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Restaurants & Bars 11

On the River at Angèle, Napa

Melanie Wong | Jul 6, 200311:34 PM

Before leaving the Napa Valley after yesterday’s chow lunch in Yountville, we wanted to show our out-of-state chowhounds, Limster and Ginny O’Neil, more local color. Our first idea was to while away the rest of the warm afternoon on Café Lucy’s arbor-shaded patio with a few bottles of cool wine. But alas, a call to the restaurant revealed it was closed for the holiday weekend.

Then I remembered that Claude Rouas’ (founder of L’Etoile and Auberge de Soleil) new place, Angele, has outdoor seating overlooking the Napa River. I turned to one of our wait staff at FL for a recommendation – he said Angele was wonderful and provided the phone number. When I called to have a table outside ready for us and the hostess asked where we were coming from, I said, “We’re in the parking lot of The French Laundry, just finished a 5-hour lunch. We want to cap off the day before heading home and the staff suggested we try you.” The hostess squealed with delight, “You’re at The French Laundry and now you want to come here? Unbelievable, you’re amazing! Please come and enjoy our patio.”

We waved good-bye to Yountville and caravanned south to Napa about a 20-25 minute drive. Limster hitched a ride with me, and being a good chowhounder, he spotted and recognized Zazu, the tapas restaurant, when we passed by. (g)

Our table was at the busy entrance to the restaurant and patio area, but we liked having a round table for the six of us. As we started to look at the menu (in French with English translations and descriptions), I think it was Lee who said, “I’d love to come back here when I’m hungry.” A warm thin-crusted baguette with a pot of butter was presented along with chopped black olive paste and some toasted crisps. Our waiter reciting the specials didn’t get us any more excited about more food. Eventually we ended up ordering French fries, frisée salad with warm goat cheese, mesclun salad, gazpacho, and macaroni gratin.

The wine list offers a nice selection of local product and French wines. Yet, for as extensive as it was, I was surprised that but a handful is poured by the glass. Also, Ginny was disappointed that the Chardonnay offering was not more inspired than Hess Select. I suggested that she try the 2001 Kuentz-Bas Pinot Blanc from Alsace ($7.50/glass) instead. I forgot to sample it, but I imagine she liked it because she ordered a second glass. (g) The rest of us split a half bottle of 2002 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé attractively priced at $20. This was salmon pink with a coppery tinge. Served very cold, it was crisp and refreshing, leaving the barest trace of strawberry perfume across the palate. The rosé was especially good as a foil to the salty olive spread for a taste of Provençe. It was just the right amount of wine to keep our blood alcohol levels in the mellow and relaxed state for soaking in the last of the day’s warmth. Limster leaned back, opening himself to the vista of the lazy river, and said, “This is a great life, wine country living.”

When our snacks arrived, I said, “After the portions at The French Laundry, don’t these look . . .” And, Cheryl finished my sentence, “. . . HUGE.”

The serving of French fries came with pots of both catsup and mayonnaise. I didn’t expect them to have skins on and be cut a little bigger than would be classic for bistro fries, but they passed the table’s collective taste test. Golden brown and nicely crisp with creamy interiors and well-salted.

Limster’s gazpacho was bracing, a little too exciting with tart tomatoe-y acidity. He thought it needed more cucumber in the balance. The macaroni gratin was very good, offered as a side for $4. Not overly creamy, it had just a little stringiness and a soothing taste of buttery cheeses, perhaps some Comté and Cantal in the blend. The top had a nicely browned crust. Lee and Cheryl can comment on their salads.

We said our good-byes and headed off our separate ways before 7pm, when the place started to get really busy. I forgot to take a peek inside, perhaps the others took a look around and can comment on the interior. The manager said they were fully reserved this evening, so advance reservations are in order on weekends. This was only a small taste of the menu, but we found enough positive to return and we certainly liked the outdoor set-up.

This night owl was in bed well before midnight, a rare phenomenon. The satisfying combination of the day’s sun, warm and engaging companions, splendid foods, and delicious wines contributed to a deep, deep slumber.

Angèle Restaurant and Bar
540 Main St.



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