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Copain Winery

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On the run up to Christmas... and New Year's Eve

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The run up to Christmas and New Year's is one of the best seasons here at Barndiva. Things are buzzing. As challenging as the year has been, all the more reason to bring it to an end in style, with great food, drink and good will abundant. Towards that goal, while we will close on the big day, we are mad for Christmas Eve. This year, on the night before you celebrate St. Nick we invite you to join us in celebrating St. Peter, patron saint of Fishermen. Alongside our full à la carte menu and a cellar bursting with bubbly, Chef Ryan will be butter basting Saint Peter's fish (aka John Dory) with turnip gratin and Dungeness Crab ravioli bathed in the Meyer Lemon butter. Scotty will be baking traditional mince tarts. Isabel will be serving special yule libations - and our just bottled apple juice for the little ones. We’d love to share this very special evening with you and your extended family.

If you’re still up in the air for Xmas eve, come on down! 

 

We'd also love to help you fill those Christmas Stockings. Still the best idea for just about anyone on your list is still The Barndiva Gift Certificate, redeemable everywhere  in Barndivaland - for food and drink in the Barn and the Bistro, or for beautiful objet d'art from house artists Manok, Seth, Ismael, and Geoff ... and now, for the first time,  for any future purchase in The Somm's Table.

Whether you are giving or taking (as in home) you should check out The Somm's Table, where we are proud to offer uniquely curated wine and champagne sets - great bottles chosen by our extraordinary Somm, Alexis Iaconis.  3 to 5 themed bottle collections, with engaging wine notes that include food pairings by Chef Ryan,  come "wrapped" in a very cool Barndiva market bag you can use all year, another first for us. My favorite sets are three Barndiva House Wines: Pinot, Chardonnay, and a plummy, rich, soft and well poised from bottle age Syrah, all made at Copain by the incomparable Wells Guthrie ($82); The Best Bubbles - a four bottle collection of wonderful champagnes which would be a treat to have around the house this time of year ($130); and Rosé Is Not Just for Summer, which in addition to François Chidaine Touraine 2015 and Idlewild's The Flower Rosé from the North Coast includes a delectable domain de Rimauresq, Cru Classé Côtes de Provence, a favorite from this past summer. We went through a lot of Rosé this summer - this set is a treat. (All three Rosés, in our signature bag, with Somm and Chef's notes, $60.)  

We are happy to sell single bottles from the table, especially glad to see local clients starting to pick up a special bottle when they've discovered something new after dinner in the bistro. The Somm's Table will expand into our expression of collaborative wine exploration over the winter - including a mysterious 'Wine School @ Home' program we're going to enjoy foisting on the unsuspecting public. But do come in and check it out over the holidays.

Lots of firsts for us in 2016 are available this Christmas - one we are especially proud of is being able to offer our insanely addicting Barndiva Farm Apple Juice, previously only available in the barn by the glass in the few weeks after press. Pasteurized by Manzana in Sebastopol, we have 10 oz glass bottles, available by the six-pack. For those under 21, we're drinking it chilled and neat; when the kids aren't looking you might try it over rocks with rum, or with a smooth shooter of fine bourbon, as we are currently offering in Barndiva and The Gallery Bar. Our apple juice is dry farmed from heirloom trees on the Greenwood Ridge in Philo, certified organic. 

For the Wine Paired menu,  CLICK HERE.

For the Wine Paired menu, CLICK HERE.

Which brings us to NYE. Space in both restaurants is going fast, with lots of larger parties this year. Ryan's menu in the Barn is pure Fancher elegance, light, bright and memorable, with many of his classic dishes. In the Bistro, doing NYE for the first time with a different menu, things will be a bit more raucous, but incredibly delicious as well. (Please don't ask us to turn the music down.) If you are dining in the Barn and would like to come over to the Bistro for a dance or two after midnight, you will be more than welcome. Nothing fancy, mind you, just a few hoots to see the year out. 

