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3 Days in Napa Valley part one (long)

jaweino | Dec 16, 200412:33 AM

We went to Napa Valley for three days to celebrate La Bonita’s Birthday. This is a perfect time of year to go to Napa. The crowds were gone, and we could get into most restaurants without a reservation.

We started out on Sunday afternoon with lunch at the French Laundry. We were joined by two friends.
All four of us opted for the Prix Fixe Menu ($135). Larry brought a bottle of Perrier Jouet Flower to get us started in a festive fashion.

We started with an Amuse Bouche of CORNETS OF SALMON. which consisted of small “ice cream” cones filled with cured salmon, creme fraiche, and chives. They were kind of fun and very delicious.

Then came two kinds of butter: a salted one from Vermont and a sweet local one. There were three choices of bread, French roll, a dark rustic bread and a third that I forget now, but all three were very good.

For the first course I had “LA RATTE” POTATO AGNOLOTTI which were tiny stuffed pastas surrounded by little cubes of potatoes served with a butter sauce on a white plate. It was a study in whites until a generous portion of Perigord truffles were grated over them. The combination was light and delicious, a perfect first course. Everyone else had SAUTEED MOULARD DUCK FOIE GRAS served with forest mushrooms, marinated pearl onions and scallion salad ($25 additional). It was a very well prepared tasty foie

To accompany the next course we ordered a bottle of Marc Morey Chassagne Montrachet from the wine list. It was an excellent chardonnay with good balance and
restrained oak. It complemented the fish course extremely well.

For the fish course, two people ordered BUTTER BRAISED WILD STRIPED BASS and two ordered SAUTEED FILET OF SAINT PETER’S FISH. This order led to the only
glitch in the service, but the staff recovered seamlessly. I had ordered the bass and was delivered the St Peter’s. Even though I said I would happily have the St. Peter’s instead, the captain insisted that he would get me the bass very soon and that I should enjoy the St. Peter’s fish in the meanwhile. The bass was served with crispy king trumpet mushrooms, balsamic glazed shallots, baby leeks and a sweet garlic cream sauce. The bass was the predominant flavor and was excellent. The St Peter’s fish was served with roasted Belgian endive, haricots vert and an almond brown butter vinaigrette. These
accompaniaments had stronger flavors than those served with the bass, but the St. Peter’s fish was sturdy enough to stand up to it and everything blended well. I honestly can’t say that I preferred one to the other; both were excellent.

For the next course, I brought a 1988 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon from my wine cellar. It was medium bodied, not as rich as those from better years, but still excellent.

Two of us had “COTE ET SELLE” OF NEW ZEALAND FALLOW VENISON and two had “AGUILLETTE’ OF LIBERTY VALLEY DUCK BREAST.. The venison consisted of a chop and slices of saddle served with celeriac, celery, cranberry marmalade and a mignonette sauce. The meat was juicy and flavorful with no gaminess and the
accompiaments were very good. The duck breast was served with wilted spinach, chanterelle mushrooms, huckleberries, and sauteed foie gras. All were very good.

Somewhere along the way we were served two more amuse bouches. In one two of got Butternut Squash Soup and two Wild Mushroom Soup. They were served in demi tasse
cups. Both were very good with the flavors of the squash and mushrooms dominating. I preferred the squash. In the other two of us got a Coddled egg and the other two an egg prepared differently, but unfortunately I don’t remember how it was but it wasn’t
coddled and I do remember that one person did not like it, because it was too much like a hard boiled egg.

The next course was cheese. Three of us had a Pyrenees de Brebis and I had a Cravanzina with glazed chestnuts. Both were very satisfactory.

For dessert I had Burnt Sugar Ice Cream with candied pecans and caramel syrup, which was light and refreshing after that big meal. Two others had a Cjhocolate tasting from the Chef’s Tasting Menu, which consisted of Devils Food Cake with Valrhona Guanaja
chocolate creme, espresso Anglaise, and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. They seemed happy.

On the way out we were allowed to look into the kitchen where 18 people were busily preparing for that evenings dinner.

Next I’ll report on our second day at Auberge de Soleil and Martini House.

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