By “The Elusive Epicurean”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman with two X chromosomes is in want of some chocolate. This woman is no exception. Who’s to say when my love affair with chocolate began? What I do recollect is my first memory of chocolate—or rather, the lack of chocolate. Imagine this wee child, busting open a plastic Easter egg, to find, horror of all horrors, trail mix. With carob, no less. It was California. It was a New Age preschool. It was the 70s.
Ever since, I have appreciated chocolate in all its forms. I can go highbrow, with a costly bar that boldly advertises its cocoa percentage, or lowbrow, with a beloved Cadbury Crème Egg (anticipated and dreaded every spring for its positive impact on my taste buds and inevitably negative impact on my waistline.)
And so when I have the opportunity to both begin and end my meal with chocolate, how can I resist? On my recent outing to Napa’s Zinsvalley Restaurant, that oh-so-perfect ending was a molten chocolate cake that was aptly listed as a Chocolate Oooze Cake ($6.75). Served with a vanilla gelato, and neither too sweet nor too bitter, it was, as Goldilocks would say, just right.
How did my meal begin? Why, a Chocotini, of course! After a day of pouring rain, my waterlogged self had truly wanted to go home, curl up in bed, and read a good book. But once I was sitting in front of the warmth of Zins’ fireplace, Chocotini in hand, there was no place I’d have rather been.
A cozy and intimate dining room, complete with rough-hewn plank floors and a stone hearth, makes Zinsvalley the perfect hideaway for a romantic date. Alas, my dining companion was not the hunky ski instructor of my winter fantasies, but a coworker who cunningly bowed out of last month’s group outing. Oh, well. You can’t have everything. At least I had my Chocotini.
But one cannot write a review on chocolate alone. Happily, there are many savory delights on offer at Zinsvalley. We started with the Crispy Calamari ($9.95), a plate of fried goodness that contained blue lake beans, red onions, and fennel as well as the calamari. This was accompanied by a spicy Sriracha aioli that I would happily put on nearly everything I eat everyday.
Following the calamari, my Cunning Coworker had a simple Green Salad ($6.95) and then the Basil-Prosciutto Crusted Chicken ($16.95), which was served with a cheesy polenta. Anything that combines basil and prosciutto promises to be flavorful and tasty, and it certainly delivered. With options like Hoisin Grilled Pork Chops ($18.95) and Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils and Sausage ($23.95), I’d had a hard time ordering, but in the end decided on the soup of the day, which was a creamy Eggplant Soup ($5.50) followed by a Squash Lasagna with an herbed cream sauce ($14.50). It was a rich and perfectly carbolicious choice for such a cold, wet winter’s night.
If you’re not up for dinner, Zinsvalley’s fun cocktail menu and cozy bar are definitely worth checking out for their own sakes. Sadly, I get out of work too late to take advantage of the daily happy hour from 5-6 PM, but I’ll definitely be at the $6 Martini Night on Thursdays. Look for the girl with the Chocotini.
Now I must bid my reader adieu, for it is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman with some chocolate is in want of the treadmill.
Zinsvalley Restaurant is open for lunch 11:30-2:30 Monday-Friday, and dinner Monday-Saturday starting at 5 PM. Zinsvalley is located at 3253 Browns Valley Road in Napa. For more information, call (707) 224-0695 or check out http://www.zinsvalley.com.