I spent two beautiful days in the Napa Valley drinking and eating, eating and drinking. There's a lot to get through, so I'll just begin.
Terra: Great building, although a little awkward at first because the seating area is divided into two rooms, each with doors to go through. Also, there isn't a well defined host area. The service was excellent throughout the meal. The website, which includes a menu with the long description of the dishes we had, is at www.terrarestaurant.com.
For appetizers, we had a hamachi carpaccio appetizer and the panko-crusted oysters with pork belly. The portions were pleasantly large. The hamachi appetizer was fantastic, the best dish of the night. The hamachi was not as thin as we would have thought, especially since they call it a carpaccio. It was probably a 1/4 inch thick layer of fresh fish. The most brilliant part of the dish was the layer of lightly pickled cucumber on top of the hamachi. A bite with just fish = nothing more spectacular than sashimi. A bite with both fish and cucumber = wow. The oyster dish consisted of three oysters, three pieces of pork, and two sauces - one brown, one yellow. The oysters were good but the pork stole the show. It must have been slow cooked for hours in black vinegar and spices. The flavor was highly concentrated, intense, and thoroughly enjoyable because the flavor balance was perfect.
For entrees, we ordered lamb with english pea risotto and broiled cod with shiso broth. The lamb had great lamb flavor, but the risotto was just so-so. I am a bit biased because risotto seems to me like glorified jook. Maybe I haven't had a great risotto... which proves my point - this one was just so-so. The minted yogurt was too rich, and we could barely finish the dish. Luckily, the cod was nice and light. Cooked to perfection, each layer of flesh flaked off when pierced by a fork. The broth and the shrimp dumpling were good, but nothing to write home about. If I were to return (the only thing preventing me is the huge list of restaurants I still need to eat at), I would order 2 appetizers per person, and split an entree between 2 people. Both appetizers excited my palate, while the entrees did not venture into new frontier and did not keep my attention throughout.
For dessert, we had tiramisu and one churro (that was my high-maintenance request for the evening). The tiramisu was above average and the freshly fried non-greasy churro needed more spice.
We also went to Zuzu for a late lunch around 4pm. The place was almost empty. We ordered four small dishes.
The first was scallop ceviche, which is by far the best raw (or close to raw) scallop dish I've ever had. First of all, the scallops were not the small ones - they were large, each scallop butterflied into 2-3 layers. Second, the lime was just enough to bring out the sweetness of the scallops. It was perfect. Oftentimes, the ceviche has so much lime that it is a waste to put scallops in the dish. And the times I've had scallop sashimi or sushi, the lack of salt/vinegar/whatever leaves the scallop on the bland side. A very reasonable $7.
Also had an anchovy crostini-type appetizer with a piquillo pepper sauce. Very good, the piquillo pepper sauce was tasty and distinctly piquillo.
The third dish was a chicken sausage with piquillo sauce and yellow wax beans in a vinaigrette. This sauce was fortified with some other kind of pepper because it had a decent kick. Everything on this plate was also very good.
Lastly, we had a piping hot miniature paella - complete with chorizo, more piquillo pepper, clam, shrimp, and mussel. Good, although somehow, there was a bit of bbq sauce flavor. I kept wondering if bbq sauce was one of the ingredients, or if a certain combination of flavorings created this flavor.
All dishes were less than$10.
Wineries: (I lost my notes, so here's what I remember...
Acacia: We tasted 6 pinots. One of them was in Wine Spectators 150 smart buys this year. That one was good but my favorite was a $50 bottle of the 2000 DeSoto. It was earthy (could have been tobacco or leather though, I can't remember).
BV: My favorite stop. We did the reserve tasting - a whopping $25 but totally worth it considering the generous pours. This was an opportunity to taste some good wines that I can't afford to buy.
Prager: Was really looking forward to it - their signature port was delicious. Their other ports I didn't like so much. This was the first time I experienced the 30-second later finish. How are you supposed to know to wait that long?
Rutherford Hill: Great zinfandel port, $50 for a full bottle. It tasted just as good as last year, and just as good as the one at Prager.
One general complaint about wineries : it is really annoying that every single one heavily pushes their wine club. I am tired of trying to dodge the aggressive salespeople. Next time, I'm just going to have to lie about what state I live in.
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