Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review December 2008
By Dorothy and John Salmon
John and I love Calistoga. Our pal, Calistoga resident Dieter Deiss loves to describe Napa County’s six major cities as a “String of Pearls.” We think Calistoga might qualify as the most unique pearl on a string that winds its way along the bends of the Napa River. Calistoga is a blend of very different and interesting cultures in a charming and kind of funky town in a breathtaking Valley setting… up against the hills with impressive views of Mt. St. Helena. For more information on Calistoga: http://calistogavisitors.com/aboutcalistoga.php http://calistogavisitors.com/thingstodo.php.
In many respects, Calistoga has the charm of a small town with the sophistication of a European spa. Famous for its natural hot springs and healing mud baths, Calistoga draws visitors to the Napa Valley to relax and to enjoy the fine wines and outstanding regional cuisine.
The same “Big Idea” thinking that made Calistoga famous over 100 years ago is alive and well today, fostered by energetic, sophisticated and savvy community members who are making their city thrive even in a tough economic climate. When you are planning to spend time in Calistoga we highly recommend having dinner at JoLe. Even if you live in Napa County and you think you have seen it all, don’t just go up for dinner. Spend the day wandering around the town having fun discovering Calistoga’s nuances!
John and I spent a lovely evening at JoLe and recommend it to EVERYONE as the perfect Holiday Present for family and friends. You can’t go wrong. Jo Le is located at the Mount View Hotel & Spa (circa 1917). It is a Contemporary American Restaurant owned and operated by husband and wife team Matt and Sonjia Spector. The name “JoLe” come from the combining names of the couple’s two sons. The location had been home to the acclaimed Catahoula Restaurant owned by chef Jan Birnbaum, which later became Stomp, which closed in October 2006. Chef/Owner Matt Spector uses organic, locally farmed ingredients as much as possible. Sonjia’s desserts are updated versions of things her mom and grandmother made. General Manager Susanne Breen brings years of experience and passion to the mix and has created an eclectic, ever-evolving wine list including many small producers. Most dishes are “bigger than an appetizer and smaller than an entrée.” This lends itself well to our casual wine country pace. The wine list has many by-the-glass offerings, and many beers are from local micro breweries. Without reservations, bar and chef’s counter seats are available on a first come, first served basis.
The restaurant decor in the historic Mount View Hotel building is lovely and somewhat contemporary, with polished wood tables for two and four. JoLe is one of those wonderful small plate “try lots of different dishes” places with amazing food!
John and I started our evening with a Navarro “Edelzwicker” which was fantastic ($30) with a beautiful Dungeness Crab Salad ($11) and the Prince Edward Island Mussels ($12) and the Beets and Forni Brown Welsh Greens ($8). After the small starter plates John ordered the Wild Coho Salmon. Hey, with our last name, what else could he do? The salmon was served with apples, gold potatoes and fennel roasted pork jus ($15). I had the pan roasted rib eye with parmesan truffle fries and creamy spinach ($20). We thought that we should try the unique veggies, so we ordered the most amazing Saffron and Orange Cauliflower ($5). That made the evening perfect. Well, almost perfect until we got to dessert. Thinking of the holidays and how wonderful Calistoga is in the winter, we ordered the spiced sugar pumpkin custard served with gingersnap cookies ($8) and the warm caramel pecan tart with vanilla ice cream and Bourbon caramel ($8).
By the time we left, we were stuffed, happy, warm and figured a great Prager “Aria” Chardonnay white Port from just down the street for $11 would cap off the evening perfectly. It did.
JoLe Restaurant is located at 1457 Lincoln Ave. It is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. (until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). Lunch hours will soon be added in time for the holidays. Reservations can be made at http://www.jolerestaurant.com, or by calling 942-5938. Dress is Casual and they accept walk-in’s. There is even the option of takeout. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy a wonderful dinner in Calistoga.
JoLe’s Crispy White Beans
• 1 cup canned or dried
Italian butter beans
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 8 slices jalepeno
• 5 torn basil leaves
• salt & pepper
If using canned beans rinse well and dry on paper towels. Cook dried beans until tender in water, drain and dry on paper towels.
Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a pan, add beans, season with salt and pepper and pan fry. Toss beans frequently. When beans start to turn golden add jalepeno rings and basil. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediatly.