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Barndiva Cheers the Holidays


We will be celebrating the Holidays in both the Barn and the Bistro this year with a la carte and prix fixe parties on Christmas Eve, a Boxing Day Brunch, and two distinct menus on New Year's -  the penultimate meal of the year. 

Our Holiday calendar can be found HERE and on the homepage. We invite you to join us for one, two or even three remarkable services. We have much to celebrate this year and we hope you will allow us to show you our appreciation for your continued patronage by raising a glass with us in the run up to 2016.


The Holidays for Barndiva is all about extolling the virtues of luxurious comfort - celebrating cherished traditions in our version of grand style. The epitome of what we mean by luxurious comfort can be found in a deceptively simple dish that started life when Ryan decided to re-conceive the loaded baked potato. Humble in origin - like the best traditions often are - Chef takes a single potato and transforms it into an elegant dish that celebrates what we love about holiday fare.

It starts with a plump Yukon Gold he sous vides in duck fat. The tender spud is then top and tailed, cross hatching the soft inner slice which is then pan basted in butter, garlic and thyme. Last step is under the salamander where the top surface forms a salty, peppery crust, the encircling potato skin blistering to a deep golden brown.

Kendall Farm crème frâiche, a handful of tiny chopped scallion tops, and a holiday crown of Ryan’s pickled red cabbage complete the dish. Flavors are earthy and bright green, with a vinegary punch from the cabbage and a deeply satisfying contrast in texture as you bite through the crust into the smooth confit aromatics of the long cooked spud. The perfect accompaniment to an entrée of herbed sole, you can order it 'off the menu' as the first act for a winter meal that delights. Welcome to the Holiday Season. 

While on the Cocktail Front....

We are blasting through cocktails right now as recent tastings have expanded our artisanal spirit collections in both bars. In case you haven't discovered by now, Barndiva and the Gallery Bar have distinctly different personalities. Cocktails in the Barn are layered and mysterious, while the Gallery focuses on nailing the classic cocktail (3 ingredients or less) in all its forms.

By far the most most popular new cocktail we are shaking this Holiday in Barndiva is The Crystal Ball - the first night we made over 20 of them. It's a collaboration with our new friend Erin Hines, the talent behind Bitter Girl Bitters, a wonderful range of Bitters sourced and made by Erin right here in Sonoma County. We fell in love with Erin's Batch 1 and immediately thought of pairing it with Barndiva's Apple Syrup, made from 20 varieties of our heirloom dry farmed (county fair winning) apples. Blood Orange Vodka turned out to be a perfect meeting place for these two intriguing ingredients. Barndiva and Bitter Girl don't just partner up in this wintery, citrusy libation, we dance the light fantastic. You don't need a crystal ball to know this cocktail will become a  Barn classic. 

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You can find the whole range of Bitter Girl Bitters at Bottle Barn (no relation), K&L Liquors, or jump onto Erin's website, bittergirlbitters.com

And as a special Christmas treat, Barndiva has bottled some of our precious 2014 Barndiva Farm Heirloom Apple Syrup - so conceivably you could try this cocktail at home. Here's an idea: pick one up when you come in for a Barndiva Gift Certificate, the perfect last minute gift. Good for replenishing the soul next year with great food and drink - and unconventional art - in the Barn, the Bistro and the Gallery. 


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why grow apples?

Why grow apples? This is not a trick question, it’s one I ask myself every year about this time, when I start to wonder what in the hell we’re going do with tons and tons of them. Ours are dry farmed on a remote ridge far from any marketplace. Organize picking, transport, press, I think. Then what.

Because even after you’ve learned how to extend an apple’s life into juice, jam, cider, vinegar, syrup, and balsamic; after you’ve built dining rooms that produce beautiful salads, glorious tarts, elegant cocktails; long after you’ve fed the bears and fed your neighbors, and fed yourself, the question is still not rhetorical. 

You don’t do it for the money, though shame on that. It just doesn’t work with a farm as small as ours. We’ve done the math.  

The very first time I faced this quandary I bribed laborers away from the vineyards to pick, rented a U haul and drove south to my food co-op in Santa Monica where thanks to well earned nepotism, I was paid top price for them. I lost money. The next year I set up shop in the old barn and made jams and apple butter, listening to Puccini (etymology of the name Barndiva) drinking til dawn, designing labels, cajoling boutique food shops to sell them at a (then) astronomical price. I made just enough money to cover our groundsman Vidal’s salary. So frustrating was this yearly rebuke I was in fact relieved when we moved to England and I had no choice but to let the apples fall. Relieved but miserable. We had luckily handed off the nuts and figs to a dear friend and my goddaughter, but every fall I could hear my apple orchards lowing.

Challenges abound with farming: they are non-stop. But there are quiet moments that stretch across a lifetime. When you look over the orchards in the full bloom of spring, or at the end of summer when fruit hangs heavy on the boughs you just feel good about life. Proud of this beautiful organic product you produce, content you are doing your small part in keeping traditions (in our case over 100 years of them) alive. Farming introduces you to the best people - mentors, employees, and neighbors, who in our case became life long friends. People as crazy as we are. 

