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Nov 5, 2007 09:53 PM


"J" and I made the pilgrimage to Napa on Sunday for lunch at Ubuntu and I have, for the first time in almost two years, regretted no longer living in that wine country hamlet. The addition of Jeremy Fox at the oddly-combined restaurant and yoga studio in that town is a major boon. The restaurant is vast and elegant, studded with reclaimed wood tables, colorful photographic montages, and a very odd sculpture. Being the art junkie that I am, the hostess was kind enough to sit us at the communal table so I could look more intently at the sculpture by Mark Chatterley - haunting in the post-apocalyptic darkness of the figures' black, soulless eyes. Pics on eG.

While we perused the menu, we chomped some amazing sea salt- and lavender-dusted Marconi almonds.

Sunchokes with Romesco sauce were extremely flavorful and hearty. Simple and hearty yet enticing.

Rustic bread is served in a simple sewn burlap sack.

Marinated beets and asian pears with fresh-picked greens and whipped Point Reyes blue cheese. I'm not sure I have ever tasted sweeter beets. The vinaigrette was perfect; not too acidic and the cheese a perfect complement.

We decided to share two salads and two entrées - the first salad was Little Farms potatoes and fennel with red wine-mustard vinaigrette. This salad was incredibly robust and flavorful. The dressing showed elegance and thoughtfulness; enhancing the earthiness of the potatoes with the tang of the mustard not overpowering but playing with the brightness of the fennel, enhancing the entire dish. Stunning.

I had heard much of the Cauliflower in a Cast Iron Pot and was thrilled at its heartiness. A curry aroma arrived as it was placed on the table and the description was "roasted-puréed-raw" with Vadouvan spice and brown butter toasts. I believe the melange of cauliflower to be held in a custard as it was so intensely rich. The first few bites were eaten atop the crusty toasts, but getting full, it was easier to just scoop lovely mouthfuls directly from the pot.

Our other entrée was the Young Root Vegetables roasted with Saba, Anson Mills farro, and purée of sucrine du berry squash. I am unfamiliar with farro and had to ask -- while it had a bit of the consistency of barley, it was actually a wheat product. The purée was rich and elegant. This was an extremely elegant dish with a complex layering of flavors in the varying vegetables.

I normally would have slipped a cheese course in but we were awfully full. Not too full, however, to try some of the amazing desserts produced by Deannie Fox. The vanilla bean "cheesecake" in a jar with sour cherries and pine nut sable was a no-brainer choice. Amazingly creamy and rich, I only lamented I couldn't take it home with me to finish. I had no problem finishing the accompanying tuile cookies, though!

Our hostess suggested we include a Shot of Hot Chocolate with our cheesecake. I live near the Bittersweet Cafe which I thought had close to nearly the best hot chocolate I had ever tasted, but Ubuntu's offering, infused with Blue Bottle Coffee and topped with foamed condensed milk is so thick and rich, it almost had the consistency of slightly thin pudding. A house-made stroopwafel was the accompanying cookie and sounding like a broken record, I have never had a version of this quite so good. The caramel inside, freshly made and decadently drippy, was obviously applied just before service as the cookies were still perfectly crunchy.

In this high-tech world, I thought it odd that a new restaurant would be named for a Linux-based operating system, only to discover it is an African philosophy of humanity towards others. The artistry of Jeremy and Deanie Fox creating what they do without any meat should be no detractor for carnivores - and if I could eat like this on a daily basis, I wouldn't mind giving up meat at all.

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  1. thank you for making my mouth water. i am heading there for brunch on sunday and cannot wait to eat there...and the desserts sound divine!

    1. Terrific report. I've been trying to sample something different on each visit, though I have a hard time avoiding the cauliflower in the cast iron pot. I did try the beets for the first time the other day and they were terrific. The root veggies are next on my list. Funny about the hot chocolate. I was thinking the exact same thing regarding Bittersweet'shot chocolate, until I tasted Ubuntu's version.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

        I agree Dan - great report. I wish this place were next door so I could go more ofter. It's gonna take too long to try everything they have to offer. In our only visit 1 1/2 weeks ago, the problem we had was not ordering too much. I'm not a vegetarian (my wife is), but I certainly didn't feel like something was missing with no meat. One of the most satisfying meals in recent memory

        1. re: rfneid

          I made a point of asking the chef if there was going to be a tasting menu so that more individual bites could be sampled, and was informed that that is something they are working on for the future. From his background at Manresa, I see that aspect as a huge boon for folks like me who often dine alone and prefer a lot of little tastes to one or two big ones.

          1. re: rfneid

            I too wish it was closer to me. I have to go back to try the cauliflower. It's hard to order a lot! My boyfriend and I shared a salad, 2 entrees, olives, and 2 desserts-- we were very full and in heaven.

        2. Very descriptive and well-written. Thank you!

          1. Perhaps a chowdown is in order. That way we could order everything on the menu!

            1 Reply
            1. re: rfneid

              Hounds on many different boards have organized dinners and other gatherings and they're always a lot of fun--plus the reports after are great chow tips!

              We have a couple of guidelines we ask organizers to follow in order to keep the focus of the boards on chow talk and not on RSVPs and other organizational details. The main guideline is that posts to the boards should be announcements (and followup reports!) only--all discussion, scheduling and RSVPing should happen off the boards.

              The way most people handle this is by posting an initial announcement to their local board with an email address for people to contact if they're interested in getting together for a Chowhound dinner. If you use the 'report' link on that announcement, you can ask us to sticky it to the top of the appropriate board so it doesn't fall off the front page.

              They then use email (some cities even have established Google or Yahoo groups or listservs, etc, for scheduling dinners) to discuss the specifics of where and when to meet. Once the group has decided on a concrete plan, you can post a second announcement to the boards, with the specific details, again, including an email address so people can RSVP offline. If you 'report' that one, we'll sticky it in place of the original thread.

              Then, once your dinner has happened, start a new thread so people can report back on what they ate and whether it was delicious so other hounds can benefit from your experiences.

              Good luck with your event!

              The Chowhound Team
              For Those Who Live to Eat

            2. Thanks for the write up, it sounds delicious.

              I wondered if I was the only one who wondered what food had to do with Linux, guess I'm not the only computer geek on the board.