Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review August 2010
By Dorothy and John Salmon
After our enjoyable visit to Moore’s Landing last month, we decided to move significantly upscale to review another Carneros area restaurant. John and I had the honor and pleasure of dining with John’s dear Chicago friend, Steven Bandolik, at FARM on an exquisite Napa summer evening. Spending an evening in Carneros for a Chicagoan, whose arrival that day had been delayed by Midwestern thunder storms, was a very special treat for Steven. While we all love Chicago, it’s hard to beat the Napa Valley no matter what time of year.
FARM is the elegant main restaurant at the Carneros Inn. It also seems to be a hangout for some of the Bay Area’s most attractive Generation Y, Millenials or Echo Boomers, (i.e. 21 to 40 year olds). They, as we Baby Boomers, love the outside, covered living room/patio area, complete with its large, constantly glowing, rectangular, table-top fireplace. Surrounded by the beautiful hills of the Carneros, everything about the Carneros Inn is comfortable, elegant and, at the same time, simple. Even the cows and horses ambling along on the hills seem happy. Could this be where the “happy California cows” live?
Dining at FARM is lovely and sophisticated. After passing through the inviting bar, then past its revolving glass wall panel that changes from pink to green to purple to blue, guests enter the beautiful dining area with its Cathedral ceilings, two fireplaces and views to the outside.
This summer, through September, you can hang out at FARM in the Pavilion and listen to live music and DJ performances by local artists. FARM will feature small plates from the outdoor grill. The bar and Pavilion at FARM are open daily from 4 pm to 10 pm.
Enough about the atmosphere. We came for the food, which is fabulous, organic, sustainable and local. The wines are both from the surrounding area and around the world. The staff is attentive, attractive, young and talented. We were greeted by our old pal, Daniel Sarao, FARM’s manager. We know Daniel from his time at Ubuntu. He has brought the same warmth, hospitality and style to FARM. Our waiter, Matthew, is a graduate of Justin Siena. The “local flavor” of FARM is everywhere.
Service was superb as staff went from table to table making sure everyone was happy. Ryan Jette serves as Chef de Cuisine, overseeing the changing seasonal menus and managing all aspects of the kitchen’s day-to-day operations. Chef Jette has spent time in Florida, London, New York, and here in Napa Valley at the French Laundry. We can assure you that you will not be disappointed by the food or by the service!
We began the evening with a bottle of John Anthony “Church Vineyard Carneros” 2007 ($42) in honor of Dorothy’s son, who is the winemaker, and because we are big fans of John and Michelle Truchard. Needless to say, the wine was perfect! The wine list at FARM is extensive, with a mix of local wines, such as John Anthony, Godspeed Chardonnay from Mt. Veeder and a great 2007 Pinot Noir Sobella from Los Carneros, Caymus 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes Domaine Janasse Rhône Valley 2006, and many more incredible wines. FARM’s wine list is amazing, as are their unique servings from the bar, including Blood Orange Margarita’s, the “Perfect Pear Hibiscus” Margarita and their famous Carneros Cooler. If you would like a non-alcoholic drink with your dinner, you can order the Rainforest Iced Tea made with tropical infused green tea, kiwi, and Agave Nectar, or the Hibiscus Refresher with Mighty Leaf Island Breese Tea, Rhubarb and dry soda.
FARM has a $25 corkage fee for each bottle brought to the dinner table; however, they gladly waive one corkage fee if you purchase an additional bottle from their wine list.
The crunchy, fresh-baked French bread was a big hit with John and Steve, and the bread plate was replenished several times that evening. The Chef sent a small serving of melon soup with salt, and Nicoise olives as a starter. It was wonderful. For an appetizer, Steve ordered the Wood Stone Oven Flatbread with Maine Lobster, Manchego Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Arugula, and Meyer Lemon for the three of us for ($15). It was thin, crispy, elegant and delicious. Dorothy ordered the Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with Watercress Pain Perdue, Hearts of Palm, Radish, Carrot and Crème Fraiche ($9), which was the best chilled pea soup she ever had. John enjoyed the FARM’s Market Salad with Sweet Gem Lettuces, Heirloom Beets, Laura Chenel’s Chevre, Candied Cashews and Mint-Mango Vinaigrette ($13). Also on the menu are Hog Island Sweetwater Oysters, Crudo of Hamachi, and a salad of Grilled Lettuces, Portobello mushrooms, plumped raisins, crispy shallots, with a bacon-Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing.
For our meals, Steve ordered the Duo of Prime Beef comprised of Seared Filet Mignon, Braised Shortrib, Potato Purée, Asparagus, Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, and Sauce Bordelaise ($46) which he said was a terrific combination of the two meats that cut like butter. John ordered the Olive Oil Poached Alaskan Halibut with Fava Beans, Morel Mushrooms, Romaine Lettuce, Niçoise Olive, and Saffron Shellfish Broth ($32). Dorothy ordered the Liberty Farm Duck Breast and Confit Leg with Toasted Couscous, Apricot Purée, Charred Spring Onion, Celery, Aromatic Duck Jus ($29). All were happy with their choice.
For dessert, we ordered only one selection of the House-made Peach Prosecco Sorbet with raspberry ice cream and a honey Marsala ice cream served with a sugar cone Tuile ($9). Dorothy will admit that she ate most of that and that it was fabulous. The desserts at FARM are remarkable … if you have room for anything after dinner.
FARM is delightful, elegant, and near downtown Napa. Our breakfast favorite is the Boon Fly Café located in the same resort. If you want to get away for a romantic few days close to home, try one of the 86 unique cottages at the Carneros Inn complete with outdoor showers. You can eat at great restaurants, spend time in their world class Spa and enjoy the Hilltop Pool and hot tub. What could be better?