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.

Follow Us in 2014!

weleda bull topperfacebook-logoPinterest-Logoinstagram-icon1Tumblr-icon

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

 

Follow Us in 2014!

weleda bull topperfacebook-logoPinterest-Logoinstagram-icon1Tumblr-icon

All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Eat the View ~ March 25, 2014

March 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

blossom topper2

 

special menu picprix-fixe-menu

Hot Off The Press

SmithsonianThis is one of two gorgeous photographs Erin Kunkel shot at Barndiva for the April edition of Smithsonian Magazine’s much anticipated Ten Best Small Towns to visit in America.  Healdsburg is #2 on the list, noted for “Food and Living.”  The writer nominates Wendell Berry as Healdsburg’s patron saint, which gets my vote, but it took me a moment to get my head around us being “farm-to-table via nirvana, a sophisticated culture of nourriture that would have astonished 19th-century food philosopher Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.” The image of Savarin trumbling down Center Street brought a chuckle, but I had to look up nourriture. Turns out it’s not far off what we’ve been saying all along: mange le terrior!  Check out the entire article here:

First Weeks of Spring

bud

Poets wax romantic about Spring, but I love Margaret Atwood’s line best: ” in the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

There’s no substitute for digging in it, but even if you aren’t so inclined, just get out there and wander. The smell of Spring will seep into your soul. For weeks now at the farm (and all around town) trees and vines and even the most ordinary curbside plants have been bursting into leaf and flower. It’s Nature just doing it’s thing, but to the human heart this has got to be as close as we get to Irrepressible Joy.

reaching out

Celebrating Easter Sunday

Easter Menu

Follow Us in 2014!

weleda bullfacebook-logoPinterest-Logoinstagram-icon1Tumblr-icon

All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Eat the View ~ March 11, 2014

March 11, 2014 § 2 Comments

beautiful beet topperrestaurant week menu

Barndiva Down Under

The night before we leave Australia I get jammed up in a dream. I’m in a small plane flying low to the water, face pressed against a small oval window. All I can see are receding tracks of sunlight lit like diamonds in our wake, as if they are being dropped from the hold. The plane isn’t one we’ve taken on the trip that’s just about to end, though it’s similar to the prop we flew from Auckland to Napier which landed on tarmac edged with wild grass just after dawn, breaking through warm summer rain clouds to reveal a landscape that was achingly beautiful, primeval. My dream plane doesn’t touch down and there is no land is sight. I wake up in a dark hotel room in Sydney trying to make sense of a journey that I realize has already begun its inexorable fade into anecdote and history.

barndiva travels

Travel is heightened life, a high without drugs (though in our case fueled with a more than sufficient amount of alcohol). The three of us travel much as we live ~ Lukka in command of all the boats, planes and automobiles, me booking the views and cherry picking the restaurants, Daniel plunging off the road to forage plants and flowers, name birds. Except for Singapore (a conundrum of a city) everything we chanced upon in Fremantle, Margaret River, Rottnest Island, Hawkes Bay, Waiheke Island and finally Sydney ~ the people, the landscape, even the notoriously fickle weather ~ opened its arms to us.

islandAs it turned out, because we were chasing summer, we ended up in regions built around food, wine and farming, some caught up in a busy wedding season, all hammered by tourists. Without consciously planning it we’d traveled around the world to drop into communities much like our own. Except they weren’t. While we could discerningly judge the varietals, deconstruct the meals, wheedle our way into kitchens by proffering a parallel connection to craft, we were strangers in a strange land.

There are over 700 varieties of Eucalyptus in Australia, wherever we traveled the air seemed scented with them. “Exotic” flowers like protea, melaleuca, grevillea grow wild, gorgeously colored parrots don’t just congregate in the forests but come out at dusk in ordinary neighborhoods, filling the trees.  Stories of shark attacks, while only rarely true, keep the white sand beaches crowded but the sparkling sapphire sea relatively empty of swimmers. Nothing stops surfers. Nothing to stop you, if you decide to just throw caution to the wind, a big beautiful ocean awaits. Kangaroos are curious but shy; snakes, a constant worry, are almost always venomous. The answer we received (more than once) when asked what the protocol was if we got bitten was “just lay back and enjoy your last few minutes.” Sage advice? Sarcasm? From the little I gleaned into Aussie nature, a combination of both.

parrots On the North Island of New Zealand there is less that can kill you and the landscape is even more compelling; an ancient terrain suffused with an indelible English gentility, a new world sense of humor. Here, small telling details resonate. In the Hawkes Bay appellation a curtain wall of closely planted trees and vines become towering roadside hedges. Great dining happens at lunch (as it did in Margaret Riverl)  where you dine only a few feet from what you’re drinking (and often, what you’re eating). Wine tasting is done before you are seated, so in effect you get to play your own sommelier. Every winery has a billboard at its entry that forces you to ask the question, “who is the skipper?”

In both countries you don’t need to inquire where the lamb or beef or fish comes from. Local sourcing isn’t a sales pitch, it’s a way of life. And remarkably, during our entire stay in rural areas in Australia and New Zealand, not one service professional we came across launched into a rote presentation about the wine or food or ‘their’ way of life. The Aussies are in general a bit more up front, the Kiwis more laid back, but both seem innately comfortable in their bones. It reflects in the conversations you share and ultimately what you take away. It’s hard to stay fresh when you work in hospitality, what is genuine the first dozen times you say it can’t help but get stale. Part of the game we seemed to be playing with all our interactions was shifting that paradigm. It was fun.

weleda steersA small epiphany came while driving through the countryside in Hawkes Bay. Gorgeous vineyards, many sheathed in pale netting, followed the contours of gently rolling hills, but grapes weren’t the first thing you noticed. Pastured animals, olive groves, apple orchards, vegetable, fruit and flower farms ~ all were as prevalent as vineyards. Make no mistake, these are world famous wine communities justly proud of what they produce. To a great extent wine drives vital parts of the economy, yet it seems to do so without permeating everything else. It struck me that perhaps, in the grand impulse to turn everything good we invent, grow, or stumble upon into a successful business model, Americans lose the plot of why we came to loving or needing a thing in the first place. We lose the balance. If we’ve relearned anything these past few years it’s the reminder that Nature is all about balance, human and otherwise.

