March 24, 2009

Bottega - Great Value and Easy Entertainment watching Michael Chiarello in the Kitchen

We decided to check out Michael Chiarello's new restaurant Bottega (located in Yountville, where the French Laundry is located). The dinner was fantastic: great, comforting, homemade Italian food with a very affordable wine selection. We love wine lists that include large selections of quartinos and reasonably-priced bottles so that we can try different types of wines. Bottega is a great place to go for a great dinner out.
Four house cured salumi: Dolci, Fuet, Bresaolo, Catalan with pickled vegetables. ($14)

Wood Grilled Octopus: with olive oil braised potatoes, pickled red onion, and salsa verde. ($10)

Garganelli with Balsamic Rabbit Sugo and wild mushrooms. ($19)

Ricotta Gnocchi, salsa di pomodoro della Nonna, pecorino ($15): This is the BEST Gnocchi we have ever eaten. They were very light and fluffy. It was the perfect pasta because it let us have enough room for the next entree!

Wood-grilled Quail, honey-balsamic marinade, sauteed vineyard greens, pomegranate mostarda, roasted heirloom apples. ($26) The quail was perfectly cooked; however, we felt that the honey and apples were too sweet and too much for the dish.
Goats Milk Braised Lamb Osso Bucco with Garlic, fennel, sweet onions, and carrot caponata ($26). We think it could have braised for a little longer but was still very tender and the flavors melted together.

Truffle-parmiggiano fries: tasty side dish ($8)

Chef Michael Chiarello in the kitchen.

One of the best parts about dining at Bottega is the wine program (the wine markups are quite low compared to most restaurants we have ever been to before). After our complimentary Prosecco, we sampled three generous quartinos: the 2005 Steltzner Sangiovese ($18, Stag's Leap, Napa); the 2006 Chiarello Family Zinfandel ($18, Giana, Napa); and the 2006 Chiarello Family Cabernet Sauvignon ($20, Bambino, Napa). Our favorite was the Giana Zinfandel, which opened up nicely throughout the dinner and had the Cali-zin spice and fruit. The Cabernet was true 'Napa-style' with ripe fruit while the Steltzner Sangiovese was a little 'hot' for our liking.

Warm Chocolate-Almond Molten Cake with hazelnut crème Anglaise. ($9) This was a warm, delicious dessert that would satify any chocolate craving. It was a perfect way to end the meal.

Bottega on Urbanspoon

Oxbow Food Market in Napa

Checking out food markets is one of our favourite ways to explore a city's culinary treasures. So we took a break from Napa wineries and explored Oxbow Food Market. We walked by Folio Enoteca and Winery (below) which is a wine shop opened by Michael Mondavi. It also offers wine samples so that you can "Sip and Shop". Shopping with a glass of wine in hand is a fantastic idea that we wish we could have in New York!

We had a light lunch at Hog Island Oyster Co. We chose a dozen for the Oyster Bar Mix. This comprised of a sample of the day's oysters: Hog Island Sweetwater, Hog Island Kumamoto, and our favourites, the Kusshi (British Columbia) and Chelsea Gems (Washington) for $30. The oysters were incredibly fresh. The Scrimshaw Pilsner (from North Coast Brewing Co., one of our favourite craft breweries) went quite well with the sweet and briny oysters. One of the benefits of dining at food markets is the proximity to local producers. We love to eat local and eating at Hog Island is one step away from eating seafood straight from the ocean!

March 20, 2009

Cyrus - 2009 Best Chef nomination for Douglas Keane!

To be honest, we never heard about Cyrus before we flew out to California. We learned about the restaurant through Yelp posts discussing whether Cyrus was better or worse than The French Laundry. We figured if a restaurant was good enough to be compared to The French Laundry, it was well worth a visit on our trip!

Cyrus is in Healdsburg, CA (29 North St); therefore, it was a long trek from our hotel in Napa. When we finally got there, we were warmly greeted and had a good multi-course meal (and had a great view of the kitchen with its automated doors seen above). Now that Cyrus' chef Douglas Keane has been nominated for a James Beard award ( we thought it was a perfect time to relive this meal.

Canape: an elegant display of pre-dinner treats. Each small bite reflected each of the 5 tastes (sweet, savory, bitter, sour, and umami)Amuse bouche: a generous and refreshing tasting of artichokes with pickled vegetables (top) and ceviche (bottom)
Thai marinated lobster with avocado, mango, and hearts of palm
(one of our favourites - it was fresh and delicate) to go along with our Roederer Estate "L'Ermitage" sparkling wine

Seared foie gras with pineapple and pain perdu, star anise-ginger broth (we could eat this as our last meal on Earth)
Gnocchi with morels, parsley root, and black truffle pecorino with shaved black truffles

Sea bass with bacon braised cabbage, pinot noir fumet

Lamb roulade with celery root, parsnip, and turnip

Duck breast with scallion rice cake, ponzu (cooked perfectly, did not need the ponzu as it made it too salty)
Wagyu beef with burdock and shiso, oxtail umeshu consomme
Above and Below: Artisanal and farmhouse cheeses presented tableside (total of six cheeses, from mild to hard cheeses to a final stinky, soft cheese)

Egg creams and cookies

Verjus sorbet, blood orange Riesling soup with crystallized picholine olives

Tiramisu, cappuccino "spoon", caramelized fennel, and espresso gelato

Five spice "Layer cake" with passion fruit, thai basil-coconut milk gelato

Mignardises: many homemade sweet treats plus a take-home bag for brownies

Cyrus on Urbanspoon

March 19, 2009

High/Low on the road in Sunny California!

We're on the road for a couple of weeks in sunny California. The weather's great and the food's terrific! We're looking forward to some fresh seafood and eventually our coveted reservation at The French Laundry (more on that later).

For now, our first stop is our favorite fish tacos place in San Diego: SOUTH BEACH BAR & GRILLE (5059 Newport Ave # 104). With Pacific Ocean views (it's right in Ocean Beach), cheap food, and over 20 beers on tap, South Beach is usually our first stop after we grab our rental car from the airport!

We love the fried Baja Fish taco for $2.95 and both the grilled Mahi and Wahoo tacos for $3.25 each. Also terrific is the Guacamole Bacon burger - a huge burger with tons of toppings. Happy hour from 3pm-6pm is even better with the Mahi taco at $2.50, appetizers at half price, and tons of drink specials.

Not really a place to impress your date, but this is definitely a fun, low-key place. Just remember your ID!

South Beach Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon