December 2010 Archives

2010 Restaurant Retrospective

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Deirdre Bourdet

2010 will go down in Napa history as The Year of the Restaurant.  We saw no fewer than twelve new restaurants opening their doors within a half mile of each other, making the downtown region the new dining hot spot of the Valley.  Each new arrival brought something special to the eating scene that is worthy of note.  Here's my highly subjective take on what each new place has done for Napa, in roughly chronological order.

1.    Grace's Table Husband and wife team Mauro and Nancy transformed the modern Elements space into a comfortable neighborhood restaurant with neighborhood prices, satisfying global comfort food, and a warm welcome at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  No one else in town pumps out the variety of housemade jams, breads, stews, burgers, tamales, gnocchi, and salads at accessible prices like these guys do.

Favorite Flavor?

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flavorbar.jpgby Michaela Jarvis

You may not serve grapes dipped in lime juice and salt at your next dinner party, but it's still fascinating to see what kind of flavor such a combination produces. Like cooking deconstructed, the Calibrating Your Palate demonstration at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, lets you taste for yourself how different flavors affect each other: how acid can bring out earthy tones in a food; how salt can bring out sweetness. After just 15 minutes watching the demonstration at the Flavor Bar, you'll begin to taste and season like a chef.

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The Riddling Rack Is A No Brainer

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riddlingrack.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Cold wet weather makes me want to hole up at home with a bottle of red wine and some truffle mashed potatoes.  Home is easy, it's warm, it's reasonably attractive, and it almost always has some really good wine on hand.  But when I dragged myself out on a random weeknight for pre-dinner drinks at the AVIA Hotel's Riddling Rack, I discovered another comforting nook in town with these same attributes--one that's also way cooler looking, and has vintage Dom Perignon by the glass.  

Wake Up Call

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Where to enjoy the best breakfasts in Wine Country.

by Jill Silverman Hough

There's nothing like waking up in Wine Country, with the promise of a perfect day ahead. So, why not indulge in an amazing breakfast? Whether you like to ease into the day with coffee and a fresh-baked scone, or you're up for a three-course brunch, here are the spots to start your day off right.

Cantinetta Piero
The venue: A hotel restaurant, but the hotel feels like a bit of Tuscany.
The food: The two-course prix fixe breakfast starts with fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee, a small pastry, and yogurt with fruit and house-made granola. Then, it moves to your choice of three egg dishes. Go for the side of artisan-smoked bacon, and linger over every bite.
The prices: $18 (30 percent off for locals).
The details: Breakfast Mon.-Sun. 7:30-10 a.m. 6774 Washington St., Yountville, (707) 299-5015, cantinettapiero.com.

Solbar
The venue: Michelin star-rated hotel restaurant, with a hip yet casual vibe.
The food: The on-premise garden influences the menu, and everything is expertly prepared. Lemon ricotta pancakes are crisp around the edges but light inside, thanks to whipped egg whites. Beef for the hash is house corned. Juices aren't just fresh squeezed, they're squeezed to order. And coffee comes in a personal French press.
The prices (entrées): $11-$17.
The details: Breakfast Mon.-Sun. 7-11 a.m., brunch Sun. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, (707) 226-0800, solbarnv.com.

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Time To Stop Beating Around the Bûche

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Growing up in California, I always thought a yule log was the crackling fire you tuned your televisions to while you opened your Christmas gifts.  I was stunned to learn that the yule log is not only a real cake consumed by many Americans, but the Christmas Eve dessert for families in France.

In contrast to the rest of the traditional Réveillon menu for December 24th--oysters, foie gras, truffles, and roast capon--the Bûche de Noël is a humble little creature.  Thin genoise cake, usually chocolate, is rolled around a flavored cream-based filling and then frosted and decorated with meringue mushrooms to look like a felled log in the forest.  Although some French seem to prize an ultra-realistic log, and others opt for a more cartoonish look, everyone's goal is clearly to make the cake look like a moldering piece of wood.

Piero Fetes the Feast of the Seven Fishes

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By Deirdre Bourdet

One of my all-time favorite Italian culinary traditions is the southern regions' Festa dei Sette Pesci, the epic Feast of the Seven Fishes celebrated on Christmas Eve.   Unlike many other traditional meals, the menu for the Feast of the Seven Fishes is not set in stone--nor is the number of dishes, despite the name.  Celebrants may serve seven, nine, eleven, thirteen different fishes at the meal, depending on what is fresh and available and inspiring to the cooks.  Italian-American Feasts of the Seven Fishes have also been known to sneak in some meat with the fish, as well.  A multi-course parade of creative seafood variations that incorporates meat products whenever delicious may not sound much like an abstinent religious observance, but then again we are talking about the Italians.  And it is a Festa, after all.


Filet Mignon with Mushrooms and Sauce Pinot Noir

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filet mignon 001_crop.jpgBacon wrapped Filet Mignon married with garlic, mushroom, rosemary and wine...it's an entree sure to please!  Served with a favorite side dish and a MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir, it is perfect for a special occasion dinner.

