the wine experience ~ the entire menu was designed to highlight the wine friendly (especially for Pinot) flavor profiles of truffles, beets, salmon, bacon, mushrooms ~ he was also intent on balancing proteins to vegetables to fruits, so the meal as a whole would flow seamlessly from one paired course to another.

The three passed appetizers, all served with sparkling wine, exemplified this approach. First up was fresh Dungeness crab on sliced cucumber topped with a thin disc of kumquat ~ tart orange fruit which opened the palate with a citrus slap, followed by the fresh smell and taste of the sea and a green crunch. Next came a smiling nod to TK with a quail egg BLT ~ a rich mound of yolk, bacon, tomato jam and brioche with a delicate trailing stem of chervil, an herbal grace note to civilize all that umami.

The last of the passed appetizers, a single ripe strawberry from Quivira, went out unadorned, but was no less complex for the role it played in the flow of the afternoon. A tart and fruity palate cleanser which also signaled the seated lunch was about to begin, for the wise (or the lucky) it provided an opportunity for one last look down into the vineyards below, where the valley spread out in all its summer glory, caught in the throes of the first real heat of the season. Cicadas buzzed the air, and the connection to lush vines and the wines that had come from them and just been drunk, was palpable. Whether Ryan intended it or not, the moment made sense in the way poetry makes sense when you stop worrying about what the words mean and just lean in and let yourself relax.

The next two courses have both been featured as Dish of the Week before.  Chef wanted a flawless summer salad, Healdsburg style, which meant every component at the peak of ripe perfection. Another single strawberry was joined by heirloom golden and red beets, two varieties of radish, whole peeled truffled almonds, chives, chervil and a perfectly ripe wedge of Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor.  Beet vinaigrette (beet juice, Preston VOO, champagne vinegar) was drizzled alongside the salad. The summer salad was paired with a 2004 and 2006 Roussanne, both from Copain's James Berry Vineyard.

Using Wild King Salmon from Oregon on a Lucian Freud sized brush stroke of fresh pea purée with a generous trail of caviar crème fraîche, the main course was finished with fresh porcini from Mt Shasta, tiny house made chips, and chive flowers. The salmon was paired with two Pinots: a 2006 Hacienda from the Sequoia Vineyard,  and a 2006 from Cerise.

Dessert had been made that morning in the Barndiva kitchen by yet another French Laundry and Bouchon alum, Octavio, our wonderful new pastry chef who has been wowing diners and wedding guests all summer. Big O’s Blueberry Clafoutis was presented with vanilla bean crème fraîche and a not overly sweet but wonderfully indulgent crème fraîche ice cream.

I left Copain just as the desserts were being plated, luckily not before I heard a short but pithy exchange that summed up the meal for me precisely. Shale, a young garde manger whom Chef has taken under his wing this summer quietly reminded Ryan that he hadn’t plated the Clafoutis with the raspberries he'd been told to bring expressly for this dish.  Ryan looked at him, deadpan, “Knowing what not to put on a plate is as important as knowing what is, ” he said, waiting a beat for it to sink in before he broke into his first real smile of the day.  Standing in Copain’s beautiful space, after the meal he’d pulled off, it was an almost perfect moment. The only thing that could have made it better was if TK had been there to enjoy it.

In the Gallery

Seth Minor, our favorite single-wire artist and all around guy (Camp Meeker politician, MFA student, killer accordion player, seminal member of Barndiva's Tractor Bar Trio) has just brought in six wonderful new pieces to bolster up his coveted collection in the Gallery.

To my mind Seth is the closest thing this medium has to John Updike, managing to capture in a few spare but elegant lines universal character traits that ~ like it or not ~ make us vulnerable, if not lovable, humans.  Mordant in tone, yet oddly hopeful in a insouciant way that can't help but make you smile (a lot like the artist) believe us when we say this shadow driven rogues gallery needs to be viewed in person.  Photographs ~ even ones as good as these by Studio Barndiva's Dawid Jaworski~ don't do them justice.

Until he lets us increase them, prices for Seth Minor's work will start at $110 this summer,  for any in the ‘Faces Collection,’ with larger pieces from $800 - $3,400.  Mr. Minor will work on commission, from photographs, as his schedule allows.

