Buttonwood Farm-Winery-Vineyard is a secret in plain sight. If you pull in to the tasting room, then walk out back, the rest of Solvang seems to fall away. Our brief bursts of rain turned the thirsty hills gushingly green; the herb garden did its always seasonally blooming thing; goats and their kids scrambled along the rolling landscape. Pastoral at its picture perfect. Such was the case last Saturday for Buttonwood's Taste of Solvang dinner, when all the makings came from within 25 miles of the lovely veranda we all sat upon for the five-course meal (preceded by some goat cheese sprinkled with farm-made olive oil and fresh herbs paired with the 2014 Sauv Blanc, a snack I could easily have made a dinner of all by itself).
Now I could take you through the meal course-by-course, and not talking at all about the charred lamb chops with tomatillo harissa atop canary bean hummus you scooped with fresh, grilled naan hurts a bit, as I hadn't had lamb quite that vivid in years.
But no, I want to talk about salad. Because we so often don't, and should, but too often can't beyond to say, "Yeah, there was one." But what Chef Conrad Gonzales of Vallefresh did with this one, well, you can see it above, and that's one crucial component. Take that pink paint. Sure, too many kitchens smear a dish without something before sending it out, thinking some color is everything, as if cooking for Instagram. But this beet-infused goat cheese you needed to scrape off the plate, it was so tasty, and its coral pink echoed the zingy Buttonwood Syrah Rose. (Karen Steinwachs is making some rocking wines that cry out for delicious food. Their cries got more than answered all evening.)
What's more, it's a tad early for strawberries of course. So to remedy that possible less-than-peak problem, Gonzales pickled them. Berry sweet up to the point they could manage, then the vinegar kicked in, just enough to make you remember how delicious Balsamic is on strawberries. That all gets cut by the greens, a mix of market and foraged, lettuce and herb, leaf and flower. So many textures, flavors, the idea of salad expanding. The fine fat of avocado. The crunch of a toss of toasted almonds. A pickled carrot, so much earth. And the hardboiled egg, from the farm, of course, so the yolk is the yellow of a rain slicker.
It's something to get the chance to devour spring.