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December 06, 2013

Whitetail Winebar unveils Helena’s Kitchen in Guerneville

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Whitetail Winebar unveils Helena’s Kitchen in Guerneville

Chef Helena Gustavsson-Giesea
Chef Helena Gustavsson-Giesea
When Whitetail Winebar opened in Guerneville in mid-2011, it was a coup for the little town in the heart of Russian River Wine Country. Owner Leslie Bahr injected a big dose of sophistication with her urban-chic design and collection of tiny bottlings from mostly young winemakers who have no tasting rooms.
Now, Bahr has raised the bar again, adding full service food to be enjoyed amid the chandeliers and bistro tables carved from redwood tree trunks supports.
Helena’s Kitchen operates out of a tiny pantry space next to the bar, crafting bites like crispy fig-prosciutto pizzettes ($9), meatball plates of shrimp, turkey and beef with “secret” sauces ($9), curry empanadas ($7), chicken and rice noodle salad in peanut dressing ($14), and cocoa dusted duck and pumpkin ravioli in wild mushroom cream sauce ($16).
It’s the work of chef Helena Gustavsson-Giesea, with the menu designed to pair with selections from sommelierSalvatore Curreri.
Previously the owner of the now-closed Charizma Wine Lounge in Guerneville, Gustavsson-Giesea has also baked pastries at Della Fattoria in Petaluma and was chef and manager at the seasonal Jenner Bistro. She’s also done internships and front-of-house work with Fleur de Lys and the Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant in Forestville, and still works as a private chef in Sonoma County.
Meatball trio
Meatball trio & secret sauces / SF Chronicle
Given her Swedish background (she participated in Sweden’s Miss Fitness competition in 1999!), it’s not surprising to see Swedish meatballs on the menu, skewered on a stick and paired with twice-baked potato and ligonberry salad ($14).
The stick is important, Gustavsson-Giesea says, since it adds extra class to a food she’d otherwise just pick up and pop in her mouth.
“I love finger food,” she joked. “But just because I’m a barbarian doesn’t mean everyone has to be.”
Whitetail Wine Bar: 16230 Main St., Guerneville; (707) 604-7449 orwhitetailwinebar.com. Kitchen is open for limited winter hours Thurs.-Sun. 4-9 p.m.

November 27, 2013

Food Pairing with Amista Vineyards Sparkling Wine

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It may be taking things a bit too far to suggest that Amista Vineyards exemplifies the good old 20th century proverb, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” After all, proprietors Vicky & Michael Farrow are sitting pretty with 28 acres of prime, Dry Creek Valley vineyard estate in Sonoma County, happily running a retirement project gone wild.
But they chose to plant a lot of Syrah, a grape that is — unjustly — considered to be somewhat of a “lemon” as compared to the area’s more popular varieties. So what did they do? They made lemonade.
Sparkling lemonade. And how.
Make friends
On a recent trip to Amista Vineyards, the Farrows didn’t strike me as particularly iconoclastic — I mean, they have two wonderfully behaved sheltie dogs, the Fair Isle sweater vest of the dog world — and yet they continue to buck the trend, refusing to jump on the Pinot Noir bandwagon, instead making some of Dry Creek Valley’s only sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Syrah.
Yes, I said red, sparkling Syrah, like they make Down Under. And mates, is it ever a treat.
Starting Dec. 1, Amista offers an “Art of Sparkling” dosage tasting of their Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine. Expertly led by Amista winemaker Ashley Herzberg, whose somewhat bubbly personality complements the strictly technical information that guests will receive about the making of méthode champenoise sparkling wines, the tasting visits four samples of the same Chardonnay-based sparkling that Amista makes, at four different dosage (added sugar) levels.
There’s no prize for guessing at which dosage level Amista’s Dry Creek Valley Blanc de Blancs ($36) non-vintage blend will be released at on Dec. 7, 2013, but yeah, I more or less guessed it.
Sip it sweet, sip it dry, sip it extra brut
There’s a cool, peaches-and-cream aroma to Amista’s base sparkling wine, the one with no dosage. But the final version has a fuller mouthfeel, a good mousse, and just a hint of yeastiness.
It’s really a challenge of your tasting skill to pick out the differences — Vicky Farrow says that the first time she saw the lineup of dosage “trials,” she thought, “This is going to be a party!” Well, this tasting proves that it’s work, too. Somewhat enjoyable work.
And the sparkling Syrah? Yes, please. I’m told that the NV Sparkling Syrah ($32) make a really good mimosa — just more of a cold, winter morning sunrise mimosa, because this isn’t a blood-red sparkling Syrah, it’s deep pink, with creamy, smoky red berry notes. With Chef Helena’s pepper-crusted pork filet, it’s a joy.
Amista’s got your Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Zinfandel crowd covered, if dry, still wine’s their thing. But watch for their up-the-ante Rhône varietal wines, as there’s a Grenache-based blend on the way, plus a Grenache rosé sparkling wine, as well as some wild, smoky Syrah.
Hit the road, or just cross it
Grab picnic supplies at the Dry Creek General Store, which is just down the driveway and across the road, and set yourself up on the patio adjacent to Amista’s barn-style tasting room with a view of the vineyards. Nice on a sunny day but, with a Blanc de Blancs, a hunk of cheese, and a loaf of bread, I’ll bet you can make lemonade of the situation in any kind of weather.
Amista Vineyards, 3320 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. Daily, 11am–4:30pm. Tasting fee, $10. “Art of Sparkling” dosage tasting, weekdays by appointment or first Friday of each month, 11a.m.–noon; $30. 707-431-9200.