To meet Seth in person, come for dinner any Wednesday night through August when his Tractor Bar Trio will hold court in the Barndiva gardens where, weather permitting, they will serenade diners with two full sets of beer fueled excellent gypsy jazz.

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In the Press:

If you've missed the incredible edible issue on soil, it's not to late to check it out online:

Edible Marin - All Hail Soil   (fyi, we're on page 15).

All text Jil Hales. All photos, Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski (unless otherwise noted)

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Dish of the Week........ In the Garden....... In the Gallery

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Mix Garden Organic Carrot Soup with Chervil Crème Fraîche and Wild Asparagus Tempura

While this extraordinary carrot soup celebrates a single flavor profile ~ sweet organic carrots ~ Chef did not want a one dimensional vegetable “dessert,” hence the additions of a quenelle of puckery crème fraîche and batons of salty, crunchy, wild asparagus tempura.

To make the soup we first sweated chopped Mix Garden carrots with shaved fennel and spring onion in a little virgin OO with just a hint of turmeric and 5 spice. A crisp white wine (we used Sauvignon Blanc) was then added to the glistening vegetables along with organic carrot juice ~ the addition of the freshly pressed juice serving to intensify the flavor.  Once the vegetables were soft, there were two steps to achieving a velvety final texture: the first was to spin (or purée) the mixture; the second, to pass it through a chinoise (or fine mesh screen).

A quenelle of crème fraîche flecked with chopped chervil, garnished with a sprig of carrot top and a chive flower finished the soup, but for Chef did not complete the dish.  He wanted a stand-alone accompaniment, something that would play against the sweetness of the carrots.

When wild asparagus arrived unexpectedly at the kitchen door, he saw the perfect pairing ~ the chlorophyll would add a wonderful woodland element, and with the addition of batter, a nice crunch. The secret of a good batter, whether or not you use rice flour for “tempura," is soda water. We use the gun, but Badoit is a good choice as it will bring a subtle taste of minerality.  All in, this week's dish sang with the colors of early summer.

From the Garden:

Few things make Chef Ryan smile like the arrival of the guy in black standing next to him in this picture. His name is Alex Lapham,  and he's Mick Kopetsky’s main man, along with Bryan Hohnstein, at Mix Garden, the burgeoning wholesale vegetable business Mick started some years ago at Bieke and Bryan Burwell’s beautiful estate in West Dry Creek. From the beginning Mix has supplied Barndiva with superlative produce, and we’ve watched with growing admiration as Mick expanded to include more fertile, unused fields across the county.  That Mick’s organic produce is priced so as to be affordable to restaurants like ours ~ who want the basis for their success to go hand in hand with support of the food shed ~ makes us natural partners.  He’s a perfectionist, but no dilettante (which we love about him) with a clear-eyed pragmatic approach to farming. This year he even expanded into selling vegetable starts ~ we now have 30 different heirloom tomato varieties growing at our farm in Philo, all from his incredible first year list. The arrival of Alex to our door each week is one of the many joys of working ~ and dining ~ at Barndiva.

FYI: Mick is also the proprietor of the former Healdsburg Landscape Material ~ now Mix Garden Material ~ a great place to start if you are considering a vegetable garden!  Check it out.

For more on local produce you may want to read Ann Carranza in last week's The Patch.

In the Gallery

Ishmael Sanchez is back, and not a moment too soon! While we sorely missed him the past year as he wound up his life in Anderson Valley for a move down south, we are thrilled to announce we once again have a collection of his incredible wire animal sculptures in the gallery, in addition to being able to offer his work on commission.

Just in: a crow worthy of Poe, a chicken, a rooster, and two of his Picasso-like “simple” horses. Ishmael also delivered a magnificent full-sized horse that presided over a lovely ‘New York’ wedding this weekend in the Studio Garden.  Ask to see it when you come in, and while you are enjoying the garden, don’t miss Jordy Morgan’s new stone filled wire wall.

All text Jil Hales. All photos, Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski (unless otherwise noted).

