The imprint of Italian heritage persists throughout the Central Valley, from the restaurants in Modesto owned by folks who share the last name Gallo to the small pizzerias and trattorias from Madera to Bakersfield.
A onetime railroad stop, Clovis is lovingly referred to as the “Gateway to the Sierras.” Set in historic Old Town Clovis, Trelio Restaurant and Wine has been run by the Shackelford family since 2006. Chef Mike Shackelford has been behind the stoves and brother Chris expertly compiles an impressive wine list, undoubtedly among the best in the region.
Together they renovated the small brick building into a classic-looking space to match the timeless feel of the town around them. The cuisine ranges from Creole and Cajun to French and Italian. Nothing is off-limits when it comes to creating new dishes for the daily changing à-la-carte menu, Chris Shackelford says. The restaurant opens for dinner only.
One of the restaurant’s favorite purveyors is SunSmile Farms in Grass Valley, a 70-acre certified organic farm in business since 1939.
Trelio’s wine list stocks 400-plus labels with an emphasis on hard-to-find wines from all over California, in addition to many notable wines from throughout the world. Pricing hovers just above retail with free corkage offered too.
Among locally made wines Shackelford is quick to single out Westbrook Wine Farm in Madera, under the direction of owner/winemaker Ray Krause, as one of his favorites.
“His Museum Cabernet—from a one-acre vineyard of clippings from all the greatest vineyards in Napa— is amazing for the price and the region” says Shackleford. Indeed.
Westbrook’s Museum Vineyard is planted with seven heritage clones of Cabernet Sauvignon and one clone each of Gros Verdot and Malbec, trained to the ancient spur-pruned vertical cordon. Serious stuff. Krause then harvests and
co-ferments the grape varieties together.
“Krause does really great and important things in the Central Valley,” notes Shackelford. “He also makes this great
dry Riesling and a must-try Sauvignon Blanc, too.
His favorite farm-to-table finds:
CandyCots: An apricot developed by Driver Family Farms near Modesto, CandyCots originated from Central Asian apricot seeds and have double the sweetness of a typical American apricot and often fuzzless skin.
Clingstone Peaches: A Clingstone peach has flesh that adheres to the pit, different than a Freestone, whose stone and flesh separate when the peach is ready to eat.
Red Walnuts: Sanguinetti Family Farms outside of Stockton grows rare red walnuts, the result of grafting Persian red-skinned walnuts onto creamier English walnuts.
Rice: Koda Farms is a family-owned heirloom rice operation in the San Joaquin Valley. The Kokuho Rose varietal is world renowned, available as a brown rice too. Koda Sweet and Sweet Brown rices are sticky, used in confections.
Flat Iron Steak
4 8-ounce prime flat iron steaks (surface sinew removed), sourced preferably from Brandt or Harris Ranch
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Season steaks on all sides. Take notice of the meat graining and place on grill going the same direction. Cook on each side twice for two minutes turning steaks 45 degrees each time. Middles should read 125°F; if not, place in a 350°F oven for a few minutes until it does. Rest the meat for 5 minutes in a warm place. Slice against the grain for presentation.
King Oyster Mushroom Sauce
1 cup King Oyster mushrooms, chopped (locally from SunSmile Farms)
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup Madeira
½ cup half & half
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the mushrooms and shallots. Sauté until browned. Deglaze with Madeira and reduce until dry. Stir in flour and form a paste (about two minutes’ cooking). Add half & half and stir until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. It is finished when sauce is just barely thick.
6 each Yukon Gold potatoes, medium-sized
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 each egg
2 cups Caputo 00 Flour (very fine pizza flour)
2 tablespoons rosemary, fresh, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
Peel and quarter potatoes and place in an 8-quart pot. Fill to an inch above the potatoes and put over high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Remove from heat and strain.
In a small sauté pan melt butter; do not allow to bubble. Add the rosemary. Let sit at the lowest heat for 5 minutes. Do not allow it to foam. Place butter and rosemary mixture in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in Kosher salt, egg and baking powder. Rice the potatoes into the mixing bowl. Fold ingredients until well combined. A ¼-cup at a time, work the flour into the potato mixture being careful not to over-work. Once all of the flour is roughly mixed in, turn dough out onto a lightly floured clean working surface. Knead dough for two minutes until it is smooth. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Portion dough into 8 pieces. Roll dough between your hands and work surface until it is a half-inch thick, lightly flour if the dough sticks. Cut dough into half-inch pillows and reserve on a sheet tray dusted with flour to prevent sticking.
Bring an 8-quart pot of water to a boil and season with salt until it just barely tastes like the ocean. Place gnocchi into the water and set a timer for 2 minutes. Once the gnocchi surfaces start the timer. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon or spider.
6 medium-size sweet onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups red wine (preferably decent Cabernet Sauvignon)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Peel and slice the onions about a ¼-inch thick. Heat the olive oil blend in a large heavy bottomed pot or rondeau. Add onions and sugar and stir until they are just beyond golden brown. Deglaze with red wine and continue to stir until wine is nearly evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Cook in more sugar if needed.
4 each shallots, medium
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Pot filled 1-inch deep with any type of frying oil at 325°F.
Preheat oven to 200°F. Slice shallots into thin rings. Place cornstarch and salt into a zip lock back. Add shallots and seal. Shake until all of the shallots are covered. Prepare a draining tray (sheet pan lined with paper towels). Transfer shallots to the fryer oil. Allow to fry for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned, transfer to the draining tray. This may need to be done in several loads depending on the size of your frying pan. Once drained, transfer to a new baking sheet and place in the oven to continue to dry for about 10 minutes.
Put the gnocchi first in the center of the plate. Place the red wine onions off to the left or right of the gnocchi. Place the sliced flat iron over the gnocchi and garnish the top of the flat iron with the crispy shallots.