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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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two cameras, one sunset

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healdsburg vineyard

It was just chance that Dawid and I were both out and about at sunset last Tuesday, reaching for our cameras at more or less the same moment in time. Dawid was traveling south on 101, looking out over Old Redwood Hwy towards Dry Creek Valley ~ his shot of vineyards, back-lit blooming plum trees and gently rolling coastal ridges is bathed in a spectral glow. A methodical photographer who longs to capture light as the eye sees it, I can imagine him stopping the car and getting out, carefully contemplating the layers of color and lineal form as traffic whizzed by and the sun dipped behind the mountains.

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I was in a speeding car on Hwy 128, Geoffrey driving, between Philo and Boonville, playing the viewfinder game ~ half a second to intimate just when to push the shutter before 'the shot' flashes by, gone forever. 128 is a road etched in my brain after 30 years, yet still revealing its secrets. Just when I think nothing about it can surprise me, that I’ve squeezed everything out of the landscape, it stands up and bites me in the ass.

With much of the country still locked in the cold clasp of winter we are counting our many blessings here in Northern California, luxuriating in glorious weather and sherbet colored sunsets. Both images capture what many of us were feeling this week: if you don’t believe nature is sublime, now is a good time to start.

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

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VOTE FOR US!

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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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Cocktails for Lovers

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It’s harder to create ‘romantic’ cocktails than one might think ~ any drink themed to an ideal (as opposed to a season) comes with so many various interpretations. Valentine's Day runs the libidinal gauntlet from starter romances that don’t need anything more than a gentle nudge, to long married couples in search of a jump start. And then there’s everything in between.

Rachel Beardsley bartender

Be Mine? is a Barndiva Valentine's Day favorite ~ a shy come-on of a cocktail that flirts with just enough flavor in an egg white lavender foam so the punch of citrus you get from Meyer lemon infused vodka comes as a nice, if unexpected, surprise. It's finished with a crème de violette and huckleberry syrup heart, which adds top notes both floral and forest berry. It's a pretty drink, one that's elegantly sexy.

rishi tea cocktail

It’s All About You (a.k.a me me me) is a cocktail for seasoned lovers ~ c'mon, if you haven't heard that refrain in an argument, chances are you've said it. Construction of the cocktail was also a response to the notion that men don’t order champagne cocktails. Gay or straight, they do, of course, but more often than not they like a kick to them. And while It’s All About You could read as hipster chic from a cursory look at the ingredients ~ Rishi organic white rose tea, St. Germain elderflower liqueur ~ its spirit (in both senses of the word) is Pisco, a fortified grape brandy which to our mind is not used often enough in great cocktails. There are so many directions Pisco can take other than sour! Rachel finishes It's All About You with a bracing swirl of creole bitters so you end up thinking New Orleans, not Brooklyn.

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Then again, think whatever you like. At the end of the day what’s sexy about any cocktail is that it takes you where you want to go. What you do when you get there is another story.

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Oscar Party!

Speaking of  One Night Only Cocktails ... Oscar Sunday is within sight and we have Tiger Blood on the mind. The hype around this year's Academy Awards continues to grow ~ latest from the mediaplatz is that Silver Linings Playbook is "surging," while Argo is falling back. Whatever. It's a great field of films this year. Our favorite, Beasts of the Southern Wild, is a genre hybrid of unsettling beauty, with bravura performances and a first time director who makes heartbreaking connections between the personal and political. Doesn't have a chance in hell of winning ~ but let's hear it for the nominations! The best part about watching the Oscars is all the schmoozing going on ~ a good indication of who will get work next year.

There is no prix fixe menu this year ~ come in for a drink and fill out a ballot or stay all evening ~ but come ~ schmooz with us! We've been hosting an Oscar party since the year we opened, it's great fun, and to make it more exciting this year there will be a $50 Barndiva gift certificate for the winning ballot. Voting starts at brunch on Sunday, and you need not be present to win.

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales, Dawid Jaworski. Oscar Graphics: k2pdesigns.

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Happy Valentine's Day (almost)

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If you haven't bought a gift or made dinner plans for V Day this Thursday, we've got you covered. While the restaurant has been booked up for weeks, a Barndiva Gift Certificate holds the promise of a romantic dinner on an evening of your own choosing ~ surely one of the few instances where 'it's the thought that counts' rings true. We also have lovely gifts ~ from the quirky to the sublime ~ to choose from in the Gallery. Ain't love grand?

