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Jim Reichardt

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A Perfect Summer Evening to Push out the Raft ...

Barndiva wine director Chappy Cottrell with Raft’s winemaker Jennifer Reichardt

Barndiva wine director Chappy Cottrell with Raft’s winemaker Jennifer Reichardt

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dish of the Week........ In the Gardens...

 

Dish of the Week:

Crispy Sonoma Duck Breast w/ Frog Hollow Peaches, Pancetta Wrapped Asparagus and Golden Polenta Cakes…

The unseasonable weather we’ve been having ~ rainstorms followed by 100+ degree heat in just the last week alone ~ has delayed the normal flow of seasonal produce to our kitchen. No big deal when you consider that tornadoes, floods and drought seem to be occurring on a daily basis with "unexplained"frequency throughout the world. Still, it was odd to see peaches make their first appearance in the kitchen the first of July when I traditionally celebrate my birthday ~ which is in May ~  waking up to the first white peach of the season.

The best way to tell if a peach is ripe is by smell ~ ripeness increases chemicals called lactones which give peaches their ethereal heavenly  fragrance.   If  you don’t trust your nose, start by looking for a yellow ground color ~ keeping in mind that some varieties will retain a slight green color to the skin even when they are ready to pick. That beautiful red blush? Only happens on the part of the peach that faces the sun. There are over 70 volatile compounds that contribute to a peach’s flavor,but rain and cooler temperatures affect peaches more than most crops.  While you can soften firm peaches by putting them in a paper bag to rest, don’t expect them to become sweeter. A peach stops ripening the moment you pick it from the tree. There's a moral in there somewhere.

Happily, Chef made the most of these early beauties from Frog Hollow, pitting and slicing the flesh before compressing them in elderflower syrup and opal basil from the garden. Knowing how to work with fruit that is either a little under or over-ripe is really handy in extending the  season, but it does take knowing what constitutes ripe for that particular fruit. I’m good with drupes like peaches plums and apricots, but horrible with melons, where a great smell can sometimes actually only mean the fruit is over-ripe and mushy. Go figure.

The duck was sourced from our friend Jim Reichardt at Liberty Duck (aka Sonoma County Poultry), who has been supplying Barndiva since the day we opened ~ we add purveyors all the time but it’s always great to see an old friend’s name on the menu. To cook the duck to perfection we used Chef’s fail-proof method  ~ which I’ve written about before but merits repeating because while its so easy to cook duck right, its even easier to mess it up. If you are not going to confit, the way to go is to oven roast the breast before finishing, skin side down in the pan w/ herbs, OO and a knob of butter.   Be warned: this method won’t work if you don’t pare down the duck fat to its thinnest membrane first... even a bit too much fat is way too much fat.  What you are after is crispy skin that immediately dissolves into moist duck meat.

The golden polenta cakes also celebrated a crispiness that stopped at the edge ~ crispy was the theme song of this dish ~ in this case giving way to a meltingly soft rich center thanks to the mascarpone and garlic confit that had been folded into the corn meal before it set.

The prosciutto wrapped asparagus made me laugh when I first saw them ~  they reminded me of those 80’s hors d' oeuvres that lifestyle magazines told you were the ne plus ultra to throwing a chic dinner party ~  but Ryan’s interpretation, in Emeril’s classic words, “took them up a notch.”  Dainty in size but big in flavor, they were a perfect accompaniment to the duck and peaches, discrete but winning, mingling in an especially moorish way with a balsamic reduction that trailed across the plate. If the duck hadn’t been there in all its glory, I would have wanted a whole lot more of these babies, a plate full in fact. But in the end I came away from this dish dreaming of all the peaches still out there ripening on trees, just now coming on to summer…just like the rest of us.

In the Garden

Speaking of coming on to summer, peaches are not the only thing we’ve been waiting on that’s finally arrived  ~ This week we are finally able to open Barndiva's rear gardens to dining!

Know how the best thing about you is often also the worst? That surely holds for our gardens. Usually glorious from May-November the late rains of June turned them into a mosh pit this year, and I don’t mean the kind you jump in to get up front and personal. We live in the country and want our restaurant to celebrate the anti-paved life we've chosen, but decomposed granite needs lots of TLC which includes raking it every morning,  impossible to do when it looks like the last day of  Woodstock out there. Our apologies to anyone who showed up over the past month (especially after waiting all through winter for a long leisurely Sunday Brunch) and found them off limits. Starting this Wednesday evening we promise to open them whenever we can, weather permitting.

Also starting this Wednesday Seth Minor will return with the newest incarnation of the Tractor Bar Trio who will play two sets of mellow gypsy jazz for your dining pleasure, starting at 6.  If you haven’t experienced the reason we started Wednesday at the Barn ~ incomparable food, wine, and music enjoyed beneath the trees ~ come on down.

(speaking of peaches…check out the dessert on the Wednesday at the Barn menu.)

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

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