>> Friday, April 20, 2012
This is part 2 of the Napa Valley Adventures series. Other posts in this series: Ad Hoc
For food-obsessed individuals, Yountville is like a surreal, magical place that seems too good to be true.
This tiny town is home to some of the best restaurants in the nation. Just walk up and down the one-mile strip of the main road (Washington Street), and you'll saunter by Thomas Keller's empire (The French Laundry, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc are all within a mile of each other), Redd (1 Michelin star), and Bistro Jeanty (an excellent French bistro that's a favorite of the locals).
The local convenience store sells bottles of Opus One, Joseph Phelps Insignia, and gourmet cheeses alongside batteries and magazines.
Wine shops with incredible selections and tasting rooms dot both side of this road.
About halfway up Washington Street, right in the center of all this action, sits Bottega Ristorante.
Chef Michael Chiarello opened Bottega in December of 2008. After spending over a decade running a huge business that included his own family vineyard, the NapaStyle stores, and his TV shows, he decided he really wanted to get back into the kitchen. The restaurant has since received both IACP and James Beard Award nominations, as well as accolades from many other publications.
Chiarello loves being at Bottega.
"I don’t think I’ve been happier in years. It’s great to be able to throw a party every day. You don’t get that on TV. There, you are cooking alone," [Food Gal]
Bryan loves Italian food, so it was a no-brainer that we would eventually try this place. After failing to get a reservation the past few times I was in Napa, I finally landed an early (5PM!) reservation for dinner this year.
Chef Chiarello makes wine (we are in Napa Valley, after all!) which he serves at his restaurant. These are very small production wines and not that available outside, so we thought it would be fun to try. His bottles aren't cheap (I think this bottle of Eileen Cabernet Sauvignon (WS 92 points) was close to $80 at the restaurant!), but they are pretty good. Most of his wines score in the low 90's on Wine Spectator.
We started by sharing a huge plate of Parmiggiano truffle fries, which were excellent. They were serious contenders to my favorite truffle fries in Boston. I can't believe we polished off that entire plate.
I ordered the Caramelized Brussels Sprout Salad as my starter, which came with citrus segments, toasted Marcona almonds, prosciutto bits, and an aged balsamic dressing. I loved the crispiness of the roasted Brussels Sprouts. The dish had a nice mix of sweet (citrus) and savory (prosciutto) flavors.
I am a huge fan of pan roasted gnocchi so it's no surprise that I really enjoyed my Pan Roasted Potato Gnocchi with spring vegetables (I love fresh peas!). I especially liked the texture of the gnocchi, which was crispy on the outside but nice and chewy on the side.
Isn't this gorgeous? This is the Potato dough Raviolo filled with spinach and ricotta, black truffles, farm fresh egg yolk, and sage browned butter. I was a bit surprised that the ravioli was so huge! (You only get one for your entire order!). We loved the farm fresh egg that oozed out, and we used it as a sauce for the rest of the ravioli.
The Smoked & Braised Natural Short Ribs is the signature dish that Chef Chiarello made when competing on Top Chef Masters. I did not watch that season, but apparently he wowed the judges with this amazing short rib recipe, with James Oseland saying this was the best rendition of the dish he'd ever had.
The shortribs were served with whole grain mustard spaetzle, Sicilian pickles, quince paste, and a smoky horseradish jus. Bryan loves pickles and horseradish, so he really, really enjoyed the dish. Execution was perfect - the short ribs were soft and tender, the individual components were well seasoned, and the flavors of the dish came together quite well.
For dessert, we ordered the Ricotta Zeppole, Italian doughnuts fried to order served with Italian Praline dipping sauce. It's hard to go wrong with doughnuts, and these were fantastic. They reminded me of beignets I've had at other restaurants (frankly, I really didn't see a difference - maybe they are the same as a beignet?). They were hot and crispy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside.
Overall, we had a great time at Bottega. The place definitely fills up fast and I can see why it's so popular. It's centrally located; the food is very good; and it's a fun atmosphere inside. Although none of the dishes soared to any new heights to blow us away, all the dishes were very well executed.
We had a great time.
And I would totally come back again - if only there weren't so many other fantastic restaurants in this food-centric region to try first!
6525 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599