Just a short post from Napa
I’m in Napa for a few days. Had dinner last night at that hot new restaurant everybody’s talking about, Ubuntu, which is vegetarian. I told my server, “I don’t know anything about your menu, so why don’t you just surprise me?” It’s basically a small-plate place, and she paired the wines as well. (Almost everything comes from Ubuntu’s garden, in south Napa.)
Here’s what I had:
1. marinated “forono” beets and “merlin” beet tostones with wheatgrass, goat’s milk labneh and local wheatberries. Wine: 2008 Domaine de Fonstainte (an old fave) Gris de Gris rose, from Corbieres.
2. salad of assorted brassicas and flowering rabes, with miso “bagna cauda,” meyer lemon “sylvetta,” arugula and parmesan cheese. Wine: 2008 Chenin Blanc, Janvier Cuvee Sainte Narcisse, Jasnieres (off-dry).
3. purple rain carrots al rescoldo, cooked in vegetable embers, with carrot crudo, wild celery, kumquat salsa verde. Wine: Gridley Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley.
The wine pairings were seamless and inspired, and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. On my way out, I spotted, of all people, Charlie Olken (!!!) and his lovely wife, with a few others. Stopped by their table and, although I’d promised myself “no dessert!”, they twisted my arm. The vanilla bean “cheesecake” in a jar, with sour cherries, and crumbled nuts (which my cousin had told me not to miss) sent me into orbit.
Anyway, we talked mostly about (what else?) social media, but there did arise one question: Is vegetarian food harder to pair with wine than meats, poultry and fish? I think it is. If you have a great roast, it’s rugged and potent enough to pair with almost any full-bodied red. But Ubuntu’s veggie fare was so subtle, so transparent, so intricate, I had the feeling that the wine pairings had been carefully and meticulously thought-out.
What do you think?