Friday, July 9, 2010

Gourmet Eats - Yountville, CA

Domaine Carneros Estate

Have I told you about my love for Northern California? Well, let me say it is just a lovely area. There is so much to do! One day, you're sitting on the sand by the ocean the next day you're in the city, and the next you're hanging out in wine country. I have probably explored more of this area in one year than I had explored VA/DC in ten years. Such is the life of a newbie.

Living in California means that people are much more inclined to visit. I love having visitors because it always provides an excellent excuse to play tourist. With Malia in town, I knew I had to take her to Napa. Wine country is just amazing. Not only are there some great wineries and vineyards, but the countryside is absolutely gorgeous. We planned on hitting up one of my favorite sparkling wineries, Domaine Carneros. It is crucial to make sure you are properly fed before you go on a tasting tour. I had heard some great things about Bistro Jeanty - so we headed to Yountville for lunch.

French countryside? Even better, Yountville, CA.

Bistro Jeanty is just that - a classic french bistro. What is a bistro exactly you ask? Traditionally, a bistro is a small restaurant serving moderately priced food in a modest location. Bistro Jeanty serves up classics, such as coq au vin, cassoulet, and escargot. Because we were going to be sampling some wine in a couple hours, I didn't want to order anything too heavy.

Clockwise from left: tomato soup, sardines, mussels, haricot verts salad, fresh baguette with butter.

We had high expectations for Bistro Jeanty after reading rave reviews of their creme de tomato en croute (cream of tomato in puff pastry) and moules au vin rouge (mussels in red wine). We ordered everything to share - the tomato soup, mussels, the haricot verts salad, and sardines. Our waiter was probably disappointed at the amount of food we ordered, but hey we had to save room for Bouchon Bakery!

The cream of tomato soup was extremely rich. While I enjoyed it, I was expecting a little more. The amount of cream overpowered the tomato, in my humble opinion. The moules au vin rouge were probably my favorite part of the meal. The mussels were fresh and creamy. The fresh baguette provided an excellent instrument for sopping up the salty, winy broth. The sardines were quite good as well. I have now eaten sardines twice in the past month and I must say I enjoy them much more than I did ten years ago. It certainly helps when when they are fresh and prepared well.

Disappointed Face.

Now to be honest the food was good, not amazing. AJ was a little more disappointed. He isn't the biggest fan of traditional French food. Although, I still think he hasn't tried the right things. After paying our bill, we headed next door to Bouchon Bakery for some treats.

Cappuccino, pistachio, and raspberry macaron and a "nutter butter".

I love Bouchon's macarons - so we each ordered one - cappuccino for me, pistachio for AJ, and raspberry for Malia. And because I can't resist baked goods I also got a "nutter butter". The macarons were crisp and chewy. AJ's pistachio macaron tasted a bit stale. Poor AJ wasn't having the best luck thus far. The "nutter butter" was delightful full of peanut buttery goodness. The cookie was crisp with a nice creamy filling. However, Malia and I missed the peanut shape. And if I had to choose I think I would take the original (gasp).

So what are your favorite places to eat in Napa or Yountville?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Nopalito - San Francisco, CA

Ceviche - it was so tasty I forgot to take a pic-pre chowtime.

San Francisco , home of the burrito, produces some wonderful mexican cuisine. I haven't eaten at a ton of Mexican establishments in San Francisco. However, the places I have visited have served up super fresh, cheap, and most importantly tasty fish tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. Mexican cuisine has recently moved up on my list of favorite cuisines - and now Nopalito stands at the very top of that category.

Vegetable tamale

Nopalito, opened up a little over a year ago and is a self-proclaimed "sustainable, organic, Mexican kitchen." Nopalito's name is a nod to its sister restaurant, Nopa, and its Mexican cuisine (referring to the slices of cactus leaf used in traditional cooking). Cacti adorn the windows of the restaurant creating an inviting dessert feel. The restaurant celebrates "traditional cookery of Mexico, utilizing local, organic, and sustainable ingredients." You can order a couple small plates or a large plate as your meal. The prices are very affordable, so all you have to worry about is your appetite, not your wallet.

Nopal or Cactus

Some people think of Mexican cuisine as heavy, greasy food. But traditional Mexican food is anything but that, offering up fresh produce enhanced with minimal fat and lots of herbs and spices. Malia and I ordered up a couple items to share - ceviche de pescado y calamari, tamal de huitlacoche, and mole poblano con pollo. AJ ordered up the empanada de suadero and the taco de pescado al pastor.

Chicken with Mole Sauce

The tamal was earthy and substantial with a nice filling of black beans, greens, onions and jalapenos. The sweet corn played nicely with the earthy filling and the sour crema sauce. AJ enjoyed his super fresh taco al pescado. The fish was marinated in a bright mixture of cilantro, adobo, chile, and orange. Served up on hearty yellow corn tortillas this made for a nice start to the meal.

The ceviche was the highlight of the meal - quite possibly the best I have ever eaten. The seafood was incredibly fresh, and the calamari were so tender. Often times calamari are chewy or rubbery, but these were prepared exquisitely, bringing out the sweetness of the flesh. The lime juice, cilantro, and tomatillo complimented the sweet fish with a nice acidity. The smooth, creamy avocado slices were the perfect addition. I loved how these were served with warm, salty, corn chips. This dish exemplified the simple, clean flavors of Mexican cuisine.

The mole poblano con pollo was excellent as well. A chicken leg is served on the bone, with a rich mole poblano sauce. The mole was warm and spicy - made with toasted chiles, cinnamon, chocolate, nuts, sesame seeds, and onion. The mole sauce combined the sweet and savory elements well.

The food at Nopa is exceptional, and I would highly recommend checking the place out. While they don't take reservations, try to get to the restaurant early, as they get especially busy on Friday and Saturday nights.