Then it's onward to wherever 2017 takes us. We are expanding food production at the farm - very exciting news - with new greenhouses as we continue to perfect a signature salad and expand into unusual herbs and edible flowers for a reboot of our "lift, flirt, slide" cocktail campaign this Spring. There will be wine events at The Somm's Table, some led by Alexis, others invitational, with talented winemakers and sommeliers we think you should meet. Be sure to sign up so we can let you know when and where. (email wine@barndiva.com)

If you do not wash up on our shores until after Jan, we sincerely wish you and yours a Happy New Year from all of us. The Barndiva Family loves having your patronage and, in so many cases, your friendship. It's going to be an interesting year. Let's embark on it together.

Cheers, Friends of the Barn!

 

 

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Sweet Sundays

Food and joy are inextricably tied, often in unexpected ways, but more often than not bound up in celebrations around tradition. Easter is a special joy, coming as it does (and not by accident) at the start of Spring, when the world around us is bursting with color and promise.

Our Gardens were chock full this Easter Sunday with beautiful families coming back from church, regular brunchers, and friends from out of town meeting up for farewell mimosas. Among the bustling crowd were two little girls in matching Easter dresses who made the day extra special for all of us here. Rylee Fancher is an old hand at hunting Easter eggs by now, but this year was baby sister Reese's first go at hunting eggs in the gardens. Coming at the end of a busy week our Sunday brunch service, with it's split second timing, can be a challenge. This past Sunday, all that hard work to make it memorable never felt so good.

Weather permitting the Barndiva Gardens are now open for lunch, brunch and dinner service. The Gallery Gardens will serve cocktails, wine and our full bistro menu. Get ready to be blown away by this new use of the space - previously only available for private parties.  The Gallery Bar Garden is slated to open May 1. 

Coach with Brioche French Toast for a little guest, Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese and Bacon Tart

Coach with Brioche French Toast for a little guest, Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese and Bacon Tart

Omar with Quiche Florentine & Baby Hearts of Romaine Salad, Eggs Benedict with Prosciutto di Parma, Lobster Huervos Rancheros

Omar with Quiche Florentine & Baby Hearts of Romaine Salad, Eggs Benedict with Prosciutto di Parma, Lobster Huervos Rancheros

Ryan in the thick of things - Barndiva is blessed to have a chef that still insists on 'touching' every plate that leaves our kitchen.

Ryan in the thick of things - Barndiva is blessed to have a chef that still insists on 'touching' every plate that leaves our kitchen.

Ryan and Reese find the golden egg.

Ryan and Reese find the golden egg.

"Funny Face" cocktails; Barndiva Farm lilics

"Funny Face" cocktails; Barndiva Farm lilics

George making Flying Goat lattes

George making Flying Goat lattes

Scott Noll's Easter dessert: Carrot Cake with Toasted Pecan Streusel and Cream Cheese Ice Cream. 

Scott Noll's Easter dessert: Carrot Cake with Toasted Pecan Streusel and Cream Cheese Ice Cream. 

Going, going...

Almost but not quite gone are tickets to the fabulous Terrie Odabi concert and the Pink Party, a tasting of Rosé from some of the finest wineries around (when I say finest I'm talking Banshee, Claypool, Copain, Front Porch, Idlewild, La Pitchoune, Limerick Lane, Lioco, Passalacqua, Petrichor, Poe, Red Car, Reeve, Rootdown, Unti, Westwood and Wind Gap!) You can purchase tickets for Terrie's concert on Friday April 22 (and make reservation for dinner on the same night) here in Studio Barndiva, or at Copperfields Bookstore. Pink Party tickets can be had at any of the participating wineries or online at brownpapertickets.

 

 

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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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Wednesday at the Barn Menu..... Farm to Table in 3 Minutes.... Salon de Sens....The Jazz Festival returns to Barndiva...

Yes, but what makes it art?

