By John & Dorothy Salmon
Our original Carpe Diem review was written for the September 2014 issue, but as we all know, August 24, 2014 drastically changed everything in downtown Napa. When Mother Nature put them out of business until repair crews could prop them back up, Carpe Diem opened a pop up in the Oxbow Market. Thanks to Mike Di Simone and so many others, Carpe Diem is back open in their beautifully updated location and doing well. We love these guys and know you do too!
Chef/owner Scott Kendall and Chef de Cuisine Andrew Martin are remarkable guys and smart enough to hire Jim Foster as their general manager. Jim was beloved at Tarla when it first opened and now he is on hand to delight diners at Carpe Diem. Mother Nature offered Carpe Diem a new opportunity to create two separate dining areas and a third room offers an inviting space for overflow crowds, cocktail lounge, or private parties. If you are a “look on the bright side” kind of person, that’s good news.
We had been told by many friends who are 10 to 30 years younger than us that we would love Carpe Diem and, of course, we did. Originally, we decided to stop by after a movie for a light, easy dinner and we were instantly impressed with the friendly atmosphere of the place. We decided to sit at the bar and talk to Jim, because we love him.
As we enjoyed our dinners we recalled a couple of previous restaurant incarnations that we used to visit at this location. There was PJ’s in the 90’s, with the very best BLT’s in the world, followed by La Gondola. Carpe Diem found the perfect combination of cool décor, great lighting, friendly qualified staff, GREAT food and a pretty darn good wine list that changes often. Jim Foster really knows his stuff when you ask wine questions and everyone loves talking to him.
Carpe Diem seats 55, with 36 in the dining room and the bar. It is best known for its fabulous “Happy Hour” with half off for wine and appetizers from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Andrew Martin was in the kitchen cooking up a storm as we got to bask in Carpe Diem’s resurrection and feel grateful that once again, we can all enjoy their unique food at reasonable prices in small plates that you can easily share. Most of the people sitting with us at the bar were doing just that.
Carpe Diem’s executive Chef Scott Kendall has been in the kitchen since he was a teenager and went on to major in business management in college. Scott runs a tight ship and he is a fabulous chef who also makes a mean batch of beer.
Carpe Diem shifts its menu on the last Friday of the month to keep their guests coming back to see what’s new. Executive Chef Scott Kendall and Sous Chef Andrew Martin work together creating really wonderful dishes in the kitchen in the back of the restaurant at the front door as you enter Carpe Diem. Dishes like baked Quack ‘n Cheese are favorites along with Shredded BBQ Chicken Flat Bread, Prosciutto and Melon Flatbread. They make great salads, especially an amazing house-made Burrata with Heirloom tomatoes, caramelized onions, jam, cabernet sea salt, basil and crystals all served on grilled bread ($14). The folks sitting next to us went on and on and on about the Burrata. Next time, we will try that. Carpe Diem always offers at least 6 beers on draft including Lagunitas Fusion, 90 Minute Dogfish Head IPA and the Russian River collaboration with Sierra Nevada, Brux, and Monkey Fist IPA by the bottle.
Dorothy started with a glass of Presquill Rose’ ($11) and John took the beer route with a glass of Lagunitas Fusion ($7). For dinner, Dorothy ordered the Thai Curry Prawns with Jasmine, Kaffir lime rice and scallions, and sweet chili ($18), which was great. John ordered the Crispy Buttermilk Chicken with collard greens, grilled stone fruit, sweet potato smash and mustard seed gravy ($18). We remembered our trip this year to Charleston SC, so John was still on his collard greens kick with sweet potatoes and chicken cooked “Southern style” and he concluded that Carpe Diem did a better job on those items that the folks in South Carolina!
Carpe Diem’s menu includes great starters like Ahi Tuna Tartar ($13); Diver Scallop Carpaccio with picked rhubarb, strawberry and micro greens ($14); Artisanal Cheeses, like Delice De Bourgogne, The Tickler, Five Year Aged Gouda, Drunken Goat and Blu De Moncenisio and Charcuterie plates of 12 month aged Prosciutto, Loukanika, Ghost Pepper Salami, Housmade Pork Tillette and Wild Boar Salami. Pick one for $6, three for $13, or five for $19. Such a deal! The Small Plates include Filet Mignon Steak Skewers ($16); Crab Stuffed Squash Blossoms ($15); Cabernet Braised Short Rib Tamales ($14); and for $3.50 you can add an organic duck egg, crispy pancetta, roasted chicken or do it “Carpe Diem Style” and add a duck egg and crispy pancetta for ($5). Carpe Diem also serves delicious flat breads and Ostrich Burgers with creamy brie cheese, cranberry caramelized onion and cabernet reduction sauce on toasted brioche bun ($19). Want Truffle Fries? You can have those too with your Ostrich Burger! Carpe Diem has a pretty impressive Wine Book with over 250 selections from which to choose, a variety of flights to try, and an impressive reserve list and, of course, their beer list with over 35 of the best beers from all over the world!
We skipped dessert, but for $8 you can order their house made Twix Bar which we were told is INCREDIBLE. Also to tempt you is their White Chocolate Bread Pudding or Pot De Crème; Lattes and Mochas are $4 and Espressos and Cappuccinos are $3.
Carpe Diem’s wine list includes over forty wines by the glass and a number of great local and imported wines that are really unique. Jim will entice customers to try a wine they have not tried before, and trust us; he knows what he is talking about! Carpe Diem offers special dinner/wine pairing events once a month. During these events, guests are treated to a five-course menu designed with a specific winery’s inventory in mind. If you are interested in bringing a group of friends with you for these special dinners, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Carpe Diem now offers a new wonderful private dining space located adjacent to the restaurant that can host 40 seated diners or up to 50 guests for passed appetizers and drinks. If you are thinking of hosting a bigger party at Carpe Diem, you can do that too for up to 100 guests and you get the entire restaurant mid week only.
We left Carpe Diem very impressed and our total meal came to $58.32. Now, that’s a bargain for a great perfectly sized meal, a great glass of wine and a great beer. We passed on their Twix Bar for dessert, but next time, we are going back for it!
1001 Second Street, Napa | (707) 224-0800 | carpediemwinebar.com
Open Sun-Thurs 4-9 & Fri-Sat 4-10