Sunday Brunch: The Redd Lobster Club @ Redd, Yountville

Baller brunch:

Baller Brunch: The Redd Lobster Club @ Redd, Yountville.

Here’s another meal that didn’t make the cut from my forthcoming ebook: I submit the Redd Lobster Club, available Sundays at Redd as a brunch-only item. This sandwich is a cool $27, which is what initially piqued my interest when I was researching brunch menus.

Redd’s Lobster Club is essentially a BLT with the addition of poached Maine lobster and lemon aioli. The sandwich itself features a fair amount of lobster, and the ingredients are sound, to be sure. However, I’m not wild about the use of crustless brioche, which seems almost too delicate for the task.

Whether on a burger or on a sandwich, I always feel like I have to race against brioche, trying to eat it before it becomes overly soggy. By the same token, I also have a general issue with shoestring fries, which despite [… read more …]

The Cassoulet @ Bistro Jeanty, Yountville

One of my all-time Napa favorites: The Cassoulet @ Bistro Jeanty.

I’m in the closing stages of my ebook, and I’ve had to narrow the focus and edit out some material. Here’s some fotzelschnitten to savor.

• • •

Having already divulged my preference for Boonfly Café fried chicken over Ad Hoc fried chicken, I’m going to come across as a Thomas Keller detractor when I champion Bistro Jeanty over Bouchon Bistro.

Let me set the record straight: from a pure culinary standpoint, Thomas Keller is clearly the greatest chef in American history, bar none. But as far as Bouchon Bistro is concerned, it’s good, but for me, Bistro Jeanty is more of the quintessential Napa Valley restaurant.

While Thomas Keller has been a fixture in the Napa Valley since 1994 (when he purchased the French Laundry from Sally Schmitt), chef Philippe  Jeanty has been in [… read more …]

Three-Course Lunch @ Redd, Yountville

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First, the Main: The New York Steak Sandwich, cooked Medium Rare, with Onion Rings @ Redd, Yountville.

Now that I no longer spend my days in a Michelin-star kitchen, the idea of fine dining has become more appealing to me. Perhaps familiarity does breed contempt — not that I hate fine dining. It’s just, sometimes you have to come up for air, right? Of course, even if more fine dining is my mission, I’m still going to opt for a steak sandwich if I see one, especially one that features my favorite cut of beef, the New York strip (the rib-eye is a close second, but I still favor the intense flavor of the New York, even at the expense of marbling). And also, I have a track record for ordering humble sandwiches from Michelin-star restaurants. The steak sandwich at Redd is dressed with arugula, caramelized onions, and [… read more …]

Inside Napa Valley: Yountville’s Cantinetta Piero closes, abruptly

I learned something interesting about Cantinetta Piero tonight at Pancha’s of Yountville (which happens to be located right across the street): Apparently, all of Piero’s employees learned just yesterday that their last night would be Wednesday, July 6. Upon posting this news, I received some clarifications today from Jennifer Tomaro, Marketing Director of Moana Hotel & Restaurant Group:

“The owners of Hotel Luca have retained the two principles of Solage (Tim Harmon and Robert Watson) to help direct the operations of the hotel and restaurant. The hotel is still open and there are no changes planned at this time. As you know, the restaurant was closed last night. There is no definitive plan in place for the restaurant as the team is using this opportunity to evaluate the operation, but the goal is to have it reopened by the end of this year. Please note that we do not [… read more …]

The Napa Valley’s Best Pizza: My Top 12

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Pizzas on Parade (clockwise, from upper left): Oenotri, Solbar, Redd, Pizzeria Azzurro, Auberge du Soleil, Uva, Cantinara Piero, Ca’ Momi, Boon Fly Cafe, Pizzeria Tra Vigne, Papa Joe’s, Bistro Don Giovanni.

If there’s one food that can achieve total global supremacy, pizza seems like the natural front-runner. You don’t ever have to sell anybody on pizza. It just seems to endear itself to everybody, like a wealthy uncle, or a gregarious bartender. Although pizza has only become popular here in America since World War II, different schools of thought regarding pizza have already emerged: Individual preferences towards pizza remain highly subjective, and plenty of effort has already been spent hashing out the pizza-related differences between Chicago, New York, and the rest of the country. However, I chose not to acknowledge any of those debates concerning thin crusts or deep dishes. For this segment, I set out to answer [… read more …]

Napa Rumor Mill: Martini House Closing, to Be Purchased by Flemings Steakhouse

[UPDATE: The rumor below has since been confirmed, although chef Todd Humphries will not be going to the CIA, nor Jeanty at Jack’s, as he mentions in the comments.]

