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

~ 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, […]



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.


4th Course: Beets


Esben Holmboe Bang’s dishes were relatively light in size, but full on flavor.

He started the meal with a small but rich and creamy combination of oysters and mussels, rife with the flavor of dill.  This was a dish that I had at Maaemo earlier this year.  I had also had his charred onion dish before.  As it appeared at Maaemo, this course included a quail egg yolk that had been coddled in bone marrow fat, and tangy onion-thyme vinaigrette that was chunky with fenalâr (a type of cured lamb meat).

Caviar, chestnuts, chicken stock: these comprised a small, but mighty dish.  Two bites, and it was gone. But the memory of the contrasts drawn by it lingers: salty and sweet, cool and warm, the luxurious and the humble.  It was my favorite course.


3rd Course: Potatoes Cooked in Beeswax


Christopher Kostow anchored the meal with meat and potatoes.

From years past, he brought back those small butterball potatoes cooked in beeswax.  They sat on a creamy bed of whipped potatoes, garnished with baby blood-veined sorrel.

There was a tender round of pork, glazed in acorn miso, and served with meaty hoshigaki dried persimmons.

And, because Paul Roberts, Master Sommelier and Chief Operating Officer of Colgin Cellars, requested it to be paired with the wine, Kostow served Snake Rivers Farm beef. It appeared on the menu as “Paul’s Beef.”  I thank Mr. Roberts for his request, and Kostow for granting it in the form of a beautiful cut of the bavette, which was sauced with a beefy shiitake mushroom reduction.  It paired wonderfully with the Colgin reds.


8th Course: Norwegian Black Currant


Holmboe Bang’s dessert, entitled “The Norwegian Black Currant Bush,” spurred lots of discussion in the dining room.  The plating alone — a forest of piped, tuile “branches” in a snowy bank of black currant-flavored ice cream — was a conversation starter.  But after diners started digging in, their attentions turned to the flavor.  Some liked it. Some didn’t.

I have to admit, even though I liked the flavor, it was an unfamiliar one.  I’m tempted to describe it as odd, if it weren’t for the fact that it was, perhaps, simply unexpected. In my experience, currants have a tart, bright, red fruit flavor, sometimes with a darker, raisiny aftertaste if they are dried.  This Norwegian currant was unexpectedly floral, with a much warmer, more tropical feel.  It had what I can best describe as a green banana flavor.  Regardless of what I thought, I really enjoyed seeing the reactions of those around me, and hearing them work through their differences with one another. Dinners, like the ones hosted by The Restaurant at Meadowood during the Twelve Days of Christmas, seem to draw a self-selecting crowd of more adventurous diners. And it’s always a joy to participate in the refreshingly open and free exchange of opinions at the table.

As if anticipating the mixed reaction to his foreign berry, Holmboe Bang returned us to Napa Valley at the very end with a soothing tea of herbs that he found in the forest the day before.  Diners were given fragrant bouquets garni and pots of hot water for the steeping.  Inspired by the budding manzanita trees among which he found these herbs, Holmboe Bang named this tea, “This is our tree.”




Below, you’ll find the menu from the tenth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas featuring Esben Holmboe Bang of Maaemo, and wines by Colgin Cellars.   Following the menu, you’ll find a slideshow of all of the photos that I took.  (If you’re viewing this on a mobile device, click here to see the photos.)


Aged Salsify
Juniper gel, juniper powder, vinegar.

(Holmboe Bang)

Chips of Sea Lettuce and Brown Rice

(The Restaurant at Meadowood)


First Course 
Mussels, dill.
(Holmboe Bang)

Second Course
Roasted chestnuts.
(Holmboe Bang)

Third Course 
Potatoes Cooked in Beeswax
Assorted sorrels.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Fourth Course 
Blackthorn, chamomile, roasted yeast.
(Holmboe Bang)

Fifth Course 
Quail Egg
Charred onions, salted lamb.
(Holmboe Bang)

Sixth Course 
Acorn miso, succulents, hoshigaki
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Seventh Course 
“Paul’s Beef”
Fermented onion turnip.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Eighth Course 
“The Norwegian Black Currant Bush”
(Holmboe Bang)

Ninth Course 
“This Is Our Tree”
(Holmboe Bang)

Tenth Course 
Fresh and Dry Yuba
Almond, white chocolate.
(Holmboe Bang)


Grand Cuvée

Camille Giroud
“Corton-Charlemagne,” 2009

“Tychson Hill,” 2010

“Cariad,” 2006

“IX Estate” Red, 2009

“IX Estate” Syrah, 2007


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Below are links to my posts and photos from all of the Twelve Days of Christmas dinners I have attended over the past three years at the Restaurant at Meadowood.  Each chef is listed with the restaurant with which they were cooking at the time they participated in the event (some have moved on to other projects and restaurants).


Scott Anderson (Elements; Princeton, New Jersey)
John & Karen Shields (Formerly of Townhouse; Chilhowie, Virginia)
Phillip Foss (EL Ideas; Chicago, Illinois)
Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions; San Francisco, California)
Jason Franey (Canlis Restaurant; Seattle, Washinton)
Matthias Merges (Yusho; Chicago, Illinois)
Mori Onodera (Formerly of Mori Sushi; Los Angeles, California)
James Syhabout (Commis; Oakland, California)
Nick Anderer (Maialino; New York, New York)
David Toutain (Agapé Substance; Paris, France)
Josh Habiger & Erik Anderson (The Catbird Seat; Nashville Tennessee)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Portland, Oregon & New York, New York)
Rodolfo Guzman (Boragó; Santiago, Chile)
Carlo Mirarchi (Blanca and Roberta’s; Brooklyn, New York)
Tim Cushman (O Ya; Boston, Massachusetts)
Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner; Raleigh, North Carolina)
David Chang (Momofuku; New York, New York)
Matthew Accarrino (SPQR; San Francisco, California)
Mark Ladner & Brooks Headley (Del Posto; New York, New York)
Rasmus Kofoed (Geranium; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Nicolaus Balla & Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine; San Francisco, California)
David Kinch (Manresa; Los Gatos, California)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Matthew Orlando (Amass; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Frank Castranovo & Frank Falcinelli (Frankies 457, Prime Meats; New York, New York)
Kobe Desramaults (In de Wulf; Dranouter, Belgium)
Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère; La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)
Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn; Lummi Island, Washington)
Joshua McFadden (Ava Gene’s; Portland, Oregon)
Virgilio Martinez (Central; Lima, Peru)
Grant Achatz (Alinea; Chicago, Illinois)
Corey Lee (Benu; San Francisco, California)
Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo; Oslo, Norway)


Categories 12 days 2014

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