Lest we should be hungry or thirsty as our garden tour began, we were served our first Pinot Noir (Three Amigos, Los Carneros, Napa, 2007) along with one supremely delicious spoonful of glistening, pureed gazpacho. Enjoying that single burst of flavor, fondling the ripe tomatoes on the vine and inhaling the herbaceous breezes while sipping (slowly, slowly) the easy Pinot was just about perfection.Once we finished our time in the garden and the caves, we headed out to the patio where we were served tartlets of roasted tomato laced with sharp Parmesan.
From the tempting cheese board , we tasted almonds moistened in local olive oil and dusted with sea salt and Sinskey’s herbs. Tomatillo mostardo was a simple and seductively delicious blend of just 3-4 ingredients which made the perfect companion to the pungent Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog cheese and a mild, local sheeps milk cheese called Bleating Heart Fat Bottom Girl.
With or without the fourth taste of wine, we would have loved that name.
As if we could have eaten more, we were served a baked and layered stack of Sinskey’s own eggplant and roasted tomatoes. Somehow we managed to continue eating and drinking, moving on to their Cabernet Sauvignon (Vandal Vineyard, Los Carneros, Napa 2007) and finishing with the Proprietary Red, Marcien, Lost Carneros, Napa, 2006.
She is a classically trained chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and apprenticed at a Michelin star restaurant in Rennes, France. Brandt customizes every menu to suit her clients’ preferences and happily provided the perfect vegetarian choices for us.
Our salad included organic greens, candied walnuts and Sonoma chevre. Smoked salmon with pickled onion, cucumber, arugula and tarragon aioli on croissant, was traditional and decadent. Very French, not too sweet and pleasantly chewy macaroons combined Macadamia nuts, organic coconut and dark chocolate for the perfect finish.
The storefront blends into a residential neighborhood, about six blocks from Main St. in St. Helena. This gem of a shop sells 500 gallons (nope, not a typo) of olive oil each week, mostly to chefs in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Look closely and you will notice the tracks where bins of olives harvested from the groves outside their door were brought in to be crushed and pressed between 1931- mid 60’s.
Today, their olives are grown two hours north , in the Sacremento valley, where they are pressed,processed and bottled. These fruity and bold oils are sold only through the shop or special order. If you can’t get there, trust me, they are worth ordering by phone or on the net.
True Confessions, I ate at Gott’s Roadside three times in one week. Really.
This roadside burger joint offers super fresh and delicious choices for vegetarians and pescatarians. Their veggie burger was enticing but with so many other great choices I opted to try them instead.
Their ahi tuna burger is served rare with ginger wasabi mayo and a crunchy, tangy Asian slaw. Their fish tacos are as fresh and interesting as any I have eaten anywhere, and their “ahi poke crispy tacos” are overflowing with avocado, cabbage, cilantro and spicy sauce.
Beer and wine at a roadside joint? You bet! Eat at one of their 24 picnic tables and take a break from dinner reservations and wine goblets.
A final recommendation: schedule your visit in order to be able to visit the local farmers’ market.
I am a stalwart supporter of local growers and food producers and there isn’t a better way of getting to know and support the locals than going to their market.
The one in St. Helena was founded in 1986 and is going strong every Friday morning (May-October) with close to 50 food and produce vendors. There are chefs’ demos, learning opportunities for the kids and plenty of picnic tables where you can enjoy your goodies.
Early in the morning, local chefs were shopping with ingredients lists in hand while we were scouting our breakfast. We found veggie enchiladas with salsa verde, all made by Yolanda of Mi Fiesta Catering Company. After discussing her recipe and peering into her steamers and pots, we felt as if we were eating in her kitchen. Buen provecho!