In late September, husband-wife Michael and Margo Powers were in the midst of closing their well-regarded Terrace restaurant at Town & Country Village. He would start job-hunting. She would turn their 3-1/2-acre homestead in Wilton into a "full-on organic farm," though it already produced a variety of fruits and vegetables used in the Terrace kitchen. Understandably, they were stressed and heartbroken.
Things got brighter three weeks ago when Michael Powers became the executive chef at the Bistro at Villa Toscano Winery in Plymouth.
"I sent a resume and they called me," he said Thursday. "I went for an interview and they hired me on the spot. I started working right then. It's a lot of the responsibility I wanted, without the issues of restaurant ownership. I can just do my work and play with the food."
The winery's food operation focuses on catering ("That's my forte"), but the Bistro offers a counter-service menu of pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads and daily specials.
"I want to broaden (the Bistro) menu and put my signature on it," Powers said. "Pasta-wise, I'm coming with a lighter, fresher angle. (Pizza-wise) we're going to start making calzones. And I'll be bringing changes to the catering menu, too."
Last July, the self-trained chef took first place for overall dish in the second annual Sacramento TomatoFest at Town & Country. Some 1,500 people attended the event, which featured eight restaurants in a judged competition. Powers won with a tomato-and-pineapple salsa.
Among the specialties served at the Terrace were seared sea scallops with two sauces, an outstanding dish (pictured). Ingrerdients included white wine, butter, olive oil, fennel, whole-grain mustard, cream and fresh pesto. Will he introduce it to the Bistro?
"I definitely will have the scallops, and our smoked salmon, too," he said.
On her cell phone, Margo Powers said she had "just planted beets, turnips, radishes and all kinds of heirloom vegetables (in their garden). I'm going to focus on (the farming), and start beekeeping and selling honey."
For more information on the Bistro: (209) 245-3800, www.villatoscano.com