The Boonville Hotel & Table 128
by AVA News Service, December 11, 2013
This article is by Brennon, Krissy, Johnny, Katie & Melinda
At the Boonville Hotel and Table 128 we all share a love for beauty and food. It is what has brought us all together. We are a group of individuals working together to focus on what we hold dear. We have the restaurant, Table 128, serving a family style prix fixe menu, the Hotel with 15 rooms, events throughout the season, and our continually evolving and growing garden. These pieces of our business bring local foods into play everyday. Our prix fixe menu focuses on what comes from the garden and local farmers each week. The garden provides an opportunity for guests to roam and discover what the season brings. The Hotel provides a space for the Boonville Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings May through October. We have a retail room featuring local products and also use the Hotel as a venue for supporting community organizations. As a group we've all written a few words to describe what we do here in support of local food and people, from the kitchen, the garden and Hotel.
At Table 128, dinners are planned based on the bounty that each season brings. Our prix fixe menu changes every night and allows us to focus our energy to create three or four course meals that showcase the freshest local produce available. We work with what is available in our garden and with local farms, such as Blue Meadow Farms and Anderson Valley Community Farm, to source as much produce as we can from the Valley and supplement what we cannot from Sonoma Organics. Knowing where our ingredients come from and the farmers involved makes dinner at the Boonville Hotel a unique and intimate experience. We serve homemade pasta with wild mushrooms from the coast, soup made of roasted peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant from our garden, and salads with fresh goat cheese from Pennyroyal Farm and figs from a friend’s tree. Braised Sonoma County Poultry duck leg with Doug Mosel’s winter wheat and rustic galettes with Bill’s berries and apples from the Apple Farm are a small example of the many foods we offer throughout the year. — Brennon Moore/head chef and Krissy Scommegna/sous chef
The Boonville Hotel has always had a kitchen garden, beginning with the first amazing transformation of the space behind the building by Stephanie Tebbutt back in Vernon and Charlene's tenure, over three decades ago now. It has always been an integral, organic and vital part of what makes working in our kitchen so different from cooking in other restaurants. Interestingly enough, with the exception of Andy Balestracci, it has been led by a succession of beautiful, strong and mindful women, from Jan Kumataka to Linda MacElwee, Natasha McGuirk, Sarah Mac Cammant, and now Katie Williams, as well as others I've lost track of along the way. They have each carried the torch and made do with very little physical help, money, or guidance from us and created this productive yet soulful space for all of us to enjoy and cook from. Coming from that perspective, I can't imagine ever cooking without this seasonal bounty that comes from the relatively small space out back, created by this wonderful group of women over the last 30 years. It has inspired, driven, and nurtured so many of us with its abundance and purposeful sense of design. When you step out of the kitchen, in the rush of getting ready to serve dinner to waiting guests, you get to pause, breath and inhale the beauty of this space, and somehow it all makes sense again. You return to the kitchen a bit richer in so many inexplicable ways — nourished, satisfied and renewed for the task ahead. Thank you to all those who have helped in this endeavor as it has made us all better cooks, better friends, and hopefully better humans. — Johnny Schmitt/proprietor and chef
The vegetable garden at the Boonville Hotel is a unique and evolving project. For me personally, the Hotel garden is a wonderful meeting of worlds, combining my backgrounds in landscape gardening and row crop farming. It is great to deliver the produce on foot. I turn and cultivate all the beds by hand, and am able to monitor the plants closely. The past two seasons have been a learning curve, and I feel I am beginning to understand the unique microclimates of Anderson Valley.
It has been interesting to have the specific focus of working directly with a kitchen, choosing varietals they prefer, and keeping them posted on what to expect in the coming week. It is satisfying to see the garden’s bounty on the menu, and the more familiar I become with the menus and Table 128’s style, the better choices I feel I am able to make about what to plant.
Certainly a garden this size is not able to provide for all of the restaurant’s produce needs. My challenge is to try to maintain variety while using the bed space efficiently. Fresh greens and herbs are irreplaceable and I can’t grow enough arugula, Italian parsley, or thyme. While I love a new potato right out of the ground, I would have to plant the whole garden in spuds to accommodate the needs of the kitchen. Subsistence farming it is not, but to produce a percentage of the food needs for a restaurant on site is a success.
The aesthetic component of the Hotel’s vegetable garden creates a beautiful space for events, and is, most importantly, extremely inviting. I have had countless conversations with guests who are excited to see their soon-to-be-dinner still in the ground, want to talk about heirloom tomatoes, aphids on kale, whether drip irrigation would work in their home garden (yes!), and what amendments I put in the soil. I feel that whether my interactions with people are simply about how beautiful sunflowers are or about growing techniques, these are important conversations to have. While it seems natural to many members of this community that food comes out of the ground, it is sadly not the case for everyone. Public vegetable gardens are a wonderful source of inspiration for people, and I am grateful to be part of a space that facilitates greater understanding of our food source. — Katie Williams/gardener
Everything happens seasonally for us. The Hotel's high season is May through October and the travelers make sure to keep us on our toes. Then comes the fall harvest and we get to turn our attention to home and the community. We tend to be very food focused at the Hotel. Our community events are often aimed towards supporting those individuals working with farming and food. We've had the opportunity to host the Foodshed's fundraiser this past October. The farmers were celebrated for all their hard work and locals, alongside hotel guests, had the chance to learn about the people raising their food. “Not only was it an incredible meal, but many of the producers came, and I think that everyone felt that the evening was an extra special one,” said Barbara Goodell of the event. We also recently hosted the Tree Lighting Party to raise funds for the Anderson Valley Food Bank's holiday season. It was an absolute joy and everybody came to light up the tree and support our community with holiday cheer and cups of soup, giving us a chance to raise over $1300 on $5-10 cups of soup.
The Hotel recently renovated a retail space, giving us a venue to promote a lot of our favorite local products. We get to cook with and sell Doug Mosel's grains. We get to plant Andy Balestracci's seeds in the garden, cook with the bounty, and share the seeds with others. We get sell local wines from producers that do not have retail tasting rooms or are just wines we love. We have also added some of our own projects to the mix. We have started to grow, dry and package our Piment d'ville, a d'esplette chile from the Basque region of France. Our chefs use it as the third spice next to salt and black pepper in the kitchen. For years we bought it from France and now we are able to supply ourselves and other restaurants for the season. The first year’s 500 plants yielded 60 pounds of the spice and this year’s 4,500 plants have given us 550 pounds to have fun with. We have a venue to promote Bite Hard Cider, made from Valley apples by Brooks Schmitt, enjoyed by us all daily, and expanding into markets throughout California.
Hosting the farmers’ market for all these years seems an appropriate way to end. To all involved in the farmers’ market and all the hard working farmers, we are thankful that you share with us your beautiful hard work. We are delighted to have them here every Saturday morning May through October. How lucky are we walk outside the Hotel to buy what we need for the restaurant and even luckier are the guests, friends, and family that get to relish in the foods at night. We hope that our work here at the Hotel can help teach locals and just people stopping by a bit more about our Valley and people. — Melinda Ellis/managing partner
The AV School Gardens by Jamie Lee will be featured in two weeks. For previous articles, please go to www.mendocinolocalfood.org. To receive the AV Foodshed emails about local events and activities, send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org.