Interview with Ken Frank – Host Chef of the Napa Truffle Festival

Interview with Ken Frank – Host Chef of the Napa Truffle Festival

Interview with Chef Ken Frank – Host Chef of the Napa Truffle Festival

Chef Ken Frank -La Toque

I recently sat down with Chef Ken Frank of La Toque to get his personal history and recommendations for truffles. Being a celebrated Michelin star chef renowned for his knowledge of truffles, he had a lot to share. I started at the beginning…

What is your first memory of eating and/or cooking with truffles?

When I was in high school I was working at a very fancy French restaurant in Pasadena called Chez Paul. And of course, their classic recipes called for truffles and pretty much the only way you could get truffles back then was out of a can. The more experienced chefs I was working under always told me “If these were fresh truffles you could smell them across the room” so I was always kind of intrigued by it. When I had lived in France we could eat fresh fish out of Lake Geneva everyday but we didn’t even know what truffles were, let alone ever taste them.

A few years later I was working in Beverly Hills and I heard about an Italian guy, Darrel Corti of the famous Corti Brothers in Sacramento who imported fresh truffles.  So I called him up and ordered a pound. The next week I flew up to Sacramento for a cousins wedding, and went over to Corti Brothers in Sacramento to pick them up. I paid $80 dollars for that pound, a fortune at the time! I took them to my cousin’s and we put them in a jar with fresh whole eggs because I had heard that if you store the truffles with them, the eggs will absorb the truffle flavor.  The next morning for breakfast we cooked the eggs and were like WOW! I have been a truffle fan ever since!

Black Truffles

Why do you like cooking with truffles?

Truffle is one of those flavors that is very magical! They are both easy and difficult to work with. It’s about the way you cook with them, as strong a flavor as they are, you need to use them in ways that their flavor can really shine. It’s about making good choices, eggs are a great vehicle, as well as cream and cheese. They don’t work well with acidic foods or spicy foods. You need to choose things where the truffle flavor can really express itself through. And sometimes the best thing is just shaving them right on top of something.

How would you describe the flavor and aroma of truffles?

That is one of the most difficult things to describe. It’s an earthy perfume, it’s aromatic, it’s almost vanilla like though sometimes they can be more vegetal or even have a tarry note to them. Every truffle is a little bit different. White truffles are more garlicy and black truffles tend to be earthier with sweet earthy aromas but it’s very, very difficult to just describe their flavor in words. It’s almost like this primal aroma that pulls you in!

How would you describe what a truffle looks like?

When you first dig it out of the ground it looks like a dirt clod because they are covered in mud. When you brush them off, you get a gnarly, knobby, black tuber. Occasionally they are just the right size and shape to look like a chocolate truffle but usually they’re quite a bit bigger and irregularly shaped.

Black Truffle

How would you entice someone who has never tasted truffles before to try them?

I think I would just explain to them that there is good reason that they are highly sought after and if you don’t like them I won’t ever ask you again. I have yet to fail.

What is your favorite truffle dish?

It tends to run to something very simple. Probably eggs and fresh truffle, I know it is simple, it’s not particularly creative, but that flavor combination is very hard to beat!

What are your serving truffle wise on the menu right now at La Toque?

Right now, of course it is full on white truffle season, the black truffle season is just getting started. The last couple of weeks the white truffles have been very good. I am serving them right now with a potato gnocchi and pan roasted cauliflower cooked in brown butter with a little bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and wild mushrooms and then we shave white truffles over the top.

How long have you been involved with the Napa Truffle Festival and how would you describe your influence?

In January, this will be our 8th annual Napa Truffle Festival. It has certainly grown better every year. The first year that we did it I invited three fantastic Michelin Star chefs to come cook with us. The next year we added a lunch at a winery and a wild mushroom foraging hike. The next year we added another lunch at a winery and a cooking demonstration. For Two Winery Truffle Lunches.

And now we have developed it into a full weekend with the Marketplace at the Oxbow Market on the Monday. This year we’re adding an educational program we call “Dig Truffles” that will be open to locals at the CIA  Copia campus on Monday afternoon.

How did you get involved with the Napa Truffle Festival?

I have just always been a chef who loves cooking with truffles and have been cooking with truffles for over 40 years now. There really wasn’t anything quite like the Napa Truffle festival when we started it, it’s pretty unique. It has become very popular. We now attract people from all over the US. We sold out most of the tickets in a week. There are only a few tickets left for a few of the events.

What’s New and Hot in the Napa Valley Dining and Libation Scene – We have Become An Epicurean Theme Park for Serious Foodies!

What’s New and Hot in the Napa Valley Dining and Libation Scene – We have Become An Epicurean Theme Park for Serious Foodies!



No matter which dining attractions you choose, you will be in for a delicious thrill ride through the wine country!!!!! The Napa Valley Food Scene continues to explode and amaze locals and visitors alike with the constant influx of new flavors and signature chefs opening up shop. It seems every day there is something new to delight in. With Napa Valley already having a stake in the ground as a premier “foodie” destination, it is taking on new heights on the path to notoriety of being one of the world’s signature and top culinary meccas and one of the largest food destinations spanning over 30 miles. Every little nook and hamlet in our valley can stake claim to having their own world-renowned chefs putting them on the map.


Calistoga has exploded with two signature chefs opening their doors there with Angeline, and Johnny’s. A variety of new flavors have hit the dining tables with 3 new Japanese-Inspired restaurants that have recently laid ground or are coming soon to the Napa Valley with the recent opening of Miminashi and Two Birds one Stone, as well as the soon to be open Kenzo. The Latin theme brings an added flare with the opening of the Puerto Rican inspired restaurant Protea in Yountville, and the Brazilians got on board too with the opening of the Brazilian Steakhouse Galpao Gaucho in Napa. Sophisticated pub food or “gastropubs” are popping up on the scene as well offering an alternative to high end higher priced dining along with a broad selection of craft beers.


NAPA Scene


Basalt – Napa – Takes over Fish Story’s Location – One of downtown Napa’s newest additions to the ever-growing restaurant scene is gracing the Napa River and adding to the changing dining landscape. The restaurant from the Moana Restaurant Group (Corners Tavern, El Dorado Kitchen) fits right into the Valley’s favorite California cuisine. New this summer, Basalt’s expansive patio is open to all, including pups, and new seasonal cocktails and dishes are appearing on the menu weekly. Think: “Copia-us” Martinis with Hendrick’s Gin, elderflower and borage from the Basalt gardens at Copia and Dungeness Crab Salad with Avocado, roasted jalapeno, spiced almonds and tortilla chips. Also new this summer is Weekend Brunch served Saturday’s and Sunday’s 10am to 2:30pm. Chef is serving up dishes such as breakfast tacos with house Chorizo, scrambled eggs, tomatillo salsa and grilled peaches. And don’t miss the Fluffy Mimosa with Orange and Grapefruit. Chef Esteban Escobar’s seasonal California cuisine draws influences from the earliest traditions of Mexican and Spanish cooking. Basalt’s environment is casual with a lively bar scene, innovative food and happening place to be along the Napa River. Basalt. 790 Main Street, Napa. 707-927-5265


The Corner Gastro Pub and Wine Shop Opened In July 2016 in Napa’s Riverfront Building – The Corner brings more new life to the Riverfront dining scene in Napa. This new eatery is being coined as part gastropub and part wine shop, filling the 3000 sqft is a restaurant, lounge, bar and retail wine shop with 5,000 bottles focused mainly on France and Italy. Co-owners Trevor and Stephanie Sheehan have tapped into their own vintage collection to fill the shop. Executive Chef Dustin Falcon (Morimoto, Ad Hoc, The French Laundry) had developed inspired dishes for the opening menu including red chili braised port, pastrami short ribs, strip loin with cheddar grits and pan-roasted snapper with lobster ravioli. Grand opening slated for July 22nd. Serving dinner from the start and lunches to come soon.

660 Main Street, Napa


Kenzo of Kenzo Estate Wines– to open restaurant in the old Pearl Location in downtown Napa. Another heavyweight restaurant is premiering soon by Japanese millionaire mogul and owner of Kenzo Estate wines in Napa, Kenzo Tsujimoto. Word on the street is it will be high-end Japanese cuisine and feature fish imported from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. It will also include a tasting from for the Kenzo wine collections. Opening soon!!! 1339 Pearl Street, Napa.


Mininashi – Napa Valley’s first and only “Izakaya-style” Japanese pub opened in downtown Napa in May 2016. Chef and owner Curtis Di Fede’s menu features a variety of ramen bowls and a large selection of yakitori. The restaurants menu is fashioned after the popular Japanese style of pub food. Miminashi offers Japanese beer, local and international wines, a diverse sake selection, and classic cocktails. The management brings in general Manager Octavio Barrera (Oenotri), bar director Andrew Salazar and Sommelier Jessica Pinzon (The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group)Pinzon says “As a sommelier, I hope to introduce people to some of the most delicious, interesting and well made wines in the world.”

Miminashi is opens at 5 everyday and they are planning on opening for lunches soon.

821 Coombs Street, Napa 707-254-9464



Galpao Gaucho, Brazilian Steakhouse to open on Highway 29, Napa

The owners of Galpao Gaucho in San Antonio brought their authentic Brazilian restaurant to their newly added location in Napa off Highway 29 in the former Oventi/Marie Calendar location. Business owner Alberto Wachholz and business partner Jovani Gava opened the first one in Texas in 2014 to great success and as a result decided to expand in to the Napa Valley. They were looking for a very unique place and one that did not already have Brazilian steakhouse nearby. Napa reminded Alberto of his hometown in Southern Brazil, Sobradinho, and thus the lure of the location. At these type of churrascarias as they are called in Brazil. The meat is butchered and prepared on site over grills. Galpao Gaucho’s menu includes over a dozen cuts of meat slow cooked over an open flame and then presented to the tables by traditional garbed gaucho chefs. The meat is sliced tableside.  There are traditional side dishes and deserts as well. Lunch ranges $30 and Dinner $45.

1990 Trower Avenue, Napa. 707-255-5121.


Southside opens in the Old Sonoma Shopping Center, a Coffee House and Café serving real California Cuisine

Husband and wife team, Morgan and Irma Robinson opened Southside in the former Foothill Café location in South Napa, featuring a new coffee house and café. They are serving California cuisine with a Latin influence along with specialty coffees. The focus is on coffee, food, beer and wine. The menu focus is on market influenced ingredients and simple flavors. Lunch includes a classic Cuban sandwich and a faro salad with baby kale, roasted squash, golden raisins and capers. Keep an eye out for their Fried Chicken Days! They are open Mon – Sat for Breakfast and Lunch from 7am-3pm and Sundays 8am-3pm.

2770 Old Sonoma Road, Napa 707-492-3733


Stone Brewing to Open in Downtown Napa’s historic Borreo building early next year.

Stone Brewing, one of the specialty beers most recognizable brands, founded in 1996 and is the 10th largest craft Brewer in the US. They are taking over the old Borreo building built in 1877 to be their Napa Valley Hub. The location at the corner of Soscol and First Street along the Napa River will offer the complete line of Stone’s signature beers and ales and will also offer other niche Napa Valley beers as well. Along with all of their beers on tap they will be offering a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating along the riverfront. Though the final menu has not been completed yet, they may have a Mexican flare to the cuisine at the brewery. Stay tuned for more information coming on their opening.


Ninebark in Napa is Now Offering the Super Sunday Supper Created as a more Casual Approach to Sunday Dining “Family Style” and New Restaurant Coming to Calistoga

The culinary team created the “Sunday Supper” concept where the NINEBARK chefs host a more casual “family-style” presentation. The head chef at NINEBARK, Rex Huang felt the need to create a more casual fun dining experience for family, friends and visitors. With the support of the executive chef and partner, Matthew Lightner, the culinary team creates different menus every week for the Sunday Supper specials. The regular menu is not available on Sundays, instead diners hand themselves over to the chefs for a surprise and somewhat of an experimental meal. The menu’s are different every Sunday and is comprised of ingredients for the dishes that the chefs have been working on throughout the week, highlighting seasonal produce. You might expect dishes like Shrimp Ceviche; Romaine With Mackerel Vinaigrette and Black Pepper Brodo; tomato jam, horseradish cream and jalapeno jelly or a Pulled Pork and chicken pitas; or summer sundaes. It will surely surprise and amaze. Also offered is a large format beverage option, whether it is punch bowls, pitchers of cocktails, or Jeroboams of wine. The atmosphere is fun and inviting. $60 per person.

