Viewing entries tagged
Daniel Carlson

2 Comments

Beardsley behind the bar

first place winner mendocine fair
millie the wise

When Rachel Beardsley applied for a job behind the bar at Barndiva three years ago, the first thought I had was that she was too damn pretty to survive. Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club) notwithstanding, bartending and mixology are still very much boy's clubs. Sure, you can find women bartenders from time to time, but stellar female talents who really command the space, creating exciting, transformative spirit based drinks? Not so much. Historically the only permanent place women have thus far carved out for themselves in this profession have been serving drinks, not making them.

housemade bitters

This isn't a screed on why women should run the world, or at least have an equal place in it. (don't get me started). And I get that when it comes to an environment comprised of low lights, soft seats and seductive music, Sheryl Sandberg's advice to lean forward is more likely to get you a customer's phone number than their respect. But that doesn't explain why, on the creative side mixology is still so gender sensitive. There is a lot more science involved at the cutting edge these days, but it's truly sexist to think women can't master the math. More to the point great cocktails, like great dishes, flow from a place where intuition leads. Women are intuitively programmed; to survive in what has always been a man's world we have learned to adapt. To thrive we have learned to master the art of finessing the variables.

cocktail ingredients

From the first sip that hits the nose to the last lingering grace note, a great cocktail's success rises or falls on it's ability to bring disparate elements ~ spirit, sweet, bitter, herbal, floral, spice ~ together, without losing the unique elements that made those ingredients right for the drink in the first place. We like to say the name barndiva flows from a desire to hit the high notes, and nowhere is this combination of a refined taste narrative presented in seductive surroundings showcased more than at the start of a meal, the beginning of a great evening, when the customer expects a perfect moment delivered in liquid form.

rachel beardsley

Turns out I needn’t have worried about Ray. Now Barndiva’s Bar Manager, she’s a consummate professional with guests and a joy to work with creatively. In bar programs like ours you are dealing with a staggering selection of bespoke spirits from around the world, a constant flow of seasonal ingredients from the farm and the kitchen. With our syrups, juices, purées and infusions already all made in-house, I should have not been surprised when Ray came to me a few months ago with a plan to push the boat out further with a program to develop a full range of house-bitters. She said she wanted "to start" with 11.

barndiva bitters

First thought that came to mind this time?  You go, girl.

Ray's Gingered Orange bitters (above) are used in Millie the Wise, a chai infused vodka cocktail that incorporates vanilla bean and orange peel steeped honey, lemon juice and black tea syrup. It’s finished with an Early Bird egg white foam and a grind of black pepper.

bespoke cocktail

The 'Millie' in Millie the Wise is Matilda of Flanders, Queen Consort to William the Conqueror, a woman who lived during one of the most fractious times in the history of England, managing not only to keep her head but remain married to William "the bastard" for life. She bore him nine children, two of them future kings. I love the spirited spicy balance Ray achieves with this cocktail, the robust way the pepper hits the nose followed by a soft ethereal foam that allows you a peek around the corner before encountering the full complexity of a drink redolent of ancient flavors.

fall cocktail list

Half the bitters on the list below are now featured in the new fall cocktail list; the rest will be ready by Christmas. Spiced Pear Bitters and Apple Bitters (used in our knock out bestseller Why Bears Do It ) incorporate heirloom dry farmed fruit from Barndiva's farm in Philo.

Apple bitters American Oak bitters Sour cherry/Almond bitters Ruby Grapefruit bitters Lemongrass Lime bitters Rhubarb bitters Meyer Lemon/Thyme bitters Orange bitters Gingered Orange bitters Spiced Pear bitters House Aromatic Bitters

We entered, we won, we pressed juice for you!

barndiva apple juice

Our apples aren't just winners in the new fall cocktail list ~ at this year's Mendocino County Apple Fair Barndiva Farm won ribbons in seven of the nine categories we entered! We took first place for our Red Romes, second place for Winter Banana, Yellow Bellflower, Splendour and third for Melrose, Jonathan, and Sierra Beauties. It's not too late for you to taste these winning varieties ~ a few days after the fair we blended them into juice at Apple-A-Day, Ken Ratzlaff's wonderful Ranch in Sebastopol. Apple-a-Day is a family run apple farm with a new state of the art press that pasteurizes but does not 'cook' the apples. Ratzlaff Ranch is a Sonoma County treasure. Check them out on Farm Trails.