So it was on the last Tuesday of September that Geoffrey, Lukka, Daniel, Isabel and I met at the lower barn where Vidal (still with us, thankfully) had stored our apples. We loaded up and headed down the hill to the Apple Farm where Rita, Jerzy and Mark waited to help us press this year's batch of cider vinegar. They had been hard at it all morning, still in incredibly good spirits. The fragrance of fresh juice mingled in the crisp Fall air with the heavier scent of apple syrup bubbling away in the cooker. The old press sits on a lovely old deck overlooking the Navarro River. Standing there inhaling, the only thing closer to bittersweet heaven is the perfume of our orchards a few weeks after harvest, late afternoon, when the sweet rot of sun soaked fruit shimmers up from the ground in a lazy bee chorus. 

On Tuesday we laughed about our combined blue ribbons from the fair, smiled up into leaves turning red to gold, sipped cider, yelled at the dogs to get out of the way of cars coming and going to the fruit stand. Then we got down to work. A few hours later we had this year's batch of juice which will rest alongside the eight barrels of vinegar already aging in the lower barn.

Last year's apple syrup figures in Barndiva menus and cocktails. It will have a special place on this week's Bistro Sunday Supper menu.   

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Bistro Sunday is friends night, family night, totally relaxed,  incredibly delicious.

Here are some snaps from last Sunday's Supper:


And here is the rest of our October Menus. Join us! 



The Jolie Laide Sauce Brigade *video*

Ok, so these lovely people are probably not talking about sauce at this particular moment, as Liz flies across the room bottle aloft, but it's not an exaggeration that at some point Sunday evening everyone in the Gallery feasting on the Boeuf Bourguignon took note. Even if just monosyllabically. More than once.

Ryan will be the first to say that the many steps of labor isn’t what he wants our guests to think about when they take that first bite of a dish and oooh, ahhh or just go silent. Nothing should impede what you smell and taste in that instant. Knowledgeable sourcing and classic European technique is certainly at the heart of what we're cooking in the Gallery kitchen these days, but this is comfort food that doesn't ask you to think. Just enjoy.

Most of these recipes are centuries old. They come from a time women had good reason to hang around the kitchen all day when it was easy enough while stoking the fire to give a stir or skim the fat off a soup on the way to the potager, the chicken coop, the barn, all the interconnected arteries through which flowed the lifeblood of the farm. I often wonder things like this: at what point did the marinade come into play? What enterprising woman decided it was a shame not to roast those aromatic vegetables? In what restaurant did the man in the white toques decide to steadily increase the number of times he deglazed and cleaned, filtered and reduced his sauce, adding additional stocks to deepen the flavors? What a long road to creating the sauce we call Bourguignon.  

Marinating beautifully marbled short ribs in red wine is day one. After that aromatics are added for another day. Then the ribs come out of their bath to be glazed, the aromatics roasted, then all the elements meet again in the pan and off they go into a low oven overnight. After they come out, the sauce is cleaned and put back on the heat for constant skimming and reducing, fresh chicken stock is added, more skimming and reducing until, just before service, Andrew achieves the viscosity, the clarity and most importantly the rich flavors in the sauce that Chef is after.

Sunday's Supper began with a crispy Salad de Laitues, slivers of our Mendocino County Fair award winning apples, crispy bacon, soft blue cheese, and a light but creamy cabernet vinaigrette. It ended with soft golden crêpes Scotty made that morning, which Drew filled with frothy fromage blanc and topped with a bright blueberry coulis.

Great meal, great energy in the room, Isabel's sound tracks and fantastic short films streaking across the Barn wall. My fork touched the shortrib and the meat fell away from the bone, a good sign. There was a savory but bittersweet mouthful in the tiny mound of late summer tomato coulis (summer is really over), but a devil may care crunch in the tempura hericot vert. That was the moment I cast my eye on the sauce, which I'd seen through all its jolie laide, ugly yet beautiful stages. In the candlelight it glimmered, like a necklace of dark purple jewels. On the tongue it had the consistency of honey off a hot spoon, but it was not sweet, it was earthy, rich, vinous. Virtuous to a fault. I like this food and the care and love that goes into the making of it.

Reserve Sunday Supper by calling the restaurant (707 431 0100). If you reserve online make a note it's French Sunday Supper you want to book. We're capping the number at 50 to ensure lots of room to move around, but if you miss out, not to worry, many of the dishes Ryan and Andrew will debut at Sunday Supper will most likely find their way onto the à la carte menus in the gallery. For now Barndiva bar+bistro is open for drinks and bites Wednesday through Sunday, but stay tuned for expanded hours. 











Salade Cresson, Poulet Rôti, Crème Brûlée...oui!

Supper in the gallery this Sunday begins with SALADE CRESSON with sliced red Jonathan dry farmed heirloom apples from Barndiva Farm on Greenwood Ridge, which hopefully will be one of our apples that medal at the Mendocino Apple Fair in Boonville this weekend. Walnuts, bacon and blue if you want them.

Next up is POULET RÔTI, whole roasted chicken for 2, with sautéed spinach, natural jus. CRÈME BRÛLÉE for dessert! 

If you're just joining us reading the blog, French Country Supper is a weekly prix fixe dinner served until it runs out in our beautiful art gallery. Killer sound track, a montage of very old film snippets projected on the wall, classic cocktails and great wines by the glass. We're putting these menus together slowly, month by month, picking favorites for winter.  