Keep any eye out for their soon to be launched new restaurant venture in Calistoga which will showcase the feel of an American Road trip vacation in the 50’s and 60’s, this will surely be lots of fun.

NINEBARK is located at 813 Main Street, Napa. 707-226-7821


Hop Creek Pub Brings Back Life and a great selection of Brews and Food

at the Old Bene Gusto Location in Browns Valley

Hop Creek presents a Gastropub and Nanobrewery and welcomes everyone with top-notch friendly service, along with a family and pet-friendly atmosphere. Their menu is created by Head Chef Pedro Padilla who began his career in the food/beverage industry in 1991 hired as a prep cook at Red Hen Cantina. Finding his true passion he was mentored and self taught himself to be a great chef and leader. In 2006 he took a Head Chef position at Maya in Sonoma Square. Then in 2012 he returned to the Napa Valley at La Contessa then Cooks in St Helena.  Pedro enjoys working with others, making guests happy by creating fresh quality meals guests enjoy. Pedro also takes pride in his work and makes our fresh flavors of house made cheese cakes.

The Hop Creek menu offers a wide selection of tastes and flavors with a variety of crowd pleasers for everyone. The appetizers include to name a few, tasty pretzel bites, crispy calamari and don’t miss out on one of their pub burgers. For lighter fare they offer a great section of fresh salads. Their large selection of draft and bottle beers are diverse and sure to please all at the local’s watering hole in Browns Valley. Lots of big HDTV screens everywhere for game-day enjoyment. And on warm afternoons and evenings the back patio provides a relaxing environment to unwind after a long day.

Hop Creek is located at 3253 Browns Valley Road in Napa. They are open everyday for lunch and dinner and weekends for Brunch too!!! Don’t miss out on their Happy Hour Monday through Friday 2pm to 6pm.



FARM at the Carneros Inn announces Sunday Brunch

For the first time ever, the FARM at The Carneros Inn will be presenting Sunday brunch. FARM invites guests to enjoy the summer Brunch season on their newly renovated patio and take in a round of bocce ball. Their family style brunch premiers in early July and will be offered every Sunday from 10am to 2pm.

Executive Chef Aaron Meneghelli, created this elevated family-style brunch and will serve classic brunch with a Napa Valley spin. It will change weekly depending on the best local produce available. Brunch dishes will include Smoked Fried Chicken and Waffle, Beets and Berries, Fresh Biscuits with Silverado Trail Strawberries, foie gras mousse, and Marshall Farms honey, among others.

The FARM is located at 4048 Sonoma Hwy in Napa. 707-299-4880


The Restaurant at the Meritage Resort

The Masters Winemaker Dinner Series: The Meritage Resort and Spa and Opus One recently created an exceptionally memorable experience for connoisseurs of exquisite wine, cuisine and music this June with their Opus One event.  This special-six course dinner featured five rare vintages of Opus One wines, plus a private concert performed Clark Sterling and Susan Powers in the Entertainment Cave at the resort.

These special event menus are inspired and created by Meritage Executive Chef Ryan Rupp who creatively pairs the evening’s courses with the featured winemakers wines.

He is passionate about ensuring every dish that comes from the kitchen has the right mix of flavors and presentation, while utilizing as many local and sustainably raised ingredients as possible. He joined the Meritage team in 2015 and quickly became executive chef. Rupp now oversees all hotel food operations, including the signature Siena Restaurant, Crush Ultra Lounge, The Commons: A Wine Bar, Blend, banquets, and signature events including Masters and Makers @ Meritage, winemaker dinners, and special holiday brunches.

The Masters Dinner Series evenings begin on the Meritage picturesque vineyard deck with a glass of wine from the featured winemaker’s selection and along with perfectly paired aperitifs as you enjoy the Napa Valley view, followed by multi-course dinner prepared by Meritage Chef Ryan Rupp in the Estate Cave where each delicious course is married beautifully with the evenings selected vintages by the featured winemaker. 

Upcoming Masters Events are:

  • Masters Tequila Dinner with Don Julio – July 29 6-9p: Live music will greet you as you step onto the Sienna Patio for a receptions featuring Don Julio.

  • Masters Winemaker Dinner with Pride Winery – August 5 6:30-10p – Dinner in the Estate Cave with Pride Winery and Pride Mountain Wines

  • Masters Winemaker Dinner with Arkenstone September 2 6:30-10p – Dinner in the Estate Cave with Arkentsone

For more information on all of the amazing events at the Meritage go to their website and click Calendar for a list of the Meritage Collection Events. or call 855-318-1768






Protea – A Latin Inspired casual Eatery opens in Yountville – Daily-changing menu of Latin-inspired street food & comfort fare in cozy digs with outdoor seating. At Protea they change their menu daily to take advantage of the fresh products available in the Napa Valley. Though the base of their menu is Latin inspired flavors, you may find the occasional Ramen Stir Fry bowl on the menu. Chef Anita Cartagena loves to cook with chilies of all kinds. Protea’s location offers spectacular rooftop dining at their Yountville location where you will take in views of the mountains surrounding the valley and breathtaking sunsets.  Chef Anita brings a wealth of experience to the table. She is particularly suited to take on the strict standards of a Michelin Star quality restaurant and translate it to a more casual, affordable atmosphere with hand crafted sandwiches, soups and salads. Protea is open everyday except Monday 11am to 8pm. 6488 Washington Street, Yountville. 707-415-5035.



Lucy Restaurant & Bar at the Bardessono Hotel and Spa in Yountville welcomes New Chef

Nate Lindsay recently joined the culinary team at Bardessono as their executive chef. The hotel is thrilled to have Nate as they are excited to watch him thrive with his fresh culinary vantage, talent and enthusiasm. 






Two Birds One Stone Recently Opened in June in the Freemark Abbey Building formerly Silverado Brewing.

Chefs Sang Yoon and Douglas Keane pair up to bring their new restaurant to Saint Helena with California-inspired Yakitori Cuisine. It is the first collaboration between the two renowned chefs, the menu will feature poultry forward dishes, highlighting locally sourced products from regional wine country purveyors as well as an eclectic wine list, led by Master Sommelier Kevin Reilly (Quince, Cyrus).

After five years of success at the helm of Eiko’s, Chef Jake Rand is excited to be teaming up with owners Keane and Yoon bringing a modern California interpretation of yakitori cuisine to Napa at Two Birds One Stone.

The food is meant to be inspiring not challenging, centered around yakitori – skewered meats and vegetables, along with Japanese-inspired small plates, and fine-dining dishes like a foie gras parfait with cherry blossom gelée are all part of this refreshing new Napa Valley Dining experience. Dining will be in the newly remodeled 1800’s era stone building. The original stone is still the main focus, incorporating modern steel elements. The dining room offers 80 seats, with 35 seats on the outdoor patio, complete with its own yakitori grill. In true Napa style, fire pits and water fountains are part of the inspired outdoor seating area.

San Yoon is also the chef and proprietor of Father’s office gastropub and Lukshon restaurant in Los Angeles. The “Office Burger” has been hailed as the country’s best burger by the TODAY Show and Esquire Magazine. He has been featured as a guest judge on Top Chef and Competing Chef on Top Chef Masters.

Chef Douglas Keane, owned and operated his flagship restaurant, Cyrus, in Sonoma County for 8 years. For seven consecutive years he maintained both 2 stars from Michelin and 4 Stars from the SF Chronicle as well as a James Beard Award for Best Chef Pacific. His cooking style follows a simple Japanese philosophy, Shibumi, which means refined simplicity, simple elegance, unobtrusive beauty and quiet perfection. He has also appeared on Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen as a judge and season 5 winner of Top Chef Masters.

3020 St. Helena Hwy. North, St. Helena. 707-302-3777.


The Charter Oak Restaurant in Saint Helena to Move in to the Tra Vigne Location – The Restaurant at Meadowood team, led by their 3 Michelin-starred Chef Christopher Kostow and Director Daniel Dorn, plans to offer a “celebratory and casual dining experience.” Though the restaurants, The Charter Oak and The Restaurant and Meadowood, will be 2 separate entities they will be twined together by the team including Nathaniel – Meadowood’s front of the house director and Katianna Hong, Chef de cuisine along with a host of artisans. The Kitchen will ditch heavy sauces and techniques like sous vide and complicated garnishes in flavor of steam and fire. While dining, guests will also pour their own wine and choose bourbons and dessert from carts rolled through the dining room. Dishes will be rustic, but refined. With so many options for fine dining in Saint Helena, it is wonderful to have Kostow bring approachable and less formal dining to the neighborhood. Kostow stated, “ We want to create a casual place where locals, visitors and even our own families can come and enjoy any occasion.” They plan to open their doors in late summer.


Las Alcobas by Chef Chris Cosentino, co-owner of San Francisco’s CockscombNew Restaurant to open in the Fall in the new Luxury Collection Hotel.

The Luxury Collection Hotels will be welcoming a new addition in the Napa Valley, with a luxury boutique hotel amongst the vineyards adjacent to the renowned and majestic Beringer Vineyards and Estate. This intimate 68-room hotel will also be offering a signature restaurant by acclaimed Chef Chris Cosentino, chef and co-owner of San Francisco’s Cockscomb and the chef & co-creator of Boccalone artisanal sulumeria. Cosentino has appeared on Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef America”, “Chef’s vs. City” and Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” as the season 4 winner. The restaurant will be called the Acacia house and will be led by Cosentino and business partner Oliver Wharton. The Acacia house is the buildings original name and dates back to 1907. It will reflect the rustic and bustling atmosphere of the former inn with updated modern elements to showcase Cosentino’s renowned combination of bold and balanced flavors. Acacia’s menu will capture the seasonal sensibility of California’s wine country with a selection of small and large plates. Slated to open this Fall. Keep an eye out for new updates on the new hotel and restaurant opening.



Brasswood Restaurant.Tra Vigne Staff Brings in Cal-Italia Cuisine to the Cairdean Estate.

Brasswood located on the 50-acre Cairdean Estate Winery welcomed the former Tra Vigne sous chef as their chef and the General Manager from Tra Vigne, Jennifer Bohr along with many of their former crew to be the heart of this new St. Helena restaurant . The Cairdean Estate owners Edwin and Stacia Williams had the vision to refine and expand their market village with the opening of Brasswood Restaurant fulfilling their dream to making it into a place for locals and visitors to enjoy this beautiful valley. The food is an eclectic mix of old and new with a distinct Cal-Italian influence, “California Comfort Food.” They have mozzarella-stuffed risotto Aranchini, Dungeness Crab Cakes, Herb-Crusted Lamb Chops, or juicy, house-made rib-eye burgers. Their wine list is Napa focused and their spirits collection brings and extensive selection from around the world. The Brasswood Bar and Kitchen is open Wednesday through Sunday 12Noon to 9P. 707-302-5101 311 St. Helena Hwy. N, St. Helena


Charlie Palmer’s Harvest Table Strikes it hot at Saint Helena’s Harvest Inn

Harvest Table, Charlie Palmers newest venture recently opened their full service restaurant and bar in this popular and posh St. Helena Inn. Charlie along with executive Chef Levi Mezick are focusing on “hyper-seasonal” and local ingredients supplied by the properties 5 culinary gardens that support the restaurant. The menu is divided into snacks starters, plates as well as a daily, family-style dish meant to share. Napa Classics headline the wine list along with smaller production up and comers. Harvest Table is open for lunch Wednesday to Friday from 11:30am – 2:30pm. And Dinner is served everyday but Mondays starting at 5:30p and Brunch is Saturday and Sunday 11a to 2:30p. 1 Main Street, St. Helena. 707-963-9463


CIA – Wine Spectator Greystone Brings back Lunch

They have expanded their restaurant operations into its signature restaurant with the return of their popular lunch service. The restaurant evokes a modern farmhouse feel with an intimate 60 seats. Lunch menu items include Melon and Arugula Salad, Rock Shrimp and Chorizo, Housemade Ricotta Ravioli, Garden Herb Tagliatelle as a few of their selections. Wine Spectator Restaurant is located at the Culinary Institute of America at the Greystone Campus at 2555 Main Street in St. Helena. They are open Tuesday thru Saturday 11:30 to 2p for lunch and 5:30p to 8:30p for dinner. 707-967-1100





Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar – Calistoga opened in March in the Mount View Hotel and Spa

Recently opened this Spring, Johnnies brings new life in to the restaurant at the historic Mount View Hotel.  Johnny Ghisolfo opened the original Johnny’s in the 1920’s. It’s name “Johnny’s” pays tribute to the original community leader that revives his namesake, while bringing Calistogan’s a new place to hang out. The bar side is always lively and the place to be with five HDTV’s during playoffs games. It was standing room only during the recent Warriors final. They recently launched their new Charcuterie & Oyster Bar on “table side”.

Michael Dunsford, co-owner of the Calistoga Inn, along with their executive chef Nicolas Montanez, collaboratively opened this new hot spot as a newly revived local hangout. Dunsford said, “When guests walk in we want them to feel welcome and have a great experience by comfortably enjoying great food, wine and beer.” James Richmond, the former executive chef at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville manages the day-to-day kitchen as the Chef de Cuisine. Richmond suggests a must-have dinner item is the Creekstone beef filet with horseradish potatoes and oak roasted mushroom sauce. On the lighter, more casual side be sure and try the sliders. But don’t miss their breakfast either at bar-side. Well worth the drive up to Calistoga.

Calistoga’s Mayor, Chris Canning, “thinks it is a fantastic concept.”

Johnny’s is located at 1457 Lincoln Avenue in Calistoga. 707-942-5938

Open 7:30a to 11p.




Evangaline is one of the top new Dining Spots in Calistoga, Chef Brandon Sharp, at Solbar for the last 8 years makes his mark in former 1226 Washington location.

Chef Brandon Sharp known for his inspired cuisine for the last 8 years at Solbar in the Solage Resort has taken his distinctive California cuisine to the recently opened Evangaline.  His new vision, of course is backed by the owners of Solage and that is not surprise. Brandon Sharp is a visionary when it comes to creative cuisine. He has a magic touch when it comes to fried food, which of course is not a surprise, with his southern background. He incorporates his southern New Orleans style into the diverse mix of flavors. The corn meal crusted soft shell crab po’boy is a crowd pleasure. If you happen to be dining on a Sunday, don’t miss out trying the Gumbo Ya-ya. The expansive 90 seat airy patio is where most of the action is.  The diverse menu is a selection of Premiers, Appetizers, Entrees and Complements that include dirty rice and grilled Andouille sausage. Seafood is featured in five of the dishes such as the grilled Salmon with a summery flare and chicory salad with Juju apples. Check out their website for an extensive menu sampling.

Angeline is a Bistro of French Creole Fare served in a cozy polished interior. It is a patio restaurant where indoor seating is limited. 707-341-3131. Open for dinner at 5:30 and weekends for Brunch too.

1226 Washington Street, Calistoga



  • Ca’Momi Osteria opened on 1st Street

  • Heritage Eats Replaces Firewood

  • Sushi Mambo moves to Calistoga in the Kitana location

  • Silverado Market and Bakery opens at Silverado Resort

  • Inglenook’s Bistro Opened




  • Bene Gusto In Browns Valley replaced by Hop Creek

  • Oventi Closed

  • Atlas Social

  • Pearl Closed, Kenzo to come

  • Zins Valley Closed again, Don Perico Moved in

  • Methode Bubble Bar Closed

  • Firewood Closed, Heritage Eats Moved in

  • City Winery Closed, Blue Note to Sing soon

  • Fish Story Closed, Basalt is now the corner feature

Up Valley

  • Alex Restaurant at Rancho Caymus closed

  • La Contessa Closed

  • Tra Vigne Closed, Kostow’s The Charter Oak to open soon


What started out as a small overview of the latest and greatest in Napa Valley’s Culinary world has expanded to and exciting expose of all that is new in our Valley of food. If we have missed including you or you have something new that we should know about, please let us know.


Happy Dining!

Four Delicious Days and Two Ports of Call on Aboard the Ruby Princess

Four Delicious Days and Two Ports of Call on Aboard the Ruby Princess

Sailing the High Seas Is an Epicurean Rendezvous


This is definitely not your Grandmothers cruise ship of yesteryear. Fifty years ago cruising was quite a different experience than the mega-industry it has evolved into today. In those days, it was not uncommon to pack a large steamer trunk full of evening gowns and formal attire. For those traveling in First Class, dining was always a gala extravagant event where tuxedos and glittery gowns filled the elegant dining room and receiving an invitation to dine at the Captain’s table was a coveted honor. Options for dining were limited to the First-Class dining room and the standard cafeteria-style tourist-class dining room, while traveling for weeks through the Panama Canal to South America, Transatlantic to Europe or to ports through Asia.

Ruby Princess – Princess Cruises

Though formal dining at the Captain’s table is still offered on select cruises, it is not nearly as common with the dining diversity now offered on today’s “supersized-liners.” You will find the cruising dining atmosphere to offer a vast variety of dining options from the super casual to elegant Celebrity Chef style cuisine and everything in between.

NVL Publisher, Kari Ruel and I were invited to join the Princess Cruise Lines 2nd Annual Culinary Cruise aboard the Ruby Princess. Jill Whelan, who played Captain Stubing’s daughter – Vicki aboard the “Love Boat” for nearly a decade, served as Princess Cruise Lines Celebrity Ambassador during the cruise and was very involved in many of the culinary events offered during the 4 days aboard the Ruby Princess, which included celebrating her birthday.

The Ruby Princess offers 882 passenger cabins, 4 pools, 7 spas, 7 lounges, an expansive theatre for musicals and shows, luxurious Lotus Spa and fitness area, duty-free shops and a plethora of other passenger amenities. The expansion of their onboard dining offerings was truly impressive. In addition to their three elegant grand dining rooms, they also serve up a variety of dining options for every palate. The most recent additions to the Princess Cruise Line specialty restaurant portfolio added last year are the two celebrity chef venues – Curtis Stone’s SHARE and The Salty Dog Gastropub featuring the cuisine of Ernesto Uchima.

Curtis Stone’s SHARE is his first restaurant at sea with Princess Cruise Lines. SHARE offers an exclusive dining experience with a menu of signature dishes created for sharing in an atmosphere designed for enjoying the company of others and creating memories. The menu presents such signature dishes as a Charcuterie starter course; Butter Poached Lobster with Caramelized Endive; Cooked Duck Leg with Fennel; Fresh Tagliatelle with Roasted Alaskan Crabs with sides like Melted Leeks and desserts of Dark Chocolate Cremeux with toasted Hazelnut Feuilletine and Burnt Vanilla Ice Cream.