If you are in town and have a few minutes to kill, come in for a complimentary apple juice shooter. Or better yet, stay for lunch or dinner and enjoy it by the glass or in a Millie the Wise. For a limited time only we are also selling half gallons at the host stand in the restaurant. 

mendocino county fair

In addition to winning ribbons for our apples, DCWest (aka Daniel Carlson, seen here polishing apples with Lukka, Francesca and Emanuele) won two First Place Blue Ribbon's for his floral arrangements!

Follow us, like us, love us!

social networking

Barndiva is now on Instagram and Pinterest. If you have been following the blog you know we don't go in for superfluous bullshit ~ so if you add us to your social media dance card we promise we won't bore you or inundate you with anything we wouldn't want to see or read ourselves. Hopefully, we will keep you amused, connected to the Northern California food shed, the life of the restaurant and Ryan's kitchen, the art gallery, and our fabulous weddings and parties. If you are not already on Instagram or Pinterest, join us as we take the plunge!

Click to check us out on Instagram!

All text Jil Hales. Photos Jil Hales, Dawid Jaworski

2 Comments

Comment

VOTE FOR US!

eat the view topper

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

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

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

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

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

Eat the View!

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

Click here to vote:

vote-for-Barndiva

Comment

Comment

Wednesday at the Barn Says Adieu As It Welcomes in 2013

pretty-girls
prix-fixe-menu

Hello, Goodbye

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

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

wine cellar
kitchen guys
chef
cocktails
rachel beardsley
lukka
isabel and geoff
brandon
bekah
bartenders
bar light

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

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales.

Comment

2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Comments

Comment

Wednesday at the Barn Menu.....Bernier Garlic!

Dish of the Week

Bernier Farms Garlic Chips with Frog Hollow Peaches, Crispy Polenta & Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus Tips

While I am sure there are chefs who manage it, I can’t envision a food life that didn’t rely heavily on the genus allium ~ onions, shallots, leeks, chives, scallions, ramps ~ and somewhere at the top of the heap, the mighty garlic. Garlic is beautiful, its aroma dead sexy when it hits the pan, but with flavor both intriguing and willful, it can quickly overwhelm a dish if you don’t learn how to dance with it.

The usual fall back for home cooks if not using it raw in a pesto is to sauté it, which lends a nice bitterness that is especially compatible to dishes that also boast bright acidity (think Mediterranean). But sautéing doesn’t let you explore the surprising nuances you can get from Allium sativum, which can range from sweet to floral should you poach, dehydrate, pickle or confit it. The secret to extending its flavor bandwidth is to use a preparation that circumvents the breakdown of sulphur which sleeps in the plant's cells, waking with a vengeance when you lift your knife to crush or chop it. It’s the sulphur that gives you garlic breath (and sometimes heartburn) but it’s there for a good reason ~ as a highly effective defense against birds and animals eating the bulbs as they grow.

Our garlic chips don’t shout garlic, they are so light and delicate they melt in the mouth before most diners even register what they are.  Takes a bit of work to make them, but boy, are they wonderful.

