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Sonoma resident Vance Rose's fascination with food and wine started when he was 18 years old.

After the Texas native was asked to pick a wine for dinner, he went into his father's cellar and chose a French Burgundy from his birthday year, 1959.

"Back then, I thought there were four kinds of wine -#8212; white, red, pink and bubbly," he recalled. "This wine was amazing. I had never tasted anything like it."

When he got to college, Rose wanted to enjoy his wine with food, but in 1978 in Texas, BYOB wasn't allowed in restaurants. So he called his mom and asked for advice.

"She told me to buy 'The Joy of Cooking,'" he recalled, and eat at home. "I found a used copy for $1.51, and I cooked out of it for eight days in a row... After eight days, I was dangerous."

During college, the self-taught chef began to throw elaborate dinner parties on New Year's Eve to celebrate his birthday. Then, after he married his wife, Kelly, he began to cook in earnest, spending entire weekends creating multi-course dinners, paired with wine, for friends.

About four years ago, the idea of hosting an underground restaurant -#8212; also known as a supper club or "guestaurant" -#8212; took root.

"A dear college friend told me, 'You need to start charging for this,'" he said. "She said to call it underground dining."

So Rose came up with a website, got the word out and launched Du Jour Dining, a pop-up dinner he throws about 30 times a year in his home and other private venues.

"Somehow, people came, and they keep coming," he said. "In the foodie world, people want to be on the cutting edge. I can provide a unique experience. You can sit at the table for the entire night, talk to me, and find out as much as you want."

For each nine-course, seven-wine menu -#8212; inspired by international cuisine, sourced within a 125-mile radius, and created with modern cuisine's tools and techniques -#8212; Rose puts in about 35hours.

That's on top of his two day jobs, as director of sales and marketing for Amorim, the largest cork company in the world; and as a partner in a wine company that makes Grieve Sauvignon Blanc and Double Eagle, a red Bordeaux.

"Our first vintage was 2006," he said. "The food and wine jobs are amazingly similar... but they also diverge."

While Rose manages the vineyard and sells the wine year-round, he only makes wine once a year. With cooking, he is able to practice his craft every day.

"There is artistry and chemistry on both sides," he said. "Knowing how to make wine helps me to cook. They both feed into each other."

While the underground restaurant doesn't make a profit, it provides Rose with a showcase for all the recipe ideas that flow through his head.

"I do it as a creative outlet," he said. "It's a lot of work, but it's my passion."

Rose charges about $125 to $150 for each dinner, which he figures covers what it would cost his guests to buy the international wines at retail.

"A lot of the wines have a little age on them," he said. "And most of the wines, you're not going to find here."

Need Help?

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NAMI Sonoma County warmline: 707-527-6655

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At his latest dinner, held last month in his home in Sonoma, a total of 12 guests were served a tasting menu not unlike the menu they would find at Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Napa.

For the dinner, Rose wanted to play with his new toy, a professional Combi oven that provides dry heat, wet heat, or a combination of both. So he used the oven to steam the first course, a Cherry-stone Clam Souffl?with Sauvignon Blanc-Saffron Sauce.

Rose starts his planning about 10 days in advance, ordering products from a pool of about 36 farmers, four butchers, four fishmongers and three cheesemakers.

A few days in advance, he starts the prep work, seasoning the meat, dehydrating and making caramels, custards and ice creams. He also picks up products.

On the day of the dinner, his wife sets the table and provides all the service for the evening. About a dozen guests show up at 7 p.m., then sit down for the four-hour feast.

The dinners often begin with a couple of briny seafood courses, like oysters and caviar, followed by a vegetable or grain course. Then, there's a soup, a fish course, a light protein, a heavy protein, a cheese course and dessert.

Rose's clientele includes folks from Silicon Valley, San Francisco, the East Bay, Napa and Sonoma. They are foodies who enjoy new adventures.

"They look for the latest and the greatest," he said. "That's my audience."

The following recipes are from Vance Rose of Du Jour Dining in Sonoma.

Dungeness Crab, Avocado Puree - Champagne Sabayon 'Cocktail'

Serves 8 as a starter course

For crab:

1/2 pound cleaned Dungeness crab meat

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

-#8212;Pinch of salt

-#8212;Pinch of ground white pepper

For puree:

1 ripe avocado

1/4 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon salt

-#8212;Splash of lemon juice

-#8212;Splash of Siracha (Thai chile sauce)

For sabayon:

1/2 cup sparkling wine

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

-#8212;Salt to taste

-#8212;Pinch of Pimenton or paprika, for garnish

For the crab: Whip the cream to medium peaks and add the pinch of salt and ground white pepper. Fold the cleaned crab meat into the cream and refrigerate until needed.

For the puree: Quarter the avocado and scrape the meat into a blender. Add all other ingredients and puree, scraping down the sides as necessary. Depending on the ripeness of the avocado, you may need a bit more milk to get the avocado to puree. Please feel free to season as you please. Refrigerate until needed.

For the sabayon: Set a pot of water to simmer on the stove. Place a metal bowl over the pot and place the egg yolks and ? of the sparkling wine in the bowl. Whisk the egg yolks and sparkling wine constantly. It will take some time and effort, but the sauce will begin to thicken. Add the remaining sparkling wine and continue to whisk to thicken once again. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. until melted. Once all the butter is incorporated, season with salt as necessary. The sauce should be thick and well emulsified.

To serve: In a martini-style glass, place one spoonful of the avocado puree in the bottom of the glass and smooth until level. Next place a spoonful of the crab. Next, pour a spoonful of the sabayon over the crab. Finally, top the dish with a fine pinch of pimenton for color and the final flavor pop.

Seared True Cod and Caramelized Cauliflower Puree with Blood Orange-Bitter Chocolate Sauce

Makes 8 servings

For cod:

1large true cod fillet

-#8212;Salt - pepper, to taste

-#8212;Olive oil

For cauliflower puree:

1/2 head cauliflower

1/4 cup whole milk

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

-#8212;Salt to taste

For blood orange-bitter chocolate sauce:

6 blood oranges

-#8212;Pinch of sugar

2 tablespoons high-quality powdered, unsweetened cocoa

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the cod: Remove the section of the fillet with the row of bones and discard. Portion the fish into eight equal-sized sections and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides.

For the puree: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the milk. Core the cauliflower and break apart into flowerets. Put the flowerets in the boiling water and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the cauliflower to a food processor, add 2 tablespoons of the butter and puree thoroughly into a smooth puree. Strain through a medium mesh strainer. In a large frying pan melt the remaining butter over the very highest heat. Brown the butter and add the cauliflower puree and cook for 6 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste. Remove from the heat until ready to serve.

For the sauce: Juice the blood oranges and strain into a saucepan. Add the sugar and cook over medium heat until reduced to about ? cup. Stir in the unsweetened cocoa to make sure there are no lumps. Over low heat, add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until just melted to set up the sauce.

To serve: In frying pan, heat the olive oil over the very highest heat possible until almost smoking. Add the 8 portions of fish so they are evenly spaced and not touching. Sear the fish on the first side for about 3 minutes. Carefully flip each fish portion and sear on the other side for 1? minutes. Remove to a few paper towels to drain while plating the cauliflower. Place one heaping spoonful of the cauliflower puree in the middle of your plate of choice, top with the seared fish portion and top with the sauce. Serve immediately.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com.

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