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Delightful culinary magic is made at Vista Valley Country Club


Last updated 7/27/2020 at 10:55am

Nathalie Taylor photos

Vista Valley Country Club reflected in a glass of Chardonnay

Special to the Village News

Sequestered in a wooded valley lies the Vista Valley Country Club. This spectacular club with stunning vistas of lush hills provides an escape from the bustle of the world. An earth-toned porte-cochère welcomes all who enter. When the massive 200-year-old entrance doors are opened, you feel like you have just stepped across the threshold to Spain or France.

Owners John and Terri Havens have collected European art and antiques – mainly from France. The Havens share their finds with others through the artistic placement of vases, tables, mirrors and tapestries throughout the European-inspired structure. An enchanting, castle-sized tapestry greets diners as they enter the dining salon.

High ceilings create a calming aura. The windows in the dining area face west and sunlight bathes the room spectacularly. Through large walls of windows, the dining room offers a marvelous panorama of the manicured golf course and, further on, the verdant hills.

The atmosphere is warm, and hospitality exudes from every corner, partly due to the friendly and polite wait staff who do their best to make the diners feel welcome and pampered.

From my window table I savored both the view and the various innovative dishes created by Executive Chef Ryan Gilbert.

Libby Tate, Director of Business Development/Membership Sales, described Chef Ryan's culinary style as "eclectic." "He has an amazing, innate ability for pairing interesting flavors," she noted.

Chef Ryan is in tune with his culinary audience, but is also quite innovative. He enjoys a family heritage of chefs and restaurateurs due to his Sicilian roots. The prestigious California Culinary Academy in San Francisco is where Chef Ryan perfected his culinary skills.

Most chefs have a "signature dish," and Chef Ryan's is the Diver Scallops served with pink risotto. Yes, pink risotto. I am fond of risotto, but have never tasted – or even seen – pink risotto. Chef Ryan's pink version of risotto is simply amazing.

"Color drove me to this dish," he explained. "I was looking for a way to get pink onto a plate. As a Sicilian, my mind went straight to risotto. I thought that the earthiness of red beet puree would line up well with the ocean flavor of the scallops."

When I nibbled on the tender seared scallops topped with tomato buerre blanc, I could taste hints of several spices, and chimichurri crowned the scallops with an exotic flavor kick.

Can deviled eggs be enchanting? Chef Ryan's can! He takes them to a realm beyond ordinary deviled eggs by tweaking his grandmother's recipe from the forties. The addition of spices, such as harissa, give them zing and zest! These creamy creations are addictive!

"It is a classic deviled egg with my own spin on it," he noted. "My grandmother always had that tray with the deviled eggs on it and my sister and I would eat that whole tray." He continued, "They have a hint of spice, but are really more flavor driven. It is a way to take my grandmother's recipe and turn it into my own without deviating too far."

Libby Tate had this to say about the deviled eggs, "Captivating – those eggs are amazing. This chef has innovation and flair."

Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower is a starter that is almost a meal. Balsamic glaze drizzled over the mix gives it a tinge of savory flavor; and the flakes of shaved Parmesan cheese lend a mellow touch. Add applewood smoked bacon with its robust flavor, and the effect is marvelous.

Chef Ryan Gilbert's enchanting 'Deviled Eggs'

Chef Ryan's creative flair again comes into play with the creation of dreamy desserts, including the delightful Eggnog Milkshake. The shake is mixed with vanilla ice cream, vanilla gelato, cream, and just enough eggnog gelato to be the catalyst for a marvelous flavor. So creamy and delicious!

The Southern Style Pecan Pie is topped with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. It's a slight variation of the traditional pecan pie, but that variation improves the flavor. Small nuggets of pecans give the filling more substance. Some pecan pies can become viscous and gooey, but this pie is perfectly delectable.

Vista Valley Country Club is a window to a world where ambiance is reminiscent of a European restaurant, and the inspired cuisine definitely encourages lingering, happy chatter and laughter.

For further information on the Vista Valley Country Club, please access

Originally published Nov. 7, 2019.


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