December 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
Fall on a Plate
I love looking at food almost as much as I love eating it, so being able to photograph the many stages it goes through as it makes its way from farm to table has been one of the greatest pleasures of living this business. Raw or cooked, the color, form and texture of the fuel which keeps us alive ~ and gives us so much pleasure throughout life ~ never ceases to amaze. When you add being able to share its provenance, the blessings multiply.
This week’s ‘Dish’ comes as a double celebration ~ of the glorious Fall season that is upon us here in Sonoma County as we wait for rain, and of the growing talents of one of our hardest working young chefs, Deron Ryan. Deron has been at the garde manger (vegetable) station for a year and two months. He arrives at seven and keeps his head down through an arduous prep routine and a non-stop lunch service. As focused as he is, he’s always ready to talk about what he’s doing and why. But here’s the thing: while Chef’s a great teacher, it’s not a simple thing to meme what he does on a plate. Ryan has a painter’s eye for color, a dancer’s agility for balancing form and movement on the plate. It is not as easy as it looks.
Deron nailed it. The closer you climb into this dish, the more beautiful it becomes. With the exception of the pansies and society garlic flowers which we grow here ~ everything on the plate arrived in the morning with Alex from Mix Gardens. Mix is producing exquisite roots and leafy vegetables this year. Most of what we buy is small and precious, the better to dazzle the eye and capture condensed flavors, redolent of the soil. As perfectly as they arrive, we spend a considerable amount of time ‘communing’ with them ~ peeling, steaming, pickling, infusing, lightly dressing when it suits to bring combinations together.
I don’t wish for a meat free world, but for the humane, sustainable rearing of animals and mindful catch from the sea. But there’s something about our vegetables that trumps everything, directly routing joy to the heart. Here then, is Fall on a Plate, as seen through the eyes of one very talented young man, and his mentor.
It’s a given that because of our location down the dark side of Center Street (not quite the dark side of the moon, but close) that whenever the town is having a big event we wait for the crowds circling the Plaza to catch wind of what’s going on at Barndiva before they begin to drift down to the gallery in great numbers. Because of what we have to offer, once they come, they stay, and last Friday was no exception. With a huge crystal coupe filled with a cocktail called Why Bears Do It, passed trays of chestnut cream profiteroles, an art gallery decked out in sparkling ornaments, and Geoffrey roasting bangers on a bonfire grill in the garden, it was only a matter of time.
All the locals wanted to talk about was “proposed” hotel projects, difficulty finding parking, and, inevitably, how much Healdsburg has “changed.” All the newcomers wanted to do was party in a beautiful space offering spirited libations and pork fat, enjoying the charms of a little town that sang to them. It was a wonderful night, and curiously revealing. Because for all the differences in the demographics of the crowd, everyone had come to town looking for the very same thing: a start to the holiday season as a shared communal experience.
Once upon a time the Barndiva name was synonymous with “change’ in Healdsburg. Ten years ago there was opposition to the size of our building ~ though it included massive setbacks in a commercial district ~ and a dance card full of businesses we dreamed of launching from it. We have worked hard to reap the waves of goodwill we felt from friends and strangers alike last Friday night. Which got me thinking. Healdsburg’s growing popularity as a travel destination, a beautiful place to live, a town in the heart of a world class wine region, makes change inevitable. But perhaps what could be a priority for us right now is not how fast to pull up the drawbridge for newcomers but how to set boundaries for those wanting in when it appears cashing out is all they care about. There are enough of us committed to honoring our agrarian past as it struggles for a sustainable future, for respecting our small town/big heart traditions. We have a hardworking, thoughtful city management ~ and our elected officials are clearly listening.
The health of the wine and tourist industry will always be intricately tied to the wealth of Sonoma County. What sets Healdsburg apart has been our diversity. Of what we do, and crucially, how we do it. A lack of imagination is actually a discernible thing one can measure ~ and while it’s hard to be an innovator in a world that’s consistently dumbing down its messages, we have the raw ingredients to attract entrepreneurs who want to start or expand businesses in technology, education, craft, agriculture. There is still so much we can contribute to Healdsburg’s incredibly rich narrative. But it’s going to take effort, as opposed to anger, to guide properly scaled development in a direction which keeps the business engines humming without undermining our extraordinary quality of life.
We have a great deal to be thankful for this holiday season. Come and see the wonderful decorations in the gallery! Or better yet, plan to share a meal here with friends ~ we are now serving in the gallery for parties of 6 or more. Don’t take our word for it that we throw the best dinner parties in town…come and let us prove it to you.
