Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review December 2006
By “The Elusive Epicurean”
As your duly elected Restaurant Writer, my first act in office was to appoint my cabinet. First and foremost, there’s my Chief Secretary of Culinary Affairs, whose many years as a professional foodie will be called upon frequently in the months ahead. The next cabinet member (conveniently married to the first) is the Secretary of the Second Opinion, because a spare set of taste buds always comes in handy.
Our first diplomatic mission together was to Cuvée, a relatively new restaurant that’s taken up residence in the former home of the ill fated Restaurant Budo, just a short hop from downtown Napa. Not having the foresight to make a reservation, we started with cocktails and appetizers in the lounge while waiting for a table to open up in the busy dining room.
I’m always happy to add a new destination to my Napa pub crawl, and with it’s full bar, fun cocktails, late night menu, and cozy lounge, Cuvée’s bar fits the bill. So if you’re in the mood for a couple of drinks and simply good eats like a BLT ($10), a Slow Roasted Pork Sandwich with Chipotle Honey BBQ Sauce ($10), or the slightly exotic Spicy Mussels with lemongrass and green curry ($10.50), don’t bother with a reservation and head straight for Cuvée’s lounge.
But we were here on a mission, and that mission required a proper dining experience, so we moved on to the main dining room. (Were it summer, I would opt to eat in the beautiful enclosed courtyard that allows views into the kitchen.) Cuvée’s menu is full of comfort foods you might cook at home, only better. Much better. Think roast chicken, pork chops, and steak – just the sort of food you want to eat as our days and nights get chillier.
My newly appointed Secretary of Culinary Affairs proved her worth by making sure that the pork chops were brined. (Brining is a process of giving meat a lengthy soak in a salt water solution to insure it is moist and succulent.) I’d never thought to ask if my pork was brined. Now I know. The House Cured Pork Chop ($18), served with garlic mashed potatoes and a fig and red onion compote, was juicy and satisfying.
The minute I spotted the Grilled Duck Breast ($21) on the menu, I knew what I was ordering. It was served with caramelized squash, braised greens, a maple-sherry vinegar glaze and a currant and pine nut relish. If I could, I would raise duck and eat it every day. Alas, I do not live on a farm, and plucking feathers is a tedious chore anyway. Much better to go to Cuvée. With crispy skin and just the right amount of fat, this duck was absolutely delicious.
My Dad, err, I mean, the Secretary of the Second Opinion, ordered the Chianti Braised Short Ribs ($21). I jealously watched the meat fall off the bone, but since I am, after all, the Restaurant Writer in Chief, I am permitted to demand as many tastes of others’ meals as I like. (I won‘t abuse the powers of office, I promise.) My pop gave the short ribs the highest compliment he could: he said they were almost as good as Great Grandmother McKean’s.
The desserts on offer were simple and homey, just the sort of thing to finish off our evening. We had a crème brulee, and an ice cream sundae using ice cream made at our local chocolatier, Annette’s. We had no difficulty devouring both. (All desserts $7.50)
With a second restaurant under my belt, I have learned this: do not write a review when you are hungry. For here I am, hundreds of miles away in a land devoid of Napa’s culinary delights, and there is no Cuvée to satisfy me. Sheer torture.
Cuvée is located at 1650 Soscol Avenue, adjacent to the River Terrace Inn. http://www.cuveenapa.com (707) 224-2330.