Restaurant Review – May 2011

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review May 2011

Grace’s Table on Second St…

A Local’s Favorite and
a Visitor’s Delight

By Dorothy and John Salmon

e recently had the pleasure of dining with John and Carol Glaser at Grace’s Table in downtown Napa. John and Carol are beloved educators in the Napa Valley and tireless supporters of children’s causes. John is the recently retired Superintendent of Schools for the Napa Valley Unified School District and a member of the NapaLearns Board of Directors. Carol is every parent’s dream for their children’s education and has been a pioneer of early childhood education for years.

We were the lucky guests of John and Carol, who had purchased Dinner for Four donated by Grace’s Table at an auction in support of Community Resources for Children, a local nonprofit whose mission is to provide resources for the early care and education of children in Napa County.  http://www.crcnapa.org

We who live in Napa County know that we have a wealth of incredible restaurants to choose from. Many of our restaurants donate food and service to better the community and to benefit our local nonprofits. We won’t name them here, but we make an extra effort to support all of those local restaurant owners who give of themselves to local nonprofits all year around. Grace’s Table is one of them. And, while it is a great place to go at any time, be sure to keep them in mind before any show at the Uptown Theater down the street. During the warm months, you can also dine outside and watch Napa’s world go by.

Grace’s Table serves Continental Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch and Dinner. The food is fabulous; the menu is interesting and fresh; the service top drawer, and the place is charming with a warm, welcoming décor and a terrific bar for a “before you head home” glass of wine.

Grace’s Table owner and chef, Mauro Pando, is a “cuisine investigator” who creates food that is not only delicious, but has origins in many different cultures. He calls this his “Global Kitchen.” Previously, Mauro was the Executive Chef of the Grand Café in San Francisco, the Red Star Tavern and Roast House in Portland, Oregon,  and he served as Chef de Cuisine at Scalas Bistro. His family is from Argentina and Peru, so you can experience some interesting combinations of food that will keep you coming back for more. Mauro’s wife, Nancy, is co-owner and an accomplished chef herself. Karen Brewster serves as their upbeat manager and her son, Benjamin, is the friendly face you will often see as you walk in. Benjamin and Karen seem to know everyone in town!

Since our dinner for four was an auction item, Chef Mauro offered to prepare a special combination of items from his dinner menu. We began our dining adventure at 6:00 p.m. on a Monday night when Grace’s Table was not as crowded as it typically is on weekends. By the time we left, it was full, which is a good sign that the food is REALLY good. Based on our meals, we agree.

We began the evening catching up with John and Carol, who we had not seen for a while. At the suggestion of Chef Mauro, Benjamin served us each a glass of NV Argyle Brutt from the Willamette Valley ($14/$43). While we were talking, an order of their famous Iron Skillet
Cornbread, served with Lavender Honey Butter with a side of Mache Lettuce ($6) arrived, which paired perfectly with the wine.

Chef Mauro came from the kitchen to greet us and to discuss our dinner menu. We discussed several very appealing options and settled on beginning with the Pear Salad with wild Arugula, Frisee, Radicchio and Candied Walnuts, Pomegranate Vinaigrette, Goat Cheese and Tri-Pepper Gastrique ($10), which we all agreed was one of the best salads ever! With the salad, Chef made the perfect choice of a glass of ’07 Argyle Nuthouse Chardonnay ($16/$51)

For our main course, Chef Mauro offered to prepare his version of “Surf and Turf,” in which he combines the Hangar Steak Frites ($21) from the dinner menu and the Seared Ahi Tuna ($15) from the Appetizer menu, which Chef garnished with a delicious Bordelaise Sauce, vegetables and potatoes to perfection. With dinner, we were served the ’09 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir from Oregon ($14/$54), which was smooth, crisp and made both the meat and fish taste wonderful. Benjamin explained that the Nuthouse name originated when the winery owners planted grapes in the location of a former state hospital. Maybe that’s the beginning of a trend. Napa State Hospital … here we come! On a more serious note, Carol thought Grace’s Table’s wine list was eclectic and interesting. We all agreed.

As usual, we were “forced” to try dessert. We picked four and sort of passed them around; Grandma Betty’s Valencia Orange and Meyer Lemon sorbet topped off with delicious home- made lavender Meringues ($8); the decadent, Old Fashioned Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake with Chantilly Cream and Maldon Salt ($7); the Tarte-Tatin; Upside down Apple Pie, with Caramel Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream ($7) and the most beautiful small, perfect, House Made Blood Orange Cheese Cake ($7).  Since we all seemed to land on our favorite, there was not a lot of passing around.  Mostly, we each just enjoyed what was in front of us.

Carol and John finished the dinner with Ritual Coffee ($6) and Dorothy had a Ritual Coffee Latte ($4). As if they were trying to make sure that we were so overloaded that we could not rise from our seats, we were served samples of the ‘06 Eclipse Carneros Della Notte (w Botrytis) late Harvest Pinot Noir ($12) and the ‘06 Solstice, Carneros Della Notte Late Harvest Riesling ($12).

The evening was spent half catching up with good friends and half praising the quality of the meal.  THANK YOU Grace’s Table for supporting our local nonprofits. Thank you John and Carol for purchasing the auction item and for inviting us to join you as your guests.

If you see a Grace’s Table Dinner at any of our many Valley auctions, bid for it … it is well worth it.  If you can’t wait for that, stop in to the restaurant any time. But, it is good to call for a reservation, especially on the weekends! If you didn’t see something great above, they also have Tamales, a great Cassoulet, Sea Bass Almandine, a Hand Formed Burger with all the additions you can think of, and a Kurobuta Pork Osso Bucco!

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