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Young rabbit with wild morels, fiddleheads, cherries, ramps, baby turnips and blood sorrel

carrot topper
prix-fixe-menu

Dish of the Week

young rabbit with wild morels, fiddleheads, cherries, ramps, baby turnips and blood sorrel

morels and fiddlehead2
cherries and sorel

What a palaver ~ forget about the difficulty sourcing quality rabbit these days ~ the rush is on for those delicacies that only make a brief appearance in late April, early May. All week this incredible bounty arrived in fits and starts. The indefatigable Charmoon brought in two big bags of wild morels on Wednesday, the same day ramps and fiddleheads appeared. Three kinds of tiny pink and white turnips arrived from our friends at MIX, who also dropped flats of beautiful blood sorrel, so named for the vein of vibrant red that runs down the center (and not incidentally, a curiously wonderful iron bite to the finish). I harvested the Bing cherries at our farm in Mendocino County on Saturday morning, by Saturday evening they were on plates in the dining room.

chef and raw ingredients

There's a precarious balancing act with ephemeral ingredients like these ~ the trick is to present them as simply as possible so they play with and not against each other. The rabbit loin was wrapped in ramp tops, then cooked sous vide with the kidney in fragrant aromatics. (Pan sear or grill the kidney and you risk losing that moist pop of meat juice when you cut into it.) The morels were glazed in butter and chives. The ramps and cherries were lightly pickled. The turnips were steamed, then brushed with butter. This is one of Chef's favorite times of the year: blink and you'll miss it. Manage to score a table for lunch or dinner in the next few weeks and you won't!

finished dish

The "Real" Key Ingredients

Admittedly most of the talk in our blog week after week is about sourcing food, but make no mistake: the most important ingredient here at Barndiva is of the human kind. The front of house is the kitchen's direct conduit to you; but while they provide the most powerful way to communicate the narrative around each dish, great service is a high wire act where one mis-step can reverberate throughout the meal. Some diners like a lot of talk about the food, others want only the salient facts. Knowing the difference is almost as important as knowing the food.

Sincerity is not something you can teach alongside the daily special, but it's the first thing a customer registers no matter how 'educated' their palate. What I love most about the dedicated, smart, food and wine obsessed young men and women that work here is the passion they manage to bring to the barn with every service. We are so lucky to have each and every one of them.

restaurant-staff

Matt, Kaireesa, Cathryn, Stacie, Mark, Brendan, George

The snap above was taken just before we opened for lunch last Thursday. Servers, hosts, back waiters, bartenders and Brendan, our SOM, often trade day and evening shifts, but the guiding force behind our increasingly popular lunch service is the beautiful lady third from the left, Cathryn Hulsman, our AM manager.

All text and photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski

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House Cured Salmon, Crispy Capers, Heirloom Beets, Avocado, Kumquat & American Sturgeon Caviar

springtime garden
prix-fixe-menu

Dish of the Week

Sunday morning breakfast never varied in our house all the years I was growing up: lox and bagels lathered with Philadelphia cream cheese and thick rings of red onion. When, on my first trip to France, I ordered a first course of ‘gravlax’ thinking I’d come upon an old friend, what arrived at the table was exotic and unfamiliar ~ transparent slices of salmon cut so thinly they shimmered like silk, a languorous trail of crème frâiche, a light dusting of capers. On a separate plate were little pillows of pancakes called blini. My first thought, ‘ok, we’re not in Kansas anymore,’ was followed by complete surprise when I took that first bite. For all its refinements, the dish brought me home.

I never forgot the lesson: whatever hide 'n seek we play with food, signature flavors have the power to haunt us. Sure, in chasing them down we more often than not find ourselves disappointed. But on those rare occasions when we aren’t, the experience is a remarkable convergence of known yet new, comforting yet exciting.

smoked-salmon-plate

Our first course on last Sunday’s Mother’s Day tasting menu was remarkable in precisely this way as it managed to remind me of my mother’s kitchen while seamlessly bridging the gap between homey and elevated. The taste of the sea was alive in the house cured salmon, a bright dollop of caviar like an exploding punctuation mark on the palate. The salmon was cured in equal parts salt and sugar with fresh dill, lemon and orange slices. The heirloom beets pickled in sugar, mustard seed and champagne vinegar, were punched out with a scalloped ring mold.