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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The Race is heating up, with Argo upending an expected rout by Lincoln in all the press awards ceremonies leading up to the big night on Feb. 24th. This will be Barndiva's 9th Annual Big Screen Oscar Party ~ a great night at the Barn. We will offer an à la carte menu so you can eat and drink as little or as much as you want, and back by popular demand an in-house ballot contest that could win you a $50 BD gift certificate if you turn out to be the cinéaste Nate Silver of Sonoma County. You don't have to be present to win (balloting opens at 11 am Sunday Feb. 24) but where's the fun in that? There is a great field of films this year ~ come for the Red Carpet and stay for Best Picture....and dessert!

Lucky Ducks

smiling duck

The post office called Bonnie Z at 4am last week with the news her day old baby ducklings had arrived ~ I had no idea our beleaguered postal facility even offered that service! Bonnie dutifully got out of bed and picked them up and voilà, the Dragonfly flock had doubled in size. Well, almost. The little ones, Runners and Campbells, will stay inside until their fluff turns into proper water repellant feathers. After that they will join the other ducks and chickens waddling, eating and fertilizing the beautiful flower farm on Westside Road. They should start laying eggs in early Fall ~ if they produce enough Barndiva can start using them in Octavio's desserts by September. Stay tuned. Better yet, take a trip out to Dragonfly and see them for yourself. For a list of Dragonfly's ever changing but always wonderful educational and social calendar, check them out online here.

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happy boy and ducks

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales. Oscar Graphics: k2pdesigns.

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Great Fun in Feb

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February 7

Click here for more details

What could be a nicer way to spend an evening in the middle of Winter than dining in Barndiva, listening to great jazz and knowing the proceeds will go to support music education in Healdsburg public schools?

For this year's Jazz in the Schools citywide benefit, we are thrilled to welcome the Dick Conte Trio with Steve Webber and Bill Moody. Rachel will be shaking signature cocktails & Chef has put together a very cool prix fixe menu in addition to our regular à la carte. Call for table availability ~ 431 0100. If there's room at the bar, of course you will be most welcome. It's going to be great to have live music back in the Barn.

February 14th

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Valentine's Dinner reservations are pretty much sold out, but if you had your heart set on spending a romantic evening here at Barndiva, all is not lost. What's that they say about pleasure delayed is pleasure multiplied? Pick up a Barndiva Gift Certificate ~ good all year for a great night out. While you are here, check out the beautiful gifts we have in the gallery. Not all pleasure needs to be delayed!

February 24

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Hard to believe this will be our ninth year hosting a big screen Oscar Party ~ one of the few things I miss about growing up in Los Angeles (oh Swifty, where art thou?).  But it is: we've hosted a variety of themed parties for Oscar Sunday since the year we opened. This year the field is particularly exciting ~ if challenging themes don't set your teeth to grind ~ with some stellar performances.

There is no set menu this year ~ come in for a drink to catch the Red Carpet or stay for the entire evening until Best Picture. Call if you don't want to risk disappointment ~ it's hard to leave once you get here, and we will honor dinner reservations. And yes, we will have a bottle of sparkling for a local Nate Silver who guesses the most winners (and no, you don't have to be present to win ~ come in anytime Sunday and vote.)

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales. All graphics (except Jazz): k2pdesigns

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Wild Striped Sea Bass in Saffron Bouillabaisse Butter

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The conversation continues around here about serving farmed fish. A few months back we did a tasting of a farmed Striped Bass and we tried, we really tried, to love it. No luck. There was something slightly muddy in the finish that anything forced to live in containment water probably can’t avoid. We all know the oceans are straining, but in every way we prefer fish sustainably caught in the wide open seas. When Mike Torrise showed up last week with this gorgeous wild Striped Bass from California we felt vindicated: sweet smelling, eyes still lucid, flesh still firm.

Striped Bass has the most wonderful skin ~ it scores into neat diamond bands that crisp up like crackling. With fish this fresh each bite brings with it the taste of salt from the sea. A little butter and thyme and there is nothing between you and perfection, except knowing when to take the pan off the heat. And what to serve it with.