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Barndiva ~ In the News

Because we always keep schtum about it, you'd probably be amazed at the number of famous people who have wandered into (and often stumbled out of) Barndiva over the years.If discretion is not the better form of valour, it's up right up there. But when a famous person mentions you on national TV in the same sentence as "one of the best restaurants I've ever been to" it's okay to out their visit. Before she came to brunch on Oscar Sunday we're embarrassed to admit some of us didn't even know who Chelsea Handler was. Now we do and we think you should too.

Why? Because it turns out that besides having very good taste in restaurants, Chelsea Handler is very, very funny. Cue Dorothy Parker, this bestselling author and stand up comic manages to project a genuine yet deeply sardonic point of view rare in the otherwise mind numbing world of talk shows ~ check out her interview with Brit singer Adele if you don't believe us. As for Ed McMahon being reincarnated as Chewy the Mexican midget...Johnny would have loved it.

Click here to watch.

Chelsea Handler Hearts Barndiva

Lukka Feldman and his Barndiva restaurant made quite the impression on comedian Chelsea Handler.

While visiting San Francisco last week, the best-selling author and star of E! Network’s “Chelsea Lately,” trekked up to Healdsburg for a Sunday brunch. She said she’d never been to Sonoma County, but went to Barndiva at the behest of her friends. So taken was she by Lukka and the food, that she gushed about it on her hit late-night talk show.

“I wanna give a quick shout-out to my new friend Lukka who runs the Barndiva which is in Healdsburg, California. So if you’re ever in Northern California and you want a really really good meal, it’s one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. So there.” After the applause subsided, she added, “And I did pay for my meal, in case anyone was wondering.”

Ms. Handler doesn’t often give on-air shout-outs, so it was that much more remarkable.

So what did the young restaurateur have to say about all of this? “I was shocked and flattered,” says Lukka. “She presumably eats at world-class restaurants all the time. So for her to say that about Barndiva, well, that was quite an honor.”

Scott Keneally for The Press Democrat

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Studio Barndiva ~ Special Events

Here’s a great shot of artist Jordy Morgan’s chiseled redwood boulders, captured in yet another wedding blog: idovenues.com FYI: Jordy is just about finished on his ‘living room’ sculptural pieces in the Studio Barndiva Gardens. As soon as the rain stops, come by and see these extraordinary pieces. Jordy's work will be available in various sizes and configurations on commission beginning of May.

Vintage with a Twist: (visit idovenues.com to see all the beautiful pictures taken by photographer Rosemarie Lion at this wonderful wedding held at Barndiva)

There is a level of anticipation and excitement that every bride feels right before the guests enter the main reception area. In the industry, we call it the Ohhh…Ahhh factor – it is the sound your guests make as they enter the room.

Barndiva is a perfect location for the avant garde couple that wants to maximize their Ohhh…Ahhh factor. It is such an amazing venue and so unexpected – when your guests arrive, they truly have no idea what awaits them.

The restaurant turned trendy reception venue has successfully captured the aura of part shabby chic, part retro. The organic gardens (where many of your dinner items are sourced) are meticulously cared for and provide a stunning backdrop. The abundant details at your fingertips deliver a plethora of wonderful design elements – all which act as inspiration for an incredible wedding theme.

Barndiva is perfect for the bride who wants to experiment with vintage or shabby chic details for her celebration. Everywhere you turn, you will be mesmerized by amazing design touches that have been perfectly incorporated into the outdoor patio and fun reception room.

This bride does a wonderful job of enhancing the facility’s existing design elements without taking away from their own natural beauty and charm. The iron gate is a perfect example – this piece is timeless all on its own, but with a few elegant floral accents, you now have great WOW factor as a welcoming point for your guests. I love, love, love the use of the wrought iron garden chairs in this design. They are perfect for this venue and look as if they belong here.

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Studio Barndiva ~ Special Events

While there are hundreds of wedding blogs around, many of which we've been featured in, we are always thrilled to see a Barndiva wedding in Style Me Pretty. It's one of the best blogs around which really tell the story of a wedding from start to finish, down to the last details. We are now deep into booking the available dates for Summer 2011 in the Gallery and the New Studio Gardens. Contact Lukka or Amber if you have a special event ~ doesn't have to be a wedding ~ you'd like to inquire about. Think outside the Saturday night box!