Folks, the stories don’t get much more wild than this one, but I’m going to roll with it anyway, since that’s part of what I do: I’ve just heard that the Martini House in St. Helena will be sold to Flemings Steakhouse. I’ve been mulling this one over all morning, thinking about the possibility of this rumor being true, and what it could all mean to the Napa Valley. What I do know is that the Martini House has struggled over the last couple years, due to the economic downturn: Along the way, the St. Helena restaurant has lost its Michelin star (I had speculated that the “family meal” program had been part of that); the Kobe burger, which was [… read more …]

The Mongolian Pork Chop @ Mustard’s Grill, Yountville

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So many posts dedicated to pork within these virtual pages, and I’ve never really mentioned the almighty Mongolian Pork Chop at Mustard’s Grill in Yountville. So, at long last, here it is: The one dish that has purportedly sold more than one million times over Mustard’s 26-year history. It’s a pretty good chop, glazed with the Mongolian-style marinade and the Chinese-style mustard sauce (they swirl together beautifully on the plate). More than anything, it’s an honest pork chop. Of course, Mustard’s Grill itself ranks as a true Napa Valley fixture, and in my mind, chef Cindy Pawlcyn’s restaurant remains de rigueur for lunch, especially if you wish to experience historic Napa dining. However, if you require something less venerable, but slightly better, I’d recommend the double-cut pork chop at the Rutherford Grill: That chop is truly a beast, and one to be taken quite [… read more …]

Butterscotch Sundae @ Redd Napa Valley, Yountville

Butterscotch sabayon, vanilla rum ice cream, caramel corn, and a sliver of galette (with chocolate cookie crumbles at the very bottom of the dish).

Butterscotch sabayon, vanilla rum ice cream, caramel corn, and a sliver of galette (with chocolate cookie crumbles at the very bottom of the dish).

I have always admired the desserts at Redd, especially the peanut butter and milk chocolate gianduja, which I have probably eaten more than any other dessert in the Napa Valley. I’ve also been a longtime proponent of Redd’s bar menu, which is probably my favorite in the area. The other day, I got to thinking about pork buns, sweet and spicy chicken wings, and some of my other favorites, so I dropped by Redd for some appetizers, and I took the opportunity to peruse their dinner menu, as well. Within the next few weeks, I hope to revisit Redd for dinner, as part of my ongoing campaign to evaluate all of Napa’s potential Michelin-star restaurants (the 2011 Michelin Guide debuts on October 27, so [… read more …]

Reviewing Napa’s Michelin Star Contenders for 2011: Bistro Jeanty, Yountville

I know you got sole.

Conspiracy theories, in general, are usually pretty boring. After all, who in their right mind wants to listen to some crackpot ramble on about government plots or UFOs? For me, it all adds up to a bunch of noise. But that being said, I do have a small conspiracy theory of my own regarding the 2010 Michelin Guide and Bistro Jeanty’s loss of its Michelin star. Perhaps it’s a bit far-fetched, but perhaps not. It goes as follows:

Since its wine country debut in 2007, the Michelin Guide has long been criticized for being detached and out-of-touch. Folks have often claimed that Michelin has no basis in local opinion, which calls into question the validity and relevance of the publication itself. The staff at Michelin must have been aware of these troubling accusations, and in order to tap into the local psyche, I [… read more …]

The French Laundry, 1993: Exploring the Early Days

I found an interesting old paperback at the used bookstore a few weeks ago, 1993’s “California Wine Country Cooking Secrets,” edited by Kathleen DeVanna Fish. The book itself is somewhat poorly conceived — part tour guide, part cookbook, part Napa, part Sonoma — it doesn’t really offer much definitive advice or insight regarding any of these four subjects. Instead, “California Wine Country Cooking Secrets” glosses over the critical details, and simply compiles fluff descriptions for the bigger wineries, alongside a handful of restaurant entries, each offering three recipes. That said, the Napa restaurant section does remain the most compelling chapter of the book, featuring such familiar local names as chef Michael Chiarello (not at Bottega, of course, but at Tra Vigne back in those days) and chef Philippe Jeanty (not at Bistro Jeanty, but at Domaine Chandon). Even though these two Napa chefs have since launched other ventures, some [… read more …]