12 days: on the ninth day of christmas: werner… (2017)

– Conveying a sense of place has become a motif among restaurants and chefs.  And what makes so many destination restaurants unique is actually being there. Local ingredients, landscapes, weather, traditions, history, politics, religion, and language all converge to form culture, culinary and otherwise. So how do you bring all of that to another place? […]


Conveying a sense of place has become a motif among restaurants and chefs.  And what makes so many destination restaurants unique is actually being there. Local ingredients, landscapes, weather, traditions, history, politics, religion, and language all converge to form culture, culinary and otherwise.

So how do you bring all of that to another place?  Increasingly, that has become a challenge to chefs, who are drilling ever-deeper into their own cultures while traveling abroad more than ever before.  And while this cross-pollination is important, knowing is very different from understanding, or more significantly, experiencing.

Most of the chefs who arrive at The Restaurant at Meadowood for the Twelve Days of Christmas know that what they do at home cannot be adequately transplanted afield. But, for the foreign chefs especially, if replication isn’t possible, approximation is.  In the spirit of collaboration, where indigenous products and context fail, technique prevails.  If flavors, colors, and senses can’t be experienced firsthand, at least methods can be explained and applied to proxy ingredients. And, to varying degrees guest chefs have relied on this alternative avenue for bringing a bit of their homeland to Napa.

As someone who has had the opportunity of traveling to many of the guest chefs’ restaurants over the years, it has been highly educational to witness how they adopt and adapt, how they creatively open a window to their own place from a faraway setting.  Manish Mehrotra presented a compelling example of this on the second night, in part because Indian culture is so foreign to my own.  So too, the last three guest chefs this year represented culinary corners that remain relatively unfamiliar to me (and to the great majority of the guests who attended their dinners), and so were presented these same challenges of cultural and culinary transference.

The first of these was Eric Werner, who cooked on the ninth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Eric Werner is an American chef who moved to the Yucatán about a decade ago, where he and his wife opened restaurant Hartwood in Tulum, Mexico.  The restaurant is outside.  All of it.  The hearth, on which everything is cooked, is outside.  The dining room is outside.  If it rains, the restaurant closes.  To that end, the restaurant is closed in September: “between the heat and the rains, there’s no point in staying open, so we use the time to work on the restaurant,” Werner wrote in his cookbook “Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucatán.”

While the The Restaurant at Meadowood couldn’t be removed to the great outdoors, the cooking could.

Two large grills were set up on the deck outside the restaurant, overlooking the Meadowood Napa Valley golf course.  For the balance of the night, Eric Werner and Hartwood’s chef Jamie Klotz, remained outside grilling, quite literally giving the dining room a window into their cooking.

Three dishes from Werner’s menu stood out to me.

There was a beautiful ceviche of rock fish in mandarin juice, which was garnished with sea beans and fresh pansies from The Restaurant at Meadowood’s garden at the Culinary Farm.

Using giant, cast-iron, grill-top griddles as comales, Werner cooked a mix of vegetables, including beets and mushrooms, and served them warm over milky requeson (a fresh cheese akin to ricotta); a salad.

And, there were grilled lamb ribs, served family-style. The ribs were painted with a sauce made of chapulines – grasshoppers – and dusted with bee pollen.  The lamb fat was very flavorful, in a way that required you to really like the flavor of lamb.

5th Course: Grilled Quail

Kostow served his own version of ceviche as a canapé.  Raw prawn was chopped up with cilantro and nopales, stuffed into warm pockets of puffed tortillas, and garnished with green tomatillo juice.  These were terrific.

Escabeche usually makes an appearance at the Twelve Days of Christmas in one form or another, and it’s a perennial favorite of mine. Because of its high fat content, mackerel (aji) can be a particularly cranky fish. But Kostow’s escabeche is always incredibly clean. This year, he served it with cauliflower and crisped leaves of dragon’s tongue from the garden.  It was great.

And for dessert, The Restaurant at Meadowood glazed sweet potatoes (camotes) in a caramel coat, and set the glistening nuggets on condensed milk ice cream.  It was simple, sweet, comforting; perfect.

Below, you’ll find the menu from the ninth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas with Eric Werner.  To see all of the photos from this dinner, CLICK HERE.



Butter Clams

Prawn Ceviche
Nopales, cilantro, unripe tomatillo.

(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

First Course 
Otoño Rock Cod Ceviche
Bottarga, mandarin juice.

Second Course
Grilled Escabeche
Aji, cauliflower, radishes,
Dragon’s tongue, and mustard vignaigrette.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Third Course 
Ensalada de Comal
Semillas, requeson.

Fourth Course 
Grilled Abalone
Mole, matsutake, seaweed salsa, succulents.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Fifth Course 
Chayote slaw, salsa de montequilla,
Black persimmon, and fried hoja santa.

Sixth Course
Lamb Costilla
Con chapulines de navidad,
Manzanilla berry powder, and bee pollen.

Seventh Course
Condensed milk ice cream, pepitas.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Gorka Izagirre
Bizkaiko Txakolina
Pais Vasco, 2015

Franz Hirtzberger
Neuberger Smaragd Wachau, 2013

Charles Ranch
Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast, 2016

Giuseppe Mascarello
Barolo Monprivato
Piedmont, 2011

Giuseppe Quintarelli
Valpolicella, Classico Superiore

Anthill Farm
Sauvignon Blanc
Sonoma Coast, 2014

Eric Werner

Below are links to my posts and photos from all of the Twelve Days of Christmas dinners I have attended over the past four 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)
Ignacio Mattos (Estela; New York, New York)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, NoMad; New York, New York)
Nenad Mlinarevic (Focus; Vitznau, Switzerland)
Christian Puglisi (relæ; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil; Mexico City, Mexico)
Joshua Skenes (Saison; San Francisco, California)
Matthew Wilkinson (Pope Joan; Melbourne, Australia)
Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan ([One]; Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Isaac McHale (The Clove Club; London, The United Kingdom)
Kyle Connaughton (Single Thread; Healdsburg, California)
Atsushi Tanaka (A.T. Restaurant; Paris, France)
Justin Yu (Oxheart; Houston, Texas)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Mark Lundgaard Nielsen (Kong Hans Kælder; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Manish Mehrotra (Indian Accents; New Dehli, India; New York, New York; London, U.K.)
Jeremiah Stone & Fabián von Hauske Valtierra (Contra & Wildair; New York, New York)
Jeremy Fox (Rustic Canyon & Tallula’s; Santa Monica, California)
Ben Sukle (birch & Oberlin; Providence, Rhode Island)
Sean Brock (McCrady’s, McCrady’s Tavern, Husk, & Minero; Charleston, South Carolina)
Yoshiaki Takazawa (Takazawa; Tokyo, Japan)
Thomas Keller (The French Laundry; Yountville, California)
Eric Werner (Harwood; Tulum, Mexico)

Photos: Pansy garnishes for Otoño rock shrimp ceviche; juicing green tomatillo over prawn ceviche; Eric Werner and Jamie Klotz on the deck; Otoño rock shrimp ceviche; grilled vegetable escabeche; grilled quail; Christopher Kostow, Charlie, and Eric Werner at the Culinary Farm; glazed sweet potatoes with crème fraîche ice cream; and Eric Werner clearing the comal on the grill.


Categories 12 days 2017

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