My professional experience with wine is limited, but the solbar Sommelier, Bradley Wasserman, and I have been working on a new format for our wine list since September 2009. With the help of Solage Calistoga GM Richard Hill, we finally rolled it out two weeks ago. The challenge was to create a format and a style that matched my approach to food and how I write the dining room menus, dessert menus, and cocktail menus–and maintaining, all the while, an intelligible, logical, comprehensible document.
A few new menu items . . . Ryder is working on a new dinner entree with pozzi farms leg of lamb, garlic-fennel lamb sausage, white bean puree and white bean dauphine, pepperonata, and artichoke-mint vierge. We tasted it last night, and it’s BANGING. Everything you could want in a spring lamb dish without a heavy reduction sauce, without “baby spring vegetables”, without, in fact, much you might expect at all.
At the front of the kitchen, behind the expediter’s station and facing the hot line, is a 60″ dry-erase board, only a couple inches smaller than Ryder’s new flat-screen. (To its right in the above picture are the clipboards with BEOs [banquet event orders] and above them the clipboards with daily order sheets–meat, fish, produce, dairy, etc. The fish clipboard is the one that’s broken in half [whether over an angry sous chef's own knee or the head of a prep cook, no one will say] and the order sheets cut to fit.) This reassuringly low-tech piece of equipment has uses that I haven’t realized in previous kitchens.
My wife and brother-in-law raided the SF Farmer’s Market for me this past Saturday, and I went down to the city Sunday morning with a bottle of Saunter Petite Sirah (a gift from Josh and Heather Clark, made by Thomas Brown) and a bottle of Romililly RRV Pinot Noir from Aaron and Jesse Inman over at August Briggs. The edible loot: two racks of lamb, a bag of miner’s lettuce, two bunches of green garlic, a fistful each of brown morels, hedgehogs, and chanterelles, fiddlehead ferns, and baby artichokes. (more…)
Now that we’ve had it for a few weeks, the asparagus is finding its place(s) on the menu . . . we have a salad of seared asparagus stalks with raw asparagus strips and tempura asparagus, Zach put a great lunch salad on the menu of asparagus all’arrabiata (tr:ANGRY!) with arugula, pickled fennel, and some delicious coppa that he cured and slices very very thin. On fried chicken night (every Tuesday) we served an asparagus fricasee with pickled red onions and fines herbes as a side dish to the pollo frito (along with mustard-scallion potato salad and cavatappi mac and cheese). We’re trying to resist the hollandaise, ham and cheese, and egg mimosa presentations that are part of our culinary past in other restaurants . . . those things are so delicious but they’re so heavy, and the flavor of the asparagus is a bit masked by all the fat involved. (more…)
In the days before solbar opened, we tried to figure out a great pizza dough recipe. We tested at least five, decided on one. Same thing with the tomato sauce recipe. Decided on a few toppings (less is more). Then it came to Shaping the Pizza.
This past Thursday, we put on a wine pairing dinner with Bill and Dawn Williamson, two Australian expats who make their wine from mostly Sonoma fruit at Williamson Winery in Healdsburg. Bill crafts a LOT of different varietals and labels, and for the dinner we chose a fairly conventional progression of chardonnay, sweet wine (with foie gras), followed by pinot noir, shiraz (which he does not label syrah), malbec, and cab (with pleasant ridge “reserve”). (more…)
Good news from Gardener Greg (he needs a better nickname, this one’s a little too wholesome)–the last few days of sun have dried out the soil enough that Jose, the vineyard manager, can till the back 40, which will be planted with a cover crop that then gets plowed in again as green manure before the vegetables go in. The back 40 looks out on the Napa River (click the link for the unvarnished truth), such as it is all the way up in Calistoga, and is surrounded by vines and a fields that have lain fallow for a few years. The fava blossoms are going crazy and the first seedlings with be planted in the hoop house this week. (more…)
We’ve actually had two nights of frost, so the flowers aren’t as brilliant gold as they were earlier in the week, but you get the idea from the picture: mustard takes over the vineyards in the early spring. The vines have been pulled out of this field and piled up for burning once the rain stops for a few days (the picture is taken about 100 yd south of August Briggs Winery, right by the Calistoga city limit sign). We don’t use a lot of flowers at solbar–that is, we don’t fly in edible nasturtiums from Ohio or anything–but we use what we can pick; you can see a few on the carrot salad dish. Barney Welsh at Forni-Brown Gardens has great chive and garlic blossoms but they are STRONG and you only need a couple. We use our own lavender blossoms, usually for cocktails.
And yes, it’s been pointed out already that “an iphone doesn’t mean you’re a photographer all of a sudden.”