It's a busy Tuesday night at the Restaurant Charcuterie in Healdsburg in the midst of the harvest of 1999. Patrick is out of his chef's coat and apron, doing duty as the host as his wife and partner Robin is busy on the computer at home updating the wine list. Omar Mueller is handling the cooking in front of a single wolf range in the tiny kitchen. The Martins' son Jake is at the pantry station, Ben Carsner and Alicia Catelli are waiting tables, and Patricia Moreno is washing dishes.
It is a cheerful crew and the place is packed. Patrick has brought a delicious Cotes du Rhone, 1997 Jaboulet 'Parallele 45' for the table, and we get our interview underway with him on the fly. He is jumping up to greet guests and catch the phone while my wife Janette and I happily start in on a salad.
Patrick and Robin's place is a sunny up-beat California Bistro, and Patrick brings a time-honored European sensibility to the cooking from his native home in the south of France. You can tell that from fresh California ingredients he can coax out the unmistakable flavors of the countryside that lies just east and west of the Rhone River.
I asked Patrick about his background, about his parents' cooking and how the boy from Nimes (in Languedoc) came to own what has become in the last five years a Healdsburg institution.
|"I remember it was my grandfather's birthday and we were having a family dinner in a restaurant when the seed was planted. I knew from that moment on what I wanted to do: to cook and to have a restaurant."|
|"How old were you, and what was the first dish you cooked?"|
|Patrick:||"Oh! Creme Caramel!"|
|Jack:||"Creme Caramel? Why Creme Caramel?"|
|Patrick:||"At fourteen years old I had the chance to go to cooking school, a school with a focus on the trades. Of course I took the opportunity and creme caramel was the first thing we learned. I went right home and made some to impress my mother."|
|Jack:||"What was your mother's contribution to your cooking?"|
|Patrick:||"My mother is a very frugal cook, and so am I. We don't like to see anything go to waste, and that is so important if you are going to be successful in the restaurant business. People ask me why I don't change the menu? Our menu has developed over the last few years and is very popular with our guests. Everyone has at least one favorite. Keeping a consistent menu is also economical for the business."|
|Jack:||"What is to change about a menu that works?"|
|Patrick:||"Everything on it sells and if I took anything off, well, I might get lynched. We always do four specials--two each lunch and dinner--that keeps it interesting."|
|Jack:||"What about your father? How does he fit into your culinary background?"|
|Patrick:||"My father is a groundkeeper, a horseman and an outdoorsman. He lives a very rustic lifestyle and is a master of grillades--the cooking of meat and fish over the coals. He would often have a rabbit or a gamebird or sausages for the table. These are things I have as specials seasonally."|
|Jack:||"And so you came to the states, where you met Robin in San Francisco. How did you manage to wind up here in Sonoma County?"|
|Patrick:||"We were living at a famous B&B in San Francisco where I was the chef. It is in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. We were there three years--working all the time. We did the night watch so it was 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Our apartment was in the basement; after a water heater broke and flooded our living space--the third flood for us--we decided it was time to move on. We thought it was time for a big move, especially since our kids were still young, so we moved to the country."|
|Jack:||"Sitting here now, enjoying your food in Healdsburg. I must say it was a lucky thing for us that you had such bad luck with plumbing in San Francisco!"|
To chat, and to drink wine with our friend Patrick Martin is like a small French holiday. You really can imagine yourself in a place older and deep with family tradition when Patrick talks of cooking and France.
We highly recommend a visit to Healdsburg and the Charcuterie and wish you, wherever you are, the best of the harvest season.
Jack & Janette Burton
The Restaurant Charcuterie is located at:
335 Healdsburg Ave.
Healdsburg, CA 95448
A Recipe from PatrickThis is one of Patrick's favorite dishes that his southern French heritage gave him. When it is cooking, if you close your eyes you can almost hear the crickets and smell the lavender.
3 lb Boned Beef Shanks cut 4 oz a piece
3 lb Beef Chuck cut 4 oz a piece
1/4 lb Bacon cut into julienne
3 cups sliced carrots, 1 inch thick
3 cups sliced yellow onions, sliced 1 inch thick
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
2 strips dried orange peel
12 cloves garlic
8 medium potatoes cut into 1/4
1/4 cup pitted Nicoise olives
Enough good red wine to cover the all thing
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar
24 hours before serving, marinade first 8 ingredients in red wine; cover with plastic.
Turn oven on at 375°
Put marinaded meat and vegetables in baking dish; add pinch of sugar
Reserve potatoes and olives
Cover with foil; cook for 3-1/2 hours
Add potatoes and black olives; cook for 30 to 45 minutes more (until potatoes are done)
Season to taste
Served the day after is better!
ROASTED FIGS WITH LEMON, WALNUTS, AND HONEY
|24||Black mission figs, washed|
|1/2 C||Walnuts, lightly toasted|
|1/4 C||Lemon juice|
|1.||Line a baking dish with figs. Pour the lemon juice over them and sprinkle on the sugar. Roast for ten minutes.|
|2.||Add the walnuts and honey. Roast for ten more minutes.|
|3.||Remove figs from the oven, draw off the pan liquids and reduce them by 1/2 in a sauce pan.|
|4.||Serve warm a la mode with the sauce.|
Photo: Martin family album