Everything on the plate played off or with the fish: the earthiness of the beets, the sharp bitterness of the kumquat, the creaminess of the avocado and the crème frâiche. Pink peppercorns, fresh chives, deep fried capers, opal basil and tiny mince of red onions ~ spicy herbal notes ~ wove in and around the salmon refreshing each bite. My mother would have loved it.

beautiful-beet

SOM's notes:

Sekthaus Solter Spätburgunder Brut Rosé, NV, Rheingau, Germany

A sparkling rosé wine is a great pairing to the first course on our Mother’s Day menu because underneath the German lingo this German sparkler is in fact simply a pink Champagne from Pinot Noir. Light bodied and dry, it delivers crisp red cherry and strawberry notes that stand out against a background of sorrel herb minerality. Brighter than any stateside Blanc du Noirs I've had, it's a perfect refreshing palate cleanser that elevates the richness of cured salmon and the crème fraîche, while holding it's own with the earthy and herbal elements of the dish, as well as the bright acids and tangy tartness of the kumquats. 

Brendan O'Donovan

In the Gardens last week

audi-experience

The versatility of the Barndiva Gardens had a nice workout last week when days before double barrel weddings we played host to an Audi Sportscar Experience that brought close to two million dollars worth of exquisite vehicles into the Studio Gardens. It probably was not fair that we told our staff the cars were this year's bonus for their hard work.

Our beautiful Saturday wedding made the New York Times Wedding Section because the bride was the great great grand-daughter of our 27th President. That would be William Howard Taft, if you are counting. Aside from the impressive lineage (the bride's father is the former legal adviser to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell) this was one lovely couple who blessed their vows in the gardens on what turned out to be an unusually warm late spring evening.

barndiva-wedding

All text and photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski

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Kale & Spinach Crusted Fritschen Lamb w/ Valbreso Tarte

garden vines
prix-fixe-menu

Dish of the Week

lamb in breadcrumbs

The brilliant color in this panko crust comes from deep frying spinach and kale separately, then crushing and mixing them with a blend of spices. The Valbreso Feta tarte stars hothouse heirloom sweet 100's and baby artichoke hearts. Marigold flowers from Alex at MIX were part of a light spring vegetable tasting that surrounded the lamb, which included Fritschen olives grown on the land where the animal grazed. We love it when we can connect elements in a dish like this. Summer made it's first tentative appearance with the cherry toms which Drew blistered and left whole, and tiny Marigold flowers, picked fresh and served raw.

tomato tart

Our SOM's notes: "I wanted to play off the beautiful vegetables with something that held up to the lamb, and immediately thought of a Chinon. A region in Loire Valley in France, Chinon is known primarily for it's Cabernet Franc ~ though they make a fine little rosé and a few whites. A great place to look when pairing vegetal flavors and red meats, Cabernet Franc is lighter bodied than our local Cab Franc, complimenting the rich, meaty flavors of the lamb while not overwhelming the spinach and kale in the crust and Chef's well edited tasting of vegetables. We are serving Domaine de Pallus 'Les Pensées de Pallus,' from the Rare Wine Co. It’s rich in texture; bursting with well-rounded red fruits, herbal notes, and a finish that has both balance and finesse."    Brendan O'Donovan

edible marigold

All text and photos Jil Hales.

