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Dish of the Week.....Local Food & Wine Events...

Dish of the Week

La Garniture

We’ve come a long way since the days when garnishing a dish meant little more than throwing a bit of commercial parsley and a few superfluous vegetables on the plate, that quickly got pushed to one side. These days thoughtful chefs like Ryan have transformed our very notion of garnish, expanding the variety, colors and textures of the things they reach for in those last moments before a dish heads out to the dining room. To my mind, even the word is moribund ~ garnish has the potential to do a hell of a lot more than decorate a dish like a few accent pillows.  They are the subtle but dramatic finishing pieces to a complex flavor puzzle a chef begins to fit together with initial conception of the dish.

Consider the steps: raw ingredients are rubbed, cured, infused, marinated and seasoned before the cooking process bastes, sautés, caramelizes, bakes, flambés, glazes, braises, grills, barbeques or smokes in yet more flavors.  As food is plated the element that arguably demands the most finesse, (and in fine dining restaurants has its very own chef ) the final sauce, is added. Only after all these steps are completed does a chef reach for final finishing flavors which, if he isn't careful, can misrepresent or throw the complexity of the entire dish out the window.  When I asked what flavors and textures he might look for in a garnish Ryan reeled off,  “sharp, sweet, tart, viscous, buttery, floral, creamy, caramel, crunchy, earthy, herbal” adding he includes vinaigrettes as well.

If you’ve dined at the Barn over the past few weeks you will recognize most of the elements photographed here which were used to garnish our plates one day last week; chances are if you come in next week they will have been replaced. For restaurants like ours that tout their farm to table pedigree,  garniture offers a not-to-be-missed opportunity to showcase what’s local, seasonal and freshest. Towards this end we devote three raised beds here at the Barn just for finishing. In addition to these edible flowers and herbs which Chef uses raw or infuses in oil and a range of vinegars,  our farmer partners grow a variety of tiny vegetables and greens he may pickle or lightly dress. And let's not forget root vegetables which can be deep fried for a sprinkling of chips...once you see the potential of garnish, the list just keeps on growing.

Grown or foraged or bought, finishing flavors are an essential, if ephemeral, piece to dining you owe it to yourself to explore. Whatever you call them.

This Week!

Expectations are running high for this week's first National Heirloom Expo ~ with good reason. The time is right for a truly meaningful countywide event with a focus on seeds, farming and superlative products. The Expo starts Tuesday and runs through Thursday at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds. Barndiva will be participating in the chef demonstrations (Ryan will be there today  at 2, as well as Alex from Mix Gardens), and there will be scintillating panel discussions with food savants from around the country, in addition to keynotes speakers including  Alice Waters and Dr. Vandana Shiva. If you've never heard Dr. Shiva  (chances are you've never even heard OF her) don't miss this opportunity to experience this Nobel worthy woman who speaks truth to power about the future of food.

Without a doubt one of the more interesting groups coming to the Expo are the folks from Native Seed/SEARCH, a seed saving educational non-profit that has been going strong in Arizona for over two decades.  Native Seed's Bill McDorman will be speaking on Tuesday at 3, directly after Ryan's demo, and will also participate in an important panel Thursday called Seeds of Sustainability.

On Friday morning Studio Barndiva will host a benefit for the Native Seed/SEARCH organization with an incredible brunch starting at 11 using Native Seed products. Our pastry chef Octavio will be making muffins with their Senoran White Wheat, while Ryan and the gang will serve up our infamous Huevos Rancheros with Early Bird Eggs, heirloom salsa and Native Seed Tepary Beans. Bloody Marys, made with our tomatoes and their rare Native Seed spices will (quite literally) kick off the meal, after which there will be a chance to talk with Bill and his dynamic wife Belle Starr and many other seedsmen and women who were at the Expo and are coming for a last chance to compare notes.   This is a not-to-be-missed event folks, with a great meal, in support of a wonderful organization. It just doesn't get any better.

To book a place at the table, call Barndiva at 707 431 0100.

See you there!  See you here! Details below.

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

We sent two of our biggest diva's ~ Isabel and Eric ~ to Taste of Sonoma a week ago to sing our song to a sold out crowd of  3,000. Good thing that in addition to our compressed watermelon + lemon verbena we also served up Barndiva Farm's Heirloom green figs and Gravenstein Apples ~ these terrior hunters were hungry, and not just for information.   Taste is a great event ~ at the gorgeous MacMurray Ranch ~ in which to get a comprehensive overview of the wines produced across the county. We were in the Dry Creek Valley tent, but we couldn't help noticing while visiting friends in the other tents that there was decidedly less food this year. What's up, Chefs? We are busy as all get out this time of year but we made the time and are really glad we did.  Not counting Pigs n' Pinot ~ which is one varietal and Healdsburg centric ~ Honor Comfort and the gang throw the most convivial wine event of the summer.

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

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Dish of the Week.....On the Ridge

Dish of the Week:

Bellwether Farms' San Andreas and Ripe Summer Figs

If you’ve ever traveled through France, Italy, Spain or down into the Mediterranean basin in summer, chances are you’ve eaten at least one meal that included ripe figs and a hunk of local cheese. It’s a classic pairing which has been with us since antiquity. And while a lot has changed when it comes to the finesse we bring to artisan cheesemaking since Plato hung out talking about the notion of an Ideal Universe, the elements which make figs and cheese an indelible pairing remains hard to beat. We all know cheese is great with apples, pears and quince, but only figs, the earthiest of biblical fruits, has the dark sugar and beguiling sensual texture (all those tiny seeds popping on the palate) to stand up and fully embrace the grassy, salty, acidic nature of cheese.

Not a lot of people know that Bellwether Farms was California’s original sheep dairy. This family-run farm brings a level of passion and commitment to their cheese and yogurt program that is truly rare. The story goes that when Cindy Callahan first brought sheep to the ranch she and her husband owned a few miles from the ocean, she had only a vague notion of what to do with them. After a trip to Italy in 1992 they  began to age their sheep milk, producing their first Pecorino, but  it wasn’t until son Liam came onboard that the family began in earnest to experiment with ways to control moisture and acidity which led them to the considerable success they enjoy today. Bellwether produces award winning sheep, cow and goat cheese that consistently exhibits remarkable complexity of flavor that is unique to their location.  We hear a lot of talk about terrior when it comes to wine, but unlike almost any other artisanal product, cheese like Bellwether's truly expresses the taste of milk from animals that are born, raised and grazed in a specific location, in this case the beautiful rolling hills of the Sonoma County Coast only a few miles from the ocean where mild temperatures and coastal fog produce some of the richest and sweetest milk in the land.

Sheep's milk is higher in fat and protein than either cow or goat’s milk, important when you consider that during cheesemaking much of the water is drained from milk with most of the fat and protein staying in the curds. San Andreas is a raw sheep milk farmstead cheese unique to Bellwether Farm. It has the marvelous nutty flavor and soft underlying bite of a good cheddar, but is unusually smooth and full-flavored.

Last week we featured Bellwether's San Andreas with nothing more than a plate of ripe Black Mission Figs, deeply caramelized walnuts, a few shavings of radish and a sprinkling of Calendula flowers.  Now that our own green Napoli figs are finally coming in on the Ridge, (see below) we will offer them while they last. Gray Kuntz has famously described cheese as a taste that pushes, as opposed to pulls, which may explain in part why cheese and figs, with their juicy, sweet mesmeric power, make such a good marriage. As for that other artisanal product that's only gotten better since antiquity...happily, we've got plenty of that around as well at Barndiva,  by the glass or bottle.  Want to talk about an ideal universe? This is a good start.

Harvest On the Ridge

While what we grow on the Ridge hardly puts a dent in the amount of produce Barndiva needs, every year we try to up our game and grow a bit more in hopes of closing the circle of sustainable supply and demand as much as we can. So despite the late frost which knocked out almost all our stone fruit this year, I was pretty proud at the variety of fruit and veg we were able to start harvesting for the restaurant on Tuesday morning, starting with a bumper crop of green and red Gravenstein Apples.  I thought it might be fun to document some of what Vidal and I picked before the fog lifted and the third member of our picking team managed to haul her butt out of bed.

Sadly, with the exception of the cherry toms, the bulk of our Heirloom Tomato crop (33 varieties from Mix Garden) is still hanging green on the vines, waiting for it to get over 55 at night, which Bonnie Z says is the magic number. (According to Bonnie, once upon a time she would start harvesting tomatoes at Dragonfly in early June!)  Looking on the bright side, in addition to the Gravs, Vidal and I managed to pick five cases of incredible green figs, string beans, three varieties of squash, cucumbers, radishes, basil, thyme, lavender, rosemary and the first of the slicing tomatoes. Not bad for a morning's work, especially considering Lukka and Daniel haven't started to harvest anything from their new patch in the pear orchards. Next week it looks like we will have Asian Pears, which Vidal grafted only a year ago, along with Victoria's red pears, and the first of our melons. Fingers crossed about those tomatoes.

To read more about the extraordinary history of the farm:  At the End of the Day, May 26, 2011

In the News

We were especially pleased the Gravensteins came in this week just in time for us to participate once again in Slow Food Russian River's Gravenstein Apple Presidia Project, which the indomitable Paula Shatkin reminds us needs full community participation if we hope to keep the Gravenstein, a unique Sonoma County heritage, alive.  For the next few weeks we encourage you to check out the restaurants in Sonoma County who are participating in the Presidia by putting Grav-centric dishes on their menus. At the very least buy some Gravs at your farmer's market and bake a pie. No excuses, do your part! Save the Gravenstein apple!