Lobster at Share

Ernesto Burger GastroPub

The Salty Dog’s “piece de resistance” is the award-winning “Ernesto Burger” from Chef Ernesto Uchimira, who was recently awarded “Chef of the Year” from LA Magazine. This amazing burger presents a rib eye and short rib beef patty, grilled pork belly, caramelized kimchi, beer battered jalapeno, charred onion aioli, topped with cave-aged gruyere cheese, all making my taste buds scream for more.  The Salty Dog also offers a gastropub menu featuring new twists on classic pub food in a casually elegant inviting atmosphere of which we sampled many of them.

Another savory treat onboard the Ruby Princess is partaking in the exclusive “Chef’s Table” experience. For the cruising gourmands, this is an absolute must. It is limited to a small group at the Chef’s Table usually no more than ten, so be sure to book this well in advance when you board. Your multi-course journey created by the Ruby’s head chef is not offered anywhere else on the ship. You will begin with a private tour of the galley while it is in full swing, with champagne and appetizers such as foie gras terrine and asparagus risotto with lobster. Your specially crafted dinner follows at an intimate dining table elegantly set in one of the signature main dining rooms, where you will receive a personal handwritten menu unique to your special dining experience. Chef personally comes to the table before each course to speak to the table about the next course. Each dining guest receives a photo of the group and an autographed copy of the Princess cookbook, Courses, A Culinary Journey.

Though the “Culinary Cruise” event is only offered annually in the month of September, this 4-day Cruise Itinerary to Santa Barbara and Ensenada is offered with 6 upcoming available dates slated so for through March and fares starting at only $299 per person. Also offered are a variety of excursions in both ports of Santa Barbara and Ensenada that will expand your epicurean adventure such as wine tasting and gourmet picnic lunches. With the vast variety of dining options aboard the ship and the many options offered in the ports of Santa Barbara and Ensenada, you are surely to make this your own culinary delight.

Our West Coast Get-a-way Cruise Details

Day One:

  • Board the Ruby Princes at San Pedro Ship Terminal – Noon

  • Lunch in the DaVinci Dining Room 1pm

  • Passenger Safety Drill – 3:15

  • Set Sail out to Sea 4pm

  • Cocktails Adagio – Deck 16

  • Dinner at the Salty Dog Gastro Pub – Deck 7

Day Two (At Sea):

  • Celebrity Chef Cooking Demonstration 10:45 presented by Los Angeles celebrity chefs: Joel Miller – Executive Chef at The Wallace and Ted Hopson – Executive Chef/Owner of The Bellwether.

  • Lunch on Deck with Music and Entertainment – Noon

  • Massage in the Lotus Spa 1:00

  • Maître d’ Wine Tasting in the Michelangelo Dining Room 2:45 Deck 5

  • Champagne Waterfall Midship 6:45p Deck 5

  • Dinner at SHARE by Curtis Stone

Day Three – Santa Barbara:

  • Vigorous Walk around the Promenade Deck – 10,000 Steps

  • Meet In Theatre to head out to Bus for Winery Tour and Picnic

  • Two Wineries: Buttonwood in Solvang and Sunstone in Santa Ynez

  • Return to Ship 4:30

  • Dinner: “Chef’s Table” Experience – 7:30

Day Four – Ensenada:

  • Breakfast in the DaVinci Dining Room 8:30

  • Disembark for Shore Excursion Various Local Dining haunts in Ensenada with a bit of wine tasting

  • Q&A panel with Celebrity Chefs, Joel Miller and Ted Hopson in the Explorer Lounge

  • Farewell Cocktails in the Adagio Deck 16 7:30

  • Farwell Dinner in the Crown Grill – Deck 7:  8pm (also Jill’s Birthday Celebration)

  • Balloon Drop 10pm Piazza Deck 5 Mid-ship

Day 5

  • Arrive Los Angeles – San Pedro Cruise Ship Terminal

  • Disembark: 10:00

  • Bus to LAX

 Bon Voyage!!! Happy Cruising!!!

Glamping Northern California – “Gourmet-Camping” Wine Country Style

Glamping Northern California – “Gourmet-Camping” Wine Country Style

Glamping is a relatively new word or colloquialism that has been recently added to many dictionaries including the Oxford dictionary. It is a common word in the camping world to the many who have taken camping to a whole new level. It’s meaning though can vary for those who refer to their own nouveau-style of enjoying the all-outdoors, as each camping enthusiast has their own variation of the definition of glamping.


“Glamping” – a new word for a new kind of travel defined as glamorous camping. When you are glamping there is no need to pitch a tent or a sleeping bag to unroll. – glamping (glam-ping), noun: Informal  – The activity of camping with some of the comforts of home.


Wikipedia – Glamping is a portmanteau of glamour and camping and describes a style of camping with amenities.


For those of us foodies from the Napa Valley, Glamping has taken on a whole new meaning: “Gourmet Camping” – Just because you are camping doesn’t mean you have to eat beans and weenies and food out of a can. Au Contraire! The best part of camping is bringing the freshest ingredients and the inspiration to prepare one’s favorite meals in the all outdoors. Bring your creativity and imagination and let the flavors take you to a new place at your favorite camping spot. And let’s not forget about the wines – a key ingredient to pair with the evenings fare by the campfire dining table. You have probably heard from many that food just seems to taste better when prepared in the surrounds of nature whether you are at the coast or in the mountains – just like wine tastes better with food! It is a true fact!


There are several key ingredients to creating the perfect glamping “Gourmet Camping”, it is all about being prepared with the perfect necessities:

  • Plan your meals ahead of time so that you know what to shop for in advance, just in case you are not near a local market near you camp spot.

  • Design your menu to pair with your camp location, lighter fare for warmer locations and more comfort food for the chillier spots. And if you are by the coast, don’t forget to pick up some fresh oysters along the way.

  • Have the right essential accessories to assist in your preparation.

  • Don’t forget to bring along a delicious selection of wines and craft beers.

In addition to your usual camping essentials and accessories you may want to think about including these items to your list if you haven’t already.

