Cooking Eating Dining Sharing

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Calistoga Evening

Good Morning All,
Last night on a warm late summer/early fall night in downtown Calistoga, the scent of earth and crushed grapes in the air, I joined a friend and her mother at a lovely restaurant named JoLe.

JoLe is located on the main drag about two- three blocks from Hwy 29. It is in the Mount View Hotel. A historic hotel that has now been updated and feels very fresh and modern inside. I had not dined here since 1986, when my then boyfriend, now husband, and I went on a holiday weekend with his brother and sister-in-law. It was wonderful then and it was wonderful last night.

Chefs Matt and Sonjia Spector, formerly from Matysons in Philadelphia, cook up a delightful, farm to table experience in this lovely wine valley location.

A new modern take on the small plates/tapas style eatery (think Caesar's in Oakland or Berkeley) but stepped up a notch with a cleaner french feel. It has a fresh interior and modern furniture but with a nod to the country with their chalkboard hand written specials and a few small French wine riddling racks resting against the back of the bar. We noted that there seemed to be too few tables in the middle of the room and weren't sure if it was by design or if there was a large party that needed the additional tables. It felt spacious, but spare.

A starter of Sardines, butterflied, without heads, made the dish look like it was rectangles of fish, or even eel. It was delicately balanced with a light sauce of orange and cumin vinaigrette. An orange under a "flower" of grilled radicchio was a nice touch and one of my favorite fall or winter vegetables. Another starter, the ubiquitous Chilies de Padron, was generous and delicious with a simple olive oil and sea salt.

I ordered a Ballentine Malvasia Bianca, a light tasting white that went well with my main tapa, Coq au Vin. A simple, pared down version with no sausage, roasted almost caramelized carrots, small petite yukon gold potatoes, two generous boneless chicken thighs, and sauteed zucchini all in a delicious reduction sauce that combined to create a very satisfying and healthful combination.

The plum tart with almond cake with honey vanilla icecream was simply superb. The tart/cake was absolutely perfect with a chewy texture in the middle and a little crispness around the edges. I could have done without the dollup of honey vanilla ice cream. For my palette, a sauce of reduced plum sauce or jam would have brought out the flavor of the plums more. Anyway you look at was a delicious meal with delicious company!

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