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The Grill in St. Helena for Ladies who Lunch

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The Grill in St. Helena for Ladies who Lunch

Melanie Wong | May 24, 2004 03:40 AM

A week ago I joined a Napa friend for a Friday luncheon at Meadowood’s The Grill. We had also considered Auberge, but when I learned that Vincent Natteras (formerly of Roux) was now here, the decision was easy. This was the first time at Meadowood for either of us. It fit the bill for a place to meet somewhere up valley along the eastside rather than Hwy 29 to avoid the weekend crowds. Although only a short drive off the Silverado Trail, once past the gate house into the resort’s compound, you feel miles away in a quiet and secluded world. And, what a gorgeous setting! We opted for an umbrella-shaded table on the deck overlooking sweeping greens.

At this time of day, the menu offers brunch-y egg dishes and a selection of lunch salads, soup of the day, sandwiches and light entrees, plus a daily special (e.g., salmon burger). The seared salmon with red wine sauce appealed to me, but first I asked my server if it was local wild salmon. She said she’d check with the kitchen for the answer. Then Chef Natteras appeared to field my inquiry. He said that Royal Hawaiian Seafood was the purveyor and that it was definitely wild Pacific salmon. The exact source wasn’t specified but he thought it was probably from the Bodega Bay fishery.

The slab of salmon was more than an inch thick and beautifully seared to medium-rare, as ordered. The filet rested on a hockey puck-like pedestal of coarsely mashed potatoes blended with leeks. It was topped with a few gratuitous wild mushrooms and the plate was strewn with some skinny French green beans and rimmed with a red wine sauce. The serving was generous for a lunch entrée and a bargain at $15.

Janet had the Niçoise salad, $15. I didn’t taste it, but it looked beautiful arrayed with slices of seared tuna and topped with halves of a hard-cooked quail egg.

The lemonade deserves a mention. It’s presented as lemon juice in a glass of ice, along with a carafe of water and a pitcher of simple syrup to blend to taste. And, it was refilled more than once.

Service was solicitous and professional. The manager hovered about adjusting the umbrellas to keep us shaded from the sun. The bread girl did her thing unobtrusively, and our server checked back several times to tend to our needs.

All in all, a thoroughly delicious, relaxing and very affordable destination lunch experience.

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