For more information go to Slow Food.

And finally, in case you missed it, some very good news from Eastern Europe.

Hungary destroys All Monsanto Corn Fields

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

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Dish of the Week.....In the Gallery

Dish of the Week:

Yellow Fin Tuna 'Summer' Carpaccio with Crispy Basil Rice Croquettes

When Giuseppe Cipriani made the first Carpaccio at Harry’s Bar back in 1950, he had no way of knowing that thousands of recipes for a dish with the same name would follow, or that his creation would move well beyond raw beef to fish, veal and venison. (Then again, as this was the same Giuseppe Cipriani that also ‘invented’ the Bellini cocktail at Harry's, perhaps he did).

Food lore has it that Cipriani came up with the dish at the behest of a wealthy customer, the countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, whose doctor had suddenly prescribed a raw meat diet. While culinary history is silent on what in the Countesses' constitution the good Dr was trying to cure (anemia? flagging sexual prowess? ), Amalia found the taste of raw meat repugnant so Giuseppe pounded it paper thin and smothered it in mustard sauce for her.

Whether you pound it with a meat mallet like Giuseppe, or wrap it in saran wrap and just whack it once or twice with the wide end of a chef’s knife as Ryan did with beautiful yellow fin tuna this week,  Carpaccio is a dish that has the potential to be a lot more than just a novel technique that transforms a base protein's thickness and texture.  Whatever the protein, it’s a dish where a delicate approach is required when it comes to the accompanying sauces, spices, and key ingredients.

Ryan’s great with dishes like these. For a big man he has an incredibly light, deft touch, coupled with an attention to detail that is immediately apparent in the artistry of his plating well before you take your first bite. While I doubt he ever sits down to count the steps it takes to arrive at the moment when a diner lifts a fork, stops, looks, and thinks, ‘oh my, this is beautiful ’, there are often many laborious ones his crew must practice and master.  God is in the details with this guy.

In the beginning of our professional relationship I often wondered if all this precise cutting, slicing, and dicing ~ though it goes a long way in defining his style ~ was really essential. Most professional and home cooks accept that having ingredients the same size when you are going to apply heat is important  ~ but until Ryan came along I never considered how synchronicity can be a game changer when it comes to what we taste.

This week’s Yellow Fin Tuna Carpaccio is a case in point. Ryan conceived the dish as a play on sushi and rice, one that takes Yellow Fin Tuna for a jaunt through a bountiful Sonoma County summer field at the height of August. Avocado, watermelon and golden beets ~ all cut to exact dimensions ~ brought key elements of creamy, refreshing and earthy to the plate.  Even with light assist from favas, chive flowers and purslane, everything on the final plate was meant to dance with (and around) the fragrant flavor and almost transparent texture of the tuna ~ enhancing, but never dominating its subtle taste.  The visual joy of Chef's plating wasn't subsidiary to the success of the dish, but an elaborate seduction, through color and form, integral to the experience of eating it. But that wasn't all. He also had a few surprises in store. The first was a deliciously crispy basil rice ball that referenced the sushi while extending its normally cold bland taste profile with surprising heat and crunch. By using Carnaroli rice instead of Nishiki (Sushi rice), and a touch of pecorino, Chef also brought more cream to the bite instigating an Asia meets Italy moment. Then there were the bright flecks of preserved lemon rind scattered through the dish which exploded in tiny bursts when you least expected it. Not sweet, but not overwhelmingly tart either they had the effect of bringing all the other subdued flavors forward while paying direct respect  ~ as only citrus can ~ to the fresh fish taste of the tuna.

The lemons had been preserved in equal parts of salt and sugar five months ago. I don't mind harping on it: preserved  lemons are a really great condiment to keep around.  Traditionally stored in ceramic or glass jars, Ryan uses sous vide pouches to cure and hold them, which take much less space in the fridge and uniformly bathes the lemons so you never even have to turn them (a great help if, like me, you always forget anyway).

Every mouthful of this dish was about what’s best in summer here in Sonoma County.  Whatever ailed her, I'm betting The Countess would have loved it.

New In the Gallery

WOVEN WITH PASSION, NOT WITH POWER is the mantra of SlowColor, a company that produces extraordinarily beautiful linen textiles we have just started selling in the gallery. Made in and around Hyderabad, India, exclusively on small pedal looms using only natural plant dyes, this politically focused enterprise was started by two Americans, Jala Pfaff and Sanjay Rajan, who hope their C2C (cradle to cradle) efforts will help keep ancient textile traditions alive by providing commerce to the hundreds of hand loom and natural dye co-ops struggling to survive in India. It wasn’t long ago we wrote about the tragic increase of small farmer suicides in that country which were directly triggered by a Monsanto-led movement which encouraged mega-scale chemically dependent farming over the small and sustainable methods India has used for centuries.  (Courting Armageddon, April 28, 2010) Well, it seems that for some time now thousands of small village textile weavers and dyers have also been driven to take their lives faced with obsolesce as the world has increasingly moved toward large scale factory production.

SlowColor textiles are made from premium organic flax, actually a more sustainable raw product than either cotton or bamboo as growing it is lighter on the land, and requires less water.  Gauze woven on foot pedal looms before being turned over to separate dye cooperatives in the same village, the line uses an “adjective” dyeing process where only natural mordants like saffron, tumeric, annatto, walnut, and cochineal are added to a dyestuff's natural color.  For indigo, Slowcolor follows the traditional method of fermenting indigo in earthen pots underground to create blues because, as Hindu, they will not use cochineal, or insect carcasses.
Pricing on the scarves (depending on the vegetable dye used and the length of the textile) ranges from $70-$120.  Hand-washable, these resilient pieces will only grow softer and more beautiful with age. No two are alike ~ except to the extent they are all intrinsically beautiful, and carry in their making the same life affirming message.

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

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Dish of the Week.....In the Field with Friends

 

Dish of the Week:

Chesapeake Bay Soft Shell Blue Crab BLT

Summer is Blue Crab season all along the Eastern Seaboard, especially in the fishing villages off the coast of Maryland where the fresh waters of the Chesapeake Bay empty into the Atlantic. These soft-shelled delicacies ~ still listed as a “good alternative” on Seafood Watch ~ are a decided luxury for those of us living on the West Coast where they usually arrive frozen, if at all. Happily, ours arrived alive, freshly (and properly) packed in straw. Following a recipe that was as traditional in its judicious use of Yankee spices as it was Fancheresque in style (California Modern Country from first bite to last) our blue crabs reached the plate by dinnertime. A "soft" shell crab may sound like a crustacean oxymoron until you consider that technically they are without any shell when they are harvested, just after molting, only a few hours before their new shell begins to harden. Blue crabs shed their hard carapace in order to grow, burrowing deep in the muck to protect themselves from predators ~ but while an experienced fisherman (and most along the Atlantic are third generation or more) are canny at finding them, and can tell with a glance when to harvest, nowadays it is considered less harmful to the seabed for migrating crabs to be trapped and held in large shedding tanks until the witching hour.  Males have blue claws and a narrow abdominal apron, referred to in local parlance as the 'Washington Monument', while females have red tipped "painted fingernails," and a broader apron ~ ergo 'the Capitol Dome'. (There's a joke in here somewhere, but I'm not finding anything to do with Washington particularly funny at the moment)

Ryan prefers not to deep fry them, believing a lighter batter stands less chance of interfering with the blue crab's fragrantly delicate meat, which tastes more of the estuary than the sea.  The crabs were broken down, cleaned, and lightly tossed in seasoned flour and Old Bay (Celery Seed, Salt, Paprika and goodness knows what else), his play on a Southern Fricassée sauté.

To cook he placed them directly into an extremely hot pan, shook it a few times, then added a generous knob of butter and a few cloves of garlic. This instantly turned the pan into a furiously bubbling, fragrant morass.  All very dramatic, and over in a few minutes, precisely the time it took for their cool blue to turn a gorgeous russet around the edges. The finished dish was the perfect cross between the best parts of a BLT ~ think heirloom tomatoes and crunchy prosciutto ~ and the briny mayo you find in a lobster roll, though Chef upped the ante by dropping the roll and substituting the mayo with a rich housemade aioli that took its color from letting the saffron 'bloom' in white wine.

As dramatic as the cooking process was, at this point the slices of heirlooms stole the show visually, bringing, along with brilliant color, a subtle taste comparison. While the red tom's were sweet, the green, with less residual sugar in the flesh, tasted tart on the tongue with a more pronounced, firmer texture. (full disclosure: I never get much from yellow tomatoes.)

My God, this was a good dish, with mouthfuls of soft crunchy crab giving way to the vinegar from the tomatoes and an ethereal, buttery sweet seawater juice flooding the palate as it mingled with aioli.  Eating it brought me back to a night I spent on a beach somewhere on the Eastern Chesapeake years ago when, after an epic meal, one of locals stood drunkenly to his feet and began to recite the names of  tidal creeks and small harbors surrounding us in the dark. They rolled off his tongue like poetry ~ Pocomoke Sound,  Ape's Hold Creek, South Marsh, Devil's Island to the Head of Tangier Sound.  It all came back to me in a rush ~  stomach full to aching, the heat of the bonfire, the smell of the sea. Then again, food this good makes it easy to speak in tongues.

If you'd like to read more about what threatens the Chesapeake Bay's historic Blue Crab population, click on the link below for an article that succinctly summarizes most of the data I read on the current health and methods of harvest for this remarkable crustacean, which once drove the local fishing economies of both Maryland and Virginia.  We're so used to reading about overfishing, you may be surprised at the main culprit. Or not.

Click here.

In the Field with Friends

Mix Garden Garlic

So many reasons we feel blessed to have Mick Kopetsky and Alex Lapham in our lives, not least the joy of having access to this lovely collection of garlic they grew which recently showed up on the Mix wholesale list.  I baked and tasted through them all and the descriptors below, from Mix, were right on the money. What was most surprising beyond the different levels of heat and bite each brought to the mouth was how much their texture varied, from the Chesnok Red, which held its shape (one reason we use it for confit) to the Northern Italian Red, which went a bit too mushy for me. My favorite: Rose of Lautrec, which Drewski uses for our garlic chips (though to be fair, it had me at hello with the name).

Chesnok Red: One of the best cooking garlics with large easy to peel cloves Late Italian: This softneck variety is very pungent

Silver Rose: Rose-colored cloves are ideal for storing Northern Italian Red: Large bulbs are sweet and spicy

Rose de Lautrec: French variety that has a complex sweet flavor Drew with fresh garlic chips

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

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Dish of the Week........ In the Gallery

Wednesday at the Barn Menu for August 3, 2011

$35 per person *Special wine pairings for this menu, add $18, Large Parties Welcome

Soft Shell Crab B.L.T. Heirloom Tomatoes, Bacon, Arugula, Saffron Aioli Wine Pairing: Azur, Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford 2010

Herb Roasted Breast & Confit Leg of California Squab Nectarine, Picholine Olive, Almond, Purslane Wine Pairing: Barndiva, Cabernet, Dry Creek Valley 2008

Vanilla Cake Salty Caramel Sauce, Housemade Vanilla Ice Cream, Caramelized Bananas

Tractor Bar Trio this Wednesday!

Dish of the Week:

Heirloom Gazpacho with Grilled Gulf Prawns

The lovely young man in the picture to the left is Justin Wycoff, AKA Junior, younger brother of Chef’s entremétier, Andrew Wycoff. While not the only brothers on staff at Barndiva (we are big on family here ~ Sous Chef Pancho and back waiter Joel are brothers,  Jessica and Rosario sisters, garde manger Shale is my nephew), the Wycoff brothers, in addition to working their tushies off here in the Barn all week are also our dedicated gardening guys.  On his day off Drewski gets down and dirty in the Quivira gardens to learn all he can about how to grow the food he loves to cook, while Junior here has undertaken care of all the herb beds in the garden behind the Studio.

But while Drew has already put in serious hard time on his culinary career, Junior arrived last fall a newly minted graduate from culinary school. As such he is the first to be assigned the most tedious, dirtiest, smelliest jobs in the kitchen. Goes with the territory. Best way to learn.

Chef let him off grunt work for a few hours this week to tease out the first steps for our Dish of the Week, which not coincidentally uses all the trim Junior saves from the dozens of heirlooms he slices his way through every day prepping our popular Heirloom Tomato, Compressed Watermelon and Mozzerella Salad. The trim, slow cooked with OO and garlic for about six hours, morphed into a thick velvety soup redolent of summer.  Cooled, then passed through a fine chinoise, it was added to a purée of freshly chopped red and yellow peppers, cucumbers, fresh dill from the garden, a few squirts of Worcestershire, sherry vinegar and a small handful of our secret weapon (release the secret weapon!), a house-dried pepper mix we created after last Fall's abundant harvest. (Moral of the story: you can never grow too much of anything that can be dried).

Ryan’s Gazpacho veers from the norm by this blending of cooked and raw: the classic dish, whose original Andalusian recipe has ancient roots, traditionally uses only raw tomatoes. In marrying a slow cooked saporous tomato base to the flavors of the fresh peppers and cucumbers, Ryan creates a deep russet colored gazpacho that is light but earthy, full of bright spice, and rife with the flavors of high summer.

Chef paired this ‘King of Cold Summer Soup” with fat, wild gulf prawns he flash seared with basil stems and OO until they colored and curled at the tail, as if trying to jump out of the pan and back into the water.

To plate, a disc of green tomato was soaked in balsamic, then hidden beneath a fan of sliced avocado. The seared prawn was placed on this edible plinth, surrounded by its own little sea of gazpacho, which at the last minute Chef flecked with freshly diced heirloom tomatoes.

Shooting this dish brought home yet again how important our quest to source seafood sustainably really is. We've come a long way since we opened Barndiva and our best selling starter was deep fried shrimp from Indonesia, but we still have a ways to go. To bring our fish sourcing to the same standard we hold for land bound proteins means continually finding a compromise with diners whom have come to expect ~ and often demand ~  unsustainable diversity when it comes to seafood.

Thankfully a lot has changed since we took those Indonesian fish off the menu three years ago. We now have growing support from many customers who understand our reasons behind offering a more limited  ~ but no less delicious ~ seasonal selection of seafood that respects the ocean and those who fish it.  This dish is a good case in point, with prawns sourced from a newly thriving wild population in the gulf of Texas. It's a win win dish all around. Except, I guess, for the prawn.

 In the Gallery:

Since the day we opened the gallery we’ve made room on our walls to carry an exquisite collection of botanical prints from Hagemann Lehrtafel. Extremely high quality reprints from the original collection of school science charts produced by the same family since they first appeared in German classrooms in 1927, they are virtually indistinguishable from the originals, printed on high quality canvas with strikingly lush black backgrounds which serve to innervate the brilliant colors of the plants.  All are scientifically correct.

All Charts: 46 x 32, $245

Tulip Botany chart                                              detail of Potato Botany Chart

detail of Anemone Botany Chart                     detail of Oak Botany Chart

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

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Dish of the Week........ In the Gallery

 

Dish of the Week:

Frog Hollow Peach Frangipane Tart

Once upon a time the valleys surrounding Healdsburg were filled with commercial stone fruit farms ~ dozens and upon dozens of plum, peach and apricot varieties which flourished in the temperate climate and rich soils of all three valleys. Sadly, we now have only one lone peach farm left in Dry Creek Valley, a result of rising land prices and the ongoing difficulties of making a living farming any fruit that cannot be made into wine.  Thankfully some parts of Northern California are still known for superlative fruits and nuts; for our dessert this week we ventured down to the San Joaquin River delta where our featured farm  ~ the beautiful Frog Hollow Farm ~ is located. One of the first stone fruit farms in the country to move to large scale organic farming methods twenty one years ago, besides supplying restaurants like Barndiva and Chez Panisse, Frog Hollow thrives by selling its fruit at farmer's markets, online, and servicing a thriving 400 strong CSA.  With fruit like this, only picked when it is hanging fully ripe on the tree, imagination and talent ~ rather than a whole lot of sugar~ is all you need to create memorable desserts.

Closer to home the man responsible for Dish of the Week is our wonderful new pastry chef Octavio Alcantar, who started his professional career ~ as many great chefs have ~ at The French Laundry as a dishwasher way back when the restaurant first opened. He quickly graduated to the pastry station and worked there learning his craft for 11 years, eventually becoming an integral part of the opening team at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Over the years he has had the opportunity to learn from a number of world class pastry chefs including Stephen Durfee and Sebastian Rouxel.

Ryan and Octavio, who met when their stations faced each other at TFL,  remained friends always hoping to connect again professionally.  We were truly pleased when he joined our staff earlier this summer as his consummate baking and chocolate skills have lead to a remarkable following in just a few short months.  In addition to inspiring our dessert menu and baking all of Barndiva's wedding cakes, Octavio brings a deft hand to ice cream and sorbets ~ it would seem there is nothing this guy can't do.

For this Frangipane Peach Tart ~ the natural almond flavor of Frangipane is a beautiful partner for fruit with aromatic floral notes ~ Octavio macerated Frog Hollow peach halves in vanilla bean infused white wine overnight,  leaving the skins on to impart a beautiful color to the liquid which was then reduced for the peach syrup that completed the final dessert.

Before baking, the macerated peaches were slipped into the light frangipane batter which had been poured into a shallow baking pan just deep enough to leave all but the surface  ~ which softly crisps in baking ~ submerged, resulting in an exceptionally moist cake filled with succulent, almond infused peaches.

Octavio paired his Peach Frangipane Tart with a Vanilla Bean Lemon Thyme ice cream, a seemingly unusual combination which played off the natural sweetness of the peaches bringing the slightest hints of citrus and green aromatics to this delightful summer dessert which was elegant, timeless... and delicious.

In the Gallery:

When Karma Palmo walked into Studio Barndiva unannounced two years ago this slight, extremely shy Tibetan woman was dragging a rather over-sized suitcase behind her full of exquisite naturally dyed rugs, tightly woven table runners and intricately crocheted scarves made by the women in her village which she explained was little more than a refugee camp in Nepal still under Chinese rule after a half a century.  To hear her describe it, each day they trekked outside the gates of the compound to harvest the only raw materials available to them to practice their craft, which thankfully grew wild (and free).

One of the joys of owning this gallery for the past four years has been to support talented artisans whose work is often made from found, as opposed to bought, materials. But while we have seen a lot of hemp and stinging nettle products over the years, admired for their sustainability and sought after because they are so durable, as raw materials they are actually not easy to work with. The pieces from Karma's fledgling company ~ Tibetan Organic Textiles ~ are elegantly designed and constructed pieces, expertly hand made, that will only get softer and more beautiful with age.

Karma now lives in the Bay Area with her father, Ngodup Tsering, who finally received his green card after decades of waiting and helps her run Tibetan Organic Textiles as she goes to school and they both acclimate to life in America.

Moving story, beautiful useful objects made by people we are proud to support.

Nettle place-mat/runner (shown below) $18 per 20" section Hand crocheted scarves $130  Rugs priced per piece.

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

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Dish of the Week........ Wedding in the Gardens

 

Dish of the Week:

Seared Scallops with Chanterelles & Corn

Scallops are one of those foods you either love or hate because of their unusual pillowy texture ~ which is offsetting to some, alluring to others ~ but did you know that the part we eat is actually the muscle which propels this mollusk across the ocean floor every time it claps its shells? Tasting fragrantly of the sea, they are often one of the most expensive items on a fine dining menu.  The good news about sourcing high quality scallops in season is that they grow quickly and mature at a young age, so there are abundant supplies of them this time of year especially in the Atlantic. The reason Seafood Watch only gives them a "good alternative" rating for sustainability is down to the fact that the further out to sea you go to harvest them, the more likely the catch can cause damage to the seabed.  Currently the only 100% safe alternative to wild sea harvest is eating farmed, which to our mind comes with its own set of trade offs.  Our scallops this week were caught off the coast of Massachusetts where Mike, our fishmonger of many years (who works for Aloha Seafood and closely with CleanFish) tells us they were scooped up from a  sandy bottom habitat where harvesting is less likely to cause ecological damage.

When you see the word ‘day boat’ on the menu, it simply means the ship was out at sea for less than 12 hours. Anything longer and you can assume a catch was frozen; with scallops this is something you want to avoid as they naturally retain excess water. Freezing can adversely affect their milky soft texture. And with scallops, at the end of the day, it’s all about the texture.

Fresh scallops are easy to cook if you learn to nail the timing. They can take high heat ~ the better to get that thin caramelized edge especially surprising when followed by the soft meat of the muscle ~ but you can’t take your eyes off them, which is hard in a busy kitchen (and probably the reason I’ve had more than my fair share of undercooked or overcooked rubbery scallops over the years). At Barndiva, we pull them off the heat the second they’ve reached medium rare, then let them rest momentarily on toweling to drain.

Earthy, sweet, summery, with just a touch of bright acidity was how Chef Ryan rolled out his thinking on combining sun-dried fresh chanterelles, the first of the good corn, opal basil from our garden and diced heirloom tomatoes from Mix Garden for this dish. It was a combination of ingredients calibrated to enhance but not overwhelm the subtle taste of the scallops, which had been flash seared in grape seed oil and a sprig of thyme garlic.

Ryan plated over a Starry Night swirl of Genovese basil which Andrew had spun just before service with EVO and garlic. This vibrantly colored pecorino-free pesto is a neat one to learn, working especially well when you have a protein that is delicate in flavor.

To hell with the Freudian connotations, this was an unabashed, guilt free sensual mouthful. If you aren’t a scallop fan yet, come on down. If you are.... you know where to find us.

Wedding In the Gardens

It goes without saying that this week's bride looked beautiful as she walked out of Barndiva's enormous mahogany doors to marry her sweetheart in our gardens a week ago Saturday. Her calm, elegant, smiling demeanor did not even falter when  an ecstatic cheer rose up from the  200 friends and relatives in attendance. She made it all look easy but for this bride, who pulled off a wedding that bridged vastly different cultural traditions with complete aplomb, God was in the details.

From her French net birdcage veil down to the chapel train of her elegant strapless gown, with its demure sweetheart shaped bodice, every small touch she had spent months putting into place spoke volumes. The gown’s taffeta bow, which would not have been out of place on the runway of a couture show circa 1950, also channeled ~ apologies for not knowing the Chinese equivalent ~ a beautiful  Japanese Obi. The exquisite  bouquet she designed with Bonnie Z of Dragonfly featured pink Cymbidium orchids, Vandella roses and burgundy Calla Lilies ~ all traditional for an Asian wedding where the bride never carries white flowers ~ but was encircled by exuberantly swooping blades of bright green bear grass that eloquently captured the thoroughly modern spirit of this young woman.

It's often been said that the trick to a truly successful wedding is to plan to your heart’s content ~ then let it all go, trusting that if you set the right wheels in motion joy will carry the day.  For all the meticulous planning that went into this wedding, from the minute they said their vows in dappled sunlight on the grassy verge, to the last dance in the gallery six hours later ~ this couple let it flow.

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

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Dish of the Week........ In the Field with Friends

 

Dish of the Week:

Sautéed Fresh Cèpes with Early Summer Vegetables

Thursday afternoon on my way to water the thyme and basil I found Tommy and Chef Ryan sitting quietly on the back patio looking into a plain brown box, smiling like kids in a candy shop. The box was filled with cèpes.

Fresh cèpes will do that to you, whether or not they bring to mind the dancing mushrooms in Fantasia. The thing is, while there is something undeniably funny about their shape they are also one of the most sensual taste experiences around, one of the few that offers an Umami satisfaction that truly rivals beef.   Funny, sexy, can't be domesticated  ~ fresh cèpes are the Gerard Depardieu of the mushroom world. Who needs Brad Pitt ~ sorry, I mean steak ~ when you get wild cèpes in season?

Cèpes, also known as Porcini, belong to the fungi genus Boletus. Instead of gills they have stems (technically known as stipes) that start by enveloping a sympathetic tree's underground root system, encouraging the production of “fruit” that eventually pops up above ground a short distance away from the host trees in summer and fall.  In  years when a lot of rain is followed by intense heat, cèpes proliferate in the needle dense deciduous forests that run along the western seaboard. Because they are easily recognizable they are perfect mushrooms for beginning foragers.

The spore print ~ which is how mycologists and budding mushroom hunters refer to the color and pattern of the cap ~ is fawn brown, growing darker the older the mushroom is. Don’t be dissuaded from eating them if you see a bit of green under the surface of the cap as this too is just a sign of maturity.

While dried cèpes are wonderful, deepening in flavor when reconstituted in a little warm water, if you are lucky enough to get them fresh ~ our cèpes this week hailed from Oregon ~ you really don’t want to mess with them too much. Chef choose to make an elegant, simple starter studded with root vegetables because, in his words, "These guys are all about the earth." He sautèed them first in VOO,  adding butter with finely minced shallots and garlic confit.  Tokyo white turnips from Earlybirds Place, favas from Big Dream Ranch, and freshly shucked English peas came next, followed by chive flowers from the Studio garden. He finished the dish with a drizzle of VOO, a splash of Balsamic, and a generous (and crucial) sprinkling of Maldon Salt.

If the cèpes you are using are particularly large, they can be finished in the oven which will ensure the white flesh, thick and firm when young, does not become tough. For Chef, the addition of a few pickled baby red onions provided an essential contrapuntal vinegar note he felt was needed to balance the intense richness of the cèpes.

A quintessential Ryan moment occurred as we stood over the stove just before he began to plate. “Take a look in here,” he said, staring into the blackened skillet, “if you don’t love everything you see right now, we can’t be friends.”

It didn’t take eating the dish (though I did, sighing happily throughout) to think “Well, thankfully we are.” But it didn’t hurt either.

Love was in the air on Father's Day

I'm an unrepentant romantic when it comes to falling in love, but I've always been pretty pragmatic when it comes to what it takes to keep love going, beginning with the supposition that most human beings don’t start out with an innate instinct to nurture and protect any life other than their own. Love is something we choose to experience, but that’s just the first step. To become good at it, we need to practice. A lot. Which to my mind takes time, effort, and no small degree of sacrifice.

Walking through the dining room on Sunday to the gardens, where two of our three kids waited to celebrate Father's Day with Geoffrey, I couldn't help but be reminded that while love is a test everyday (and to this extent a self-fulfilling prophecy) if anything that's all the more reason to celebrate the fruits of our labor whenever we get the chance. Happily, some of our favorite fathers came to Barndiva to do just that.

David and Rhys (Brush Salon)

Ari and Serafina (Scopa Restaurant)       Dawid and Miko (Studio Barndiva)

Albert and Mario Lukka Jovel                 Emily and Ruby with dad Aaron

Lukka, Geoff, Isabel and I want to thank the families who chose to share their Father’s Day celebrations with us…with a very special shout out to Debbi and Albert Jovel, married by Lukka in the Barndiva gardens three years ago, who surprised us on Sunday with their beautiful new baby son  ~ Mario Lukka Jovel (no kidding).

Talk about food memories that make you smile. It's days like Sunday that make everything we do here at Barndiva oh so very worthwhile.

In the Fields with Friends

These are the favas used in this week’s Dish, and the beautiful lady holding them is our great friend Kristee Rosendahl, who along with her partner Matt owns Big Dream Ranch, 300 fertile acres beyond Lake Sonoma. As some of you may remember, Kristee was instrumental in helping create the complicated tech aspects of Fork & Shovel…using a breadth of skills she’s now applied to what we think is the most beautiful gardening site on the web. Smart Gardener comprehensively enables you to personalize a garden plan with multiple applications that lets you choose what to plant, and how to manage, harvest, and even shop for and share your organic vegetable garden.  Partnering with seed companies like Peaceful Valley Farm Supply and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ~ the site already has over 700 organic, GMO free heirloom and exotic seeds ~  it will be expanded soon to include a number of wonderful community networking uses, Signature Gardens (Barndiva’s will be one), books, articles, recipes ~ really there is nothing around farm to table Kristee promises this site won’t eventually do.

We hope you’ll take this opportunity to become one of its first members (free to join!) and grow with it as your (possibly first) garden grows around you. We are so proud of Kristee and what she’s accomplished. Check out Smart Gardener and pass this link on to anyone you know who cares about what they eat and wants to expand their definition of local to include... their own backyard.

Read what Peaceful Valley Farm Supply had to say about Kristee and Smart Gardener.

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

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Dish of the Week........ Cocktails of the Week

Dish of the Week

Bacon Wrapped Pork with Wild Ramps

Ramps were the first food I ever ate that was foraged. I was 17, and under circumstances best left to the ‘can you believe we did that’ file, found myself at some godforsaken campsite in the wilds of Mendocino with my two best friends, hungry, hungover and broke. If memory serves we had some stale French bread and a cheap bottle of red we’d stolen from the buffet table at a Peace and Freedom party two nights before, along with a few mangy carrots and a handful of old potatoes we’d caged from a grocery store on the coast. They wandered off to find some wild sage to flavor the soup ~ for some reason I was entrusted with making a fire ~ returning with a handful of sorry looking things that resembled tiny mutant leeks.

They were, in fact, a form of wild leek, but sorry they were not, packing incredible flavor that gave our simple repast a woody depth redolent of garlic. The rest of the night ended up being memorable for a number of reasons I’d just as soon forget ~ but damn if it wasn’t the best soup ever.  

Ramps belong to the Allium family that also includes garlic, leeks, scallions and onions. They are also known as ramsons, wild garlic, and what the French elegantly call ail des bois for their propensity to grow in shaded wooded glades. They generally have a more intense garlic odor than taste, though towards the end of their extremely short growing season (delayed this year by the rain) the bulbs can pack a nice garlicky heat.  Chef pays as much attention to the flat scallion-like green tops as he does the dainty tuber shaped bottoms. In this week’s Dish of the Week he used entirely different prep techniques for each.

The tops ended up on the bottom of the dish, after they had been sautéed in VOO,  chopped and then formed in a ring mold to make a soft round green bed for the pork.  The bulbs and purple striated stalks, lightly pickled in mustard seed, fennel, sugar and champagne vinegar, ended up on top, finishing the dish with bright crunchy little bites.

Gleason Ranch is producing superb animals these days; pork that is full of flavor, bursting with juice. By wrapping the tenderloin in strips of bacon ~ which crisp during the cooking process ~ Ryan extended the long grassy flavors of the meat, adding a salty crunch without losing one bit of wonderful porky flavor.  Top to bottom this was a subtle dish of relationships  ~ ramps on ramps, pork in pork ~ which, for all its final elegance and finesse, had real down-home ~ dare we say campfire ~ appeal.

New Summer Cocktails - just in time for Father's Day!

When our bartenders presented some potential summer cocktails for me this week,  I wasn't surprised to find all three hadn't started life behind the bar, but in the garden and the kitchen. These guys focus a lot of their considerable energy taking classic spirit combinations and putting original spins on them. I half expect to find them chanting under a full moon before long, because in truth alchemy is what they're after. This week I tasted and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to 2 new rum cocktails, one of them a Kumquat concoction as pretty as it was potent,  and a kick ass blended whiskey hi-ball. Two Barndiva classics will also return to the early summer list by popular demand: Dragonfly, Vodka based,  and Weapon of Choice, which takes a Sherlock Holmes approach to  Pimms Cup.

Sam is our jam guy, forever adapting his Mum’s gold star recipes with a view toward extending their flavor profiles for cocktails. The kumquat marmalade he made for Start Your Engines is wonderful, a perfect balance of citrus sharp fruit to honeyed sweetness.  It flavors the drink with an instant limey thump ~ what Geoff calls “shuddery” ~ that's quickly followed by residual sweetness hiding in the pulp, which softens the bite. Using marmalade in drinks is tricky ~ the last thing you want is gunk at the bottom of the glass ~ but while the drink has a bit of pressed kumquat rind in it (which you want, trust me) the cocktail, which uses both Matusalem Platino with Agua Libre “fresh squeezed” California Raw Sugar Cane Rum with Dimmi and small batch pineapple gum spirit, has flavors that are anything but muddled. A great starter drink for an evening you hope will go the distance.

Rum, this time infused with whole vanilla bean, is also the core spirit of Thizzy, though the star of this gorgeous drink is a housemade strawberry consommé,  filtered into an old fashioned coupe with the rum, then topped with Moscato d'Asti.  I always forget how much I love this Italian dessert wine ~ try serving a bottle of it sometime at the end of a dinner party with chocolate covered biscotti for dipping.  In this drink, the strawberries and effervescent wine play off each other in much the same way peaches work to make a Bellini memorable, though more is happening here. The rum stays well back on the palate allowing the scent of fresh chocolate-orange mint from the garden to predominate before the first sip full of fruit, spice, rum and sparkling wine takes over. The lively aroma of this drink does what a great cocktail must: open the senses to everything that follows.

You don’t have to be Irish to feel the power of the muse after you finish Why Be Mad, the third new cocktail on the list. A complex blend of three whiskeys brought together in a Stephan Ravalli inspired brown-butter wash, it’s a sexy and wild potion that derives its liquid poetry from the combined flavors of smoky peat (from the Irish Whiskey), spice (from the Rye), and smooth oak (courtesy of American bourbon), enlivened with Bundaberg Ginger Beer. If the poetic spirit does come a' calling after drinking one or two of these, perhaps riding on the scent of freshly ground cinnamon or hiding in the heat of the candied ginger that garnishes the drink, fear not:  it’s more likely you will start channeling the joyous mayhem of E.E. Cummings rather than the angry rage of James Joyce. Fact is, you can’t be mad at anything after drinking this Hi-ball, hence the name.  If you are, I suspect you have some problems no drink can fix.

FYI: In the run up to the Pisco competition Barndiva has been invited to compete at the upcoming Sandra Jordan/Peruvian Embassy sponsored Macchu Pisco throwdown at Sandra’s Red Barn July 5th, Dealer’s Choice for the next few weeks will no doubt feature the national drink of Peru. There's a round trip ticket to Cusco at stake, not to mention a bit of glory, so come in and put the boys through their paces. If the cocktail they create for you wins, drinks on the house (and a postcard from the Andes).

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

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Dish of the Week........ In the Gallery

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Summer Vegetable Chicken Fricassee

I’m super critical of any dish with chicken in it, probably because it’s the protein we ate the most of when I was growing up, the one I know the taste profile of by heart.  When my mom was on form there was nothing in the world like one of her juicy, bursting with flavor whole roasted birds. But when she was tired, it often became dinner by default, dry and tasteless as cardboard (sorry mom. Love you.). Even the texture changes in poultry when it's not cooked to perfection, which to my mind is just the far side of pink.

Hang around kitchens and you’ll learn that while good chefs can prod any protein and know if it’s the witching moment, great chefs can tell just by looking. With poultry, often the hardest to discern, Ryan can tell from across the room.  He’s just a great chicken chef ~ even with a small poussin, his brigade consistently produces birds that have crisp skin with hits of briny salt followed by moist meat that is the essence of comfort.

When Chef said he was going to do a Chicken Fricassee for Dish of the Week, I was somewhat surprised. Fricassee is basically a stew, which in my experience can only ever be, at its best, a satisfying mess.  The classic recipe calls for a good number of vegetables and a protein, usually chicken, cooked together and served together. Great stew recipes invariably run the risk of losing the unique taste profiles of singular ingredients. In general you don’t say the word ‘stew’ and think ‘vibrant distinct flavors.’  Comfort, yes.  Elegant presentation, no.

I know Ryan: vibrant flavors and elegant presentation is usually what he is after. He pointed out that while many great chefs ~ think Boulud or Bouley  ~ might rely upon adding ingredients slowly to the pot to the build flavor in a stew, he preferred the Thomas Keller approach ~  prep each ingredient separately in order to vary and control how each was cooked, and with what herbs, oils and spices (if any).  The flavors, colors and textures in this fricassee only met up when they slid into the pan for that last hit of heat ~ with a few knobs of butter and confit garlic ~ a few minutes before plating.

Here’s what I tasted in Ryan’s Summer Vegetable Chicken Fricassee, which in honor of its humble origins I ate straight out of the skillet: the favas and fiddleheads were punchy, green and earthy, the baby red onions bright and vinegary. Nuggets of bacon were salty and chewy, while English peas and Nantes carrots, despite being different shapes and colors, shared a delicate garden flavor profile. The stand-out vegetable were the Tokyo White Turnips Myrna Fincher of Earlybird’s Place had dropped that morning in a plain brown box. To my eye these white jewels with their bright green stalks would not have been out of place in the window at Tiffany's . Ryan simply steamed them, taking care to leave them with a juicy crunch that was rooty and beguilingly sweet. To this vegetable mélange he added the whole poussin which had been pan seared to a golden hue.

The biggest surprise of the dish was how well the sauce, which consisted of nothing more than a diaphanous halo of white crème fraîche foam, worked to unify all these delicate flavors. I’ve come around to Chef’s appreciation of foam, which is not so much making a comeback in our kitchen (because it was never really here) as much as a re-evaluation. I loved how it worked, especially with the garlic confit, to open a vegetable bouquet that seemed to carry the essence of the dish in every bubble. “The next time someone asks you to define Modern Country,” Chef said as I snapped away, “show them this.”

In the Gallery…

No doubt a rainy Wedding Day gives pause, especially one that’s been anticipated to unfold in “sunny” wine country. But I must say I find something very special ~ as in beautiful, intimate, memorable ~ when we have a ceremony inside the Barn, with dinner in the Gallery, as we did this past weekend thanks to tumultuous thunderstorms.

Happily, as our Saturday couple, Allison and Shaun, have strong ties to Healdsburg and had it in their hearts to be married at Barndiva in great part because of out commitment to the food shed, the symbolism of their ceremony ~ beneath the crossed pitchforks in the Barn filled with Dragonfly flowers and lit by a dozen tapers ~ was right on (and pretty wonderful).  Something about the space makes every word clear and distinct, so it was especially dramatic when the hush that descended on the perfumed warmth of all those in attendance exploded with joy when Lukka pronounced them husband and wife. It was the bride’s inspired idea to have table arrangements of summer salad greens and herbs that could be taken home and used again to flavor future meals of those she loved ~ a small, beautiful, mindful detail that bodes well for their future, rain or shine.

If you love looking at weddings, here’s a link the wedding of Laura and Charles last week. Though in this case the sun came out briefly on the day, they were married in the gallery by choice, and it was intimate and wonderful. Some great shots by Flory Photography. Thanks for sharing!

In the Press

Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce President Mo McElroy introduces the irrepressible Clark Wolf who was a funny and charming MC for the Early Summer Farm Forum hosted by Barndiva last Thursday.  In the only break in the weather all week, even the sun came out to hear about a wide range of farm, garden and culinary programs that make a difference in so many lives here in Sonoma County.  How we might affect the controversial Farm Bill which goes before Congress in 2012 was just one of the many issues discussed by an information rich, forward looking line-up of speakers who addressed a group that had as many local luminaries in the audience as on the dais.

And as it turned out, The Forum took place the same day Edible Marin's All Hail Soil summer issue was published, with a feature about last fall's Taste of Place dinner which was truly an edible exploration of many of the subjects discussed at the Forum. We love Edible (and its editor Gibson Thomas) because rain or shine one can feel the commitment to the health and well being of the Northern California Food Shed on every page. Check out the issue using the link below, or better yet pick up a hardcopy at the Studio or in the restaurant next time you are in town.

All Hail Soil, Edible Marin, page 15

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

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Dish of the Week........ In the Gallery Garden

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Crispy Sonoma Duck Leg with Pickled Cherries and Purslane

Cherry season usually begins for us in mid May when we harvest the first of the Rainiers from 60+ year old trees the Cassanellis planted during the Depression. Too tall to throw nets over, we have a fight to the death with the Jays every year to see who will get more fruit. No contest this year as the last hard frost took out the entire crop.   Whether you have an excess some years or not, with their thin permeable skin cherries take to macerating and pickling extremely well,  and its a great way to extend their season.  Even when the fruit is not stellar, depending on what you infuse them with, all sorts of unusual flavor convergences take place.

While duck and cherries have a classic affinity, too often traditional recipes that feature both go a ‘too sweet' route. While Chef's duck leg and thigh were quintessential French bistro ~ confit then pan seared to produce a perfect, crispy skin ~ he took the pairing in an unexpected direction this week when he used a surprising line-up of early summer produce to create a colorful conga line of flavors that incongruously, yet joyfully, played against form. The cherries, pickled in champagne vinegar with a bit of sugar, were a standout,  with bright acidity and a nice pop, but each veg seemed to dance across the palate in a way that made the next in line a momentary headliner: sous vide Nantes carrots added sweetness and color;  perfect fiddleheads  spicy green notes; favas brought a fat melting texture; pickled baby red onions tasted oddly sweet compared to the sour punch packed by the cherries.  Yukon Gold gnocchi, plump and savory, held the base note on all the other  flavors.

 One of the lesser known stars of early summer ~ fresh purslane ~  graced the dish completely unadorned.  An edible succulent, purslane has the soft mouth feel of aloe and the snap on the teeth of a mature pea shoot. Its delicate flavor trails a wonderful green aroma.

Not long after I shot these pictures I trundled off to a far corner of the garden to find a patch of sun and taste through the dish, my usual MO.   At first I picked up each vegetable and studied it in the light like a snooty diamond buyer, but it wasn't long before I found myself tearing the skin off the duck with my fingers, mixing and matching flavor combinations, devouring every morsel. I saved the cherry for last.

In the Gallery this Week…

If you have ever wondered what we mean by 'eat the view,' our salutation since we opened Barndiva seven years ago and the name of this blog, come find out on Thursday when Barndiva will  host the second annual Early Summer Farm Forum between 5-7.   The estimable energies of Clark Wolf and Marcy Smothers have put together a truly dynamic panel of guests (below) who will talk and field questions about a range of food and farming subjects that touch our lives,  whether or not you derive an income from the food shed.  Think the upcoming farm bill is beyond us to have an effect upon? Think again.  If you yearn to make a bit more sense out of the complex food related issues coming at us from all sides  ..... or  just want to come spend a beautiful afternoon of food, drink and thought provoking conversation with a very special group of friends, join us on Thursday. In every sense of the word, you won't go away hungry.

For more information, click here.

The $15 entry will help fund more Luther Burbank Orchards and support Santa Rosa Jr College culinary projects.

*Proceeding and following the forum folks from Luther Burbank House and Garden, the Guerneville School Garden,  Goldrich Farm (LB's Experimental Garden) and the Seed Preservation Project will be here to share their summer plans and projects with us....

**For dinner reservations after the forum call 431-0100.

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

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Dish of the Week........ In the Garden....... In the Gallery

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Mix Garden Organic Carrot Soup with Chervil Crème Fraîche and Wild Asparagus Tempura

While this extraordinary carrot soup celebrates a single flavor profile ~ sweet organic carrots ~ Chef did not want a one dimensional vegetable “dessert,” hence the additions of a quenelle of puckery crème fraîche and batons of salty, crunchy, wild asparagus tempura.

To make the soup we first sweated chopped Mix Garden carrots with shaved fennel and spring onion in a little virgin OO with just a hint of turmeric and 5 spice. A crisp white wine (we used Sauvignon Blanc) was then added to the glistening vegetables along with organic carrot juice ~ the addition of the freshly pressed juice serving to intensify the flavor.  Once the vegetables were soft, there were two steps to achieving a velvety final texture: the first was to spin (or purée) the mixture; the second, to pass it through a chinoise (or fine mesh screen).

A quenelle of crème fraîche flecked with chopped chervil, garnished with a sprig of carrot top and a chive flower finished the soup, but for Chef did not complete the dish.  He wanted a stand-alone accompaniment, something that would play against the sweetness of the carrots.

When wild asparagus arrived unexpectedly at the kitchen door, he saw the perfect pairing ~ the chlorophyll would add a wonderful woodland element, and with the addition of batter, a nice crunch. The secret of a good batter, whether or not you use rice flour for “tempura," is soda water. We use the gun, but Badoit is a good choice as it will bring a subtle taste of minerality.  All in, this week's dish sang with the colors of early summer.

From the Garden:

Few things make Chef Ryan smile like the arrival of the guy in black standing next to him in this picture. His name is Alex Lapham,  and he's Mick Kopetsky’s main man, along with Bryan Hohnstein, at Mix Garden, the burgeoning wholesale vegetable business Mick started some years ago at Bieke and Bryan Burwell’s beautiful estate in West Dry Creek. From the beginning Mix has supplied Barndiva with superlative produce, and we’ve watched with growing admiration as Mick expanded to include more fertile, unused fields across the county.  That Mick’s organic produce is priced so as to be affordable to restaurants like ours ~ who want the basis for their success to go hand in hand with support of the food shed ~ makes us natural partners.  He’s a perfectionist, but no dilettante (which we love about him) with a clear-eyed pragmatic approach to farming. This year he even expanded into selling vegetable starts ~ we now have 30 different heirloom tomato varieties growing at our farm in Philo, all from his incredible first year list. The arrival of Alex to our door each week is one of the many joys of working ~ and dining ~ at Barndiva.

FYI: Mick is also the proprietor of the former Healdsburg Landscape Material ~ now Mix Garden Material ~ a great place to start if you are considering a vegetable garden!  Check it out.

For more on local produce you may want to read Ann Carranza in last week's The Patch.

In the Gallery

Ishmael Sanchez is back, and not a moment too soon! While we sorely missed him the past year as he wound up his life in Anderson Valley for a move down south, we are thrilled to announce we once again have a collection of his incredible wire animal sculptures in the gallery, in addition to being able to offer his work on commission.

Just in: a crow worthy of Poe, a chicken, a rooster, and two of his Picasso-like “simple” horses. Ishmael also delivered a magnificent full-sized horse that presided over a lovely ‘New York’ wedding this weekend in the Studio Garden.  Ask to see it when you come in, and while you are enjoying the garden, don’t miss Jordy Morgan’s new stone filled wire wall.

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

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Wednesday at the Barn Prix Fixe Menu........ Dish of the Week........ At the Farm

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Early Summer Vegetable Plate

When Chef Ryan went to pick strawberries and a load of other beautiful vegetables at Quivira early Thursday morning, he took Justin along, younger brother of his entremetier Andrew Wycoff. “Jr”   is the youngest and newest member of the kitchen brigade, currently working the garde manger station. The trip made such an impression he couldn’t stop talking about it. He was especially blown away by "how much food" could be grown in such a (relatively) small area.  You have to know what you are doing, of course, but when you do ~ as Andrew Breedy, Quivira’s lead gardener certainly does ~ it’s hard not to be impressed with the variety and abundance of what we can grow here in Sonoma County. For a young chef it’s particularly important to understand at the beginning of a career how essential it is to get to know a few great farmers and endear yourself to them, the better to get up close and personal with what they grow.  Back in the kitchen, Ryan decided to create a vegan vegetable starter for guests dining with us that night, which is not as easy as it sounds. Put a few delicious veg on a plate and call it a day, right? Not around here.

Look up the definition of Haiku in the dictionary and you will find it is a classic Japanese poetic form which traditionally has 17 distinct phonetic units, concluding with a lingering message. Historically, it adheres to a strict format that relies on the juxtaposition of  key words to describe images, separating them by what the Japanese call "Kireji"or ‘cutting words’.  I was reminded of Haiku as I watched Ryan ~ with Jr. eagerly assisting ~ begin to plate an edited version of the bounty they’d collected at Quivira. One of the hallmarks of a good Haiku is that it leaves you with a single resonating thought. With his Early Summer Vegetable Plate from Quivira Gardens, the message of this visually arresting Vegetable Haiku was clear: when it comes to great produce, less really is more.

While Ryan's creation was only comprised of 13 "elements" for me it captured  the spirit of the Haiku form, and what I love most about Japanese culture in general.

Theirs is a pared down sensibility that goes hand in hand with a reverence for spare lineal form, with a profound, if understated, message that often takes a reverence for the natural world into account. While Chef seemed to place the ingredients on the plates swiftly, he did so in a way that allowed each to “speak” to one another ~ in color, shape, and most certainly in taste. As you ate across the plate each element played against the next, yet each, in its own way, remained completely distinct.

The rhubarb was peeled before being steeped in boiled water with a bit of grenadine, the ‘secret’ prep I mentioned last week that Octavio, our talented pastry chef, also employs for the rhubarb batons we serve with the Layered Rhubarb Financier we currently have on the dessert menu. To get the most out of its unusual flavor profile, rhubarb needs to be peeled (the skin is stringy, and can be bitter) then treated with care. Never boil it. Don’t let it get too friendly with sugar. Slipping it into water that has boiled and been infused with grenadine allows this faux fruit to cook just enough as the water cools. The grenadine helps hold and even enhance its extraordinary color. The strawberries were cored and slivered; the fennel was shaved, thinly, then lightly dressed in a few drops of Preston OO and champagne vinegar.

Ryan’s generosity as a chef is always present in the way he encourages those on the brigade that show an interest (and a propensity) for visual artistry to try their hand. It’s NOT as easy as it looks. I have seen him change one thing on a plate that shifts the entire visual balance of the dish. I can’t say how much this ultimately affects the diner but if you believe, as we do, that you eat with your eyes first,  his talent provides an vital conduit to our guests that truly expresses what we feel about the primacy of our exquisite ingredients.

No matter how complex or how many steps Chef takes to complete a dish  ~ initially it's the integrity of those ingredients which inspire each plate of food.

At the Farm: Quivira

The interest our young chef showed for his experience at Quivira is a good lead-in to a subject I’ve wanted to talk about for a while now, as the dialogue over whether or not it’s a good thing for wineries to grow food heats up.  Not simply because I have strong feelings about the subject  ~ whatever your viewpoint, I hope you’ll agree it’s an important discussion that should not be dominated by fear.

When Quivira was denied a space at the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market last year we understood why ~ growing food is not the main thing they do and we could see the argument that coveted space at Farmer's Markets should be allotted to farmers whose main source of income is food. The revenue generated from market sales is often crucial to their thriving, if not surviving. But. It’s a far step from that thought to not supporting wineries with a genuine interest in expanding their business model from the mono-culture of grapes into a diverse ecology that includes vegetables, fruits, and even animals. Quivira has done an exemplary job in this regard. Their single acre garden is open to the public, laid out and 'explained' in such a way as to make a trip to the winery, whether or not you are imbibing, worthwhile.  In addition to the educational piece of having the veggie beds, the chickens, the bees, and the fruit trees all up front and accessible to the crowds that visit the winery all year, they sell fairly priced produce to a select number of farm to table restaurants, as well as hosting events throughout the year that make a direct connection between their wine and food grown sustainably right alongside their grapes.

And that’s not all.  A few years ago when Quivira first started their food growing program in earnest, they invited restaurants that shared a commitment to superior local sourcing to each subsidize a raised bed that could be grown exclusively for that restaurant. The worthy sub-text to this plan was that in addition to the publicity it afforded both ends of the collaboration, all the money raised from the restaurants was donated to the Northern Sonoma Healthcare Foundation.

That Quivira could afford such largess because the owners are not struggling farmers doesn’t take away from the merit of this ongoing program, nor does the grape component dilute an authentic ‘how food is grown’ experience their garden offers to thousands of visitors who thought they were only heading out to West Dry Creek to sniff and sip.

To our mind, it’s always a good thing to see more land turned over to growing food  ~ especially when it’s done properly, which Andrew and his crew are certainly doing at Quivira. We fail to see a down side to it.  Can every winery go the distance to the extent Lou and Susan Preston have as they literally 'grew' what was once Preston Vineyards into the bio-dynamic farm+vineyards that is now Preston of Dry Creek?   Of course not. But does that mean we shouldn’t encourage more wineries to have a go?

On the one side you have farmers who do not have the benefit of a potentially lucrative cash crop like grapes feeling threatened that they are up against deep pocket dilettantes who are using produce gardens and a few farm animals to romanticize their core business to the public.

On the other you have the oft-criticized mono-cultural business model of the vineyard/winery diversifying into food ~ allowing the wine obsessed public to be exposed and educated a bit about how food is grown, as well as making more sustainably farmed crops available to restaurants who want to source locally. Least we forget ~ restaurants, especially those committed to buy from the food shed, also struggle with small profit margins.

Barndiva welcomes relationships with wineries that grow food, especially when they also extend ethical farming practices to their vineyards. At the end of the day, we will always try and support those who have a vested interest in seeing local farm to local table sourcing thrive.

But dinner on the house to anyone out there who feels a Haiku coming on that might further clarify this complicated and often vexing issue .

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

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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)

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Dish of the Week........ In the Gallery

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

The Cheese Course

The Cheese Course at Barndiva is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in the gardens with a glass of wine, but we love to  serve it as they do in Europe, after the salad course and just before (or in lieu of) dessert. With due respect to local sourcing we have always searched far and wide when it comes to serving artisan cheeses. It's important to keep age old cheese making traditions alive wherever you find them, and cheese is one of the few things you can enjoy that most truly reflects the taste of the land where an animal has grazed.  A goat cheese by any other name does not taste the same! When we do source locally, we often return to Cowgirl Creamery, who in addition to importing artisan cheeses from all over the world produce their own exquisite selections. Mt. Tam Cheese is a soft cow's milk cheese made from organic milk produced in Marin County.  It has a bloomy rind, a firm buttery texture and is aged about 3 weeks.

Our favorite condiment to eat with cheese is pure honeycomb.  Hector's Honey is produced just a few miles from our restaurant.

In Spring we pair cheese with bright fruit: a slice of kumquat, rhubarb, delicate citrus, and edible flowers. This week Chef lightly poached field rhubarb in a touch of grenadine bitters to help the natural red 'pop' a bit.

We caramelize walnuts to balance the earthiness of the cheese and the tartness of kumquat, rhubarb and citrus. We add, as a final grace note, yellow blue and russet pansies from our garden.

In the Gallery

Manok is a local talent who has been painting in Sonoma for over a decade, but while she truly captures the bucolic heart of the gently rolling landscapes that surround us, it's easy to see traces of a nomadic life that took her from Laos, where she was born, to Paris, where she worked for Kenzo for many years. It's something in the way she can make the most normal forest, field or river feel exotic, using a range of colors imbued with light that brings Turner to mind. Yes, her skies are that remarkable. Layered texture comes from exclusive use of a pallet knife, but the sly sense of humor she brings to the natural order of the universe is, we suspect, all her own. In addition to the work we have on view in the gallery, her work can be seen in Diavolo Restaurant in Geyserville.

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Dish of the Week .... In the Gallery .... Easter Brunch Menu

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Artichoke Salad

Chef peeled and lightly cooked the artichokes using the French method of Barigoule, which calls for braising with white wine and carrots. When the artichokes were cool, he  sliced and dressed with champagne vinaigrette. Served with thinly sliced watermelon radish, fava beans, navel orange, kumquat, kale flowers, chervil and tarragon, all this salad needed to finish it was a fragrant citrus vinaigrette.

Color is everything in spring after a dull gray winter of rain ~ but color is just the start.  The flavors have to follow through and in this case they do: green and citrus bright, with a gentle bite of semi-bitter radish. The crunchy texture of al dente vegetables is complimented with soft floral notes, and a mellow finish in the meaty chokes.  Sun is out.

In the Gallery

The Bali artist Ketut Kardana meticulously hand draws his extraordinary "Goddess of Knowledge" series from a small hut in the middle of the rice fields above the mountain town of Ubud.

Trained by village elders from the age of eight, he works primarily in palm fiber for his initial sketches, judiciously using Russian inks for delicate color. He normally finishes his work in acrylic, which gallery owners in Ubud  told him tourists prefer.  For the pieces he creates exclusively for Studio Barndiva we have prevailed upon him to stop before the application of any bright color, giving the work the effect of tintype while allowing a greater appreciation of his masterful drawing skills. Matted in archival linen and framed in patina'd hardwood to the artist's specification.

10.5 x 19 and 12 x 21  each $750

Ketut images:

Easter Brunch Menu

all photos and text,  Jil Hales, unless otherwise noted

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Dish of the Week......In the Gallery

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Tasting Menu, 4th course : Caramelized Lamb Chop with Fiddlehead Ferns, Fava Beans, Morels & Spring Garlic Soubise

Our lamb this week came from Wyland Ranch in Petaluma, sourced from Ritz @ Sonoma Direct. It was grass fed, with a surprisingly mature flavor for early Spring. The secret of a caramelized crust is to heat a dry pan until the first wisp of smoke starts to rise, and only then hit it with the lamb.

First of the Fiddleheads arrived in the kitchen ~ these are local, not the prettiest we've ever seen but the season is too short for beggars to be choosers. Legend has it the best Fiddleheads grow wild in Michigan ~ a bit too far for us but we're dying to know if it's true.

Take the time to peel Favas all the way,  that’s out of the pod AND skin off before blanching. A bit of sugar in the water will hold the color .

Finally, about Morels: suck it up and spend what you need to on the best you can find. They are worth it. Nothing wrong with dried but oh the fresh are where it’s at. Even if you use dried, soak and rinse these babies because they WILL have sand hidden in those crenelations that will ruin one of the most sensual mouthfuls around. Trim bottoms, cold water bath, rinse. Do it again if you're not sure.

We served this 4th course of our tasting menu with a decadent, creamy soubise of spring garlic. Very little of a sauce this rich is needed.  Soubise is a variation of fondue but this one has no cheese or milk. It does have spun butter, because, well, you know.

Tommy paired one of his favorite merlots with the lamb. Paloma is a Napa winery on the summit of Spring Mountain, owned by Barbara and the late Jim Richards.  With only 15 acres under vine their singular focus produces just one wine, an Estate Merlot that The Wine Spectator awarded #1 Wine of  the Year in 2003 (for their '01). "They've been producing since 1994, it's a voluptuous wine,  with an uncanny balance and structure that provides the framework for graceful aging."  Tommy knows we don't go over the hill too often in search of great wine, but when we do, rest assured it's going to be special. The tasting menu changes every week.

In the Gallery

Beautiful, well made and functional are all things we look for ~ as consumers and vendors ~ in a fine piece of furniture.  At the Studio we up the ante even more: we want to know who makes the things we sell which you will use everyday and hopefully come to love. These  pieces are a case in point.

The big fellow below is named Joe Bates. We've known him since he was as old as the little fellow, his son Max. No one knew then, least of all Joe, that someday he would begin the journey to being a master craftsman. Maybe the interest in being at bomber pilot (at age 8 ) indicated an early love of steel? What he always possessed was a dogged determination to get things right, especially those things that take form under his hands. His work, whether in concrete or steel, elevates raw material to the next level; they are clean designs using processes like patination and burnishing, and finishes like specialized waxes and innovative hybrid clear coats.  Working from a studio in Napa where his commission pieces can be seen at some of the highest profile wineries, hotels and restaurants in Wine Country, we  have carried a range of his armoirs, bookcases, fire pits and food pyramids in Studio Barndiva since the day we opened. Bookcases and tables can also be commissioned in a variety of sizes and lengths.

Shown below: Silver Armoire in Patina'd steel and glass $4,800; above, "The Cubby" in steel $2,850. Photography for 'In the Gallery', DP Jaworski, the newest member of our team.

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Dish of the Week......... Spring Menus....

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Crispy Pork Belly with Arugula Purée, Kumquat, Pickled Red Onion and Quail Egg

I love how Fergus Henderson (The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating) describes the “not quite meat not quite fat” quality of pork belly: “ It’s onomatopoeic ~ belly is like it sounds ~ reassuring, steadying, and splendid to cook due to its fatty nature. It’s not a cut to rush and with that a certain calm is imbued in the belly.”  Of the diner, that’s for sure.

The Pork Belly craze that swept the restaurant world the past few years gave rise to a lot of awkward pairings which either over~played the richness of the cut or tried to disguise it ~ chocolate covered pork belly anyone?  The desire to press PB to reduce the fat isn’t always the answer either, as in doing so you loose the fluffy quality of one layer melting into the next. Why disguise the fatty attraction of the cut ? Just remember a little bit of belly goes a long way and enjoy.  Pork belly makes the most delicious first course.

Ryan’s take on it for dish of the week was to celebrate what we hope is around the corner ~ a glorious spring!  He choose condiments with vibrant colors and bright flavors, but used them with discretion, paying homage to the full, rounded and soul satisfying essence of PB, especially for carnivores of the nose to tail variety.

Kumquats, wonderfully bright and bitter, wake the taste buds up in a way that makes all flavors that come into contact with them all the more distinct.  A citrus fruit the size and shape of an olive, the oval kind we serve raw this time of year has an edible sweet rind. Pairing thinly sliced kumquat with the pickled crunch of tagliatelle of red onion and a smooth peppery green arugula purée was a brilliant way to isolate the richness of the belly while allowing its flavor profile, with hint of maple syrup in the finish, to sing.

Tommy paired the Pork Belly with a 2006 Kerpen Riesling from Wehlener Sonnenuhr,“the Sundial of Wehlener,” Sonnenuhr meaning sundial, Wehlener being the town where the grapes are grown. The vineyard is so named because in 1846 the first man to plant grapes in this part of the Mosel Valley, Jodocus Prüm, painted a giant sundial on the face of the highest cliff of this rocky outcrop, perhaps to celebrate the sheer insanity of trying to grow anything where there was no topsoil and only shards of pure blue slate. His folly was our gain ~ and 200 years on Riesling from this area is one of the finest expressions of terrior in winedom.

Like fois gras, Tommy believes Pork Belly calls for a wine with sweetness and viscosity, and a good bit of acidity to cut through that richness ~ the same reasoning behind Chef’s choice of pickled onion and raw kumquat.  He is especially partial to Rieslings from this part of Germany when they are properly aged, as only then do they begin to develop the interesting aromas that make this varietal especially enticing. It’s called having a petrol nose, what the French call goût de pétrole. Petrol, kerosene and rubber are all aromatic attributes that are highly sought after in a mature Riesling.

Barndiva's Spring Menus

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Dish of the Week.........Cocktail of the Week...

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week:

Creekstone Ribeye with Hand-Cut Gnocchi, Spring Vegetables, Tomato Marmalade, Arugula Coulis, Fingerling Potato Chip

We were punch drunk this week with a mouthwatering new cut of steak and the first spring vegetables to come in the kitchen door ~ favas, ramps (wild leek) & stinging nettle!

The secret to keeping the bright color and taste of spring is to blanch vegetables briefly in boiling water, then 'em shock in ice water. However you cook to finish take care to stop at al dente for fullest flavor.

Our potato gnocchi is made with rich saffron orange egg yolks from Early Bird Place with very little flour. Mirroring the cooking process for the vegetables, we poach then cold shock the gnocchi to cook them through before sautéing for color and texture.

As for that steak: We talk a lot about sourcing beef around here. Grazing cattle brings great benefits to the soil, but 9 out of 10 of diners prefer grain fed beef.  Creekstone Farms seems to promise the best of both worlds as the animals are pastured until the last few weeks, when their primary feed changes to grain. It's delicious but the conversation about sourcing continues.

And there’s a good reason Chef Ryan separates the rib ‘eye’ from the cap (calotte) and serves them side by side. Ribeye is part of a long muscle that runs from the shoulder to the loin and as such has a different fat ration depending on where each cut is made. By separating the eye from the cap (which have the same flavor profile, though their different textures subtly affect taste) we are able to give guests a perfect portion of both.

The well-seasoned ribeye is pan fried in grapeseed oil but any oil with a high smoke point will do. Yes, we baste in butter with a sprig of fresh rosemary just before removing the steak to rest.

Spring favas, asparagus, and herb studded gnocchi were piled on top of the eye which rested in a vibrant wild arugula coulis. The beautifully marbled cap was paired with a quenelle of last summer’s tomato marmalade and a single fingerling potato chip.

The tomato marmalade, like much of what we preserved last summer, is starting to run out. Just in time for spring, when we start to do it all again.

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Cocktail of the Week

¡Fantômas!

The first dinner menu of spring continued to take the lion's share of our attention last week, as we waited for the rains to stop long enough to get our edible flowers and herbs into the ground. Meanwhile, the bar has been quietly crafting away, with Adam and Sam merry as mice on a busman’s holiday.  They previewed the first of the new cocktails for me this week, using two of the hardest spirits to finesse…tequila and pisco. The tequila cocktail is stunning, with lots of lovely bitter notes around a big pink heart of grapefruit citrus. The cocktail is finished with a mist of rosewater,  homage to the drink's namesake, Fantômas, the world's first modern villain.

Ingredients: Grapefruit syrup, fresh grapefruit juice, Amaro Nonino, Aperol, hint of fresh lime mist of rosewater (a small stainless mister is a great investment)

FYI: if you want the recipe, drop us an email and we’d be happy to oblige.

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Chef Ryan's Mini Quail Egg Tartine

Dish of the Week There's a single moment in any great meal when you hit the sweet spot and get all elements you're loving on the plate together in one perfect mouthful.  Our Quail Egg Tartine was the perfect 'breakfast' moment writ large: fried egg, perfect toast, buttery tomato, salty balcony crunch. The lightly  herbal and  floral notes of cilantro and Rapini kept the rich umami ingredients distinct, until  the last instant, when the creaminess of the egg yolk brought it all home in a Pigs & Pinot moment everyone who experienced it described as  "pure bliss."

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