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More on Cafe Lucy, Napa

  • m

Ann Leneave said: "We had the shrimp cakes for appetizers. Very tasty and really great with the Stony Hill Chardonnay. Lucy's dishes that are breaded and fried are amazingly light, crispy, and totally devoid of discernible fat. She must use high quality oil and keep it the perfect temp.
The same thing was true about my entre of fried sole. It was incredible, a generous portion of little fillets, piled high like she does on a light mesclun base (or at least I think that is right). It's been a few days and my memory is not that great in my advanced age) I think it had lemon and capers, too. Anyway it was a treat I'd like to repeat. My husband had the salmon, which was prepared a little differently than last time, minus the mustard crust, but equally delicious. He loves the way she cooks salmon, leaving the center slightly translucent, just the way we like it, without our having to say a word. We had a pear and dried cranberry crisp with vanilla ice cream. She must make the ice cream and it is DELICIOUS! She seems to be getting pretty busy and that's well deserved. I've got to get down there soon for the caramelized onion tart. I'm having sympoms of withdrawal. Also, she is making a few changes on the menu and has someone growing fresh garden stuff for her. Yum! and healthy too. "

Thanks for posting, Ann. Sorry for the long repeat, but this posting should be in a separate thread and not hidden in a conversation about Vietnamese food in Berkeley.

I''ve had two dinners at Cafe Lucy in the last month with groups of friends in the restaurant/wine trade, and they marvel at how cozy the room is and the price-quality ratio of the food and wine list.

Portions are huge, and we didn't need to order an app and entree for everyone to be stuffed. The onion/Stilton tart continues to be my favorite thing on the menu. Followed pretty closely by the roasted calamari caesar salad, but this one is a notch down because the timing was off the time Lucy was not in the kitchen. The spinach frittata is competent but doesn't stand out in the same way. The roasted prosciutto, potato and spinach salad sounded better than it came out. Just didn't have the same sense of finely tuned harmony as Lucy's dishes usually do, and the thick slice of prosciutto needed too much knife work to attack.

I'm with you on the sole. Not my idea to order it, the delicacy of the piled-high preparation and the perfect counterpoint of capers and lemon was just stunning. The steak is great - very good quality meat, approapriately blood-rare, and the green condiment (cilantro? garlic? citrus?) is simple yet exciting. The roast lamb with smashed root veggies is terrifc too.

Can't wait to try the spring menu.

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  1. I LOVE LUCY - no relation to Ms Ball. Adding Lucy to list for Pascale. PS...Since I haven't heard from my sister, Mz Leneave, I figure it is easier to connect on "Chowhound" :-)

    12 Replies
    1. re: Ben Boswell

      Oops! Nothing like exposure of even family matters to a hundred or more 'hounds.
      I didn't know brother Ben had even eaten at Lucy's. (Hmmm. That means he was up this way and didn't even bother to visit or call me.) Sound like he loved it too.
      I do have Cafe Lucy on the list of best restaurants in the Napa Valley for Pascale's article (which I haven't finished because I am giving it MUCH thought). The French Laundry and Terra are givens, and I'd include Mustard's since Pilar Sanchez is there. Not sure how many she can mention. Perhaps some other chowhounds would like to jump in with their 3 top favorites?

      1. re: Ann Leneave
        m
        Melanie Wong

        Ann, I'm glad someone else enjoys chowing with siblings. I've sometimes wondered whether I mention mine too often. Yet, they're the most intrepid eaters I know. It's a familial thing.

