Nostalgia for it’s own sake tends to skew maudlin, but when you have the rare opportunity to revisit the past in a life affirming, beautiful and delicious act of bringing it forward, you hit pure joy. Jim Reichardt was with us at Barndiva the day we opened, his 14 year old daughter Jen in tow, and we have been proud to feature his Liberty Ducks on our menus ever since. Beyond pleasing guests, which keeps us going, it has been the friendships we’ve made with dedicated and talented farmers, winemakers and purveyors like Jim that has kept us whole. His return to our table on a perfect Labor Day evening with that same beautiful daughter, all grown up and in command of a winemaking talent as deep as it is humble, made for one of the loveliest dinner parties anyone here can remember.
The evening unfolded beneath the trees at a leisurely pace as befits old friends meeting and making new ones. It was a labor of love for Chappy Cottrell, our wine director, who worked assiduously with Chef Danny Giromolo and Jennifer over the past few months to create a menu that not only used every part of Liberty’s Pekin ducks but was paired to enhance the range of qualities Jen brings to her winemaking.
A welcome glass of Love Ranch Viognier Madera, with it’s bright citrus and florals, began the evening along with two amuse: Duck rillettes on toasted brioche topped with Barndiva Farms Hosui Pears, and duck prosciutto on Randy’s house made focaccia, Pt. Reyes Blue and saba.
Once seated, guests were treated to a Grenache Rosé from Trails End Vineyard in Potter Valley with the delightful name ‘Fleur Pour Ma Mère.’ Tart peach and Lady Apple aromas lifted the tenderness of the duck carpaccio with a plum gastrique, pickled fennel and Jackson Family pea shoots.
Then we switched gears, and glasses were filled with the fresh, dry, herbal notes of a blended red called Antonella, from Dry Creek Valley. It was paired with two distinct presentations of that redoubtable duck organ: crispy duck liver arancini over a piquillo vinaigrette, and a fluffy light duck liver dirty rice with arugula, drizzled with strawberry coulis.
The ultimate comfort duck dish, confit, was next up, along with a 2017 Besseré Vineyards Sangiovese from Butte County. Its classic Italian herbs and pizza spices were a wonderful complement to what has become a Barndiva favorite dish. Then Danny pushed the boat (or Raft) out with the perfect intermezzo - duck tongue ‘oysters’ with blueberry lemonade granita served with a clean, crisp, chilled light red Madera from Love Ranch.
Jim’s Pekin Duck breed was given the Peking treatment for the next main course. Served with forbidden rice, Sayre Farms rattlesnake beans and pillowy Moo Shu Crêpes, two remarkable reds were offered to compliment and compare: a 2017 Grist Vineyard Syrah with a punch of blackberries and bramble, and a 2017 Weed Farms Syrah, an earthy old world nod bringing the sanguine, damp loam, bitter bakers chocolate and what Chappy describes as young leather. Both Syrahs were from Dry Creek Valley, similar terroir, but remarkably different. The table was by now filled with glasses. No one was complaining.
The only dish not paired with one of Jennifer’s Raft Wines came at the end of the meal: a centuries-old distillate of 131 herbs and spices, Green V.E.P chartreuse - served as a digestif in a chilled rocks glass with a duck crackling rim, duck fat gelato, brown butter streusel and carbonated grapes.
In the end Chappy was right to keep the number of guests to one long table beneath the trees, so while we offer our apologies to those who called looking for tickets when the dinner sold out, he made the right call. The size of our group allowed Jim and Jen to spend real time with every guest. Jim has a remarkable history here in Sonoma County and stories to go with it, while Jen, charming and informative to a fault, is a serious talent who has worked with some of the leading winemakers in California. There is heart in everything they do. To have their family here on Monday, with ours, was golden.
A huge shout out to the stellar talent of Daniel Carlson who colored the summer evening with an abundance of candlelit grasses and wildflowers from our Greenwood Ridge gardens. To Chefs Danny Giromolo, Randy Dodge, and Bobby Hartley, hats off for a delectable, intriguing and ultimately satisfying series of dishes. To Lukka and Cathryn, Caitlyn, Hayden and Isabel, thank you for a seamless service that kept the platters coming and our glasses full.
Though the night was very special for all of us, it’s clear that Chappy Cottrell will continue to raise the bar on all our SommTable events. Next up: Fête Rouge, on November 24, which will showcase the finest reds of the season along with artisan delicacies to taste and to buy, market style. Thinking ahead to the run up to Thanksgiving, with Christmas right behind, this is an event you do not want to miss as you plan your Holiday tables and consider edible gifts. It will be held in Studio Barndiva and The Gallery will indeed be all dressed up for the holidays. Stay tuned as we announce winemakers and purveyors. Tickets have just gone on sale.