FARMSTEAD, St. Helena
St. Helena’s new kid on the block, Farmstead, is part of delightful Long Meadow Ranch, a welcome package of winery (tasty $42 2005 Cab), poultry farm (eggs for sale!), herb garden, grass-fed beef ranch, and olive press (LOVE their grassy, gorgeous select extra virgin olive oil, $20 – I prefer it to their $49 Prato Lungo oil).
Walking up to the modern, converted barn that is Farmstead, I’m taken in by the fireplace, tractors and chairs on the outdoor patio – this will be amazing on Summer nights. I can picture BBQ, beers and whole hog roasts now! Then succumb to the glow inside from funky light fixtures, cavernous ceilings and leather booths.
Their beef is, in a word, exemplary. It works well enough in a steak, but my money goes towards the Cheeseburger ($14). On a house potato bun, it’s lathered with their insanely addictive mustard (horseradish proclaims itself), California cheddar and arugula. I could eat this baby weekly. It’s that good.
The other stand-out is “Potted” Pig ($14) on toasts, with that brilliant horseradish mustard. Tender, shredded pig is packed into a mason jar with a layer of lard on top. The effect is playful, piggy goodness you can’t put down. I prefer this to similar styles of dishes in NYC’s famous Spotted Pig.
Chef Sheamus Feeley has Southern hospitality down – from Arkansas, you can taste his soulful pedigree in the food, though it’s certainly California fresh and utterly local. Almost everything, from breads to greens, is local, if not directly from their own farm.
In its initial opening weeks, service and vibe are convivial, and even if all dishes aren’t memorable, they’re good. This is a welcome addition to Napa Valley and I envision its successful beefy future shining brightly.
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I’ve long been dying to visit Redd. Having heard often about the fabulous food but sterile dining room, I was actually digging the architecture, skylights, wood ceiling and patio, even if the main dining room overdoses on boring white. I was surprised, however, to find service a bit lackluster and seemingly blase, though our table was enthusiastic.
The meal was certainly tasty from start to finish, but not befitting the high accolades, often just behind Cyrus, which I find far superior. But Redd has the welcome option to order a la carte, along with a $75 tasting menu.
Cocktails are solid, if a little on the sweet side, though the Waldorf ($11) doesn’t overdo it: apple-infused Eagle Rare Bourbon with Berentzen apple liqueur, lemon, . I had to politely refuse my waiter’s continued push of the day’s special cocktail with vodka and Acai juice (no, thanks). The wine selection goes well beyond local wines.
Yellowfin Tuna & Hamachi Tartare ($13 lunch; $15 dinner) is not the best tartare around but is playful with the crunch of crispy fried rice, avocado and chili oil. Hamachi Sashimi (same price as tartare) stands out with fresh edamame beans and lime ginger sauce.
Known for their Caramelized Diver Scallops ($14), I’ve had many a fine scallop over the years: this one ranks, though I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. I adore cauliflower puree: a fine underpinning to scallops, almonds and balsamic reduction. Roasted Organic Chicken ($20 lunch; $26 dinner) is plump and juicy with braised chanterelles, green garlic potatoes and liver toast. Duck Confit ($21) is crispy, with mixed savoy cabbage, spaetzle and foie gras meatballs, if you weren’t satisfied with the luscious fat quotient already.
The biggest stand-out was a dish I’ve had hundreds of times, in many variations: Pork Belly ($13). Trends be damned, I can never get enough! I always love it and Redd’s version delivers. With apple puree, burdock and soy caramel sauce, it’s like remarkable, savory dessert.
Speaking of dessert, they make a mean Roasted Apple Tart ($10), creamy with cinnamon toast ice cream and milk jam. Don’t ask for Rhubarb Pain Perdu (my first choice) if you have your heart set on it, as they just don’t have it today.