Putting your Heart into it

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By M.L. Hilton

(NAPA, CA) -- I have given up cooking. I am insisting that it has to do with the very 50’s kitchen I have: beyond small, rusting metal cabinets, and every tool I ever owned divvyed up between past long-term relationships. I didn’t buy a new spatula and I haven’t put a new man in my life. Perhaps that is fodder for the therapist’s couch.

I have however, been able to maintain sustenance by frequenting a number of Napa’s excellent restaurants. Last Monday (and Friday) I stopped by the new Zare. I had been to Hoss Zare’s new restaurant (www.zarenapa.com/Directions.htm), located where the old Red Hen used to be, when he promo’d the opening a few months back, but had never dropped by for dinner. Hoss is well known in the San Francisco restaurant scene for his work at a number of renowned eateries, as well as the places that currently bear his name.

Monday night the crowd was light and so was my mood, I had just the soup of the day and a warm beet salad served with an awesome cheese from Cowgirl Creamery (www.cowgirlcreamery.com). If you are thinking about great cheese as a gift for a loved one this holiday, make your order soon. These ladies get very busy during the holidays. Once you have had their cheese, the reason is obvious.

My meal was good and the bartender entertaining. Enough so, that I came back on Friday to get a feel for the place when the locals were out in force. Friday night’s service was as personal as Monday’s though I teased the bartender (I usually eat at the bar when dining alone) that I was only allotted two chocolate truffles at the end of my meal – since I didn’t eat the third that was presented on Monday.

A jazz duo played on Friday and the old building is nicely spruced up and feels clean. For those that remember it during its Red Hen heyday, the aging building had showed the many years of its use. Hoss is convivial and seems to already be greeting many of the locals by name. His heart-shaped logo and the romantic sentiments painted across the walls make it a nice choice for date night. I think the tourist crowds have not yet re-discovered this location for a fun and fulfilling dining experience. But, they will.

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