Archive for May, 2012
FARM, just like the name suggests, serves organic, local, farm-to-table cuisine. FARM is located in the Carneros Inn in Napa – a beautiful resort surrounded in grape vines, apple orchards, and miles of picturesque views of the valley. When I say farm to table I don’t mean any old farm in Northern Cal. The chef de cuisine, Andrew Budnyj, partners with the inn’s culinary gardener to serve truly sustainable ingredients from the garden and then showcases them on the menu. I recommend arriving early and having a drink outside. They’ve got a nice set up with plush couches, chairs, candles, and heat lamps making it a comfortable atmosphere for a pre meal cocktail or glass of wine. FARM offers both a tasting menu or a la carte options. I enjoyed the baby beet salad composed of market fresh beets, crispy little fried balls of goat cheese, with pistachios and avocado mouse. I also got to try the lobster risotto which was the perfect blend of risotto and a flavorful, butter, lemon, parmesan sauce. The potato crusted sole was cooked to perfection and served over a bed of ramps and black trumpet mushrooms. I love that the chef chose trumpet mushrooms over any ordinary mushroom as it complemented the sole quite well. The sole, while it was crusted, was not heavily coated or deep fried. It still retained the natural fresh flavor. To round everything out, I tried an interesting combination of “Bananas and Bacon” for dessert. Basically, banana three ways.. think a little whiskey, a dash of sour cream, brown butter ICE CREAM, and a bacon crumble…
A Pizzeria in Napa? Yes, you’re reading this correctly! You won’t get “half pepperoni half plain” pies at this pizza joint though. Richard Reddington, infamous for his Michelin star restaurant, REDD, located down the road, opened this casual pizza centric restaurant just three months ago. It’s located in the charming North Block hotel off the main drag in Yountville. There’s an open kitchen and a wood burning oven where you can watch the magic happen. You’ll find authentic Italian dishes from suppli (fried rice/risotto balls with mozzarella – a staple in Rome) in a lamb bolognese sauce to proper Neapolitan style pizza (thick deliciously thick crust and a thin center). The apps range from spring vegetable salad (pictured below with fresh bibb lettuce, beans, carrot, zucchini, radish) to different types of charcuterie and cheeses. Pizza choices include a classic Margherita and more decadent options such as lardo with mushroom, spinach, and fontina, to even a clam chowder- esque pizza consisting of clams potatoes, leeks, and garlic.
Calling all foodies!! I had the pleasure of dining at At Hoc, Thomas Keller’s most recent addition to his restaurant row in Yountville, California. Thomas Keller, famous for his Michelin star restaurants Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and The French Laundry, (all within a few blocks of each other) created Ad Hoc as a temporary project in 2006. This “project” turned into a massive hit and a totally different dining experience than one would get at the French Laundry. It’s hearty, comfort food, served family style, but surely better than any family style restaurant you’ve ever frequented before. To set your expectations up front – There is one price fixed menu every day based on what ingredients are fresh and what the chef decides to serve up. We started off with a mixed greens salad dressed perfectly in a champagne vinaigrette. Our main course featured succulent pork medallions served over pan fried broccoli rabe. Next, for the “refresher” course, we enjoyed Landaff – a creamy, buttery, earthy cheese melted on a piece of toast topped with a roasted tomato “jam”. Lastly, for dessert, the chef made individual carrot cake trifles in little mason jars with a side of sweet coconut macaroons. Those macaroons were not just a little after meal sweet. They were probably one of the best macaroons I’ve ever tasted. Irresistible.. certainly a meal I will not soon forget.
Ah.. Chez L’Ami Jean (at my friend Jean). One of my favorite dining experiences on the Left Bank of Paris headed by culinary extraordinaire, Chef Stéphane Jégo. This teensy tiny Basque style bistro is a favorite among the locals and those who are “in the know”. Jégo worked alongside Yves Camdeborde (Chef at Le Comptoir) for many years, and you will see certain similarities in their cooking style. Jégo, too, takes classic and traditional dishes and reconstructs them into gastronomic brilliance. The moment you walk in from the unassuming exterior, you’re lured in to the bustling, high energy atmosphere. There are two menu options, one in a traditional leather bound book and the other, a handwritten pre fixe market menu. This menu changes daily based on seasonality and whatever Chef Jégo may be feeling at that moment. Expect some game dishes. Wild Boar? Deer? or “Bambi” as he called it when I was unsure of what appeared on my plate. My meal here from beginning to end was a journey of succulent, rich, mind blowingly inspirational creations.
I don’t quite remember how many courses were in total but as far as the main dishes go, the wild boar topped with scallop, sprinkled in truffle, and garnished with a crisp slice of bacon forever holds a special place in my memory. Then, what next but a superbly seasoned langoustine (prawn) atop a perfectly cooked piece of bass? Finally, Chef Jego’s signature and LEGENDARY salted caramel rice pudding dessert. I’ve never been much of a rice pudding aficionado but this dessert was so delicious that I had it wrapped up in a “doggy bag” (yes, they do that here) and indulged on the plane the next day. You could taste the firm grains of rice embedded in the velvety smooth pudding, flavored with bourbon and vanilla. On the side, he offered a variety of toppings such as peanut brittle, brown sugar, and granola. This dessert was a masterpiece. Our meal lasted hours and the longer we sat, the more we ate, calories but an afterthought. If you’re going to Chez L’Ami Jean, sit back relax, eat, drink, and be merry.