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Mother's Day Menu


Spring Lamb with Stinging Nettle Foam

lawn topper

We get a lamb a week from the Preston's, lovingly grazed on their biodynamic farm, and while I’ve seen the hours that go into breaking down the animals and prepping an incredible range of veg (much of it from Preston Farm and Vineyard as well) all chef will say about the beautiful spring entrée we shot last week is:

lamb shank

We had assembled some amazing ingredients.  We did not mess with them too much.   We let them fall naturally on the plate.

The most elegant preparation of the whole animal is the chop and saddle, grilled like this was, to perfection. But when Ryan says the ingredients ‘fell’ naturally on the plate, don’t believe him. His mastery of all the colors in his culinary paint box only make it look easy. I ate the dish with my fingers, the better to enjoy every morsel, though a spoon was in order for the stinging nettle foam. The color reminded me of what my mom used to call new spring grass ~ a singing green. It's everywhere you look right now.

veg delivery

Later that night Chef sent me this:

Here are some other gifts the lamb gives us. Braised shanks Crispy meat balls Rillettes Fresh ground burgers (with feta & olive) Rosemary roasted & sliced leg of lamb Braised tail salad (with frisée) Little tiny tenderloins (wrapped in chard or green garlic) A wonderful rich natural jus Sautéed liver (and onions)

A man of few words our chef. But when it comes to food, they seem to be always the right ones.

Enjoy the rest of Spring.

spring lamb

A Special Sunday

mothers day bouquet

All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales



Dish of the Week........ Wedding of the Week

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Mother's Day Brunch

Mother’s Day for me has always been about honoring up…it’s nice to hear the great things your kids feel compelled to say about you, but at the end of the day all you really want is your own mom to hug. Mine is not with us anymore, so Mother's Day is bittersweet, but in the most important ways ~ how I choose to conduct my life every day ~ in spirit she’s still very much here.  Mother's Day is a great time to celebrate the most important lesson she taught me ~ life is short. Love with an open heart. What you get in return, even after those you cherished are physically gone, is indelible.

As there wasn't a free table until after 2 on Sunday,  by the time we finally did sit down brunch service was almost over and the calm before the dinner storm had settled over the lounge.  The room was flooded with sunlight, tall windows filled with trees shaking their green tresses in a blustery wind. Music was jazzy, upbeat and cool, champagne cocktails arrived swiftly, flowers from Dragonfly ~ which I’d gotten up early to arrange ~ graced every table. As my absent and missed daughter might say, Barndiva was chill.

In addition to stalwarts like Eggs Benny and Chef Ryan’s infamous duck hash,  brunch has started to encompass an English approach to Sundays, especially if you choose the three course prix fixe menu that always includes a roasted joint and loads of veg. Mother's Day is a great tradition but it's only once a year, while Sunday Lunch at Barndiva can now be savored every week. Which is what Geoffrey, Lukka and I decided to do.

I started with a lovely carrot soup, carrots from Early Bird’s Place, which had been braised in organic carrot juice. The goal with such a simple soup is that it arrives at the table tasting of pure carrot. Whipped crème fraîche was flavored with Mix garden chervil, Preston OO, and Barndiva Garden chive blossoms ~ which gave a nice bite that played against the sweetness of the carrots.  A swirl of balsamic and a spear of tempura asparagus finished the bowl.

Lukka and Geoff ordered the halibut, a beautiful dish chef had finished with a single perfect artichoke ravioli and some of the tiniest radishes I’ve ever seen.  Seeing it arrive,  I had a moment of indecision that I’d chosen the wrong entrée, but once Tommy had carved the lamb (tableside) and spooned fresh peas and baby purple and yellow potatoes all around, I was a very happy camper indeed.

The leg of lamb had been trussed and whole roasted at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, basted during the cooking process with butter, garlic, shallot and tarragon. A ladle of Paloise finished the dish. Paloise takes the best thing about a good Jus, clarity and a perfect balance of herb to salt, and the best thing about gravy, heft, something to cling to the meat, and marries them together.  Ryan’s is perfect. He makes it by first cooking down a lamb stock for six hours ~ roasted lamb bones, mirepoix, tomato, aromatics like thyme, black pepper and garlic.  This stock is then poured over a second round of roasting bones in a large saucepot, with more aromatics.  The final sauce is strained through a chinoise and reduced to the desired consistency, finished with a knob of butter.

Dessert celebrated the return of Rhubarb ~ more about this vegetable that usually masquerades as a fruit, in next week’s blog. Also in next week's blog, a proper introduction to our remarkable new pastry chef who has been working with us for a few months now. We are moving into a new phase with our dessert program that is generating a lot of excitement in the kitchen and the dining room, and this dessert was no exception.  The thinly layered (as if pressed) Frangipane Tart with almond streusel crumble and crème fraîche ice cream had lightly poached slices of rhubarb on the side that nailed what is, to my mind, rhubarb's truly unusual taste profile.  My gripe with rhubarb ~ which I have a love hate relationship with ~ is that it’s too often served soft, mushy and stringy. And overly sweet.  The crunch of these batons was a revelation, bittersweet and delightful.   Along with a visually stunning, almost balletic presentation of a frozen Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, the desserts on Sunday were a fitting end to a lovely afternoon with two of my favorite people in the world.

Wedding of the Week

The kick off to wedding season for us happily starred a couple we’ve fallen in love with during the past year, as Lukka worked with them putting all the pieces for the big day and night together ~ Taya and Sean, aka Schmoops and Poops.  Every step of this couple’s planning was filled with inspired choices and the least fretting we’ve seen in a long time. They 'got' what too many other couples sadly forget in the hectic run up, weddings are supposed to be serious and joyous, yes, but the planning should be fun! Aside from the glorious weather, it wasn’t chance that everything came together for them: the great menu they had chosen (more couples should opt for lamb as an entrée), the casual elegance of the table decor, and the surprises that just kept coming were all down to their style and confidence as a couple. They just take such joy in each other it was infectious.

True to form they each had a classy surprise for the other that in both cases turned out to be musical. Lukka and Taya had managed to smuggle the Oakland Interface Gospel Choir into Healdsburg without anyone spilling the beans to Sean. He was stunned when they marched out just after the vows to sing heartfelt praise that blessed the day and everyone in attendance. Then the meal kicked off in the gallery with drinks and appetizers and the choir doing a full set. During dinner in the Studio Gardens Sean got his own back when his surprise guest arrived ~ a  French accordion player who took over where the choir left off.  This was all music to make you smile. I trundled off  early, just as guests were dividing into two groups: some dancing in the gallery to a DJ while others lingered in the garden as Edith Piaf’s spirit hovered beneath the trees.  Lukka tells me at the end of the evening the accordion serenaded the couple through town as they and a few dozen happy friends made their way across the plaza to continue the party back at the cottages. Schnoops and Poops rocked it.

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



Dish of the Week........ In the Gallery..... Mother's Day Menu

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Roasted Wild Salmon with Caviar Crème Fraîche, Pea Purée, Spring Vegetables and Chive Flowers

All hail the start of the salmon season, another one of life’s culinary joys that even ‘in season’ now needs to be savored in smaller quantities. While this mighty species has been slowly returning to the western seaboard, the abundance of wild salmon you will find in restaurants comes from Alaska, starting in early May and stretching to August. Yes, you can eat frozen Alaskan salmon year round. No, it won’t taste the same.

There are a number of varieties of Wild Pacific Salmon  ~ Coho, Sockeye, Chinook (“King”), Pink, and Keta (or 'chum'most often used in canning).  While they may differ in taste and texture, they all have the same incredible nutritional values which make salmon a superfood.  Beyond the important environmental conversation you should be having around farmed vs. wild fish, with respect to salmon you also might want to keep in mind that farm-raised is heavy on Omega-6 fatty acids, and low on Omega 3's; (the former actually deleterious to health, the latter the Omega's we need in our diet, especially as we get older.)

Chef Ryan used to buy salmon from a family who fished the mouth of the Taku River in Alaska who intriguingly called themselves the 'Taku River Reds'.  The salmon we feature in this dish, which sold out within hours last weekend, was King Salmon, the largest of all wild salmon as they spend the longest amount of time maturing.

A word about cooking salmon this fresh ~ you only want to cook it until the proteins set so yes, that means it will be dark pink in the center, just warmed through. Don’t think raw if that upsets you when a restaurant serves it correctly, think of the delicate taste of the sea that comes through and the incredible silky texture of the flesh. King cooked correctly is especially rich and buttery. Chef roasts on parchment with a brush of OO, which is especially important if you are leaving the skin on (we don’t).

Caviar is a natural match with its pop of salty sea essence. Blending it in a light crème fraîche tempers the salt, allowing the small chunks of bacon in the vegetable mélange  ~ carrot, peas, cabbage, red onion ~  to bring in a smokey, earthy component.

The first of summer’s chive flowers from the garden sprinkled across the flesh were beautiful, adding a little nudge of  mild green garlic  that played on the tongue. But creamy, earthy, herbal, salty ~ wonderful as they are in the dish ~ all play second fiddle to the King.

In the Gallery

No matter who you are or where you live, there were  many reasons to be upset about the cataclysmic natural events in Japan March 11. Here in the Gallery our first thoughts were for the safety of the craftsmen at Sugahara Glass, a 100 year old company that creates some of the finest glassware in the world. People overuse the word timeless, but Sugahara glass, in its design, color and fabrication techniques really do have a thoroughly modern, yet ageless appeal.

In general we love hand-blown glass and try to keep a range of unusual table pieces, from wine carafes to sake glasses, in the gallery. Come see.

Sugahara Blue and Yellow Shot glasses (produced in Japan) $29 Atelier du vin carafe (produced in France) $67 Canvas water glasses (An American company new to our gallery that uses recycled glass from various countries ~ bubble glass featured is from Syria) $14

Mother's Day Menu

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