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Sonoma Shellfish with Chorizo and Spring Vegetables

rose petal garden
prix-fixe-menu

Dish of the Week

teardrop down

A Mediterranean favorite of Chef's, Shellfish and Chorizo, appeared on the menu last week with mussels and scallops bathed in a Basil Saffron Seafood fumet. A terrior version sourced directly from the North Coast, the vegetables were stellar, arriving from all the gardens surrounding us that are bursting into production right now. It's an elegant dish redolent of the sea. As a perfect foil to its heady aromatics, Pancho's Chorizo patties explode with flavor and spicy heat ~ fat and crunchy. The mussels are steamed, scallops pan seared to give them a crusty edge. As for the fresh green bounty, wait for it: favas, asparagus, English peas, fiddleheads, ramps, baby carrots, radishes, turnips and red onion. Society Garlic flowers and tender purslane provide herbal notes. This is a dish that implores you to embrace life!

frying pan

Wine Pairing Notes from Brendan, our sommelier: For this dish, my first-choice pairing would be a great Rosé: something young, not too crisp, not too sweet. From our list I would choose a Triennes Provence Rosé. Balanced and friendly, complimenting the spice of the Chorizo while embracing the delicacy of the scallops. The fresh herbs of this dish stand out against the ripe fruit notes in the wine, which leaves a bright finish that lingers into the next forkful.

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mum.madre.mama.moeder.ahm.ama.muter.makuahine.haha.mzami.matka.'eh.

Happy-Mother's-Day
Happy Mother's Day

All text and photos Jil Hales, Dawid Jaworski.

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Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi w/ Sushi Rice, Avocado, Pickled Jalapeño, Kumquat

beautiful california
prix-fixe-menu

Dish of the Week

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When Chef said the words Tuna Sashimi and Jalapeño in the same sentence, I must admit I didn't get it. For the most part the mercurial flavors of raw fish call for a subtle touch. Surprisingly, the cool umami flavor of the tuna really worked in combination with the creamy avocado, citrus pop of kumquat and laid back heat of pickled jalapeño peppers. Who knew? (Chef, obviously.)

cocktail pairing

In the coming weeks we are going to choose unusual wine and cocktail pairings for each Dish of the Week, with notes from Brendan our SOM, and Rachel our bar manager and lead mixologist. First up is Ray with a cocktail pairing for the Sashimi that takes its classic Asian flavors and puts a Barndiva spin on them.

HER NOTES: The natural pairing here would be a sake cocktail, but while I wanted to create a cocktail with a clean profile so as not to overwhelm the dish, Chef's use of pickled jalapeño opened the door to a different, more playful approach. I chose a Roasted Jalapeño Tequila to wake up the palate with spice, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, cucumber water (with solids removed- no texture, just clean cucumber), fresh squeezed citrus and yellow chartreuse to add a bit of herbaciousness. The heat you get from the infused tequila dissipates almost immediately, allowing the redolent flavors of tuna, avocado and perfectly cooked sushi rice to predominate. Delicious and a great foil for the intensely salt-forward soy vinaigrette.

sushi with bubbles

A Special Brunch Menu

Happy-Mother's-Day
Happy Mother's Day

All text and photos Jil Hales.

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Bacon Wrapped Sturgeon

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It was great to read Andrew Carmellini’s strident defense of “the long lost art of the arroser” in the New York Times last week as we are big time proponents of this traditional French technique of rapid butter basting to finish proteins. À la minute cooking allows a little butter to go a long way; done right it has the potential to deliver saturated flavor that is as rich as it is nuanced.

bacon wrapped sturgeon delicious

Drew’s Dish of the Week ~ Bacon Wrapped Sturgeon with Smashed English Peas and Hedgehog Mushroom Tempura ~ relies on arroser and several other tricks of the trade that make the most of ingredients that are inherently umami, the basic taste profile we define as savory which, crave them as we do, can easily overwhelm the palate. On a scale of 1 -10, sturgeon has the potential to be gloriously satisfying, but without a deft approach to respect its subtle flavor and fragile texture it can easily go dry and bland. Drew’s use of thin strips of raw bacon tightly wrapped around the portioned fish and left to rest in the fridge keeps the cut flesh from drying out. It also lightly flavors the fish, adding a layer of complexity which his cooking method ~ a four sided pan sear ~ extends as the sturgeon slow cooks inside its carapace of sizzling bacon. The result is heavenly moist fish inside a golden crispy outer ‘skin.’

