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    Silicon Valley, California (most of the time) and Napa Valley (not enough of the time)
  1. Unfortunately, Calistoga has become a culinary wasteland, in my opinion. We tried JoLe once, and were not impressed. Agree with you on Brannan's. You might give Solage on the Silverado Trail just south of town a try. It received a pretty decent review from the Chronicle not too long ago. Otherwise, St. Helena a few miles south offers many more choices.
  2. Start dialing 2 months to the day right about 9:58 AM PDT. You'll have an easier time if you're not looking for a Friday or Saturday. The problem is, there is no differentiation in the reservation system between lunch & dinner, so while you might want lunch on a Friday, for example, you're in the queue with everyone else who might want dinner. I have also found a difference calling from a local exchange vs long distance. You can also try Open Table, but it's really a bigger crap shoot. Good luck. If possible, I'd shoot for a Sunday lunch. That';s what we've done the last 3-4 times we've been there, and it is delightful, and the reservations are a lot easier.
  3. I second Lucky's for beef; you also might consider the Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch and for Italian, Olio e Limone.
  4. I'll 2nd the Cafe Fiore rec. I've eaten there twice..the second time just a week ago...and the food is wonderful. Also had a nice meal at Edgewood Country Club just across the border. There is a Chart House on Kingsbury Grade that's...well...a Chart House, but the view is terrific! Also had a meal straight out of the '70's at Harvey's Sage Room. If you're in the mood for Steak Diane flambeed tableside or Caesar salad mixed on a cart and served tableside, this is for you. Kaelani's in the Heavenly Valley tram complex offers Hawaiian/Asian cuisine I thought pretty decent. Another cute Italian place on Ski Run is Scusa. Evan's gets great reviews, but I have never tried it personally. If you want to drive around the lake, Sunnyside near Tahoe City on the west shore offers a beautiful sunset view and decent food. It's owned by TS Restaurants of Kimo's and Leilani's in Maui. If you're into Basque food, there are myriad Basque restaurants a short drive over Kingsbury in the Carson Valley. Have fun!
  5. It was SO obvious that the editing was done to make Chiarello the "villain" of the evening. I have met Chef Chiarello several times. He does not suffer fools, especially in his kitchen; however, there are other chefs in the Napa Valley who fit the "arrogant prick" moniker much better than Chef Chiarello. Just use your imaginations!
  6. Have not heard of Karl Lawrence or Anthill Farms, sorry...no help there. If you click on the links I provided, the websites tell all about scheduling tastings and the prices charged. Obviously, you'll pay more than just popping in a tasting room on Hwy 29. Another winery that offers personal small tastings and tours is Chappellet. They are located off the Silverado Trail near Rutherford. It's way back in the hills, but the view and experience are awesome. Charge is $25.00/person. Enjoy!
  7. I 3rd or 4th TFL for "that one special meal". If you can't hook a res, all the other suggestions are great. Just be sure if you choose Ubuntu that you're OK with all vegetables. You didn't mention Auberge du Soleil or Terra, two standouts in my book for the classic white tablecloth experience. For wineries, I'd recommend calling Shafer Vineyards to see if you can get in. Their Hillside Select is outstanding, and their Red Shoulder Ranch Chard is unbelievable. It's a sit-down tasting, usually at a table for 8. 2 other standouts that are off the beaten path are Swanson Vineyards and Staglin Family Vineyards. You will pay for all of these, but they are WELL worth it. These experiences are head and shoulders above anything you can find driving up and down Hwy 29. I HIGHLY recommend paying the freight and giving one of them a try. Enjoy your stay!
  8. Me, too! We'll be at the restaurant with the Chef for the showing. He has been mum since taping in June, and the cat will finally come out of the bag tonight!
  9. Yup...you are right! Sign of the times, I guess. Now, the tough table in town is Chiarello's Bottega! More affordable and REALLY good!!
  10. FYI... 1) La Toque is now in the new Westin in Napa near the Wine Train, so the atmosphere is quite different from their former Rutherford location. I agree with you on the food; 2) Copia IS closed..bankruptcy! 3) French Laundry requires reservations be made 2 months to the day prior to dining.
  11. I'm really high on Michael Chiarello's new effort, Bottega in Yountville. It's very popular, and rightly so, in my opinion. Also, if you like Italian and still want more after Bottega, the much-maligned Tra Vigne has not disappointed the last 6 times we've dined there.
  12. Truthfully, because of his "celebrity" status, I expected him to be there during the opening week, and then turn it over to his staff, making "guest appearances". Happily, I was WAY off base. As I noted, this is REALLY HIS restaurant, and he is carefully monitoring everything that comes out of the kitchen, if not cooking it himself. It's really nice to be proven wrong in this case!
  13. Another wonderful experience at Bottega in Yountville last night (New Years Eve). We were seated at what we thought to be a fantastic table, right near the exhibition kitchen. For foodies like us, it was a real treat to be able to watch a master chef and his staff at work. Absent was the usual chaos one might expect at a restaurant only 3 weeks past its opening, and on New Years Eve, to boot! There was an almost zen-like atmosphere permeating the kitchen as Michael, his chefs and line cooks proceeded filling diners' orders in a seemingly well-orchestrated ballet. Michael even had time to come out on the floor a couple of times to schmooze with the guests. We began with 2 glasses of NV Schramsburg sparkling wine ($18) as we perused the menus. After much deliberation and negotiation, we decided on 2 appetizers - Angry Hopper Shrimp with Toscanello White Bean Passatina ($13) for me and Polenta Under Glass with carmelized wild mushrooms ($12) for her. The polenta was a repeat from our first visit, but my wife enjoyed it so much, she couldn't resist. The shrimp were a first for me. There were 4 plump, juicy shrimp with just the right amount of "anger" to them. Next, we decided to split a pasta as a mid-course, and chose the Ricotta Gnocchi with salsa pomodoro alla nonna ($14). OMG!!! Some gnocchi can resemble lead sinkers, but not these heavenly pillows. They literally melted in your mouth, and I think I had the lion's share of the order. For our entrees, my wife had the Grilled Swordfish alla Barcaiola ($24), with ancient grain polenta and celery and herb insalatina (outstanding), and I had the Garlic Roasted Dungeness Crab with crab-saffron aioli and bruschetta ($28). This was a whole, cracked dungeness crab wood-oven roasted with garlic. I was able to eat about 1/2, as it was HUGE and DELICIOUS! We accompanied the meal with a 2006 Pisoni Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia highlands in Monterey County ($100), a splurge, but hey...it was New Years Eve. We finished with a plate of heavenly Italian cookies ($6), and I had a glass of Robert Pecota Muscat Canelli ($13). Quite truthfully, I did not expect Michael to be in the house on New Years Eve, but he was definitely there and DEFINITELY IN CHARGE. We even saw him ferrying chairs from one part of the dining room to another at one point in the evening. This is truly HIS HOUSE. Truly a wonderful addition to the Yountville and Napa dining scene. He's setting the bar high for other establishments here in the valley, and chefs are going to have to start bringing their "A" game in order to keep up.
  14. Dined at Bottega in Yountville last night, and if the food, vibe and patronage are signs of things to come, Michael Chiarello has a sure winner on his hands. Located in the historic V Marketplace (formerly Vintage 1870 and historically known as the Groezinger Winery), Bottega is the largest restaurant in the Napa Valley, seating, I believe, 160, and, along with the flagship NapaStyle store located nearby, has become the lynchpin in the up-scaling of Yountville's premiere tourist complex. There are 2 outdoor fireplaces with comfortable seating on the outdoor patio surrounding the restaurant. The main entry is via the courtyard directly opposite NapaStyle, and you are immediately swept up into the lively bar scene to your left as you enter. There are 2 dining rooms - one directly behind the hostess stand containing the exhibition kitchen, carefully shielded from the diners by opaque glass partitions, and one to the left of the hostess stand and the main room that has a wonderful patio view. Chiarello's designer managed to maintain the charm of the 140 year old structure, but also filled it with modern decor that gives a very hip vibe. We were seated immediately and offered house-filtered water, still or sparkling. We were then brought crusty french bread with a parmesan-olive oil spread, one of the condiments that Chiarello has for sale in his stores. After ordering two glasses of sparkling wine (Schramsburg NV, $18), we were delivered a gift from the kitchen, consisting of house-made salumi, house-made gardeniera, pumpkin frittata and an herb based fritter. This is a plate that should have sold for $20 - $25, but was being brought to all tables as a gift - VERY nice touch. Chef Chiraello and his staff worked very hard in choosing their wine list, tasting, according to the wine director, over 500 wines. The list was not developed to impress; rather, they chose what they liked, and they did a fabulous job. We opted for a 2006 Staglin "Stagliano" Sangiovese, a wine we have enjoyed before, but one that has such limited production, it is virtually impossible to find. At $130, it was a steal! All wines on the list are priced similarly, with markups well below averages in the valley. Admittedly, $130 is pricey, and there are MANY other wines available for much, much less. Again, Chef Chiarello's long connections here have resulted in the ability to obtain some wines that can't be found outside of tasting rooms and mailing lists. The menu is divided into Appetizers, Antipasti, Pastas, Second plates, and Contorni. After consuming our generous gift from the chef, we opted for an appetizer and pasta. I had the Octopus, and my wife opted for the polenta with wild mushrooms. Both were excellent. For the pasta, my wife had spaghetti with clams and sausage, and I opted for the signature dish of penne with rabbit sugo. Again, two home runs! During the evening, Chef Chiarello is highly visible, checking on tables, greeting guests, and in general charming everyone. He is a very friendly, welcoming individual, and it shows in everything he does. Aside from the size of the space, one might feel you are at his house enjoying dishes he whipped up just for you. We opted out of dessert, but are returning on New Years Eve (if not before), and will report further after that experience. At first blush, however, this appears to be a welcome addition to the Yountville dining scene, which has been sorely lacking in quality rustic Italian fare, and will become one of our go-to places in the Valley.
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