November 09, 2013

Martorana Family Winery's second annual Olive Oil Winemaker Dinner on Saturday, November 23, 2013

Two weeks to go for my first winemaker dinner with Gio at Martorana Family Winery. This is going to be a fabulously fun one with all Mediterranean food. Pre-booked seats only. Hope to see you there!!!
For more information click here

September 07, 2013

Monte Rio Supper Club - Monday September 23rd

For more information go to https://www.facebook.com/events/603514096353213/ 
You can also contact Helena at 707-865-6060 or chef@helenaskitchen.com

August 05, 2013

Article in Sonoma County Gazette August 1, 2013

At the Table - Whitetail Wine Bar
16230 Main St, Guerneville
by Elena Chronis
Owner Leslie Bahr and Chef Helena Gustavsson Giesea have partnered up in opening Helena's Kitchen in the wine bar. It’s a great collaboration of two independent entrepreneurial women pulling their resources and talents together to create a successful business.  Leslie is an interior architect by trade and Helena is a culinary wizard. Add the two together and its a fast recipe for success. And not to forget Sous Chef Alan Bedient for his contributions in assisting with all the culinary delights offered here. Sous Chef Alan comes from a baking background and is a true young talent emerging in the Sonoma county culinary scene.At the Table - Whitetail Wine Bar - Helena's Kitchen - August 2013
On my recent visit here the place was bustling with excitement. Outdoor seating in the front of the winebar was packed, the back patio was a buzz with customers and fortunately, there was one seat available for me inside as all the tables and couch seating was filled with happy customers noshing away.
The menu here is international. Something for everyone. The price points are definitely spot-on and each menu item is paired with a wine.  You can order small bites or dinner.
For me deciding what to sample wasn’t easy as everything on the menu sounded wonderful. I started out with the beef and rice noodle salad. It was crisp and refreshing not overdressed with dressings and was the perfect starter to my dinner. I enjoyed it so much I'll definitely be back for a large bowl. The mini pizzetta's here are terrific to sample with a glass of wine. Always creative and imaginative, not your typical grub pub fare.  I was lucky to try the apple, bacon and cherry pizzetta. It was a party for myAt the Table - Whitetail Wine Bar - Helena's Kitchen - August 2013tastebuds. If you like something a little more exotic try the duck tacos... amazing flavor and oh so tender.  My favorite dish is the mushroom piroshki with creamy Russian beet potato salad. Brings back happy memories. The piroshki were not overcooked or dry, just wonderfully plump bursting with mushrooms, and the potato salad tasted like my mom made back in the day.  I hadn't had a chance to sample the curry wild rice or meatballs on a stick but saw several customers with those items on their table.   If you need to indulge your sweet tooth, try the homemade ice creams or sorbets. Always fresh.  As I finished my meal, satiated and happy, I saw TV host/personality Liam Mayclem from "Eye on the Bay" stop in to say hello to Leslie and Helena.
Vegetarian options are offered to anyone who requests. The freshest and mostly organic options are offered. Whitetail is a great place for special occasions.  Call in advance for takeout. Chef Helena is available for catering private events.  Open Weds-Sundays during the summer from 4pm-9pm.
Go to www.helenaskitchen.com for menus and more info.

