The Big Eat – Part II

Steps away from amazing food.

We woke up Saturday morning to Vintage Inn’s “Champagne Brunch” spread. After all we’d eaten Friday, we surprised ourselves by diving headlong into the omelet station. The jog we planned for later in the day became imperative if we were going to enjoy the rest of the day’s culinary indulgences. Because after all, we do live, breathe and write about food.

After a four-plus mile run through Yountville and a local vineyard, we still weren’t hungry for a typical lunch. We knew we’d be famished if we didn’t get a little something into our bellies before our Bouchon reservations at 7:45, so we tucked into Philippe Jeanty’s charming Bistro Jeanty for a cocktail and a bar bite to take the edge off.

Bistro Jeanty

Seated at the bar, we sipped our drinks and noshed on a hearty serving of Terrine de Lapin (rabbit pate) accompanied by céleri rémoulade (celery root and apple salad), cornichons and a tasty housemade yellow pepper mustard dressing. The thick slice of terrine was well balanced with the lean, meaty rabbit and pork fat. The pepper mustard was an elegant accompaniment to the rich charcuterie.

Rabbit terrine on the left, ratatouille on the right.

Terrine would have done the job of curbing hunger, but we’re on holiday and the ratatouille on the menu was irresistible. Served in a small casserole and bubbling hot, the ratatouille was beautiful with its thin neat scalloped layers of tomato and zucchini (very similar in presentation to the ratatouille dish in the Pixar film of the same name) concealing a savory, saucy vegetable mélange. We sopped up the juices with slices of crusty baguette, finished our drinks and headed back to our room to rest up for the evening’s main event.

Bouchon Bistro

Bouchon at night with the full moon on the right. Hey, that rhymes.

Day two in Yountville and we’re seated once again at a Thomas Keller restaurant. This is our second meal at Bouchon (the first was a brunch back in 2007) and this time it is to celebrate the nineteenth anniversary of the night we met. Still working off the rabbit, Jason recommended we take it easy and share a salad, an entrée, and a side of French fries dusted with truffles so we could save some room for dessert.

There are times when the lighting in restaurants needs a little help.

We ignored the evening specials and ordered a Salade de Cresson et d’Endives au Roquefort, Pommes et Noix (cress and endive salad with bleu cheese, apple and walnut). We love crisp, bitter leaves of endive and these were nicely dressed with a walnut vinaigrette that added a warm, nutty richness to the salad. Peppery watercress and small cubes of fuji apple gave the dish a bright tang and the bites of bleu cheese added a bit of richness. The rather tall pile of a salad was hearty and filling and once our plates were empty, we knew we’d made the right decision about sharing an entrée.

Using the iPhone flashlight app and Photoshop, this photo came out a little better.

Always suckers for short ribs, we ordered the Boeuf Bourguignon. Still haunted by the memory of the short rib hash we enjoyed back in ’07, Steve couldn’t resist the braised beef dish that so many consider quintessential French bistro fare. Of course, any foodie will tell you that Boeuf Bourguignon is Julia’s signature dish. Served with a generous slice of thick porkbelly (bacon), cipollini onions, root vegetables, butter noodles and red wine sauce, the dish was an ideal antidote to the chill of the evening. The braised beef was tender but not mushy and the red wine jus gave each piece a beautiful lacquer finish. Tender egg noodles sopped up the sauce and the bacon scented the dish with sweet smoke. We loved this dish, but the root vegetables need some work. We found the cubed veggies to be a little off, tasting of cardboard. But because they weren’t well integrated, we were able to push them aside without losing anything else in the dish.

The stand out star of the evening was the basket of truffle dusted French fries. Mind you, almost anything with truffles will shoot your taste buds into orbit, but these fries were crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside, just as they should be. The photo we took was too blurred to publish, but just imagine a cone filled with these beauties.

The best photo of the night, but sadly the most disappointing dish.

After finishing our half-carafe of the house red wine ($25 for 500 ml = bargain), we sipped coffee and attempted a slice of Tarte au Citron (lemon tart). The tart slice was beyond generous; double the size one would expect from a fine restaurant of Bouchon’s caliber. Alas, while the tangy lemon sabayon was refreshing, we didn’t love the pine nut tart pastry. We love pine nuts and we eat them regularly, but they are delicate and tend to oxidize quickly. We don’t know if the crust failed because of the nuts, but our server admitted that this desert was a love-it-or-hate-it gamble as some customers found the shell to exhibit odd, off-putting flavors, while others believe it to be wonderful. He graciously removed it from the table, and our tab, and replaced it with a lovely bag of the bakery’s signature Chocolate Bouchons (dense brownies), which we took to go.

Even with the minor meal infractions at Bouchon, we left very pleased with the experience, service and the food, which is exactly why we dine out.

Next up: The French Laundry

Cocktails for runners

Not our typical cocktail; water, honey, tangerine juice, and chia seeds.

We’ve all seen those Chia Pet commercials, and you may have even received one as a secret Santa, white elephant or gag gift at some point. It’s a mystery why anyone thought we needed terra cotta animals that you spread magical seeds over the top of to watch them sprout and grow. Have you ever wondered where those seeds come from and if they could have other uses besides being a pop culture flash back to early-80’s décor?

We first learned of chia seed consumption from Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run. In it, McDougall describes the Tarahumara Indians, a hidden tribe that lives in Northern Mexico’s Copper Canyons area. If they aren’t drinking their other favorite refresher – corn beer – they’re drinking a chia seed concoction called Iskiat or chia fresca. They make chia fresca out of those As Seen on TV chia seeds, also known as Salvia hispanica, which they mix with water, sugar and a squeeze of lime. It’s refreshing, if a bit textured. Before, during, and after runs, the Tarahumara recharge by eating Pinole – chia, corn meal, some form of sugar and cinnamon – kept in pouches at their waists. The chia seeds are high in protein and fiber that will keep any long distance runner feeling full without feeling bloated.

Ch-Ch-Ch Chia

Once the seeds mix with water or fruit juice they become gelatinous. It’s similar to the gel packs that runners use when they need a quick jolt of energy on long runs. The seeds are very healthy, full of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and amino acids. The seeds themselves have been around in culinary use for hundreds of years used in baking, in drinks, or eaten raw. They can even be sprouted and added to salad and sandwiches in lieu of alfalfa sprouts. We add them to fruit and yogurt smoothies, sprinkle them on top of yogurt and fruit, and add them to our oatmeal.

Our running habits have been a bit hit or miss this year. Every night we plan to wake early for a quick morning jog, but end up sleeping too late for even a quick morning stretch before Steve has to get on his first call of the day. Then, at night, during our free time, we’re either too tired, hungry, thirsty, or lazy to get out the door and into the park for a good run. It’s the end of the year and our lives are about to change for the better. Time for a fresh start. As Madonna sings, “Are you ready to jump? Get ready to jump.”

We ask, “How high?”

Even if you’re not a runner you should give these seeds a try. Who knows, you might even start sprouting green hair on top of your head!


Where's the rum?

Pina Colada Smoothie

Makes 2

1 cup pineapple, fresh or canned, unsweetened, (or almost any other soft fruit)

1 banana, peeled and broken into pieces

4-6 frozen coconut water cubes*

½ cup keffir or plain yogurt

2 tablespoons chia seeds

Add everything into a blender and mix until smooth consistency. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

*Freeze coconut water in ice cube trays overnight.