Mix Garden has been providing us with exquisite tiny young vegetables; time consuming to peel, pare and steam (each separately) but the flavors they pack are condensed, Shangri-la. The third component was a vibrant shellfish sauce ~ mussel, clam and fennel broth suffused with tarragon and saffron, reduced, strained and buttered out. Chef finished the dish with a light drizzle of first press virgin olive oil that just arrived from our friends the Pates at Serendipity Farm. A glorious dish to start the year.

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chef ryans wild sea bass

Per our conversation about seafood sustainability, check out Studio Barndiva exhibitor Nader Khouri's beautiful photo blog Visual Appetite this week. It talks about a new food model called Community Supported Fisheries. Nader writes "CSF supporters say it’s a way to deliver local, seasonal, and mostly wild-caught seafood to consumers while shortening the supply chain and giving fishermen a more fair price for their catch. In the past year the number of CSF programs in the U.S. has doubled to 35." Not sure if it will reach us up here in Healdsburg, but it sure sounds like a good thing for the Bay Area.

All text and photos, Jil Hales.

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Wednesday at the Barn Says Adieu As It Welcomes in 2013

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Hello, Goodbye

It would be boorish indeed to post images of our guests wearing silly hats they've donned after imbibing copious amount of drink, but when it comes to our staff all bets are off.  Chef may have slipped out the back door with Bekah and the baby just after midnight, but the rest of us partied on to a playlist of Prince, MJ, Barry and an extended homage to Donna (RIP, girl).

NYE is a great night around here syncopated as it is to base notes of bleating horns and the clarion call of champagne corks popping, but for the staff it also serves a higher salutatory purpose. By the time the room emptied and the balloons had begun their inexorable drift into the new year, cliff or no cliff we were ready to say goodbye to 2012, happily done and dusted.

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Incredibly, this is our 200th blog as Eat the View. Next week we will post one more time (wild sea bass) before taking an extended travel break. We hope to return ~ invigoration is an art around here ~  but you'll have to stay tuned to see in what form. New Year's may be over, but metaphorically (and, no doubt edibly) speaking, the night is still young.

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales.

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Wednesday at the Barn ~ 2012 ~ A Look Back in Pictures

chef and rylee

And a Very Happy New Year to You!

All year the blog strives to present delectable images of food, but at the end of the day (end of the year), there would be no blog without the people who contribute to it in every way ~ from the farmer in the field through the chefs in the kitchen to the waitstaff at your table. Because we are passionate about what we do, we are fully cognizant that we would not be here without you ~ our friends, guests, supporters of the Barn and the Studio. We want to take this opportunity to thank you for making this our most successful year, and allowing us to continue doing what we love.

So it is with a full heart that the entire Barndiva family wishes you a 2013 full of joy and meaningful endeavors. We hope it includes some time spent at our table.

Salute!

earlybirds place

foraged mushroomsbarndiva farmchef dannykitchen staffpreston vineyard lambnader khourieattheview filmpanchoruth bader ginsburglukka and amberfresh pressed apple juicefarmer vidalhen and chicksxmas gallerygeoffrey at farm

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

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Wednesday at the Barn ~ The Santa Fix

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It's not too late!restaurant gift certificate

Noun into Verb

kids with santa 2012Happiness is as ephemeral as anger, as pain. Because we crave it more doesn’t make it easier to attain than those less desirable but fully human emotions. Hit any bookstore and you’ll find dozens of titles on how to become Happy, right alongside books on how to deal with your pain or marginalize your anger. But for all the thought we give to what we want and how to get it, relatively few of us get to old age any better at making ourselves (lowercase) happy than succumbing to a grumbling melancholy. One of the tragic ironies of life may be that the most quintessentially pleasurable moments we’ve felt ~ as children running wild, as travelers the first time abroad, as lovers in the arms of our first infatuation ~ cannot be duplicated, except in paler versions.

Perhaps if we were better at knowing why the heart wants what it wants we’d live more fulfilled lives. Instead, most of us settle for a self-serving definition of happiness the culture presents as aspirational ~ we know that to be rich and famous isn’t the route to satisfaction and security, yet rare is the person who won’t take either when offered. Throughout our lives the people who choose to serve and protect ~ first responders, teachers, healers, volunteers ~ are the ones we reach out to first in times of trouble. Why is it then, for too many of us, the only time of year we acknowledge the importance of giving is at Christmas?

