A great meal in the Napa Valley

Tahoe morning from the office deck Aug 22, 2008 (click to enlarge)

Tahoe morning from the office deck Aug 22, 2008 (click to enlarge)

As I was sitting here at my desk this morning looking out at the view above, I decided that instead of writing on a scientific subject that would take several hours, I would put up a little food porn and go out and enjoy the weather.

When we were in Napa recently, we had several meals, one of which I mentioned previously as costing over $1400 for four. And when I mentioned it before, I complained bitterly about the price, which kind of overshadowed my entire Napa experience. What I didn’t mention was that the night before we had a stupendous meal at an extremely reasonable price.

We ate at Bistro Jeanty, a terrific little restaurant in Yountville, right across from where we were staying.

I started out with a fabulous heirloom tomato salad that I had already tucked into before it occurred to me to take a photo. The picture below shows the salad with a couple of bites gone.

Then I moved on to the next course, which was a home-cured pork belly with a lentil balsamic vinegar and foie gras ragout. This dish was the envy of the table, and I had to fight the rest of the crew off.

Now you may wonder about the lentils and the carb content of this dish. There are good carbs and there are bad carbs and there are excellent carbs. This dish falls into the last category. MD and I figured that there was about a third of a cup of cooked lentils in this dish, which the USDA lists as having about 7 grams of effective carbohydrate. And I’m telling you, combined with the pork belly and the foie gras, were the best 7 grams of carbs I ever consumed.

After this great dish, MD and I split two entrées. We had the steak tartare and the flank steak.

Here is what I really went after. Great bloody gobs of steak tartare. And in case you’re wondering, I did eat a couple of the little croutons that came with it, but only a couple. We figured that since they were so thin, each was probably about 3 grams of carb. Most of the steak tartare, however, I simply forked down.

Here is the flank steak on a bed of potato risotto. And before you ask, no, we didn’t eat the potato risotto. We did taste it, however. It was delicious. MD is hard at work figuring out how it can be reproduced with celeriac. The steak was phenomenol. A bite or two of this followed by a bite or two of the steak tartare can’t be beat.

The other couple we were with split a dessert – MD and I had cheese.

We had a drink before dinner, a bottle of wine between the four of us, the meal and dessert for $244. $244 for four people for a meal like this on in Napa is truly reasonable in my book. The very next night we spent six times as much for half the food (or maybe a third the food), which I’m still sulking over. I’ll post on it in due course along with some photos.

While I’m at it, I’ll tell you about the place we stayed. We didn’t want to spend the $500 per night that we found most everywhere, so MD started looking online and found a little boutique kind of a hotel that was a bunch of railroad cars strung together. The rate was only $180 for two of the nights we stayed and $150 for the third. Here is the view from the outside.

I was miffed because the ads said there was high-speed internet, which I assumed was wireless. I couldn’t get on other than sporadically (as I found out later, when I did get on, I was pirating someone else’s wireless service), and no one was in the office over the weekend. They had left the keys in an envelope with the business next door. When the staff showed up on Monday morning, I asked about the high-speed internet that had been advertised. The lady told me that instructions were on the envelope that contained the keys. Sure enough, when I went back and looked, there they were.

The place is clean and comfortable, but it is not a luxury hotel by any stretch. But if you want to go to the Napa Valley and not spend a fortune for lodging, the Napa Valley Railway Inn is not a bad choice. I’ll stay there again, especially now that I know how to use the internet.

I got up early one morning to read. Here is MD still sacked out in the back of our caboose, so you can get the idea of what the inside looks like.

Disclaimer: I have no financial involvement with the Railway Inn or with Bistro Jeanty.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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21 thoughts on “A great meal in the Napa Valley

  1. I went to college up above St. Helena. Beautiful, beautiful area, but the hotel and restaurant prices are from another universe!!

  2. ref food porn.. you filthy little man how dare you !
    I nearly shot my bolt at the porky.. and this is being written from/at work at 3.45 am in between looking after addicts and their needs.
    I could literally kill for a tartare.

    When next in Paree go to the Bariballe on Vaugirard (metro Pasteur or Sevres Lecourbes)
    I lived round the corner literally for 2.5 years on and off.
    It’s cheap as chips and just super value esp the tartare.
    Rart bleedin narce, sunbeam.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. looks like a great meal… just woke up, was already thinking maybe today I’ll not do the IF thing, this kinda puts me over the edge, ha ha… sausage and eggs, comin up!

    so, what do you do with that eggshell sitting on top of the mound of goo, er, the steak tartare? is that raw egg sitting in there? or butter?

    It’s a raw egg yolk. You pour it over the steak tartare and mix it in. Then eat.

  4. Awesome food porn! I will be watching MD’s blog to see if she figures out the low carb risotto version. That pork dish does look fantastic.

    The pork/foie gras dish was one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth.

  5. There was a Jane Goodall documentary more than a decade or two ago, wherein she was surprised that chimps hunted and ate monkeys. I remember that the chimps would take a bite of meat, and then eat some leaves. What do you suppose the leaves were for? Roughage? Folate?

    I don’t have a clue. Maybe it was salad.

  6. My wife and I honeymooned in Napa and loved everyday of it. All the restaurants we ate at were pricey but most of the menu items described the food as being locally gotten, some as close as the restaurant’s back yard! The Culinary Institute of America is there and it seems like all the best graduates stayed local. We have been to Napa a few times and every time we go in March, the last few weeks of the preseason. Everything is cheaper and the tasting rooms are much less hectic. We actually made some friends with fellow taster and had time to talk casually with the servers. We easily saved $1000 or more just on lodging and we stayed at the Younville Inn for 5 days. Of course we spent well over our savings on wine and shipping back to Mass. but it was worth every penny! Glad you did enjoy your trip but next time go in the off season.

  7. Dear Dr. Eades,

    You should stop writing about things that you are absolutely clueless about, such as food. Although it was entertaining to read this post from that point of view, but unfortunately it also taints the professional attitude yours in other areas.

    Understanding food takes years, maybe a life time. It is much more complicated than understanding wine. From the pictures you posted I can tell that what you ate was nothing short of crap from every point of view that really matters, most importantly quality of ingredients (which you probably will never fully understand what I am talking about) as well as taste marriages and execution. But if you don’t know better, I suppose that it is entirely possible to beleive that it was a “stupendous meal”.

    With the above I have not said that FL is a great place. There are no truly great restaurants in the US. Not yet.

  8. Hey – by chance we are visiting California from the UK next week and plan to visit the Napa Valley so your restaurant recommendation could not have been more timely!

    I am also very amused to see you talk about food porn, since I had decided to post regular photos of food on my blog during our trip, calling this The Great Cake Porn Tour.

    As the name suggests, in my case I will be posting photos of great cakes I see. This might seem at odds my stauch anit-sugar stance, but it’s really a cellebration of the fact that I can look but not touch, and a kind of grudging admiration for the cake-makers of the USA who far exceed (IMHO) the efforts of the Europeans. After all, as I say in the post, at least drug dealers don’t tend to pretend what they are selling is bad for you. Unlike peddlers of supposedly healthy foods that are nevertheless sugar-laden, cake-makers tell it like it is.

    Will let you know if we make it to Yountville!

    Pay Now Live Later

    If you do make it to Yountville, make sure to hit Bistro Jeanty.

  9. Do not fear fat, but cut the bad fats. A good deal of the metabolic syndrome (which virtually all persons with abdominal obesity have) is from the toxicity of excess fat in the blood stream (the beta cells of the pancreas suffer from lipid toxicity). Some of it comes from the abdominal fat itself. But, some of it comes from saturated fat and transfat in the diet.

    Sure we know about trnasfats but what this fella has to say about sat fat..gibberish or not please ?

    Complete gibberish.

  10. The steak tartare looks delicious! Roundest eggshell I’ve ever seen! My brother returned home from a year in France in the late 1950’s with the info about this wonderful dish, which we’d never heard of! I’ve been eating it ever since. Make mine with a little Worcestershire sauce, a little Dijon mustard, chopped raw onion, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and egg yolk, of course. What else do I see in your version? Capers?
    We didn’t know then that it was healthy, just knew it tasted great. What a great place Napa must be, to actually find it on a menu!

