Friday, April 9, 2010

The Restaurant at Meadowood - 04/07/2010

900 Meadowood Ln
St Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-1205

You know you've got a successful business when your name is "The Restaurant" and the signage is the size of a dinner plate. The Restaurant at Meadowood is nestled in a nondescript part of the Meadowood resort in St. Helena with only a sign labeled "The Restaurant" right next to the door.. With the demotion of Michael Mina to a single star, the Restaurant at the Meadowood resort was the last two star in California that I had yet to try. The dining room itself was comfortable with a farmhouse style coupled with a touch of luxury.

Canape 01: Pillow Bread - Herbs, Fromage Blanc
The Pillow bread is similar to The Bazaar's Air Bread a toasty flavorful crust filled with a tart fromage blanc complimented nicely by the fragrant aroma of fresh herbs.

Canape 02: Squid
I totally missed the description of the course. All I know is that it consists of a single perfectly cooked slice of squid. The dish an immense amount of flavor for such a small bite with a strong vegetal bitterness upfront with a blend of spice and brine on the finish.

Canape 03: Garden Radishes - Caraway Rye "Dirt"
The last canape consisted of a quartet of radishes nestled in "sand" of Caraway and salt. The radishes themselves were a bit lean with a resonant crunch and verdant pepperiness complimented by the subtle salty sweet flavor of the carroway and salt mixture.

Amuse: 7-Layers of Potato
When our waiter described this I had a feeling it was going to be fantastic, combining luxurious oysters and caviar with herbs, cream and hearty potato. We were instructed to dig straight down with our spoons and get all the layers. This multilayered dish opens with light salinity from the seafood which is brightened up by the herbs and ground with the starchy feel of the potato.

01: Wagyu Beef Cured in Meadowood Pine - Hamachi, Scandinavian Flavors
Schramsberg, J. Schram Rosé, Calistoga 2000
Wagyu would normally be overly heavy for a first course but the faint spring essence of pine and brine from the fish and caviar help mask the fat leaving the luxurious tenderness. The beef is paired with a pumpernickel bun that reminded me of Chinese "bao" that gives some weight to the ethereal beef. We were given a sparkler to start, laden with berry and citrus fruit on the nose and grapefruit with some vanilla and yeast on the palate the wine stood up nicely to the tempered beef.

02: Scallop, Dungeness Crab, White Asparagus - Two Preparations
Husic Vineyards, Chardonnay, "Dos Palmas", Napa Valley 2007
Next up was a two part dish consisting of warm and cold preparations of scallop. One plate consisted of a single scallop in sauce with sprigs of baby white asparagus. This was an extremely blunt preparation, slightly overcooked with an overwhelming amount of butter. The other plate had a single sliver of raw scallop atop a lightly cooked dungeness crab claw that offered an interesting contrast between the bolder sweeter crab and soft ocean essence of the scallop both flavors are complimented nicely by the vegetal chill of the ice cream and herb. The Husic Vineyards Chardonnay had notes of tropical fruit and slate as well as a creamy vanilla flavor which went very well with the chilled crab and scallop.

03: Black Truffle Broth - Sweetbread Canelloni, Puffed Farro, Maitake Mushroom
Capiaux, Pinot Noir, "Wilson Vineyard", Sonoma Coast 2006
The predominant flavor of this dish was the sweetbread though it had a hamminess to it instead of the traditional offaly sapor. With such a dominant flavor it was difficult to taste any truffle in the thin broth, a thicker cream based soup might have stood up to the sweetbread more effectively. The Capriaux was a bit more fruit forward than a typical pinot noir, typical flavors of spice and sour cherry are present as are stronger flavors of ripe plum and citrus peel.

Supplement 01: Poached CK Farm Egg - Morels, Fava Leaves, Congee
Clos Sainte Magdeline, Cassis, Provence, France 2007
Easily the best of our four supplements, the silky egg absorbed the rich meaty savor from the plump morels and the herbed guanciale added a complex saltiness that lingered on the palate. Delicious though extremely time sensitive, with the molten center congealing as it cooked in the congee. The wine, a white blend from Provence offers muted fruit and white flower as well as a salinity which linked the wine to the food.