All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales, Dawid Jaworski
November 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Introducing Andy O’Day
Looking back now, the fact that Barndiva has never had a general manager boggles the mind. But the glib reason ~ great GM’s don’t come cheap ~ isn’t the real one. Barndiva’s story started as a three part narrative we just didn’t feel we could trust anyone outside the family to tell. None of us had ever worked (much less owned) a restaurant before. Ditto a premier event venue or an art gallery. But what we lacked in experience we made up for with long hours, fueled by the belief that if we stayed true to the fields of dreams outside our window, customers would come. We tried to follow Boulud’s rules ~ wine, flowers, design, and service must all be pitch perfect to deliver a great, nuanced dining experience. It was a tall order to pull off, consistently, night after day after night. And let’s not forget the provenance and story of the food. The very things which had gotten us into this crazy business in the first place.
We had good years and during the recession harder years, but in that curious Wildeian way that life sometimes imitates art, we managed to stay the course. It wasn’t until Ryan Fancher arrived to take command of the kitchen that all the pieces finally fell into place. Flying below the radar we have all spent the last four years building a disciplined, brilliant kitchen brigade that I believe (and thankfully I’m not the only one) has made Barndiva a world-class dining experience. Working with Ryan helped us see that juggling the restaurant, the weddings, the art gallery and the farm could be a hell of a lot easier, if not more joyful, with the right GM on board. It was time.
But while the proof of a great chef can be found on every plate that leaves the kitchen, great managerial talent, which equally can make or break a restaurant, is harder to quantify. Geoff needed someone ace with numbers. Ryan wanted to inspire the staff and control the flow (more tsunami than slow) of service. Lukka was looking to elevate Barndiva to the next level. I was desperate for someone with an eye for detail. Diligence and passion for the kind of experience we had finally put together topped the list for all of us.
We knew it wouldn’t be easy to find a candidate with Michelin star credentials that had burnished a talent for hospitality without getting burnt out themselves. But, after all this time, we weren’t going to settle.
As it turned out, the great search ended shortly after it began, when Andy O’Day walked through the door. Like Ryan, Andy had done his time in the circus tent of big city fine dining and found that knowing he could make it there didn’t necessarily mean he wanted to. He saw the next step in life as finding a place he and his wife Saundra, a talented chef, could raise a family and join a community with similar values. With access to one of the greatest food sheds on earth ~ by access I mean ability to reach right out into it ~ he saw the chance to communicate what he loved about food and wine and hospitality in a way that resonated deeper and stretched further than numbers on a corporate spread sheet. Smart guy. Lucky us.
“Saundra and I have lived, worked and dined across the East Bay, South Bay, Peninsula and San Francisco, but Sonoma County was a serious draw. We restaurant types spend day after day discussing our local wine region with guests, but most of us don’t really feel connected to it. We wanted to really understand this part of Northern California, and once we were ready to be in a family way, we knew it was the right time to move north, to experience harvests and crushes first hand, to become part of a food community that no matter how high it excelled, still had its feet in the dirt.
The critical step was finding the right restaurant for me to hang my hat. Getting involved with Barndiva felt kismet after experiencing Ryan’s food, which is simply amazing. But what sealed the deal for me was when I met Jil, Geoff and Lukka. Their energies are so full of excitement and zeal, talent and humor! I felt it in my bones, I wanted to run with this pack. After my first meeting with them, Saundra and I started packing our bags, feeling hopeful that our new chapter was starting on the next page.”
Hot Off the Press!
All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales
November 7, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Dish of the Week: Roasted Duck with Barndiva Farm Chestnuts and Huckleberry Sauce
The first chestnut I ever ate had a fancy French name ~ Marron glacé ~ that sounded like an exotic, elegant ice cream. It was anything but. What looked like little brains were covered in layers of sugar that made my teeth ache, with a dense texture that tasted like wax. I didn’t go near a chestnut by any name for years.
But when we bought the farm it came with a stand of heirloom chestnut trees, which because of our remote location on the ridge had managed to survive the great blight of the early 1900’s. By the 1940’s almost the entire American chestnut population ~ we’re talking nearly 4 billion trees ~ had perished, making our little orchard of Chinquapin’s not only very old, but extremely rare.
