February was my least favorite month when I was young. Having grown up on the east coast, I remember it as the coldest and darkest month of the year.
I’ve since lived in California longer than I lived back east and it’s taken me a long time to get over my feelings about February. Only recently have I admitted to myself that I love it.
February in Napa Valley means Spring is… springing. Daffodils pop up to accompany the bright yellow mustard blooming across the valley, and with each breeze the white petals of the Evergreen Pear trees flutter to the ground like confetti.
Yes, it’s technically winter, which means it still rains on occasion and still gets dark early, but during the daylight hours there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and the warming sunshine. It’s Patio Weather.
Thus, on a recent pleasant “spring” day this month I found myself among friends on the deck at Auberge du Soleil.
Auberge du Soleil is a luxury resort located in Rutherford, and it’s the only place I know of in Napa Valley where you can dine with a view of the valley. Not that other restaurants don’t have views, it’s just that this view is high above the valley floor, and it is beautiful and expansive.
There are two restaurants at the resort: The Bistro & Bar, and The Restaurant.
Each has indoor and outdoor seating options. The laid-back Bistro offers a more familiar bar menu — pizza, burgers and the like, where the cuisine at The Restaurant is seasonal and unique. As well, the Bistro neither requires nor allows reservations. It’s a great option if you’re feeling spontaneous.
That being said, my recent experience was at The Restaurant.
Oh, and the food, of course.
Did I mention this is a Michelin-Starred restaurant? It is. And the food is fine. Damn fine.
With this particular lunch group, we tend to order a number of menu items and share them all. We each get to try a little bit of everything and no one suffers from food envy. So while Auberge isn’t specifically family-style, that’s how we approached it.
Here are a few of the crowd favorites from our lunch:
From their menu…
I managed to take a few quick snaps before things got devoured. Here is the Kampachi Crudo.
The Potato Gnocchi and Tempura Hedgehog Mushrooms were so good we needed a second round of each.
The gnocchi was fresh, fluffy and pillowy, and the foamy sauce was light and balanced.
The forbidden rice on the Tempura Mushroom dish…. Ohmygosh. I hope they keep it on the menu for a long time. It was chewy, nutty, buttery and a little bit magical.
Add to all of that a few drinks and desserts, as well as some stellar service and the ambient spa-like music, and we had ourselves an exceptional lunch experience.
We should have stayed through dinner.
Ahhhh, Auberge…. It’s truly one of my favorite places in Napa Valley.
From the rustic deck, the tasteful and calming decor, and the sweeping views, all the way down to the Italian linens, the heavy cutlery, and the delicate glassware, The Restaurant runs like a well oiled machine. Our lunch was for a special occasion, and Auberge certainly made it feel like a special event.
Visit Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford.
Ice Cube Says:
Chickity-check yo’ self
before you wreck yo’ self.