Sunday, November 30, 2014

Helena Gustavsson-Giesea resurfaces at Santa Rosa’s Station 1870

Chef Helena Gustavsson-Giesea is back in business, running the kitchen at Station 1870 in downtown Santa Rosa. The last time we saw her, she was cooking at Whitetail Winebar in Guerneville, but she departed a while before the bar closed in May.
Now, she offering a similar experience at the wine bar and live music lounge on Fourth Street in Railroad Square. The idea is small bites like duck tacos with tropical salsa and cotija cheese (three for $15), butter baked pancetta crusted oysters (three for $9) or her signature meatball trio made with shrimp, turkey and beef ($12).
There are also weekly three-course specials ($20 / paired with wines $35). This week, for example, guests can get onion soup, pink peppercorn pork with quinoa squash, and a lemon tart (you can see the entire menu here).
Other specials play off Gustavsson-Giesea’s Swedish heritage, such as a meal of cream of winter vegetable soup, Swedish meatballs with cranberry rice, and chocolate cherry bread pudding with green tea custard sauce.
Station 1870: 123 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa; (707) 623-9619 or

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chef Helena Featured in

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"Thank you James for including me in your article" ~ Chef Helena


red car winery
Sweden’s leading wine club, Munskänkarna, has chosen Sonoma County, along with Napa Valley, as their wine region of the year in 2014. Throughout 2014, Munskänkarna will host tastings and seminars for its 23,500 members, as well as publish articles in its consumer magazine, focusing on wines from our region. Sonoma County follows up Porto in 2013, and Chianti Classico in 2012.
The nation that hosts the Nobel Prize for literature is surely a nation of discerning, literate citizens. But did you know many Swedes take wine as seriously literature, architecture, and design? Although Sweden produces virtually no grape wine of its own, Munskänkarna pursues the study and appreciation of wine with both passion and precision.
Munskänkarna was established in 1958 (perhaps not coincidentally three years after Sweden abandoned a rationing system for alcoholic beverages). On Feb. 10, 2014, wine club chair Ylva Sundkvist presented Honore Comfort, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners, with a commemorative plaque at an event at Kunde Family Estate.
“We are thrilled to receive this recognition and host Munskänkarna this week in Sonoma County,” said Comfort, in a press release announcing the event. “We relish the opportunity to show them our range of high-quality wines, stunning natural beauty, and connect them with our winegrowers and winemakers who are so passionate about producing wine in this special place.” (Photo Munskänkarna by George Rose).
At Kunde Estate, Sundkvist said that the occasion had particular significance for her personally, bringing her full circle on a journey of wine discovery, because the first wine she ever tasted was a Sonoma County wine.
What is a Munskänkarna? It’s literally a “cup-bearer,” but Sundkvist said that it loosely translates to mean, “A person who really enjoys wine!”
In the sumptuously wood-paneled meeting room at Kunde’s Hill House, a delegation of Munskänkarna board members sat down to take in four flights of wine and a presentation of the geological, climatic and historical foundations of Sonoma County Wine Country.
The members’ discipline — most of them! — in refraining from swirling, sniffing, or sipping any of the tantalizing wines before them, throughout a discussion of plate tectonics, was notable.
A panel of winemakers introduced Sonoma County Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah. La Crema’s Elizabeth Grant-Douglas presented the Pinot Noir flight with vim and verve, inspiring me to seek out one of the wines selected for the Munskänkarna delegation’s tasting.
Scheduled for release in April, Red Car Wine’s 2012 “Heaven & Earth” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($68) is grown in the coastal Bohemian Station Vineyards near Freestone. It’s got a teasing, dusty sandalwood incense aroma, with cool cherry fruit and a slice of cherry fruit leather. Flavors remain in the cool category of cranberry and cherry, while the spicy, chewy palate sensation is on the warm side. The contrast makes a pleasing wine, better with the right earthy food.
I took the food pairing question to one of Sonoma County’s most preeminent Swedes — at least, that’s what I think when I find myself at a lunch or dinner prepared by Helena Gustavsson Giesea.Chef Helena, a native of Sweden, seems to always subtly transform her Wine Country cuisine with a bit of earthy, Scandinavian magic. Chef Helena came up with an intriguing entrée.

Recipe: Biff a la Lindström and Creamy Potatoes with Feta Cheese

4 portions
Directions for Biff:
  • 1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp. chopped red onion
  • 4 tbsp. chopped pickled beets
  • 3 tbsp. copped capers
  • 3 tbsp. juice from pickled beets
  • 1 tbsp. chopped chives
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
Mix all ingredients until evenly blended, without over mixing. Make 4 large patties or 8 smaller ones. Fry in butter mixed with a little vegetable oil on medium hear 4-5 minutes per side or until nicely colored.
Directions for Creamy Potatoes with Feta Cheese:
  • 8 medium size Yukon Gold
  • 2 tbsp. butter melted
  • 1/2 C. whole milk warm
  • 1/4 C. feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Taste off with sea salt and white pepper
Peel and quarter potatoes. Cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt and simmer until soft enough to mash. Mash with butter. Whip up with milk and nutmeg until light and fluffy, add more milk if needed. Fold in cheese and taste off with salt and pepper.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chef Helena in Artist Culture

Thank you to for writing this article, see complete magazine here

Friday, December 6, 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 Kitchen is open for limited winter hours Thurs.-Sun. 4-9 p.m.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Food Pairing with Amista Vineyards Sparkling Wine

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1 of 1
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.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winery Tastings and Food - Helena's Kitchen at Whitetail Wine Bar

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Wine tasting at Whitetail Barat Whitetail Bar
At a recent winery party at Whitetail Winebar in Guerneville, Crinella Wines was in the spotlight, showcasing the Russian River winery’s Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Guests not only sipped the wine, they learned about how it was made, down to the clone selection for the vines, and viewed charmingly hand-drawn maps of the property.
Every Friday, Whitetail hosts a different winery at its elegant bar, from 6 to 9 p.m., when special pours are offered. Most of the tastings have a fee, but are still bargains, since the wine comes from boutique, often hard-to-find local wineries, such as Amista Vineyards, VML, Enriquez Estate, Brogan Cellars, DH Gustafson Vineyards, and Albini Family Vineyards. 
If you’ve never heard of them, that’s the point. These tastings are all about discovering secret Sonoma County gems. 
To make it a full evening, a new food menu of small bites and entrees can be purchased to enjoy alongside. 
Bottle sales are offered too, at winery-direct savings. In the Crinella case, the wines offered were from sold-out lots, so it was a rare opportunity for guests to taste then snatch up the last available retail sales. 
And, if there are any questions, the winery owners, winemakers and other staff specialists are on hand to explain, and to share stories of their often off-the-grid practices. 
As Guerneville’s first dedicated wine bar — despite the fact that the small town is smack dab in the heart of Russian River Wine Country — innovation has kept Whitetail popular with both locals and visitors. 
Owned by Leslie Bahr, an interior designer, the chic space with chandeliers, cozy living room furniture and bistro tables carved from redwood tree trunks supports tiny bottlings from mostly young winemakers that have no tasting rooms outside of, perhaps, their garages. 
She’s also added food into the mix, recently welcoming chef Helena Gustavsson-Giesea into the operations. The owner of the former Charizma Wine Lounge in Guerneville has also baked pastries at Della Fattoria in Petaluma and was chef and manager at the seasonal Jenner Bistro. 
Now, the chef runs Helena’s Kitchen out of the tiny pantry space next to the bar, crafting plates like crispy fig-prosciutto pizzettes ($9), meatball plates of shrimp, turkey and beef ($9), curry empanadas ($7), chicken and rice noodle salad in peanut dressing ($14), and cocoa dusted duck and pumpkin ravioli ($16). 
Smaller snacks can be had, as well — roasted garlic-truffle salt popcorn, perhaps ($3), or fresh roasted nuts tossed with herbs ($3) — and, naturally, all foods include wine suggestions listed right on the menu. 
Details: Whitetail Wine Bar, 16230 Main St., Guerneville.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Monte Rio Supper Club - Monday, September 23rd

For more information go to contact Helena at 707-865-6060 or