Thursday, March 28, 2013

Backyard Restaurant

A couple of weeks ago received a message that Dave Cruz would be cooking at his friend Dan Kedan's restaurant Backyard in Forestville, CA. We immediately made a reservation.
Walking up to the restaurant after a 9 mile jaunt across Santa Rosa, passing by Willowside Meat (the butcher), and a right-hand turn onto Hwy 116, things looked familiar. Nearly 15 years ago, my husband and I ate at this restaurant before it became Backyard this past November. On a drive back from the Mendicino Coast, it was a convenient stopping place. Hearing a bit about Backyard from Chef Dave Cruz, we wanted to try it, and now that we know it's exact location, we'll be back when we're headed to the Redwood Coast.
Arriving after a busy couple of weeks, and thankful for a holiday weekend, I ordered "Tim's Mocha," which was most enjoyable. I'd drive this way just for this coffee drink, told by friends that it had whipped cream within. It's nice to know this restaurant shops the way we do at home, including dairy from Strauss Family Creamery.
The night's menu, five-courses featuring the bounties of Northern California and guest chef Dave Cruz, began with a trio of Amuse bouche. The crostini with kimchi, bacon beignet and buttered radish were served on a hazelnut wood tray.
The kind chefs sent out a flatbread with miner's lettuce, onion and sausage for us to try.
To the table came a beet and wheat berry salad with a yogurt and mint sauce. The Sonora wheat berries were perfectly cooked and made one think of the fiber and nutrients that support good living.
Pasta being made earlier in the day, as posted on Backyard's Facebook page.
and the finished product: Tagliatelle with egg, king trumpet mushroom and parmesan
Wild Alaskan halibut with quinoa flavored with flavorful carrots. Another dish that makes one think of living well, in good harmony with the earth. A dish that shows good stewardship/husbandry of the soil, plants and animals. Wish the world's population could all eat like this, we would feel better in our 'environmental skin.'
Grilled beef with potatoes, black trumpet mushrooms, asparagus and garlic butter.
Three cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery: St. Pat's, Mt. Tam and Red Hawk with marmalade were sent from the kitchen with kindness.
Lemon posset with cherry, pistachio brittle and meringue. As possets should be, it was like a lemon soup (thickened liquid). The flavors were bright, and cherry rich.
The owners Dan Kedan and his wife (her birthday, no less), are sweet and passionate about their restaurant. It has to be a good feeling to get up, work hard and know that while reaping the reward of long work, one's doing no harm to the world one's children will grow. The feeling of the restaurant is definitely family and future oriented. What a nice place to happen upon on the way to or from the Mendecino Coast, or it could strike one's fancy enough to stay in West Sonoma County permanently.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Orleans, LA

My husband's stepmom is Sicilian and brought the tradition of St. Joseph's Tables with her. Saw a couple of her tables in person, read some books, did some research and then made a couple of Tables myself. Used this year as an opportunity to visit New Orleans, LA, the place with the most St. Joseph's Tables in the U.S. (not to mention largest population of Sicilians outside of Sicily).
Oak Alley Plantation
It takes some doing getting from Northern California to New Orleans, it's not a simple process. Buy plane tickets during hurricane season for flights not during hurricane season for the best prices. Expect airplane delays. It's well worth a once-in-a-lifetime visit, though. My aunt has relatives who go quite often, and I personally couldn't do that.
Our March 15-19th trip could not have been better. The weather was perfect, in the low 70s; excitement for St. Patrick's Day; the Mardi Gras Indians out for Super Sunday; great development for the Super Bowl (still rebuilding after 2005's Hurricane Katrina); delicious seafood in season, etc., etc. not to mention the 100+ St. Joseph's Tables/Altars prepared. (Watching the local information station, one's under the impression there is always a weekend parade happening in New Orleans. It might be impossible to visit when "something's" not happening.)
St. Francis-Xavier in Metairie, LA's 2013 St. Joseph's Table
Altar bread in the shape of a crawfish
Altar bread in the shape of an alligator
Details of Fig Cookies, Egg Baskets (dough using fancy exacto-knife cuts)
Details of a take-home bag from a home celebrating their 25th St. Joseph Table
Obviously, we loved our trip. My husband said he'd visit again, while I have other places I'd like to see before traveling to NOLA again. Could not live there, but it was a spectacular place to visit with it's 300+ year history. For starters, there are an unreasonable amount of people who've died from brain cancer. Without any scientific proof, I concluded that it makes sense that pesticides and chemicals coming down the Mississippi River from the heartland of America cause this awful phenomenon. The shrimp in Louisiana was a revelation. Have never tasted such good shrimp, and suspect I never will. The people seem very honest, friendly and hardworking (there wasn't a time during our trip we felt threatened). Hope that we figure out a way to stop poisoning our fellow citizens at the end of the Mississippi River.