Napa wine tasting—If you only have one day (Part II)

Continued from Part I

Pizza at Bouchon Bistro

After enjoying a sunny morning of wine tasting at Darioush Winery we were ready to see what Thomas Keller’s new offering, Bouchon Bistro, had to offer.  We drove a short distance from Darioush Winery on the Silverado Trail to picturesque Yountville on Highway 29, where we encountered bustling crowds imbuing the flower filled streets with vibrant energy.

Bouchon Bistro

Thomas Keller, a master chef widely known for his award-winning French Laundry restaurant, has opened two other restaurants in Yountville, Bouchon Bistro and Ad Hoc. Food lovers can rejoice now that the magical Keller touch is somewhat more accessible as reservations can be famously difficult to obtain for French Laundry, requiring a great deal of planning and patience.

I secured reservations for our group of six easily for the busy holiday weekend by calling the Bouchon Bistro a couple of weeks in advance. Because it was relatively short notice (compared to the 2 month planning window for French Laundry) they had seating available for early or late lunch seatings, which was fine for our group and we were pleased to be accommodated. I checked into Ad Hoc but it is open only for dinner (Thursday-Monday) and Sunday Brunch.

Although expectations ran high they were exceeded by our experience at Bouchon. The purpose of our trip was to experience the wine of Napa, but our lunch at Bouchon ended up being the highlight of our day, and in the future I wouldn’t hesitate to plan the day around Bouchon for lunch or dinner. The professional and superlative attention by the staff created a pleasant milieu where we could relax and savor the gastronomic experience that unfolded before us. Briana, our server, was smooth and efficient as she orchestrated a number of dishes and satisfied numerous requests from our group.

We enjoyed our meal with a “house” red wine from their special partner program they have with local winemakers. They purchase a barrel of specially blended wines, and the wine we sampled was an excellent blend of 80% Cabernbet Franc/20% Merlot by winemaker Michal Hirby from Realm Cellars.

Raw Bar

Our meal was studded with culinary highlights.

For a starter we opened up our taste buds with a delectable pizza topped with bacon and Béchamel sauce, sprigs of piquant mustard greens and sweet, caramelized onions. At the first bite the salty, crisped bacon gave way to creamy Gruyere cheese with a hint of sweetness from the caramelized onions creating an appealing contrast of flavors and textures.

Delicately briney raw Kusshi oysters from the cold waters of British Columbia and steamed, sweet, giant shrimp were devoured within moments, with Linda saying, “I could stop right now and be immensely satisfied.”

Beet Salad

The beet salad was a work of art, reflecting the flavors and beauty of spring. The sweet, ruby red beets were paired with tantalizing petite pink beets tinged with the color of pink grapefruit. Thin slices of subtly pungent radishes topped with crispy strands of fried onion rings and whimsical golden pansies accented the beets.

Desiring a light meal in the middle of the day, I ordered quiche, and sank into the soft, creamy texture of the soufflé-like dish, the lightest I’ve ever tasted. Other stand-outs from around the table included rich, meaty short ribs wrapped in a sack-like crepe, and the ham and cheese sandwich served with thick slides of bread, topped with a perfectly fried egg. We almost passed on dessert but succumbed to the miniature warm-from-the oven chocolate bouchon, a moist and sensuously flavored cork-shaped brownie baked with chocolate chips. Wordy descriptions eluded us as groans of delight emanated with the first bite of the bouchon.

Bouchon is open from 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. and reservations may be made from Open or by calling 707.944.8037(recommended if Open Table is not successful). Entrees are about $30. The Bouchon Bakery, originally created to bake breads for the French Laundry, and now open to the public, is located right next door, producing masterful pastries and breads.

Bouchon Bistro
6534 Washington Street
Yountville, California 94599

Continued in Part III.