        I think Cafe Lucy certainly deserves to be on your list. But please be sure to present this petite bistro for what it is and not create false expectations that can only lead to disappointment. Cafe Lucy is NOT Terra or FL, and isn't trying to be. What it is, to me, is a friendly place that goes out of its way to make you feel cozy and cared for. The food is not richly detailed haute cuisine nor avant garde, instead it takes a fresh look at home cooking and adds a new flavor dimension here or there. That taste and feeling of home is present for me, the sense of staying in rather than going out to eat.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Oh yes, Melanie. I didn't mean to infer otherwise. The article in question is for a French magazine and is being written by a French friend of my brother. I know her too, so she wanted my opinion of the 3 (or more) best restaurants in the Valley, among other recommendations. I had not had enough time to get back with my brother about it so he was just being funny. The danger, I guess, would be that someone reading the post would assume I was trying to say that Cafe Lucy is on the same level as the French Laundry or Terra. I do feel that visitors would enjoy Cafe Lucy and the Foothill Cafe if they are looking for that type of restaurant. These are only my opinions and Pascale will take them as such. I was hard pressed to say that I thought there was a 3rd "best restaurant" in the Valley. There are many that are good but inconsistent, regardless of price and setting. Pinot Blanc has promise with the new attempt to improve it and Mustards has probably gotten better. We're going on Friday night. Also, Miramonte is anxiously awaited.

          A footnote fyi-- my computer is acting up , so I may not be using it for a while. Hope this post clears up any misunderstanding for chowhounds, adios.

          1. re: Ann Leneave
            m
            Melanie Wong

            Ann, I hope you're back on line soon.

            With language and cultural differences, it can be hard to articulate clearly what you mean by "that type of restaurant".

            I had dinner last night at the French Laundry (with less than 24-hours notice). Since I didn't have any contact with the reservationist, everything else was near perfect with only one dish that didn't sparkle.

            Wednesday was Mustard's Grill but the first part of the evening is still sort of a blur. In my haste to get there, I drove into Brix's south driveway by mistake. Trying to make a quick exit, I just missed running over Bob and Margrit Mondavi!!! They didn't even notice, but I was pretty shook up for an hour or two.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Thanks, I'm back.

              By "that type of restaurant" I meant a smaller, less hyped, less expensive, less elaborately decorated place, that has less overhead but delicious food that mostly local people enjoy. When we travel, we search out that type of restaurant for some memorable meals that are relaxing and enjoyable, with a glimpse into the "non-touristy" side of the local food culture. Perhaps, if I had to choose, I think I might enjoy those most, but that is just my opinion. I have high expectations when going to one of the really high-end restaurants, food that doesn't measure up, or poor service or an "attitude", is more likely to put a crimp in the evening. Actually, that is why I'm spending any time on this site, when it would be quicker to read the reviews of the so-called "top restaurants" in magazines, or the newspaper,(assuming you trusted the reviewer). I sense that there are others on this site that feel as I do, so I value their input.

              We also went to Mustard's this weekend. We felt that the new menu and dishes were better than in the past, as a whole. The rabbit dish was much improved. Before, I have ordered rabbit (grilled) to have it appear browned and dried out on the outside and rare on the inside. This time it was called rabbit, rabbit,
              rabbit, because it was sauteed, baked and grilled (I
              think I got the description right). The liver, on the other hand, was one of my favorite dishes in the past,
              and I liked it better when it had a brown sauce,
              probably made with veal stock, instead of the sweet-
              sour one it has now. The desserts were very good.
              The rhubarb-strawberry cobbler was delicious, even
              though it tasted as though it had a little pineapple
              juice in it. I thought that was a real possibility,
              for I think one of the other desserts incorporated
              pineapple. My husband had the lemon lime pie and
              seemed to enjoy it. One other person in our party of
              6 had the special angelfood cake with strawberries and
              loved it. For an appetizer I had the grilled
              artichoke with grilled Meyer lemon. Yum!

              The soup of the evening was chili! ???????

              Pilar Sanchez is no longer at Mustard's.

              We had a good waitress, but our table was very small for 6 (same one they've always had), and even though
              we had reservations for 5 o'clock in order to make a
              concert, and the tables were far from being filled,
              the hostess informed us that we "could have a seat at
              the bar", (there were not 4 seats together at the
              small bar), until my husband finished parking the car
              in their parking lot, and our 6th person arrived.
              Since my sister suffers from ALS, I asked if we might
              be seated at our table if we ordered our appetizers
              right away. She scowled and said she "supposed so",
              but she "wasn't supposed to do that". Then she gave
              me a dirty look when we left. In addition, our 6th
              person had called the restaurant to tell the hostess
              that she had gotten lost, and to tell us to please go
              ahead and order the liver for her. She arrived in
              about 10 minutes. It's this sort of bureaucratic
              nonsense that happens at some of these super-popular
              restaurants. Sometimes they lose sight of their purpose of insuring that the customer has as enjoyable evening as possible. Yes, know it's hard to
              find good help, etc., but it's important that the
              staff be advised to avoid succumbing to surly behavior, no?

              I could not imagine that happening at Cafe Lucy.

              1. re: Ann Leneave

                One of the best soups I've ever tasted was a chili soup at a place in Carefree, AZ, whose name I can't remember. People also rave about the chili soup at Coyote Grill in Santa Fe, but I frankly think it is overrated and overpriced. We could use some good chili soup around here.

                1. re: Jim H.

                  In the State of California, and only one area code away from you, check out the green chili soup at Duarte's Tavern in Pescadero.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I would be ostracised from the food snobs if I ever sunk to eat GREEN chili soup. RED chili soup is the authentic, Arizona, made-by-Mama chili soup. I will be going to Scottsdale next month, and will check out the Carefree place...maybe I can even remember the name. The last time I had green chili anything was in Denver many years ago...some friends insisted I join them at a spot for green chili. It was green, allright, but not from natural causes. In fact, after that meal, I was green. The men's room was green...the world was green.

                    1. re: Jim H.

                      My what big cajones you have! Please put some tips up on the Southwest board on your food finds next month.

                      I know the feeling, after my experience with projectile sauce nantua, I'm off lobster and crayfish for a while.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I'm not sure what "projectile sauce Nantua" is, and I think I should leave it alone. Your comment does remind me of the food joke about the great NY gourmet who went to Madrid. He dined at a famous restaurant and asked the headwaiter if this was the place famous for a rare but expensive delicacy. Thw waiter said, "Si Senor...we are famous for a dish called "Los Cojones del Torreo", translated means "The testicles of the bullring". It is very rare, and very expensive, and served only on Sundays after the bullfight. It must be ordered in advance...but if you are interested, you are indeed in luck. The regular customer who was scheduled for today's cojones had a heart attack, and his order is available. "Wonderful", said the gourmet, "I shall have them". After the meal, he told the waiter how delicious they were and could he order them for next Sunday. It was agreed, and the following Sunday the gourmet had the cojones. After the meal, he called the headwaiter over and said "Senor, last week the cojones were juicy and succulent...the finest meal I've ever eaten. This week they were dry and tasteless, shriveled and without any taste or character". The waiter looked at him and sighed, "Pues, Senor, the bull does not always lose."

                        1. re: Jim H.

                          Always fun to hear that one again, you tell it so well!

                      2. re: Jim H.

                        I'm in New Mexico where Green Chile rules. It appears in a GC stew but not usually in a soup, though I make a killer sweet potato soup with green chile.
                        If you are not familiar with green chile (that's how it's spelled here) you might confuse it with Jalapenos. Not even close. Green chile actually has a very distinct delicious flavor. It is fire roasted and hand peeled. If you ever wander out this way in late summer early fall you'll get an incling of the seductive power of the pod by just experiencing the aroma of chile roasting...You can smell it in the air. It's intoxicarting and also is addictive... we've had to ship it overnight air countless times when our daughter was in law school in Florida. I'm going to Phoenix in June and will try to find the red chili soup you refered to. I'll let you how it compares.

      2. &
        "Fine"

        Where's Cafe Lucy located?

        Asked Napa friends to make reservation there; since, apparently, they'd never heard of it, they misheard and we ended up at Uva, a pleasant but pedestrian Italian-accented place in downtown Napa.

        Lucy isn't in current phone book either.

        Thanks!

        1 Reply
        1. re: "Fine"

          Odd. The best app at Uva is the fried calamari. Anyway, here goes -

          Lucy Gore
          Cafe Lucy
          Work: (707) 255-0110
          Work Address
          1408 Clay St.
          Napa, CA
          Custom 1: Bill