For more beautiful photos, click below:

Eco-Friendly California Wedding by Shannon Leith

We definitely have a little soft spot around here for beautiful details but when those beautiful details are also eco-friendly, well, let’s just say the result is way beyond your everyday gorgeous wedding. With a limited budget, an eye for crafty projects and a desire to make their event as green as possible, this earth-minded couple crafted one pretty fantastic party all caught on film by Shannon Leith. It’s green, it’s gorgeous and there’s a whole lot more of it in the gallery.

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Barndiva is a quirky name for an artful restaurant

(originally posted January 19, 2010) The Patch, AOL's new online community-specific news and information platform has a feature about Barndiva this week. To read Leslie Harlib's article with photos, click here.

The restaurant's name is so curious:  Barndiva. What could it mean?

My first thought: It's an opera singer who performs in a barn. Or it's Swedish for 'farm-driven local food star.'

But according to Jil Hales, who has owned a working farm in Philo for 30 years and who founded and co-owns Barndiva with her husband Jeffrey Hales (her son Lukka Feldman is general manager; their farm grows much of what they serve), the restaurant's moniker honors Sonoma County farmers as the stars of the dining experience.

"Barndiva is an old nickname from the year I used to jam in my barn years ago," she explained. "In terms of this restaurant, it has to do with people who hit the high notes in their worlds — people who are at the top of their game.

"Whether they come from barns, stables, fields, make a great bread or cheese, they hit a high note in their craft," she said. "I wanted the concept of diva to be more encompassing than just referencing someone who sings opera.

"Sometimes people think of divas as having tempers," she continued. "The word really means people who excel and are the finest. I think we have that in Sonoma in terms of food.

"People shouldn't feel it's beyond their comfort or their budget to experience that level of local culinary diva in our restaurant," she said.

Based on the feel of the place and the extraordinary meal I sampled there recently, Hales and her team are making good on the unusual name.

Just a block away from Healdsburg Avenue, you don't really feel Barndiva's mass until you walk across the street to marvel at the immense building that's been quietly weathering away on Center Street for nearly seven years. From the outside, it resembles a giant barn designed by a hip architect. Hale and her husband, neither of them architects, conceived of and designed the space; they live in a pied a terre above the 16-foot-high main floor.

Even the entrance is a bit of an adventure. It's not visible from the street. You walk along a flagstone path past hedges growing over metal arches, to enter what feels like an art gallery crossed with a restaurant.

Huge wire sculptures of farm animal heads hang on the wall and cast shadows like seductive webs. There's a sculpture of old wooden cobbler's shoe molds positioned near the check-in podium. The long, full bar is awash with dramatic lighting, as is the visible floor-to-ceiling wine cellar that glows golden, lit from behind. It's also an incredibly comfortable restaurant, with plump banquettes, padded chairs, even padded stools at the long, elegant bar.

Art is as important to the experience of dining here as the food, says Hales. Three years ago, the Hales bought the next-door building and opened Studio Barndiva. By day, it's an art gallery featuring paintings, sculptures and crafts. At night, it becomes event space. Barndiva's private parties, weddings and other special celebrations are held there so the restaurant never has to close, she outlined.

The hands-on Barndiva team includes Hales overseeing the artisan-style cocktails, chef Ryan Fancher, formerly of the French Laundry heading the kitchen, and pastry chef Tracy Mattson, a Cyrus alumna, turning out the desserts, They make a formidable triumvirate.

"I'm a drinker" Hale said. Her interest in artisan cocktails shows in the stimulating line-up of seasonal drinks. Midnight Harvest may one of the most unusual tipples in town: a martini glass brimming with a chilled brew of cognac, house-made pumpkin-curry liqueur, fresh and burnt orange accents ($12). It's like liquid pumpkin pie with Humphrey Bogart overtones.