moon

This conversation about diversity is an important one for us to be having in Sonoma County right now, especially in Healdsburg as we figure out how to manage our incredible appeal as a travel destination while deftly trying to balance the quality of life issues which made us want to live here in the first place. Investing in a sustainable future that encourages diversity isn’t just a way to celebrate the past, but to take it with us as we invariably change and grow. Talk is good, but let’s keep it interesting (and yes, listening is even better.) It’s great to be home.

~~~~~~~~~

best of the best
Fremantle ~ Perth ~ Rottnest Island

rottnest cabinIn Fremantle we stayed with my great friend (thankfully still crazy after all these years) artist and children’s book illustrator Frané Lessac and her husband, the writer, historian and gemologist Mark Greenwood, so we have no hotel recommendations to pass on though I’m sure they abound as it’s a terrific town. Mark spent childhood summers on Rottnest, which is how Frané came to fall in love with it, and boy am I glad we didn’t just go for the day. The island was discovered in the Stone Age by Noongar Aboriginals who named it Wadjemup, “the place across the water.” It had a sad history for centuries, first used by the Dutch as an Aboriginal prison, then a reform school for bad boys, and finally as an internment camp during WW2. But it’s a story with a happy ending after the Australian Government took it over at the turn of the 20th century ~ since then three generations of families have spent summers there. The accommodations are marginally rehabed reform school cabins, but while they are as far from lux as you get, who cares? There are no cars allowed on Rotto, you just tootle around on bikes until you find a small white sand beach to your liking. Surrounded by miles of ocean with only the wind and bird cries to fill your brain, time spent is like taking a Spartan cure. The spell of Wadjemup is especially magical at dusk when the Quokkas come out to play, and late at night when you don’t need a telescope to chart the stars. Cabins are booked first come first served (we lucked out with the lighthouse keepers) but most have functioning kitchens and a place to BBQ. (oh yee- it’s Australia after all.)quokkaThe Best Meal we had in Fremantle (not counting Chez Lessac-Greenwood) was at Bread in Common. Everything about this laid back kitchen/bakery was wonderful, especially the lamb ribs with chili, mint and black garlic ~ high praise in a country that is rightly known for all things lamb. The Best Meal we ate in Perth was at Print Hall. It’s located in the heritage listed Old Newspaper House on St. George Terrace, but the menu is anything but old-fashioned. Under executive chef Shane Watson there is considerable talent in the kitchen here. The Blue Manna crab with curried egg and Avruga caviar was a standout, as was a wood fire grilled Cape Grim beef sirloin with faro, shimeji and smoked onion. Service was Grand Guignol, but the food was remarkable. Definitely worth a visit (which sadly, Nobu was not ~ a soulless meal, served by a joyless staff. Didn’t help that it’s located in a casino). There is a long list of great microbreweries Down Under, but few have the definitive range of Little Creatures where we did a fantastic beer tasting.

beer tasting little creaturesFrané Lessac
Rottnest Island
Bread in Common
Print Hall
Little Creatures

Margaret River NSW

Great hotels in Margaret River are tres cher (the best are over a grand a night) so we checked out Australia’s answer to Airbnb, called Stayz, and found an amazing property called Ooi House that was everything we wanted and more. Modern in the best sense of the word ~ think IM Pei Glass House meets rammed earth and you’re there. Very cool kitchen, DVD library in a sunken viewing room with a fireplace, three bedrooms, and best of all, deep decks overlooking the property which was only a few minutes walk to the river through eucalyptus woods filled with Galah parrots and a mob of kangaroos (and their joeys!)

vasse felix chocolate red velvet

Vasse Felix chocolate red velvet

Lunches were long affairs, each one phenomenal. Shout out to the folks at Voyager Estate who carried Frané’s books in their shop and were kind enough to share roses from their gardens with Daniel, who did the knock out arrangements for a cocktail party we threw at Ooi to celebrate the publication of Frané and Mark’s new children’s book, MidnightVasse Felix ~ the food and the wine ~ was also a standout.
barrel vasse

Vasse Felix'  pork shoulder, onion, endive, mustard seed

Vasse Felix pork shoulder, onion, endive, mustard seed

Voyager Estate's   Donnybrook Angus Rib Eye with braised eschallots, chimichurri, tapenade

Voyager Estate’s Donnybrook Angus Rib Eye with braised eschallots, chimichurri, tapenade

Vasse Felix  Mango, coconut ice cream, yuzu, forbidden rice

Vasse Felix mango, coconut ice cream, yuzu, forbidden rice

Stayz
Voyager Estate
Vasse Felix
Leeuwin Estate

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

vineyard
In a serendipitous move I still can’t explain I had rearranged our entire trip around a stay at Black Barn Vineyards; it turned out to be one of the highlights. Black Barn is thoughtful diversification personified. The property grows and produces its own wine, is the location for Hawkes Bay’s seasonal farmer’s market, boasts a stunning outdoor amphitheater for live music and film, AND has a stand alone art gallery that specializes in NZ artists. Last, but certainly not least, it supports a brilliant restaurant and tasting room.

blackbarn combo

We stayed in Black Barn’s namesake cottage smack dab in the middle of vineyards heavy with grapes as it was getting on for late summer. On one side of our cottage sheep wandered through olive groves, on the other the biodynamic skin company Weleda grazes long horn bulls.

