Monday, June 6, 2011

ON THE ROAD AGAIN IN SONOMA-Pt. 8-The Last Supper-Barndiva

Part Eight
The Last Supper

The first thing that comes to my mind when someone mentions a last supper is the painting by DiVinci depicting Jesus sitting at the center of a long dinner table celebrating Passover w/ his disciples.  Putting the whole wafer and wine thing aside, have you ever wondered what they had at that last supper?  Matzo ball soup?  Brisket?

Well, our last supper in Sonoma was at Barndiva.  There were no wafers (though some very tasty, crusty bread w/ tart raspberry jam)... matzo ball soup and no brisket… but it was an absolutely religious experience.

The ‘backstory:’

Barndiva – barn*diva – proper noun - is a nickname that legend says was invented to commemorate the restaurant’s owner Jil Hales’ love of dancing to music in her family barn, but Jil, along w/ her husband and co-owner Geoffrey, chose the name because of their desire to elevate the farmer to “diva” status.   A ‘sustainable’ restaurant, Barndiva uses only ingredients from local farms within a 30 mile radius.  This, of course, also reduces its carbon footprint, always a good thing.  To further help the environment, used cooking oil is recycled to run farm tractors, and organic trims from the kitchen feed the chickens who lay the restaurant’s eggs.  Barndiva is also a member of the Fork & Shovel, a farmers’ collaborative including 30 restaurants that support each other in this quest to deliver great food using local produce, meats and products.  Barndiva even dry-farms apples, figs and chestnuts.  That’s very cool, especially since being environmentally conscious doesn’t keep them from serving incredibly good food.

The ambience:

To get to Barndiva’s front door, we walked past an outdoor patio

down a lush hedge-covered arched nave alongside the barn-like building.  

After entering the restaurant...

...the first thing I noticed was a room divider made up of old wooden cobbler shoe molds separating the long dining room.   

The high ceilings gave the space a cathedral-like feeling, as the cream colored walls w/ wainscoting and the dark wood bar w/ its interesting art deco-ish back wall beckoned us in. 

Adorning the walls were wire fish/animal sculptures that cast web-like shadows as the sun set and the lights were turned on. 

One whole wall consisted of banquette seating w/ black pinstriped seat cushions and light gray back pillows fronted by bare wood tables.  And then there was the back-lit wine wall that faced our table which looked like a stained glass window...

...enhancing our feeling that this was going to be a divine evening.

The food:

Head chef Ryan Fancher worked w/ Thomas Keller (the Pope of American cuisine) at the French Laundry, then helped him open up Per Se in New York before coming to Barndiva.  Richard and I had one of our most memorable meals EVAH at the French Laundry so we truly were looking forward to this last supper in Sonoma.

As we sipped our drinks (a martini for me), the evening’s service began with…

tomato goat cheese puffs w/ lavender honey… 

brie w/ honeycomb & sliced radishes… 

heirloom beet & endive, avocado, apple, candied walnuts & warm chevre… 

and crispy pork belly, w/ a quail egg, arugula pesto & kumquat (my favorite!).

All directly from the gods!  Hallelujah!

Then came the entrees – a veritable communion of flavors…

Bob and Richard had the caramelized sea scallops w/ peas, bacon, roasted romaine, Kendal Farms crème fraiche, and sorrel nage.  I’m not sure what ‘nage’ is, but after tasting this dish, I’m very sure it was heavenly.

Nguyen opted for the seared Alaskan halibut, artichoke ravioli, spring onion soubise, avocado and fennel.  I had a bite.  The blend of flavors – divine…

I had the Creekstone Farms’ beef ribeye w/ marble potatoes, pearl onion, carrot, garlic confit and horseradish bavoroise.  Wow! This was the rapture for me!

So, my final judgment on this last supper?   Manna from heaven! 

As I said, a religious experience.

Barndiva Restaurant & Lounge
231 Center Street
Healdsburg CA

Open table

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