July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
Summer Cocktails and a new garden to drink them in…
The past few weeks the back bar has been overflowing with peaches, plums, apricots, watermelon, and juicy berries, all crying out to be macerated, puréed, sliced, muddled, or left to gently infuse in spirits. The gardens too are in resurgence with herbs and edible flowers Daniel planted in Spring – golden fennel, pineapple sage, Thai basil, bright blue bachelor buttons, society garlic, nasturtium, variegated mint, borage, lemon balm, and gorgeous bi-colored Britton shiso. There are six varieties of thyme in Barndiva’s stone wall, Polish wash tubs in both gardens are filled with Johnny jump-ups and delicately edged purple and white pansies ~ all in all, an embarrassment of riches. Luckily, we don’t get embarrassed all that easily. Happily, Summer Cocktails are all about bringing the orchard and garden right into your glass.
The Mystery Tattoo Club has at its glowing center of golden rum aged 3 years in American oak blended with agricole, rum made from fresh sugar cane juice. Rachel has paired the rum with California blueberries made into a light champagne vinegar shrub. It’s a gorgeous steely blue I’ve come to think of as tattoo blue, which inspired the name (it’s also a real club in Paris). Other elements are the herbal notes from garden verbena she’s steeped into a light syrup tea, and fresh lime juice, which sharpens the overall flavor profile bringing a bright but fleeting citrus nose to the drink. It remains to be seen whether The Mystery Tattoo Club will unseat Barndiva’s most popular rum drink with longtime customers, On The Beach With Fidel, but I wouldn’t be surprised at anything Ray’s set her mind on. You be the judge. Come in and we’ll do a throw down between the two.
Scorched Earth has burnt orange tequila and an intriguing gingered plum purée ~ think smoky booze with a hint of chutney spice, which Ray calls a peek of Asia in the finish. I’m not a lover of tequila cocktails that are overly complicated but this combination had me at hello. There is Canton and local verjus in it, and the Santa Rosa plums (for the next few weeks at any rate) are from our farm. Scorched Earth comes with its own cooling topper, a salty foam that makes for some tasty lip action. It won’t solve the drought but may well help sort out any other problems you’re having on the night.Lift, Flirt, & Slide are a series of “spirit elixirs” we add to a few times a year. The idea behind the series follows the belief that customers are in a specific frame of mind when they sit down to drink. Each drink in the series is crafted to meet “the mood”; all are finished with an organic herbal elixir. We make no claims the drinks are at all medicinal, though tinctures like these have been used for centuries in homeopathy.
Lift 4 is lemon peel vodka, fresh cucumber water, and a fennel shrub with a half dropper’s worth of dandelion root (taraxacum officinale). It’s light and refreshing, just what you need after a long day you just want to put behind you.
Flirt 2 is the drink you want when the day is already behind you, and it’s the night ahead you want to concentrate on. It’s got Pisco, watermelon juice and an incredible house-made Serrano tincture. It’s finished with a juz of elderflower liqueur with the addition of Damiana (Turnera aphrodisiaca) which elevates the cocktail to our elixir list.
Here’s the new cocktail collection, which comes with an invitation. We don’t just want to bring the gardens into your glass this summer, we’d like to bring you out into the gardens to enjoy our fabulous new cocktails. Towards this end we’ve created a cool new spot beneath the arches where you can enjoy our artisan cocktails (or any of the classics). Come a bit early for your reservation, or if you’re table hopping around town. Or hey, just stop by for a drink before you poodle off home to cook something out of your own garden. It’s all good. What am I saying? It’s all great. Enjoy!
Barndiva Artisan Cocktails Summer 2014
“Bitches of the Seizième” our house “champagne” cocktail made with bubbles, orange peel brandy, coriander, creole bitters
Scorched Earth burnt orange tequila, gingered plum, canton, local verjus, salted foam
The Neverending Now strawberry vodka, rose water honey, gewürztraminer juice, orange bitters
Mystery Tattoo Club rum, blueberry shrub, citrus, lemon verbena syrup
Why Bears Do It meyer lemon vodka, Barndiva apple juice, american oak bitters, garden thyme
Casa de Gumby rosemary tequila, pineapple, peppered cassia, jasmine rice syrup
Lift 4 lemon peel vodka, cucumber water, fennel shrub, dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale)
Flirt 2 pisco, watermelon juice, serrano tincture, elderflower, damiana (Turnera aphrodisiaca)
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All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales
July 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Tête a Cochon
Just as the term ‘farm to table’ should imply a direct connection to an actual place where things are grown, ‘nose to tail’ carries with it a literal meaning: start with a whole animal and render as many parts of it delicious as talent and time allow.