Supplement 02: Cured Wild Salmon - Asparagus, Smoked Sesame, Trout Roe
Captûre, Sauvignon Blanc, "Les Pionniers", Sonoma County 2009
The cured wild salmon had a dense texture, almost gelatainous though the curring robbed the fish of much of its original flavor which was restored by the trout roe. Seems like a very roundabout way to end right where the fish started.

Supplement 03: Crispy Poussin - Turnips, Tofu, White Soy
El Molino, Pinot Noir, Rutherford 2006
Next up was a duo of chicken in dashi broth. The loin was fairly forgettable but the shredded chicken flavored with the dashi tasted like the purest chicken noodle soup, instantly hearty and soothing.

Supplement 04: Suckling Pig - Compressed Pineapple, Taro, Sorghum
Outpost, Zifandel, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley 2007
The last course was the suckling pig. I found the loin itself a touch dry, the dense meat lacked much flavor on its own, instead relying on the pineapple and taro. At least the sorghum faithfully recreated the caramelized sweetness of the crispy skin of a suckling pig.

04: Goat Poached in Whey - Preserved Bergamot, Marinated Spring Vegetables
Altamura, Sangiovese, Napa Valley 2006
Seeing goat on the menu invariably brought up discussions of the brilliant Bolinas goat at COI. Meadowood cooks their lamb medium giving it a tougher texture but leaving the subtle grassy flavor is completely intact. Using light vegetables and preserved citrus help temper the gaminess of the meat without masking it entirely.

05: "Charred" Bavette - Morels, Ramps, Foie Gras butter
Jaffe Estate, "Transformation", Napa Valley 2006
The Bavette is made from compressed A5 Wagyu skirt steak. The densely packed lean meat keeps the generous marbling from being overwhelming. Prepared sous vide, the texture is similar to the otherworldly short rib at Citronelle. The superb meat is best enjoyed on its own or with lightly flavored compliments and the meaty morels and tangy ramps fit the bill perfectly. The Transformation is a big opulent wine, loads of ripe fruit and soft tannin powerful enough to stand up to the beef.

06: Stilton Cheesecake - White Port, Dried Cherries, Pecan
Francois Chidaine, Vouvray, "Clos Baudoin", Loire Valley, France 2007
For our cheese course we were presented with a cheesecake with a strong essence of blue cheese from the Stilton. The fruity sweetness helps temper the power of the cheese and the pecan crust ties the whole dish together with a buttery nuttiness.

07: Green Apple and Ginger Sherbet - Vanilla, Mint Snow
Our palate cleanser was a sherbet with icy mint granite. The jarring cold of the snow and floral heat of the ginger provided clashing flavors, equally refreshing in very different ways.

08: White Chocolate and Foie Gras Ganache - Banana, Black Walnut, Passion Fruit
Cossart-Gordon, Bual, "Colheita", Madeira 1997
The dessert was a multifaceted affair. The chocolate/foie gras ganache and caramelized banana were both sweet and savory while the passion fruit had a crisp acidity and sweetness while the black walnut added a light crunch to the softer creamy texture of the other components. The Bual grape is the second sweetest Madeira varietal available and the Cossart-Gordon had a nice woodiness and a brown sugar sweetness on the finish.

09: Mignardises - Chocolate & White Tea Bonbon, Snickerdoodle with Devonshire and Raspberry
Paolo Marolo, Liquer of Grappa & Chamomile, Piemonte, Italy
A pair of solid finishers though I think we enjoyed the ornamental cocoa nibs best. This might be the first time I have had a wine pairing with mignardises.

I came to Meadowood with extremely high expectations and at the end of the day I left a bit disappointed. The food is sophisticated and polished, the staff attentive and knowledgeable but the whole experience just didn't resonate with me.

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