Good sized cloves like the ones you can find at the Bernier stand at the Healdsburg Farmer's Market (see below) are peeled and sliced on the mandolin until they are semi- transparent. Then we poach them slowly in milk ~ three times. Each successive poaching leaches out more of the sulphur. The final step is to deep fry them in a skillet with enough room so they don’t stick together. A furious bubbling cauldron will ensue when they first hit the heat (250°-300°) as the last bit of  moisture is expelled from the softened milky slices, but it quickly subsides as the chips turn a burnished chanterelle gold. Drained on paper, finished with Maldon salt, they have a sweet nutty crunch that sends them to the pantheon of condiments. Stored in an airtight container, they will even keep for days. Happily, ours don't last that long.

For the next few weeks you can savor Ryan's garlic chips discreetly paired with Frog Hollow peaches on crispy polenta alongside a few tips of prosciutto wrapped asparagus ~ part of a gratifying pork entrée ~ but you may also order them off the menu as a starter, as shown here on a swath of basil coulis. Take note however: this incandescent pairing with peaches won’t be around much longer as the menu moves from the stone fruits of early summer into the heart of August.

Yael Bernier's 15 shades of garlic...

The undisputed queen of garlic in Healdsburg is Yael Bernier ~  an opinion I'm confident is shared by the thousands of fans that flock to her stand at the Healdsburg Farmer's Market each summer.

Last week I was lucky to be invited out to the barn where she dries her covetable bulbs, spending a delirious two hours in a fine de siècle light that put me in mind of Robert Altman's under appreciated masterpiece, McCabe & Mrs. Miller. I forgot my tripod so these images don't do justice to what I saw ~ except for a few shards of sunlight that managed to break through the cracks in the barn wall, it was pretty dark in there. As the temperature broke 100° outside a fine dry dust permeated the air, redolent of soil and warm wood, a hint of eau de diesel. Barns have a certain magical energy when they've been used for root storage over the years.

Yael, who farms with her son Zureal and husband Paul in several locations in the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, grows 15 varieties (she also sells as seed), five of which were drying on that day: Northern Italian Red, Italian Red Rocambole, Spanish Roja, China Stripe and Siberian. They don't come cheap ~ from $1.50 - $2 a head ~ but they are worth every cent, a perfect example of getting what you pay for when you know the who, what, where of what you eat. Towards that end, if you live in Sonoma County, check out Michele Anna Jordan's wonderful weekly Farmer's Market blog ~  Eat This Now ~ in the Press Democrat.

Bernier has a website ~ www.bernierfarms.com ~ but FYI for all you chefs who may be reading this ~ she sells her entire range of excellent produce to restaurants.

Eat the View.

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

Comment

Comment

Wednesday at the Barn Menu.....Dish of the Week: A Niçoise Worthy of Dufy.....

Dish of the Week

Seared Tuna Niçoise with Saffron Aioli

Before I tasted this dish on Sunday, the best Salade Niçoise outside of France I ever had was at Wolfgang Puck’s old Ma Maison on Melrose Avenue. It was a revelation, every wonderful Mediterranean flavor on the end of the fork: the sea, briny olives, crispy haricot vert, boiled potatoes glistening in virgin olive oil.

If you are a Niçoise fan like me you've probably suffered through innumerable misguided versions through the  years trying to get back to the one that made you fall in love with this dish in the first place: overcooked fish the consistency of cardboard, sodden haricot vert, heavily sauced greens, quartered (sometimes halved) hardboiled eggs so dry they made swallowing a chore. What seems a simple dish is anything but.

Wolfie came to prominence the same time as Alice Waters, one of the first chefs who really knew how to source, though he worked his end of that passion down in Southern California. Sourcing is crucial to the dish but you also need a deft hand: each and every one of the ingredients needs to be treated with summertime love.

It starts with the fish, which should have the texture of fine silk with a  color somewhere between an overripe plum and Dior Rouge Blossom (a great lipstick color, check it out). Whether you poach it or flash sear it (as we do), when you finally glide a fork through the center the fish should be the texture and glorious color it had when it first came out of the sea. Chef uses Yellowtail, sushi grade. That's half the secret, the other is a light hand with the oil. I have a friend who swears canned tuna packed in OO makes a great Niçoise because "it is all about the oil," but while it's a dish that calls for an oily fish, I disagree. A light olive oil based dressing (ours is made with sherry vinegar and fresh basil) pulls all the ingredients under the same umbrella but each stands out ~  new potatoes, confit garlic, blanched haricot, green olives, ripe tomatoes. Ryan likes to add a spoonful of finely diced mirepoix which adds a bit of earthiness to the mix.

