A Lifestyle blog based in Sonoma County, in the heart of Wine Country. Amber is an outspoken voice for local activism, local wine tourism, and more.

In the Kitchen with Brian Anderson: Goat Cheese and Meyer Lemon Custard Crostini

Earlier this summer I had the fantastic opportunity to sit down with restaurant co-owner and head chef, Brian Anderson. He and his wife own the charming French cuisine restaurant, Bistro 29. Located here in the heart of Wine Country, downtown Santa Rosa. With its decor of French travel posters, deep red walls, and high ceilings, it is a place one immediately feels at ease. Bistro 29 is a favorite restaurant of mine: their onion soup (made with an apple cider base) is incredible. It has a  unique twist of containing bits of buckwheat crepe, and it is a dish that I constantly crave. Imagine how thrilled I was when he agreed to be a part of A•Mused Blog's new recipe feature In the Kitchen! Below is our interview and one of his very own seasonal recipes which he kindly shared with me (and you!). Read his interview below, get inspired, and then get In the Kitchen!

Bistro 29 co-owners Chef Brian Anderson and his wife Françoise [source]

A•Mused: So I did some research and found out that you got the Bib Gourmand. That's so exciting!
Brian Anderson:Yeah, yeah. We've had it for three years now.

A•M: Do you think a star is next?
BA: I'm not sure if that's even really needed. You know I had heard from somebody before about the star, and that they thought that the star actually hindered their business. It got them a lot of business right off the bat, but most of that business came from tourists. They lost a lot of their locals, because the locals couldn't get in because the restaurant was booked out all the time. So then when the "newness" of the star went away, so did the tourists, and they needed their locals...but none of them came back. What we want is the Gourmand. What we strive for is a value - most people can dine here for $40 or less, and that's a great value for what we do.

A•M: Yes, I was reading up on the Bib Gourmand, and I thought "Yes! That's a perfect fit!" because you are a bistro, a neighborhood restaurant for the locals.
BA: Right. And that's what we want. We want to be here for the locals. We don't change our menu every day or every week, because we want to have things where if somebody comes in and eats, and really likes their meal...they can come in again and have that cassoulet that they had before. We like to keep it consistent, as opposed to no longer having it on the menu when someone comes looking for their favorite item again.

A•M: Tell me how you transitioned from being a professional cyclist training for the Tour de France to becoming a chef.
BA: Well my grandmother, she's 94 now, she was a chef for thirty some years. She cooked at a boy school. She cooked for 500+ kids, three meals a day. She's Italian. So I've got cooking in my blood!
But when I would go to France to train, I liked to eat a lot - which was kind of my downfall. Also, my mother in law, she would do a lot of cooking while I was there, and I would watch her in the kitchen. So I was always into cooking, but watching her is what got me into the French side of it.

A•M: Have you noticed any differences or similarities between the way we Americans or the French treat their food at mealtimes?
BA: I probably see more of the differences. I think that now as Americans we are starting to realize what good food is. Here in the US, we would say that "oh it's about 2 hours meal time for a couple dining out". And we might say two hours? We'd feel like that's a long time. In France that would be a short time. The French would usually spend 3-4 hours. I think that's primarily the difference I see.  Also here I do the buckwheat crepes, and I think people here in America are starting to realize that crepes aren't just for breakfast. In France crepes aren't really a breakfast food: they will usually eat them as a snack, or a meal later in the day. So little differences like that.

A•M: I was reading up how you got the "29" for Bistro 29. It's from Brittany, France?
BA: Yes, the government refers to the area as District 29.

A•M: In fashion, there are styles and trends that come and go. For food, do you see any trends that do the same?
BA: I do see a few, but for us, for here, we try to look at the menu as a whole: as something that is going to last a while. I try to look at recipes that I know people will enjoy today and still enjoy tomorrow.  We change more with seasons, as opposed to trends. I do old fashion cooking [laughs]! I think the trends in food have their place - they're just not for us. We also try to elevate our dining experience as well though: we don't have a hamburger, we don't have a croque monsieur.

A•M: I've noticed with my generation and younger, it seems that a lot of us are afraid of the kitchen. Almost like we are intimidated by the process of cooking for ourselves -
BA: Like it's daunting?

A•M: Yes! Like it's daunting. And then if we do "cook" it is usually ramen or something that we can pop in the microwave. Do you have any tips, or words of encouragement for those who want to get into the kitchen, but perhaps are a little lost as where to start? 
BA: Well you know I have two kids who are aged 12 and 14, and the elder one helps me here in the kitchen sometimes - and she does great because she's not afraid of me. I think the trick is to not be afraid! Don't be afraid of the process. It's that and tasting, tasting, tasting. Taste everything. When you're out dining, taste - don't just eat, but taste. Learn to taste the flavors, and try to replicate that again at home. That way when you are in your own kitchen, you have an idea of what something should taste like. You'll make mistakes, but you'll learn from them, and then move on to the next dish. But I think that tasting is the best thing to do.

Thank you, Brian so much for this interview!
Goat Cheese and Meyer Lemon Custard Crostini
What you will need: 
1 lb Chevre goat cheese
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1 cup cream
5 egg yolks 
Salt and pepper to taste
(note: I halved this recipe; I used 8 ounces of cheese, 1 lemon zest, 1/4 cup cream, and 2 yolks)

In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients and mix until smooth.  Pour liquid into 4 ounce ramekins*, place in a shallow baking dish.  Fill the baking dish with water until it comes halfway up the ramekins cover with a lid or foil and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes or until the custards have set but still jiggle.

Refrigerate until cold unmold and serve with crostini** and an arugula salad dressed simply with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

*ramekins are individual baking dishes (like for creme brulee). I didn't have any, so I used a cupcake pan! Works perfectly. **easliy make your own crostini by slicing a French baguet into 1/4 inch slices, coating with olive oil and baking at 400 degrees until they start to brown.

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