"J" and I made the pilgrimage to Napa on Sunday for lunch at Ubuntu and I have, for the first time in almost two years, regretted no longer living in that wine country hamlet. The addition of Jeremy Fox at the oddly-combined restaurant and yoga studio in that town is a major boon. The restaurant is vast and elegant, studded with reclaimed wood tables, colorful photographic montages, and a very odd sculpture. Being the art junkie that I am, the hostess was kind enough to sit us at the communal table so I could look more intently at the sculpture by Mark Chatterley - haunting in the post-apocalyptic darkness of the figures' black, soulless eyes. Pics on eG.
While we perused the menu, we chomped some amazing sea salt- and lavender-dusted Marconi almonds.
Sunchokes with Romesco sauce were extremely flavorful and hearty. Simple and hearty yet enticing.
Rustic bread is served in a simple sewn burlap sack.
Marinated beets and asian pears with fresh-picked greens and whipped Point Reyes blue cheese. I'm not sure I have ever tasted sweeter beets. The vinaigrette was perfect; not too acidic and the cheese a perfect complement.
We decided to share two salads and two entrées - the first salad was Little Farms potatoes and fennel with red wine-mustard vinaigrette. This salad was incredibly robust and flavorful. The dressing showed elegance and thoughtfulness; enhancing the earthiness of the potatoes with the tang of the mustard not overpowering but playing with the brightness of the fennel, enhancing the entire dish. Stunning.
I had heard much of the Cauliflower in a Cast Iron Pot and was thrilled at its heartiness. A curry aroma arrived as it was placed on the table and the description was "roasted-puréed-raw" with Vadouvan spice and brown butter toasts. I believe the melange of cauliflower to be held in a custard as it was so intensely rich. The first few bites were eaten atop the crusty toasts, but getting full, it was easier to just scoop lovely mouthfuls directly from the pot.
Our other entrée was the Young Root Vegetables roasted with Saba, Anson Mills farro, and purée of sucrine du berry squash. I am unfamiliar with farro and had to ask -- while it had a bit of the consistency of barley, it was actually a wheat product. The purée was rich and elegant. This was an extremely elegant dish with a complex layering of flavors in the varying vegetables.
I normally would have slipped a cheese course in but we were awfully full. Not too full, however, to try some of the amazing desserts produced by Deannie Fox. The vanilla bean "cheesecake" in a jar with sour cherries and pine nut sable was a no-brainer choice. Amazingly creamy and rich, I only lamented I couldn't take it home with me to finish. I had no problem finishing the accompanying tuile cookies, though!
Our hostess suggested we include a Shot of Hot Chocolate with our cheesecake. I live near the Bittersweet Cafe which I thought had close to nearly the best hot chocolate I had ever tasted, but Ubuntu's offering, infused with Blue Bottle Coffee and topped with foamed condensed milk is so thick and rich, it almost had the consistency of slightly thin pudding. A house-made stroopwafel was the accompanying cookie and sounding like a broken record, I have never had a version of this quite so good. The caramel inside, freshly made and decadently drippy, was obviously applied just before service as the cookies were still perfectly crunchy.
In this high-tech world, I thought it odd that a new restaurant would be named for a Linux-based operating system, only to discover it is an African philosophy of humanity towards others. The artistry of Jeremy and Deanie Fox creating what they do without any meat should be no detractor for carnivores - and if I could eat like this on a daily basis, I wouldn't mind giving up meat at all.