Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Bon Appétit At Julia's Kitchen

Julia’s Kitchen is named, of course, for the inimitable Julia Child, who was a trusted advisor to Copia as well as an Honorary Trustee. I loved everything about Copia (and it goes without saying about Julia) and the restaurant didn't let me down. What I would love to know is what Julia would think of the food. The menu is described as “French-inspired, California-based”, which I guess would describe Julia in her last years.

For her, I believe, it was all about how good the food tasted. She didn’t worry about all the other trappings. Remember when she dropped a chicken (I think it was)* on the floor and said, “Never mind”…just as long as the guests hadn’t seen.

Would she think the food here was too froufrou? Maybe a little, but the food is just so delicious and the service is so unpretentious that I think The French Chef would be delighted with the current state of Julia's Kitchen.

Chef Jeff Mosher took over in 2006 after sous-chefing here for a couple of years. The most important part of the menu is that it uses produce from Copia’s impressive Edible Garden, as well the glorious bounty of local Napa ingredients.

I admit I was slightly (ok, not so slightly) bombed when we first walked in
after our wine tasting, but that wore down to a overall good-feeling glow after awhile in our warm and calm surroundings. (H was the designated driver, so he sipped, not swigged, the wine.) I loved our spunky short-haired waitress who, when she saw me writing down what we had ordered, simply removed the paper menu from its holder and handed it to me to keep.

Maybe it was my high spirits that inspired me to order TEMPURA WATERMELON. Have you EVER heard of such a thing? I hadn’t. It was interesting the way the preparation turned the slightly under ripe watermelon into a savory ingredient. (Let’s NOT discuss the word "savory" now.)

It could have been an Asian melon type of thing or even a young summer squash, because, frankly, it was all about the tempura. The batter was just right, the frying was perfect. I always tell H, when he scoffs at me for ordering deep-fried things, that the more expert the execution, the less greasy the dish is and THIS was certainly the case here. It was not greasy, just wonderfully crisp with an admittedly somewhat strange ingredient within.

Our other starter was an Ahi Tuna Salad. Beautifully rosy slices of ahi tuna were accompanied by a refreshing salad of butter lettuce, roasted pepper and croutons made from brioche, which seems to be a newish trend. I was pleased to see that this dish was dressed with ”Julia’s Sauce Ravigote”, which is, in its cold form, a highly seasoned, strongly vinegar-ed vinaigrette with onions or shallots, capers and plenty of herbs. Very nice pairing.

I had the crispy Sonoma Duck Breast served with Bing cherries, cherry jus and forbidden rice. (I love the name almost as much as the rice.). The duck was succulent – tender and moist on the outside with a crisp and delicately crunchy skin. I loved the full bodied flavor that the duck gave to the forbidden rice. (Let’s be honest and admit it was from the fat. Remember fat = flavor.)

And, of course, cherries are the signature accompaniment to duck for a good reason. Their sweetness, with just a hint of sourness, marries perfectly with the rich taste of the duck.

H had the Pan-Roasted Alaskan Halibut. He really liked the chanterelle and corn ragout that accompanied it. The fish was perfectly and not overly cooked. I have absolutely no memory of the rainbow chard that came with it, but I don’t remember not liking any part of it.

This was how one dessert was described: "Rocky Road" Redux - bittersweet chocolate marquise, house made marshmallows, toasted walnut sauce, malted milk shot.

In general, I try to stay away from combination chocolate desserts. Chocolate is just too easy to make delicious, and I often find that other recipes are a better test of the pastry chef’s mettle. But I do love homemade marshmallows and anyone that uses the word “Redux” has my vote. The only problem was that our lively waitress kind of toppled over the Chocolate Marquise and so my picture looks a bit weird after we tried to fix it. It was predictably good and way too rich after our bountiful morning.

The Trio of Sorbets was definitely the way to go. The Lemongrass yogurt was the perfect antidote to our (ok, MY) previous overindulging. The strawberry and blackberry sorbets were fresh, fresh, fresh AND refreshing.

Cappuccino (don’t judge me, I CANNOT drink espresso) came with a fun presentation of brown and white sugar (neither of which I use in coffee) on a spoon.

We wandered around a bit more and then malheureusement, took our leave of Copia, Julia’s Kitchen and a day that had been filled with lots of good things to eat and drink.

* I found this quote from Julia's New York Times obituary. (You know how obnoxious they are about not giving free access to old articles. You have to be a member. Jerks.) Anyway...I don't care what they say, I could have sworn it was chicken...

"Mr. Drummond, her producer, also debunks another myth. Mrs. Child never dropped a chicken or a turkey on 'The French Chef.' It was a potato pancake that flew onto the work table when she tried to flip it. She put it back in the pan, pressed it back into shape and said, 'Remember, you are alone in the kitchen, and no one can see you.' "


Anonymous said...

I wonder if Julia believed in the "3 second rule" for fallen food.

By the way, You're It! Okay I feel kinda dopey saying that, especially since I hated that game as a child, but the some of the random facts people post are pretty funny. Click on my link for game rules and see if you'd like to play.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful meal! Great article too. I am so jealous!! yum!

Sue said...

Ok, Lori, I'm on it, as well as being IT. I'll try to come up with some good stuff!

And Julia probably believed in the 20 minute rule....

Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

That restaurant sounds so awesome. The watermelon and the duck sound so divine.

I need to get to the west coast more often. I have always wanted to wine and dine in CA wine country. If you ever go again and need someone to carry your luggage...

Cynthia said...

Sounds like you had an enjoyable meal, thanks for sharing some of it with us. :)

Sue said...


It was awesome. Thanks for stopping by.