By Deirdre Bourdet
To Pea, Or Not To Pea… Right now in California, that is no question. Plump English peas are at
their peak, sweet, fresh and vibrantly green. They taste of spring and
sunshine, and because of their brief window of perfection, they should
be ordered on sight.
Fortunately, wine country restaurants tend to do more with the peas than
classic (and aptly named) English “mushy peas.” Many gorgeous and
delicious creations await those who aren’t afraid of a little green
vegetable in their diet.
With the arrival of this year’s fat little orbs, Ubuntu Restaurant
has been cranking out the pea dishes in ways the English would never dream. To wit: a chilled froth of fig leaf and English pea soup, poured tableside over more whole shelled English peas, exotic eggplant-colored snow peas, and a bouquet of edible flowers and herbs makes an exquisite, unique, and eye-catching soup unlike any other you have tasted. If that’s not enough, try the “puddinged” English peas simmered with pistachios, topped with the restaurant’s famous slow cooked strawberry sofrito. Ubuntu’s founding chefs may have moved on to new projects, but the restaurant certainly continues to push the envelope daily with vegetarian creations that will change the way you view your veggies .
Further north in St. Helena, the CIA’s Wine Spectator Restaurant
plies its English peas in more traditional mash forms, though still with unmistakeable wine country flavor. Succulent seared scallops nestle perfectly into a bed of mashed English peas enriched with guanciale, a genius touch that ties together both the fresh and the meaty aspects of the main ingredients. If another entrée requires your attention, you can still order up a side dish of coarsely mashed peas with Meyer lemon and crème fraîche to get your pea fix.
Also in St. Helena, the doubly Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood
is serving a chilled pea and yogurt soup with pea shell gelée (way to make the most of the plant!), wild mint ice, and curried peas. The girl and the fig
on Sonoma’s main square offers a vegetarian entrée of English pea pancakes with a carrot sauce, snap peas, and baby carrot salad with mâche, which would be perfect at a bubbly weekend brunch on the back patio.
For heartier appetites, Siena at the Meritage Hotel
uses the star of the season in a Maine lobster “pot pie” with a medley of other spring vegetables, gnocchi, and a chardonnay bechamel sauce. Meat-minded pea-lovers should head to John Ash & Co.
at the Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa, though, for the grilled Strauss Farms veal chop with Yukon gold potato grain and fresh morels, sweet onions, English peas, and cream. Hungry yet?