To reserve call the restaurant and specify you are booking Sunday Supper in the Gallery. This week's 3 course menu is $42. Mention the blog (eat the view) and this week FCD comes with a glass of bubbly on the maison. 



Paillard or Schnitzel? You Decide

Sweltering 100 degree weather is still very much with us but as we head into the last few weeks of the summer's bounty, new menus that speak of fall continue to multiply. This Sunday’s prix fixe Country Supper in the Studio features two classic dishes that would find a welcome home on any bistro menu - a mixed bean, gloriously colored Soupe au Pistou, and a succulent, golden crusted Paillard de Porc.

But was it a Paillard or a Schnitzel, as both Dawid, who is Polish, and Lukka, schooled in France, made the case it be called. Here’s the skinny: The official dish of Austria, the Wiener Schnitzel, is a pounded and three step breaded boneless veal chop; while Paillards, also pounded, can be chicken, pork, veal or even reindeer (depending how far north you travel) and are not traditionally breaded. Both dishes gained popularity across Europe in the early 19th century when expeditious use of a mallet became the rage... tenderizing meat by breaking down its fibers, equalizing the thickness to allow it to cook evenly and thinning the protein to cut down cooking time from skillet to plate.


The focus of our Sunday prix fixe dinners has been decidedly French, and the addition of a lemon caper butter sauce which brightens each rich mouthful, the little raft of butter with garlic, rosemary and thyme used to baste the pork in the pan, are decidedly Gallic. What’s in a name? I’m with Shakespeare on this one.


The finished Paillard de Porc (aka Wolfie Schnitzel in honor of the redoubtable Wolfgang Puck who may be Austrian by birth but a California culinary genius in spirit) will be followed by a Scotty Noll Mousse au Chocolat. Our pastry chef may not be French, but when it comes to chocolate, C'est trop bien!


(View all Barndiva’s menus here.)




Fabulous Fall Salads & Sept Menus for FCD

 beets and brie

beets and brie

Fall is upon us, and with it comes glorious salads and decidedly autumnal dishes like crispy skin Mt. Lassen Trout, Brandade, Lamb Rillette, and the last colorful hurrah of indelible heirloom tomatoes. These show up in a rich soup with Bolognese Ravioli, baked into a Ricotta Tart served with herb roasted Filet Mignon, or dressed in nothing but a light Spanish Sherry vinegar with burrata and fresh basil. We can’t get enough of our tomatoes in September, especially when we know their season is winding down.

 All Hail Kale Caesar

All Hail Kale Caesar

 White Anchovy Niçoise

White Anchovy Niçoise

While the Barn rocks it with long leisurely lunches and elegant dining in the main garden, Ryan and Andrew have put the finishing touches on September's Sunday menus for the Studio’s French Country prix fixe dinners. Many of these classic dishes also appear on the gallery bar’s bistro menu from Happy Hour on, but Sunday is the day we want to carve out for meeting up with old friends and making new ones over re-interpreted classic dishes served alongside great soundtracks and another new video from Isabel Hales. Last week's Coq au vin Sunday sold out, so call the restaurant to get your name on the list, or sign up in the Studio when you come for a drink and bite.

Our next blog will detail the exciting Fall cocktails list which makes good use of Barndiva's dry farmed apples and pears, but make haste while this incredible weather lasts and visit the Barn while we are still enjoying the gardens and the incredible bounty from Sonoma and Mendocino County. Cheers!

September Menus

Sept 6
TARTE de TAMATE puff pastry, fresh ricotta, arugula, heirloom tomato
CROQUETTES POISSON POMME de TERRE fish cakes, kale salad, creamy dill vinaigrette

Sept 13
SOUPE au PISTOU white bean soup, cherry tomato, garlic toast, basil pesto
PAILLARD de PORC grilled pork loin, gnocchi, lemon, caper

Sept 20
SALADE CRESSON watercress salad, barndiva farm asian pear, walnut
POULET RÔTI whole roasted chicken for 2, sautéed spinach, natural jus

Sept 27
SALADE de LAITES au FROMAGE BLEU butter lettuce, blue cheese, bacon
BOEUF BOURGUIGNON red wine braised beef short ribs, pickled red onion marmalade, haricot vert






French Country Dinners in Studio Barndiva

Ryan Fancher is one of those rare talents that can cook pretty much anything he sets his mind to with a level of passion and consistency that will blow you away, day after day. But when it comes to what he loves to cook “best” anyone who knows him will tell you it's probably going to be French. Not fancy French with all the bells and whistles (though he has that down to an art form), but Country French, those soul-satisfying flavors that are imbedded in the part of our DNA that spells comfort. I’m convinced that in another life Ryan was a French grand-mère living on a farm in some great food town like Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, cooking incredible dishes that pulled from centuries of tradition, using every part of the animals the family raised, churning butter and cheese, pickling vegetables and herbs straight from a huge potager only a few steps from the kitchen door. 

In the interest of brevity when people ask we usually call the style of food we serve at Barndiva “Modern Country.” 'Modern’ refers to the clean elegant flavors and vibrant colors of Ryan’s palette, ‘country’ to the bountiful landscape that surrounds our restaurant, where we live and work and source ingredients. Hence the name of this blog: Eat the View.

So, it was no surprise when Ryan and star sous chef Andrew Wycoff started to play around with ideas for Sunday Dinners in Studio Barndiva they began to dream of menus you might have found in a French family cookbook 100+ years ago. This is the food they want to cook. More to the point it's the food they would love to eat on Sunday evening as the sun gets low, winding down from the weekend, mentally getting ready for the week to come. 

Last Sunday we invited a few friends for the first of what we hope will be many Sunday Dinners here in the Studio. Surrounded by French wine and food antiques that fill the Gallery, fueled by great conversation and a not inconsiderable amount of Rosé, we joyously ate through heaps of pencil thin frites and bowls of moules marinières with an incandescent broth that had us groaning with pleasure. The first course was followed by Mt. Lassen cold water trout with perfect crispy skin, served over haricot beans smothered in caper butter sauce. For dessert, there were old fashioned glass jars filled with silky dark chocolate mousse Andrew had topped with dollops of Bavarian cream and sugary light financiers. 

The wonderful a la carte menus Ryan creates for Barndiva will not change on Sunday, where weather permitting you can dine in our candlelit gardens. But if some Sunday evening you find yourself craving something a little more down home, easy on the pocket, sublime in the way it leaves you feeling just plain happy to be alive, join us for our spin on a Classic French Country Dinner in the Studio. Menus for the month will be posted on the website; book by calling Barndiva. Be sure to tell them you want to snag a seat for French Country Sunday. We will happily offer Vegetarian and Vegan options. 

French Country Dinners - served every Sunday in Studio Barndiva

August Menus, from $35

Sunday August 9th
SALADE DE BETTERAVES beet salad, hazelnut, watercress, blue cheese
STEAK FRITES kobe flat iron steak, hotel butter, fries
CHOCOLATE POTS A CRÈME valhorona 70%, financier

Sunday August 16th
SOUPE A TOMATE, CROQUE MONSIEUR tomato soup, ham & cheese panini
SAUMON AU SALADE OIGNON wild salmon, greens, shallot vinaigrette
CRÈME BRULÉE almond florentine , candied citrus

Sunday August 23rd
SALADE NICOISE greens, egg, green beans, olive d'agneau pistu
SLICED LEG OF LAMB white beans, basil pesto
TARTE TATIN barndiva dry farmed gravensteins, vanilla bean ice cream

Sunday August 30th
FRISÉE LARDON salad of frisée, greens, bacon, garlic crouton, quail egg
COQ AU VIN roasted chicken, red wine jus, mushrooms
PROFITEROLES (chocolate sauce, coffee ice cream







Sweet Reprise

As a diner, I love dessert. Whether a simple celebration of the fruits of a season or a high wire act that astonishes the eye with its technical artistry, what I'm really looking for in those last few bites of a great meal is a blissful way to ease into the rest of my day or night sated with more than food. A bit of sweet to balance the savory, something to amuse or dazzle... dessert is more than the last course of a meal. Sitting in a beautiful restaurant with a full stomach, steeping in the sounds of conversation and music and cocktail shakers firing in the distance, dessert is the time you drift. Life is good. 

But as someone who owns a restaurant which aims to deliver no less than what I expect when I dine out, desserts are a frightening endeavor. Even as part of a tasting menu they are the course you always lose money on, yet must pull off to perfection or risk leaving the wrong lingering impression in the minds of your guests. Add to that, and I’m not sure why (though long term exposure to sugar may have something to do with it), most pastry chefs are temperamental in the extreme, and not always in relationship to their talents. At Barndiva, where we have two dessert programs ~ one for the restaurant, the other for events ~ it has been one of the most difficult and tenuous positions to fill. We need a pastry chef with the nerves of a high platform diver, the back of a stevedore, the patience of a saint.

Scotty Noll, who returns this month as Barndiva’s pastry chef after what must be one of the longest hiatus’ in Sonoma County restaurant history, is the first to tell you he is no saint. But even at his most stressed out, more often than not in the final stages of decorating an eye popping wedding cake, he nails it. When he left, shortly after Ryan arrived, the Barndiva kitchen was like the wild west, with Scott the sheriff. He returns to a well oiled machine with a consummate master at the helm. We are thrilled to have him back.

Like most great pastry chefs he’s part dreamer, part alchemist. Like Ryan, he holds an incredibly high standard for every plate that leaves the kitchen. What I love is that he "gets" the importance of those last moments of a memorable dining experience. But don’t take my word for it. Come in and taste Scott Noll’s extraordinary desserts. You can enjoy them after a sumptuous lunch and dinner in Barndiva or with a cocktail, coffee or tea service in our beautiful new Gallery Bar.  

Welcome home Scotty. 


Our good friend Sofia Bates wants me to invite anyone out there looking for a “rich experience of local people sharing their expertise in rural living” to the wonderful Not So Simple Living Fair which is fast approaching. Held July 24-26 at the Boonville Fairgrounds, this is a mindful and truly inspirational opportunity whether you are a farmer just starting out or an experienced hand that seeks answers to specific questions in soil management, permaculture and animal husbandry. Hell, it’s fascinating for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of what it should mean when we throw around the word sustainable.

 More information: http://notsosimple.info

We have just returned from NYC, where the family clan gathered to celebrate a beloved 1st cousin's birthday and, as it happened, dine quite merrily across Manhattan. We especially loved the  long "farmer's lunch" in the cool portico that floats above the Union Square Market, a brief repast on the roof of the new Whitney Museum, and a wonderful dinner Café Boulud in The Surrey, our hotel of choice when we crave proximity to the park and the Met. (This was after we had eaten and shopped our way across Nolita, Tribeca and Soho, where we stayed at The Crosby Street Hotel, also highly recommended).

As it turned out, our last night in the city coincided with the 11th anniversary of the opening of Barndiva. Though we wanted to celebrate with Ryan and Bekah, they were 3,000 miles and a new baby away. Happily, the 11’s aligned, and as we slid into a banquette in the utterly gorgeous dining room at Eleven Madison Park, the feeling was one of elevation, and abandon. We were welcomed back with a sparkling "champagne" made in upstate New York that was the beginning of an evening that did not end until almost one. It is astounding that EMP still delivers at the levels it does, not just with Daniel Humm’s remarkable talents in the kitchen but through an attention to detail in every aspect of a service that is masterful yet never pretentious, always genuinely informed.

Eleven Madison Park is heaven if you love the elegance of fine dining. From the perfect stem for every wine to the antique ice shaving machine used to churn a palate refresher enjoyed on a coveted visit to the kitchen, every component of this ingeniously customized dining experience shines. This is a crazy business we're in, with layers and layers of labor before you get to the love. But when it comes, there is no greater sense of pride. So here’s a shout out to everyone at EMP from your country-mouse cousins in Healdsburg, especially Maitre D' Zac Fischer and the very talented SOM Dev Ranjan. Thank you for a truly memorable evening celebrating our #11, at yours.


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A Sumptuous Alternative to Immortality

The most delicious lobster I’ve ever eaten arrived on my plate a few minutes after being plucked from the sea, cooked over a wood fire with nothing to dress its succulent white meat but a little lemon and a little salt. In the hands of the right chef lobster is umami heaven, but it’s notoriously difficult to cook to perfection. Once they leave their natural habitat every minute, and how it's spent, counts, lest you lose the fragile delicacy of their flavor.

Lobsters have a metabolism that does not degrade with time - theoretically those that do not perish through mis-adventure can live forever - but providence plays a bigger role around taste than how old they are when “mis-adventure” lands them on your plate. Even with the right ecosystem, one rich with algae, minerals and salt, technique and speed are paramount.

Ryan’s Lobster Risotto, a signature dish with legions of fans this time of year, is in a constant state of play throughout the day here. Live lobsters move from wet burlap bundles to boiling pots filled with lemons and laced with paprika to ice water baths to halt the cooking process while the laborious cracking and picking of all the meat commences. Shells and empty legs go back into another pot of boiling water, this one vibrantly colored with saffron and fragrant with fresh tarragon. Cooked down, the resulting blond fumé will eventually be used to cook the risotto. Tiny jewels of carrot, celery and tomato are prepped, fresh favas shelled, chives and society garlic flowers come in from the garden. Shavings of lemon zest are gathered into little mounds. Fingerling potatoes are made into tiny chips, sprinkled with fennel pollen while still warm from the deep fryer. 

And then we wait. When that first order comes clanking through the printer the dish must come together in a matter of minutes. After the risotto absorbs the fumé to an al dente stage, the mire poix is added, then the moist chunks of lobster meat. Off the heat, there is just enough time to sprinkle the dish with the dusky pink agapanthus and the zest before a crunchy nimbus of fingerling chips crowns the dish and it is rushed off to the dining room.

I love everything about this dish - not least its glorious summer colors, the contrasting texture between the pillowly richness of the lobster risotto and the crunch of the chips, the hide and seek of citrus and edible florals. For all its OMG satisfactions it is a very subtle dish, nowhere more apparent than in the bouquet, which brings with it a faint echo of the sea, taking you all the way back to where its story began.

Our fascination with the concept of immortality - be it a lobster's or our own - will always be with us, but if I’ve learned one thing watching Ryan and his brigade work through every hour of the day, it is what we do with the time we have that matters.

I especially love how we spend time making this dish. 

Calling All Dads ....

Speaking of time well spent, nothing is more important than the time we spend with loved ones. But if you ask most hardworking dads what they'd really like to do on Father's Day (as we have) the truth is most of them would like nothing better than to put their feet up and kick back. We get it. If you are joining us to celebrate, Ryan has  a classic special on the menu- we’re talking Grilled Rib Eye on the Bone, Lobster Twice Baked Potatoes, and Asparagus with Hollandaise.

We will also be celebrating Father's Day with after-dinner cocktails and sensational Scott Knoll desserts in our new Gallery Bar in Studio Barndiva, whatever your earlier plans, a great way to end the day in style.  

Happy Father's Day! 








Remembering Myra Hoefer

 Photo: Lukka Feldman 

Photo: Lukka Feldman 

None of us has a truly indomitable spirit as it turns out, though from what I knew of Myra Hoefer these past twelve years, she was a woman who gave the idea a good run for its money. But the heart beats, until it doesn’t, and our elegant friend who lived down the street behind the white rose arches of Ivy House in ever changing au courant rooms of perfect white is no more. The loss of her presence will resonate for a long time here in Healdsburg, a town she put on the design map and loved for over four decades, a town that in her inimitable style she never stopped trying to improve.