Ingredients:
  • 2 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 bacon strips
  • 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. Assorted mushrooms such as shitake, crimini and chanterelle, stemmed and halved
  • 1 TBS finely chopped garlic
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups Pinot Noir (MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard or Carneros)
  • 2 TBS prepared demi-glace (find recipe online at www.gatewaygourmet.com/demi.htm or purchase online, "Demi-Glace Gold" at www.clubsauce.com )
  • 2 TBS unsalted butter

Where Are You Dining For Christmas?

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(2012 Update!)

We've said it before and we'll say it again!  Leave the dirty dishes for someone else to clean. Mix up the tradition of a Christmas Dinner at home and feast on delicious "just like Mom used to make it" cuisine at one of Wine Country's restaurants open for dinner.

See list of restaurants ready for your reservation right now.
Please Note: This is a partial list. If you do not find the restaurant you are interested in dining at listed here, please call them directly.

NAPA VALLEY

Christmas Eve

  • Angele ~ 707.252.8115
  • Hours: 5:30pm - 9:30pm
  • Bistro Jeanty ~ 707.944.0103
  • Hours: 11:30 am - 9:30 pm
  • Fish Story - 707.251.5600
  • Hours: 5:30pm - 9:30pm
  • Ristorante Allegria ~ 707.254.8006
  • Hours: Open for Lunch Only 11:30am - 2:30pm
  • Siena at the Meritage ~ 707.251.1950
  • Hours: 4:00pm

Christmas Day

  • Bistro Jeanty ~ 707.944.0103
  • Hours: 11:30 am - 9:30 pm
  • Brix ~ 707.944.2749
  • Hours: 2:00pm - 8:00pm
  • Brannan's ~ 707.942.2233
  • Hours: 1:00pm - 8:00pm
  • Grill at Meadwood ~ 707.963.3646
  • Hours: 7:00am - 10:00pm
  • Lucy Restaurant & Bar @ Bardessono ~ 707.204.6030
  • Hours: 1:00pm - 7:00pm
  • Ristorante Allegria ~ 707.254.8006
  • Hours: Open for Dinner Only 5:00pm - 8:00pm
  • Silverado Resort & Spa ~ 707.257.5400
  • Hours: 12:30pm - 4:30pm

Carmelized Apple Bread Pudding

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concannonVineyard_breadPuddingRecipe.jpgwith Concannon Conservancy Chardonnay Cream
Recipe from Concannon Vineyard

Comfort and sophistication in every luscious bite, this is sure to be a holiday hit at your table this season.

Ingredients:
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 c sugar, divided
  • 2 1/2 c hot milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t grated lemon zest
  • 1/8 t grated nutmeg
  • 4 c cubed day old country style bread, crusted trimmed
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 c ¾ inch wedges Granny Smith apples, cored and peeled
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Trufflefest Napa Valley

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blacktruffle.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Last weekend the inaugural Napa Valley Truffle Festival brought a wave of truffle hunters to town, just in time for the start of the black truffle season.  With seminars and dégustations aimed at gourmands and geeks alike, the Festival drew a diverse crowd of truffle scientists, truffle purveyors, truffle farmers, potential truffle farmers, and truffle-obsessed foodies--united in their shared passion for mycorrhizal fungus.  

Mini Crab Cake Appetizers

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mini-crab-cakes_large.jpgSubmitted by Domain Chandon

Here is a true American classic that just begs to be paired with a top-quality California sparkling wine. Whether you choose blue crab from the Chesapeake Bay or Dungeness crab from the Pacific Northwest, these miniature cakes will melt in your mouth. For the sake of convenience, you can do the prep work a day in advance and pop the baking pans in the oven while your guests are enjoying their first glass of wine.

Preparation time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz cream cheese, brought to room temperature
  • ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange peel
  • ½ tsp finely grated lemon peel
  • 4 tsp plus 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives, divided
  • ¼ tsp coarse kosher salt
  • Large pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 6 oz fresh lump crabmeat, picked over, patted dry and coarsely shredded
  • 1 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)*
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
  • Fresh chives, cut into pieces

Kitchen equipment: Electric mixer, 2 mini muffin pans

Pot Roast

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pot_roast.jpgSubmitted by Flora Springs Winery

Ingredients:
  • 4# boneless chuck roast
  • 1cup flour
  • Bay leaf
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 c chicken or beef stock or enough to cover (heated)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ea carrots chopped
  • 1 ea onion chopped
  • 2 ea parsnips chopped

Directions:
Season chuck roast with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Brown roast on all sides in a
medium sauté pan. Place roast and remaining ingredients into a large casserole pan and cover with foil.

Place into a 425 degree oven. Cook covered for about 4 hours or until tender.  Add more chicken or beef stock, if needed during cooking.

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