April 17, 2015

April 17, 2015
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Ahi tuna with olive oil “snow” at Valette in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.

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Arriving at The French Laundry’s courtyard, guests will be greeted by the scent of California almond blossoms. A view through the stone wall will reveal the historic original building and its iconic blue door. Rendering: Snøhetta.

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The French Laundry’s new landscape design will double the size of the existing garden and provide a new vehicular drop-off entry, extending the guest experience to the street edge. Framed views will orient guests to The French Laundry’s iconic blue door along a new path through the garden. Rendering: Snøhetta.

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The French Laundry’s kitchen expansion will give guests a view of the chefs at work inside. The frit pattern on the exterior cladding was developed from layering sketches based on the choreography of a chef’s hands at work. Rendering: Snøhetta.

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The French Laundry’s new kitchen ceiling will evoke a tablecloth being gently unfurled across a table, while also hiding the ceiling’s functional elements. The sweeping vaults will create large skylights, flooding the kitchen with natural light and mitigating ambient noise for a more comfortable workspace. Rendering: Snøhetta.

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A dessert at Partake by K-J. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.

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Scallops en croute at Valette in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.

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Studio Barndiva will offer bar bites and cocktails in a gallery atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Barndiva.

By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.

With the Louvre as inspiration, chef Thomas Keller’s ~THE FRENCH LAUNDRY~ kitchen redesign is in full swing.

The press release notes: “The renderings are in—and the design team chosen—for a historic renovation of The French Laundry, the first major overhaul of the landmark restaurant in 20 years. International design firm, Snøhetta, is the lead design and landscape architect, working in collaboration with California-based firms Envelope A+D as executive architect and Tim Harrison of Harrison, Koellner, LLC as kitchen designer. The renovation will result in a new and expanded kitchen and courtyard, an auxiliary building to house a wine cellar and support offices, and a new arrival experience to enhance the approach to the iconic blue door.”

The press release also quotes Thomas Keller as saying: “The French Laundry is being redesigned to be a backdrop worthy of the restaurant’s history….With the Louvre Pyramid as my inspiration, we wanted to find a way to juxtapose the historic and the modern while maintaining the high-quality cuisine and service our guests have come to expect from The French Laundry. The new design will be an innovative and functioning space that will allow us to continue to evolve as a restaurant and develop new standards.”

The press release further details the changes: “In addition to expanding the kitchen’s size by 25 percent, the renovation will make for more efficient use of space, creating one contiguous room for the entire culinary team with a visual connection from station to station. With walls, flooring and work stations all fashioned out of Dekton…the new kitchen will feature a white-on-white palette—a nod to the sense of promise and potential of a fresh start. The kitchen equipment will feature two unique Molteni suites by Electrolux and commercial ranges by Hestan Commercial. The ground-up construction of a new Kitchen Annex will house The French Laundry’s support functions including the prep kitchen, butchery, produce breakdown, and management offices. It is also home to The French Laundry’s regarded wine collection, with the storage capacity to hold up to 14,000 bottles.” Commence jealous sighs.

Chef Thomas Keller’s culinary team, meanwhile, has moved into a temporary kitchen space at the restaurant and have been serving diners since April 7th. The press release explains: “During construction, Envelope A+D conceived of using shipping containers as modular units for a temporary kitchen in the restaurant’s former courtyard, allowing for service to resume….Tim Harrison, chef Keller’s kitchen designer-of-record for the past 20 years, designed and adapted the temporary space as a re-creation of the former French Laundry kitchen, complete with its five stars mounted hood.” The restaurant is offering dinner seven nights a week and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. The grand reopening is slated for the end of the year.

Whisk and Spat: Here’s a chance to eat dessert first. On Monday April 20th, four all-star pastry chefs converge for a four-course dessert and wine tasting at ~PARTAKE BY K-J~. The lineup includes Manny Fimbrez of Madrona Manor, Corey Wright of Kendall-Jackson, Robert “Buttercup” Nieto, also of K-J, and Ramon Perez of Puur Chocolat in Sacramento.

This is no chocolate lava cake or crème brûlée phone-in, be assured. Expect some serious dessert porn, with sweet, savory, crunchy, and exotic plates that are good enough for competition. Each course is then perfectly paired with late-harvest chardonnay and port. To whet your appetite, the chefs are cooking up some savory canapés during the reception, so you don’t totally go into sugar shock. Tickets are $45 per person, $36 for wine club members. RSVP by April 17th to 707-433-6000. 241 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.

Cinnaholic coming to Santa Rosa: As if the gooey, sugary cinnamon roll couldn’t get any more decadent, Berkeley’s ~CINNAHOLIC~ takes it one step further, by mixing and matching frosting and toppings on their vegan buns. Think fro-yo meets the bakery case. Santa Rosa is slated to be one of the next outposts, serving up Irish cream frosting with pie crumbles and chocolate sauce slathered all over their buns. Not into that combo? There are 39 other frosting flavors and 21 toppings ranging from marshmallows to Oreos. All of it is 100 percent vegan. (And yes, Oreos are vegan.) No word yet on the exact location or opening date, but we’ll be looking forward to the sweet smell of fresh baked buns somewhere in Santa Rosa.

Here’s a peek at the menu of one of the hottest new restaurants in Wine Country, ~VALETTE~, which opened five weeks ago in Healdsburg. The former chef of Dry Creek Kitchen, chef-owner Dustin Valette isn’t a guy who likes to take shortcuts or worry about gilding the lily. Kobe beef with foie gras butter; ahi tuna with olive oil “snow” and a 64-degree egg; fresh semolina pasta with walnut pesto and fresh peas; and a dessert of brown butter ice cream, rhubarb, and brioche.

Each dish is carefully constructed—and often deconstructed—with more unexpected twists and turns than an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Consider the charcoal-roasted potatoes—so blackened that they look like mussel shells (is that a hint of squid ink?) with a smoky quality that’s reminiscent of a campfire or an ashtray, depending on your outlook. 344 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-0946.

One of the curses of success in a small town like Healdsburg? Being too full to accommodate the locals. Which is exactly what’s happened to ~BARNDIVA~ over the years, as out-of-towners have flocked to this Wine Country destination. Not surprising considering chef Ryan Fancher’s spot-on dishes—lobster risotto, goat cheese croquette with wildflower honey, pork belly salad with poached quail egg—and the rustic, Cali-chic, indoor-outdoor dining.

Now, however, they’ll be offering a no-reservations option in their nearby gallery, Studio Barndiva, offering simple dishes and curated cocktails. Fancher’s sous chef, Andrew Wycoff, will handle the gallery’s kitchen, featuring plates of bone marrow tater tots, pork meatballs with fennel, Cuban sandwiches, and fish and chips. Hours are Wed-Sun from 3pm until close. 237 Center St., Healdsburg.

From grain to glass, Rohnert Park’s Sonoma County Distilling Co. is making some of the best small-batch whiskey in the country. Using in-house mashing, direct-fired alembic pot distillation (a fancy way of describing an ancient distillation process), small-barrel aging, and lots of of know-how, it’s a fascinating process. Tours are now being offered at the Rohnert Park location (which, trust us, is well hidden from prying eyes) that explain the process and, of course, offer a tasting of several of the company’s spirits. It’s a great way to get up close and personal with your booze. Tours are Thu-Sun, by reservation only. $20. Reserve online or by calling 707-583-7753.