Like it or not, we are all defined to a large extent by the landscape we live in. If on a molecular level you are what you eat, on an emotional level you are what you look at every day.

A landscape does not have to be beautiful to feed you (though it helps) so long as you have a true relationship to it, and crucially, the people who live in it with you. Solitude is nice but only through an honest connection to community can we change our outlook, and, in effect, our lives as a whole. Sometimes in ways we never imagined.

Until we moved to Healdsburg 10 years ago I really only took note of the Sonoma countryside in passing. It was beautiful, of course, but then so were similarly stunning vistas I’d traveled through. Even in Italy and France, once you take out the castles and gorgeous old villages, after a while vineyards are vineyards are vineyards.

The truth of how differently I feel now, living in and from this foodshed for almost a decade, was brought home to me all last week as I crept from a warm bed to leave the barn before dawn and travel from one end of the county to the other capturing raw footage for a video I’m making with Drew Kelly. Farm to Table in 3 minutes will tell the story of one plate of food as the ingredients travel to reach the table here at Barndiva. Foraged and farmed, made from animals that share the view with us, the dish relies entirely upon products that were sourced from people who would not normally consider themselves artists. In my view they are, contributing to a final dish which on every compositional and sensory level form a complete, if transitory, work of art. Let me explain.

Drew and I have wanted to work together again ever since he documented A Taste of Place for us at the Studio two years ago. Laura Parker’s exhibit had fascinating aesthetic and interactive components to it ~ smelling the soil as you eat the food grown from it is pretty sensate stuff ~ but Salon des Sens, the upcoming group show where we will premiere FT3minute has a decidedly different MO. It’s SF curator, Maggie Spicer, while not denying that all food is political, is an art first girl whose distinct vision for the show is an exploration of the ways in which, in the right hands, food can be used to create an authentic aesthetic experience.  Towards this goal she has invited 15 Bay Area artists to participate, including four from Studio Barndiva. They work in a variety of media ~ photography, watercolor, acrylic, wire, compost and sod. Ryan, Drew and I have joined this group with the aforementioned video. Ryan will also be creating edible "works" which will be served on opening night.

We felt compelled to contribute to the show because while everything we do at Barndiva is made manifest by the fields and farms which surround us, even with the rise in popularity of the term Farm to Table very few people who come across a restaurant like ours for the first time have a real understanding of what it means. Lately, Ryan and I have even begun to wonder if  "farm to table" isn’t growing into just another misappropriated catchword hard on the heels of "artisan" and "handcrafted."

Drew gets this. He comes to the discussion from a perspective of someone who creates art to tell a story, a talented imagesmith who is also a passionate eater and crucially, a new father, trying to make sense of this very complicated subject.

And so it was that we found ourselves crouched in the old vines in front of Lou and Susan Preston’s house at 6:30 on Friday, just as the sun was coming up. The day before we had followed Alex Lapham, who manages the vegetable program for Mix Gardens, as he went on his rounds harvesting fennel, wild garlic, favas, rapini and chive flowers ~ all crucial ingredients in the dish that would be the star of our video. It had been cold, gray and wet, not remotely sensuous in the Maggie Spicer sense of the word. Farming is hard work, by turns sweaty, grueling, repetitive. As much as you can you rely on experience, knowing full well that weather and dumb luck will ultimately control the cards you play.

If the video is to be a success we knew we needed to connect the line that exists between the muck of a compost heap and a sculpted, beautiful vegetable presented on a gleaming white plate. Unlike any other artistic medium where raw product ~ a lump of clay or paint or steel ~ stays inert until the hand of the artist gets involved, everything about the final dishes we present on our plates, the way they look and taste and smell, starts in the field. This is our message: that everything about beautiful food ~ what it does to our senses when we take it in visually, breath it, open our mouths and suckle its taste ~ is inherent in the initial thrust of the shovel that starts the process to bring it along the food chain to us. In this regard, talent and vision and a steely focus come into play, marking the difference between grass fed beef and pink slime just the same as a lump of paint in different hands produces work as various as Vermeer to Kincaid. It is truly an art form where what you see at the end is set in place at the beginning. All the aesthetic components like shape, color and texture exist from the beginning in unadulterated form. The beauty of the process, what makes it art, relies on a partnership of artisans who alter and inform the material at every step as it winds its way to that last set of hands, waiting in the kitchen.

