Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Beekman 1802.

With Christmas right around the corner, my days have been spent enjoying simple pleasures around our home- from baking, to birdwatching, hibernating with my books and cooking shows galore.  It's hard to keep up during the holiday season, and our schedules become easily jam-packed, so it's nice to have personal downtime to really do the things that get lost in the seasonal chaos.

Not too long ago, as I was putting together some festive champagne cork garlands for our windows, I was scanning through Netflix in search of a new chef obsession and came across season one of the hilarious, heartwarming and intriguing TV show, "The Fabulous Beekman Boys".

The Beekman Boys are indeed, not Beekman's at all.  "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" follows the story of Josh Kilmer-Purcell (a former drag-queen/ New York Times bestselling author/advertising executive) and Dr. Brent Ridge (a former geriatric physician/Martha Stewart Omnimedia consultant) on their journey to becoming full-fledged farmer's after purchasing the 'Beekman Farm' in Sharon Springs, New York in 2007.  It also catalogs how they develop their lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802, a company made famous by their outstanding all-natural goat's milk soap in recent years.

Little did I know, I was already familiar with the Beekman Boys, thanks to a certain previous employer and my own good taste in bath products.  I had fallen in love with their soaps years ago, and still use them to this day.  I was elated to learn that they had TV program for me to ogle, and even more excited to find out that they had grown the brand extensively to include artisan foods, thanks to their ever-expanding family of goats (all lovingly cared for by the shy, sweet Farmer John Hall.)  Between the hilarity of goat farming, a very sassy llama (Polkspot!) and the personality of both boys and their fellow townfolk, even the hubbs was cracking up laughing at the antics on Beekman Farm.

This article isn't focused on their TV show, even though we enjoy it immensely.  I wanted to highlight some of their actual product, because I do truly support and believe in the quality of their goods.  I contacted Beekman 1802 to discover where exactly I could get my hands on their provisions these days-- as it turns out, pretty tough luck here for us west coasters...  Our options are very limited.  Not surprisingly, thanks to the boys business saavy practices, their soaps, home items, cheeses, gardening gear and fun accessories are primarily only found on the Beekman 1802 website.  Josh's novels, "I Am Not Myself These days: A Memoir" and my current read, "The Bucolic Plague", are both available in bookstores everywhere and online.

This book has brought great joy to this holiday season for me.

Now on to the goodies...
The hubbs and I both love ice cream.  We also love spice, so when I saw this, I about fainted... I'm pretty sure I'd be comfortable using this rich, delicious caramel sauce on just about everything- if we could keep it stocked in our pantry long enough!  Beekman Cajeta.

"Most caramel sauces you'll find at your local store are primarily composed of high fructose corn syrup. Some dulche de leches are made the old-fashioned way---cooking down high quality cow's milk until all that is left is the sugars. But cajeta--a tradition in many Latin countries--is made with pure goat milk.  Traditionally, cajeta is somewhere between a sauce and a caramel chew. You eat it out of a small wooden box with a spoon.  All Beekman 1802 caramel sauces are made with goat milk, pure cane sugar and vanilla beans. Excellent over cakes, in chocolates, or cinnamon buns.  But like everything we make at Beekman 1802, we put our own twist on things. Some like it hot. So for those people we steeped habanero peppers from our own garden as the caramel was cooking down. The combination of sweet and heat is unlike anything you've ever tasted. It brings an entirely new complexity to any ice cream or fruit dipping sauce."

For every something sweet, you need something savory.  I've sampled other onion jams before, but nothing compares to the Beekman "Blaak" Onion Jam.  It's perfect paired with hard cheeses, topped on crostini, used in addition to cooking sauces or, you know, just eaten with a spoon.  Remember, all the Beekman goodies are made with ingredients straight from the farm.  Josh's green thumb shines in this fabulously classy condiment.  I'm pretty sure this is a seasonal item, so if you can't locate it online just now, sit tight and look for it during the spring.

Me and my honey.  No, not the hubbs.  Beekman Rosemary Creamed Honey.  Somewhere between liquid gold and pure, smooth butter.  I use it on toast and in my cappuccino.  The herbaceous flavor cuts the sweetness just enough.  "Moses Quimby kept 1,200 colonies of bees in the Mohawk Valley in the mid-1800s and invented the smoking can that beekeepers still use to this day when harvesting from the hives. His honey would have stocked the shelves of William Beekman's original Mercantile.  One of our first "discoveries" at Beekman farm was an old apple tree on the border of the property into which a colony of bees had set up home. We sat for hours wondering about the hidden queen ruling the kingdom from somewhere deep within the hollow trunk.  Now there are 40 bee hives at Beekman Farm, producing about 15,000lbs of honey a year.  It takes 648 bees working a full season to produce each 9 oz jar of sweet goodness."

My next purchase, which I'm saving my pennies for, will be the Beekman 1802 Blaak cheese.  It "is the world-famous artisanal cheese produced from the goats at Beekman Farm. Blaak is an Italian-style semi-hard cheese made from a 60:40 mix of raw goat and cow milk giving the cheese a mild but distinctive flavor. In keeping with traditional cheesemaking practices, this rare cheese is aged for 3 months in our caves and is coated with ash at each turning to promote the ripening of the wheel. The resulting edible black rind gives the cheese its name and makes it a true conversation piece on your table."

I also picked up the Beekman Heirloom Cookbook, which I highly recommend to any and all food lovers and home chefs.  All of their recipes are based on heirloom style cookery- hearty foods, all seasonally appropriate according to what will be available in your home garden or farmer's markets.  The photography and recipes are gorgeous, along with the anecdotes and special edition stationary that accompanies the book.  "Together, Josh and Brent have created a gorgeous cookbook that is “heirloom” in every sense of the word: they showcase heirloom fruits and vegetables; offer delicious heirloom recipes from farm, family, and friends; and include a section in the back of each chapter so you can personalize the book with your own treasured recipes--and create a unique keepsake to hand down to your family."

I could go on and on about Beekman 1802 and the Beekman Farm.  But I'll leave a little for you all to discover on your own.  Check out www.beekman1802.com for info on the fellas and their bucolic lifestyle.  I'm sure you'll enjoy discovering the many splendors of the boys, their gaggle of goats and a whole lot of llama drama.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Dining in San Francisco.

My friends at the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco have several Christmas holiday dining options for guests this season. In addition to their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners ($75 per person and $45 with wine pairings) at Brasserie S&P, they will also host a Christmas Day Brunch Buffet...

Christmas Day Brunch Buffet 
Tuesday, December 25, 2012 10am to 3pm 
$65 adults $35 children 
Fresh Juice Selection - Assorted Jing Premium Teas and Peets Coffee included 
Bottomless Champagne Cocktail Bar – add $15 
Gin-inspired traditional drinks available at the bar 
--Traditional Breakfast--
Eggnog French Toast 
Sustainable Smoked Salmon 
Assorted Fresh Breakfast Pastries & Bagels 
Sliced Seasonal Fruit, Melons & Berries 
House Made Granola & Low Fat Yogurt with Brown Sugar and Bananas 
Local Artisan Bacon and Sausage 
--Chef’s Specialty Salads-- 
--Assorted Dim Sum Station-- 
--Children’s Buffet--
Fruit skewers 
Mini Pancakes with Nutella 
Make your own Pasta station 
Local Dungeness Crab Lo Mein 
Roast Turkey with Stuffing and Gravy 
Croque Monsieur 
Roasted Yam Puree 
Seasonal Selection

Christmas DAY Dinner 
--First course 
Choice of --
Fennel Salad, Blood Orange, Point Reyes Blue Cheese 
Steven Kent “Lola” Sauvignon Blanc, Livermore Valley 2011 
Roasted Celery Root Soup, Apple, Smoked Paprika Oil 
Swanson Pinot Grigio, Napa Valley 2010 
--Second Course 
Choice of-- 
Roasted Cornish Game Hen, Pomegranate Gastrique, Polenta 
Hirsch Vineyards “Prelation”, Sonoma Coast 2010 
Sauerbraten, Braised Red Cabbage, Caramelized Turnips 
Duende Tempranillo, Clements Hills 2009 
California White Bass, Bouillabaisse Sauce, Roasted Trumpet Mushrooms 
Highflyer Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley 2010 
Roasted Whole Dungeness Crab, Herbed Purple Potatoes, Rosemary Garlic Butter 
Antica by Antinori Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2008 
Choice of-- 
Plum Pudding, Brandied Hard Sauce 
Joseph Phelps Eisrebe, Napa Valley 2009 
Buche de Noel 
Justin Obtuse Port, Paso Robles 2008 

Menu Created by Executive Chef Adam Mali • Sommelier Selected Wine Pairings by Jon Allen

To make a reservation, visit Opentable.com  
or call + 1 (415) 986-2020
Brasserie S&P is located at 
Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco 
222 Sansome Street 
San Francisco, CA 94104 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Le Cigare Volant.

