Oct. 28, 2016
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How festive is this heirloom tomato salad? Super-festive.
Gwyneth Doland

Seed to Stem

A kitchen garden drives the menu year-round at Arroyo Vino

October 12, 2016, 12:00 am

The winding drive from Highway 599 gives hungry patrons just enough time to adjust to the peaceful setting of Arroyo Vino, which is attached to a wine shop of the same name. The shop is serious—offering more than 800 different wines, all of which are available at retail price with a corkage fee—but the restaurant is no afterthought.

Nestled in the bosom of the hi-tone Las Campanas development, Arroyo Vino has a built-in audience of well-heeled patrons who can afford to be regulars, but this luxe farm-to-table restaurant should be on anyone’s short list for a spectacular splurge.

SFR has written about the restaurant’s chef, Colin Shane, a 20-something who previously worked with Martin Rios at Restaurant Martín. At Arroyo Vino, Shane took over from chef Mark Connell (who’s now at State Capital Kitchen) and created the kitchen garden that heavily influences the restaurant’s menu.

“I worked at places that had small herb gardens, more for show than anything,” Shane says. But Arroyo Vino had plenty of open space just out the back door. They put in a few tomatoes at first, then added more and more. “Next thing we know we expanded to almost 2 acres, including about 20 raised beds, a 40-foot hoop house and a greenhouse.”

And much of what the garden produces does end up on the plate, adding supremely fresh flavor—and contributing to uniquely beautiful presentations, especially in the summer. In early September, a salad of heirloom tomatoes from the garden ($18) was showered with a confetti of edible flower petals, while fried squash blossoms ($18) were stippled with Calabrian chile and surrounded by an emerald green aureole of nasturtium pesto.

A duo of Pekin duck ($32) matched a seared pressé of shredded duck confit with a dark, lacquered section of tender breast, while medallions of beef tenderloin ($42) were nearly upstaged by a bone marrow flan.

By early October the menu had shifted to take advantage of fall produce, with a roasted sunchoke soup ($16), a roasted spaghetti squash and Brussels sprouts entree ($27) and a poached quince tart for dessert ($12).

Shane is trying to extend the garden’s reach by canning, freezing, pickling and fermenting ingredients that will appear on the menu through the winter. “I’m building a pantry of things that are outside of the box from the chile, corn and beans that you see everywhere,” he says.

The menu often features foraged ingredients like mushrooms, berries and nettles. The gardeners are trying to plant more of those things, along with fruit trees, to increase the presence of native ingredients.

The menu changes a little nearly every week as Shane adjusts to what’s coming out of the garden. “They came to me today and said we have to uproot all the shiso, so now we have 10 pounds of shiso that I need to use in the next few days in order to make sure it doesn’t go to waste,” Shane said last week. Sure enough, that evening’s menu featured a starter of wild matsutake mushrooms garnished with the aromatic purple herb.

Occasionally an ambitious use of garden ingredients fails—a garnish of tasteless puffed amaranth or a less-than-sweet local peach—but overall, the food is expertly prepared and creatively composed. The duck skin was crispy while the meat was medium-rare; the squash blossoms were crunchy on the outside while the cheese inside was perfectly melted.

Gluten-free diners will find the majority of the menu safe for exploration, but vegetarians may not be thrilled with the somewhat uninspiring meat-free dishes; recent offerings have included a generic “vegetable tasting plate” and an underwhelming spaghetti squash/Brussels sprout combo.

Because each dish has many ingredients, vegans might want to call ahead and see what’s possible on a particular night. (The most recent menu is usually, but not always, posted online.)

The spare dining room—well fenestrated and painted a deep blue—fills up even mid-week, and a lively crowd makes the place feel fun but not wild. On a recent visit the service was outstanding. An attentive, informed and gracious server, who answered nearly every question (of many) that we had about the food, made us feel truly pampered.

So put Arroyo Vino on the list for your next celebration—or make dinner a celebration in itself.

Arroyo Vino at a Glance
Dinner 5:30-close Tuesday-Saturday
218 Camino La Tierra,
Best bet:
Any of the “things to share”
Don’t miss:
Great wines by the bottle


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