And the partners don’t just work together, mano a mano. They are also engaged in a profound partnership with the land and with the animals on it that fertilize, till and feed off it. There's magic in these relationships. If we do it right, FT3minute will cast a spell, the way only art can when it moves us. Alex bending in the soft gray light coaxing exquisite color from his vegetables, Liam reaching into a vat of steamy ricotta with the deft grace of a dancer, Lou’s maestro conducting of his sheep, Daniel moving up a forest road filling his basket with foraged nettles like a character out of a Thomas Hardy novel. Even Earl, talking to his hens, giving them a gentle push to get to their eggs, when viewed through the lens of our camera evokes a complicated Coen Brothers relationship to his brood that is pure visual joy.

Does it matter that our audience eats the art? According to the preeminent performance artist of our times, Marina Abramović, the answer is no. We are all participants in potential aesthetic experiences that masquerade as daily life, even if we don’t immediately recognize them as such. When you dine at Barndiva you buy a ticket to experience the talent of dozens of food artisans who would not exist, could not exist, without your patronage.

Or so I sat thinking, as the three of us waited in silence for the Preston sheep to come down the road. They would be lead by Giuseppe, the great white Maremma dog who lives with them from the day they are born. Following Lou’s instructions we were stationed off the road so as not to startle them. Nathan Cozzolino, our intrepid soundman who had traveled up from LA to work with Drew was to my left, crouching in the tall grass wearing serious looking headphones, his mic suspended on a tall pole. Drew, to my right, had set up a camera on a tripod directly across the road from the open gate to the olive field where the sheep would make their final pasture.

The grass grows high around the vines in Lou’s biodynamic vineyards, feeding the soil, creating an aerial meadow of insect sounds, more buzz than bite. When the wind picks up there is a sea swish that roils, softly, the pure definition of what it means to whisper. A cat, one of Susan’s half wild brood, jumped up on a vine to complain about something. Nathan, hearing everything in amplification, pointed up at the sky, where a curious Heron circled low.

And then we heard them coming. I’ve been in places where shepherds have the right of way on small country roads but this was different, a singular procession lead by a dog with all the dignity of a Catholic Priest leading a flock of keening mourners. Perhaps because art was on my mind, references abounded: the light on the landscape was Turneresque, the passion play had all the irony of Chaucer, the cacophony of bleating pure Philip Glass. Marina would have loved what I did with the moment.

But was it art?  While the cohesive parts that would make it whole were yet to come ~ Ryan breaking the animal down, the many hours of prep and cooking our staff would put into all the other ingredients before Ryan returned to arrange the elements on the plate in his inimitable style ~ yes, I’d argue that is was. What we filmed at dawn was as integral to the process of the finished piece as a composer picking up his pencil to jot down some notes long before the orchestra gets them, before the sound of a single virtuoso violin can wing its way through the air in some palace of fine arts.

But then, I love to argue. So come see for yourself and you decide. Salon des Sens, a Food Art Show, opens on June 2. Our talented friends at St. George spirits will be collaborating with Rachel on exciting new cocktails; Copain Winery will be pouring their extraordinary wines.

Are cocktails like ours which are made from beautiful spirits considered artful? Is wine? Don’t get me started.

Salon des Sens is coming...click for details to the show and opening party!

The Jazz Festival returns to Barndiva

And Finally...

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales (Susan Preston's hand, Drew Kelly).

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

 

Dish of the Week:

Lunch at Copain Winery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Gallery

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

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

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

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

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In the Press:

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

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

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

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