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Chef Confidential: Savory Cafe

Savory Cafe-8Welcome to the first Visit Woodland Chef Confidential, a quick behind the scenes look at the Chefs of Woodland restaurants. Savory Cafe was gracious enough to be my first customer and as a bonus, they have provided a recipe for Butternut Gnocchi with Lamb Ragù!  How lucky are we, Woodland?

Kristin Hansen and brothers Toby and Juan Barajas are owners of Savory Cafe on Main Street.  The Barajas brothers grew up cooking authentic Spanish dishes in their grandmother’s kitchen and learning the ropes while working in their parent’s Woodland restaurant, Tostadas Conchita.  Meanwhile, Kristin was raised on fresh produce and healthy food.  So, it makes sense that together the trio is focused on combining the farm to fork movement with dishes that come from family traditions.

Enjoy your next meal at Savory Cafe, you’re more than likely to feel all the wonderful intentions of Kristin, Toby, and Juan.

Savory Cafe

Chef Confidential

What was your first restaurant job?
Toby: My parents owned Tostadas Conchita restaurant on Main Street.  I did everything from prep to dishwashing. Professionally, I started as a line cook.
Juan: My first experience was with my grandmother, cooking with her.  Professionally, my first job was in my parent’s restaurant.

What’s your favorite part of being a chef?
Toby: Seeing the enjoyment of people eating my food and being a part of the kitchen.
Juan: I’m not a chef, but I love cooking.  I like being able to offer a dish I’ve spent time making.
Kristin: Making memories here at Savory.

What’s the cuisine here at Savory?
Toby: Local and fresh ingredients.  The cuisine here is global; We use French techniques in our braising recipes and Italian when we make homemade pasta.  But sourcing everything locally is what’s big for us.

What’s your favorite wine right now?
Toby: Route 3 Grenache
Jaun: Route 3 Barbera
Kristin: Route 3 Barbera

Is it true that Chefs have mouths like sailors?
Toby: Yes!
Juan: We do try to be very professional.  We are very conscious of our environment, and our kitchen is like a family.
Kristin: I don’t think that has to be confined to just the chef!

Steak Diane
Steak Diane

What are your favorite foods at home?
Toby: A little bit of everything.  We try to eat locally because of the area in which we live.  Right now, I’m liking anything braised, like the braised lamb we have on the menu.
Juan: BBQ, hands down!
Kristin: Fresh, healthy foods.

Finally the last question, do you do the dishes at home?
Toby: I help out as much as I can…when I’m home.  Maybe my wife wouldn’t agree…
Juan: We enjoy all aspects of our kitchen at home.  Kristin has a taste for good pots and pans, so I’ve learned how to take care of those items!
Kristin: Yes!


Butternut Gnocchi with Lamb Ragù

savory chef confidential

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


Lamb Ragù
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 6-inch-long fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
2 pounds lamb stew meat, fat trimmed, meat cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound plum tomatoes, cored, coarsely chopped
1 cup (or more) water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 steamed butternut squash

1 1/2 pounds small white-skinned potatoes, unpeeled
2 1/4 cups (or more) all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon (scant) ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten to blend
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter


For ragù: Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, rosemary, and bay leaf; sauté until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper. Add lamb to pot; sauté until browned, about 8 minutes. Add wine; scrape up browned bits. Stir in tomatoes, 1 cup water, and 1 teaspoon salt; bring to simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lamb is tender, adding more water if needed for saucy consistency, about 1 1/2 hours. Discard garlic. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

For gnocchi: Cook potatoes in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. Peel potatoes while still warm; press through food mill or potato ricer into large bowl. Place 1 1/2 cups flour in a mound on work surface; mix in 3/4 teaspoon salt and nutmeg. Spoon potatoes atop flour mixture. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup additional flour; mix flour and potatoes together lightly. Pour egg atop potato-flour mixture. Knead lightly until dough is almost smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky, about 5 minutes (do not overwork dough). Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; sprinkle with flour. Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece on floured surface into 3/4-inch-diameter rope; cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along the back of fork tines, making ridges on 1 side. Press thumb on other side, making hollow. Place on prepared sheet. (Ragù and gnocchi can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover separately and chill. Rewarm ragù before using.) Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; remove from heat. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add half of gnocchi; cook until gnocchi are tender and rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to melted butter; toss to coat. Repeat with remaining gnocchi. Heat gnocchi in skillet, over medium-high heat, tossing until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Divide gnocchi among plates. Top with hot lamb ragù and serve.


Savory Cafe
722A Main Street
Woodland, CA 95695
(530) 668-4009

The Barajas family also owns:
Las Maracas Mexican Restaurant
9540 Locust Street
Knights Landing Ca.
(530) 735-6333

Recipe photo provided by Savory Cafe