If there's a must-have in the small plates, it's Fancher's signature goat cheese croquettes with house made tomato jam and lavender honey ($10). Get a half portion, because these are mega-rich. Balls of local goat cheese are rolled in crumbs, quickly deep fried, then sprinkled with lavender sprigs and swirls of honey. All the flavors are at once tangy, sweet and floral. I've never had anything like them. With cocktails, they make a knock-out snack.

Another small plate, crispy sweetbreads with poached quail egg, bacon, leek and truffle butter ($15) offered up lavish layers of texture: crispy, smooth, crunchy, pulpy. Wow. It was utter seduction and thankfully, the portion was just small enough to be a perfect shared starter.

I loved the esoteric combination of braised dandelion greens packed into gossamer-thin noodle dough to become ravioli, served with whole chestnuts, honey glazed turnips and truffle ($24). It was surprisingly light, yet had enough dimension to fill you up. When many restaurants rarely offer tempting or creative vegetarian options, this one was a high point. (The menu also states that chef is happy to prepare vegan or vegetarian entrees upon request.)

Main dishes included a combination that was as much about theater as it was about savor — an entire roasted poussin with assorted root vegetable confit, olives, and a delicate wine-enriched brown sauce one heart-beat silkier than natural jus ($25). This beautifully autumnal dish was carved tableside. Tendrils of aroma swirled up as the suited host sliced the bird and arranged the plate; the experience feel like the gourmet equivalent of a 3-D movie.

That tableside theater continued in a dessert of baked Alaska ($11). Fire shot up higher than a foot as the server ignited the confection's liqueur. For a moment, we were the focus of every other diner. We said"ooh," like awestruck kids. As for the pastry, it comprised a thin, crispy cake base mounded with house made butter pecan ice cream that had a heart of coffee granita, a slick of lemon sauce, and that elegant meringue browned to a fare-thee-well in the flames.

"We plan to offer more dishes served tableside, and train our waiters to do this" said Hales in a phone call following my meal. "It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg to have the fun of tableside dining. It allows diners to get closer to the food and brings them back to the actual ingredients."

It impressed me that a meal of this caliber was not overwhelmingly pricey. Two can dine here for $100 (that would include one or two cocktails) which I consider to be a reasonable price for such high-quality ingredients from a menu that changes seasonally. Expect to find a complete turnover of options four times a year, though our waiter assured us that one or two staples, including the goat cheese croquettes, will always be available.

If you want to leave the experience up to Fancher and his team, chef's tasting menus are available for $75 with an additional $45 for wine paring.

Between the soft lighting, the art and the artful food, Barndiva may be one of the most romantic, as well as high-end earthy, restaurants in Healdsburg.

Barndiva is at 231 Center St., 431-0100 for reservations, www.barndiva.com. It's open for lunch and dinner noon to 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; noon to midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday. Reservations are recommended.

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Happy New Year

(originally posted January 5, 2011)

In case you missed Virginie Boone's wonderful article on Classic Cocktails in last week's Press Democrat, here is a link. Shot here at Barndiva, we were pleased to have them include 'Midnight Harvest,' sure to become a Barndiva classic, currently on our winter cocktail list.

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Raising the Barn

(originally posted November 17, 2010)

Ever wondered what it looks like above Barndiva? Here's your chance. Great images and recipes by Chef Ryan accompany the article by Sarah Lynch in California Home + Design Magazine.

Raising the Barn: An International Aesthetic Meets the Best of Wine Country's Heartland

Photo credit:

Photography by Drew Kelly and Brad Gillette

LEFT: Studio Barndiva’s eclectic offerings include local artwork and imported accessories, but the blue fireplace—adorned with a Magritte-worthy “It is not a fireplace”—makes it clear that visitors can always expect a surprise. TOP RIGHT: Jil and Geoffrey Hales built their barn (right) from scratch.

The perfect evening out brings together three elements: a delicious meal, a warm atmosphere and lively conversation. For Jil Hales, the proprietor of Healdsburg’s Barndiva restaurant, the bar is set significantly higher because the bar is where it all began.

“We came to Healdsburg eight years ago, after raising our kids in the U.K. and living in San Francisco for a few years,” says Hales, a Los Angeles native married to Geoffrey, a Brit, who brought his hardwood flooring company to the U.S. “What this town was missing was a world-class bar—a place to get a cocktail and a bite to eat late at night.”