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Even for non-Christians, it's a holiday that speaks to the better angels in all of us. Because it’s about family, hearth and food, it recognizes the need to share a communal spirit that has goodwill embedded in its DNA. Sure, the conspicuous consumption part dumbs it down. And yes, the desire to hang fairy lights, decorate the tree and festoon gifts in gay attire comes as part of a mixed bag which can also include obnoxious relatives, too much traffic and a depleted bank account. Doesn’t matter ~ Christmas provides an opportunity to make peace, enchant the little ones, lavish those who have been good to us with an extra measure of joy. Whether you buy it or make it or simply will it into existence, it encourages a particular kind of hopefulness which only children seem to come by naturally but most adults need a yearly holiday to remember. To work selflessly for a greater good does not promise financial rewards or glory, to be sure. What it does offer is a connection between doing good and feeling good, the possibility that through virtuous deeds you find something which ultimately shines longer and brighter than bling. The good news is that to be hopeful IS a choice. While we (mostly) do not get to choose what happens to us in life, we never lose the ability to choose what we believe in, and to act on those beliefs.

In the wake of the tragedies in Newtown, which we all know by now could have happened in any town, we have an opportunity this holiday season, as we hug our loved ones close and contemplate how best to keep them safe, to consider the values that truly strengthen us as human beings, and to work towards realizing those values more fully all year, long after Santa has left the building.

 

All text Jil Hales. Photos/Graphics: Dawid Jaworski, (a stealth) Kirsten Petrie

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Wednesday at the Barn ~ Christmas in the Gallery

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Jingle Away

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The Gallery will be open with extended hours through Christmas Eve with a unique collection of beautiful things...

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... no matter what size box you are looking to fill.

healdsburg gift shop

 

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

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Wednesday at the Barn Menu + Will the real John Dory please swim up + Xmas in the Gallery

John Dory prix-fixe-menu

John Dory with Honey Glazed Baby Turnips, Pickled Red Cabbage & Sherry Caviar Crème

JD spot

John Dory is a fish of many aliases ~ St. Pierre, Peter’s Fish, Janitore, Kuparu (the name used in New Zealand by the Maori, where the fish thrive in great abundance) with stories burnished through time for each name. Chef’s favorite comes from a passage in the Gospel of Matthew in which St. Peter leaves a thumbprint on the fish’s body as he pulls it out of the sea at the behest of Jesus, hounded by the Romans for a temple tax. Saint Peter pays with a four drachma coin he miraculously finds a in the fish’s mouth. I favor the French nursery rhyme that tells the sad tale of a sea captain named John Dory who happens to meet the King of France as he ambles drunkenly toward Paris looking for a benefactor. Farfetched, if not miraculous, the King gives him enough gold coins for a new ship, which our boy John promptly sinks in a battle with pirates on the high seas.

But even the most likely historical attribution ~ jeune dorée means ‘gilded yellow’ in French which amply describes the appearance of this silvery, olive yellow coastal fish ~ does not explain that spot, which, as it turns out, is more Darwinian than religious or fanciful. The distinctive tattoo just below the Dory's dorsal fin functions as a highly effective “evil eye,” flashing predators to buy time for escape, and also serves to confuse the Dory’s prey so it can pounce. Nature may not have had a hand in naming the John Dory, but it more than compensated for the fact that it needed help to survive. The Dory, it turns out, is one of the slowest swimmers in the sea ~ yet another reason it has eyes at the back of its head.

preparing john dory

For a fish with such a long and colorful history, there are surprisingly few cooking preparations that won’t destroy its delicate buttery flavor. Overcook the Dory even by seconds and you lose the fragrance it carries of the sea, ruining the lovely texture of its flesh. Another caveat: because it retains a great deal of water for such a thin bodied fish, the Dory should be served within 48 hours of being pulled from the water, never frozen. When Ryan was considering what to serve as a second fish course for our NYE Menu, he went straight to the Dory with an idea of pairing it with caviar and chive crème brightened with Spanish sherry vinegar. Shown here, as Dish of the Week, the sherry caviar crème brings out the earthy sweetness of honey braised turnips against two distinct presentations of slivered cabbage: garlicky, buttery Savoy beneath the fish, with a beautiful tangle of pickled purple cabbage on top. (As it turns out, this dish was a delicious runner up for the NYE menu when the John Dory will be served with a lobster brussels sprout hash and crispy prosciutto.)

