Monday, September 5, 2011

Savoring Summertime

Flipping through my mealtime pictures from the last few weeks, I am struck by how many delicious items I discovered for the first time this summer.  Time for a roundup of the best stateside dishes of recent memory! (For pictures of France's prime offerings, check out my post from early August.)

Porchetta Arugula Pizza 

I discovered this luscious beast at the Silver Oak Release Party pizza pairing contest, when it won my heart and first place vote among a field of worthy contenders. A chewy blistered crust, perfect tomato to cheese ratio, and glorious paving of succulent porchetta slices packs plenty of flavor right out of the oven, but then the whole thing goes to another level with a cool showering of fresh arugula and shaved pecorino romano. Perfection. It was spectacular with Silver Oak's Alexander Valley Cab, but it is also superbly satisfying with Ca'Momi's own house red, Rosso di Napa. And, if you hit Ca'Momi on Sunday, Monday, or Wednesday night, you can get a bottle of the house red and any pizza (including this one) for only $20.  Total.

Grilled Watermelon Heirloom Tomato Salad 

Gorgeous, juicy, and minimally dressed, this is summer on a plate.  The hint of char on the watermelon brought a nice caramelized element to offset the sweet and tart aspects, but the stealthy showstopper of this salad was the creamy pine nut puree drizzled around underneath the peppery watercress and salty ricotta salata.  Amazing stuff.  I'm very pleased with the menu additions coming out of Fish Story under Kiwi chef Clint Davies, who took over from Stephen Barber in late June. Can't wait to go back and try some more of his repertoire.

Ham Biscuit With Peach-Borage Jam And Creole Mustard

Wow. As hard as it may be to believe, this thing tasted even better than it sounded, and even better than it looked.  Salty, meaty Fremont ham.  Sun-kissed peach preserves, with an unexpected herbal twist.  Tangy, spicy, coarse-grained mustard.  A perfect buttermilk biscuit enveloping it all like a fluffy golden cloud, if clouds tasted like butter.  And ... all this artisanal farm-fresh goodness costs a mere $3.25.  Get there early, because this divine creature is only on the breakfast menu.

Pork Chop With Agave and Malanga

Cielito Lindo opened in the old Annalien space on Main Street in July. Another Mexican restaurant for Napa? Yes... but with an original concept, and plenty of dishes you won't find anywhere else in the valley.  The menu salutes the cuisine of Jalisco, the Mexican region best known in the U.S. as the home of Puerto Vallarta.  As you might expect, there is a lot of fresh seafood involved. As you might not expect, there is also a pork chop to remember. Thick cut, seared, and slathered in a sweet-savory agave and lychee pan sauce, this slab of pork is irresistible--especially perched on its starchy mash of malanga (a tropical tuber very similar to taro, with a nutty, earthy flavor). I loved it when I tried it in the restaurant, but I loved it even more when I stood in front of my fridge later that night, gnawing the leftovers off the bone.

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