prepping sturgeon

An arroser can use any variety of herbs that will hold up to the heat ~ Drew chose fresh rosemary and garlic for their pungency and green notes. The secret of the technique ~ like many great things in life that have nothing to do with cooking ~ is all in the wrist. You need to move the spoon into and over the pan at a constant speed; this rhythmic basting motion results in dozens of tiny bubbles that aerate the butter. You’re going for foamy butter that does not burn. The fish is then pulled off the flame and allowed to briefly rest while the flavors harmonize, and it finishes cooking.

arroser

The earthiness of the hedgehog mushrooms, dredged lightly in tempura batter and deep fried, were an inspired land-meets-sea pairing for the fish, but Drew wanted more ~ color to brighten the dish and something to provide a foil for the savory proteins. Happily, the first of the English peas arrived in kitchen the same morning as the sturgeon, so we were off to the races. The peas were lightly smashed, then sautéed in VOO with a small dice of confit garlic, tomato and carrot, emulsified with a spoonful of fragrant spring vegetable stock. Pancho then made a vibrant pea purée (with a touch of spinach to hold the color) and a broken vinaigrette of VOO and port reduction.

Pancho and I did a little spring jig over this dish ~ he while plating it, me while eating it. Drew just stood back, arms folded, big smile.

hedgehog mushroom tempura

Of all the reasons I’ve come to see Ryan as a great chef, the talent he’s nurtured in this team resonates the most. Encouraging them to shine isn’t just his way of honoring his own mentors, though it certainly does that in spades. It’s also a reminder that for all the years of hard work it takes to become great at this profession, cooking like this is all about love, and respect.

Sprung!

votive

The first container of treasures we found on our recent trip to Paris this past (freezing!) January have just arrived in the Studio. Thick felt firewood carriers (also perfect for kids toys); handwoven cotton and leather everyday summer bags (larger ones for market or beach); elegant wire votive holders; a delightful selection of distressed steel bird feeders and planters; handcarved and painted picture frames ~ we done good! Come in and let us talk you through our charming Spring Collection.

gallery-collection3

Also just in time for Easter are the first of Neeru Kumar's elegant scarves in black & white and light summer colors. Kumar is one of the most beloved and well known textile designers in India at the moment ~ reviving hand loomed textile traditions one village at a time. Her work is sold at the V&A in London, at the Met and Guggenheim in New York...and now at Studio Barndiva!

Nerru Kumars textiles

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

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Exciting News!

beautfiul-barndiva-wedding
restaurant-week-prix-fixe-menu
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

healdsburg-blossoms2
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.

headsburg sunset

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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Cocktails for Lovers

valentines cocktail
prix-fixe-menu
special cocktails

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.

sipping cocktail

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.

oscars party

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)

ducky topper
prix-fixe-menu
carrot heart new darker

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?

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

oscars silver

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

clouds in cocktail topper
prix-fixe-menu

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

studio gifts2

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

oscars-menu

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

healdsburg rainy day
prix-fixe-menu
chef drew wycoff
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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.

healdsburg kitchen
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 ~ The Santa Fix

barndiva-restaurant

prix-fixe-menu

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?

gallery window

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

downtown healdsburg shopping

prix fixe menu healdsburg

Jingle Away

healdsburg gallery

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

healdsburg gifts

... 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.....Giving As Good As You Get.....

After the sun goes down...

Peace, love and happiness is not a phrase that normally rolls off my tongue, not since the 60’s at any rate, but that’s the only way I can describe the extremely mellow mood that flowed through the gallery and it's gardens Saturday evening when over two hundred kindred souls came to the opening of Salon des Sens.