LEFT: The kitchen island in the pied-à-terre was fitted with fluorescent lighting and colored gels as a prototype for the restaurant bar. RIGHT: A farm-worthy monitor, painted salmon pink, in the center of the ceiling will one day be accessed by a catwalk.

While the Hales were dividing their time between London and a fruit farm in Anderson Valley that Jil has owned for 30 years, they bought a property just off the town square in Healdsburg and built a two-story barn from the ground up. Downstairs, the bar and restaurant serve the best cocktails in town and an ever-evolving menu of farm-to-table dishes. Upstairs is the Hales’ pied-à-terre. Acting as general contractor and chief designer of the barn was an all-encompassing project, and Jil lived up to the nickname her friends had given her when she first moved to Anderson Valley: the Barn Diva.

Adapting the name to her new venture, Jil’s restaurant suitably hits a few high notes. From the outside, the building suggests a familiar rural vernacular—it’s a single structure with richly stained board-and-batten siding. Inside, the towering space is a sophisticated mix of travertine floors, wood tables, a colorfully lit bar and cream-colored walls adorned with modern art and antique farming tools. Out back, an enclosed garden is set with tables, big rustic sculptures and a trickling water feature; overhead mulberry trees are draped with twinkling fairy lights and a heritage black walnut offers dappled shade during the day.

FROM LEFT: The Cor-Ten steel and neon lights in Barndiva’s sign hint at the owners’ modern sensibilities; Studio Barndiva represents local artists such as painter Laura Parker and wire sculptor Ismael Sanchez; floor-to-ceiling drapes, formal flower arrangements and streamlined drum shades are just some of the sophisticated designs Jil chose for the restaurant; before coming to Barndiva

The pied-à-terre upstairs, which is accessed through the front door tucked alongside the restaurant’s entry patio and up a Dan Flavin-esque staircase with rainbow fluorescent risers, is even more of a surprise. It feels like a loft in Tribeca rather than a barn apartment in Sonoma County. The voluminous main room is centered on an oval dining table surrounded by red leather Eames Executive chairs. On one side a 16-foot-long kitchen island is topped with another fluorescent-lit bar (the prototype for the bar downstairs). The kitchen itself is an updated take on the European unfitted kitchen, with open storage, several sinks and a formidable black-enamel Lacanche range. A built-in bar adorned with Jil’s favored Tunisian ironwork, more classic midcentury furniture and artwork collected from around the world complete the scene in the main space. On one end is a guest bedroom and office mezzanine, and on the other is a master suite.

Two-and-a-half years after completing the barn, the restaurant was bustling on evenings and weekends, and Jil was ready to raise the bar even higher. The Hales’ life in Healdsburg had become increasingly focused on the community around them as they supported local vintners and farmers. But Jil’s passion for art and design needed an outlet, and the four walls of the restaurant were filled. So in 2007 she opened a gallery next door in a space that was formerly an opera house. Artists & Farmers, as it was originally called (now Studio Barndiva), was a place to celebrate and sell the art and designs she discovered locally or on her many travels. On display is an assemblage of Hales’ own lighting made from Tunisian architectural salvage along with locally crafted paintings, wire sculptures, blown glass, reclaimed wood furniture, imported gifts and accessories. “I don’t want to show things that can be easily found somewhere else,” says Hales, pointing out one exception: aselection of John Derian back-painted glass plates. “I know he’s in lots of other shops, but he’s a friend.”

LEFT TO RIGHT: The restaurant’s back patio features pendants that Jil fashioned from Tunisian window guards; fluorescent lights show up at the bar, where a circular backlit inset mimics the two round windows at the top of the building; the entrance to the private residence is marked by a dramatic glowing staircase; the weather in Healdsburg makes it ideal for outdoor wedding receptions.