July 21, 2013

Whitetail’s rebirth – it takes two (women), baby

Sunday, July 21st, 2013 | Posted by  |

Leslie BAHR and Helena GUSTAVSSON-Gisea – a Partnership for the New Age 

Leslie Bahr and Helena Gustavsson are two  dynamic and creative women who have decided to collaborate by joining together in a project which has all the earmarks of a huge success story.

Bahr, born in Sitka, Alaska and currently owner of Guerneville’s White Tail Wine Bar and a San Francisco-based award-winning architect “grew up in the woods” in (among other places) Staten Island, where both of her sisters were born.
Her family moved quite a bit and although she spent time in the Midwest. her post-age 25 years were spent chiefly in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City, where she received a Masters degree from New York’s Parsons School of Design.
While residing in San Francisco, she visited and fell in love with Guerneville’s friendly, small-town atmosphere eventually buying an Airstream Trailer in which she lived in Rein’s Beach Trailer Park, some two miles west of Monte Rio, which has a picturesque and rarely crowded beach.
Bahr, giving in to one of her passions, swam in the River daily, which, she says is comparable to swimming in  lakes she swam in as a child, and in her heart and mind,  “things connected.”

She was enthralled with the area’s natural beauty “and the large number of family-style winemakers,” in the Guerneville area and “was surprised that there was no wine bar located along the River to represent these important people in our community.”

Bahr was ready to open a business and purchased property on which she dreamed of living a sustainable, energy-efficient, water-conserving  lifestyle  in a house she intended on building from the ground up.
Walking around Guerneville, she was struck by all the empty storefronts and the town’s run-down appearance and  decided, as a “gesture of building infrastructure for the town” that she wanted to “create a backbone of revitalization.”
“I wasn’t anti-development” she says, “just anti BIG development.”
Although the town looked like it “was about to go under” there were a few fine eateries that had opened, and because she “didn’t want to have to drive up to Healdsburg for a nice glass of wine” she employed her interior architectural skills and created White Tail Wine Bar.
Her dream was to “put Guerneville on the map” as having “the Greenest original Architecture” of any  town for miles around.
At that time there were numerous vacant storefronts lining Guerneville’s Main Street and desirous of employing her architectural and design expertise, she yearned to become involved with community development and utilize her skills to convert a venue on Main Street which was unlike any other establishment in the area.

Recycled materials, exposed beams, redwood tables, an industrial-quality bar of zinc, and cork floor tiles were reminiscent of elegant, yet people-friendly, yet intimate bars in Berlin, Chicago and Paris. A brass chandelier was installed, and cushy sofas with overstuffed pillows with a view of Guerneville’s eclectic street scene made it a solid choice of those who loved the River’s bucolic, laid-back atmosphere, but missed the big-city vibrance and self-confident panache that smelled of success in the downtown rooms where urban cool peppered the air.
Says Bahr, “The redwood gives the bar just the right amount of warmth while the rest of the space remains modern and crisp.”
Local winemakers were thrilled to have the enterprising Bahr among them and a place where they could showcase their wares.
Special events, private parties, themed specials and exclusive pouring found a venue which  felt  just right  and visitors as well as locals embraced White Tail with a passion.
The unique  establishment attracted the curious and the “cosmopolitan” but the food Bahr served seemed to her less than exciting.  The idea of serving tasty and uncommon cuisine appealed to her and gave birth to the idea of forming a “new business model” with two people who ran complementary businesses.
Bahr was familiar with Chef Helena Gustavsson’s  skills and her excellent track record on the River, and the idea of a collaboration and special pairings became very appealing.

Meanwhile, Swedish-born future Chef Helena was passionately focused on becoming one of the world’s great chefs – a goal rooted in a childhood spent, with her brother, in her mother’s kitchen as well as her family’s extensive organic garden
Local farmers provided  fresh eggs, raw milk,and vegetables, but because of the short

Future chef Helena and her brother grind moose meat after the hunt
growing season much of it was canned, dehydrated or frozen. Eggs, raw milk,and vegetables came from neighbor’s’ gardens and  in autumn, her father shot a moose which they butchered and tucked away in  the family freezer, preparing it  as needed for the winter table with wild mushrooms gathered in the nearby forests.
Chef Helena’s healthy and nutritional diet prompted her to become a competitor in Sweden’s Miss Fitness competition. and in 1999,  she took eighth place. There were two fitness competitions, she explains, one which emphasized athleticism and a major competition which was more widespread and prestigious. Helena’s love of sports and her conditioning earned her a 1997 fourth place finish in the more athletic contest.
While on vacation in San Francisco, Chef Helena met and fell in love with her future husband, a Marin County native,  and decided to stay in California and pursue her dream. In order to be allowed to stay in the U.S.A., she had to be a student and so she chose to attend culinary school.
As a graduate of the San Francisco City College culinary school, Chef Helena interned in
Garde Manger and pastry at San Francisco’s prestigious Fleur de Lys restaurant. Her Front of the House experience extends to former Cyrus Restaurant in Healdsburg and the
Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant in Forestville, followed by being the proprietor of her own restaurant in Guerneville, the former Charizma Wine Lounge. Chef Helena’s endeavors also include baking pastries at Della Fattoria in Petaluma and specializing in seafood and natural cuisine as chef and manager at the seasonal Jenner Bistro.
Her husband’s family had a vacation home on the River and the temptation to relocate to the Guerneville area became irresistible.
Gustavsson focused mainly on working events such as Winemaker Dinners, and (this year) the Fort Ross celebration and that led to her sterling reputation as a premier chef.
“I love the combination of flavors” and appropriate pairings of wines and foods is something from which she gains much satisfaction.
“I love to taste a wine and think about what I can make which will go well with this.”
Bahr and Gustavsson-Gisea have been working together for a month now, and they are

Chef Helena demonstrates her prodigious skills
being discovered and rediscovered daily.
Bahr is extremely picky about the wines she has in house and some come from  small, family wineries. The beers include Moylan’s Kilt Lifter and North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner.
The new menu is an amalgam of tastes, textures and epiphanies which is unique, fulfilling and International and unlike anything else on the River. To achieve greatness in some areas, “it takes a village” but to turn Whitetail Wine Bar into an unparalleled success, it just takes two women – but of course it has to be a pairing that works just right.
Below are a few of Gustavsson gastronomical specialties:
Three tender Duck Tacos with strawberry-watermelon salsa and sesame coleslaw. Pair with Lunch Money Reisling.  $9
Beef and Rice Noodle Salad with cabbage, carrot and peanut dressing.  Pair with Joseph Henry Chardonnay.  cup $7   bowl $14
Baked Mushroom Piroshki  served with a creamy apple and beat potato salad.  Pair with Chateau Adore Pinot Noir.  cup $7   bowl $14
Curry Wild West Rice with grilled chicken and seasonal veggie skewer.  Pair with Leo Steen Calpella.  cup $7   bowl $14
Meatballs on a Stick with Helena’s potato casserole temptation. Pair with Ca;Star “Alta” Zinfandel.  cup $7   bowl $14
Desserts feature Chocolate Truffles Duo+ one odd one (a cookie), Pot de Creme with a crunch cookie and ice cream flavors you likely have never heard of.
Vegetarian versions of some dishes are available.
White Tail also sells family platters: serves 3-4  $40
Executive Chef: Helena Gustavsson-Giesea
Sous Chef: Alan Bedient
Where: White Tail Wine Bar, 16230 Main Street, Guerneville  ph: 604-7449