Deciding where to eat dinner for our second anniversary was a matter of choosing from among several highly rated restaurants in the Napa Valley. But it wasn't until I checked the Napa area on my "Restaurants to Try" Google Map that I remembered Meadowood as an option. A few months before, I had read Michael Bauer's SF Chronicle review of the restaurant. I had never heard of it, but there he was, giving the restaurant four stars—his highest rating. So I saved it to my map and promptly forgot about it.
When I finally remembered it, while planning the trip, I went to the restaurant's website. It's part of a resort, so the website is not your typical flashy restaurant page. Nevertheless, I was able to watch a few videos about the place, look at sample tasting menus, and read more about the chef. Christopher Kostow was one of Food & Wine's best new chefs of 2009, and the restaurant has two Michelin stars. It's not the three stars of the French Laundry, but it's still really impressive. I showed Steve, and he agreed that it would be a good place to eat for our anniversary.
It was about a 15-20 minute drive up Silverado Trail from Yountville to the resort, around St. Helena. We turned off the main road, went through some vineyards, and found ourselves in a wooded area at the resort. Steve thought it reminded him of the resort we stayed at in Hawaii during our honeymoon, probably because of the guardhouse at the entrance. The rest of it reminded me a little of the Inn at Otter Crest, where we stayed a few years ago in Oregon. The guard gave us directions to the restaurant, and we drove along, past some tennis courts, to the main parking area. With a little help from the person at the main desk, we found the restaurant, tucked away to the side.
|flower & dining room|
The first bite to come out of the kitchen were just perfect. It was brought to us on a little brown velvet pillow (one for each of us, actually), but I put mine on my bread and butter plate for the picture.
|gourmet cheese cracker|
Next was another canapé... or two.
The last of the "first bites" came in the form of a baked potato parfait.
|baked potato parfait|
The first regular dish was next to arrive, however, and it turned out to be one of my favorites.
Wagyu Beef Cured in Meadowood Pine
Hamachi, Scandinavian Flavors
|wagyu beef cured in meadowood pine|
Beans, Fresh and Dried
Smoked Avocado, Cumin, Squid
|beans, fresh and dried|
The next dish was one of the most curious for me:
Red Abalone and Local Chicken
Black Garlic, Mendocino Seaweed, Grated Foie Gras
|red abalone and local chicken|
But there were still more courses to experience, and the subsequent one was pretty cool too.
Salad of Lamb Neck and Tongue
Compressed Melon, Dried Lime, Turmeric
|salad of lamb neck and tongue|
Morels, Snap Peas, Foie Gras Butter
Unfortunately, there was still one more savory course to go: cheese. (I know, poor me.)
Padron Peppers, Pizzo Leaves
Finally, it was time for sweet. This I could handle.
Nasturtium, Tiny Licorice
Then, the main dessert:
Chocolate Almond Fudge
Olive, Brioche, Tomato
|chocolate almond fudge|
Final bites came in the form of little coconut macarons and chocolate truffles.
As we were looking at the check, we got a visit from Chef Kostow at our table. He was probably doing his nightly rounds to greet the diners, and we were most likely the first ones to finish our dinner. He seemed like a really nice guy—and relatively young too. He thanked us for dining at his restaurant, and we thanked him for the wonderful food.
While each course was amazing and beautiful on its own, part of what made the meal such a memorable experience was the service. It was the typical wine country fine dining style—easy and comfortable, yet refined. A couple of the service staff remarked on my camera, but it was always in a welcoming way, and I never felt awkward about taking pictures of the food. We also bonded a little with our waiter, after he asked where we were visiting from. We soon learned that he had once lived in our neighborhood, in the house next to the one with the really ugly paint job. He used to shop at our usual corner produce store and get burritos from our favorite place. He was friendly and engaging, but he also was very articulate and polite. He seemed to fit in perfectly.
The Restaurant at Meadowood was only slightly less formal than the French Laundry, but that was probably the main reason for having one less Michelin star. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it just as much. The meal was relaxed, well-paced, and pleasant all around. It really was the perfect place to spend our anniversary.
When it was over and we could eat no more, we left Meadowood and drove back to Yountville to exchange anniversary presents. It was our "cottonversary," so Steve got me a stuffed corduroy elephant to go with the corduroy pig that we already had. I got him a random t-shirt from the pirate store that said "Mercury Cougar-Rama Muscle Car-'Splosion" and a dish towel from Anthropologie that actually listed the traditional anniversary gifts for each year. Who knows what we'll find for year three—leather or crystal—but hopefully, we'll find somewhere good to eat.
Side note: Steve and I saw Christopher Kostow compete on Iron Chef America less than a month after our dinner. It was Battle Oatmeal against Cat Cora and—Spoiler Alert!—he won. :)