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Dish of the Week.......Xmas In the Gallery.......A Holiday Greeting......

Dish of the Week

Serendipity Farm Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad with Crispy Lamb Neck Croquettes

This is the perfect Early Winter dish that delivers all the satisfying meaty flavors we long for as the nights turn cold. The persimmons and pomegranates come from Bruce and Vicki Pate, who graciously opened their farm in Geyserville to us last week. If you think a single leafless persimmon tree with its gloriously colored fruit is Christmas beautiful this time of year, imagine an orchard full of them.

Admittedly, the lamb aspect of this dish would be a bit tricky for the home chef unless you have access to whole animals or are a member of a meat buying club. The beauty of nose to tail cooking goes beyond honoring an animal (and value for money); in great part it's rediscovering cuts like this.  The first thing Chef did after breaking down the animal was to get a great stock going with roasted bones and cuts like the neck and shoulder. His braising liquid for lamb consists of white wine, fennel, tomato, rosemary and loads of fresh parsley.  After a few hours in this braise, the succulent meat all but falls off the bone.

Neck meat cooked this way has marvelous flavor, redolent of the braising liquid and the free range life of the animal. Our two lambs this week were raised at Lou and Susan Preston's biodynamic Family Farm on West Dry Creek where they played an important role fertilizing the soil as they grazed the fields and vineyards.  To make the croquettes, the meat from the bones was rolled in saran wrap and refrigerated just long enough to hold its shape.  Just prior to cooking, Ryan brushed the chilled 2” croquettes with Dijon mustard and rolled them in lightly seasoned Japanese breadcrumbs.

Because the meat is fully cooked before hitting the pan, the croquettes only need a few minutes in grape seed oil over high heat,  just long enough for the breadcrumbs to turn golden and crunchy.

Ripe but firm persimmons have an unusual flavor that isn’t sweet so much as fragrant, with a silken honeydew quality that pairs beautifully with the richness of the lamb. Use non-astringent varieties for taste and ease of cutting. I think Serendipity Farm’s persimmons were Jiros, but Chef was going with Fuyus, which are everywhere this time of  year.  Chef shaved the persimmon into semi-translucent overlapping slices which he used as a canvas for a composition of baby roasted artichokes, pickled red pearl onions, red and yellow endive and one of his current favorites ~ exquisite tiny radishes. A sprinkling of red pomegranate pips completed the dish. Pomegranates are lovely this time of year but always a bit fiddly. Ryan showed me a quick way to extract the pips from their membranes: slice them in half and, using the wider end of a big kitchen knife, whack away, holding the cut side over the plate. Depending on how your day went, you can have a nice therapeutic moment as pips rain down like a shower of rubies.

In the Gallery

We always try to fill the Gallery with unique smaller gifts at Christmas time, and this year is no exception. Besides a (rapidly diminishing) table of ornaments, we have cotton tea towels from Portugal, hand-loomed scarves from India and Ethiopia, Alpaca throws from Peru, votive holders made from cinnamon bark and a small but highly eclectic selection of books and hard-to-source cocktail bitters.

One of our favorite items back in the Studio after a long, post-tsunami wait are the exquisite hand-blown blue and yellow whiskey/cordial/ you-name-it glasses from Sugahara.

Out of time to shop? Not sure what to get for that certain someone you don't know all that well (or perhaps know all too well)... The ever popular Barndiva Gift Certificate may be the the most thoughtful gift you give all season. If you can't make it into the Gallery, call (707.431.7404) and we will be happy to take your information and send the the gift certificate anywhere you want. They can also be purchased at the bar, where you can have a glass of wine or a cocktail while you contemplate how clever you are  ~ really, how much easier can we make this?

The Countdown for 2011 has begun...

We are always fully booked for our fabulous New Year's Eve soirée, with the rush for tables coming right about now.  Last I looked, we were almost out of space ~ so book now if you are thinking of joining us for a "classic" six-course menu culled from what Chef feels are the best dishes he has cooked all year.  Don't say you weren't warned! If you already have plans for NYE but would like to join us for a glass of bubbly or taste one or two of the  dishes on the NYE menu, we will serving them à la carte from noon to seven.  Seating for NYE (dressing up not required, but encouraged) starts at 8:30. Take a look! 

And Finally...

Barndiva wishes all of you a joyous holiday season. We thank you for your continued support without which we could not and would not find the vision and resolve to do what we do. Make a joyful sound, friends, for truly we have no time to waste.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah from all of us at BARNDIVA

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski (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)