Posted by: Hungry Korean | September 6, 2011

Auberge de Soleil

I’m back from my weeklong Napa/SF vacation and let me just say, I ate (and drank) alot. The food was pretty phenomenal out there mainly because the produce is just that amazing in Cali.  The tomatoes were quite noteworthy – incredibly bright and sweet.  I’m going to be semi-detoxing the next two weeks and limiting the amount I go out to eat in NYC (frankly, I’m sort of tired of eating out to be honest) so I’m glad I have so many photos from my eating adventures to post. That should keep me busy and my viewers happy in the meantime.

While in Napa we stayed at the famed Auberge de Soleil. It’s a five star resort pretty well known for it’s amazing views of Napa Valley (the resort is perched on top of Rutherford Hill) and apparently it’s been around for quite a while. That first night we dined at the Auberge restaurant. It’s French and on the fancy side.  Attire is business casual and the service is formal.  Although we dined at 9pm and weren’t able to take advantage of the beautiful sunset setting on Napa Valley, we were still seated outside on the deck.  Heat lamps kept us warm.

They offer a tasting menu  of three courses or five courses with the option of wine pairings but we opted to go with the three course tasting and go a la carte with our wine.

We started with a glass of the local sparkling wine while we perused the menu:

We were served a cold soup of cucumber, basil and cream as an amuse bouche:

It had a strong cucumber taste but it was mellowed out by the cream.  The cream left a pleasant lingering flavor on the tongue.

For his appetizer, Cookie Monster got the poached Maine lobster with watermelon, saba, ginger and avocado:

The poached lobster was cut into bite sized pieces and worked very well with the refreshing bites of watermelon and creamier notes of avocado. I have never had watermelon with lobster but it worked so well together it was eye opening for me.  Quite delicious.

I had to get the seared foie gras which was served with fresh figs, port and pain perdu:

Seared foie gras was rich and unctuous as you would expect. The outside of the liver had a nice caramelization on it.  Gosh I love foie. I also love fresh figs and I thought the fresh sweetness of them worked well with the warm rich duck liver.

For main course, Cookie Monster got the local lamb loin with potato gnocchi, grilled little gem, favas and black olive caramel:

Cooked a perfect medium rare he enjoyed the dish very much. But we were both even more impressed with the gnocchi: they were so delicate and soft, just the way gnocchi should be.

I tried to balance the rich foie appetizer by going lighter with my main. I got the seared Ahi tuna served with glazed pork belly, edamame and tempura in a spicy lobster sauce:

Sushi grade tuna had the heftiness of a steak but less calories :).  In other words, it’s a meaty/solid enough fish to make you feel satisfied.  The pork belly added a touch of decadence to the dish. The lobster broth had a nice body too it and a slight spice to perk you up.

In between the savory courses and the dessert course, the restaurant gave us a grape juice palate cleanser:

It had a very intense grape-y flavor – dark and sweet. It tasted like Welch’s grape juice in the best way possible.

For dessert course, Cookie Monster got the toasted vanilla angelfood cake with trailside strawberries and soft vanilla cream:

I got the cheese plate in lieu of dessert.  They provided me with the menu of cheeses:

I asked them how many I was able to choose from and they said that I get all the cheeses on the menu!

Cheese lover’s paradise!

The meal was quite good. It’s French cuisine but the wine list (like all restaurants in Napa) was a book full of local and foreign offerings.  The restaurant has earned international recognition, including back-to-back Michelin stars, under the direction of Executive Chef Robert Curry.  Chef Curry is a California native who trained under Michelin star chefs Alain Ducasse and Michel Rostang in France and Philippe Jeanty (FYI we hit Jeanty’s restaurant later in the week) and Michel Richard in the US. I really enjoyed the meal but I was not blown away as I expected to be?  I guess as a New Yorker I’m spoiled in that I live in a city with amazing food and amazing chefs and getting this standard of food is not impossible in NY.  I wish we could have sat outside during our meal at sunset but apparently that is prime time for Auberge and it books up quickly.  Full but not overly so, we went back to our room excited to see what the week held in store for us. Afterall, Napa is where you go when you want to eat well and drink some amazing wines. To be continued…..

Auberge de Soleil, 180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford, CA


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