“Nestled away in a piney cul-de-sac of Napa Valley, the Meadowood resort has always been a place of secluded beauty, but for several years its restaurant gave up trying to compete with big names like the French Laundry and Domaine Chandon”- John Mariani, Esquire 10/10/2006
Meadowood’s reputation is perceived as the runner-up 3-Star Destination of the entire Napa Valley Region. While the overwhelming majority of Foodies, clamor over T.K.’s French Laundry, many adventurous eaters who are unsuccessful in acquiring reservations are usually detoured to this premiere dining experience.
I am one of those people and with the lack of accommodating reservation times, my girlfriend and I decided to give this place a shot. Don’t get me wrong, this place wasn’t on my immediate radar, seeing as my previous experience at Chef Ripert’s institution was somewhat lackluster.
No matter… I’ll be open-minded and charter my senses to Meadowood’s Forest tempo. Winding through the variety of regions, since our first visit, driving in the cold night we encountered a variety of familiar names. Yountville, which granted a first impression, to our Napa excursions. Oakville, which hosts one of the long-standing wineries known in the world, Robert Mondavi. Next up, on the horizon Rutherford, which hosts an exquisite Brunch/One-Star Michelin experience from Auberge Du Soleil and Quintessa winery as its neighbor.
Finally we reach our main destination, far north past Orin Swift’s foothill corner shop and approaching the hilly parking lot. Two wooden doors stood in front of us and as we approach them, there were doormen who promptly pulled them apart to our convenience and greeting us, “Good Evening Sir and Madam, welcome to Meadowood, right this way.”
The cozy tavern feel is the first thing that comes to mind. Fireplace is blazing hot, there’s a bartender on one corner of the room. Everything about this place, take the traditional American Cabin and elevates it to elegance. There’s something magical when you’re able to blend dark brown oak, dim yellow light, and crimson red undertones. In psychology, these colors are supposed to exceed your expectations in make-up palates and romanticize hunger. It was definitely a sign for things to come, while we sat in silence and observed our surroundings depicted here…
Today’s special occasion was for my birthday. It’s a reflection of the amount of years, I’ve spent dining all around California and NYC, respectively. What’s funny is, I’ve found my niche audience and I miss them greatly. I love the SF Bay Area for all it’s worth but Southern California and New York, has some of the best people who can relate to my understanding of food.
Maybe I’m not Vegetarian/Vegan progressive enough to kindle the interest of those in the Culinary scene here? Perhaps, I’m not too aggressive in building and demonstrating my appreciation of the East Bay and all things worthy. However one thing remains for certain, I am grateful at this junction of my life to have been blessed with all the opportunities, supporters, and oppressors thus far. It has led me to see my limitations and constantly put in check my own ego.
We finally were seated at the dining table and a man in glasses reminded us of our tasting options and we were well on our way:
Olive Oil Cake, a twist on a classic appetizer (amuse). The wooden platter adds a nice rustic feel. The bites had a very subtle tone of olive oil and the balance between slightly crispy and moist was perfect.
Vegetables fresh from their garden, gives you a taste of the care they put into their produce. Would’ve preferred if they pickled a few to show some contrast.
(Here’s an up close shot in case you are curious)
This tasted exactly like rinds w/ a slow finish of kale, the small chili threads didn’t overwhelm the palate as the spices began to kick in and drop out of view.
Richard Blais (Judge and Top Chef All-Stars Champion), had a similar dish (using the Chicken pearl instead). The brine, savory, and salty notes of the creme fraiche pearls all combined pretty well. Sadly the clams texture was sort of lost in the moment.
The mousse was warm and there was a heavy stream of savory notes given the kumamoto lingering on the plate. The avocado barely finished at the tip of my tongue shortly there after. Whereas the garnish only served for texture contrasts and nothing else.
I’ve had quite an experience with Nasturtium & Ossetra in the past. Albeit they were isolated in completely different visions of completely different chefs. The end result here wasn’t too bad, it sort reminded me of Bacon and Mash Potatoes (elevated) if you will. Not too heavy on the salt notes (from the Ossetra), the savory and earthy components of the Nasturtium lingered within the puree. This is a rich man’s Denny’s appetizer, if you could label it as such.
