By John & Dorothy Salmon
Barbara Nemko and Dorothy are frequently together as board members of the local non-profit, NapaLearns, which is dedicated to transforming our schools in partnership with our County-wide teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards. We decided that it was time for the Nemkos and the Salmons to get together for a fun dinner at Napa Valley Bistro. We vowed NOT to talk about public education. Napa Valley Bistro is located on Clinton Street, between the New Tech Network of Schools and Azzurro Pizzeria, in the space formerly occupied by Neela’s Contemporary Indian Cuisine. Napa Valley Bistro has redecorated the space and it is lovely and upbeat. The great food is very reasonably priced, with main courses ranging from $12 to $27, and salads anywhere from $7 to $15. Having reasonable prices is a good place to start when you are not on First or Main Streets in downtown Napa.
Owner and Chef, Bernardo Ayala, came by as soon as we sat down and told us his story. Bernardo has a long history in Napa, most recently as the executive chef of Silverado Brewing Company, before Jackson Wine Estates bought the lease and closed the restaurant.
For locals, you will probably immediately recognize Bernardo Ayala when you see him, since his experience in Napa includes creating great food at the California Cafe, Silverado Resort, Domaine Chandon, and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Bernardo’s partner, Eduardo Martinez, is also a familiar chef in the Napa Valley, having worked at Rutherford Grill and the Napa Valley Grille before becoming the Sous Chef at the Culinary Institute of America and the Executive Chef at Market. Together, these two remarkable chefs are bringing crowds into Napa Valley Bistro who are looking for great food, a very nice wine list, incredible desserts and reasonable prices. There is no corkage fee for the first bottle. Any bottle after that is $10, but they will waive that fee if there is a bottle purchased from their list.
The menu is a blending of good old American style and very eclectic Mexican food, some California Asian and, what Bernardo Ayala calls, Classic American with a twist.
We began our meal with a bottle of 2012, Lloyd Chardonnay, and a bottle of 2012, Gundlach Bundschu Tempranillo Rose’. Both wines were wonderful and made even more so with no corkage fee. Along with the wine and the funny conversations with Barbara and Marty, we were served Napa Valley Bistro’s homemade bread, which is rich, warm and really good. We decided to try some small plates to begin our evening. So, we ordered the Crispy Calamari with Red Bell Peppers, Onion, Fennel and Ancho Chile-Lime Aioli ($11) and Marty ordered the Dungeness Crab Cake ($13). We were told that the Blackened Chicken Empanadas with Avocado, Lime Crème Fraiche, Black Bean Puree and Queso Fresco ($13) was “to die for” and next time we will try that. The Small-Plate Menu is full of great options, such as Corn and Pasilla Pepper Relish, Tomatillo-Avocado Coulis with Organic Greens. Also on the dinner menu are some terrific salads. You can choose from a Chopped Bistro Salad with Seasonal Vegetables, Goat Cheese, Egg, Bacon, Avocado, Garbanzo Beans and Mustard Vin, or the Chinese Chicken Salad, with Bell Peppers, Pickled Ginger, Almonds, Fried Wontons and Sesame-Soy Dressing. These is not your typical American Cuisine!
For our main course, Barbara chose the Rosie Organic Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Sautéed Spinach, Homemade Jalapeño Cornbread and Gravy ($18). The cornbread was fabulous and we all got an opportunity to sample it. Marty ordered the Local Fallon Hill Lamb Burger with Feta Cheese, Rosemary-Mint Aioli, Brioche Bun and Potato Chips ($15). He was raving about the Lamb Burger and passed a few bites around the table to share. John ordered the Niman Ranch, St. Louis Ribs with Smoky Molasses BBQ Sauce, Sweet Potato Fries and Coleslaw ($18) and said the ribs were as good as any he has ever had. Dorothy ordered the special that night, Rack of Lamb with Fingerling Potatoes, mixed with Shitake and Chanterelle mushrooms ($27). Also on the dinner main course menu is Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Asparagus, Garlic-Fries, Herb Butter and Bordelaise, and a Niman Ranch Grilled Pork Chop, with Potato Gratin, sautéed Spring Vegetables and Whole Grain Mustard Pork Jus. If you are vegetarian, there is the Vegetarian Lemon Thyme Risotto with Asparagus, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes, Watercress, Crispy Leeks and Basil Oil and, for big or little kids, the Bistro Mac n’ Cheese with Vella Dry Jack, White Cheddar, English Peas and Crispy Bacon ($13). This mac and cheese would be the way to get your kids to eat their peas!
Since this was a review, we had to try the desserts. So, we ordered the Warm Scharffenberger Chocolate Fudge Cake ($8), the Fresh Seasonal Fruit Crumble Mascarpone Ice Cream, Mix Berry Coulis ($8) and Bernardo insisted that we try his incredible Tres Leches & Vanilla Bean Natilla Mango & Guava Compote with Cinnamon Nutmeg Churros ($8). We all agreed that the Tres Leches and Vanilla Bean Natilla with Mango and Guava Compote served with two small handmade Cinnamon Nutmeg Churros was out of this world!
Napa Valley Bistro serves draft beers, bottled beers, wines by the glass, ginger ale, iced tea and some wonderful wines from Domaine Carneros Brut, Cliff Lede Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Hess Select North Coast Pinot Grigio, and some great local reds, rose’s and Pinots.
We think that Napa Valley Bistro is a great place to be anytime for lunch or dinner. They have also started serving Sunday brunch from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. There are an array of breakfast favorites along with a nice selection of lunch items so we can feed the appetites of many all in one meal. I have attached a copy of our brunch menu for you for reference. Give it a try!
Open 11:30 am until till 9 pm (10 pm on Fri. and Sat.) Sun. Brunch 10-2pm. Closed Monday
975 Clinton Street| NAPA | (707) 666-2383 | http://www.NapaValleyBistro.net
Yield: Makes 4 Servings
4 thighs (bone in and skin on)
4 drumsticks (bone in and skin on)
½ gallon buttermilk
¼ cup salt
½ bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, but in half
4 cups flour
4 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Cayenne Pepper to taste.
In a flat container place chicken thighs and legs, sprinkle salt, thyme, bay leaves and garlic. Cover with buttermilk. Allow to stay in this cure for 12 hours minimum (24 hours is ideal).
Sift together flour, salt, black and cayenne peppers. Place a small amount in a shallow pan.
Pull chicken out of buttermilk mixture and allow excess to drain off. Do not completely dry chicken meat. Dredge each piece of chicken separately in flour mixture. If you develop lumps sift again. Make sure to completely coat each piece of chicken. After flouring each piece go through and reflour.
Immediately after flouring gently place legs and thighs in 200 degree deep fryer. The thighs will take approximately 30 minutes and legs approximately 20. They will rise to the top of the fryer when they are finished and the color should be a
Allow chicken to drain and cool.
When ready to serve reheat in 360 degree fryer for one to two minutes until chicken has a beautiful dark golden brown color and is crispy. As soon as it comes out of the fryer, season with salt. If you are not ready to serve, you may keep it in an oven (350 degrees) for a couple of minutes but it will burn of lose some crispness if it is kept too long.
Eduardo Martinez • firstname.lastname@example.org