Myra was a formidable and much loved mother and grandmother, but to the outside world she will be remembered as a famous designer whose career will no doubt be the focus in the weeks to come, as her role as progenitor of “wine country design” is parsed and lauded. Two books were already in the works when she took a last health spiral a few weeks ago, and they will be welcome, because her talent was in fact prodigious. It deserves to be celebrated.

But it is not the doyen of design who will be missed most here at Barndiva, where her very close friendship with Lukka and her support of all things Barndiva afforded us front row seats to this vibrant woman’s operatic life. Myra had genuine star quality in an age where insipid selfie projections masquerade as talent. She was a Rabelaisian figure, always on the hunt for the joy to be found in any given moment, with a bawdy sense of humor and a relentless desire to unmask hypocrisy wherever she found it hiding. When she entered a room in those brilliant silk ensembles, huge costume jewelry and that beautiful smile, a deep throated laugh just this side of mischievous was never far behind. Crossing the Plaza a few months ago behind a family of tourists, we all caught sight of Myra zipping along Center Street in her white linen upholstered motorized wheelchair at the same moment, and they literally stopped in their tracks. “Now that,” said the father, “is what I call style.” 

He was right of course, it was all about style, whether the perfect chair, painting, or overflowing vase of single color flowers - but it was never style where price alone gave you bragging rights. Myra could walk into a room, any room, and break down exactly what she thought was wrong with it, but she did so with a generosity of spirit that was most uncommon in the insular world most designers protect as if it were a birthright. She would then proceed to tell you what she thought you needed to do to make the room “work,” with envisioned changes lavish or inexpensive, depending on your budget.

That she wasn’t overly precious about design, which she often called  "the art of smoke and mirrors,’  is not to imply there wasn’t great nuance to her signature rooms. We all made jokes about painting the town Pashmina, but it takes more than a few oversized couches and a chair with goat feet to make a room truly comfortable yet visually stunning, which hers always were. Her “smoke” wasn’t a slight of hand so much as an intrinsic understanding of how to value atmosphere, calibrate what really happens in the rooms we live in, how they should change with us. Her “mirrors” were the reflected glow of all things beautiful. Which she wanted to share. I’ve been designing all my life for the sheer joy of it, and while we never collaborated (our styles could not have been more different) I knew a fellow traveler when I saw one. 

A number of years ago Geoff and I stopped over in Paris and wanted to stay in the studio Myra kept in the heart of the Marais along the Rue de Tournelles. Because she and Wade were in residence she offered us instead the little apartment farther back in the building that looked down on a nondescript courtyard. She had decorated it for herself as a bolt hole with mismatched antiques and not a yard of silk in sight, yet the room was a master class of graceful lines, comfort as the ultimate expression of form, and the judicious use of color (though the rooms were white, of course). One night we met up for early drinks then went on our separate ways, returning very late. Geoff and I were worse for wear the next morning, creeping gingerly down the stairway in sunglasses, but there was Myra and Wade, sitting on the sidewalk like they were taking the sun in Biarritz, sipping coffee from little demitasse cups a waiter from Chez Janou sprinted across the street to deliver. Myra was dressed in a flowing silk and perfectly pressed linen, a St. Laurent Bedouin. She looked up, I rolled my eyes, we laughed. “Give me a few hours and I’ll be raring to go,” she said.  And she always was.

What I remember most about that flat was the way the planks of the polished old wood floors slanted, ever so slightly, just enough so that without consciously realizing it every step you took tilted you toward the boulevard, and the life outside that courtyard. Myra Hoefer may have been a designer of exquisite interiors but it is the life she brought outside those rooms, to a world that was never too big for her to try and wrap her arms around, that made her a singular human being. She will be sorely missed. RIP My. Healdsburg will not be the same without you.


Life is the fruit she longs to hand you
Ripe on a plate
— Phyliss McGinley




Go Big for Mama

The energy in Barndiva on Mother’s Day is electric. At Brunch we have two, three and sometimes four generations of moms being feted in a joyful commotion of laughter, family stories, dogs in the garden, babies passed around until they’ve had enough and let you know it. Dinner is a quieter, more elegant affair with love-you-mom bouquets leaning this way and that on the banquettes and candle lit tables, beautiful plates of food fueling reflective conversation.

 While we always expand the champagne list and offer Barndiva’s Seasonal List as well as The Gallery Bar’s Classic Collection, Special Cocktails have always been an integral part of Mother’s Day for us. A Mother’s Day cocktail should be celebratory, not too alcoholic, and deliver a few surprises with a soft punch. Don't worry,  Mom can take it.

Go Big For Mama is classic Sarah Cleveland. Here, our lead bartender has taken the idea for a sparkling cocktail composed around a soupcon of brandy, the spicy notes of ginger canton liqueur, fresh lemon juice and a favorite bitters of late...grapefruit hibiscus. The gorgeous nose comes from variegated apple/pineapple mint we grow here in the gardens.  I do believe the mama of this plant came from one of the wonderful Occidental Arts and Ecology plant sales. "Big” is a reference to the Magnums of Roederer that finish the cocktail, and to big love, of course. 

Our other  new cocktail is a first from bartender Chris Wright, who, when not studying opera for an advanced degree at SSU is the Barn’s go-to for devising incredible non-alcoholic libations for Dealer’s Choice. NAs are the vegetarians and vegans of bar world, and feared for as many silly reasons. Get over it.  Building a drink around a base spirit is not always your entry to the ideas you have for it. I've had (and we've created) a great many great drinks that work exceedingly well with, and without alcohol.

For Mother’s Day I asked Chris to update an NA classic handed down from his Mum, Patricia, and see if he could make it work with Vodka. He choose Organic 360 but the resulting dark ruby red cocktail, summer shimmery from the first sip, took its incredible flavor from the combination of thyme infused huckleberry jus and fresh grapefruit juice. A surprising delicacy you notice on the second or third sip rises from a hint of rosewater, and a lingering scent of the St George Absinthe Chris sprays inside the glass before building the drink, with or without the vodka. An exotic bouquet that has you at hello, with a curious familiarity.  While photographing him making the drink, I watched as he rubbed a thick slice of fresh lime peel against the inside of the martini glass. We’re calling the cocktail “Whatever It Takes.” 

Start out in that state of mind this Mother’s Day as you celebrate and you can’t go wrong. Go Big for Mama cause she does Whatever it Takes.

Take a peek at what we're serving up for Mom on Sunday.

And if you can't join us on the date, give us a ring to grab the perfect gift certificate for your perfectly wonderful mom. 

707 . 431 . 0100


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The Gallery Grows Up


No telling what Roger Chevalier would say upon seeing his old school chalkboard being used as a tray for martinis in an art gallery in Healdsburg, California, 75 years after he was rebellious or dumb enough (or both) to carve his name on the oak frame encircling his scribbled math problems and conjugations. If he's still alive I hope Roger would see the humor in this homage to the art of coloring outside the lines. Because it pretty much sums up what we're trying to do in The Gallery Bar in Studio Barndiva. Cheers Roger.

Our split personality at 237 Center Street is, by now, well known: Art Gallery by day, fabulous dining and dancing by night. Now we're adding yet another personality to a historical mix which once included a skating rink (1860, burned to the ground) and an auto body shop (segued into a head shop). We have benefited greatly from Healdsburg's growing popularity the past few years, but we miss the oddball irrepressibility which first attracted us to this town. We miss the custom of neighbors drifting into the Barn after work for a few drinks with friends, groups that would exponentially grow by dragging a few tables together without worrying about the noise or someone with a reservation needing the tables. 

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The first bar I ever frequented with any regularity was in Westwood, just off the campus from UCLA, where Professors in the graduate Film and English departments would go to drown their sorrows proving the adage if you can't write, teach. Then drink. The Algonquin it was not, but they were heady political and cultural times and the combination of elevated conversation fueled by glass after glass of wan liquids in cold glasses was catnip to me. I was old enough by then to have lifted a glass in more than a few grand hotels bars where the cocktails arrived on silver trays, the lighting was sexy, the floral arrangements large. I was also no stranger to the seedy dives filled with great jukebox soundtracks and cracked leather booths that flourished along Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevard. To this day I still have a fondness for both swank and dive; more elusive to find is the camaraderie  of  community. There's something to be said for those rare drinking establishments that put bonhomie before the booze.

Because the space is still very much an art gallery, a crazily eclectic collection of antiques, painted and sculptural stories, we wanted the spirits in the Gallery Bar to reflect a keenly curated selection of artisanal spirits. All the popular brands will be on hand, but to make it into one of the framed vitrines we've built on the back bar we're sourcing smaller batch spirits made by inspired and passionate distillers. A higher calling that's really never gone away, distilling is suddenly resurgent in virtually every part of the country right now. Happily, many of the best distillers are working right here in the North Coast.  

For ten years Barndiva Restaurant has been proud to create nuanced cocktails with layers of complex flavors meant to compliment the exquisite food coming out of Ryan Fancher's kitchen. For the Gallery Bar, we are going in a different direction, not re-inventing the classics so much as putting our spin on them. These are simpler cocktails, elegant but spare, three ingredients or less, that come up cold and fast. Combine the practiced insouciance of Nick and Nora in The Thin Man Movies and the exacting standards of James Bond and you'll see where we're headed.  

As for the food, it's still all about our farmers, but while the way we prepare each dish in the Barn is necessarily time consuming the bites at the Studio are designed as lounge dining, easily plated to share with friends. To come up with the opening menu we spent a few months reaching into the walk-in and pulling out whatever struck our fancy, cooking the kind of dishes we crave after a hard service or on our days off. This is what came out of the kitchen: juicy pork meatballs redolent with fennel and red pepper; perfect baby radishes with sweet butter and salt; a tricked out Cuban sandwich with extra pickled peppers; an artisan platter with enough fixings to last through a bottle of wine. Geoff wanted fish and chips, Lukka voted for bone marrow tater tots. I wanted everything served on olive wood platters, no utensils necessary (though if you want them, we are happy to oblige.)

Andrew Wycoff, Ryan’s oh so talented protégé, is leading up the new studio kitchen, bringing incredible focus and a sense of mischief we're going to encourage. Their initial menu is briny, salty, crunchy. Think ‘bistro small plate specials,' which balance the local heart of a blue plate with a more manageable size that leaves room for more than one dish. Manageable pricing too. 

So here it is: The Gallery Bar in Studio Barndiva. A no reservation policy, with expanded hours five nights a week. Liz from Oklahoma will steer the evenings, with Dawid, from Poland, whom many already know as our charismatic Gallery Manager, now shaking a mean Manhattan when he's not showing off the collection. Continuous food and drink from 3 o'clock on. 

