@LMR (the ranch blog)
We were all very proud on Monday night as Farmstead restaurant presented its first "Corkage for Community" grant to St. Helena FFA students amidst a sea of blue jackets (and supporting parents).
Chef Sheamus made the grant presentation of $3000 to FFA chapter president, Rachel White, at Farmstead restaurant in front a collection of smiling faces in the distinctive FFA blue jackets.
In response, the students honored Sheamus and Farmstead restaurant with an autographed magnum of Zinfandel wine made in the school's enology class. (Yes, the same wine sold for many thousands of dollars at the annual FFA auction!)
And, after the presentation, every table with a FFA jacket or 4-H uniform received a 25 percent discount on their table’s dinner check. We filled the dining room with students and families. It was a great feeling for all of us.
As Sheamus pointed out in his presentation, the initiative demonstrated by these young men and women to raise animals, learn the craft of agriculture, and demonstrate personal leadership is very inspiring.
These "kids" are the future of agriculture in our community and we are thrilled that the St. Helena FFA program is so strong (more than half of all high school students participate and the program has been named "Best in California").
The St. Helena FFA program is led by a extraordinary faculty (Randy Mendes, Laura Mendes, and Sarah Herdell), has an active and effective Ag Boosters support group, and has enjoyed the support of the district's administration and school board.
We are also pleased by the response to our "Corkage for Community" program. Instead of the typical $10 to $20 corkage fee charged for opening a bottle of wine brought to the restaurant, Farmstead collects a $2 fee for every guest's bottle. The unusually low corkage fee is donated to a different community-based not-for-profit organization each month.
Its our way of promoting a community meeting place and supporting our neighboring community at the same time. We want vintners, growers, and wine enthusiasts to come to Farmstead to show off their wines while at the same time contributing to our community.
Future grant recipients include Rutherford Grange, St. Helena Community Swimming Pool, and Rianda House. We're going to designate the first Monday of each month as "Corkage for Community" Night when we will make presentations and toast recipient organizations.
FFA Night was great. Hope you'll come to the next one.
In the Marine Corps we had a phrase: "Remember there is always 10 percent who don't get the word." Never thought we'd apply it to a restaurant critic.
Farmstead is doing really well. We opened the outdoor bar earlier in the week and our dining patio for the first time on Friday. We have enjoyed a rousing reception from the local community.
As the weather improves the trajectory is clearly up. And, the 'buzz' has been really great. We have had numerous positive references in print, online, and on-air media. We have moved into the top 10 of "Most Booked in Wine Country" on Open Table.
Most importantly, we have been very highly rated by our guests. We strive to respond objectively and professionally to comments and criticism. So, we look hard at the facts. Consider this: over 125 diners (an ample sample size) who made their reservation through Open Table have written a review of Farmstead.
Our Overall Rating on Open Table is four stars (out of five) and fully 76 percent of the reviewers have rated Farmstead four stars or higher. Further, Farmstead is rated fours stars in all three subcategories: Food, Ambiance, and Service. Take a look. Similarly, Yelp! has consistently rated Farmstead at four and a half stars (out of five).
Farmstead has also enjoyed repeat visits by the who's who of the local culinary community (hardly a group of hicks from a backwater). We respect their opinions and have appreciated the many compliments and occasional suggestions.
So, imagine our surprise when a food critic from the San Francisco Chronicle writes a story in today's paper that paints a substantially different picture about Farmstead's food. He writes ". . .the combinations are among the strangest I've encountered. . ." Hmmm.
Of course, we will take the story seriously and will treat it as an important piece of data. But, funny how the three dishes most criticised - the hamburger, short-rib hash, and carmelized beet salad - are the three highest selling dishes. And, funny how our customers use descriptions (documented in their reviews) like "the best burger of my life" as opposed to "screwed up." (They even understand that the substitution of cauliflower dill pickles for cucumber dill pickles is an inventive seasonal twist.)
Perhaps a city-slicker thinks "locals and tourists" (his words) lack the sophistication and broad palate exposure to understand fresh, local ingredients prepared using truly authentic American farmhouse recipes. Funny, too, how a major national magazine is doing an exclusive story on Farmstead and is setting up tomorrow for a major photo shoot over the next three days. And, after extensive tasting and research, the editors have asked to feature up to six of Sheamus Feeley's recipes.
Makes you wonder.
The only explanation is that there is always 10 percent. . .
We're off to a great start at Farmstead with many happy guests over the long weekend. Both the menu and the by-the-glass wine list were very well received.
Call 707-963-9181 for reservations or visit www.farmsteadnapa.com. Walk-ins are welcome.
Friday was the big day for Farmstead restaurant. We opened as scheduled at 11:30 AM and we don't plan to close again until Christmas day.
We were busy up to the very last minute, including completing the lighting for the main signs and the walkway to the restrooms. But, we got it all done for an on-time launch.
Our guests raved about the food - much to Sheamus' delight - and the staff performed wonderfully. Last night the room was full of electricity. And, our strategy of limiting reservations paid off as everyone had good service and a good time. We take off the training wheels tonight and tomorrow.
Looking for a reservation?
Call 707-963-9181 or visit www.farmsteadnapa.com.
Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but Farmstead restaurant opens tomorrow (Friday, February 12th).
Tomorrow is a really big day for our family and for chef Sheamus Feeley and his team. We will open our farm-to-table restaurant for lunch and dinner at our St. Helena location at 738 Main Street.
We held an open house on Tuesday evening for the many people who have helped us with this project. Frank Borges (the general contractor) and all of the subcontractors and their crews were part of the scene. It was great to see them show off their work to family and friends. Great folks with true pride in their work.
Yesterday we did a "practice service" at lunch and dinner with family and friends serving as patrons. We served about 120 meals and, by the end of the evening, the staff had the room and kitchen working really well. The excellent practice gave everyone confidence that we could pull it off "for real" on Friday.
Today we closed for final cleaning and a "zero base" inventory.
So, here we go. No more hoopla or parties. Instead, every day wil be a "grand opening" at Farmstead.
We open the phone lines for reservations on Friday morning at 11:30 AM (707-963-9181). And, hopefully, we'll open the doors shortly thereafter.
Please come join us. Most of the seats are for the local community. So, walk-ins are welcome. Reservations are limited.
More news tomorrow.
Everything is starting to come together.
We were able to open the tasting room this past Monday, and we are looking forward to opening Farmstead restaurant very soon. I have included a photo of the new kitchen in the tasting room. This kitchen will be my new “office” for the next month, while I develop and improve upon the recipes that I have been putting together for our new venture.
This coming week, the tasting room staff should be able to taste my grits, macaroni with California cheddar, buttermilk biscuits, a couple of different beans from Rancho Gordo, braised greens, along with countless other “side” items that will appear on the new menu.
In the future, this kitchen will also be preparing small “tastes” to compliment our wines in the tasting room. We will pair a couple of dishes daily to compliment our Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
We will keep you posted on the details . . .
Posted by Sheamus Feeley
Don't tell anyone but we are opening our tasting room today.
We are very excited about opening the Long Meadow Ranch Winery tasting room in the historic Logan-Ives House, the restored 1874 Gothic Revival farmhouse at 738 Main Street in St. Helena.
If everything goes according to plan, we'll quietly open the doors to the public at 11 AM today.
We'll be offering tastes of our five wines and two olive oils and a short tour of the property. In a few weeks, we'll be offering small plate food pairings from the kitchen.
But, in the meantime, we'll share our family's hospitality and tell our story. I might even play the 1904 upright piano.
The progress at our project site, which we call "Long Meadow Ranch Winery & Farmstead," is now very visible and friends tell us how great they feel when on the grounds.
The historic house has been restored, the landscaping is largely in place, vegetable gardens are partially planted, and the organic nursery has been remodeled. The solar project is producing "juice" and we have moved into our administrative offices upstairs in the farmhouse.
The next step will be opening of Farmstead restaurant early in the new year. But, more about that in another post.
Don't tell anyone, but we would love to have you come by.
We're open until 6 PM.
Posted by Ted Hall
I walked through the space today with Claire Ducrocq and am finally seeing a restaurant take shape before my eyes.
The bars are being constructed, the kitchen is framed, and my brand new Mugnaini wood-fired oven is in place. Man, am I excited!
For those of you who don’t know, a lot of my food centers around wood-fired cooking. We will have a smoker, wood-fired oven and wood-fired grill at Farmstead, giving a sweet kiss of smoke to our beef, fruits, and vegetables.
Our oven was built in Reggello, a small hillside town in Tuscany. The Valoriani family has been crafting wood-fired ovens since 1890, and are known to make the best in the business.
It is important to know that this oven in particular will not be used as a “pizza oven,” and will be used primarily to roast meats and produce, along with beans and grits from time to time. (However, I may sneak one in for a family meal every once in a while.)
Posted by Sheamus Feeley
Posted by Ted Hall
The drama at our Farmstead site at 738 Main Street continues to unfold.
In a little more than four weeks the crews working with Frank Borges, Jr. General Contracting have managed to build a new foundation under the historic Logan/Ives House.
You will recall that the house was lifted four feet in the air to allow for removal of the rocks and stumps that made up the foundation of the building when it was constructed in 1874. We then built a new foundation (with "sustainable" concrete) and constructed a vault for the new heating and cooling system to be installed under the house.
Today the house was lowered back to earth using gigantic hydraulic jacks. Guided by long lag bolts, the house was lowered to the new foundation in increments a few inches at a time.
Much like on the way up, the house hardly made a sound as its weight was borne by the new foundation - just a little "clicking and ticking."
Frank and his crew quickly went into the house to see if it was still plumb (i.e., "square"). Much to everyone's delight (and amazement) the doors and windows opened and closed freely.
The lag bolts were snipped off and nuts tightened to secure the house to the foundation. Now, not even an old-fashioned California earthquake is going to knock this fine building off its feet (sorry, no tornados here, Dorothy).
Amazingly, Tim Brown, the framing subcontractor, and his crew were able to work on the entire structure while the house was up in the air. The old framing needs to be brought up to modern standards for safety reasons.
However, instead of using new lumber, we have used many of the old redwood studs and beams, just in new locations. Keeping the original materials in use really feels right - like keeping a set of old china intact. These pieces belong together.
We hope to complete the framing work by the end of June. At that point, we will be doing relatively straightforward plumbing, electrical and finish work. As a result, we are still planning to open our tasting room sometime in October.
Keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, we have our feet securely on the ground.
Posted by Ted Hall
Last night we hosted a dinner at the residence at Long Meadow Ranch for a few of Chris' friends in anticipation of his birthday next week. Sheamus Feeley has been spending his time working on menu ideas for our new Farmstead Restaurant. So, we took advantage of the occasion to explore some of Sheamus' latest menu ideas. And, since Farmstead will utilize a wood-burning oven, we put our own Mugnaini wood-burning oven to good use.
Chris chose the wines, which he had gathered during his recent European travels. The intriguing selections were wines produced by family-owned artisanal producers from Slovenia, Portugal, and Spain - wines that we hope to also share at Farmstead.
Take a look at the wonderful results.
Watch for Sheamus to share some of these recipes on @LMR in the coming days.
Farmstead "Developmental" Menu
by Sheamus Feeley
"Deviled Eggs" with Spicy Boar Sausage and Chive Blossoms
LMR Grass-fed Beef London Broil cooked in the wood oven
"My" Wild Boar Sausages with Fennel and Smoked Paprika
Braised Russian Kale with Chile Pequin, Garlic and Lemon