Restaurant Review – January 2011

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Restaurant Review” January 2011

on Hwy 29 in St. Helena
By Dorothy and John Salmon

We had heard good things about PRESS, but we didn’t know quite what to expect. The outside is simple and the entrance is sheltered, but gardens surround the restaurant on three sides and the inside is airy and spacious. Although we always enjoy doing these reviews with our friends, we chose to have a quiet dinner out alone to celebrate our Anniversary. It has been six years since we were married in the South Garden of Copia. We hope that next year we will be able to celebrate our 7th Anniversary at a newly reopened restaurant in the Copia building. We will keep our fingers crossed that good things will return to that property soon.

We arrived early for dinner on a Saturday night and found the place humming with activity. The crowd was very fashionable and it seemed like a good place to spot local celebrities. From the name, recalling a wine press, we weren’t sure if it would be “agricultural.” Apart from the barn-like dimensions and massive wooden beams, everything is posh. Even the “powder rooms” are large and elegant!!

The large dining room feels rustic, but cosmopolitan … lively, yet relaxing. The interior is the size of a big old barn, with lots of wood and an enormous fireplace, but somehow it feels cozy and incredibly comfortable. That result is obviously the product of thoughtful design and extraordinary attention to detail.

As we sat down and began to relax, our server arrived to advise us of the specials. A wood-fired grill is king of the kitchen here, and the cuisine is based on bringing in (and sometimes growing) the finest, often local, ingredients, and preparing them to bring out the essence rather than adhering to any ordained style. PRESS specializes in dry-aged beef and other grass-fed meats, accompanied by a terrific list of Napa wines. The ambiance & the cuisine, headed by chef Stephen Rogers, showed that meticulous attention was being paid in the kitchen.

A basket of warm housemade breads got the ball rolling with rosemary-garlic breadsticks, slightly sweet, white rolls and cheesy gougères (cheese puffs). For a starter, Dorothy chose the Roasted Oysters ($15) seasoned with leeks, bacon and watercress and topped with crisp breadcrumbs. John tried the Lobster and Dungeness Crab Cake ($18) and found it to be delicate and lush. Then, we both had the emerald green, Bibb Lettuce Salad ($10) with individual leaves dressed with mustard vinaigrette and fines herbes, then piled into a small pyramid.

We both ordered the house specialty, wood-grilled, aged steaks, for our main course. John took the challenge of the 20-ounce “Cowboy” Bone-In Rib Steak from famous purveyor, Bryan Flannery ($49) and Dorothy had the more lady-like, 10-ounce Kobe Flat-Iron Steak ($42). Both were rich with smoky flavor and texture. They really didn’t need sauce, but we ordered the Truffle Butter ($5) anyway and weren’t a bit sorry.

With that much food, we didn’t get a chance to try the special Day Boat Scallops with Yuzu Beurre Blanc and Roasted Cauliflower Puree, or the filet of wild Loch Duart Salmon ($29). We did try some of the special side dishes (Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon ($11) and Rainbow Chard with Pine Nuts ($10).  They were tender and perfectly seasoned and the portions were large enough for 3 or 4 to share.

By this time, there was no room for dessert.  Had there been,  we would have tried autumn’s Pumpkin Moon Pies (soft sandwich cookies) and warm cider, and shared the signature Scharffen Berger dark chocolate soufflé.  We expect that they would be heavenly!

Manager, Allison Yoder, stopped by and told us that, in addition to serving organic produce from owner Leslie Rudd’s garden, they are now growing their own winter greens and herbs behind the restaurant’s back terrace, and they are getting ready to add fruit trees, including Meyer lemons and an exotic Buddha’s Hand citron.

The service was friendly and efficient.  Sommelier, Scott Brenner, was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Napa wines, and also tactful about suggesting those in our price range. We tried a Soter, 2007 Pinot Noir ($90). Okay, so we were really celebrating!

PRESS is a great place to go when you feel like celebrating. While it can be a bit pricey, portions are large and the quality is especially good. PRESS aims to please all and also has a 3 course menu for $55 on Sundays and a Blue Plate Special served at the bar on Wednesdays for just $10.

PRESS Restaurant, 587 St. Helena Highway/Highway 29, St. Helena (next door to Dean & DeLuca). Dinner, Wednesday-Monday 5:30-10:00 pm; Sunday Lunch/Brunch from 11:30-2:30. Bar hours: 5:00-10:00 pm. Closed Monday & Tuesday. For reservations call
(707) 967-0550.


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