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The Local Dish: 04/01/2013

Vineyards Inn Restaurant

Chef Steve Rose

Photo by Sarah C. Phelps

A family legend says that when Steve Rose's grandfather immigrated from Northern Spain to the United States in 1896, an inspection agent at Ellis Island asked him for his last name. Although it was Kowalski, Rose's grandfather didn't speak any English and didn't know what they were asking him. Undeterred by the language barrier, the agent saw that he was wearing a rose on his coat lapel and wrote down “Rose” as his grandfather's new last name.

Legends aside, the name Rose has carried through for four generations and has also become the namesake of Rose Ranch, the 11-acre parcel where Rose cultivates much of the produce - all certified organic and biodynamic - that forms part of his Basque-inspired menu at the Vineyards Inn in Kenwood. Chef Esteban (Steve), executive chef and owner, is focused on good food, good wine, and a small carbon footprint.

To keep the restaurant full of tomatoes and pesto year-round, Rose Ranch also processes a lot of food, storing it in solar-powered freezers. Additionally, all the wines served at the Vineyards Inn are on tap, which eliminates packaging of individual bottles, thereby lowering the carbon footprint. That also goes for the locally-sourced beef, lamb, poultry and seafood that make up part of the Vineyards Inn Basque-inspired menu. “I think we have so much to offer in Sonoma County that I just don't believe in the carbon footprint of importing beef from the Midwest,” said Rose.

Rose and his wife Colleen are champions of local community and supporting local businesses. Their Thursday night prix-fixe three-hour, seven-course Basque Dinners are a nod to traditional family-style Basque meals and bring people together around one long table sharing food, wine and “a good time.”

“I think supporting local people is important,” said Rose. “We're all in this together.”

The Vineyards Inn is located at 8445 Sonoma Hwy.

Chef Esteban's Basque Stuffed Kale Rolls with Verde Sauce

Our farming practices are very involved yet extremely stewarding to our planet in our little niche of Kenwood. Nature can be very hard on our crops or very kind. Take for example the frost we experienced about two weeks ago - not a surprise - yet it kissed our new crop of kale just coming up. Young tender leaves of kale became even sweeter than normal due to that kiss of frost. Here is a recipe that uses our Rose Ranch kale leaves hand in hand with fresh, grass-fed lamb from Fallon Hills Ranch in Tomales. Rancher Kevin Maloney is the fifth generation to farm Fallon, and a great job their family does. At our restaurant we love to support local ranchers, farmers, dairies, fisherpeople and the like.

What you need

8 medium organic Dino Kale leaves, washed and blanched in lightly salted water

4 cloves organic garlic peeled and minced

_ medium yellow organic onion, peeled and julienned thin

1 cup cooked short grain rice (Support our California rice industry)

_ pound of local grass-fed ground lamb (ask your butcher to grind some of the shoulder for you)

A few pinches of Kosher salt

4 grinds of pepper

_ teaspoon of California paprika (try the Savory Spice Shop in downtown Santa Rosa)

1 organic cage-free egg, beaten

1 glass of your favorite local red wine

How you do it

Mix the ground lamb, garlic (king of my kitchen), onion (queen of my kitchen), beaten egg, salt, pepper and cooked rice together with a soft spatula folding the ingredients. Spread the blanched kale leaves on a sheet pan and place an appropriate amount of filling in each. Tuck in the ends and fold into packages. Set aside in an oiled baking dish for a few moments and take a sip of that wine.

The Verde Sauce

10 organic chard leaves, stemmed, cooked and drained

_ cup good olive oil (l like Gloria Ferrer oils)

6 cloves organic garlic peeled and minced

Kosher salt to taste

Dash of your favorite red pepper (we grow and dry our own - try it sometime)

How you do it

Take another sip of wine. Chop the chard roughly and add to your food processor. Add the garlic, salt, red pepper and enough oil to start the motor. Stream the remaining oil in through the lid while processing. Pour the verde sauce onto the kale rolls and bake for about 40 minutes in a 325º (300º on convection) oven. Remove from the oven, sprinkle liberally with the California paprika and enjoy!

Oh, might as well finish that glass of wine.

Buen Provecho means Good Eating!

Sarah Phelps is an editor and reporter. She was raised in Kenwood and has a BA from Loyola Marymount University.

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