Devil's Gulch Ranch

Devil’s Gulch. Never before has a place been so appropriately named. The site of two consecutive dinners, Devil’s Gulch gave us the season’s first true trail by fire, or should I say, trial by wind and torrential downpour as we experienced for our Saturday event. When planning a farm dinner, in addition to accounting for rentals, staff, and a laundry list of other factors, one must consider the weather. And for a staff comprised largely of type-A personalities, the idea that the success of an event relies largely on something out of our control doesn’t sit too well with us.

We arrived at Devil’s Gulch to grey skies, gusty winds, and a forecast of possible rain. When deciding the location of the table, the beauty of the vast Pinot vineyard won out over the covered barn, and we set up the table with a mix of trepidation and hope. By 2pm, we were perfectly on schedule. The tables had been dressed with crisp white linens, glassware, and menus. We finished our service meeting and sat down with Chef Peter McNee of Sausolito’s Poggio, to review the night’s menu. We were furiously taking notes about his gnocchi preparation and ingredients used in his lamb belly agrodolce when the pen marks began to blur. It had started to rain. And minutes later, it began to pour.

It is quite amazing what you can accomplish when you simply have to. Tables and chairs can be repacked into trailers in half the time, outdoor kitchens can be broken down in minutes, and in a whirlwind of a half an hour, you can be on the opposite side of the ranch madly reassembling the dinner. That is, unless you are unlucky enough to be in the truck that has jackknifed in the mud after attempting to reverse. After about 60 precious minutes of unsuccessful attempts at freedom, we were finally pulled to freedom by the Devil’s Gulch tractor.

After our rescue, we joined the rest of our crew who incidentally had been unaware of our situation due to a lack of cell phone reception. While guests strolled around the barn, enjoying rabbit paté and sardines on crostini, silverware was quickly blotted, glassware was buffed, and the finishing touches were made to the table. Then, with barely enough time to catch a breath, it was time for dinner service.

Photo Credit: elaine skinner

Barn Dinner

Photo Credit: Jeremy Fenske

Thanks to an unflummoxed kitchen staff and our own determination and stamina, the dinner went well. This is not to say that the dinner was flawless. Naturally, a rocky start creates a few, albeit smaller bumps. But it was, without a doubt, successful. Guests left happy and largely unaware of the evening’s challenging events.

And I had my first lesson in the importance of adaptability. I have to admit that it did throw me for a loop, changing locations and hour before guests arrived. I had doubts about the possibility of the dinner’s success. But things happen. Weather happens, a location changes, and you manage. You make it work, and more than that, you make it memorable.

Thankfully, our event next day at Devil’s Gulch Ranch with Chef Joseph Humphrey of Murray Circle featured blue skies, but a continuing chilly wind, which once again brought us down to the barn.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Fenske

Devil’s Gulch Rancher, Mark Pasternak

Photo Credit: Jeremy Fenske

Photo Credit: Jeremy Fenske


Chef Joseph Humphrey and his crew from Murray Circle at Cavallo Point

Photo Credit: Jeremy Fenske

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