There are great reasons to cook and eat this way. Starting with the extremities and moving through a properly raised animal you have brain, heart, liver, tongue, kidneys, sweedbreads, caul fat ~ all nutritious with incredible potential for tasting delicious. Our ancestors in the food chain saw using every part of the animals they killed as a way to honor the exchange of life for sustenance and warmth. They were also hedging their bets, never sure where or when they’d find their next ‘free range’ protein rich meal.
Which, sadly, isn’t that far off from where we find ourselves today. Grazing land is a rapidly diminishing resource in the world, while the skills needed to raise and humanely dispatch healthy animals “the old fashioned way,” because of our tragic reliance on CAFO’s, has become a lost way of life. For those of us who still have access to pasture raised animals, cooking nose to tail honors every step of the journey that goes from animal, to farmer, to chef, to eater. It encourages us, in the most wonderful way possible, to use as many parts of these precious animals as we can.
But nobody said it was pretty. In a society that gorges on all manner of evisceration day after day, night after night, on screens big and small, we are still, by and large, squeamish as a nation when looking into the animals we eat. Food blogs are inordinately obsessed with staging only the most beautiful pictures ~ which fun as they are to look at ~ tell an incomplete story. Whatever the disconnect (perhaps fascination with fictional gore allows a certain distance to real death) it’s important to post images now and again that honestly document what it looks like to cook the way we do. We do not wish to offend. But for those of us still eating and loving animal proteins raised sustainably, getting as close as we can to the history, the science, and yes, the mystery of why we love eating them is part of the story of our lives.
Mimi and Peter Buckley get this. Their two much admired food production enterprises in Sonoma and Mendocino are deeply respectful of land, animals and people. Front Porch Farm, here in Healdsburg, produces organic fruits and vegetables and Mimi’s great love ~ flowers. Up Hwy 128 in the heart of Yorkville, where they have been renovating the old Johnson spread, Peter and a talented young crew are raising heirloom Cinta pigs.Cintas are classic salumi pigs, usually weighing in at well over 300 lbs at slaughter. But when Ryan heard about Acorn Ranch he began to dream much smaller, about the size of the milk fed pigs he loved to cook at The French Laundry. He wondered aloud if the Buckleys were open to producing something special for us. They were. And so we received two 30 lb pigs a few weeks ago, beautiful animals he set about cooking “through” before inviting Peter, Mimi and their ranch and garden managers to dinner.
Several skill sets are needed for nose to tail cooking, but they all start with great butchery ~ the cleaner and closer the cut, the more protein per lb. Each part of an animal is then prepped and cooked using often laborious techniques where the main objective is teasing flavor out of each cut with an understanding of texture and how each cut will react to heat. It takes optimizing the characteristics of each region of the animal, understanding the way grain runs in sub-primal cuts, fat to muscle ratio, which bones to roast, which to braise. Nose to tail is not a proprietary culture but one about taking nourishing culinary traditions and playing them forward. The techniques Chef relies upon, ones he learned working alongside Richard Reddington and Thomas Keller, key off preparations handed down the centuries from country kitchens where the main objective was to marginalize waste. Chefs of this caliber, while pulling on those traditions, have taken nose to tail taken to a whole new level.
Tête a cochon is a good case in point. It is all about using up the least lovely, hard to get to bits in the head. As Drew broke down the whole animal and went about portioning it, Chef wrapped the head in cheesecloth and slowly braised it in a stock with leeks, apples, white wine, garlic & herbs. He then peeled everything off the bones, discarding the fat and gristle, mixing the soft bits of meat with the thinly sliced tongue and ears. This mixture was then seasoned and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap into a roulade, which he put into an ice bath to start the consolidation of protein and fats, then left to rest overnight in the walk-in. (Another route would have been to pack the softly rendered collection of head meats into a terrine mold and serve them cold.)
As the orders came in the roulade was cut into 1 1/2”discs, brushed with Dijon, dusted with Panko and spices, and sautéed in a bit of butter, garlic and thyme until crisp. Tête is often served with gribiche but Ryan finished this first course dish simply, with a sprinkling of chives and a crispy trail of sublime Acorn Ranch bacon. For a special entrée tasting he did the same night, (our first image, above) he served the chop, belly and shoulder, with a summer spin-off of bacon, blistered tomato and avocado, a brighty acidic, fresh olive tapenade on the side. The shoulder in this dish was one of the best I’ve ever had, bathed in an sauce he’d made by heating the bone jus with a touch of butter, letting it reduce slowly in the pan while basting to form a beautiful silky glaze.
There is no taking away the initial visceral intensity of watching a dish like this prepared from scratch. But beyond the fact that the tradition of nose to tail produces food which is incredibly nuanced and nutritious, we consider ourselves lucky, if not blessed, to be able to cook this way for you.
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All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales
June 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
Wyeth Acres Vanilla Bean Goat Milk Ice Cream w/ Barndiva Farm Cherries & Honey Almond Pralines
Chef and I have been reading Cooked in tandem for the past few weeks, amazed and grateful that opportunities keep cropping up to take what we love about Michael Pollen’s new book directly onto Barndiva’s menu. Case in point: a few weeks back, after salivating over his description of slow roasted pork (“an irreducible packet of salt, fat and wood smoke… with the occasional mahogany shard of crackling”), I was contemplating an acre of scrub Oak and Madrone we’d just cleared from the upper ridge when David Pronsalino, our forester at the farm for the past 35 years quipped, “You could chip it all …or you could have a lifetime of wood fired BBQ.” The following Wednesday, at lunch with Mimi and Peter Buckley at their beautiful Front Porch Farm, we got to talking about Peter’s passion project in Yorkville where he is breeding pure bred Italian Cinta Senese ~ the ultimate salumi pig. Which, as it turns out, is also delicious slow roasted. Over wood. Bingo.
In the last section of Cooked, on fermentation, Pollen makes the point that in our 20th century haste to eradicate all bacteria from our food, American producers missed the fact (by accident or design) that, er, actually not all bacteria are bad. Many in fact, like those found in raw and fermented products are very, very good, especially when it comes to bolstering our increasingly beleaguered immune systems. Chef was ahead of me on this one. When the engaging Hannah Paquette from Wyeth Acres showed up at our kitchen door with fresh goat milk he wasted no time asking Octavio to produce a batch of ice cream with it. Diners have been loving it and after one bite I could see why ~ the taste is fresh and clean with the slightest hint of a welcome acidity, like alpine snow that still carries the herbal memory of Spring.
I like goats because they are so light on the land, the meat is lean, the milk nutrient dense, packed with calcium and minerals ~ especially the important antioxidant selenium. What I didn’t know before I met Hannah was that absent the protein aggllutinin, the fat globules in goat’s milk do not cluster together like cow’s milk which makes it easier for the body to digest ~ better tolerated by folks with lactose sensitivity. Goat’s milk is rich in oligosaccharides (in an amount similar to human milk) which acts as a prebiotic in helping maintain the health of the digestive tract by encouraging the growth of valuable gut bacteria.
One of the things I love most about Healdsburg is that you can drive a few blocks from downtown and find an enterprise like Wyeth Acres where they produce goats milk and sell eggs. Lots of them. And that’s not all they do ~ Rian Rinn and Jenine Alexander, Wyeth Acres owners, just opened the Sonoma Meat Company in Santa Rosa, where the enterprising Hannah also works in addition to her feeding, milking, egg polishing and bottle washing duties at Wyeth Acres. CSA’s get most of the milk, but Wyeth Acres eggs and Sonoma Meat Company bacon and sausages can be found at the Healdsburg Farmers Market every Saturday.
I had a great time with Hannah ~ though I bombed at milking. I’m not at all squeamish but for the life of me I couldn’t get the right hold on that docile animal’s teat and get more than a few squirts out of it. Hannah, on the other hand, is a natural. She has an ease around the animals at Wyeth Acres (besides the pure bred Toggenburg and Saanen and American Lamancha mixed breed goats there are dozens of chicks and hens, a sheep and a few mismatched dogs) that you’d guess came from years of working on a farm. Not so. She fell into goatlove when she and her sweetheart were asked to babysit for Rian and Jenine one winter while they traveled. Her previous experience with goats had come from run-ins with Billy goats, by nature irascible and menacing to whatever strikes their fancy. Working with the females she found a simpatico nature, a lean supple beauty in the way they looked and moved, a subtle intelligence that gave up a perfect product through a delivery system that was almost as easy to access (except for me apparently) as turning on a tap. Hannah, the epitome of girl power in a rapidly changing world starving for relevance, knew she’d found kindred spirits.
