Auberge du Soleil, Terrace des Délices

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aubergeOutsideDining.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The terrace seating at Auberge du Soleil is an institution. Not simply for the people-watching possibilities, or for the ultra-romantic setting, or for the impeccable Relais & Chateaux service, or even for the perfectly executed and perfectly delicious cuisine from chef Robert Curry.  Dining on the Auberge terrace is special because it offers all of these in one spectacular place--and that's the reason it belongs on the bucket list of everyone who loves the wine country.

People don't typically visit restaurants with a view for their food, as cuisine quality tends to be inversely proportionate to the beauty of the scenery.  But at Auberge, the kitchen and the setting are evenly matched... at the 5-star level.  The panoramic southwest-facing view sweeps over olive trees, vineyards, and pastoral perfection all the way across the valley floor to the mountainous boundary on the west. If you're looking for a sunset proposal location, look no further.

aubergeTartare.jpgThe menu showcases the best Californian ingredients, prepared with classic European technique but contemporary flourish. Classic hand-cut steak tartare perches on a crispy parmesan tuile, already mixed and seasoned, needing only a fork to release the unctuous golden yolk of the quail egg and convey the bliss to your mouth. Ethereal potato gnocchi hover in a frothy parmesan nage studded with wild mushrooms, and crowned with julienned summer truffle shavings. In the entrée realm, seared ahi tuna goes Mediterranean with black olive tapenade, and crispy(!) soft boiled egg, while buttery diver scallops are paired with a seasonal corn and pearl onion sauté. 

If you're feeling particularly decadent, a lobster and veal sandwich awaits you, enriched with prosciutto and sliced brioche. American sturgeon caviar service with traditional garnishes and blinis is on hand for classicists, along with a sautéed chicken and morel dish with chardonnay sauce. Whatever your selection, it will be delicious. The professionalism of the kitchen ensures that every dish on your table will taste divine, no matter how frumpy or freakish it may sound.
aubergeScallops.jpgAs for the all-important beverage selection, the refreshingly friendly sommelier team can assist in parsing through the nearly fifteen pound wine list.  I was surprised at the range of countries and price points represented. There truly is something for everyone, and not just by the bottle. The sommelier selections highlighted on the food menu afford you grüner veltliner from Austria, Provencal rosé, Russian River pinot noir, and Argentine malbec by the glass, as well as the expected wines from Napa Valley.

I'm not going to lie--Auberge is not cheap, but dining on that terrace is worth every penny.  And the daily $35 two course prix fixe at lunchtime offers a gentler way to enjoy the luxurious experience. Stop procrastinating and book your table today.

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Good food, good view and ambiance. What else are you still looking for?

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