On my last day in Napa Valley I wanted to go back to Yountville one more time to once again experience it’s quaint beauty, not to mention the fact I was offered transportation in a small red convertible which made me feel like the numerous washed up yuppies back home I see driving around in their open top Chrysler LeBarons. It is a very picturesque drive up highway 29 and the feeling of the fresh wind in my face trumped the sun scaling the top of my head (which is the main reason I have always found convertibles less than enjoyable).
This time I wanted to explore the V marketplace which houses a number of small shops and boutiques. I did a quick tour of a wine shop which offered a wide range of bottles at different types and prices. Not surprisingly, there was some ass hat walking around with his buddy pointing out every wine he has had in the place. I normally wouldn’t care but there was a pompous tone in his voice as opposed to a authentic and organic bliss. In other words, it was more important for him to flaunt his status as a self-declared sommelier than a true wine enthusiast.
The highlight of the market was Napastyle, the Michael Chiarello market which offers a wide range of foodie friendly articles including various foodstuffs, kitchen equipment and knickknacks to enhance any home’s decor and entertaining potential. They had a series of condiments available for tasting which were divine, especially the smoked and spicy olive oils and the fruit vinegar (especially the peach one from what I recall). At this point, we regretted out decision to have traveled with carry on luggage and sucked back a bit more oil before we left.
It was on the tail end of the lunch hour, so we decided to hunt out a place to eat. I would be remiss if I didn’t try and add another star in my Michelin sky, so we decided on Bistro Jeanty, the French cafe in the heart of Yountville. It was quite busy and the patio was full but we were able to secure a table inside. I assume the decor was meant to be a recreation of a rustic and modest eatery in Paris as opposed to the clean and crisp feel of a place like Redd down the street. The waitress arrived very quickly and happily explained the menu. She was polite and courteous in a way that couldn’t be taught and I quickly felt quite welcome.
We decided to split a meal starting with Langue d’Agneau (warm lamb tongue and potato salad) for $15. This dish was a bit of a concession for me but I was curious to see if lamb tongue had the same distinct taste as the rest of the animal. It did. It was as tender as the potatoes and was well complimented by the acidic dressing and bitter greens. The fact that this rather heavy dish was listed on the “lighter side” of the menu was a clear foreshadowing of our upcoming experience.
Dish two was the Quenelles de Brochet (pike dumplings with lobster sauce) for $15. The dumplings were as light and fluffy as cumulus clouds in an atmosphere as thick as that of Venus (ok..this is the astronomy geek in me…Venus’ atmosphere is 90 times more massive than earth’s….and so was this sauce). Taste wise what can I say. It’s butter, cream and lobster. Collectively, I enjoyed the contrast of the light dumpling against the heavy sauce and thought this dish was quite good.
Cassoulet (baked beans, duck confit, toulouse sausage and apple smoked bacon) for $26 was the final dish. Cassoulet is a bit of a generic term used to describe a bean based stew. In fact, it is named after the dish the stew is served in more than a summary of the ingredients in it. I equate it to pork and beans, the North American staple that involves a frantic search through the beans in search of the tiny sliver of bacon strategically placed in each can. Instead with this cassoulet, the fruits of such labour included whole sausage and a duck leg. It was nicely seasoned and did bring back memories of a gold old can of Libby’s. Once again, the dish was very rich and after a few bites, I threw in my serviette and called it day. In fact, I didn’t even think about food for a number of hours afterwards despite walking around in the epicentre of culinary temptation.
Day one in Yountville featured fresh California fare at Redd whereas day 2 was in stark contrast with the rich French food at Bistro Jeanty. The service at Jeanty was incredible. Despite the use of sauces as thick as the atmosphere of Venus, I wouldn’t call the food astronomical although stellar would still be an adequate description. The V marketplace, specifically Napastyle, is well worth a visit even if to only indulge on a few olive oil and vinegar samples. I the end, I envision coming back to Yountville since I haven’t even scratched the surface of culinary options in this small town. There is Redd Wood, Bottaga, Bouchon, Ad Hoc and, of course, the Michelin star mecca which is the French Laundry. This gives me an idea; I could transport a suitcase of money down to the Napa Valley, dump it on French Laundry’s porch in exchange for dinner and then use it to transport back a arsenal of of olive oil. I guess that means I’d need to check a bag though.