Not a vacation from food, but a vacation all about food!
My birthday and our wedding anniversary fall in the same week so John and I always find a way to celebrate with a fun new food experience. We timed our departure from Ventura so we would be in Paso Robles just in time for lunch. One of our favorite restaurants in Paso is Buona Tavola, an authentic Italian restaurant. We stop there a couple of times a year and they always remember John greeting him in Italian and bringing us a special treat – often some of their homemade salumi. My choice for lunch that day was Agnolotti Di Scampi Allo Zafferano-homemade half moon ravioli stuffed with scampi and imported prosciutto in a light (well, maybe not so light) saffron sauce:
And John chose the Orecchiette Con Rapine E Luganega-Hat shaped pasta served with rapine broccoli, sun dried tomatoes, homemade Piemontese style pork sausage, garlic and a splash of tomato sauce:
Not easy to climb back into the car and get back on the road after our filling lunch but we were anxious to get to Napa. We usually stay in St. Helena or Yountville but we had been hearing a lot about the renovated Downtown Napa area and decided to give it a try. We were not disappointed!
We had dinner at Celadon on the Napa River just a mile from our hotel. Our meal started with a shared Pork Belly Salad-soy braised crispy pork belly with tatsoi, daidon, yuzu wasabi dressing and kecap manis (an Indonesian sweet soy sauce) with baby spinach, watermelon radishes and fried won ton strips. The salad was amazing and like our waiter said – how can you go wrong with fried pork fat???
John ordered the Butter Lettuce Salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes and tarragon champagne vinaigrette:
And the Seared Ahi in Peppercorn Crust-with fingerling potatoes, broccolini and baby carrots in a Meyer lemon and baby caper sauce topped with a fried carrot haystack:
I never had the opportunity to eat lamb when I was growing up and either did John, so I decided to be adventurous and ordered the Lamb Top Sirloin with wild mushroom (chantrelles and trumpet) risotto, sauteed rainbow chard and cabernet jus, topped with fried onion rings. John and I both discovered that we love lamb and we will be cooking it at home very soon!
The next day our daughter Sarah & son-in-law Jeff drove up to meet us for our special dinner at Morimoto’s. But first – lunch!
Jeff’s brother Mike, his fiance Mariesa and her parents were also in Napa for the day so we all got together for lunch at Redd Wood, a pizzeria featuring wood-fired pizzas.
We started with a few salads:
Romaine, white anchovy, lemon, garlic and croutons:
Mielle’s Chopped – romaine, radicchio, salami toscano, ceci beans, black olives, caciocavallo and red wine vinaigrette:
Marinated Beets, radish, green goddess, little gems:
Followed by pizzas. Fresh Mozzarella with tomato and basil:
Prosciutto with arugula, grana padano and black pepper:
Anchovy with tomato, garlic, olives, pecorino, capers and chilies:
Sausage with mushrooms, spinach, calabrian chili, tomato and smoked mozzarella:
And my favorite – Ricotta with potatoes, pecorino, red onions, bacon, basil and egg:
John and I are both fans of Morimoto and enjoy watching him on Iron Chef. We drool over everything he prepares wishing we could taste, so when we found out he had a restaurant in Napa we didn’t think twice about where we would have this year’s special dinner.
Sarah & Jeff joined us for dinner and while we waited for our table Sarah & I had one of the specialty cocktails – Crimson Mimosas-Soudachi infused shochu, Dimmi liquor, Napa Valley blood orange puree, agave nectar and Mumm brut sparkling wine.
Before we arrived at the restaurant we had decided to have the tasting menu with wine and sake pairings. We were excited to learn Morimoto’s has two tasting menus – a Modern Omakase and Traditional Omakase. Perfect – even more dishes for us to taste. Sarah & I ordered the Modern and Jeff & John had the Traditional. Seemed like the perfect plan but I have to tell you sometimes it wasn’t easy to share! I asked the waiter if he could give us a copy of the menu when we left so I wouldn’t have to take notes and did he mind if I took photos of the food. He said sit back and relax, we’ll have the menu for you when you leave and email you pictures of all the courses and a list of the wine and sake pairings. Woohoo!! So, that’s exactly what I did, I settled in and enjoyed one of the most amazing meals of my life.
Modern 1st Course – Toro Tartare with wasabi, nori and avocado (very fun-using the little paddle to drag the tuna through the condiments):
Traditional 1st Course – Hassun (a collection of hor d’oeuvres) – abalone, uni, fava beans and bamboo shoots:
Modern 2nd Course – White Sturgeon Caviar with hash brown, jidori egg, red onion and creme fraiche:
Traditional 2nd Course – Sashimi, chef’s selection with white sturgeon caviar:
Modern 3rd Course – Hearts of Palm with Japanese mackerel escabeche, citrus, mint and chili:
Traditional 3rd Course – Shabu Shabu (Japanese style fondue), Japanese A5 (the highest grade) wagyu beef, king trumpet mushroom, konnyaku (a yam cake):
Modern 4th Course – Maine Diver Scallop with perigord truffle-egg drop congee and scallion:
Traditional 4th Course – Grilled Whole Fish with hajikami ginger, daikon and ponzu:
Modern 5th Course – Japanese A5 Wagyu with kabocha squash puree, asian pear and maitake:
Traditional 5th Course – Sushi, chef’s selection of nigiri:
Modern 6th Course – Brown Butter Sponge Cake with passionfruit semifreddo, passionfruit tapioca pearls, caramelized white chocolate tuile and fresh pineapple:
Traditional 6th Course – Chocolate Cremeux with miso cake and sesame: