Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review January 2009
Elements Restaurant and Enoteca
By Dorothy and John Salmon
We like to spread the fun around and take our friends with us when we do restaurant reviews. On a lovely weekday winter night in Napa, we had dinner at Elements Restaurant and Enoteca on Second and Franklin Streets. If you are a local, you will remember that Pizza Azzurro used to occupy the space where Elements is today. Our good friends, Sam and Mel Engle, joined us. Mel was Napa’s 2007 Citizen of the Year and his wife Sam is everyone’s favorite creative and hardworking community volunteer. Elements was the perfect place to take these two wonderful people. The atmosphere at Elements is open and warm. On good weather days and nights throughout the year the huge sliding glass door facing Second Street is opened to let guests experience indoor/outdoor dining at its best. Parking is easy to find and, on the night we were there, one of Napa’s great chefs and caterers, Kinyon Gordon, was also there for dinner. How’s that for an endorsement from a pro!
When we arrived at Elements, we were greeted by Toby the host and Nick, our server. Both were funny, engaging, and made the evening very enjoyable. We were handed beautiful hard stock recycled paper menus that emphasized Elements commitment to social responsibility. When you go to Elements you will have a chance to learn what they believe in. We think these guys are for real and a wonderful addition to the Napa Valley. Chef Charles Webber creates wonderful small plates of food with great tastes that are well described on the menu so you know exactly what you are ordering. The Cheese Plates are titled SHEEP, GOAT or COW just so you know which animal made your cheese possible. The dinner menu is also easy with selection headings that clearly tell you what you are getting… COLD or HOT.
Elements Restaurant and Enoteca is actually a great wine bar with fabulous food! Tasting Panel Magazine (Pattersons) named Elements the “Stars of 2008” and “The Best Wine Bar in Napa.” We think it is remarkable that they have 80 wines by the glass! … Amazing.
We started the evening with our favorite “Model Bakery” French bread with olive oil and a drop of vinegar and, of course, a bottle of wine. We selected a 2006 Napa August Briggs Old Vine Zinfandel for $48 that was fabulous. Good friends, good wine and Model Bakery French bread make life worth living. For a change of pace, Boat Boy, aka John, ordered a Petaluma produced Lagunitas Czech style pilsner beer for $4 that he thought was great. Hey, he’s from Chicago where beer goes with everything. As we laughed and talked about life in general, we started checking off the list of small plates we couldn’t resist for dinner. After all, we have to give you, our readers, a complete review! That’s why this job adds 10 pounds a year to our body weight! We ordered the Main lobster ceviche with coconut and galangal ($10) that was amazing and also the Jumbo shrimp sautéed with Kalamata olives and watercress ($8).
We shared everything except the liver and onions sautéed foie gras with onion confit ($15). Sam and Dorothy were the only takers on this one and agreed that it was the BEST EVER! We all had some of the Monterey calamari in the Spanish chorizo broth with oregano ($9) It was great! With the calamari, we had honey glazed duck breast with spelt and aromatic vegetables ($16) and the broccoli rabe sautéed with anchovy and toasted garlic ($5.50). We quickly realized that these small plates were BIG on taste and very filling. That didn’t stop us however and we also ordered the roasted squashes with shaved sheep milk ricotta salata ($6), just to see what it was like. Of course, it was fabulous. Since we take our job seriously, we HAD to order dessert! Stuffed, but having fun, we ordered the semolina cake with sherried currants and Meyer lemon mascarpone ($7), the flourless chocolate cake with soft ganache and raspberry sauce ($8), the rice pudding with stewed apricots and pistachios ($7) and the reverse affogato with espresso sorbet with a splash of cream ($3). Every one of these desserts was amazing!
Four of us waddled out of Elements late at night after enjoying too much fabulous food, great wine and wonderful conversation. Hey, we did our job!
Just so you know… Elements’ wine list is impressive with many great selections of very interesting Sparkling Wines, Rose’s, Whites, Pinot’s, Sangioveses, “Big Ticket Reds”, lots of other fabulous Reds and, of course, beer on tap. If you love the wine you are served at dinner, you can take another bottle home with you since they also sell wine retail. If you bring your kids with you, they serve Thomas Kemper sodas and small plates of food that are perfect for kids as well as the adults who drive them to the restaurant. The adults typically order MANY small plates because they sound and taste so good. Kids are more reasonable…
These are fabulous people with a social conscience and great food. Give them a try and you won’t be disappointed!
Monterey Calamari, Spanish Chorizo Broth, Oregano
yields 2 pounds cleaned – serves apx. 10ppl… 3oz ea
3 lbs calamari, cleaned, cut into thin rings
2 to 3 oz spanish style chorizo, brunoise
2 to 3 oz sun dry tomato, brunoise
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp chile flake
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp parsley, chopped
3 oz white wine
3 oz shrimp stock / clam juice
1. Sautee calamari in hot olive oil and butter, add chorizo, garlic, chile and tomato.
2. Deglaze with wine, splash with stock, add herbs and serve.
3. Use several pans as needed, the entire cooking process must go quickly to keep calamari tender.