It didn’t hurt that the weather was sheer bliss, warm and soft, with magical early summer light. Nor that thanks to St. George Spirits and Copain Winery there was copious amounts of excellent drink to enjoy with Ryan’s infamous Quail Egg BLTs, Compressed Watermelon Gin Fizz' and Aviation Bon Bons. At one point, when I thought the evening had peaked, K2 laughed and said "Are you kidding? Have you been outside?” The garden was full. Everyone was smiling. No one had any intention of going anywhere soon.

But if anyone passing by thought the genuine bonhomie of this crowd was just down to alcohol and a sugar rush, they would have been mistaken. In fact, when the next night rolled around and the same mood prevailed as Freddy Cole sat down to play the piano beneath the chandeliers on Barndiva’s rear patio, I realized that while art and music were clearly the driving force behind both evenings, something else was at play besides Freddy.

Salon des Sens is an exhibit brim full of fresh ideas about how we view food, while the music that came out of the fabulous Freddy Cole Quartet was so comfortable and familiar it had all the ease of slipping your hand into a soft leather glove. What made these two remarkably different experiences similar was how well they both captured, without a complicated political or social agenda, something we’ve come to miss in our increasingly isolated WiFi lives. Communal good will.

There is a lot of talk these days about how the “old” Healdsburg is disappearing, and indeed, we do live in a town that’s increasingly benefiting from the kindness of strangers, thanks to our emergence as the new heart of Wine Country. But the crowds that flocked to the barn and the studio this weekend weren’t tourists looking for the latest wine thrill. I saw a lot of familiar faces as I helped pour JCB’s sparkling before the Freddy Cole concert, but I also got the sense that even folks new to Barndiva felt they had found safe harbor; a beautiful garden where for a few short hours they were exactly where they wanted to be.

Which was true. Barndiva hosted the evening, but the concert was made possible because Tommy Sparks and Jean Charles Boisset who joined forces and stepped up to support the festival. Ditto the Bay Area artists who exhibited alongside local artists at Salon des Sens  ~ strangers committed to working together to extend an important conversation about food.

It doesn’t take a social anthropologist to see that the zeitgeist Healdsburg is channeling at the moment is consistently drawing from a mindful collaboration of old and new. It takes it’s cue from the town's most cherished traditions ~ farming, food and wine ~ recharging the mission to protect them in exciting new ways, essential if we are going to survive this current economy without selling out and losing what made Healdsburg so great in the first place. It’s no accident that all the exciting new ventures coming to town ~ Ari and Dawnelise’s new Campo Fina, Doug Lipton and Cindy Daniel’s Shed project, Pete Seghesio’s Salumeria are all backed by people with deep ties to the community and a genuine investment in its long term health. All of them, along with newcomers like JCB recognize, as we did seven years ago, that however unique they hope their new ventures will be, ultimately we are all drawing from the same well. Keeping the water clear, making sure it continues to flow even as more and more come to drink from it, must be a shared goal.

Two moments exemplified what I can only call the quality of worthfulness ~ an old-fashioned concept that needs to come back into use. The first was watching Alex Lapham’s beautiful son’s face light up with pride as he watched his dad farming in the video Drew and I made that had it’s ‘world premiere’ at Salon des Sens. What Alex does ~ what all the other ‘stars’ of Eat the View do ~  is backbreaking work, far too long under appreciated as the culture has shifted it’s focus of what’s laudable to a grandiose definition that equates being rich or famous with being valuable.

The second occurred the next night, listening to my friend Joanne Derbort speak about her husband David Dietz moments before Freddy Cole took the stage. Though most of the people attending didn’t know David, who died last year of cancer, the concert was in his honor. A man of rare intelligence and charm, his loss was greatly felt throughout our small community. In a short but eloquent speech Joanne managed to communicate to hundreds of strangers the true measure of a man who believed most of life’s problems, large and small, could be solved by working thoughtfully together. This weekend took a lot out of us ~ extraordinary efforts on the part of everyone here, especially Dawid, K2, Amber, Rachel, Daniel, Ryan and the entire kitchen staff ~ but along with the exhaustion there was a great sense of pride of jobs well done.

