I owe a debt of gratitude to Chef Sean Baker of Gather in Berkeley.
First, I’m going to share… Wine is nothing more than liquid food. It has the potential to be an art form, like one created by the great masters; or it can simply be a poster hung on a wall with tape and/or thumb tacks. When it’s a masterpiece, like we all experienced at Trees Sabores Winery, it’s a complete package. This wine and food event was just sumptuous.
Yesterday I wrote about Sitelines at Tres Sabores Winery, and spent time explaining many aspects of it in detail. As I began to write about the dinner part of the evening, I realized that this was worthy of an entire blog story, as I was well into 500 words. Julie Johnson’s event had so many interesting facets that I could focus on each part, and have plenty to write about all week.
So, here’s the dinner portion of our night, and why I’m so impressed with Chef Sean Baker of Gather.
Appetizers, like the one above (Melon ~ Habañero vinegar, fermented carrot, basil) had been enjoyed during the reception.
By now it was 6:45 p.m., and we were all asked to enjoy the dinner seating at Julie and Jon’s “Vineyard Lane.” We had all seen the set-up earlier, as we enjoyed walking around their vineyard property. So, we all moved toward the tables so beautifully decorated on everyone’s behalf. Chef for the evening was Sean Baker of Gather in Berkeley. Recently featured in a William-Sonoma interview, I could just let you read about how fabulous he is from the interview, but I owe him a debt of gratitude. Here’s a menu that will make most of your mouths water:
Tres Sabores Wines with dinner
- 2011 Tres Sabores Sauvignon Blanc ~ a delicately balanced wine with traditional Bordeaux-style flavors.
- Por qué no? ~ the 11th vintage of this wine is touted as a “most winsome blend is more than just ‘best of the rest of the cellar’ estate wine,” and I couldn’t agree more. Julie Johnson and Jon Jon Engelskirger’s wines have more delicate hands in their making… There’s love in every drop; it’s easy to taste.
- 2011 Tres Sabores Rutherford Zinfandel – the first public tasting of this wine, just released ~ a mildly spicy zin, definitely exuding a feminine character and mystique.
- Salmon cured in koji ~ daikon, smoked yogurt, plankton, rau ram
- Melon ~ Habañero vinegar, fermented carrot, basil
Hummus, Vegetables and Breads
- Black Hummus ~ squid ink, ash, olive
- Red Hummus ~ frying pepper, Early Girl
- Yellow Hummus ~ corn, Sungold tomato, curry leaf
- House made breads ~ pita, queso, fermented nuts and seeds
- Guinea Hen Terrine ~ pickled chanterells, chanterelle mustard, smoked tomato, chervil
- Octopus and Prawns ~ charred summer vegetable, shell been aioli, tomato garum vinaigrette, Nigella
- Lamb in its Entirety ~ vegetables from the area
- Walnut Fig Borek ~ blackberries, Pink Pearl, chevre
[Image is of the Guinea Hen Terrine ~ pickled chanterells, chanterelle mustard, smoked tomato, chervil.]
It’s worth it to write this out in its entirety, to prove that this menu should serve everyone’s need… But… (big BUT), I’m every chef’s worst nightmare. I’m a true finickie foodie. And most times, when fish or lamb are served, I’ll easily go vegetarian. I have absolutely no problem doing it, either. I’ve done this all my life. I’m over it, but chefs have to feed everyone, right? It’s their job, and I’m telling you that Chef Baker did something I’ve never seen or had happen to me before… As I carefully chose what I had on my plate, only the sweet woman (farmer for the vegetables) was to my right, and felt stressed that I couldn’t enjoy everything that she could. I gave her all my reasons… allergies, aversions, childhood memories of being force fed, etc., it seemed we were then just quietly moving forward, when a sweet wait server came up behind me and asked, “Are you the vegetarian?” Are you kidding me? I certainly was at that exact moment.
Tomato ~ with corn, tiny mushrooms, chervil, tomato vinaigrette, mildly spicy peppers
Lentils ~ with more veggies….
I was in gastronomic heaven. Everything was served to me on huge platters, so I got to share these delicious dishes with my neighbors. I couldn’t have possibly eaten all that was discreetly delivered to the finickie foodie.
[Image is of the Tomato ~ with corn, tiny mushrooms, chervil, tomato vinaigrette, mildly spicy peppers... There was no listing for the veggie items on the menu. This is my poor attempt at offering you some sort of name.]
The quiet discovery by his staff is what amazed me. Someone had to be observant enough to catch me not eating the fish, and know that this had the potential for a vegetarian, or perhaps someone like me who has fish allergies, aversions, etc. I never tell anyone ahead of time about my finickie side. It’s my problem, not theirs. I don’t want anyone fussing over me. They’ve got enough fussing to do to feed over 100 people and deliver it from farm to table in an ambrosial way that says, “This was created by a food artist.” To have brought two canvases on which to create, from my perspective was above and beyond the call of duty from Chef Sean.
And there I was, far from the finickie food crowd, just enjoying a dinner that – in many ways – had my own name all over it. I wouldn’t suggest that everyone adopt this behavior, because it would drive most chefs mad… I just got really lucky, as if I wasn’t lucky enough to have been invited by Julie to attend her gala.