Behind the gallery is yet another garden. This one is filled with raised vegetable beds, outdoor sculpture and a table large enough to seat 200 under an armature designed for a canopy of mini-globe lights. Like the garden on the other side of the fence, the setup begs for a modern country wedding and it’s been a popular spot for such events since it opened. In fact, Geoffrey and the couple’s eldest son, Lukka, run Barndiva’s event and hospitality business, and they’re now averaging 60 weddings a year. The Hales have also taken over management of the nearby Healdsburg Modern Cottages, four nightly cottages authentically furnished with pieces by Eileen Gray, George Nelson, and Ray and Charles Eames.

LEFT: The humble facade of Barndiva belies the stylish elegance of the experience inside. RIGHT: An outdoor area behind the gallery is attached to the restaurant’s garden through a gate and is a popular spot for wedding receptions.

In her mission to open a world-class bar in this sleepy town, Jil has elevated the creation of the perfect evening to an art form. “I went for the type of environment where I would want to share a meal or toast a special occasion with friends,” she says. “If something doesn’t come from the heart, it just doesn’t work. If you’re not authentic, you’re running on fumes.”

Sitting under twinkling lights, as a parade of seasonal dishes made by Thomas Keller–trained chef Ryan Fancher, original cocktails and wine selected by the in-house sommelier passes by, it would be hard to argue against that.

Recipes from Barndiva’s Chef Ryan Fancher

Both of these recipes make the most of fruit and vegetables in late summer or early autumn, when ingredients are at the height of their season. They are great dishes to source at a local farmers market.

Barndiva’s Heirloom Tomato & Compressed Watermelon Salad Serves 4

1 medium watermelon 1 tsp. lemon verbena 1 large golden beet 1 large Detroit dark-red beet 6 heirloom tomatoes 2 Tbsp. sweet basil 4 Tbsp. Spanish sherry vinaigrette Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 cup purslane (optional) 2 Tbsp. crystallized ginger, diced 2 red radishes

Spanish Sherry Vinaigrette 1 cup grape seed oil 1/3 cup Spanish sherry vinegar A pinch of salt, sugar and freshly ground pepper

The Watermelon - The night before or a few hours before serving, cut into large cubes and sprinkle with the chopped lemon verbena. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. • The Beets - Cover with 2 cups water, 1 Tbsp. butter, 1 clove garlic and a sprig of thyme. Cover and cook at 350° for 3 hours. Cool and slice. • The Heirloom Tomatoes - Slice them thickly and mix them in with the chopped sweet basil. In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Bathe the tomatoes in 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette for 30 minutes or more. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. • Assemble - Stack the tomatoes, largest one on the bottom. Arrange the watermelon. Dress the beets in the bathing vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and plate. Sprinkle ginger and thinly sliced radishes over the dish. Dress the purslane, and add it to the dish to finish.   

Herb-Roasted Local Halibut Serves 4

8 baby artichokes 2 Tbsp. canola oil 4 cloves garlic 2 springs rosemary Salt and pepper 20 fava beans 1 zucchini 1 gold bar squash 5 lbs. Roma tomatoes 15 Toy Box cherry tomatoes 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 4 6-oz. halibut filets 1 Tbsp. butter 1 cup tempura batter 4 squash blossoms

Tempura batter 1/2 cup flour Corn starch 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 cup sparkling water Salt

The Baby Artichokes - Peel the outside layers to reveal the heart. In a hot pan, roast the artichokes with canola oil, garlic and rosemary until soft. Season with salt and pepper. • The Fava Beans - Peel the favas, and cook them in boiling salted water for one minute. Let cool. • The Summer Squash - Cut the zucchini and squash into diamond shapes, and cook them just like the fava beans. • Vierge sauce - Puree the tomatoes, and strain the clear liquid from the tomatoes through a clean kitchen towel. In a saucepan over medium heat, reduce the liquid by half, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil. • Halibut - In a hot sauté pan, sear the fish until golden brown, being careful to not overcook. Baste with butter, garlic and rosemary. • Assemble - Pool the sauce in a bowl or shallow plate. Arrange the vegetables in the sauce, and nestle the halibut in the middle. In a bowl, mix the tempura batter’s ingredients, and dress the blossom lightly with the tempura batter. Fry in  350° oil until golden, and place on top of fish.

By Sarah Lynch on October 04, 2010 at 3:13 PM

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