  • A good BBQ Grill is a must – You don’t necessarily need a large grill unless you are in a big group, and bring along with some mesquite charcoal, it adds to the flavor of the grilled dishes. If it is a gas grill you prefer that works well too.

  • A good camping stove that works on propane – even though you have a stove in your camper, it is much for fun to do the meal preparation outside. Afterall, you did come here for the ambiance of the outdoors.

  • Several really nice pans for cooking over the grill or the fire, a cast iron pan from Lodge is a good choice. You will also want to bring along a selection of sturdy pots and pans to use on your cooking stove as well.

  • Utensils are also important – so be sure you have some good sharp knives, tongs, and a variety of wood spoons and metal spatulas. Don’t forget a basting brush, essential when prepping and seasoning your meats and vegies to grill.

  • A grilling pan to throw on top of the BBQ to do roasted vegies, roasted breads and a variety of other grilled items like shrimp or shish kebobs.

  • Spices, Oils and condiments – bring along your favorite spices and cooking oils. Good Olive Oils is a must. Don’t forget your favorite Salsa and butter too!

  • Wine essentials: stemmed or stemless plastic wine goblets, a good wine opener, wine stoppers for the wine you might not have finished and to take it to the next level a decanter.

  • Table Décor: An decorative waterproof table cloth, place mats, a decorative flower or plant arrangement for the table, sturdy plastic plates and real knives and forks. A few nice serving platters is a good idea too!

  • A portable music player for your favorite tunes is absolutely essential as it adds to the ambiance of the evening along with some candles, the battery operated ones are the best as they don’t blow out and you don’t have to worry about a fire hazard.

  • Firewood for the campfire is another must, of course if they are allowed at the campsite. Nothing like sitting by the fire with a yummy glass of Napa Valley Cab after a deliciously prepared meal!

It’s all about the prep and the journey to the outdoor dining table. The “piece de resistance” of course is settling down to the table with family and friends and indulging in the finely crafted evenings dinner in the great “all-outdoors”.


Here are a few menu ideas to get your camping taste-buds rolling!

  • Tri-tip marinated in your favorite IPA

  • Grilled Mexican Style Chicken with Black beans and spiced rice

  • Grilled Seasoned Corn on the Cob or a Selection of Seasonal Vegies from the Garden fired right over the grill on the grilling pan

  • Breakfast Scramble with mixed concoction of the night before leftovers with scrambled eggs and your favorite cheese. Huevos Rancheros is a fun option too!

  • Bring along some fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden and create a Caprese Salad.

  • A be sure to bring along a few loafs of fresh bread (my preference is Olive bread) to grill over the fire. Nothing like the smoky flavor of the bread to go along with the evenings fare.


Happy “Glamping” See you by the Campfire!!!





Food and Wine Events Around the Country

Food and Wine Events Around the Country

The Best of Food and Wine Festivals around America!!!


The Napa Valley is well known for it’s many signature food and wine events. The granddaddy of them all is our very own Napa Valley Wine Auction that takes place every June here in the Napa Valley and is one of the most prestigious and successful wine events in the country. Over the years many new events around the US have been popping up offering food and wine enthusiasts new opportunities to indulge in delicious events hosted in their favorite travel destinations from palm trees and beaches to snow capped mountain settings and everywhere in between.


These spectacular food and wine events offer attendees the opportunity to savor amazing dishes offered by both local chefs and notable celebrity chefs. Also on the scene are vintners from around the world from your favorite wine appellations pouring their signature varietals. Most events also offer charity auctions, cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, guest chefs specialty lunches and dinners as well as special events pertinent to the region. Food and wine events are usually limited during fall months as vintners are busy with harvest and crush. Though you can easily find a food and wine event every month of the year…


Here are a few of the best food and wine events offered during the year:


January Events


Naples Winter Wine Festival – Naples, Florida                                                               

The Naples Winter Wine Festival is ranked among the top 10 arts and entertainment events for wealthy Americans. The festival has earned the distinction of being one of the most successful charity wine auctions in the nation. An array of notable Napa Vintners will join an impressive selection of vintners from around the world to share their top wines with guests of this prestigious event. Check out the festival’s website for a full list of vintner and culinary participants. In addition, world-class items will be auctioned off at the event’s signature live auction, including tickets to the Golden Globes, collections of some of the world’s most sought-after wine, a private tour of Gettysburg with legendary filmmaker Ken Burns, and much more. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Naples Children & Education Foundation. Since its inception in 2001, the Naples Winter Wine Festival has raised more than $123 million for children in need.

28th Annual Taos Winter Wine Festival – Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Wine Country comes to the historic town of Taos with Tao’s best restaurants serving signature appetizers and owners and wine makers from 36 participating wineries including Frank Family, Merryvale and Flora Springs. The Grand Tasting features more than 155 wines and a silent auction of rare wines. All of this while enjoying turns at Taos Ski Valley.




February Events


14th South Beach Wine and Food Festival – Miami, Florida

Presented by the Food Network and Cooking Channel, this is a national, star-studded 4-day destination event showcasing the talents of the world’s most renowned wine and spirits producer, chefs and culinary personalities. The festival is taking significant strides in 2015 to enhance its Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting. The event hosts 200 renowned chefs and 150 wine and spirit producers to create over 50 events, including cooking demos, beer and wine seminars, golf tournament, dinners and lunches. A grand selection of Napa Valley wineries will be among the many participating vintners.



March Events


Florida Winefest and Auction – Sarasota, FL

The Florida Winefest and Auction features a wine tasting, brunch and charity auction, winemaker dinners, and “Wine on the Water” an upscale party featuring a huge selection of wines under the Winefest tent on Sarasota Bay. The event has awarded over $7.5 million in charitable grants with proceeds benefiting various children’s charities. Visit or call 941-952-1109



April Events


Annual Taste of Vail – Vail, Colorado

The Taste of Vail is the nation’s premier spring food and wine festival, held at several venues throughout the Vail Valley’s world-class resorts. Over 5,000 people are expected to attend this celebrated event experiencing the Vail Valley lifestyle tasting culinary treats from Colorado’s world-class restaurants and wines poured by winemakers and winery owners from around the globe. Activities include interactive cooking seminars, the 11th annual Lamb Cook-Off, après ski tastings, and the iconic Mountaintop Picnic sensory extravaganza on the top of Vail Mountain and the famous grand tasting. For information or to reserve tickets call 970-306-1334 or visit



Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine – Pebble Beach, California

Pebble Beach Food and Wine presented by Food and Wine Magazine is the premier epicurean lifestyle event on the West Coast, showcasing 250 acclaimed wineries and 75 celebrity chefs to create a hedonistic four-day gastronomical event on one of the most picturesque strips of coastline in the world. Throughout the weekend you will enjoy intimate access to the pinnacle of culinary and wine talent at wine tastings, cooking demos and some of the most exclusive, unique dining opportunities available around the world. Various locations throughout Pebble Beach, including Inn at Spanish Bay and Lodge at Pebble Beach. For info call 866-907-3663 or




New York Culinary Experience – New York, NY

Passionate food lovers enjoy an intimate weekend of hands-on master classes, cooking and conversation with more than 30 of the culinary industry’s most celebrated talents. Join in for two days of sensory adventure. You will cook, taste, laugh and learn from some of the world’s culinary giants making memories that will last a lifetime. Celebrated chefs including David Bouley, Jacques Pepin, Jean Georges Vongerichten, and more. For more information or call 646-314-4413


May Events


New Orleans Wine and Food Experience – New Orleans, Louisiana

Experience the rich cultural heritage of New Orleans through local cuisine paired with wines from around the world. This 4-day event kicks off with wine dinners around the city. The Grand Tasting features 1000 vintages and more than 75 chefs, plus seminars and the Royal Street Stroll on Thursday and the Big Gateaux Show on Friday. Tickets range from $50 to $150. Call 504-583-5550 or visit



June Events


Annual Monterey Wine Festival – Monterey, California

The Monterey Festival continues to evolve into a platform designed for the regional wine industry and the community of wine lovers. Spirits, beers, wines and chowders make this a not to be missed gathering. Professional chefs from the West Coast compete and chowder lovers pay homage. Along with all the festival ingredients, live music is the final sensation. 1-800-422-0251



Annual Kapalua Wine and Food Festival, Kapalua, Maui, HI

Celebrate the 3-day event tasting celebrated wines from every region of the world paired with regional Hawaiian cuisine and a bounty of seafood fresh from the Pacific Hawaiian waters. Set on the beautiful shores with ocean views and the majestic Kapalua Resort. Tickets for select events are available for purchase a la carte. For more information call 808-665-7231 or



Food and Wine Classic In Aspen – Aspen, Colorado

Food and Wine Magazine will showcase its main areas of expertise at its 33rd annual fundraiser in the majestic Aspen Mountains featuring numerous chef celebrities like Gail Simmons and Andrew Zimmern. Guests will learn how to cook, nosh on international and regional cuisine, attend events, seminars and grand tastings. There are several pass options available. Call 877-900-9463 or visit



August Events


Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival

Now in its fifth year, the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, presented with generous support from founding partners FOOD & WINE and Lexus, is a four-day epicurean event showcasing the finest in food and drink culture throughout Los Angeles, and culinary personalities from throughout the nation. Set amidst one of the most iconic streets in the country and washed in cultural sophistication due to its thought leading residents like the Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Colburn School of Music, The Music Center, Grand Park, MOCA, and the much anticipated Broad Museum., the event spans the city and offers guests the chance to sample the cuisines and products from some of the most prominent epicurean influencers, while enjoying the sights and sounds of the entertainment industry’s brightest talents. The talent coming for this weekend is second to none for a food and wine festival including celebrated chefs such as Alex Guarnascehlli, Tyler Florence, Curtis Stone, Michael Chiarello, Michelle Bernstein, Thomas Keller, Elizabeth Falkner and local favorites such as Ray Garcia, Michael Fiorelli, Neal Fraser and David Lefevre.


October Events


Hawaii Food and Wine

The Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival operating as a non-profit organization is the premier epicurean destination event in the Pacific. Set in the lush island paradise of Hawai‘i, the Festival will take place over three weekends on multiple islands, featuring a roster of over 100 internationally renowned master chefs, culinary personalities, and wine and spirit producers. The Festival in Hawai‘i Island, Maui, and Oahu will showcase wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, one-of-a-kind excursions, and exclusive dining opportunities with dishes highlighting the state’s local farmers, fishermen, and ranchers.

Ca’Momi Osteria– Traditional Italian Cuisine at its Best

Ca’Momi Osteria– Traditional Italian Cuisine at its Best

 When it comes to the best of the best, it seems that it frequently comes together perfectly in threes. This is truly the case for Napa’s authentic Italian downtown eatery, Ca’Momi, which has quickly become one of the valley’s newest hot spots. At the restaurant they are serving up a trifecta of inspired flavors created by the trio behind this successful traditional Osteria. Paired perfectly is their own description: “We are three: Passionate dream makers and truth seekers who love to mindfully eat, drink and celebrate life.”


This Italian triad together delivers their passion into their innovative delicious creations on both the plate and in to the glass. Valentina Guolo-Mignotto – Chef and Chief Evolutionary Officer, Dario De Conti – Master Pizzaiolo and Winemaker, and Stefano Migotto – Winemaker and Brewmaster star in this feature presentation.  From the moment you walk into this charming turn of the century, “Obsessively Authentic Italian Eatery” located on First Street in Napa, the aromas and ambiance set the stage for the journey of flavors you are about to embark on while dining there. The trio’s Italian heritage, along with their philosophies of mindful leadership has fueled Ca’Momi’s rapid success and loyal followers.


The extensive menu is crafted in in authentic Italian, course-by-course and dish-by-dish from Primi to Secondi to Il Pranzo to Cicchetti to name a few the many courses offered. Though don’t worry you wont have to translate, as each dish has a delightfully delicious description and offers diners a wide range of selections to choose from. Your course-by-course dining experience presents a vast range of regional Italian Recipes from house made pasta dishes to wood fired pizzas and a creative selection of inspired regional Italian cuisine. Valentina seeks out traditional and family recipes in their truest, most original form and lovingly recreates them with Napa Valley organic bounty and local ingredients. As certified APN and VPN pizzaiolo, Dario ensures the authenticity of the wood-fired Napoletana pizza served at he Osteria. As a second-generation winemaker, Stefano takes his winemaking very seriously creating unique quality wine blends for Ca’Momi’s patrons.






Ca’Momi is located at1141 First Street in Napa.