While most folks were trying to hide from the massive incoming storm this past weekend, the hubbs and I decided to jump in the car and head towards the seashore.  We were looking to celebrate his birthday by tucking away in a little beach town somewhere along the coast and found ourselves in beautiful Santa Cruz.  Our drive down was easy and quick, only taking a little over an hour or so from South San Francisco- we snuck over to Half Moon Bay and literally coasted our way down PCH, avoiding all evening traffic and terrible inland weather.  The horizon was brightly lit, the ocean was raging and the hills were shrouded in heavy rain clouds.  Nonetheless, it was a spectacular drive down the California coast towards our destination...

We arrived a bit past five, along with a heavy sprinkle and sigh of relief that we had won the race against the monsoon about to slam into the Monterey Bay.  After checking into the Seaway Inn (a place I highly recommend for it's friendly service, affordable rates and clean, comfortable rooms), we walked down to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf to grab a pre-dinner drink and relax before dinner.  I dragged the hubbs through the torrent and down the plank to the Firefish Grill- I'd visited a few weeks earlier and knew they had oysters, so I was on a mission.  The vibe at Firefish is a great mix of surfers, eccentric locals, curious tourists and people just looking for a decent plate of seafood served oceanside.  Half a dozen Blue Point bivalves and a bottle of Cava later, we were ready to move on to our reservations at Bonny Doon Vineyard's newly re-named (after the iconic wine)... Le Cigare Volant.

First off, here's a quick overview of Le Cigare Volant:
"Formerly known as the Cellar Door, the Santa Cruz venue adopted the brand’s iconic wine name as 
its moniker. The winery is slated to celebrate the release of the 25th vintage of its heralded Le Cigare Volant this year. Winemaker and President-for-Life, Randall Grahm produced his first vintage in 1984 as an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape."

"Commenting on the restaurant name change, Grahm explained, it represents a commitment to a more refined, if not empyrean level of cuisine and service, as well as a proclamation of a deeper association between the restaurant and the winery itself.”

"Chef Ryan Shelton will lead the culinary team at Le Cigare Volant. Joining Bonny Doon from two star, Michelin-rated Baumé Restaurant in Palo Alto, Shelton also held posts at the award-winning Chez TJ in Mountain View, and at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. “We’re thrilled to have Ryan’s extensive knowledge and unique skill set in the kitchen as we take the restaurant to the next level of excellence,” explained Bonny Doon Vineyard General Manager, Jim Connell. Nathaniel Muñoz, with extensive restaurant experience in the Central Coast of California, has assumed the role of restaurant manager."

"Bonny Doon is committed to producing elegant, soulful, food-friendly wines in a largely hands-off, “acoustic” style, working with Biodynamic and organic growers wherever and whenever possible. The restaurant shares a common philosophy sourcing the finest local ingredients to create fresh, seasonal and honest flavors for the table."

Walking into Le Cigare Volant, you are immediately taken aback by the large wooden casks (with built in booth seating) and the large, wooden steampunk-esque cigar shaped spaceship hanging from the ceiling.  The bistro style seating is simple, elegant and lends itself well to an intimate meal.  The centerpiece of the entire facility is the large oak barrel tasting bar- Boony Doon Vineyard clearly pulls in a large crowd for their tastings, but a night, the counter sits silent, shiny and quiet.  There's a minimalistic approach to the dining area that only complements their vibrant, seasonal farm-to-table menu.  The combination of the two elements has you feeling as though you've discovered someone's secret kitchen, hidden away in a warehouse, surrounded by wine.

As we took our seats, we were greeted by our server, fully prepared with a smile and an amuse-bouche in hand.  A plate of Chef Ryan Shelton's handmade granola- a fun and unusual way to clean to palate, being a blend of steel-cut oats, sun-dried grapes and earthy puffed grains.  

Next, I was eager to sample a few of Le Cigare Volant's much talked about small plates.  Having read about  several of the starter bites from fellow foodies, I chose two very different but incredibly tasty dishes...

Emperor Norton Canning Co. Pub Pickles.  There weren't any pickled cucumbers (as most would expect) but this adorable jar was packed with pickled carrots, pearl onions and cauliflower.  The vegetables were fresh and crunchy with just enough bite to make your lips pucker.  Big bonus: Emperor Norton Canning Co. is straight out of Santa Cruz- again, Bonny Doon supports local farms and producers by bringing their goods straight to your table.

Smoked Fingerling Potato – “Potted” with Chives.  Good gracious, both the hubbs and I nearly melted when we dug into this little pot of savory yum.  The potatoes were cooked perfectly, with a slightly smoky flavor and the creme in the bottom of the pot was pure bliss- I believe it was an airy Hollandaise style sauce. The "dirt" on the top of the potato "flowers" was an ingenius balsamic vinaigrette crouton crumble.  Simply delicious.

Next, we continued our way through the menu by sharing one of their "delicacies"...

The Straus Family Creamery Pan-Fried Ricotta – with Apple Agrodolce & Butternut Gnocchi.  I will start by saying I'm particularly obsessed with all Straus Family Creamery ingredients.  I consume their milk, cream, butter, sour cream and ice cream on a daily basis, so you bet I'll order a dish that highlights their product.  More interestingly, I loved the pairing of the sweet & sour agrodolce and the plump, smooth fried cheese.  This dish epitomizes the seasonal, farm-fresh dishes that make Le Cigare Volant special.

For our main courses, neither of us could decide so we went with the "you get one, I'll get the other" option, like we often do when dining out together.  It really is the best way to order if you are willing to share- at one point I was no longer willing to part with my dish and the hubbs protested.  I tried to barder my way into keeping at all for myself, but I lost out when he waved a forkfull of his meal under my nose.  As much as I wanted to be selfish, it seemed unfair to hoard, so I politely gave in and let him try mine.  He'll tell the same story, except I'm sure he'll claim that I stole his dish and wouldn't give it back (which might be true.)

Seared Breast of 38 North Chicken, Carrot Top Ravioli- Live Earth Carrot Variants, Brown Butter.  This fantastic chicken is air-chilled and locally raised, giving it an unbelievably juicy flavor.  The ravioli was distinctly unique, with a firm texture and rich, hearty filling.  Both were lightly drizzled in a brown butter sauce but the dish tasted extremely light and refreshing overall.

Pan-Seared Skuna Bay Craft-Fed Salmon – Sunchoke Risotto, Red Wine Reduction.  The hubbs had to pry this dish out of my hands once I had sampled a bite.  The salmon was cooked to perfection and the risotto was some of the best I've tasted this year (and you know I love risotto!).  The only way I can manage to describe the mixture of flavors here is by calling it decadent.  The crispy skin, the delicate bite of the salmon sashimi as a comparison, the red wine reduction... Bravo Le Cigare Volant, bravo.

And for dessert- we were gifted a Petite Cabernet Gelee bite.  Sweet, dusted with sugar and quickly enjoyed.  A lovely end to our meal.

Le Cigare Volant is open for dinner Weds–Sunday, and for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Wednesday
evenings are devoted to Community Table, a special prix fixe, family-style meal celebrating the experience of
food and wine shared communally.  Reservations are available by calling 831-425-6771 or at
www.bonnydoonvineyard/reserve.com  The menu changes daily.  Please visit www.lecigarevolant.com to view.

If you are in the Santa Cruz area, please take the time to visit Le Cigare Volant.  You will be pleasantly smitten by the food, the friendly service and the intriguing world of Bonny Doon Vineyard and their many delightful wines.  Gracious thanks to the staff at Le Cigare Volant for making it a memorable birthday evening for the hubbs as well.


Le Cigare Volant 
Hours of Operation
LUNCH.....Daily 12-6
TASTING...Daily 12-5
DINNER....Wed-Sun 5:30-9