All the ingredients are cooked separately, warmed together in olive oil at the last minute which sets off the fragrant magic of their particular compatibility. There's a reason this dish became the go to for 'ladies who lunch' as it manages to be both incredibly rich, yet healthy (their version of not fattening) ~ rumor says it was created for Balanchine one summer as he was knocking about by the seaside in Nice. Makes sense.

As for that egg, Chef is not interested in dumbing down the palate by either hard boiling then slicing or grating it so it disintegrates into mush- his serendipitous play on a Niçoise uses a single quail egg, lightly fried in OO. It's just big enough for the yolk, once broken, to give you a few creamy mouthfuls as it settles down into the acidic tang of the dressing without upstaging a sublime saffron aioli on which he mounts all the ingredients.

For the next few months we are serving this Niçoise as a warm first course on the dinner menu. The single Calabrian pepper that sits on top, whose heat triggers the delight of everything that follows, reminds me of a flag on one of the little fishing boats in a Dufy painting. You can't see the sea from the Barn, but like Dufy, Ryan's edible semaphore makes me smile.  Summer has arrived. Eat the View.

Coming Soon...

Speaking of Eat the View, we're just about to release our 4 minute video of the same name. Working with Drew Kelly as we traveled across Sonoma County to Preston Vineyards, Bellwether Farms, Mix Gardens, Earlybird's Place and Daniel's Flats has been one of the most memorable experiences of the past few years. Even knowing all I do about the quality of work our staff is capable of, watching the footage we shot in the kitchen was a revelation. There's something about seeing action on film that heightens the small gestures you take for granted, in this case isolating the grace and skill they expend with every dish. We may have a small kitchen at Barndiva but, boy, do we make big memorable food.

Crowds at the opening reception for Salon des Sens were blown away but we can't wait to hear what you think, dear reader.  Coming your way later this week!

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

Comment

Comment

DOW: Warm Pea Shoot Salad........Diwale In the Gallery......Hangin' with the Lambs......

Dish of the Week

Warm Pea Shoot Salad

Chef and I were working on a plan to use fava flowers or nettles for some intricate Dish of the Week when Daniel walked through the kitchen door on Friday carrying a flat of pea shoots. It was the first crop of micro greens he and Lukka have been growing as a surprise ~ Chef's been complaining that no matter how quickly he gets them from our farmers (when we can get them), micro greens are so fragile they suffer in transit. He was ecstatic.

Seeing the pea shoots didn’t just make Ryan happy. Since I’ve been back I’ve been off the sauce and trying to eat a light, mostly vegetarian diet to recover from my two weeks of excess in London and Paris. As a result I'm hungry all the time. When Chef offered to make me a quick warm pea shoot salad that incorporated vegetables he had on hand I was all over it. Check it out: purple potatoes, peas, favas, baby turnips, preserved tomatoes, chives, sorrel, artichoke hearts, and rapini flowers.

All the work for the dish had already been done in prepping the veg ~ we do more whittling in a morning than cowboys on a cattle drive. Once you have this exquisite mise en place all you need is some heat in a pan with olive oil. For a sauce Ryan warmed crème frâiche with fragrant sorrel and hit it with his indispensable (and inexpensive) battery-run cappuccino frother. To plate, he gently piled the warm vegetables in a bowl, added a halo of foam, a few squirts of VOO, and a generous handful of freshly cut pea shoots.  The foam added richness but hardly any fat, which I’m beginning to realize is what I like best about its return to the kitchen. I think my initial antipathy to foam was a reaction to a less than judicious use of it in the past ~ not, I must add, by Ryan, who loves it for the way it lightly carries the essence of a flavor.  And of course the way it looks. Heavenly.

Pea shoots are packed full of carotenes ~ strong antioxidants that protect cells from damage and help prevent disease.  Daniel and Lukka got their seeds ~ the variety is Dwarf Gray Sugar ~ from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. They are usually grown for quick harvest as micro greens but would produce a pea pod if given more space and left to grow. Next time you are at the Barn tool out to the patio and gardens and take a look at what’s growing; already poking out of the dirt are tiny blood red sorrel leaves. While we expect rain this week, with all the trees starting to bloom it feels like winter has come and gone, and like it or not, we are already hurling headlong into spring.

In the Gallery: Diwale from Paris

I've seen my share of lovely cotton scarves and ethnic jewelry the last few years as I've gone about ethically sourcing for the Studio. Still, I couldn't help but stop when I  passed the Diwale window display on Île Saint-Louis when I was in Paris. The colorways were straight off the runway and some of the jewelry, especially the colored bangles with thin gold training bands, were uncannily like...  Bulgari's? Someone's got a great eye, I thought. Diwale is the brainchild of a Frenchman working in India who has been so successful he's now got about six shops in Paris. I liked what I saw so much we've reached out to see how and where they are made ~ and if that all checks out, whether or not we can get more. But for now all we have is what I could fit in my suitcases ~ and hey, my suitcases aren't that big.

In the Gallery: Great chunky bone cuffs and très chic metal bangles (also available: hand carved bone necklaces, earrings and rings.) Prices start at $35. Also available: Cotton scarves and a few exquisite wool shawls.

Fritschen Lamb

There are worst things in life than to end up at Fritschen vineyards if you are born a lamb: the food is great, the caretakers gentle and the view ain't bad either.  Of course the lambs don't care that John Fritschen's vineyards sit smack dab in the middle of some of the most fertile and beautiful land in Sonoma County, but watching them grazing through the olive orchards sure makes for a pretty bucolic scene. John's lambs are Dorpers, a cross between the English Dorset and a breed from the deserts of Somalia. They were introduced in the 1940's because of a strange anomaly which makes them perfect for our warm days and cool nights. The first time I laid eyes on them I thought something weird was going on with their wool, which on the older animals seemed to be sliding right off their bodies. Turns out this is what Dorpers do, they self-shed, and it isn't wool they shed, but hair. The birds love it (wool nests anyone?) as does John, who never has to shear them in summer. We love them too, though perhaps for slightly different reasons. (If you haven't already, check out the Wed prix fixe menu.)

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

Comment

Comment

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

Dish of the Week

Gravenstein Apple Pepper Relish

Jammin’ is all about hanging out in the kitchen with people you like. Sure, your goal is filling the larder for Winter with the best of what you've grown or sourced from Summer to Fall, but to get the stuff in the jars you will spend an inordinate amount of time peeling, cooking, and waiting for those jars to boil. The better the company, the sweeter the ride; the more love in the jar, the better the product.

So I was particularly lucky when Daniel Carlson graciously offered to help me turn the last of our Gravenstein’s into Chef’s Apple Pepper Relish this past week. Dan is the lovely young man helping Lukka expand the gardens at the farm, where we are at the crucial stage of ordering ground cover and setting out a new and greatly expanded planting schedule for next year. It wasn't lost on either of us that the gabfest that ensued was all about what we'd be stirring in these very same pots next year.

While canning and jamming is not a solitary art, mindful it most certainly is.  There came a moment with each batch when we stopped talking, looked deep into the cauldron, and asked in timorous voices the question only masters of the form ever have an easy answer for...'are we there yet?' Knowing the answer takes more than practice.  No matter how rigorously you stick to Grandma’s recipe, if she's still around Grandma would be the first to tell you that each particular batch of fruit is bound to react differently when it hits the pan. This recipe is a case in point: it only calls for four ingredients ~ sugar and vinegar, heirloom apples and peppers ~ but the flavor of the final product is all about developing a talent to play the alchemist when it comes to heat and timing.

You start by making a gastrique ~ but where a normal gastrique only uses vinegar to cut sugar that's been caramelized in water,  in this case you eliminate water and use vinegar to caramelize the sugar. This intensifies the flavors of the syrup in a way that downplays the sweetness of the sugar, allowing the apples and the peppers to shine.  Chef uses Champagne vinegar because it's bright yet mild enough not to step all over the fragrant subtleties you hope to get from the apple-pepper combo.

Apples have a good percentage of pectin, a natural thickening agent, but they also throw off a lot of juice.  Success is all about keeping a vigilant eye, knowing what you are looking for ~ that brief moment when a wooden spoon pulled slowly across the bottom of the pan moves easily through the golden amber syrup, but takes a second longer than it just did to roll back and cover its tracks. If you put the apples and peppers in before you reach this point, when the apples release their juice you'll have to wait for the syrup to thicken again, during which time you risk overcooking the apples. Lose that soft crunch and you lose a key element in what makes this deceptively simply relish so special.

This relish is meant to star our dry farmed Gravenstein's, but any good quality cooking apple will make a nice relish. You can also use any variety of pepper so long as you stay on the sweet side ~ the bite from this relish comes from the vinegar. This is NOT a pepper jam, it’s an apple relish that’s danced in the pan a bit with heirloom peppers. Big difference.

How you cut the fruit is also crucial in the way it affects cooking time and the final look of the relish. We peel the peppers, cutting them into a perfect brunoise. We grate the apples with their pectin rich skin on, before crosscutting them into the same size as the peppers. Invest in a good mandolin ~ Ryan prefers Japanese to French ~ no kitchen should be without one. Yes, they take a bit of getting used to and yes, you will probably shred some skin along with the apples if you take your eyes off the prize for even a second. (They come with a guard, but it's pretty useless). A mandolin, as opposed to a grater, will give you uniformity and a cleaner edge to the cut fruit. Work quickly once you start cutting the apples so you can add them to the syrup before they oxidize and discolor.

The recipe below is for a small batch ~ the better to control the viscosity of the syrup ~ but double it if you hope to still have some left by Christmas because it will go. It's that delicious.

Simple Apple Pepper Relish one sweet red pepper five large (or six smaller) apples 320 grams champagne vinegar 320 grams fine baking sugar

In a large sauce pan, add the sugar to the vinegar and stir until it dissolves, then let the syrup simmer until you reach the moment described above. Add the brunoise of apples and pepper and bring them to a soft crunch stage which should occur right about the time the gastrique has thickened again. Pour into sterilized jars and follow directions using the standard hot water bath process for hot packing hi-acid fruit. Cool and check to see the tops have sealed.

 If you plan to refrigerate the relish and use it within a few weeks,  you can back off to 300 grams each of sugar and vinegar which results in a relish on the drier side, the better to quenelle and serve with lamb or fish.

In the Gallery

Ferdinand Thieriout, the former Yorkville glassblower who has supplied us with a distinctive range of bowls and vases for the past two years, stopped by the Gallery this week with his beautiful family and two boxes full of his coveted 'bubble' bowls which we'd completely sold out of. In a style that references 60's Mad Men glamor with a spare Swedish approach to color,  these are functional pieces of art, equally stunning displayed on their own or filled with salad and veg.

The large salad bowls come in two shapes; both have the distinctive red radish lip, while the smaller fruit bowls are edged in a variety of beautiful colors: Saffron, Forest, Ruby, Denim & Ivory. Prices range from $85. FYI: Due to his move to Little River this month, Ferd informs us this will be our only shipment before Christmas.  He should have a new Studio up and running (there's talk of it being mobile!) early next year.

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

Comment