Four partners own Black Barn, but the man responsible for the exquisite design of the buildings and the remarkable landscaping is one Andy Coltart. In true NZ style, once he learned of our interest in all things related to food and design he invited us on a hike down to the Tuki Tuki river, followed by dinner with his lovely wife Susan at their home. We enjoyed the time spent with him immensely, not least because of a long conversation we had about how to encourage selective development. Turns out Hawkes Bay is grappling with some of the same issues “popularity” has brought to Sonoma County and Coltart, who loves to build things, is looking for the sweet spot. FYI: Black Barn has gorgeous places to rent across the north island.

river

Blackbarn Vineyards

Waiheke Island

randomists
On the last leg of our journey we took a car ferry from Auckland to Waiheke Island, landing on the busiest weekend of their summer. It’s a small island but incredibly, there were five weddings in play at the larger wineries. The kind folks at Lavender Hill took pity on us and rented us a small room in the manager’s cottage, which happily commanded one of the most exquisite views of the trip (it was hard to beat Rottnest). Then again, every view on Waiheke is commanding. If the cicadas don’t drive you crazy and you can find a property with a well (water is a problem) you could retire here or do a winter for summer exchange if island life is your thing. Thanks to an accommodating waitress at Batch Winery where we did a tasting and enjoyed (incongruously) high tea, we finagled a table at Oyster Inn, the hottest dinner reservation in town. As it turned out, we never got to the table because sitting at the bar was so much fun. The lovely Tamarah, a native, filled us in on all things Waiheke as she and her crew rocked it, knocking off cocktail after cocktail. Tipsy wedding guests wandered in from various parts of the island and were gently sent on their way, the dress code went from formal to board shorts and flip flops, the crowd at the door never let up. We had quite a few Dealer’s Choice cocktails, then a bottle of white to wash down incredibly delicious local oysters, whole grilled flounder, and a kick ass Lemon Tart which, if memory serves me, Daniel and I fought over. A great night.

waihekeLavender Hill
Nikau Luxury Apartments
The Oyster Inn
Batch Winery

Sydney

I first stayed at Establishment Hotel years ago and it’s an even better choice now that the hottest Chinese Restaurant in town, Mr. Wong, has taken up residence right next door. Located down a difficult to find mews street (ok, alley) in the heart of the Market St. business district, Establishment is spare and moody, with dark wood beams and distressed floors. The bathrooms are big and most of them have tubs, which is becoming a rarity. Mr. Wong does not take reservations but if you are staying at Establishment they will call over and snag you a table. Though dinner was delicious, hands down the best meal we had in Sydney was (again) at lunch, at Kitchen by Mike, which takes up part of the industrial hanger-like space Koskela expanded into with its move from Surry Hills. Koskela is a collection of arts, crafts and furniture from all over New Zealand. Kitchen by Mike is a take off on an English worker’s canteen, though Mike McEnearney, former executive chef at Rockpool, is as far from a cafeteria chef as it’s possible to be. The sourcing was impeccable, the dishes inventive, bread and coffee (which they also sell along with a range of condiments) the best we had on the trip. Mike once worked for the Conran group in London, which may explain how easily the design and food concept live together here. How did we find Kitchen by Mike at Koskela? We asked a lovely saleswoman who was selling me a sweater in The Standard Store in Surry Hills. She ‘looked’ like she’d know. She did. Seek and you shall find!

You can book Establishment Hotel on their website, but I used Tablet Hotels because that’s where I first found it. It’s not fair to find hotels on ‘good’ travel sites (and Tablet is one of the best) and not use them to book!

Establishment Hotel
Kitchen by Mike – Koskela
Tablet Hotels

Follow Us in 2014!

weleda bullfacebook-logoPinterest-Logoinstagram-icon1Tumblr-icon

chickie2

All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Eat the View ~ February 11, 2014

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

love cocktail

Wednesday at the Barn

prix-fixe-menu

From Us to You…

valentines day

Follow Us in 2014!

carrotsfacebook-logoPinterest-Logoinstagram-icon1Tumblr-icon

All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Eat the View ~ January 28, 2014

January 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

healdsburg valentines

Wednesday at the Barn

prix-fixe-menu

Fruit as Love

kumquatsValentine cocktails should be capricious, with that air before the storm anticipation. Romantic of course, and sensual. Suggestive.

lovely rachelBarndiva is bringing it all with a beautiful menu for our Valentine’s Eve dinner ~ while the bar will be shaking up some classic favorites in addition to a new sparkling cocktail ~ Fruit as Love ~ which Rachel just created featuring house-infused kumquat vodka, Damiana syrup, fresh citrus, Prosecco and pomegranate pips.

rishi teaDamiana is known as lover’s tea because of its legendary abilities to induce erotic dreams and increase arousal …

pommegraniteswhile pomegranates are the original love apple going all the way back to you know who… and that tree.

berry cocktail

Take a peek behind the scenes at Barndiva every week~

Follow us

Follow us!

facebook-logoPinterest-Logoinstagram-icon1Tumblr-icon

All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Eat the View ~ January 21, 2014

January 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

preserved fennel

Wednesday at the Barn 

prix-fixe-menu

Because it’s the Thought That Counts…

valentines day gift certificate2

Follow Us in 2014!

carrotsfacebook-logoPinterest-Logoinstagram-icon1Tumblr-icon

All text Jil Hales. Photos © Jil Hales

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 200 other followers

%d bloggers like this: