Guests arrived to a greeting from David Bice of Redwood Hill Farm in Sebastopol, where his family has made artisan goat cheese since 1968. He offered tastes of smoked cheddar, raw milk feta, and terra, a French-style, rind-ripened cheese, nestled in a salad of arugula and Gravenstein apples.
Chef Daniel Kedan, Marianna’s husband and co-founder at Backyard, designed and demonstrated the rest of the menu from their farm-to-table restaurant.
He began with Redwood Hill Goat Cheese Cavatelli with smoked Maitake mushrooms (donated by Mycopia in Sebastopol), blistered Sun Gold tomatoes and grated egg, a recipe that he and Marianna prepared in June for a special dinner at the James Beard House in Manhattan.
Paired with Via Giusti Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2012, the dish burst with flavor that belied the ease with which it came together.
As Chef Daniel moved to Roasted Rack of Lamb plus Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille with Pequillo Pepper Vinaigrette, Ziggy the Wine Gal introduced the Joseph Swan Vineyards Syrah, Russian River Valley 2008, that she chose as the complement.
Known off-stage as Ziggy Eschliman, she shared stories from her work as a Wine Country-based radio and television presenter as well as sommelier to rock bands like Journey.
Chocolate Budino with Salted Caramel Cream closed the evening, alongside a taste of Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel, Russian River Valley 2008.
As a thirst-quenching addition, guests enjoyed Sonoma Chardonnay Iced Tea from The Republic of Tea, premier sponsor for Fresh Starts Chef Events. All together, the evening created by Ziggy and her entourage brought a refreshing whiff of West Sonoma to a warm evening.
This casual dessert can go into whatever jar or glass may be handy and garnished as you like for a personal touch. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos by Neely Wang.
Chocolate Budino – Serves 8 to 10
¾ cup plus 2 teaspoons cream
1/2 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
12 oz. chocolate (72% cacao), chopped
4 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon salt
Chocolate pearls or morsels
Place cream in a pot and scrape the vanilla bean into it. Whisk the sugar and eggs together in a bowl. Add to the cream.
Stir in corn syrup and 2 tablespoons water. Cook while stirring on medium-high until it starts to thicken and will coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat. Add chocolate and butter. Blend with a hand blender or a whisk until silky smooth and all chocolate has been incorporated. Pour into serving jars or other vessels and chill for 2 hours.
To serve, top with salted caramel and whipped cream or a combination of your choice. Scatter with a few chocolate pearls or other chocolate morsels.