healdsburg chef

Pictures don't do justice to Ryan's artistry when it comes to plating, nor do they reflect how much time he and the brigade spend on the visual components of each dish. Nothing is superfluous ~ each ingredient must play a distinct flavor role ~ but he always manages to bring often disparate (in terms of color and shape) elements together in such a way that they dance on the plate. In this case think Balanchine, not Pina Bausch. On New Year's Eve the John Dory course will follow a seared Day Boat scallop with caramelized cauliflower and his "trail mix" of toasted almonds, golden raisins and capers. To find out what comes next, click here. FYI: We will open specially for New Year's Eve as it falls on a Monday, but with modified earlier hours. If you are considering joining us for what may well be the best meal of the year, book it Dano!

John Dory dinner

'Glorious Icky Bits' shot of the week

john dory bouillabaisseIf you don't make it for New Year's Eve, fear not, John Dory is currently on the new Fall menu, finished in butter atop a stew of herb roasted Manila clams, heirloom beets, swiss chard and chorizo. It’s a heartier dish than the one Chef will serve on NYE, perfect for early winter with spicy heat from the Chorizo playing off the light brininess of the Dory. It's also a nose to tailfin dish, which brings us nicely to our 'glorious icky bits' shot of the week. (Read last week's blog for our position on Icky Bits). There is not a lot of flesh on a Dory ~ superior knife skills are needed if you want to get the plumpest filets ~ but procuring the fish whole has a great plus as the bones of the Dory are especially gelatinous, making them great as a thickening agent for a fumet. This is the same fish shown at the top of the blog, after filleting, as Drew lowers it into the simmering fish stock he will use for our bouillabaisse, a la Ryan.

In the Gallery for Christmas and Hanukkah

Ismael Sanchez dropped off a new collection of his wondrous wire sculptures last week, just in time for the holidays. This butterfly is studded with ocean worn 'jewels' collected over the years from Glass Beach in Ft Bragg. Pigs with wings, scorpions, bulls, his signature simple horses and a (nearly) full sized goat round out the collection. We rarely have this many Ismael pieces in the gallery.

ismael sanchez butterfly

healdsburg gallery jewelry

We also rarely have as much jewelery ~ cuffs, earrings and necklaces that won't break the bank. Christmas decorations from around the world. Geoffrey's antique cigarette card collections. Beautiful vegetable calendars from Maria Schoettler and a slew of new books you won't find in stock anywhere else in this bookshop rich town of ours. Come in and look around. If you find yourself in the throes of indecision, go next door for a cocktail, or better yet go after you shop ~ a cocktail is on the house with gallery purchases of $50 or more.

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

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Wednesday at the Barn Menu + New Fall Cocktail List

Fall Cocktails

I’ve heard some bad ideas in my time (many of them attached to the words “time saving”) but Push Button Cocktails? That’s the tagline the Rabbit Company is hoping will sell their new Electric Cocktail Mixer, a product that is dumb, dumb, dumb. Come on people, one of the great anticipatory sounds of the civilized world is that of ice hitting the sides of a cocktail shaker held aloft. At the end of a long day it's the sound of an evening opening up in front of you with the promise of great food and conversation...and if you play your cards right and the stars align, maybe a whole lot more. The idea of replacing it with a Double AA battery pushing a superfluous motor that grinds the life out of the inherently delicate ingredients isn’t just stupid, it’s soul destroying. They aren’t called spirits for nothing.

I have little patience for dumbing down the art of the drink. I’m no snob ~ great dives can produce great martinis ~ but skill and individual style come with the territory (+ a touch of OCD doesn’t hurt). Since we opened Barndiva, cocktails have been at the heart of the dining experience we’ve wanted to create; seven years on we have developed one of the best cocktail programs in Northern California. Our passion has been fueled by consistently bringing on bright new talent and giving them stellar ingredients and an environment in which they have every opportunity to thrive.

But it hasn’t always been easy to put all three elements in play at the same time. Rachel Beardsley is the first woman to manage the Barndiva bar ~ about time, right? Turns out, Audrey Saunders notwithstanding, the mixology world is a glorified version of boy's town, as I suspect it always has been. In addition to the usual stereotypes, beauty like Rachel's can be an obstacle for being taken seriously behind the bar. She rocks it with professionalism and a cool but commanding presence. Brendan O'Donovan, who manages our wine list with an impressive understanding of nuance and nose has been a great foil for her. But with respect to the Fall list, it’s also hard to ignore the energy a new apprentice is having on the program. Justin Wycoff worked under Ryan in the kitchen for the past two years, but found his heart wasn’t in it for the long run. Affectionately known around here as Junior, he is the younger brother of our talented sous chef Drew sharing the Wycoff gene for crushing long hours with unbridled enthusiasm. Both brothers have an impressive focus for detail, but it turns out Junior also has a bit of the mad scientist in him. We’re going to encourage him to take what he learned under Ryan ~ especially from the garde manger station ~ and run with it.

Cocktails are an innately human endeavor, one of the few which fully combines art and science, but you don't need to be James Bond to understand the difference between shaken and stirred ~ it’s all in the wrist. And heads up: anyone who tells you differently is just trying to push your buttons.

Here's a preview of our new cocktails. It comes together at a great time of year for spirit drinks which pull inspiration from the gardens and the forest. Consider yourself invited.

 Lady Penrose is a gin cocktail where the complexities of the spirit soften and open, house-infused with garden sage. Gently shaken with huckleberry jus and fresh lime, the drink is topped with sparkling Roederer from just down the hill from our farm in Philo. Named after the great modern photographer and Man Ray muse Lee Miller, Rachel incorporates a perfume of angostura for a spiced nose and a bit of heat ~ in her incredible life, Lee had plenty of both to go around.

Golden Boy uses our ever popular house-infused browned butter whiskey with a hint of black pepper syrup and fresh lemon juice. The drink stars Barndiva’s apple juice from our farm, pressed at Apple a Day over in Sebastapol (a blend of Spitzenburg, Golden Delicious and Jonathon’s ~ if you dined with us in the past month you've no doubt enjoyed a shooter on the house and would agree, it's killer). A charge of soda frames the conversation of this drink, the epitome of smooth ~ more Oscar De La Hoya than Clifford Odets.

Ruling Class Lite is made with house-infused burnt orange tequila hit with a splash of fresh lemon juice. The drink's citrus is tempered by a light but distinctly herbal tarragon syrup. Rachel’s first interactive cocktail, RCL comes with a sidecar of beet and tarragon foam, earthy and wonderful. Check out the drift.

Bitches of Seiziéme is a thoroughly modern take on a champagne cocktail made with sparkling Roederer, house-infused orange peel brandy, coriander syrup and a hint of creole bitters on the nose, reminiscent of absinthe. Ask the bar about the name.

Ninth Ward is Brendan’s contribution to the collection with fennel infused vodka, a bit of citrus, and a mist of Herbsaint over a beautiful sea of egg white foam. Garnished with bronze fennel from the gardens.

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

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Happy Thanksgiving!

For most of the world, giving thanks is a daily activity.  From all of us here at Barndiva, we wish you a joyous holiday.

Dinner Parties in the Gallery

For information about our glorious holiday parties ~ or any upcoming reasons to celebrate in the new year ~ info@barndiva.com

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

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Wednesday at the Barn Menu + Dish of the Week: Braised Oxtail with Lobster + Photos of the Porchetta Roast!

Braised Kobi Oxtail & Lobster Claw Fricassée  w/ Chanterelles, Harvest Vegetables & Yukon Gold Potato Tots

We eat to nourish and sustain ourselves, but for the most part we've all been trained to look at images of food to be aroused. In this respect there is little difference between commodity chains like Red Lobster and upscale magazines like Martha Stewart Cooking: the production of images that have been set-designed and stage lit to beautify and romanticize what we eat. In order to meet what are essentially market driven expectations, photographers increasingly try to avoid what a food stylist friend once described as “the icky bits of cooking.”

Which makes the job of producing a curious little food blog like ours somewhat conflicted. Two weeks ago our bookkeeper was passing the computer when she caught sight of an image we had up on the screen of a whole, uncooked octopus. It was gray, wet, limp, about the size of a small child ~ by any stretch the definition of unappetizing. “God, I wish I hadn’t seen that," she shrieked. "I’m not sure I can ever eat octopus again.” Least you get the wrong impression, our bookkeeper is no wimp. She is ex-navy with five children. But as it’s hardly the intent of a restaurant blog that touts the talents of its omnivorous kitchen to turn people off ~ and turn her off it did ~ after some discussion we took the easy way out, choosing a close-up of one graceful tentacle, brined a rich merlot red. But I haven’t written a blog since.

Because I haven’t found a way out what's become an ongoing dilemma. I love gorgeous images of food as much as the next guy, and happily my life is full of them. But that's not always what I see when I look through my lens each week as I set out to document a dish through the laborious stages it takes on its journey to the plate. And what I see has increasingly led me to believe that it's precisely this narrow definition of what constitutes ‘beautiful’ and "exciting" that inhibits us from exploring anything that can't be photoshopped into submission or reduced to copy the length of a long tweet. Because it's in the icky bits that the best flavors slumber, needing to be coaxed, step by step, to reveal themselves.

There are a lot of icky bits in nose to tail cooking ~ starting with a whole (dead) animal. But if you’ve been reading this blog at all you know that the intricate and loving steps we take to properly cook animal proteins is a huge part of what we do. It flows from the pleasure we get from eating everything that comes our way, nose to tail (if they have one), which is measured by a relationship with animals based upon respectful dependence: eating animals after they’ve lived a good life honors and engenders the bio-dynamic precepts of farming we hold most dear.

This week’s dish started with a decidedly ungainly looking animal part, the tail of an Ox. Serpentine, mostly bone and sinew, this off-cut has surprisingly little meat. It took four days to render the tail into one of the most delicious dishes I've had all year (including a full day to let the flavors develop). Check it out:

From the brining of the tail overnight there followed protracted stages: mincing vegetables and roasting bones for the veal stock, flouring and searing off the Oxtail before adding it to an all day braise, straining and clarifying the stock and the finished sauce (six times that I counted), peeling, boiling, puréeing, forming, and deep frying the Yukon Golds for the tater tots, cracking and steaming the lobster claws, peeling, paring and cooking each vegetable for the final dish. Raw meat, grease, mounds of uncooked vegetables ~ there was not one vanity shot. The drying of chanterelles, which we do in the garden, was indeed pretty, but didn’t feel an essential part of the dish. The bi-product of the only truly dramatic moment ~ Chef pouring a magnum of red wine over the meat and vegetables and igniting them, the room exploding in a foresty, primal smoke that stroked a curious longing in me ~ was a smell.

To coax a sweet, rich, tiny bundle of meat out of that Oxtail took immense concentration with a surfeit of heat, sweat, blood and guts. (Not just of an animal variety.) What we do may not always look pretty until we get to the finished plate, but at the end of our very long days, it's the getting there that's truly fascinating. As least that's what I've come to believe, with the hope that you will too.

 

End of Summer Porchetta Roast: Friends and family celebrate the life of a pig named Denise.

Yes, Denise is a curious name for a pig, but when Lukka, Daniel and Olga were warned not to personalize their first experience of raising an animal for the table by naming it, they stood their ground: if they were going to raise a rare mule foot, build her an acre pen to root around in, schlepp vegetables the staff collected every day for her to eat, and see to it that she lived a pain free life up to and including the way she left it, then hell yes, it was going to be personal!

Naturally, when it came to deciding what to serve our staff and a few close friends at Barndiva’s end of year harvest celebration, all eyes turned to Denise.

To allow Ryan a night off, Dino Bugica, our good friend and undisputed porchetta master was called upon to look after the "main course."  If you are not conversant with the details of Porchetta, it’s a classic Italian preparation in which the body of a whole pig is de-boned, herb rubbed, then re-rolled up tight so the skin crisps as the meat slowly roasts into the melted fat. Dino used a simple fennel pollen, salt and pepper rub which enhanced the incredibly sweet, herbal notes of the meat.

For the rest of the meal, Daniel baked sublime muffins from a closely guarded family recipe and he and Olga roasted squash and potatoes from the gardens at the farm. Amber baked three stellar sweets: chocolate chip banana bread, sour cream forest berry muffins and incredible pumpkin pie brûlée. Lukka stocked the bar. Geoff helped carve. Though it wasn’t a pot luck, friends brought loads of other goodies ~ Dragonfly's beautiful salad was stellar ~ but most of all everyone arrived with tons of good will. It was a great afternoon of food, drink, and laughter, with kids running wild in the gardens until long after dark.

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

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Wednesday at the Barn ~ Nov. 6, 2012

November 6, 2012

It all comes down to this... knowing where your food comes from.

