Are you a jaded diner? In today’s power-packed culinary world, many people are lucky enough to visit four and five star restaurants as a matter of course. Twenty years ago, for example, dining at a top restaurant would be because of a celebration, a birthday perhaps, or an anniversary.
In big cities, particularly New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles, executives often dine out every night in celebrity chef restaurants in the course of business. However, when envious spouses ask what they enjoyed, the executives often can’t recall – they were too busy deal-making.
Happily, jaded diners can get in touch with their inner foodie at The Restaurant in the luxurious Meadowood Resort in California’s Napa Valley. A jaded diner myself, I generally prefer to order a la carte, select my own wines and, in New York fashion, take personal control over my dining experience.
Perhaps there is something about the tranquility of this peaceful resort, or curiosity about new chef Christopher Kostrow (awarded two Michelin stars when he was at the helm of Chez TJ in Mountain View) that motivated me to order the multi-course tasting menu and leave my wine pairing in the capable hands of young, but highly professional sommelier Rom Toulon.
As you can imagine for a tasting menu that is $130 for food alone, the ingredients are quite luxurious. Starting plates included cold smoked toro & Osetra caviar, foie gras and apple, and citrus cured Spanish mackerel served with a very curious (and delicious) olive oil ice cream. Savory lobster and sweetbread was accompanied by Hedgehog mushrooms in a froth of a sauce, followed by the mains of crispy confit of suckling pig accented with maple syrup, and poached grass fed beef.
The pairings (an additional $90, with a different wine pairing virtually every dish) were fabulous and in my view, generous. 2006 Pierre Gaillard Le Secret Ivre was a personal favorite, a delicious flavorful wine with heady vanilla accents that paired excellently with the lobster. I also enjoyed 2005 Domaine Vincent Girardin Saint-Aubin 1er Cru. Of course, there is no real point in listing all the wines sommelier Rom personally selected to accompany our meal because when you dine here, the menu — and your wine pairings — will likely be different.
What is important to underscore is that Rom Toulon’s extensive knowledge is such that he can very quickly decide on the best wine to match your dish. To me, this is both a gift and a skill. By the definition of their job, sommeliers taste a lot of wine. What separates the five-star sommeliers from the rest is their chef-like ability to pick up an accent of a dish (a hint of vanilla in a sauce) rather than generically pair a white wine with a seafood entrée.
Of course, you can create your own a la carte meal. Fish dishes include Local Dungeness Crab served with sunflower seeds, vanilla, Bartlett pear, and Jalapeno, Scallop and Blue Hawaiin Prawn, Olive Oil Poached Black Cod with Osetra caviar and oyster foam, and Pacific Kampachi with braised lettuce, peas, crab, and mint. Entrees include poached and roasted squab, slow roasted veal, and Marin Sun Farms lamb along with the suckling pig served on the tasting menu.
At the time of my meal, Chef Christopher Kostrow had only been in the kitchen a few weeks, so The Restaurant is too new to review, even though everything was fabulous. I loved his flavor combinations, however, and feel very comfortable suggesting that when you do visit, just leave yourself in his hands. Although the wine list is spectacular and will have Napa Valley wine aficionados salivating, consider leaving your pairing to Rom. Delicious surprises await!
Meadowood · Napa Valley
900 Meadowood Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574
Tel (800) 458-8080