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Napa report Feb 2015

tre2012 | Apr 19, 201504:54 PM

I apologize for how late this is. Early in March we had a death in the family and right after that happened, caught the worst case of flu we've ever had. For over a month now we have been experiencing Better Living Through Chemistry, thanks to copious amounts of Nyquil, Tylenol, and Hall's Cough Drops, lol.

Anyway, in Feb we did our usual (every six months or so) three-nighter in Napa, eating at Farmstead, Calistoga Inn, Ad Lib, Tarla, Michael Warring, and Farmer & Fox. We are reviewing the food; we seldom drink.

Winner: Farmer & Fox, hands down. Chef Joseph Humphrey's cooking is rich, substantial, creative, and brilliant. The game pie and the "black pudding" (a variant of boudin noir sausage) were amazing! Great quiet English gastropub decor with super comfy (and BIG) banquette seating.

Second Place: Tarla (Turkish). Our Turkish friends eat at every Turkish restaurant from San Jose to Sacramento to the Wine Country, and Tarla is one of only three Turkish restaurants they will return to. Outstanding lamb kebabs and great kunefe dessert. Very much a "locals" restaurant.

Third place: Michael Warring. The curse of the tasting menu is that some menus are stronger than others. The night we went, the first two courses were good but somehow just missed. But the rest of the meal was spectacular, showing that MW definitely deserves a visit if you have not been here before. It's a spare, elegant space. You really do feel like you're in someone's home. Be sure to note instructions for finding the restaurant; GPSs have a very hard time with this residential golf community!

Fourth Place: A tie between Farmstead and Calistoga Inn. Neither one pleased us overall; both offered only one dish that stood out. At Farmstead that was the ham sandwiches, which are actually biscuit sliders using La Quercia Americano prosciutto, with a light smear of pepper jelly. SUPERB biscuits, almost as good as the ones chef Banks White used to make at Five/Berkeley. Calistoga Inn had a soup du jour of cauliflower-turnip bisque with curried apple garnish that was stunning, but like Farmstead the rest of the meal was a letdown.

Last place by a country mile: Ad Lib. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways....outrageous ear-splitting irritating NOISE NOISE NOISE. Sub-par service that pretends to be upscale but fakes a Caesar prep and assumes you're too stupid to know that a Caesar is not, in fact, a creamy mustard vinaigrette. Bad bread. Chowder needed a knife and fork on the big pieces of chewy clams. Lamb chops so salty even the bones tasted as if infused with seawater. Greasy mac'n'cheese. But at least the salmon was good, and surprisingly a large portion. But that wasn't enough to redeem an absolutely awful evening. We couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Michael Warring,
Sam's Chowder House,
Boudin Bakery Cafe
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