The chestnut is the Marquis de Sade of the nut world, seductively emerging each November from a diabolical looking carapace of spikes. Even with long gloves to shake the trees, and heavy boots to loosen that S&M exoskeleton, you are still a long way from the soft nutmeat buried inside a hard glistening outer shell and, beneath that, a bitter, furry inner sheath that sticks to the fruit like it’s been glued on.
We had a good harvest this year ~ about 100 lbs ~ enough to set aside a burlap bagful to roast in the gardens for the Healdsburg Holiday Party on the day after Thanksgiving. But while roasting them over an open fire is a great way to eat them on a cold night, it can scorch and dry the nutmeat out. Chef has other plans for how to serve them in the dining room.
To get the outer shell off, he scores the nut with an x, then drops them in the deep fryer just long enough to split the shell. Then he cooks the nutmeat sous vide, long and slow, vacuum-sealed with a little butter, honey and pinch of salt. It’s a method that softens the sharp tannic bite of the nut, and while it still has that odd texture, just this side of mealy, the resulting flavor is rich, round and earthy.
The most popular entrée on the menu right now is this rustic pairing of crispy sliced duck breast and confit leg, honeyed butter chestnuts and huckleberry sauce. The perfect Fall dish, it’s served with a scattering of roasted baby carrots and turnips, grilled fennel, and a house-made pierogi stuffed with a creamy blend of Bellwether ricotta, caramelized onions, chives, and shallots.
Chestnuts are a genus of the deciduous bushes and trees known as Fagaceae ~ which also includes oaks and beech. They are unisex, with self-pollinating flowers in the form of catkins. Fair enough. I take back what I said about the Marquis de Sade. But one sided though it may be, this is a courtship you don’t want to give up on.
All text and photos © Jil Hales.
October 17, 2013 § 2 Comments
Beardsley behind the bar
When Rachel Beardsley applied for a job behind the bar at Barndiva three years ago, the first thought I had was that she was too damn pretty to survive. Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club) notwithstanding, bartending and mixology are still very much boy’s clubs. Sure, you can find women bartenders from time to time, but stellar female talents who really command the space, creating exciting, transformative spirit based drinks? Not so much. Historically the only permanent place women have thus far carved out for themselves in this profession have been serving drinks, not making them.
This isn’t a screed on why women should run the world, or at least have an equal place in it. (don’t get me started). And I get that when it comes to an environment comprised of low lights, soft seats and seductive music, Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to lean forward is more likely to get you a customer’s phone number than their respect. But that doesn’t explain why, on the creative side mixology is still so gender sensitive. There is a lot more science involved at the cutting edge these days, but it’s truly sexist to think women can’t master the math. More to the point great cocktails, like great dishes, flow from a place where intuition leads. Women are intuitively programmed; to survive in what has always been a man’s world we have learned to adapt. To thrive we have learned to master the art of finessing the variables.
From the first sip that hits the nose to the last lingering grace note, a great cocktail’s success rises or falls on it’s ability to bring disparate elements ~ spirit, sweet, bitter, herbal, floral, spice ~ together, without losing the unique elements that made those ingredients right for the drink in the first place. We like to say the name barndiva flows from a desire to hit the high notes, and nowhere is this combination of a refined taste narrative presented in seductive surroundings showcased more than at the start of a meal, the beginning of a great evening, when the customer expects a perfect moment delivered in liquid form.
Turns out I needn’t have worried about Ray. Now Barndiva’s Bar Manager, she’s a consummate professional with guests and a joy to work with creatively. In bar programs like ours you are dealing with a staggering selection of bespoke spirits from around the world, a constant flow of seasonal ingredients from the farm and the kitchen. With our syrups, juices, purées and infusions already all made in-house, I should have not been surprised when Ray came to me a few months ago with a plan to push the boat out further with a program to develop a full range of house-bitters. She said she wanted “to start” with 11.
Ray’s Gingered Orange bitters (above) are used in Millie the Wise, a chai infused vodka cocktail that incorporates vanilla bean and orange peel steeped honey, lemon juice and black tea syrup. It’s finished with an Early Bird egg white foam and a grind of black pepper.
The ‘Millie’ in Millie the Wise is Matilda of Flanders, Queen Consort to William the Conqueror, a woman who lived during one of the most fractious times in the history of England, managing not only to keep her head but remain married to William “the bastard” for life. She bore him nine children, two of them future kings. I love the spirited spicy balance Ray achieves with this cocktail, the robust way the pepper hits the nose followed by a soft ethereal foam that allows you a peek around the corner before encountering the full complexity of a drink redolent of ancient flavors.
