Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review October 2006.
By “The Gourmet Girl”
Sometimes looks can be deceiving. When driving Upvalley it’s hard not to think that Press restaurant is an extension of Dean and Deluca’s. It appears to be a warehouse or a greenhouse attached to the famous store. The interior remains a mystery until you open the door and step inside. We arrived early on a Saturday night and took a seat at the bar while we waited for our table.
Press has two menu’s, a bar menu and a restaurant menu. Although the bar menu was tempting with a Kobe beef burger and a Caesar salad, my friend and I decided to eat in the restaurant to enjoy leisurely dinning. We had spent the day wine tasting and our bellies needed something in them other than wine. As the waiter showed us to our table, a fire flickered in the wood-burning grill. A roasting pig twirled in the middle of the flames.
Seating at booths and chairs are dark chocolate brown with vibrant plush green pillows. Outside, several guests enjoyed the views from the patio while enjoying an outdoor fireplace.
The dessert menu at the bar listed Chocolate Soufflé ($12.00), which the waiter advised us to order prior to our meal due to the preparation time. We did and turned our focus to the dinner menu.
We began with the “Chopped Salad with Point Reyes Bleu Cheese, Bacon, Avocado, & Apple” ($9.00). Since we had decided to share the salad we also opted for the “Sweet Red Onion Strings” ($9.00).
While waiting for our order, we snacked on Rosemary Breadsticks and tried the caramelized onion bread, which had sweet soft piles of caramelized onions in the middle of each slice. Delicious.
The onion rings consisted of a massive plate of thinly sliced red onions fried to perfection. The salad was fresh, sweet, tart, and tangy with bite size triangles of apples, crispy chunks of bacon and crumbles of bleu cheese.
For the entrée my friend decided on the “Bodega Bay King Salmon with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Leeks and Heirloom Tomato Fondue” ($31.00) while I opted for one of their side dishes, “House-Made Gnocchi with Chanterelles & Arugula” ($12.00). We also shared a side of “The ‘Press’ Roasted Russet Potato & Garlic Cake” ($7.00).
Many of the dishes at Press will serve two or more but I wasn’t about to share my gnocchi. They were tender and the sweet woodsy taste of the mushrooms added to the richness of flavor. The thick salmon was flakey, cooked perfectly, and presented atop a vibrant green sauce. The potato garlic cake arrived in a cast iron dish with minced garlic piled on top of a golden brown crust. It was like eating crispy hash browns and smooth mashed potatoes together.
When our plates were cleared we learned that our waiter had forgotten that we had pre-ordered the soufflé. He quickly put it on order and we sat back and enjoyed the evening while our soufflé anticipation grew stronger. Some things really are worth a wait. The top of the soufflé, bearing a chocolate disc with Press in gold letters, burst out of its dish as a side of chocolate ice cream melted on the plate. It was big enough to make us glad we let our stomachs settle before we began eating again. We didn’t put our spoons down once between each bite.
I will be back to sit at the bar and enjoy the Kobe beef burger and maybe sit outside before winter arrives. The food was elegantly simple with clean natural flavors; the ambience was comforting and relaxing. The restaurant was very open but each table felt intimate. Press serves dinner from 6pm to 10pm and the Bar Menu begins at 5pm. They are closed on Tuesdays. Press is located at 587 St. Helena Highway (Highway 29) next to Dean and Deluca. Their phone # is 707-967-0550. You can visit their website at http://www.presssthelena.com. If you have dining suggestions or want to tell me about your favorite place to eat, please contact me at napagourmetgirl.com.