Five Great Burgers in Napa Valley

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burger1.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Who doesn't love a great burger?  (Other than vegetarians, of course.)  People have their own particular preferences about type of bun, cooking temperature, and toppings, but there is a burger out there for every individual palate.  Check out these gems from the Napa Valley, and see which style will become your favorite.
Brix.  I just tried Brix's seasonal beauty for the first time the other night, and heartily commend it to the other truffle-lovers out there.   The Winter Burger's sautéed wild mushrooms add texture and shroomy depth, and melted Sottocenere truffle cheese piles on the sensuous indulgence.  The thick, well seared patty has a rich beefy flavor that keeps it tasty even if cooked to medium well or beyond.  Thick-cut fries dusted in more truffle cheese and tiny flecks of parsley complete the plate in decadent style.  This dish packs a wallop of wintry flavor, and eliminates any biological need to eat for the rest of the day.  Available at lunch and dinner.

Celadon.  Greg Cole's first Napa restaurant (he also owns Cole's Chop House) won me over with its miraculous sandwich in an informal burger crawl through downtown Napa last summer.  The 7-ounce patty is from Masami Farms, whose Wagyu cattle provide one of the finest American-grown versions of Japanese Kobe beef available.  Sun-dried tomato aioli spread, mesclun, tomato, red onion, and (optional) shredded cheese pile on a full spectrum of flavors and textures, and the mountain of crispy tarragon shoestring fries ensures that even the hungriest diner will waddle away replete.  A toasted potato-pepper bun adds just the right balance of structure and softness.  Sadly (or perhaps not for those with New Year's resolutions), this amazing burger is available only at lunch Mon-Fri.

AVIA Kitchen.  For months the mystery of the menu's undefined "CAB" burger has haunted me... do they actually put wine in the burger? Is it built to pair perfectly with a glass of Napa cab?  At last, I too know the delicious truth.  CAB = Cheese, Avocado, and Bacon.  There's no cabernet in it, but the burger is indeed a fabulous match for a local cabernet sauvignon... or cabernet franc for that matter.  The burger is available at both the main restaurant for dinner and the Riddling Rack bar, so happy hour and late-night burger cravings need not go unanswered.  You can always walk it off downtown if you need to.

Angèle. The "pavé de boeuf haché" at Angèle is legendary to any who have experienced it.  A toasted potato bun, choice of Frenchie cheeses (I go Gruyère here), and a beautiful hunk of tender ground beef arrives in pristine condition, with a side of compulsively delicious fries, lettuce, tomato and red onion, and a trio of continental condiments: le mayonnaise, la moutarde (Dijon-style, bien-sur), and le ketchup.  Cooking temperatures also skew European (rarer) here--which is great for me--but if you like your burger only a little bit pink, order it medium well to be sure it comes out to your liking.  Available at the bar all day, and in the restaurant at lunch.

gottsburger.jpgGott's Roadside. Formerly known as Taylor's Refresher, Gott's has settled into its new name and continues to pump out crowd pleasing roadside favorites at its original St. Helena and newer Oxbow Public Market locations (there's also one in San Francisco's Ferry Building).  Their Niman Ranch burger uses a slightly sweet egg bun from Sciambra's bakery, and piles on the classic accompaniments: iceberg lettuce (on the bottom bun, to provide texture and support for the patty), sliced tomato, and housemade pickles from cucumbers grown in Gott's St. Helena gardens.  A punchy, pickly "secret sauce" adds additional kick and moisture.  Classic Americana.

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