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A Diner's Journal

The Restaurant at Meadowood

 

by Stacey Bressler

For more than two years, Meadowood the exclusive Relais and Chateaux Resort in St. Helena, has not had a fine dining venue. But as of this summer, The Restaurant is open and better than ever. The interior has had a make-over that has accomplished what a good make-over needs to do – make the subject look younger, fresher, and more alluring. The addition of gorgeous new light fixtures and a long “Vintners Table” that can seat one large party or be divided with flowers to accommodate several smaller groups, both add warmth and interest to the Restaurant. New floral arrangements increase the look of elegance without stuffiness. In addition to the freshened-up interior, there is now a lovely dining balcony with heat lamps to mitigate the evening chill.

The menu has been updated as well, highlighting local farm products, including produce from Meadowood’s own garden. The culinary team of Vincent Nattress as executive chef and Joseph Humphrey as restaurant chef are turning out innovative and delicious cuisine. As is the current trend with many upscale restaurants, dinners are priced by the number of courses and the diner can choose freely from among offerings arranged as “Beginnings,” “Nearby Waters,” “Local Gardens, Pastures, and Ranches,” “Artisan Cheeses,” and “Desserts.” A young diner in our party tested the concept by asking if he could order three desserts. The lovely young waitress said yes, but the lad’s mother quickly interceded and explained that at least two of those desserts had to be accompanied by a vegetable. Pricing for three courses is $60 ($90 with wines paired), four courses is $75 ($110 with wines paired), or five courses for $90 ($130 with the wines). This puts the Restaurant into the special occasion range for most diners, but it is a treat worth the price.

The menu is constantly changing with the seasons but some of my recent favorite dishes included the Cinderella Pumpkin Soup, Fall Game Bird Consommé, Half Moon Bay Petrale Sole, Roasted Foie Gras, Roasted Porcini Mushrooms, and the Liberty Farms Duck Breast. When autumn arrives and the nights turn cold, there is nothing better than pumpkin soup. While I can turn out a pretty decent pumpkin soup at home, this preparation included tiny fresh ricotta gnocchi and toasted pistachios. Yum. And when I found myself back at Meadowood just a few days later, I decided to try the other seasonal soup, Fall Game Bird Consommé. Consommé is one of those dishes that can be ordinary or ethereal. This presentation featured chestnut flan and Brussels sprout leaves and I would order it again in a heartbeat.

The Half Moon Bay Petrale Sole is a lovely dish which includes grilled squid and a toasted garlic-saffron emulsion. I am a foam “fan” (even though I am told that this is now passé) so I adored that garlic-saffron treat. Some things defy fashion. And the Roasted Foie Gras with a persimmon-whiskey coulis was completely satisfying as well. After the rich foie gras, I decided to try a vegetarian entrée, the Roasted Porcini Mushrooms with organic faro “risotto” and a carrot-lemongrass broth. This lovely aromatic dish was hearty without being heavy.

I chose the Liberty Farms Duck Breast accompanied by golden beets, walnuts, and turnip purée and my husband chose the Point Reyes Grass Fed Beef with mushrooms and butter beans. Both dishes were nicely prepared but not exceptional. The duck had a lovely flavor, but the skin was not as crispy as I would have liked. The beef looked and smelled good, but since the portion was not large, I didn’t take anything from my husband’s plate. Since the menu allows choosing from any section, one evening I chose the Lobster and Squid Salad as my main dish. My waitress assured me that my dish would be sized appropriately for an entrée, but it was not. I loved the salad but left the Restaurant feeling hungry. I mentioned this to the Chef and he promised me this would not happen again. Another dish worthy of mentioning is the Corn Soufflé. My husband gobbled it down so fast that I couldn’t even steal a taste. That means he really loved it.

There is a nice selection of local cheeses from small artisan producers, not all of them local. Cheeses come with seasonal accompaniments, but I was disappointed to note that there is a $10 supplemental charge for the cheese course. Desserts looked and smelled great, especially the Hot Quevedo Chocolate with Espresso mousse, marshmallow, and a cocoa and almond brittle. I had a bite of a friend’s Poached Lady Apple and found it fragrant and predictably good but not exceptional.

There is a Chef’s Tasting menu that is $110 or $160 with wines paired. The dishes include many that are not on the regular menu. I am definitely going to consider this option when I am next at the Restaurant for a special treat. There is no corkage for Meadowood members and the meal usually begins with a complimentary glass of Champagne. The Restaurant is a welcome addition to the upscale dining options in St. Helena.

The Restaurant at Meadowood
900 Meadowood Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-1205