Smoked trout at the Harvest Table.
That’s exactly where I planted myself.
On Super Bowl Sunday.
While the rest of the Bay Area congregated in San Francisco for all the hoopla or Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the actual game, I headed to St. Helena.
Not to escape the hubbub, necessarily. But since I had to be in Wine Country bright and early the next day, I decided to stay the night before. It gave me the perfect excuse to check out Chef Charlie Palmer’s new Harvest Table at the venerable Harvest Inn.
Palmer took over the property a year and a half ago. He added a restaurant last spring, taking what was once just a reception area and building it out, though, keeping the ornate staircase and massive fireplace already there to add interest to the modern, clean-lined space.
The grounds have a Mediterranean-country feel with towering trees and a stone courtyard.
The neatly appointed bar.
He installed Executive Chef Levi Mezick, formerly of Restaurant 1833 in Monterey, and he hired Culinary Horticulturalist Laura McNiff to tend the fruit trees and herbs growing on the property.
The signature Rachel’s Cake. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)
Hands-On Valentine’s Baking Classes
Sure, you can go out to dinner with your sweetie in honor of Valentine’s Day. But why not bake something together for an especially sweet time instead?
Rachel’s Cakes of Burlingame is offering just that — two-hour, hands-on classes designed for couples to bake and decorate homemade sugar cookies.
The classes are: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 13; and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 14.
Each class is limited to four couples, and includes lessons in rolling, baking and decorating. Appetizers and beverages also will be served. You can take home your decorated cookies, as well as any unfinished ones with a supply of icing to complete them at home.
The class is $150 per couple. Reservations are required by calling (650) 393-4514. If you can’t make it to any of these, you’ll be glad to know Rachel’s offers other classes throughout the year.
On the flip side, if you want to leave the baking to someone else for Valentine’s Day, owner Rachel Richanbach will be happy to create a rustic or custom cake.
I had a chance to try some samples recently. Her cakes are all very moist, and taste quite homey.
The herring sampler at Volta.
Chef Staffan Terje has been cooking up such brilliant Italian food for decades in San Francisco at his Perbacco and Barbacco restaurants, that it’s easy to forget he’s actually Swedish.
Now, the Stockholm-born chef is finally getting a chance to flex and flaunt his Scandinavian heritage with his Chef de Cuisine Keven Wilson, late of Perbacco.
During the holidays, his newest restaurant with business partner Umberto Gibin, opened quietly in downtown San Francisco in the former space of Tom Colicchio’s Wichcraft.
Volta is a brasserie that serves Scandinavian-French food with verve.
Chef Staffan Terje and Proprietor Umberto Gibin.
Comfortable and classy, that’s the look of this dining room.
A couple weeks ago, I had a chance to dine as a guest of the restaurant, a cavernous space that once was fairly plain and utilitarian, which now is a lot cozier, thanks to half-partitions that section the dining room without enclosing it.
The Ahwahnee looking as it should in winter.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — Last week, I had the great pleasure of returning for the fourth year in a row to help host the incomparable 31st Annual Chefs’ Holidays event at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite.
Besides the stellar chefs, the welcoming staff, and the outstanding food, there was one other unforgettable highlight: snow.
Yes, after four years of drought, and a January a year ago where it was so dry and warm that I hiked in a T-shirt, it was a joy to see Yosemite dusted in powdery, fluffy white, looking every bit its picture-postcard self.
(L to R): Sous Chef Daniel Gomez Sanchez of La Toque, Executive Chef Ken Frank of La Toque, Sarah and Evan Rich of Rich Table, and David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit.
Chefs’ Holidays takes place every January through early February. It is comprised of eight sessions, with each one spotlighting three renowned chefs, each of whom does a cooking demo. There is a wine reception to meet all the chefs. Each session ends with a gala dinner prepared by the headliner chef or all three participating chefs.
Yellowfin tuna at Barndiva.
On a recent rainy Friday afternoon, my husband and I ducked into the pretty trellised courtyard and right through the inviting doors of Barndiva in Healdsburg.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones lured inside by the laid-back, rustic warmth of its barn-like setting, as the cozy dining room soon filled up with locals greeting each other with hugs and kicking back with glasses of wine.
It’s easy to see why this is a spot that attracts folks again and again.
It has a free spiritedness about it with eclectic artwork on the walls, including a wall of vintage wooden shoe forms at the entrance. In fact, the secondary dining room is an actual art gallery by day, and an event space by night.
The bar area.
I hadn’t dined at Barndiva since shortly after it opened in 2004, so I was happy to go again in December after being invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
About six years ago, Chef Ryan Fancher came on board after cooking alongside Richard Reddington at Auberge du Soleil, and Thomas Keller at both the French Laundry in Yountville and Per Se in New York.