Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Restaurant at Meadowood

This week my husband and I ate at The Restaurant at Meadowood to celebrate out fourth wedding anniversary. Chef Christopher Kostow is a rising star chef who recently helped earn The Restaurant at Meadowood two Michelin Guide stars. The menu is uniquely crafted with three primary sections to select your courses from – “Local Gardens” featuring vegetable-based starters, “Oceans and Rivers” for fresh fish selections and “Pastures and Ranches” for your meat dishes. Diners can select their courses as they desire from any of these sections. A four-course dinner is $95 per person and a five-course dinner is $115 per person. You can also select the eight course Chef’s Tasting Menu for $140. The restaurant’s sommelier will guide you through wine pairings for each course.

We each decided on the four-course dinner selecting from throughout the menu and adding dessert. Some of the highlights included an heirloom tomato and peach terrine with fresh whipped ricotta, roasted turbot with chanterelles and corn milk and a lamb dish with a delicious castelvatrano olive puree. For dessert, our favorite was the warm banana soufflé.

The Sommelier offered many great wine pairings suggestions with the favorite of the night being a Roussane from Clos Solene, a small producer on the Central Coast. He also suggested pairing the Vare Vineyards Napa Valley Ribolla Gialla with my husband’s Monkfish. Although not my favorite wine, it is made from grapes grown in the only vineyard in California planted to Ribolla Gialla. Ribolla Gialla is more commonly known in the Fruili region of Italy and in Slovenia where it is widely produced. It pairs well with food and can be an interesting addition to your meal.

If you are interested in trying The Restaurant at Meadowood, you can visit them online at to view the menu, read more about their recent two star Michelin Guide rating and make a reservation.

Written by Linzi

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Heirloom tomatoes are in full swing during these last hot days of August. Here's a gazpacho recipe that's perfect for a hot summer evening dinner. Pair gazpacho with a crisp, dry white wine with some good acidity.

4 large heirloom tomatoes, cored

½ bunch basil

1 cup tomato juice

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 sweet onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 large red or yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced, or pinch of cayenne pepper if desired

1 large cucumber, diced

½ lemon juiced

¼ cup vinegar (I prefer apple or white wine vinegar)

½ tbsp sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Dice tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, basil and garlic. Combine with oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper (if desired), and mix well. Leave to marinade for at least 1-2 hours and up to 24. Puree in a blender or processor for a smooth texture or blend briefly for a heartier texture. Keep cold until serving. Garnish with olive oil and parsley, and serve with a crusty baguette or sourdough bread. Serves 4- 6.

Recipe by Karen

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Day of Tasting...Part 2

This week our tastings led us to Carneros and Sonoma for a visit to Gundlach Bundschu and Artesa Winery.

Gundlach Bundschu - Sonoma Valley

If you are seeking an off-the-beaten path, family-owned winery in Sonoma with lots of history and a great friendly atmosphere, then visit Gundlach Bundschu (Gun Bun for short). This charming winery is now celebrating its 150th year, making it the oldest family-owned winery in California. Six generations of the same family have grown up on this land and produced fine wine from their Estate vineyards.

As you enter into the tasting room with high wood-beamed ceilings, you can almost taste the history. And once you are offered a wine selection, you actually can.

The highlight of our tasting was the 2004 Vintage Reserve Cabernet Savignon, with a rich and elegant texture, and a lovely finish. We would also recommend their 2007 Gewurtrzminer, a great addition to a picnic lunch on a warm summer day.

The staff at Gundlach Bundschu is friendly and knowledgeable, and it is definitely not a stuffy winery. It is a no-frills winery that does not distract from their mission and passion for making good wine—and it shows.

Gundlach Bundschu also uses sustainable wine growing methods such as eliminating pesticides, using cover crops to increase nutrients in the soil, and using organic compounds and practices whenever possible.

Wines to Try

2004 Vintage Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon- $90.00. Elegant and rich textures combine with fruit flavors with a beautiful rounded finish.

2007 Gewürztraminer- $25.00. Aromas of apple blossom, a taste of honeysuckle and spicy floral.

2007 Tempranillo Rose- $22.00. Flavors of orange and strawberry, with notes of rose and brown spice.

2006 Chardonnay- $25.00. Fresh flavors of tropical fruit combine with vanilla and toasted almond.

2005 Merlot- $30.00. Spicy black cherry and dark plum.

Artesa Winery - Carneros

Now on quite the opposite side of the vineyard fence, but not far from Gundlach Bundschu, there lies Artesea. Driving up the long entryway that passes richly manicured landscaping and dramatically modern architecture, this winery is anything but subdued. It paints a bold contrast from the scenic country views below. Although a bit over-the-top with its showy nature, one cannot help but marvel at the impressive views framed by extensive water features and modern art pieces. The tasting bar is surprisingly down-to-earth and friendly.

Tempranillo was the highlight of our tasting here at Artesa. Although not well known in the states it is the great red wine grape of Spain. Artesa grows this grape in their Alexander Valley vineyards, and then allows it to rest for 18 months in French oak barrels. The result is a rich and fruity wine with a well-rounded full texture. Pair it with steak or pork.

Wines to Try

2005 Tempranillo, Alexander Valley- $25.00. Blackberry and cherry fruit combine with a smoky, peppery and a smooth finish.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon- $25.00. This spicy cab has hints of blackberry and current. It would go well with a variety of dishes and red meat.

2006 Chardonnay, Carneros- $20.00. A great versatile wine with a light floral bouquet and a hint of melon.

Written by Karen

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lunchtime Hot Spots

Why does dinner have to have all the fun? If you are heading to Napa’s wine country, here are a few tasty choices to try along the way—from unique menus to elegant dining spaces and plenty of kid-friendly spots.


Boon Fly Café If you are heading along the Sonoma Highway you will pass this place right before you get to Napa, and it’s worth the stop. There are lots of mouth-watering sandwiches and flatbreads—such as the Point Reyes Blue Cheese with caramelized onions and mushrooms—to choose from, with the average lunch plate around $13. Be prepared for a little wait time, this is one popular place!


Pica Pica If you are looking for something different, then head to Pica Pica in the newly opened Oxbox Market. This Venezuelan restaurant, focuses on maize as the key ingredient in their dishes. Try their Maize'Wich, a delicious grilled cheese sandwich on sweet cornbread.

Copia Bistro is another relatively new Napa hot spot for lunch. The location is great, and you can look around the extensive edible gardens and museum before you eat. They have a salmon BLT and food inspired by the bistros of France.

Napa Wine Train If you are in the mood for something more than an ordinary lunch, or if you want to celebrate a special event, try this place where you can dine in a 1947 Pullman domed rail car, and enjoy a glass of sparkling wine with your lunch. These 2 ½-3 hour excursions are quite memorable, but just remember the wine train does not stop, so you will have to save the shopping and winery visits for another time. $119-140 per person.


Pacific Blues Café is a great comfort food spot with burgers, salads and an excellent pulled pork sandwich. Don’t miss the Trash Treats for lunch – Rice Krispies treats with a variety of toppings. Prices are around $10-12.

Napa Valley Grille in Yountville has a great Kobe burger (and you pay for it at $17) and many sandwich and salad options, such as a delicious chicken penne for $15.


Rutherford Grill is a favorite spot among many of its locals, why? Reliably good service, and great-tasting food, that is reasonably priced for what you get (around $12-$15). The only downside is the menu rarely changes, but that is not necessarily a bad thing!

St. Helena

Giugni’s Deli There are so many choices around this little town, but if you are looking for a good deli sandwich, maybe even the best you have ever had, then go where all the locals go. Giuni’s is right downtown, and has reliably great, fresh sandwiches made to order for around $6.

Pizzeria Tra Vigne This is one place you can’t go wrong with the whole family. You have to try the piadine’s - kind of like a pizza and a salad all in one. The caesar chicken, caprese, lemon chicken and Mediterranean piadine are all excellent. You can watch the piadine’s and pizza’s come straight out of the pizza oven. It is also very kid friendly with a great outdoor patio and a pool table. Most plates are around $10-$14.

Taylor’s Refresher I cannot go without mentioning the ever-popular spot, which has been written up in magazines too many times to count. I have to say that they do have great food-like their Asian chicken salad and burgers, but be warned-the crowds can be terrible from 11:30-2:00, so prepare to wait in line, and prepare to pay restaurant prices, too. The folks at Taylor's just opened a second location at the Oxbow Market in Napa .

Silverado Brewing Company Just south of downtown St. Helena, Silverado Brewing Company is located in a historic stone winery building and is a great place to sit and watch a game, or enjoy the weather outside on the patio. The fish and chips are great, so is the blackened chicken salad, and I always ask for their sweet potato fries. They have friendly servers and good food for around $12 a plate.


Brannan’s Grill is a very elegant place to eat with large windows that open up to the sidewalk. While dinner is a bit pricy, lunch entrées range from a chicken B.L.T with blue cheese and chipotle aioli on a ciabatta roll for $10 to a Dijon-soy glazed hanger steak with wasabi butter for $22.

Calistoga Inn Want to dine outside or “inn”? You can’t beat the relaxed atmosphere of this favorite local’s spot where you can eat outside on their patio and listen to live music on weekends.

Written by Karen

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Abundant Basil?

If you planted basil in your garden this spring, you probably are in basil overload right now. Here is another simple summertime recipe to put that basil to good use.

Pesto Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

1 bunch basil
½ cup pine nuts
1 package bow tie or penne pasta
3 tbsp. sun dried tomatoes in oil
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil

In a food processor or blender, combine basil, ½ the pine nuts and olive oil, leave chunky and do not puree. In a large pot, cook pasta in salted water until tender. Spread remaining pine nuts on baking sheet and cook at 350 for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden. Add pesto to the pasta, top with sundried tomatoes and top with pine nuts and goat cheese.

Recipe by Karen

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What to do with all those summer tomatoes?

Here's a simple tomato salad recipe that is sure to liven up any summer dinner party.

Heirloom Tomato, Mozzarella and Butter Lettuce Salad

1 head butter lettuce

3 large heirloom tomatoes, halved assorted yellow pear and cherry tomatoes

3 shallots or a handful of cipollini onions

1 package sliced mozzarella, or small mozzarella balls

1 bunch basil

Balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Break apart butter lettuce and arrange on plate. Arrange sliced tomatoes, shredded basil, onions or shallots and mozzarella on top of lettuce. Sprinkle balsamic vinegar and olive oil on top, and add salt and fresh ground pepper to finish. Serves 4-6

Recipe by Karen