Viewing entries tagged
Wine Country Entertainment

Comment

Hangover Elixers .......A Barndiva Family Album of NYE.......

Last Great Party of the Year

Hometown Celebration

While we understand (and greatly appreciate) most of the sold-out crowd on NYE came to be wowed by Chef's glorious menu, in the front of the lounge some very special friends also shared a great evening...

 Isabel Hales took time away from her studies in London to DJ;  brother Lukka with Chef's wife Rebekah Fancher.

 Studio Barndiva's manager Dawid Jaworski and his lovely wife, Priscilla.

 Daniel Carlson took time off from planning the spring gardens at the farm in Philo to string roses and create fabulous NYE decorations.

The beautiful Amber, Lukka's special events assistant, with her husband the writer Scott Keneally

Chef and Bekah announcing great news: they will be new parents in 2012!

Our incredible kitchen staff (minus Pancho and Danny) before last service of 2011.

Perrier-Jouet electrified streamers lead to an indelible Donna Summer 'Last Dance" moment, (Lladies, drinks on the house!)

Hangover Cures from the Barndiva File

There are hundreds of hangover remedies in the world, but aside from Dean Martin’s “Keep Drinking,” none of them really do more than get you over the hump of a groaning morning after too much fun. One of the great mysteries of life is why, after the age of five, there’s always hell to pay after too much fun, but it's way too soon in the New Year to think Kingsley Amis was onto something when he wrote, “When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness, anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you... start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover.” Far better to hope all we suffer from this week is a bit of over-indulgence that time, aspirin, a pot of coffee and that whack-a-mole known as the Human Spirit will eventually remedy.

But should you ever find after a night of too much fun that you lack any one of those things and are suddenly needed to hold up your end of a scintillating conversation, here’s two words you should commit to memory: Fernet Branca.  Though it shares the main qualities of all bitters, which have been used for centuries to revive the senses and open the palate (why they figure it is in so many cocktails), Fernet is more than a simple Amaro (Italian for 'bitter').  First concocted in 1845, Fernet reputedly contains somewhere in the region of 27- 40 herbs and spices used for their restorative medicinal properties. In any given year (the recipes are secret and despite claims to the contrary, known to be mutable) these have been thought to include:  myrrh, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, saffron, mushrooms, fermented beets, cocoa leaf, rhubarb, gentian, wormwood, zedoary, cinchona, bay leaves, absinthe, orange peel, calumba, echinacea, quinine, ginseng, St. John's wort, sage, peppermint oil and, reportedly in the 1940's, codeine.

Two of the favorite hangover remedies we favor at Barndiva, one of them starring Fernet, were revisited and revised this year by our bartender Rachel Beardsley with the thought they might be welcome right about now. They were inspired by my late ex father-in-law, the redoubtable gourmand and world class drinker Tex Feldman, who introduced me to Fernet many years ago after a memorable night drinking and dining at Maxim's a few feet away from Jean Paul Belmondo. A judicious use of Fernet the night after too much fun was one of three bits of drinking advice he gave me which I’ve tried to live by  ~ the other two were pace yourself, and if you can’t afford the good stuff, walk away.  While he never did get around to explaining how once in your cups you remember to pace yourself, trust me, I’m working on it.

Fernet Old Fashioned

Muddle 3 fresh cranberries, a wedge of ruby red grapefruit, 1 sugar cube, and 3 dashes of  Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters* Add 1 oz of buffalo trace bourbon, 1/3 oz of Fernet Branca and shake gently. Top with soda.

Bite the Dog

1 ½ oz Tito’s Organic Vodka 1 ½ oz coconut water ¼ oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice ½ oz fresh orange juice ¼ oz Amaro Nonino Bitters

Shake and serve over rocks.

*Fee Brothers, Peychauds and Regan's bitters ~ among the best bitters in the world ~ are all but impossible to source retail, which is why we have carried a limited selection of them in the Studio for our clientele since we opened.

From all of us here at the Bar we wish you a wonderful Happy New Year.

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

Comment

Comment

Dish of the Week.......Singing the Praises of 2011.......

Dish of the Week

Early Bird Omelet with Caviar Crème Frâche

I think it was Julia Child who once said the single hardest dish she ever mastered was “a perfect omelet,” but I bet more than one great chef would proffer the same reply. Ryan, who’s both intuitive and technique driven in equal measure, believes the secret to a light, fluffy and oozy omelet lies in patiently stirring over constant heat, and while this is true, it's only part of the equation. Even if you start with great eggs (ours were from Early Bird's Place), the right pan, and a perfected wrist action that keeps the eggs from scorching, making the perfect omelet is no walk in the park. If anything it’s a dance. One whose music you need to listen to long and hard before you know the rhythm well enough to move to it gracefully.

To the extent that science plays a role, for an omelet that’s smooth as silk on the outside but filled with creamy wet curds, don't be tempted to mix dairy into the eggs. Though it seems counter-intuitive ~ cream should make something more creamy, not less ~ eggs don't need anything to bind to themselves, in fact, any ingredients you add will affect the omelet's ultimate viscosity. The balance at play is air, heat and time. Whip the eggs to a consistent froth and once they hit the heat (we use olive oil, not butter), drag a rubber spatula (or wooden spoon or fork) slowly front to back and side to side. Watch the edges. You will know from the look of them whether your heat is too high, or if you are dragging too slowly or too fast. When the eggs are at the soft curd stage, stop mixing. Now comes the crucial moment. You want a soft skin to form on both the top and the bottom surface while keeping the heat constant throughout. To accomplish this you can either pop the omelet under a brazier where the top will finish while the residual heat from the pan continues cooking the bottom, or stay on the burner while carefully flipping the omelet over in the skillet. Do neither and you risk the bottom sticking (or worse, turning brown). Whichever method you prefer, don't overcook the eggs.  This is essential.

Omelets stuffed with fixings like cheese, asparagus, crab, (you name it) are fun, but if we’re talking perfect omelet you don't want any other ingredients that will affect the perfect storm of  silky skin containing billowy curds.  As a topper, Caviar and Crème Frâiche are an inspired pairing ~ the cool of the crème combines with the pop of salty ocean to compliment, without overwhelming, the eggs, which should arrive to the plate as delicate in taste as they are in texture.

A word about caviar: while the name caviar can be used to describe the roe of almost any fish that produces eggs ~ salmon, steelhead, trout, lumpfish or whitefish ~ anyone who's tasted roe from the wild sturgeon living in the Caspian or Black Sea knows Beluga, Ossetra or  Sevruga are to lumpfish what cashmere is to boiled wool. That’s not to say that domestic caviar isn’t a wonderful and affordable addition to any dish that calls out for an oceanic bite. But stay away from pressed products. No matter where they come from,  no matter what size or shape the eggs, caviar needs to be fresh, to explode against your upper palate with a fresh briny snap.

Omelet with Caviar Crème Frâiche is the last Dish of the Week for the Blog this year. Looking back at the dishes we documented in 2011, we hope we managed a few Aha! moments that bridged the gap between the professional and the home cook, showcasing superior ingredients while finding the key to dishes that were both simple and elegant. No matter how labor intensive they were, and some of them were doozies, our hope was to delight your eye with finished dishes where the chef’s hand was all but invisible, his talent subsidiary to taste. The best dishes we eat in any year are usually the ones that don’t shout so much as fervently whisper, overwhelming neither the palate nor the stomach.

Because we think the first meal of the New Year should be as memorable as the last, Early Bird's Omelet with Caviar Crème Frâiche will be one of the stars of our New Year’s Day Brunch Menu this Sunday,  Janurary 1, 2012. On the drink side, for those of us who intend to party hard on New Year's Eve, the New Year's Day menu also brings back two classic Barndiva hangover cures:  Bite the Dog and the Fernet Old Fashioned.

2011: The People Who Made It All Possible

It takes a lot of hard work (not to mention talent) to keep Barndiva going all year. Even more to keep it growing in the ways we care about most. At the end of the day, ironic as it may sound, great restaurants aren’t about food as much as they are about people.  A lot of people ~ from the farmers and ranchers who grow and raise our ingredients, through the chefs of various stations who clean, cut, cook and plate,  to the servers, hostesses and bartenders who deliver our drinks and food to the table with a skilled flourish that honors the work and love that's goes  into every dish.

We are truly blessed to have talent in abundance here at Barndiva. And it isn’t just the professionalism our purveyors and staff have that is ultimately so remarkable; it's the way they rock it, with an abundance of humor and good will.

2011 was a great year for us, hard but truly wonderful.  We have always had great heart for what we do but I’m the first to admit our best intentions haven't always gone hand in hand with perfect timing. If you’ve eaten here in the past year, or shared the excitement of an event, you know we are on a roll.

None of us knows what lies ahead this year. It's hard to ignore the fact that most mornings the world outside feels like it is going to hell in a handbag. There’s too much greed and fear around, coupled with the uneasy but pervasive message from on high that even if you do a good job in life, an honest job, you’re going to end up with the short end of the stick. Don’t believe it. There are wonderful things happening all around us, they just need to be acknowledged and supported. Fought for. Enjoyed.  Joy should be at the heart of  what gets us out of bed every morning ~ even if some days it's just the fumes of the possible. But joy is like a fire, it needs kindling to get started. Constant feeding to keep it going.

So here's a Big Thank You to our kindling makers and fire builders of 2011 ~ starting with the singular farms and ranches that have supplied Barndiva throughout the year, especially the ones (you know who you are) that do not mind bringing in only one or two crops that meet Ryan’s exacting standards. Special shout out to Bonnie at Dragonfly who lets me fill the barn with the most impossibly beautiful blooms from her gardens while never failing to kick me in the ass when I need it; Alex and all the guys at Mix Gardens, Myrna and Earl at Early Bird's Place, Vidal and Daniel (and of course Lukka) at the farm, Lou and Susan Preston for writing the manual on how to raise happy pigs and sheep and besides great wine, produce some of the best olive oil around.

Thank you to our incredible Kitchen Staff  (special shout out to The Incredible Flying Wycoff Brothers, the irrepressible Pancho, Manny, Danny, Octavio, Shale,  and expediter extraordinaire Katie) and our charming and informed Front of House, now lead by the eminently able and urbane Bennett and the lovely Catherine.

To Dawid, who has taken the gallery on by storm, and to Amber, who helped Lukka fulfill all our wedding couple's dreams.  And last, but hardly least, my assistant and new mum K2, who keeps the blog (and the website) fresh, even when Chef and I threaten to run out of steam.

All of us here wish you a New Year that’s easy on the eyes, fulfilling and just plain filling ~ some of which we hope you will do here. Thank you for reading Eat the View this year (we know a lot vies for your attention) and for your support in person, here in the restaurant, the gallery, and at our weddings. Your continued health and well being matters greatly to us. Have an exciting year. Keep the home fires burning.

Salute!

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

Comment

Comment

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).

Comment

Comment

Holiday Cocktail of the Week.......Xmas In the Gallery.......New Year's Eve Menu......

Cocktail of the Week

Barndiva Holiday Nog with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Foam

The recipe for the elegant and light(ish) Egg Nog we will serve in the Barn this Christmas Eve comes to us courtesy of our new star behind the bar, Rachel Beardsley. Actually, it comes thanks to a desire on Rachel's part to continually up her game at Holiday time so her Japanese grandmother Masuyo ~ not a big fan of heavy cream and alcohol ~ can enjoy one of the richest traditions on offer this time of year.  Masuyo's not alone in craving the wonderful flavors of yule time without the cloying, hangover-in-the making qualities that too often come along with them.

All the usual suspects are here: spiced rum, full cream (cut with milk), nutmeg, vanilla and eggs. By reducing the amount of cream and using only the finest ingredients, in this case Madagascar Vanilla and whole Jamaican nutmeg, Rachel's small but significant swaps result in a wonderful Holiday concoction.  Crucial to the drink's success is using organic free range eggs in the Nog, then hand frothing the egg whites for a foam that is light but creamy. (Blenders tend to flatten and compress the ingredients.) With this Nog, less is deliciously more, a refinement you don't have to be a Japanese grandma to applaud.

Mix the ingredients together in a shaker or blender and chill.  Just before serving, add the vanilla to the egg white and whip until you produce a cloud-like frothy foam. We use a spiral whip in a glass shaker which is more a pogo move, easier on the wrist.  Pour the chilled Nog into a pretty glass, spoon on the vanilla foam, grate the nutmeg. You can make this Nog in batches but don't foam more than two egg whites at a time.  (Save the yolks for Christmas cakes or stuffing.)

Rachel will be whipping up her Holiday Nog behind the Bar on Christmas Eve ~ consider this an invitation to come by the Barn for a tipple, whatever your plans are for the night!  It's a real treat.

Recipe for Rachel’s Holiday Nog with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Foam

1 oz brandy (Korbel) 1 oz spiced rum (Sailor Jerry) 3 oz whole milk 2 oz half & half 1 whole organic egg 1 1/2 oz simple syrup

Vanilla foam: 1 egg white Scant 1/4 oz Madagascar bourbon vanilla (most vanilla comes from the same varietal ~V. planifolia ~ from Madagascar and the West Indies, but quality varies. As with any spice, invest in the best you can find.)

Grate a light sprinkling of nutmeg over the drink

In the Gallery

There are a lot of knives in the world ~ and almost as many opinions as to what constitutes a great one. Weight and balance, type of steel, heat forged or stamped ~ they’re all critical components. But for us, in deciding what to sell in the Studio, where the knife is made and by whom is the deal breaker.  We are not mindless fanatics that just because something is old it’s good, but with certain objects ~ textiles and knives especially ~ traditional fabrication techniques carry the fingerprint of history, traces of who we once were and what we knew, which we would be wise not to lose.

Berti knives have been made by the same Italian family since 1865. While they have kept up with the times by continually refining their sinuous ergonomic designs, they have done so while adhering to a founding principal that reverently guides how each knife is made: every Berti knife is signed by the single artisan that handles it from start to finish. Perfectly balanced Valdichiana steak knives and carving sets have honed Ox handles; all Berti knives are made from the finest high carbon steel which come with a lifetime guarantee that includes repair and sharpening ~ at no cost ~  in the workshop in Firenze.

The first Laguiole knives date back to the early 1800’s ~ named for the area in Southern France where they were made. Because the name and the ubiquitous insect on the mount (most think of as a bee ~ but could very well be a horse fly) could not be copyrighted, knives trading on the Laguiole history are now made without the same regard to craftsmanship all over the world (mostly in China and Taiwan). Of the original 18 villages around Thiers, only one village collective ~ in Aubrac ~ still follows the original fabrication techniques which made these knives and wine keys remarkable. There are 109 production steps to make a single Aubrac Laguiole steak knife, over 200 for the three piece folding knives and wine keys.

Every year we are lucky to get a few mixed wood dinner knife sets (each handle is kiln dried for its specific wood species). We also carry a limited number of  harlequin pocket knives and horn handled wine keys.

A Very Special Menu For New Year's Eve

We will accommodate à la carte reservations until 7:30, with  the official party beginning at 8:30 (give or take a few glasses of bubbly).

