12 days: on the tenth day of christmas: holmboe bang… (2014)

•December 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In a clearing carpet of chickweed.

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It had been raining every day for two weeks.  California was finally finding some much-needed relief from a severe, two-year drought.

So, when a rare window of blue sky opened up one morning, Cameron Cole Rahtz, the forager for The Restaurant at Meadowood, jumped on the opportunity.  He grabbed Esben Holmboe Bang and me, we grabbed our raincoats, piled into his car, and raced off towards the woods. We found the forest shaggy with moss and verdant with new growth.  Delighted by the abundance, Holmboe Bang started compiling a wish list of wild herbs and mushrooms for Rahtz to help him find for the dinner he was cooking the next day: California red bay, chickweed, Miner’s lettuce, sorrel, oyster mushrooms…

Esben Holmboe Bang is the Danish chef of the two Michelin-starred restaurant Maaemo in Oslo, Norway, where I had the chance to dine earlier this year. He was the tenth guest chef to cook at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas hosted by Christopher Kostow, with wines paired by Colgin Cellars.

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12 days: the ninth day of christmas: lee… (2014)

•December 28, 2014 • 1 Comment

9th Course: 56-Day Persimmon

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Corey Lee, chef of the 3 Michelin-starred Benu, showed up looking like a sifu, and knocked my socks off with ham and black truffles wrapped in cabbage and glazed in a thick, gelatinous stew of fish maw.

This happened when Lee cooked with chef Christopher Kostow on the ninth day of the Twelve Days of Christmas at the Restaurant at Meadowood,  with wines paired by Matthiasson.

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12 days: on the eighth day of christmas: achatz… (2014)

•December 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Morning in the garden.

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Of this year’s twelve dinners, I was most anxious about the eighth one: the night that Grant Achatz cooked.

Early in alinea’s life, I was one of the very few, if not alone, in my criticism of that restaurant – or, more accurately, that style of dining.  Now, eight years and four meals at alinea later, the restaurant has evolved, and my perspective has shifted.  I would venture to say that Achatz’s opinion of me (or, rather, his opinion of my opinion) has also changed.

I never questioned Achatz’s talent or inventiveness, of which I remain in awe.  Neither did I dare overlook his sense of adventure, or underestimate his partner Nick Kokonas’s keen sense of business – these are the traits that I have admired most in the two.  Thankful to have had a rather open (and, I think, rather honest) dialogue about my experiences at alinea with both of them over recent years, I’ve since narrowed the gaps, and, at the very least, have come to more fully appreciate the empire and world that they have created. Personal dining preferences aside, what they have built is very impressive.

To keep the alinea world spinning on its axis, with its three Michelin stars in orbit, is no small feat. But to set it spinning on another platform is a totally different story.  That is what the alinea team set out to do when it decided to transplant alinea to The Restaurant at Meadowood for one night.

As I watched Achatz’s 1,500-pound shipment of boxes being unloaded onto the dock at Meadowood Napa Valley the day before the dinner, I wondered how, or if this was going to work.

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12 days: on the seventh day of christmas: martinez… (2014)

•December 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

4th Course: Clams

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Besides Joshua McFadden, who cooked on the sixth night, Virgilio Martinez is the only other chef on this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas roster whose restaurant I had never visited.

Martinez is chef and owner of Central, a high-end restaurant in Lima, Peru.  His colorful cooking, representing both the Peruvian coast, as well as the “high-altitude” ingredients of the Andes, together with dishes presented by hosting chef Christopher Kostow of the Restaurant at Meadowood, were paired with wines by the Mondavi family’s Continuum label.

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12 days: on the sixth day of christmas: mcfadden… (2014)

•December 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Baby gems on the Josper

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There are two guest chefs on the roster for this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood whose restaurants I have not visited.  One of them is Joshua McFadden, chef of Ava Gene’s, a “Roman”-style Italian restaurant in Portland, Oregon.

I first met McFadden at The Restaurant at Meadowood last year when he and the owner of Ava Gene’s, Duane Sorenson*, attended the Twelve Days of Christmas.   This year, chef Christopher Kostow invited him back as the guest chef for the sixth night of this dinner series, with wine pairings by Kongsgaard.

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12 days: on the fifth day of christmas: wetzel… (2014)

•December 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

8th Course: Parsnips in Razor Clam Broth

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Blaine Wetzel got his start at a very young age. By the time he returned to his native Washington at the age of 24 to head the kitchen at Willows Inn on Lummi Island, he had spent eight years cooking around the world.  He had cooked in the kitchens of Mary Elaine’s at the Phoenician in Phoenix, Alex at the Wynn in Las Vegas, Aubergine at l’Auberge Carmel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Noma in Copenhagen. His cooking at Willows Inn has turned heads, earning his far-flung archipelago off the coast of the Pacific Northwest some time in the culinary spotlight. In 2012, he was named one of Food + Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs, and earlier this year, he was elected the restaurant industry’s “Rising Star” by the James Beard Foundation.

Although Wetzel had been on my radar for a couple of years, I didn’t make it to Willows Inn until last year.  I liked it so much that I went back for a second time a few months later.

Using ingredients he finds locally, Wetzel subscribes to the foraging branch of the Nordic school of cooking.  I was particularly interested to see how he would he bring a sense of place to his dishes at The Restaurant at Meadowood, where he cooked the fifth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas, with wine pairings by Failla.

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12 days: on the fourth day of christmas: gauthier… (2014)

•December 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

5th Course: "Red Ravioli"

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As the entire left coast braced for the largest storm to hit in decades, Nathaniel Dorn, the Restaurant Manager at The Restaurant at Meadowood, and his staff kept calm and carried on. At line-up, he reminded: “We have a generator, headlamps for all of the kitchen staff, pre-burned candles, emergency crash kits, and pre-charged music stations… if the electricity goes out tonight, the party doesn’t stop.”  This is, after all, the Twelve Days of Christmas.

And so, from the far reaches of northern France came Alexandre Gauthier to stormy Napa Valley.  He is chef of Froggy’s Tavern in the medieval, walled city of Montreuil-sur-Mer and the Michelin-starred la Grenouillère in nearby La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil.

Gauthier is the fourth chef to cook at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas at the Restaurant at Meadowood.  Together with hosting chef Christopher Kostow, he presented a nine-course dinner paired with wines by Williams-Selyum.

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