Half the bitters on the list below are now featured in the new fall cocktail list; the rest will be ready by Christmas. Spiced Pear Bitters and Apple Bitters (used in our knock out bestseller Why Bears Do It ) incorporate heirloom dry farmed fruit from Barndiva’s farm in Philo.
American Oak bitters
Sour cherry/Almond bitters
Ruby Grapefruit bitters
Lemongrass Lime bitters
Meyer Lemon/Thyme bitters
Gingered Orange bitters
Spiced Pear bitters
House Aromatic Bitters
We entered, we won, we pressed juice for you!
Our apples aren’t just winners in the new fall cocktail list ~ at this year’s Mendocino County Apple Fair Barndiva Farm won ribbons in seven of the nine categories we entered! We took first place for our Red Romes, second place for Winter Banana, Yellow Bellflower, Splendour and third for Melrose, Jonathan, and Sierra Beauties. It’s not too late for you to taste these winning varieties ~ a few days after the fair we blended them into juice at Apple-A-Day, Ken Ratzlaff’s wonderful Ranch in Sebastopol. Apple-a-Day is a family run apple farm with a new state of the art press that pasteurizes but does not ‘cook’ the apples. Ratzlaff Ranch is a Sonoma County treasure. Check them out on Farm Trails.
If you are in town and have a few minutes to kill, come in for a complimentary apple juice shooter. Or better yet, stay for lunch or dinner and enjoy it by the glass or in a Millie the Wise. For a limited time only we are also selling half gallons at the host stand in the restaurant.
In addition to winning ribbons for our apples, DCWest (aka Daniel Carlson, seen here polishing apples with Lukka, Francesca and Emanuele) won two First Place Blue Ribbon’s for his floral arrangements!
Follow us, like us, love us!
Barndiva is now on Instagram and Pinterest. If you have been following the blog you know we don’t go in for superfluous bullshit ~ so if you add us to your social media dance card we promise we won’t bore you or inundate you with anything we wouldn’t want to see or read ourselves. Hopefully, we will keep you amused, connected to the Northern California food shed, the life of the restaurant and Ryan’s kitchen, the art gallery, and our fabulous weddings and parties. If you are not already on Instagram or Pinterest, join us as we take the plunge!
All text Jil Hales.
Photos Jil Hales, Dawid Jaworski
June 7, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Finding New Friends in the Fields
Most of us have split personalities when it comes to travel, forever trying to reconcile our need to relax with a little (or a lot) of adventure on the side. Learning how to switch off comes with practice, it’s finding destinations you hope will spark new trains of thought once you return home that’s by far the harder side of the equation. It certainly doesn’t help that we usually travel as we live, burdened with stereotypes. I was born in the South, but rarely travel there ~ what’s up with that? From what I’ve been hearing for a few years now, some of our greatest new chefs are “down there,” working in some of the most dynamic food sheds left in the country. It was time to explore…
Blackberry Farm is one of the most beautifully engaging resort properties in America, 4,200 acres of rolling green Appalachia that sits at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains ~ and yes, smoke they do, natural plumes of fog that rise from the tree lines in the morning or after rain, a reaction to warm humid air that drifts in from the Gulf of Mexico. You can swim, ride, fish, hike and spa yourself silly at Blackberry, negotiating the extraordinarily well-tended property by day or night anywhere your legs (or the golf carts they provide) will take you.
But while cruzing around this gentile Southern estate with heirloom breeds of Friesian sheep, horses, alpaca, ducks, chickens and pigs, all cavorting happily behind hundreds of miles of undulating white split rail fences definitely channels your inner Oprah (if you were not, as I was not, to the manor born), what brought us to Walland was the chance to meet John Coykendall, the master gardener who inspires the extensive seed to table dining program. The Beall Family has owned Blackberry for three decades and in that time have made a respect for the land the heartbeat of their enterprise. Rightly proud of the fact they forage and farm with an appreciation for sustainability that goes back to the Cherokee and the founding Appalachians, what I found equally remarkable was the degree to which they allow their farmers to expand the genetic diversity of the region, a passion John shares with Jeff Ross, their engaging garden manager. Blackberry actively encourages guests to access all aspects of food production at the resort, which has grown to include impressive vegetable gardens, fruit, grain and nut orchards, a bakery, butchery, creamery, and 8,000-square-foot wine cellar.
A stay at Blackberry begins with a groaning board Southern-style breakfast (I can take or leave grits, but the estate’s sausages and wildflower honey are to die for), an elegant boxed lunch you are encouraged to disappear into the landscape with, and a Michelin Star dinner served in an 18th century Amish bank barn you are chauffeured to and from each night. Or, as we chose, allowed to make your own way on the aforementioned golf carts. Getting back to our cottage after an evening of outstanding food and (possibly too much) drink proved to be highly entertaining. On our last night no sooner had we parked on a rise overlooking the Great Smokys lumbering in the dark when the fields suddenly began to blink on and off in a luminous sea of fireflies. Though we had departed the barn long after a scheduled bonfire party had dispersed, everything had been left for us: wood to feed the fire and all the fixings for s’mores in jars tucked in a stone wall. If Martha Stewart had jumped out of the bushes at this point and asked if the marshmallow toasting sticks were whittled to our satisfaction I would have been delighted, but not surprised.
Coykendall, when we met him, was exceedingly gracious, a rich man’s Wendell Berry, and I mean that as a compliment. Subsidizing this level of food production for so few people is a significant ongoing investment. That he and Jeff polish the apple of a Relais and Chateaux lifestyle in a way that is also politically relevant is a testament to the sincerity of the Blackberry’s mission ~ and Barndiva’s for that matter ~ namely to increase our guest’s understanding of the relationship that exists between the land and its food. It’s hard to get this right without having the whole dining experience turn into a polemic. Yet everywhere we ate on this trip, starting with Chef Joseph Lenn here at Blackberry, we found commitment to local mindful sourcing as a matter of course. John and Jeff constantly consider what a definition of food justice might be that would allow the riches of a farm like Blackberry’s to be the norm. While the farm program they’ve put together is a living work of art, they don’t view it as a museum of food but a depository of a collective history with a proud, hard scrapple past. The growth of the resort has also been a boon to the local economy, and the importance of that is lost on neither man.
We had come bearing gifts ~ Petaluma Gold Rush beans and Burbank Barley (as in Luther), a thank you from Lukka and Daniel for seeds John had given them last year ~ a variety of Appalachian mountain beans including the coveted Reverend Taylor Butter Beans which date from the 1800’s, and we are now growing for Barndiva. Blackberry prides itself on what it calls ‘foothills cuisine’ ~ but our conversations with both men provided a fascinating overview of the differences and convergences of the Southern food sheds surrounding the farm leading all the way down to the sea ~ a preview of what we could expect in Charleston, where we were headed next to explore what is reputedly one of the best fish sheds in the country.
Taking the Time to Thank Dad for All the Love
When we asked the dads who work here what their entrée of choice would be for Father’s Day (if they didn’t have to work!) the answer came up red, as in a prime cuts of beef. In part, we suspect, this is because that’s what they too often get stuck grilling at home. Whatever the reason, while we fully intend to make all your vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian dads incredibly happy on June 16th, brunch in the gardens this year will include a special entrée of petit filet with lobster hash and sunny-side up Early Bird eggs; while for dinner we will have prime ribeye with roasted asparagus, béarnaise and an artichoke tomato tart. Special wine pairings and cocktails TBA.
As Father’s Day seems to be ramping up a lot like Mother’s Day this year (about time, too) call the barn for reservations even if our link on the website says we are fully booked, and we’ll try to make it work. These are the holidays we love sharing with you.
All text and photos Jil Hales
May 21, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Dish of the Week
young rabbit with wild morels, fiddleheads, cherries, ramps, baby turnips and blood sorrel
What a palaver ~ forget about the difficulty sourcing quality rabbit these days ~ the rush is on for those delicacies that only make a brief appearance in late April, early May. All week this incredible bounty arrived in fits and starts. The indefatigable Charmoon brought in two big bags of wild morels on Wednesday, the same day ramps and fiddleheads appeared. Three kinds of tiny pink and white turnips arrived from our friends at MIX, who also dropped flats of beautiful blood sorrel, so named for the vein of vibrant red that runs down the center (and not incidentally, a curiously wonderful iron bite to the finish). I harvested the Bing cherries at our farm in Mendocino County on Saturday morning, by Saturday evening they were on plates in the dining room.
There’s a precarious balancing act with ephemeral ingredients like these ~ the trick is to present them as simply as possible so they play with and not against each other. The rabbit loin was wrapped in ramp tops, then cooked sous vide with the kidney in fragrant aromatics. (Pan sear or grill the kidney and you risk losing that moist pop of meat juice when you cut into it.) The morels were glazed in butter and chives. The ramps and cherries were lightly pickled. The turnips were steamed, then brushed with butter. This is one of Chef’s favorite times of the year: blink and you’ll miss it. Manage to score a table for lunch or dinner in the next few weeks and you won’t!