Here’s my schtick, when it comes to ‘sous-vide’ and any other fancy molecular gastronomy type of BS. Great for presentation and (sometimes) wack for utility in flavor impact. Thankfully, the sous-vide egg did it’s part this time by intertwining with the broth. Whereas the mushroom themselves served as a reminder for texture in said dish.
(Dish #8: Is missing…in action and thoroughly consumed but Yelper Dani S. captured exactly the same dish I ate during her visit.)
This particular offering had lots of textures. From the meaty layers of cod and lobster. However in the flavor department, there was a small trace of sunflower components which provided a hint of sour notes at the very end of this particular tasting.
Probably one of the most composed vegetable dishes I’ve had in a very long time. Vegetables were contained in the hearty consumme, the mustard seeds popped at each bite. Everything well composed and nothing overpowering one another. This is how you cook vegetables and I hope the line cooks here (and every other establishment) takes note of this in the future
We’re going to break this dish down in two separate parts. The first was introduced through the presentation of a tea bag. If you were to drown two birds in hot scalding water. Letting their carcasses simmer in a sauna full of vegetables and wrap them up in a body bag. This is the end result. Talk about taking the term “end game” pretty seriously. Two Ducks, One Cup…All in one gulp.
The Sequel of the dish, presents one of the victims hacked by a sadistic (and intelligent) butcher a la Dexter style. If a serial killer, knew what the best body parts were to make a statement. This cook gave you the raw flavors of duck on a plate. Pureed sunchokes and red wine reduction w/ a hint of lemon merigue. This is a play on a classic French dish (Carnard ‘L Orange) and I embrace it with open arms. All of the elements of sweet, acid, and crunch meld together as one.
This dish was pretty straight forward. The Pork was the star of the show while the Persimmon notes took on a supporting role in lingering within the plate. Voluminous in fat and savory with a salty finish. The garnish didn’t serve much purpose on this dish.
With the exception of the rind, everything about the buffalo cheese was nice and subtle. The rye bread was excellent (shipped from a mill in North Carolina) and the salad was nicely dressed, compared to the previous dish.
Consider this particular palate cleanser appetizer as Vegan friendly heaven. The olive oil coconut porridge is full of savory vigor with the coconut plastered up everywhere like billboard signs (there’s no escaping it).
Spiced layer cake w/dates and yogurts layered to the brim. Compared to the first dessert/palate cleanser. This particular dish was very challenging to my palate. Equal parts sour and earthy, one could associate the challenge of eating lemon sponge cake while being buried alive six feet under. However it serves it’s purpose for no trace of the coconut was left. The spicy cake base kept coming back with a lingering twirl of cinnamon. Seasonal worthy but not my thing.
Dish #15: Bonus Birthday Course: (Here’s an up-close version). Like all great things must come to a conclusion. The birthday cake was presented front and center. Like a old man celebrating his 50th anniversary, encased in a custom mahogany gift box kept at the perfect temperature the slice decadent slice is separated by a layer of transparent paper mache. You take a bite into it and it reveals a chocolate cake, w/ ice cream sea salt notes blended in. Very thoughtful and elegant, any wo(man) would be pleased.
The Migardnise, is a final bite of convenience, damn if you do, damn if you don’t. The sticky combination, of gold flakes, pralines, cooked and raw provided a sticky and toothsome finish. What I wouldn’t give to try a luxurious meal like this again. One year shy, before many things in my life would soon begin to change rapidly without warning. Between all my extravagant meals I maintain my stance on fine-dining. You either love it or hate it. As Tolkien, once wrote, “All that is gold, does not glitter” and only you as the diner can determine if everything was truly worth it. I am very blessed to have a supportive system in my journey thus far.
From all the ups and downs, to the insanity in between. This meal was one step closer to marking the end of my journey and reaching the very significant goal with this website.
I‘ll do my best to wrap up everything else so that we can finally get back to the task at hand.
Dish #8 (submitted by Dani. S) via Yelp.com “http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/the-restaurant-at-meadowood-st-helena?select=tmN5UW0ZrYeALPTNRQzSWg”
Duck a l’orange via Wikipedia.com “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_à_l’orange” last seen, last updated