Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Napa Valley Day 1: Auberge du Soleil

So here I am, spending the next few days in Napa Valley, San Fran and then making my way down the coast. I'm certain there will be some good eats along the way. Definitely so in the Napa/Sonoma region -- I love Californian cuisine.

Our first night, my mother and I had made reservations at Auberge du Soleil. The view here is freaking fantastic as it overlooks the valley. We had an early reservation - 5:45 - so the sun was still out and hitting the valley.

We took a look at the tasting menu which seemed really interesting, but my mother doesn't like lamb which was featured on there. Instead we opted for the 4 course menu which had options.

They started us off with a mushroom consomme soup with some vegetables. This was really light and delicate, a perfect starter.

For our first course, my mother and I both ordered the seared foie gras. This was on top of a slice of pain perdu, with apricots and almonds and a chamomile sauce.

For the second course, my mother had the risotto. This was with heirloom tomatoes, shrimp, parmesan, tarragon and yuzu emulsion. The sauce around it also had a hint of lavender. I loved the brightness of the flavors - it made the risotto a lot less heavy than it normally is.

For my second course, I had seared ahi tuna. This came with some seaweed, tapioca pearls, tempura mushrooms, glazed pork belly, and a dashi broth. This was really tasty, though the pork belly was a bit salty for my taste. It didn't come together nearly as well as I'd have liked -- maybe it's because it seemed to be Japanese inspired, and so I was looking for something much more authentically Japanese. Nonetheless, still good - flavors for the most part were well balanced.

For the third course, my mother had the prime beef with corn, romano beans and shallots. My mom said this was good, but to be honest we were so full at this point that I think she barely registered what it tasted like.

I had the spiced lamb for my third course. Included was a squash blossom stuffed with goat cheese, gnocchi, and summer veggies. The flavor of the lamb was delicate yet exotic, and so good. But again, I was so full by then, I don't think I could have fully appreciated it.

As a palate cleanser, they gave us a blackberry soup with lemon cream.

For dessert, I had trailside strawberries with a basil ice cream and these little nuggets of pastry (not sure what they were made of but they were good) and light cream. It was so good and summery, exactly what I wanted.

My mother had warm bing cherries with almond ice cream and cocoa nibs. The flavor of the dark chocolate and the sweet cherries worked together really nicely.

And here (with the pistachio off the top of the truffle and half a bite of the jelly) are the petit fours we were left with when the check came.

All in all, this was a really nice dinner, especially the service and atmosphere. However, I'm not sure the price justified the food. It was very good to be sure, comparable to pricey places in Manhattan. But I'd say that it's not quite on par with a Le Bernardin or a Bouley quite yet. I'd have been happy to pay say $90 for the 4 course tasting, but over $100 seemed to be pushing it for food that for the most part is pretty straight standard classical fare.

By the way, we came here because I couldn't get reservations at French Laundry. :(

Auberge du Soleil
180 Rutherford Hill Rd
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 967-3111


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