The “Real” Key Ingredients
Admittedly most of the talk in our blog week after week is about sourcing food, but make no mistake: the most important ingredient here at Barndiva is of the human kind. The front of house is the kitchen’s direct conduit to you; but while they provide the most powerful way to communicate the narrative around each dish, great service is a high wire act where one mis-step can reverberate throughout the meal. Some diners like a lot of talk about the food, others want only the salient facts. Knowing the difference is almost as important as knowing the food.
Sincerity is not something you can teach alongside the daily special, but it’s the first thing a customer registers no matter how ‘educated’ their palate. What I love most about the dedicated, smart, food and wine obsessed young men and women that work here is the passion they manage to bring to the barn with every service. We are so lucky to have each and every one of them.
The snap above was taken just before we opened for lunch last Thursday. Servers, hosts, back waiters, bartenders and Brendan, our SOM, often trade day and evening shifts, but the guiding force behind our increasingly popular lunch service is the beautiful lady third from the left, Cathryn Hulsman, our AM manager.
All text and photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski
May 14, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Dish of the Week
House Cured Salmon, Crispy Capers, Heirloom Beets, Avocado, Kumquat & American Sturgeon Caviar
Sunday morning breakfast never varied in our house all the years I was growing up: lox and bagels lathered with Philadelphia cream cheese and thick rings of red onion. When, on my first trip to France, I ordered a first course of ‘gravlax’ thinking I’d come upon an old friend, what arrived at the table was exotic and unfamiliar ~ transparent slices of salmon cut so thinly they shimmered like silk, a languorous trail of crème frâiche, a light dusting of capers. On a separate plate were little pillows of pancakes called blini. My first thought, ‘ok, we’re not in Kansas anymore,’ was followed by complete surprise when I took that first bite. For all its refinements, the dish brought me home.
I never forgot the lesson: whatever hide ‘n seek we play with food, signature flavors have the power to haunt us. Sure, in chasing them down we more often than not find ourselves disappointed. But on those rare occasions when we aren’t, the experience is a remarkable convergence of known yet new, comforting yet exciting.
Our first course on last Sunday’s Mother’s Day tasting menu was remarkable in precisely this way as it managed to remind me of my mother’s kitchen while seamlessly bridging the gap between homey and elevated. The taste of the sea was alive in the house cured salmon, a bright dollop of caviar like an exploding punctuation mark on the palate. The salmon was cured in equal parts salt and sugar with fresh dill, lemon and orange slices. The heirloom beets pickled in sugar, mustard seed and champagne vinegar, were punched out with a scalloped ring mold.
Everything on the plate played off or with the fish: the earthiness of the beets, the sharp bitterness of the kumquat, the creaminess of the avocado and the crème frâiche. Pink peppercorns, fresh chives, deep fried capers, opal basil and tiny mince of red onions ~ spicy herbal notes ~ wove in and around the salmon refreshing each bite. My mother would have loved it.
Sekthaus Solter Spätburgunder Brut Rosé, NV, Rheingau, Germany
A sparkling rosé wine is a great pairing to the first course on our Mother’s Day menu because underneath the German lingo this German sparkler is in fact simply a pink Champagne from Pinot Noir. Light bodied and dry, it delivers crisp red cherry and strawberry notes that stand out against a background of sorrel herb minerality. Brighter than any stateside Blanc du Noirs I’ve had, it’s a perfect refreshing palate cleanser that elevates the richness of cured salmon and the crème fraîche, while holding it’s own with the earthy and herbal elements of the dish, as well as the bright acids and tangy tartness of the kumquats.
In the Gardens last week
The versatility of the Barndiva Gardens had a nice workout last week when days before double barrel weddings we played host to an Audi Sportscar Experience that brought close to two million dollars worth of exquisite vehicles into the Studio Gardens. It probably was not fair that we told our staff the cars were this year’s bonus for their hard work.
Our beautiful Saturday wedding made the New York Times Wedding Section because the bride was the great great grand-daughter of our 27th President. That would be William Howard Taft, if you are counting. Aside from the impressive lineage (the bride’s father is the former legal adviser to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell) this was one lovely couple who blessed their vows in the gardens on what turned out to be an unusually warm late spring evening.
All text and photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski