Yountville Day #2: Oppa Napastyle While I Dream of (Bistro) Jeanty

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.

salad $15
Langue d’Agneau $15

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.

Dump $15 and cross $26
Quenelles de Brochet $15 and Cassoulet  $26

My Take

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.

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Home of the Brave: A Celebration of the American Culinary Trinity of Cheese, Gravy and Sauce

Perhaps it’s fitting I’m typing this as I fly over the Western plains toward San Francisco.   Home of the Brave are the four words which tell you the Star-Spangled banner is over and is usually held for about 16 bars while some celebrity exercises their creative right to make the song their own. It is also the title of a 1988 Toto song, perhaps a patriotic attmept to recreate the success they had in the early 80’s with the Grammy winning album IV featuring the song of the year Rosanna as well as Africa.  The phrase is synomonous with the USA, so it seems an appropriate name for a snack bar which celebrates Amercian culture and cuisine. Such a concept may be a daunting task however. There is nothing universally consistant with American food. Each region adheres to a philosophy and a stubbornness which is much an identity as an local accent. That said, gravy is pretty close.

Toronto’s homage to our southern neighbours sits hidden among King Street favourites Lou Dawg’s, Lee and Wurst.  Relative to other eateries, it about the size of Vermont, boasting a reasonably sized bar, a number of tablesand booths and even a few “patio” seats which overlook the King Street scene.  I was quickly greeting by the bartender who offered me a bar seat.  I sat and looked around.  A bustling open kitchen was nestled in the corner.  The bar area was decorated with American paraphernalia including references to many of the urban centres which make the USA the diverse and interesting country it is. From a drink perspective, they adhere to the American way.  They feature beer, wine and cocktails all produced or inspired by America. There are even a few cocktails created through feedback from the guestbook of American visitors. I was in the mood for a pint, so I opted for an $8 Sam Adam’s Boston lager which was frankly the only palatable beer on the draught list.  They do carry a few bottles from the historic Anchor brewery in the city I was in flight towards. The vibrant beer scene in the USA is misunderstood by so many Canadians who simply say “All American beer is water” and HOTB reinforces this misconception by offering crap like Coors Light  and Rolling Rock as essential American suds.

The menu is everything you would expect in a stereotypical American eatery, offering eats like Philly steak sandwiches, chicken and waffles and Maryland Crab Cakes.  In addition, almost every dish, including vegetables, contains one of the three components of the America culinary trilogy: Gravy, sauce, cheese or a combination of two or three.  In celebration of Napoleon Dynamite and his home state of Idaho, I was obliged to try the tater tots complete with the obligatory cheese AND gravy.  They were nasty, delicious chunks of what seemed like deep fried mashed potatoes which sitting in  a shallow pool of fat.

Tater Tots
Tater Tots $7

It was wing night (which means they serve wings…not the fact you get them for $0.36 each or whatever the going discount rate is) and I thought nothing could be more American than sucking back a pound of chicken parts.  The flavour of the night was Tex-Mex mole, a celebration of the Mexican influence on United States cuisine.  They came out quickly, doused in the promised spicy chocolate sauce and yes….topped with another sauce (sauce on sauce is Amercian food porn at its best).  The taste was quite acceptable and manged to marry the two southern flavours quite effectively. My only issue was the heavy breading on the wings.  Perhaps it’s a dedication to American art of deep frying everything, but I would have prefered the naked wing approach, especially with the rich flavour  of the abundant sauce.  My plasma might have been a little happier with me without the breading as well.

Home of the Brave Tex-Mex Mole Wings $12
Tex-Mex Mole Wings $12

 

I was feeling a little guilty so decided to try and balance things out with a little dose of a vegetable. Asparagus was in season, so I got an order.  Surprise… it was served with cheese and mushroom gravy.  I can’t complain about the taste or the cook on the asparagus..both were terrific but my guilt was hardly stifled as the nutritional value of the green spears  was negated by the other ingredients. The portion size, however, was not American because there was no way I could feed 4 people with this serving of “veggies”.

Asparagus with cheese and gravy
Asparagus with cheese and gravy $7

I passed on dessert even though two of my biggest vices were being offered; ice cream sandwiches and funnel cakes. I also passed on a very intriguing cobb salad served with a whole egg served in a half avocado, a concept I have since adopted into my homemade Cobb.

 

My Take 

Despite horror stories I had heard about the service being similar to the treatment of a gay couple at a misguided and ignorant Rick Perry rally, I found the service prompt and friendly.  The atmosphere was fun and vibrant and I loved the open kitchen concept.  Given the shitty beer selection and the pledge of allegiance  to cheese and gravy, I’m still trying to figure out if the owners intend  HOTB to be an reasonable facsimile of the American eatery or a parody of the plated gluttony which plagues our neighbours to the south. If it’s the latter I think it’s a brilliant joke.  If it’s the former, it’s a stereotype worse than Canadians living in igloos. I mean, not everybody in American puts added fat on everything, right?  Sure, a rib-sucking Texan may cherish the menu but  I’m sure a clean eating Californian would cringe at the fact that this place even manages to make asparagus unhealthy.    In the end, Home of the Brave is a fun rendition of American food.  I wouldn’t, however, bring your vegan sister, a skinny first date or your dad if he’s on a statin. I would, however, bring a good old Ontario health card just in case. I don’t think Obamacare is ready for this place.

 

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