It’s an old-fashioned concept that gets no respect in Washington these days, but is very much alive in small towns like Healdsburg, where quite a bit gets accomplished before the sun goes down. Then we party.

St. George's Botanivore Gin includes the following ingredients: Fennel seed, Caraway Seed, Bay Leaf, Cinnamon, Cardamon Seed, Star Anise, Citra Bergamont Peel, Orris Root, Black Peppercorn, Angelica Root, Juniper Berry, Celery Seed, Cilantro Seed, Seville Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, Lime Peel, Dill Seed, Coriander Seed, Ginger Root

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

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Wednesday at the Barn Menu.....Five days to Salon des Sens ......... Six days to Freddy Cole...

As Opening Night Approaches...

Finding the sensate in food ~ luxuriating in the way it looks and tastes ~ is something we give a lot of attention to around here. If our comment cards ~ not to mention the word on the street ~ are anything to go by, it’s something we have learned to do rather well. But how to capture those same deeply satisfying elements in the works of art we exhibit (and let’s not mince words, hope to sell) in the fine art gallery we run next door to the restaurant has been more of a moving target.

Up to now the shows we’ve put together for Studio Barndiva, with the exception of Laura Parker’s Taste of Place, haven’t revolved around a single subject though it’s fair to say the artists we represent ~ Cohen, Minor, Morgan, Scheid, Youngblood, Sanchez, Rizzo ~ are all deeply invested in and take inspiration from the magnificent foodshed we live in. I loved the idea of Salon des Sens when San Francisco curator Maggie Spicer first approached me with the idea of collaborating because it presented an opportunity to mount an exhibit where artists from across the Bay Area could join our existing group in an attempt to answer in paint, photography, video and sculpture a question which has come to vex us: What really constitutes art when it comes to food?

We live in a technological culture that increasingly tries to seduce us with fastidiously perfect images which glorify food in much the same way pornography exploits sex. Every year thousands of cookbooks and magazines are published that cater to a food as porn continuum based on the titillation and voyeuristic charge we get from looking at something we cannot physically touch. Social acceptability that it's food and not sex does not alter the fact that arousal is the goal when food is idolized in order to make us long for it. Qualitative differences abound, of course ~ one man's mind bending, scientifically inspired images from a series like Modernist Cuisine is another's Red Lobster advert on TV, but the end game is the same. Like sex, we go in knowing there is no substitute for what we feel when we experience the real thing, but in a revealing way that knowledge is part and parcel of the attraction.

Which begs the question Maggie and I are posing with Salon des Sens: if actual hunger is not being sated by this kind of idolatry, is there something beyond longing which we crave from these images? Is there a difference between the earnest documentation found in cookbooks and food magazines and the commercialization of endless junk food adverts? What more might we expect from work that takes food as its subject matter but asks us to elevate it to an artistic level? I’m not, in general, a great believer in the ‘reception theory’ of art where one’s personal experience is used as the litmus test for the efficacy of a work rather than the forces the artist had a hand in creating, but when it comes to a subject so basic to our needs it stands to reason our response is bound to be highly personal. More so than a painting of a landscape or a portrait, even if we know the terrain or the face well. But does that mean food as a subject for art can never really move beyond a personal narrative the way Mona Lisa’s smile, Matisse’s dancers or Cezanne's landscapes are infinitely about so much more than the subject matter they present?

Salon des Sens will not provide definitive answers to these questions, but we’re confident the artists we’ve selected have the talent to frame them with a level of provocation that’s in sync with the true spirit of a salon.

The best art is a conversation you start with yourself where, if the art is good, some of your deepest longings to know more about what it means to be alive can be addressed in a way that leaves you wanting more ~ of life and art. In this way Caren Alpert’s work penetrates the organic yet formal elements of raw ingredients, while Maren Caruso elegantly dissects and codifies what we make from them; Michael Lamotte renders exquisite poetic light redolent of the earth, while John Youngblood documents with an Atget like respect the contours of farmworker's worn faces and hands. The movie Drew Kelly and I have made traces the human journey one plate of food takes to reach the table, while Susan Preston’s compost piece contemplates what should be the companion question ~ where all that food goes after we eat it. All the artists in Salon des Sens offer a way into a discussion we need to be having about this most precious stuff. The more we understand food in all its forms and expressions, the more we can understand what it represents: nothing less than our tenacious hold on life.