The goats jump up and down from the milking platform with alacrity, munching from a bucket of oats and molasses while being milked (their main diet is alfalfa). Two goats fill a bucket with gorgeous white foaming milk, which Hannah filters through stainless steel, then pours into sparkling clean glass bottles. The milk we use to make our ice cream is but a few hours old. Take it from a city born girl who has walked a bumpy road toward understanding what a healthy relationship to land and animal should look and taste like: this is as good as it gets.
We are serving Wyeth Acres Vanilla Bean Goat Milk Ice Cream with Barndiva Farm cherries and delicate honey almond pralines this week ~ and while we’ll swap the fruit in the coming month as summer comes into its own, we’ll try to keep it on the menu as long as Hannah and the goats oblige. Enjoy.
The life changing book Nourishing Traditions should have a place on your book shelf ~ what I didn’t know until Hannah told me was that its author, Sally Fallon Morell, is also the driving force behind A Campaign for Real Milk. The indefatigable Morell has some profoundly important things to say about food (this campaign is about more than milk) that you owe to your yourself (especially if you have young children) to hear. A Campaign for Real Milk and videos of Morell can be found online. Closer to home, Shed in Healdsburg is a great proponent of delicious ways to incorporate raw and fermented things into a probiotic lifestyle ~ with delicious kombuchas and shrubs they serve by the glass, fermenting kits and the occasional class upstairs.
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All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales
May 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
Seared Halibut with Citrus and Olives
Chef and I talk a lot about how to indulge our shared passion for clean, beautifully composed dishes with diners whose main wish is just to see an abundance when their plate arrives at the table. Common sense would tell you the best time to judge how satiated you’ve been by a meal is after you’ve consumed it, but too much white on a plate scares people. They jump to the conclusion they are in for a show and tell, one that’s going to be more about the chef’s ego than what they came in hankering for, which most of the time they have a pretty good handle on.
Or do they? No one leaves hungry after a meal at Barndiva, but neither do we throw away food at the end of a night, which I’m proud of. But that begs the question of where one draws the line between food that fills you up and food that fills you out ~ stimulating all five senses, capable of connecting you to a time and place that memory might tag indelible.
It’s long been thought that for most of human history we ate simply to survive, but as Michael Pollen’s wonderful new book “Cooked” explores in depth, there’s a lot more to why we came to crave certain tastes in food, and avoid others. For thousands of years, most of the early signs which informed us of what might taste good as opposed to what might kill us were visual, which got me wondering what replaced those signifiers once we started growing and cooking food as opposed to just foraging for it. We know that aroma triggers hunger, while ten thousand taste buds wait to inform your brain whether the commingling of sweet salty sour bitter and umami in the food you ingest is delicious or not. But to what extent does visual appeal ~ the color, form, and texture of food ~ affect imagination and memory?
Last week Spring produce was still bountiful in the kitchen when a bright sharp heat wave took us all by surprise. Spring was not yet behind us but Summer had suddenly arrived, demanding a place on the menu. As I set up the camera to shoot Dish of the Week the question of how food tells a purely visual story was still very much on my mind. Chef seared off a glistening filet of Alaskan Halibut, then started plating by added caper berries bathed in a sea salty brine with sliced rings and whole Calabria chilies which he’d made earlier into a quick pickle with a little sugar and Bates and Schmitt Apple Cider Vinegar. Next he reached for an avocado, paring creamy pale green cubes which played off the color and promised taste of the cool bitter citrus of the kumquats. The plate was now beautiful, but stagnant. Fresh olive tapenade, dots of saffron aioli, tiny deep green pools of watercress purée and a few strategically placed leaves of microgreens took less than a minute to add, but made all the difference, setting the ingredients in motion as if they were about to dance off the plate. Looking back now at what I shot that morning I realize how visually, before we’d even taken a bite, Chef had plated a dish that was a perfect snapshot of that vibrant Spring meets Summer moment.
Ryan’s laconic comment: “citrus and olives like each other.” But he had a wicked glint in his eye. And so the education continues.
Mother’s Day 2014
Last Sunday at the Barn it was all about Mothers and Grandmothers, with some lucky Dads and Granddads along for the ride. Families with young children filled the dining rooms and gardens for a knock out brunch followed by kids buying mom a cocktail and dinner. The energy all day and into the evening was incredible ~ here are just a few wonderful moments captured by our intrepid Dawid Jaworski. To all those families who have made Mother’s Day at Barndiva a yearly tradition, we thank you for the gift of watching your families grow.
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All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales, Dawid Jaworski