Monday, March 2, 2009

Eating In The Wine Country

I ate most of my meals out last week.

The adventures started on Tuesday at the restaurant at L'Auberge du Soleil in the Napa Valley. I wish I had a camera to take proper pictures of the view and the food. But it is what it is :)

I am blessed to have a companion from my Courtesaning days who still takes me to marvelous meals. These meals are sweet interludes for me. We have great conversation, great food and completely adore doing it together because we are perfect partners in foodie crime.

We had eaten breakfast there before on one of our Napa jaunts, but this was my first luncheon experience there. Oh, Yum.

I love almost all vegetables, hate only a few. One of the few are Sunchokes or Jerusalem Artichokes. They aren't really artichokes, they are the roots of a type of sunflower. They are roots that taste vile to me. About a year ago, I noticed some at our Farmer's Market and forgot how much I hated them (as it had been about ten years since I'd had one). Mistake. Ba-luck.

Then a short while after that, this same foodie friend took me to The French Laundry. One of the courses was a Sunchoke soup.

As we were at TFL (for heaven's sake) I HAD to at least try it. First Second bite with a sip of the wine pairing...oh My GOD!! A food epiphany of the highest order. A new relationship with Sunchokes.

So when I saw the same sort of offering at lunch, I decided to see if the magic could return.

This restaurant offers double mini first courses that are paired both with each other and a glass of wine. I got

Sunchoke Soup with Crispy Fried Oyster and
Maine Rock Crab, Shallots and Bearnaise Glacage
Paired with an amazing Chardonnay

Yes, the magic returned. The soup was creamy with just a hint of the cursed sunchoke flavor...just enough to turn it's vile ickiness into "differently interesting." The wine made it whampowdelicious. The crab concoction was kinda like a mini pot pie thing...warm, with a light crusty thing on top. Scarf city...politely, of course.

For the second course we both had a difficult time deciding on the Grouper or the Ahi. So we did the smart thing and ordered, then shared, both. Good thinking on our parts.

Grouper came prepared with Chorizo (I was sausagely adventureous that day and ate to my heart's content), Escarole and Pimenton Nage. I sure wondered what that last thing was when I read it in the menu. It was the sauce, made from peppers, frothed and with all sorts of subtle, yummy flavorings. Great feesh course.

But we both thought the star of the meal was the Seared Ahi. It was on a serving of spinach, tapenade sprinkled throughout. But this was the cool part: on the side was an egg, perfectly soft boiled (yolk still perfectly gooey, no snot in the white). After that they put panko crust on it and flash fried it. Then they took a tiny piece of crustini and cut a hole in the center to hold the egg up, adding a sort of meshed potato chip triangle inserted in the egg for pretties. You break the egg so the yolk gooies go all over the dish. A. Ma. Zing. It sounded really unusual, so we had to try it and the combination was sublime. Highly recommended.

I didn't choose so well for my dessert. It was rice pudding with a sorbet, and some sort of squishy thing, paired with a Muscat. The quality was excellent, but what was I thinking? I'm not much of a sorbet person. My companion's chose really well, though...sauteed bananas on top of some sort of pecan tart thingie, with chocolate and an espresso froth. I was totally jealous and a bit frustrated as the way they described it, it certainly didn't sound like what it was. I am a pecan pieaholic and if I'd known I would have been in dessert heaven, too.

But, in the worries...cuz while making plans for this adventure, I made him promise to take me to Bouchon Bakery before we left.

Oh boy.

Let us all bow our heads in thanks that Bouchon has Almond Croissants again. Yes, they are Sacred.

I discovered Bouchon on a trip we made to Napa years ago. Since then I have made the two and a half hour drive there simply for the pastries. I cannot find as good of ones in Los Angeles or San Francisco. I doubt they exist. Even in France.

So it was with a light heart that I took a detour on my way to a birthday celebration lunch in the Bay Area last summer to treat my birthday self to some Almond Croissants.

I left with a heavy heart as they had discontinued Almond Croissants in favor of Raspberry Almond Croissants.'s not that they were bad. Not possible. But they weren't Almond Croissants, you see. I get that, don't you? I was devastated. I was told that I could order them on my next trip and the chef would happily accomodate me.

I spaced doing so this trip, but it didn't matter. It appears I was not the only person who wanted them back. Power To The People!!!

So, a few minutes after entering my favorite bakery in the world, I had tasty treats for me and my eldest daughter all safe and happy in their little brown and green box. And this time I didn't eat all of them on the way home. Cost benefit ratio is totally on the side of full-on bloat with these. Thank goddess I don't live near enough to go more than three times a year.

It had been raining for a week and was scheduled to rain again Wednesday. But that Tuesday, the sun was shining, the world was green and lovely. A truly beautiful, peace-filled, happy day. I am Blessed.


Lilly said...

Oh my you had my mouth watering reading that. You write so well and now I am hungry...

Gillette said...

Well, thanks, Lilly..and thanks for stopping by this neck of my woods. Hope you got good stuff for the buds.

MD said...

Okay, you have really inspired me to take plenty of mental notes and pics during my upcoming trip home ... 3 days of delicious and decadent food, and friends in Santa Barbara weeks omaliscious blog entry.

Gillette said...

Hey, Lady...YES! Please do. Have a grand trip and enjoy life!

MD said...

any trips to L.A. in the works?

....I am not sure if you remember the candle lady across from my loft, but I have been photographing her candles and working on a blog for her to showcase some gorgeous, hand made kashmiri pots filled with solid scents or soy candles.....something tells me you would luv these

Gillette said...

Hey...missed this one. No trips planned today, but one never knows about next week, yes? Will check out the candles.