    The steak tartare contained all the ingredients you mentioned along with capers. Another place in the US where I’ve found good steak tartare is at Les Halles, Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant in New York.

  11. From the picture out towards the lake in Tahoe, it looks like I rented a house about 6 years ago farther up the hill and more towards clockwise. I was probably the nicest place I’ve stayed while skiing.

    Our trip to San Fran and Napa has unfortunately been replaced by a second trip to D.C. Otherwise I would certainly check out the restaurant. I’m dying to try the steak tartare and foie gras and pork thing. Might have to look into making some myself. So jealous.

    You can find recipes for steak tartare all over the place. The foie gras and pork belly dish, however, is a different story. I wouldn’t have a clue as to where to find that.

  12. @ MJ:

    Could it be that maybe, just maybe, YOU are the one who is clueless around here?

    As I see it, Dr. Mike writes about food from two main aspects:
    a) from the Protein Power point of view, and everything related to low carb nutrition
    b) from his own personal point of view, describing what he likes and enjoys.

    Most people would agree that from both of these points of view, he is one of the best experts around. For those who don’t agree, it’s his own personal blog and he can write whatever he feels like writing. This is not a blog about high cuisine, and thanks God for that since, according to you, there can hardly any be found on this planet. I don’t think that people who don’t like this blog have to necessarily hang around. Especially if they don’t even understand what this blog is all about.

  13. Oh, I so want to stay at the Railway Inn! That just charms me no end. The food porn is wonderful, too.

    I ran across this today and thought you’d get a kick out of it given that you’ve blogged in the past about the press and science:


    Funny cartoon. Thanks for sending. Both MD and I got a kick out of it.

  14. Sorry to say that your picture caught me in the middle of a migraine-induced bout of nausea, and the resulting wave of unpleasantness might keep me from ever trying tartare. My mom would find this funny since I always used to eat raw ground beef by the handful as a kid!

    This episode actually brought up a question: what does a good low-carber eat while gastrically compromised? All the usual recommendations (rice, crackers, applesauce) won’t work. Any recommendations from personal experience with your family?

    Also, I’m confused about your net carb figures for lentils. As I recall, the times I’ve purchased canned lentils for use in chili puts it at about 15g carbs for 1/2 cup (of course I don’t have a can handy at the moment to check).

    Just as an update on the low-carb impact on my migraines: I went more than 2 months migraine-free while being only moderately strict on diet. This latest one is still only 50% as bad as my previous ones (requiring ER treatment), and I can directly attribute it to end-of-summer beach days involving carbs of the fermented variety… I’m thankful daily to you, Gary Taubes, and Dr. McCleary for helping me end that nightmare. I was always one of those detestable people who could eat anything and still maintain weight and blood levels, simply from lucky genetics and metabolism. Until the migraines started, I’m sure I was well on my way to some awful health problem (cancer? heart disease?) without a clue. I’m actually thankful for the fact that the migraines, as bad as they’ve been, might have given me many more years with my family by making me change my diet.

    We always sip bouillon (chicken or beef) during times of gastric distress. It tastes good and adds back some of the electrolytes that have been gotten rid of during the process.

    I got my figure for lentils from the USDA site. I took the total carb content for 1/3 cup and subtracted the fiber to get the amount of actual available carbs.

    I’m glad to hear that your migraines have lessened. I’ve never had one, but I’ve treated many. And none of them looked like fun.

  15. You mentioned good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates, i’m curious what makes one better than another ?

    thanks in advance

    Nothing. They’re all carbs. I was just kind of making a joke.

  16. You keep promising to tell the $1400 dinner story . Please stop stringing me a long!
    Valerie 😉

    It’s coming. I’m waiting until MD has her post on it up. We have a difference of opinion, so I want to give both sides of the issue. Unfortunately, at this moment her computer – an iMac, no less – is in the shop. It went into white screen mode overnight a couple of days ago and had to be taken to the repair place. She has the photos she’s going to use on her machine. It’s supposed to be back today fixed with all data intact. Pray for her.