One of the best of many wonderful meals we had during our recent visit to California was at Bottega Ristorante in Yountville, Napa Valley. It was very close to Bistro Jeanty, where we'd had dinner the previous evening. It was an easy drive down Route 29 from our hotel in St. Helena.
The restaurant was large and doing a bustling business. It had a very nice, but not intimate atmosphere. Our server was James was extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and professional. I had lots of questions and he had lots of great answers.
The menu was extremely creative and the food was fantastic. The owner is famous chef Michael Chiarello. The executive chef is Robert Hohmann.
When I told James that I wanted to order a bottle of Zinfandel, perhaps from Grgich Hills winery, he suggested instead a 2008 Paradigm Zinfandel from nearby Oakville. He said that only about 200 cases per year are produced. It was $53, and in the same price range as the Grgich Hills. We followed his suggestion and are glad we did. The wine, produced by famous winemaker Heidi Barrett, was terrific.
When I returned home, I discovered that the lowest on-line price I could find was $34.95 plus shipping, so the $53 cost was really low for a restaurant. Restaurant wine prices are generally two to three times retail. Michael Chiarello states in the introduction to his wine menu that his wines are aggressibely priced to afford diners the opportunity to drink better wines.
My wife's appetizer was "Succotash" - forno-roasted summer squash and sweet corn. cherry tomato, ricotta and chili-stuffed squash blossom, arugula leaves, and "corn pudding" that was really not a pudding. It was delicious.
My appetizer was Burrata Caprese - creamy whipped mozzarella burrata, Golden Bear Ranch heirloon tomatoes, deep-fried bruschetta, and basil oil and balsamic caviar. It was an incredible dish. The bruschetta was probably the best I've ever had. The "caviar" was made from the balsamic vinegar.
We both had the same main course - Risotto Calabrese - risotto with Calabrian sausage, butter, parmesan cheese, oregano, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese. It was terrific.
For dessert, my wife had Tiramisu Profiteroles - tiramisu and sponge cake gelato with "Cocoa Puff" chocolate sauce - for $10.
I had Caramel Fig Crostata for $10. Since I could not remember all the details of this mouth-watering dessert, I sent an email to Bottega, and received a detailed answer from the restaurant’s General Manager, Joël Hoachuck. The recipe for the dish is:
House made dough pie crust
Fresh fig halves
Fresh minced thyme & grated lemon zest
(about ½ tbsp of butter added for richness during baking)
Sprinkled with coarse “disco” sugar
Scoop of house made crème fraîche sherbet
The gremolata is in fact a biscotti cookie crumble (consisting of almond anise, chocolate pistachio and cinnamon)
Caramel Fig Crostata
After dessert, we each had an espresso for $3.25. These cups of espresso were the smallest I have ever had, and I’ve had many espressos all over the U.S., Italy, and France. We almost needed a microscope to find the coffee.