New to the Barndiva Family

There was a very good reason we did not publish Eat the View last week as K2,  crucial to uploading all the images and pictures for the blog  (in addition to creating many of Barndiva's stunning graphics) was rather busy plating her own Dish of the Week... one she's been cooking up for  the last nine months.  Meet Atticus Gordon Petrie,  the newest member of our ever expanding, extremely beautiful Barndiva family. Well done K2. Now get some sleep!

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski (unless otherwise noted).  NYE artwork k2pdesigns.

Comment

Comment

Two Great Reviews..... Xmas in the Gallery.......

 

Octavio's Pièce Montée

Octavio's gorgeous Croquembouche (aka pièces montée) garnered some of the biggest oohs and ahhs in a night filled with them  on Friday as Healdsburg celebrated its annual downtown Christmas party. Festooned with hand-blown glass birds, swirling ribbons of spun sugar and topped with a Tin Mali Angel, while we may not agree with the great Carême that pastry is the highest form of architecture, Octavio was definitely channeling Gaudi when he created this baby.

Pièces montées are architectural towers made of cream filled pastry, traditionally meant to be devoured piece by piece at the end of a special meal. Barndiva's was decorative only ~  hopefully we can keep it around for those of you who missed the party!  What we can't recreate was the mellow mood of the friends and families who stopped by on their walkabout through town. There were platters of delicious Barn Chapeau (cream filled choux you could eat), lovingly decorated Christmas cookies and pitchers of Cosmo Killer Cocktails. Can't wait to see what our talented pastry chef has in mind for Christmas Eve when the holiday party traditionally moves next door to Barndiva. Stay tuned.

Great Articles Starring Two of Barndiva's Favorite Go-To Guys

Reading The Sunday Papers was especially sweet this weekend as we woke up to find two wonderful articles in the Press Democrat about remarkable men we get to work alongside every day.  Chef Ryan Fancher's artful culinary prowess was the focus of the Jeff Cox restaurant review, accompanied by very cool photographs by Christa Jeremiason.  While we were hardly unbiased when it came to the denouement, which we hope you'll read, whether or not you always ~ or ever ~ agree with his critical assessments every week, there's no denying Cox is a wonderful writer whose reviews are keyed to nuance and unusual details, not just about food. (He's certainly the first to get the visual synchronicity in the way we choose the John Youngblood's photography in the dining room).

Click here for the Jeff Cox review

Over in the financial section the cover story was all about how Studio Barndiva's Gallery Manager Dawid Jaworski is "living his dream" in America since immigrating from Poland. Everyone who works at Barndiva has fallen in love with this man and the infectious passion he brings to everything he touches.

Dawid's Amazing Savers Contest

And Don't Forget...

Dining Out For Life ~ Thursday December 1- countywide, a wonderful once a year event to support Food For Thought, which in turn supports the Sonoma County AIDS Food Bank.

Strolling Dine Around ~ December 7, 8, 14, 15- a chance to enjoy a delicious multi-coursed meal served at various restaurants across town, benefiting the Healdsburg Shared Ministries Food Pantry.

Great Gifts in the Gallery

Yeah, well, it IS a great message for the times ~ Keep Calm and Carry On ~ but if there had been room on the ball we would have liked to add  "and for Christ's sake, be joyful," because we mean it, literally.  Joy is the spirit we hope the Gallery conveys this Holiday Season.  Studio Barndiva may not have loads of shelves stacked with merchandise in multiples, but everything we do have is beautiful and meaningful, made with respect by artists and craftspeople who are upholding traditions we hope will survive these crazy times.

Photography, ceramics, jewelery, lighting, furniture, textiles, paintings, sculpture, wine antiques, amphora, knives, books, CD's, glassware, vases, UK card collections, candles, puzzles, even hard to find bitters ~ The Studio has one hell of an eclectic collection of art and functional craft pieces we top up at Christmas time. With prices that range from the inexpensive ornament to a painting or sculpture you will treasure forever.

Support artists, artisans and local shops with a joyful, mindful, point of view this Christmas!

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

Comment