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Welcome to a new and improved Field Notes. This is your lucky issue 13. Among the things you can now expect in each monthly missive:
I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan. Look at this mess when you don’t use it, “I love my pet chickens, Jeff and Chablis.”
In this issue, we welcome, possibly with a bit of justified apprehension, 2022 and the promise it holds. Our New Year’s Eve was a small gathering of just close family. It started scary with a predator in the henhouse but all ended well. Although we missed our friends the picture is evidence that a good time was still had.
Bay Area gadabout and wine club member Nish Nadaraja joins us to discuss wine, food, music, and the creative life.
I’ll also introduce you to our 2019 Gentleman Farmer Napa Valley Red Wine and some Polish comfort food to enjoy with it.
We have four Polish breed chickens, named after some of my aunts: Irene, Flordka, Josie, and Sophie. Irene is at the top of the pecking order. We’ve been letting them out of the coop and the run lately, letting them explore the yard, to get the lay of the land.
New Year’s Eve day we heard Irene sounding the alarm. I’ve never heard a chicken make such a blood-curdling noise.
Running outside, we saw a Red-tailed Hawk at the door to the run. Sophie was just inside and the hawk was on top of her, trying to pull her out. The wingspan on that hawk was crazy, it must have been fully opened to about four feet or more. We scared the hawk away, luckily without dear Sophie.
The girls were frazzled, feathers were ruffled, and the other three quickly made it up the ladder to the top coop for safety. Little Sophie tried to move but it seemed one leg had been injured. I scooped her up and made quick work getting us into the truck and off to the vet.
She spent the better part of the afternoon in the care of Silverado Veterinary Hospital and was released at about 6:00 pm with medication for pain and antibiotics. She was on the mend. I have learned it is nearly impossible to give a pill to a chicken, even with the put-it-in-a-blueberry trick.
With that scare, we have battened down the hatches. I have a meeting with the handyman to reconfigure some of the coop and run, to allow them to get out and about a bit and still be safe. We’ve grown quite attached to these ladies.
Nish is known for being on the founding team at Yelp! where he led branding and community. He has since gone on to be a consultant and advisor to brands like Method, WUNDER, and Marine Layer. He also enjoys his “career” as a Dad to a fourteen-year-old.
His love of wine and food is evident as he is a valued wine club member and an investor in a few Bay Area restaurants including Noosh, Blue Barn, and Foreign Cinema.
In his spare time, he interviews interesting personalities for his newsletter project, In Search Of Lost Answers. It is worth a look-see. In a fun twist, he agreed to be interviewed by me.
Joey Wolosz: You are an investor in a few Bay Area restaurants, what do you enjoy cooking?
Nish Nadaraja: Ha, that is one of the reasons I am an investor, precisely so that I don’t have to cook that much! I am lucky to have my wife Jane, who wears the chef’s apron in the house most of the time, but I do like helping out. There’s a rhythm and a socialness to cooking together, along with the preparation. I could eat Italian every single night so I do enjoy using our Philips Pasta Maker for something as simple as spaghetti and meatballs, plenty of garlic bread nearby.
JW: Aside from your day-to-day business, what is your creative outlet?
NN: It’s funny being interviewed by you because that’s also one of my own favorite pastimes: just being able to meet interesting people. While at home with that thing we’ve been dealing with the past two years, I started an email newsletter called In Search Of Lost Answers, where I ask each guest the same Proust-like questions. The goal was to do a year’s worth, one per week, and we are on “nissue” 45 of the project!
JW: Friends and family excluded, who are two people you’d like to share a long and lingering meal with?
NN: I am still caught up in the seventies so Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger. If Muhammad Ali and Robert De Niro dropped by for dessert, I would not turn them away.
JW: What would you serve?
NN: Caviar and potato chips to start. Something ostentatious like Lobster Thermidor. A cheese course. All paired with Gentleman Farmer wines, of course.
JW: Music is a daily part of our lives, with Jeff’s clarinet and my piano and accordion, what music/musician are you currently interested in?
NN: I will forever be listening to 60s and 70s rock but sometimes the new sounds get to me. Currently, I have been listening to the latest albums from Cassandra Jenkins, The Felice Brothers, and Fiona Apple. I like the old gods as well so have “Dr. John’s Gumbo” and “Mose Allison Sings” on rotation.
JW: Was there a moment when you first made a connection with wine and food?
NN: I did not even eat sushi until college and ordered my steak well done until I moved to New York in the late nineties! I would have to say it was back then when I worked in Soho and got to hang out at Balthazar in its first few years of opening. But it was not until I moved out to San Francisco and discovered Sonoma and Napa that I truly started paying attention to the chemistry and magic of food and wine.
JW: And from the Proust Questionnaire, #35: What is your motto?
NN: It is more what I want on my epitaph but, “When he lived, he lived.”
This wine just makes me smile. A thoroughbred right out of the gate, the newly released 2019 Gentleman Farmer Red Wine is now available on the website to purchase.
Red fruit dominates during the initial impression with red currant and wild red cherry. Time in the glass opens the discovery of bing cherry, pie cherries, cola, and black currant leaf. A savory character of herbs de Provence plays well with the texture associated with tannin and a dusty quality.
French and Chinese cuisines have a myriad of carved-in-stone dishes, techniques, and immortalized preparations. Poland and her food have few in comparison. Yes, there are many signature Polish dishes, like the one I offer just below; however, I think of Polish food as more characterized by the ingredients. Heavy on the meat (hey, pork), cream, root vegetables, and signature spices, like marjoram.
Gołąbki (plural), pronounced go-WUMP-ki, is one of the signature Polish dishes; stuffed cabbage, usually topped with a tomato sauce. It means “little pigeon,” more in reference to the shape of these small, tasty packets than the ingredients, although if you’d like to riff on this Polish classic you could use pigeon in the filling. I won’t. When it comes to Polish food I am nostalgic, with memories of childhood deliciousness in my babcia and dziadio’s home in Garfield, New Jersey.
These gołąbki uses a tomato sauce and would be equally delicious with a mushroom cream sauce. I add bacon to my sauce to add porkiness and depth. To allow the bright green cabbage to shine, I nappe the sauce down the center of the arranged gołąbki before serving. You could omit the beef stock and smother the gołąbki with the tomato sauce before putting it in the oven for easier preparation.
The acidity of the tomato sauce and the smokiness of the bacon pairs well with our 2019 Gentleman Farmer Red Wine.