Eat the View ~ July 16, 2014

July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

plums topper

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. barndiva garden

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.

rachel smilingScorched 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.salty foam topperLift, 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!

flirt 2

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

Eat the View ~ July 3, 2014

July 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

lavender topper

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.

final tasting two cutsThere 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.

headBut 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.drewCintas 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.

cuts of meatSeveral 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.

brothTête 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.)

final dishAs 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.pighead

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All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Eat the View ~ June 10, 2014

June 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

milking goat topper

Wyeth Acres Vanilla Bean Goat Milk Ice Cream  w/ Barndiva Farm Cherries & Honey Almond Pralines

cherries2

 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.

bright eyed goatIn 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.

bucket of goats milkI 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.

pied piperI 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.

pouring into jarThe 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.

hanna flexing

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.

dessert2

LEARN MORE:
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.

links to:
Wyeth Acres
Sonoma Meat Company
Real Milk
Front Porch Farm
Shed

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All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Eat the View ~ May 16, 2014

May 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

eggs topper

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.

 

halibut

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?

plate

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

mothers day pics

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

Eat the View ~ April 30, 2014

April 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

lawn topper

Spring Lamb with Stinging Nettle Foam

lamb shank

We get a lamb a week from the Preston’s, lovingly grazed on their biodynamic farm, and while I’ve seen the hours that go into breaking down the animals and prepping an incredible range of veg (much of it from Preston Farm and Vineyard as well) all chef will say about the beautiful spring entrée we shot last week is:

We had assembled some amazing ingredients.  We did not mess with them too much.   We let them fall naturally on the plate.

 The most elegant preparation of the whole animal is the chop and saddle, grilled like this was, to perfection. But when Ryan says the ingredients ‘fell’ naturally on the plate, don’t believe him. His mastery of all the colors in his culinary paint box only make it look easy. I ate the dish with my fingers, the better to enjoy every morsel, though a spoon was in order for the stinging nettle foam. The color reminded me of what my mom used to call new spring grass ~ a singing green. It’s everywhere you look right now.

veg delivery

Lindsay Challoner delivering Preston Spring bounty: fava leaves, horseradish leaves, stinging nettle, cardoons

 

Later that night Chef sent me this:

Here are some other gifts the lamb gives us.
Braised shanks
Crispy meat balls
Rillettes
Fresh ground burgers (with feta & olive)
Rosemary roasted & sliced leg of lamb
Braised tail salad (with frisée)
Little tiny tenderloins (wrapped in chard or green garlic)
A wonderful rich natural jus
Sautéed liver (and onions)

A man of few words our chef. But when it comes to food, they seem to be always the right ones.

Enjoy the rest of Spring.

spring lamb

Baby turnips, pickled rhubarb, favas, fresh peas, new carrots, stinging (singing) nettle foam, and a sprinkling of garden Rapini flowers completed the dish.

A Special Sunday

mothers day bouquet

mothers-day-brunch

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All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Eat the View ~ April 16, 2014

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

ridge topper2

Notes from the Ridge

greenwood ridgeThere’s the physical side to spring cleaning here on the ridge every year ~ clearing burning pruning grafting digging planting mowing fixing irrigation and (seemingly) endless weeding. Then there’s the mental side ~ blowing out winter’s cobwebs so you have room to contemplate all the projects you want to add to the complicated dance of a working farm. Some of these projects are new (what if we raised quail for the restaurant?) others hold-overs we still need to make time for (fig syrup and apple cider vinegar, yes!). If you’re like me, you eventually give in to the fact that your body will never catch up with your brain, but that’s ok.

In a world that deifies making money above all else, if you live far from nature’s force field you may wonder why we do what we do for such little recompense. Here’s why. As I write this, new grass blankets the rolling contours of the ridge while the orchards, bursting with flowers and bugs and the promise of this year’s fruit, scents the air wherever you wander. At the end of these incredibly long days, when apple wood smoke mingles with fog rolling in from the coast and a big pot of soup sits ready to eat on the fire, the power you feel from being even a tiny part of a healthy food chain is both settling and profound. Part of the deal, of course, is that you’ll have to wake up tomorrow at six, all aches and pains, and start all over again. But what you take from being both caretaker and inspiration for a farm grows roots in more than the ground.

soup

The New Bar Menu!

THE BARNDIVA BAR MENU

DUNGENESS CRAB SALAD avocado, mandarin, pickled chili 20

 ALL KALE CAESAR pickled pearl onion, tapenade crostini, boquerones 12

 Yellowfin Tuna SASHIMI sticky rice, avocado, pickled chili, ponzu 18

 Crispy PORK BELLY asparagus tempura, organic hen egg, gribiche 16

 ‘FRIED CHICKEN” crispy chicken leg confit, shaved endive & apple slaw

caper berries, calabrian chilis 12

 HALIBUT CHEEKS mussels, fava beans, chorizo, potato, saffron tomato broth 28

 FILET MIGNON potato purée, asparagus, caramelized onion jam

bone marrow “tater tot” 38

 BD FRITES crisp kennebec potatoes, spicy ketchup 12

 Goat Cheese CROQUETTES wildflower honey, lavender 12

Putting a new kitchen in Studio Barndiva means we never have to close the restaurant again when we host a wedding or private party ~ a long time coming. It also means the new kitchen affords us the space and extra hands on deck to offer new menus and hours of service. I love this bar menu because it has something for everyone. Some of the dishes are favorites pulled from the lunch and dinner menus; others, like Ryan’s fabulous new fried chicken over spring slaw, are built for speed and lighter dining (by lighter in this case we mean incredible crust, but no gluten). Over the years we’ve had to say no to so many guests who dropped in for a late lunch or early dinner. No more!

fried chicken2

Join Us for Easter Brunch or Dinner!

easter ducklingsEaster Menu

In addition to our full  à la carte evening menu, Easter Dinner will include a special entrée of Preston Lamb & all the Spring Greens from their gardens.

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All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Eat the View ~ April 1, 2014

April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

snail topper

Play the Cat ~ Spring Cocktails are here!!

ray prepping cocktail

mixologist/photo assistant Rachel Beardsley

Ray gets these giant bursts of creativity that always follow the same trajectory ~ she comes in mumbling for a few days, then goes into a flurry of chopping, infusing and cooking up a storm. Pacing behind the bar mid-service comes next, as she second guesses every step in every drink she’s considering. All this is AFTER she’s researched and ordered a bunch of stuff she can’t source from any of Ryan’s farmers or purveyors. By the time she presents the list to me with ‘certain’ members of staff hovering nearby (they shall remain nameless but you know who you are, Cathryn) we’re all as excited as kids the day before a trip to the fair. Kids who drink.

cocktail pairing

Casa de Gumby & Play the Cat

I’m not sure when the tradition of presenting the new season of cocktails all at once started, but I don’t remember it taking on the formality it has before Ray. It usually takes a few days after the initial tasting to finesse the ingredients, which gives me time to come up with the names, but this week she had me scrambling because the first four were absolutely smashing, ready to go public. Lift #4 takes the current interest in vinegared digestifs to another level with a fennel shrub, cucumber water and verjus around a base of house infused lemon peel vodka. Play the Cat (think Lawrence of Arabia by way of Montaigne), starts out a classic gin with Pimm’s Cup, but a lashing of mint syrup and a bright three citrus juice brings it decidedly fruit forward. Casa de Gumby is rosemary infused tequila, shaken with a creamy rice water with cinnamon notes reminiscent of Horchata, but light on the palate, until the peppered syrup hits you. The Neverending Now is strawberry infused vodka with rose water honey, orange bitters, Navarro Gewürztraminer grape juice and a flash of champagne at the finish.

Lift #4

Lift #4

By this weekend Ray, George and Sara, our most excellent bar team, should have the entire 2014 Spring Cocktail Collection ready for you to taste. If you are off spirits but still hanker for a little cocktail time, Ray has also concocted three great NA (non-alcoholic) cocktails for Spring to add to our Lift, Flirt and Slide series. Rum and bourbon cocktails will be added in the next few days. If you want the story behind the names of our cocktails you need to come in.

I’ve worked with a good number of gifted mixologists over the years, but Ray has been the sleeper. She doesn’t play the mad scientist, hang with the boys or throw down in bleary cocktail contests. Self taught, she’s grown into her talent, growing stronger with every season. The full range of house bitters she made last year were a testament to how seriously she takes the art and the science in this profession. What I love best is that for all the time she puts into crafting, she gets that cocktails are fun. They set the mood, but the best of them linger. These do. But don’t just take my word for it.

never ending now

The Neverending Now

Rhubarb is Back

rhubarb dessert

The botanical description of Rhubarb is a rhizomes with long fleshy petioles, but celery dressed for a night on the town is a more apt description of the plant, which Europeans consider a vegetable but we Americans call a fruit. With its large green leaves and florescent fuchsia stalks, it’s tart and slightly bitter if not cooked with something sweet. A vegetable cross-dresser then, that makes a colorful appearance just when you’re sick to death of winter’s gray palette. The plant is ancient ~ used by the Chinese as a laxative before it traveled along the silk route and ingratiated itself into the cuisines of the Middle East and European. Chef pickles and ferments it, serving it in ways you’d never expect, but he admits most of us come by our fond memories of rhubarb (often mixed with strawberries) baked into pies, cakes and cobblers.

At the French Laundry he remembers an Austrian chef who would prop the oven door open with a spoon so he could slowly cook the rhubarb at the lowest possible temp, the best way to sweat the water out and soften the fibrous stalks. This week Octavio poached it in grenadine with a touch of Grand Marnier, then dropped the slivers to sink luxuriously into a baked frangipani tart. The Hazelnut flour brought out a nutty richness.

rhubarb dessert3

Join Us for Easter Brunch

Easter Menu

 

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All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

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