Last Saturday four of us drove up in the rain to explore Copia and try Julia's Kitchen. Chef Mark Dolman had prviuosly cooked at Fleur de Lys in SF and L'Espinasse and Palladin in New York.
We arrived at Copia about 1:30. Our reservations were at 2:00, so that gave us some time to do a quick walk through, before lunch. There were three docent displays: one showing samples of the organic greens that they grow there, one giving sample tastes of 5 or 6 different kinds of salt (which to my surprise had some subtle diferences in taste as well as texture), and one giving sample tastes of an Oregon Pinot Gris.
We arrived at the hostess stand at 1:55, and were told that there would be a few minutes wait for our table. The wait was 10 to 15 minutes, but was not unpleasant, because there was an interesting display of old goblets and wine glasses to study, and the open kitchen is right by the door, and it was fun watching the chefs at work, and figuring out what I wuold order.
The room is a large open airy room, not too noisy. The furniture was very modern, mostly stainless steel. We all are fairly short and a couple of us had a quibble because the cushions on the chairs made it difficult to keep our feet on the floor.
The wine list was very well done, with selections from California, Oregon, and France. I orderd a Ken Rassmussen Pinot Noir. This sent the waiter into rhapsodies of what a wonderful wine it was and how he had just served it to another table, who had loved it, etc. Alas, soon the Somelier came over to tell us they were out of it, and suggested that we try a '97 Panther Creek, Willamette Valley Pinot instead. It turned out to be an excellent wine.
For appetizers we had two orders of Seared Fois Gras, a Sunchoke Risotto, and a Calamari Salad. The fois gras was prepared with diced quince and dates in a madeira reduction. It was tender, juicy and delicious. All the flavors came together wonderfully. The Sunchoke Risotto was also a big hit. It was prepared with sunchokes ( the choke of a sunflower similar to a jerusalem artichoke), hazelnuts, garlic chives, and parmesan cheese. It had a very soft texture and was wonderfully buttery and cheesy. The flavor of the sunchokes was too subtle to supply anything but visual sensation as far as I was concerned. The Calamari Salad was quite ordinary, and was a disappointment to all of us. I was doubly surprised, because it was one of the items on the Chef's Tasting Menu for that day.
We decided to split two main courses: Braised Veal Short Ribs and Sweetbreads, and Thai Snapper. The short ribs were prepared like pot roast, with finely diced turnips, rutabagas, carrots, and celery root. It was very tender and flavorful an excellent combination of flavors. The sweetbread was very unusual. It had been coated with cornmeal and fried. This gave it a firmer texture than usual for sweetbreads. It did provide an interesting contrast with the short ribs that ala financiere would not have. I forget what the vegetable with the snapper was. The snapper itself was beautifully poached and when it first came to the table seemed bland and disappointing. However as it settled into the sauce it became very delightful with a bit of hotness to it.
For desserts we had : Meyer Lemon Souffle Cake (3 first place votes), Chocolate Bread Pudding with homemade marshmallows (my favorite), Poached Pear with Cardamom Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce, and Ginger Cake with Ice Cream and rasberry sauce. They were all very good. The pear, however was kind of hard, and I was very difficult to deal with armed only with a fork and spoon. They should have poached it longer or provided a knife. I had visions of sending it skittering across the table as I attacked it.
All in all,we had a very satisfactory experience and would happily return.
After lunch we had time to explore the exhibits, which were very worthwhile. They consist of exhibits of food and wine in one gallery and art in another.