My Bottega Experience: save room for dessert

After reading the review from Michael Bauer from the SF Chronicle, I knew I had to try Bottega, Michael Chiarello’s restaurant in Napa Valley.  I’ve always been a huge fan of his cooking, having watched every episode of his Food Network show, Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello.  But what really sealed the deal was this.  I practically had to wipe the drool off my keyboard.

Over the 4th of the July weekend I finally made the trip.  Upon arrival at the restaurant the hostess said there would be a short wait.  Hmm even at 5 o’clock?  No problem. Time to go conveniently right next door to his store NapaStyle.

Poster in front of the door… don’t forget, Michael’s on Top Chef Masters, Tuesday July 15th, 10pm on Bravo!

Samples of his recipes in the store.  A  customer asked what they were tasting and I proceeded to explain in depth.  She laughed and thought I worked there, but no, just a really big fan of his food :)

Front center were strawberries in balsamic vinegar.  The balsamic takes the sweet strawberries to whole new dimension.  Above that was bruschetta, one traditional with tomatoes, basil and parmesan and the other was tuna.

Now onto Bottega!  This is the start of the summer menu so I don’t have the exact names of some of the dishes.  I will describe as best as I can.

I love the ambiance and decor.  There is outdoor seating for warm summer evenings and inside is partitioned into 3 sections.  A lot of brick and rich, warm dark brown wood.  Beautiful.  Wish it were my home.

Burrata creamy filled fresh mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes, and my favorite touch, the balsamic “caviar,” such a creative and playful accent to the dish.

The perfect few bites

Monterey calamari, crisped with Arborio rice flour, and aioli nero.  I tasted the aioli on its own to figure out the ingredients.  It tasted like a balsamic aioli but I’m not sure.  It added a nice tang to the calamari, which was nice and crispy, not oily at all.

The bread – an artisan loaf and foccacia.  For the sides, there was housemade parmesan butter I believe.  Excellent.  Little cubes of fresh parmesan.  I kept eating it by itself.  To the right of that was sea salt.  I wish I knew specifically which salt considering Michael has a whole line of it in the store.

I went for the foccacia and was very excited about the extra seasonings so I piled them on.  Hmm not such a good idea.  It was a big bite of salt.  I think the foccacia was to be eaten plain and the condiments were meant for the other bread.

My dish, Ricotta Gnocchi, salsa di pomodoro della Nonna, pecorino -these are the souffles, as Michael Bauer described, with ricotta filling.  I love the choice of tomato sauce with fresh chopped basil instead of a cream sauce that usually weighs down the dish and makes it heavy.  This was perfect and the gnocchi were light and airy.  I could have eaten another plate.

Close up on the gnocchi pillow puffs

Tortelli, (which we thought was tortellini), is a square-shaped stuffed pasta that looks like ravioli.  I’m still a little confused by the names but it was tasty.  It was refreshing and simple, a bit too simple in comparison to everything else I’ve had so far.

Inside a tortelli- pesto base, roasted cherry tomatoes, and shrimp.  I liked the tomato filling. I wish the pesto was a bit thicker so that it gave more flavor to the overall dish.  I had to keep spooning it on top.

Now onto the star of the meal.  I am so glad that Michael wowed with the desserts.  This is my favorite part of the meal, so I always look forward to dessert menus and am often disappointed by the selections.  Not at Bottega.

Piece de resistance… chocolate almond molten chocolate cake with hazelnut creme anglaise

Nice table side presentation. The waiter brought the dish, unwrapped the parchment paper to reveal the cake,  then from high above, slowly poured the anglaise and lets it ooze down the sides.  For a finishing touch, cracked hazelnut brittle onto the top.

The inside was almost completely molten.  The perfect gooey thickness, not too runny and not too cakey. The wall of the cake was nice and thin and crisp.  I love the hazelnuts for the additional crunch.  One of the best desserts I’ve ever had.

As if that wasn’t enough, we ordered one more dessert.  While the chocolate cake was the clear favorite, this was very good as well.  On the menu I think it said it was a torta with blueberries and blackberries.  The little cakes were so delicate but moist at the same time.  It was in between a shortcake and angel food cake.

Inside the cake was some sort of peach or apricot preserve with the bruleed anglaise on top.  The berries were sweet and juicy and added the perfect amount of zing to the cake.  Ending on a very high note and without out a doubt the highlight of the meal.  I wish I could say the highlight was meeting Michael but another time :)

Post meal notes:  I’d definitely get the burrata again.  I did miss out on the polenta under the glass which I hear is good.  Also be sure to get the truffled parmesan fries!  The portion is huge.  If it weren’t for the fried calamari we already had, I would have gotten the fries.  Definitely going to stick to a lighter entree because the desserts were incredible.

Bottega Ristorante
6525 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 945-1050
www.botteganapavalley.com

NapaStyle
V Marketplace
6525 Washington St.
Yountville, CA
(707) 945-1229
www.napastyle.com

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