Courtesy Dustin Valette, chef/owner, Valette, Healdsburg, CA
One of the favorite dishes at Valette is the Scallops en Croûte, composed of a rich, warm pillow of baked pastry goodness that complements the salty shellfish. It also incorporates sparkling wine, which Chef Dustin Valette recommends as a pairing partner. A local bakery provides the puff pastry for this dish at the restaurant, but store-bought works, too.
One of the region’s favorite local boys done good, Valette opened his namesake restaurant in 2015 with his brother, Aaron, on the downtown Healdsburg site where their great-grandfather once ran a bakery. It was a long-awaited personal statement after stints at nearby Dry Creek Kitchen, Aqua in San Francisco and Bouchon in the Napa Valley. A popular hangout among winemakers, it highlights Sonoma County’s finest farmers, purveyors and producers.
- 1 bulb fennel, thin sliced, fronds reserved for garnish
- 1 leek, white only, washed thoroughly, thin sliced
- 10 tablespoons butter
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 ounces Pernod liqueur
- 8 jumbo scallops
- 1 pinch fennel pollen (optional)
- 2 sheets puff pastry
- 1 egg, whisked with a little water
- 3 ounces sparkling wine, preferably Benovia 2015 Blanc de Noir
- ½ ounce cream
- 1 ounce caviar
In medium pot, cook fennel and leeks slowly with 2 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper until tender. Add 1 ounce Pernod and keep warm.
Heat oven to 375˚F.
Season scallops with salt, pepper and fennel pollen, if using. Warm skillet over medium heat and add scallops. Sear until golden brown, then baste with 1 tablespoon butter until cooked. Set aside in warm place.
Cut puff pastry into 8 circles or ovals, 2–3 inches in diameter. Using pastry brush, brush whisked egg onto puff pastry. Bake until golden brown, about 8–10 minutes.
In small pot, combine remaining Pernod, sparkling wine and cream. Over medium-low heat, cook until reduced by half. Slowly whisk in remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside in a warm place.
Divide melted leeks among 4 plates. Top each with 2 scallops, 2 pieces puff pastry and reserved fennel fronds. Fold caviar into butter sauce, and pour over plate. Serves 4.
Benovia 2015 Blanc de Noir (Russian River Valley), $60. Dry and quietly fruity to contrast the fennel, this combines half estate-grown Chardonnay and half estate-grown Pinot Noir into a rich, creamy whole. It brims with red apple, tangerine and brioche to play off the puff pastry. Velvety in texture, it offers plenty of body around a structure of balanced acidity and a memorable lasting mousse.
A native of Sonoma County whose family farms wine grapes, Sullivan is the co-owner and winemaker of Benovia Winery, where he makes a range of delicious Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Grenache predominantly from estate-grown, Russian River Valley grapes. His still wines capture acidity so well that it was only a matter of time before Sullivan would try his hand at a sparkler. The 2015 Benovia Russian River Valley Blanc de Noir especially shows his attentiveness to detail.