The brilliant film montage installations will change monthly, curated by Isabel Hales. Given how many of these cinematic nuggets come from movies I first saw on those long days that ended in that bar in Westwood, there is a sweet nostalgia to working on this project with my daughter. We'll no doubt expound more on the entertainment front as we find performers we want to see and hear in the Gallery, but for now Isabel says to tell you everything will change because everything must change. Words to live by. 

Come and see us!



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drink the view

A  few welcome showers blew in and out of the North Coast on Sunday, but not nearly enough to assuage the ongoing fears this drought continues to exert over us, which have become an inevitable topic in every conversation. The farmers and wine growers we depend upon to build a restaurant like Barndiva - or any restaurant in town that supports the local food shed - can't thrive without water. A good amount of it. We have been conserving water sensibly here at the restaurant, but running out of water is a constant worry now. It's going to take a concerted effort on everyone's part to navigate the next few dry years.

And yet, driving through what we literally know as 'Dry Creek' Valley this week on my way to the farm, winding up 128 through Boonville where Anderson Valley opens its arms wide, climbing further still up to the Greenwood Ridge, I was struck by how lush the world felt. Cool sea breezes roll over the mountains every night from the West drenching our gardens and fields with fog - an incredible microclimate that burns off into long hot days when you can almost hear the fruit ripen. To water the gardens and vegetable beds we rely on an aquifer hundreds of feet below the ground. Food is paramount, of course, but in these first days of Spring right before the dry farmed orchards burst into bloom, all eyes and thoughts turn to flowering things for the sheer joy found in them.

It isn't a simple matter to understand the fascination civilization has always had with flowers, long before the historical event known as Tulip Mania in the 17th Century. For thousands of years horticulturally obsessed Kings and Queens collected floral rarities as they explored and conquered the world. Kingdoms rose and fell, but when the imported plants managed to survive their new climates, they thrived, becoming part of a richer, more diverse landscape which we eventually inherited. 

But even in the most humble of gardens our desire to collect objects of unsettling beauty is also the chance to watch the life cycle of plants as they move from bud to blossom to decay. Just knowing after they disappear that they return again makes for a fascinating uplifting story - one you helped write.


Many years ago when for reasons I've never completely deciphered I decided I would be a gardening woman, I planted formal English borders up here in the remnants of Victoria Cassinelli's rose gardens. Over the years they have all gone a bit native, as I have, but pedigree stalks smuggled from England when Isabel was a baby still burst forth to take their place alongside Hellebores the color of burnt sugar Daniel planted only last year. Chartreuse Euphorbia thrive alongside pale pink Camellias (which I love) and purple Azaleas ( I do not.) Trailing Banksia Roses climb old wood walls, night blooming Jasmine huddle over the entry on the new house, scenting the evenings as we come and go. The gardens do not end so much as disappear into a Gertrude Jekyll Maginot Line of naturalized meadows that creep up toward the highest point on the ridge. fey Tulips and Wild Lilac. Sweet Clover and Hyssop Loosestrife. Beneath the apple trees on the west slope sun loving Ixia flout their color like saucy chorines dancing with abandon in the wild grasses. Even the despised contingent of birds we call Fatsos (yes you can file them under birds we would like to kill) whose uncontrolled gluttony in the Queen Anne and Bing cherry blossoms leave us fruitless every year contribute to the moment, sending wedding showers of white petals that catch in your hair, hide in the folds of your clothes, sprinkling the bathwater as you undress, exhausted, well after dark.

Flowers are the poetry of the natural world - as enduring as Eliot's Four Quartets in a garden you've tended most of your life, as short and bittersweet as an Issa Haiku the moment you step into the forest and see a wildflower so thin and delicate and alive it takes your breath away, knowing full well it will be gone by morning.  

Don’t weep, insects
-lovers, stars themselves
Must part.

Whatever the future holds, it feels right to luxuriate in this wet green wonderland right now. Its mad floral frenzy of color and fragrance and perfect natural form feeds the soul just as surely as the food we grow fills our stomachs. 

Mendocino, 2015 

The official guidelines released by the California Water Authority last week set forth new water service regulations for the hospitality industry - we can now only provide customers with water service when asked. It may seem a hassle, you may wonder if there aren't bigger and better ways to save water right now, (less alfalfa anyone?) but it makes sense to consider that every little bit counts. Bottled sparkling water is an alternative, but even when we know its sourcing is sustainable, the measurable energy it takes on its journey to the table itself involves another sort of compromise. 

 The one thing we know for sure is that we're in this together - chefs, farmers, all BOH and FOH staff and crucially, you, our customers. 


 Next Week: The Gallery Bar in studio barndiva




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The Guilty Joys of an Precocious Spring

In a week that saw unseasonably glorious spring weather we spent much of our time inside finalizing design, drinks, music, films, and a sweet little bar menu in anticipation of opening The Gallery Bar in Studio Barndiva this week - finally! 

 We did make time for walking the length of West Dry Creek (above), biking to Cloverdale, trenching and pruning at the farm, and surviving the first of two busy Barrel Tasting weeks.  We even ended the week eating succulents (yes, succulents, see below), but hats off to Chef, who in the middle of all this delicious, madly beautiful din also managed to preview a brilliant dish that takes a beloved old classic out for a new spin.