Wandering through SFMOMA on Saturday I took a detour from the Mexican photography exhibit we’d come to see and ended up in front of a Wayne Thiebaud painting. Display Cakes, like the best of Thiebaud, straddles representation and abstraction by taking desirable, seemingly well known objects and rendering them (and crucially, their shadows) into another dimension, one which hums with mysterious new possibility. What I’d never noticed before was how beautifully Thiebaud applies his paint, creating luscious texture across the surface of his cakes which elevates their formal qualities so they appear both seductive yet ironic. Go ahead, it seemed to say, swipe your finger across my frosting and see what you get. It won’t be sweet. Is that what you were hoping for?

Salon des Sens, with an opening reception on June 2 hosted by our good friends at Copain Winery and St. George Spirits, will run through June 12. Join us.

The Great Freddy Cole comes to Barndiva this Sunday

Tickets are going fast for both shows of this consummate jazz pianist and singer who kicks off the opening weekend of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. JCB is pouring their sparkling and the weather is promising to be splendid when Freddy plays his grand in the gardens with an incredible line up that includes Randy Napoleon, Elias Bailey and Curtis Boyd. The Freddy Cole Quartet will preform an afternoon show at 4, followed by a Gold Circle JCB wine reception in the Studio Barndiva Gardens. The second show begins at 7. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here, but if you're hoping for the Freddy Cole Sunday Supper there may be a few remaining reservations to be had by calling 431 0100. The concert is dedicated to the memory of David Dietz.

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

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Wednesday at the Barn Menu.....Salon des Sens draws one week closer....Tickets on Sale for Freddy Cole .........

Finding the Joy in Irony

A few important announcements this week, but no blog. It’s my birthday and I intend to use the day I usually set aside to write to go sit on top of a mountain and do nothing. Silence packs a wallop these days. There are times when I feel more turned on to the possibilities in life than when I was 20, more engaged than when I was 30, more satisfied with what I have accomplished then when I breached 40. I’ve also felt more frustrated than when I turned 50. We make a big deal about birthdays because we can’t or won’t use arbitrary markers to judge the depth of our true feelings as we move through life. The thing is, in the big picture ~ aka what it all means ~  everyday should be as important as the one before. Youth isn’t wasted on the young, abused maybe, but not wasted. It all matters if you say it does. So get out there and eat the view.

Salon des Sens

Salon des Sens is two weeks away and the show is starting to come together. Incredible artwork from Carol Beck and Caren Alpert has just arrived, with more to follow all this week. Out in Dry Creek, Susan Preston is putting the finishing touches on her compost piece (pun intended) while here at the barn Drew and I are rushing to find a soundtrack for our movie, Farm to Table in 3 Minutes.  (The image used for our topper is Alex Lapham of Mix Gardens starting his day). We've fallen in love with all three of the artisan gins Lance and Ellie of St. George Spirits are bringing to the opening ~ so much so that Chef and Octavio will be collaborating on an Aviator Bon Bon while Rachel and I are zeroing in on a deconstructed gin and tonic with Quinine Lime Granita. Copain, our other talented host for the opening reception, has let us know they will be pouring both their remarkable Pinot and a Chardonnay. Thanks in great part to guest curator Maggie Spicer, it will all come together on Saturday June 2.  Great party, serious collectible art.  (If you think I'm kidding about how good the art for this show is going to be, check out an image from Michael Lamotte's work, below. )

The Jazz Festival Returns to Barndiva

This Grammy nominated pianist from one of the great jazz families of all time promises to up the sass and the class for this year's Healdsburg Jazz Festival. Freddie Cole will play two shows at Barndiva on June 3, in the gardens. JCB is pouring their wonderful Brut sparkling. Dedicated to the memory of David Dietz, whose presence will be profoundly missed.