We hope you will join us and vote YES on Proposition 37 today. This is an election year where truth feels relative, indisputable facts are hard to come by, and no bill is going to be perfect. Let common sense, not the power that flows from vested interests, help you decide how to cast your vote on this vital issue.

California can lead the way to an informed approach to GMOs across the country ~  every vote matters.

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales and Kirsten Petrie (unless otherwise noted.)

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Wednesday at the Barn ~ Rachel Dreams Kiss Kirá ~ On the House: First Press of BD Ridge Apple Juice

Cocktail of the Week

Kiss Kirá

Rachel's stellar new cocktail Kiss Kirá started with the simple desire to celebrate our Asian Pear harvest, which was particularly abundant this year. But nothing is simple when it comes to working with pears, whose subtle flavor registers as a fragrance as much as a taste. Their delicacy is easily overwhelmed ~ whether in a composed dish, lost in the sugar of a jam, or buried beneath the bolder competing piquancy of a chutney. Asian Pears, prized for their high water content (which contributes to a nice crispness when ripe and chilled) are particularly hard to work with. But ah, when ‘paired’ with spirits, these pears can really soar.

Good Eau de vie captures their essence particularly well, and in the past we’ve crafted some great pear cocktails using vodka. Kiss Kirá is our first go at using citrus and spice infused whiskey with fresh purée from our dry farmed Nashi's.

Rachel had it in her mind to work with Rye, which she infused with an autumnal mix of orange peel, roasted fennel and coriander seed, clove and cinnamon. Shaken with Canton Ginger Liqueur and a hint of fresh citrus, which brightened the spice, the final cocktail created a beautiful nimbus when poured. It was the color of a desert sunset. Even filtering the purée twice, the body of the cocktail ended up on the thick side with a silken texture redolent of our pears.

An inspired final touch was to paint the martini glass with a swirl of balsamic honey gastrique which according to Rachel, “provided a balance of tart to sweet, while adding another element of depth at the forefront of the palate.”

Usually, with a flavor profile as difficult to nail down and hold as an Asian Pear's, less is more, but this is an incredibly thoughtful cocktail. It opens slowly in the glass, and as the gastrique melts it plays an intriguing game of hide and seek that dances with the rich loamy flavor of the Rye, always managing to return to the elusive flavor of pear. Kiss Kirá is a knockout. Be warned though, as ethereal as Indian Summer, it will only be on the Fall menu while the pears last.

Also making a brief appearance in the restaurant over the next few weeks is an 'Amuse' of the first press of the season of Barndiva Ridge Apple Juice, a blend of dry farmed Spitzenberg, Golden Delicious and Jonathans.

Even if  you aren't dining, come in for a shot on the house. Fall is a great time to reacquaint yourself with the Barn. But get ready for a surprise if you haven't been in of late.

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

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Wednesday at the Barn.......Octopus Hispaniola....In the Press...

Dish of the Week

Sauté Octopus Hispaniola

They are strange creatures to look at and not the easiest to cook, but oh how delicious Octopus is when you get it right. We brined them first in a salt mixture, then slow cooked them sous vide for five hours, which softened and tenderized them. Octopodes are mollusks, but the meat is similar to a mild tasting crustacean like a lobster. Hispaniola was Chef's inspiration for the dish. The stellar dipping vinaigrette of chili peppers and chives which accompanied it captured the vibrant spirit of the second largest island in the West Indies. Fingerling potatoes, baby artichokes, and green cherry tomatoes were all cooked separately, then combined, while the octopus was simply sautéed in olive oil and confit garlic.

At the last minute Chef added golden cherry tomatoes he blistered in olive oil, then dressed with Spanish sherry vinegar. I love this technique ~ you end up with a sweet peeled cherry tom with crunchy wings that looks as if it's taking flight off the plate. The octopus was soft and pliant, with a gentle heat from the chili, and a soft almost ethereal texture.

Hawaiian mythology holds that the octopus is the lone survivor of an alien universe. Perhaps, but far more fascinating is that they are equipped with chemoreceptors in their suction cups which allow them to taste what they are touching. Now that's a talent that would go a long way in a kitchen.

Style Me Pretty

It was great to see one of our favorite couples published in Style Me Pretty this week, one of the more popular wedding blogs around. Leah Lee captured all the details. Here's the link.

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

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