On the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood, Christopher Kostow gave to me his kitchen.
For the final act in this twelve-part series of dinners in St. Helena, Kostow opened the menu up for collaboration among his five sous chefs: Kim Floresca (executive sous), Daniel Ryan (pastry chef), Poncho Vasquez, Ben Nerenhausen (outgoing; this dinner would be his last dinner at Meadowood Napa Valley), and Katianna Weiner (incoming; Nerenhausen’s replacement). Together, they collaborated on canapés, and each sous chef presented one course. The food at this last dinner was paired with wines from Bond Estate, a winery specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon and founded by Harlan Estate in 1997.
There was an energy and enthusiasm to this last day of the Twelve Days of Christmas that I hadn’t felt in the days and weeks before. While I’m sure the staff looked forward to their two-week vacation that began the next day, they also seemed genuinely excited to put on a great finale.
With no guest chef (and attendant assistants), the kitchen seemed leaner and more agile. Kostow’s phone, wired into the kitchen speakers, was playing an upbeat mix of Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Prince.
The front of the staff arrived, as they had done every day, around three o’clock in the afternoon. And immediately, they went about their business, also seemingly lighter on their feet, and especially excited about the night’s service.
I was told that Kostow’s night has been, traditionally, the most anticipated and well-attended dinner of the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is, for many of the members and friends of Meadowood Napa Valley, a holiday reunion. This year, it was no different. The house was filled with familiar faces.
Here is a quick recap of the dishes that I particularly liked.
Poncho Vasquez’s canapé – black chickpea fritters, slightly spiced and filled with creamy ricotta – were really delicious. So was Daniel Ryan’s Brussels sprout “marrow,” – the heart of the Brussels sprout stalk cut into a baton and wrapped in feuille de brick, fried, and then garnished with pickled mustard seeds and Brussels sprout “marrow.” The “marrow” was tender and creamy, with an artichoke-like quality.
Two courses stood out to me. The first was Kostow’s salt-baked rutabaga, which he served in wedges, showered with finely shaved white truffle and crunchy nuggets of maple “honeycomb.” It was a world of textures and flavors (there were also slices of matsutake mushrooms).
Katianna Weiner grafted chicken skin onto sturgeon loins, basted them with fat until the skin went crispy and G.B.D. (golden-brown and delicious). Sturgeon can be a rather meaty fish, not unlike chicken, so the effect – together with a rich sauce of cockscombs and chicken jus – was convincing and clever. One of the guests in the dining room liked it so much that he came back to the kitchen to compliment Weiner on her dish.
I wrote a survey of the entire run of the Twelve Days of Christmas for Eater National. You can read more about the event there.
Also, you will find my recap of each of the first eleven dinners at the following links:
Day 1: Scott Anderson
Day 2: John and Karen Shields
Day 3: Phillip Foss
Day 4: Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski
Day 5: Jason Franey
Day 6: Matthias Merges
Day 7: Morihiro Onodera
Day 8: James Syhabout
Day 9: Nick Anderer
Day 10: David Toutain
Day 11: Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger
You’ll find the entire menu from the Twelve Days of Christmas dinner with Christopher Kostow and his staff, and a slideshow of the dinner below.
Black Chickpea Fritter with Ricotta
“Seaweed,” dill, pumpernickel.
Goat milk, matsutake, maple, white truffle.
Lettuces of Sea and Land
Uni, caviar, grains
Sturgeon Chicken Skin
Garlic and anchovy.
Sorghum, porcini, anise.
Bacon, warm yeast.
Celery root, chocolate puff pastry, white chocolate.
Krug, Grand Cuvée, Reims, France
Paul Pernot, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Burgundy 2009
Bond “Vecina” 1999
Bond “Melbury” 2001
Bond “Pluribus” 2004
Bond “St. Eden” 2005
Bond “Quella” 2006
(For those of you browsing on a mobile, click here, for the photos)
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