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

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Wednesday at the Barn Menu.....Salon des Sens....The Jazz Festival Returns to Barndiva...

Salon des Sens is coming...

Salon des Sens is shaping up to be to one very cool show: Maren Caruso’s clean-edged, explosive photographic vegetable dissection series; Caren Alpert's astonishing microscopic studies which explore the color and texture of food we put in our mouths everyday, making them appear as if they were shot from outer space; Michael Lamotte’s exquisite black and white ‘portraits’ which exhibit a masterly control of light. I look at a lot of photographic work throughout the year, but the level of talent curator Maggie Spicer has gathered from across the Bay Area for this collection is remarkable indeed. It helps that she’s approached this show from a number of angles. Susan Preston is doing an earthwork piece with compost. Seth Minor will be back with a single-wire sculpture. John Youngblood has agreed to fill a wall with his rarely seen portraits of farm workers, printed from 8x10 negatives. Carol Beck, a new artist for us, will be showing vibrant acrylic work which captures in paint a complex of emotions triggered by the taste of certain foods.

The show will run until June 12, but don't miss the opening night party. Nader Khouri, who had the cover of SF magazine a few weeks back, shot the poster for the show, while two talented long time friends have stepped up to host the evening with us. St. George Spirits, the folks who brought you Hangar One Vodka, also have an impressive array of superb artisan spirits, including three premium gins and a rye with the intriguing name 'Breaking and Entering,' with which Rachel and I will be devising diabolical cocktails to serve on June 2. Distillers (and owners) Lance and Ellie will be here on opening night, as will the fine folks at Copain Winery, pouring something special from their cellar. (Heads up if you haven't visited Copain yet ~ it is one of the most impressive and beautiful wineries around). There are only two big unknowns: whether the video Drew Kelly and I have shot will be done in time for its grand premiere and what Chef is contemplating for his ‘edible art’ pieces. While the stars are aligning for this show, this being art it’s also nice to know there are a few uncharted planets in our orbit, right?

Click on the image for details to the show and opening party!

The Jazz Festival Returns to Barndiva

If you can’t make the Salon des Sens opening night, buy tickets for the Jazz Festival the next night ~ we will keep the gallery open so folks arriving for the afternoon performance can see the art show first.  Or, here's an idea, come to the barn both nights and kick off your summer with memorable art and music. We are thrilled to be a venue for The Healdsburg Jazz Festival again for two shows which everyone is saying will be ‘unforgettable,’ not least because our star is Freddie Cole. Yes, he's the brother of Nat, uncle of Natalie, but if you didn't know it already Freddie has had his own remarkable career in "a little less crystal, a lot more barrelhouse" jazz for going on four decades. Come for the first show to enjoy the sun setting in the gardens, or bring a sweater and listen to this smokey voiced crooner under the stars.

We want to thank the irrepressible Jean Charles Boisset for his support of Freddie Cole at Barndiva. Jean Charles, along with long time Barndiva friend Tommy Sparks, have stepped up to make this evening possible. You no doubt have been reading a lot about the French wunderkind's invasion of Sonoma and Napa lately, come meet him on Sunday June 3.  For both shows JCB will be pouring their sparkling ~  it’s the classy thing to do for this particular headliner in the Barndiva gardens on a warm Sunday evening. Trust us on this one: JCB is not one to miss a classy move.

While we are pleased to have the festival back at Barndiva, make no mistake: the heart of this evening belongs to our great friend David Dietz, whom we lost last year. David believed in the festival as a dynamic and unifying force in Healdsburg and brought his signature passion in support of it. Come and support the festival! This one’s for you David. And for Joanne, as always.

Tickets include a glass of bubbly, but to meet Freddie Cole and JCB,  if you step up and purchase a gold ticket it will include a special drinks reception in the studio gardens between the shows.

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales.

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