Thursday, November 30, 2006

Calm, yet cool cuisine at COPIA's JULIA's KITCHEN (Napa)

On my way back from Napa Valley to San Francisco, I spent much of the morning at the now 5-year old COPIA which is a gorgeous "living museum" dedicated to wine and food. While there I took in a wonderful short seminar on "Women in Wine" and saw several wonderful exhibits. Once can't skip the "museum shop" called CornuCOPIA, where I bought Samuel the most adorable dinosaur knife and spoon set (he's big into dinosaurs right now, as you may have guessed from his Halloween pictures).

After my museum visit I decided to take in lunch in the museum's fine dining restaurant (they also have a market-style-cafeteria outlet) and was very glad to have dined at JULIA's KITCHEN now under the guidance of the Patina group (watch this site for another review of Patina in LA this coming weekend) and superchef JOACHIM SPLITAL. At Copia's JULIA's KITCHEN the operation is under the guidance of Executive Chef JEFF MOSHER and Pastry Chef NICOLE PLUE who seem to have all things under total control from their open stainless steel kitchen that was feet away from my table, making the experience even more fun since I was alone. The gorgeous reddish-pink walls look like an overripe persimmon and the warm muted colors of the carpets make for a most calming effect. Opposite the kitchen and dining room are floor to ceiling glass walls overlooking the gardens where much of the ingredients used in the kitchen come from.

The glassware is Reidel (even for the water) and the bread comes from a bakery in Berkeley and featured green olive and black bread with raisins. Already, Julia's Kitchen was a step ahead of the Auberge in these small but important factors. An amuse of Crostini with Brandade of Cod, Apple Balsamic Vinegar and Chervil was a yummy tease. I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir to find out they were out of it, but the server said the CAMBRIA Pinot Noir which replaced that was even better--it was.

I opted for two starters and began with the GARDEN HERB CRUSTED AHI TUNA SALAD with Butter Lettuce, Roasted COPIA Peppers, Brioche Croutons and Julia's Sauce Ravigotte. Julia Child would have been proud of her sauce and the superb huge six rare slices of tuna and the crunchy tangy crust. Next came a LIBERTY DUCK CONFIT with FUYU PERSIMMONS, COPIA Pomegranate and Pomegranate Vinaigrette with Frisee. It was a superb salad as well and had a huge portion of delicious confit, but the stars here were the vegetables and fruits, a credit to the chef, kitchen and gardens outside.

I desperately wanted to try the LEMON TART with HUCKLEBERRY FLOATING ISLANDS but was full from two starters and had a long afternoon and evening ahead at the opera in the city, so I declined and headed on my way very satisfied and knowing I will return to JULIA's KITCHEN again.