By “The Elusive Epicurean”
Throughout my childhood, my parents dreamed of a house in the country. Rural treks became hypothetical real estate shopping expeditions. Pictures from magazines were ripped out. Imaginary floor plans were built, torn down, and rebuilt. Then finally, one day, dream became reality, and our family learned this: bucolic beauty comes at a price.
And that price is a paint job that never ends, lest the mold get the better of you. That price is acre upon acre of lawn that is ever in need of mowing. That price is the knowledge that your brain has been forever altered, for you experience a malicious glee at the loud snap that heralds the demise of your mortal enemy, the lowly field mouse who has taken residence in your walls. Oh, and let’s not forget the ten miles to the grocery—sixty to a decent restaurant.
So when I bask in the sun under the veranda at FARM at the Carneros Inn, and look out over the vast green lawn and vineyards beyond, I don’t dream of a country house of my very own. No, instead I dream of FARM, where I needn’t worry about oiling the push mower, and where I can sit out on the patio waiting for some kind soul to bring me a refreshing summer cocktail.
The ambiance, and the cocktail, might alone be worth a visit to FARM, but I am happy to report that the food satisfies as well. My dining companion and I began our leisurely lunch by sharing the Warm Redwood Hills Goat Cheese and Potato Terrine with Candied Walnuts and Frisee ($11). How can one go wrong with goat cheese and potato?
After the terrine, I moved on to the Celery Root & Leek Soup which was garnished with Lemon Crème Fraiche and American Sturgeon Caviar ($9), while my friend had the Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Blood Orange Segments and Toasted Peanuts ($9.5). Both appetizers boded well for the rest of our meal.
The menu at FARM was well edited, yet did not lack enticing options. I was sorely tempted by the Painted Hills Short Ribs with Mashed Potatoes, Winter Vegetable Chips and Tangerine Gremolata ($20), but felt that the warm sunny day required something lighter. I settled on the Chili Rubbed BBQ Quail with an Arugula Salad dolled up with Candied Pistachios, Blood Orange, Pomegranate, and a Cayenne, Honey and Lime Vinaigrette ($18). Certainly not something I could ever cook up in my own kitchen, it is definitely the thing to order when someone else is cooking. The lightness of the salad, with its zesty fruitiness, contrasted well with the spicy quail.
My friend, after deep and thoughtful consideration, chose the Braised Berkshire Pork Shoulder which was accompanied by a Bacon and Lima Bean Ragout, Savoy Cabbage and Asian Pear Relish ($16). My dining companion reported that the meat was extremely tender, and very tasty. He ate with great gusto, so I am convinced he did not lie.
We finished with a Meyer Lemon and Hazelnut Cake with Praline Sauce and Candied Lemon Peel ($9.5) With a cool lemon cream wedged between a light hazelnut cake, this was a surprisingly refreshing dessert and a perfect ending to our afternoon.
So if you’ve been dreaming of your very own country getaway in the Hamptons, Provence or Tuscany, but funds are lacking, simply plan a leisurely afternoon (or evening) at FARM. Add a nap and a massage and you have my recipe for the most relaxing one day vacation known to man.
FARM is open daily for lunch from 11:30 to 3:00 PM and dinner from 5:00 to 10:00 PM. For more information, call (707) 299-4880 or http://www.thecarnerosinn.com. FARM is located at the Carneros Inn at 4048 Sonoma Highway in Napa, just past the junction of 29 and 121 (Sonoma Highway).