Trip Report: Russian River/Napa (Ubuntu, Farmhouse, Round Pond)
Got out of SF this weekend and visited:
(2) Farmhouse Inn
(3) Round Pond Winery (for the olive mill tour)
Because of an accident on the bridge, we arrived at Ubuntu about an hour past our reservation time. I called from the road to explain the situation, and the crew there was friendly and accommodating. We shared marcona almonds with lavender sugar and sea salt, radishes with local chevre and nori, baby beets with grapefruit and avocado, chickpeas with burrata, and the farm egg with robuchon potatoes and red wine.
The almonds were a great way to kick it off. The portion was huge; we took these back to the inn and ate them as snacks for the next two days. I loved the sugar/salt combination with lavender, which had been my least favorite trendy ingredient a couple years back. Remember when everyone served lavender creme brulee? Anyhow, back on topic...
I loved the beautiful beet salad, which tasted perfectly balanced to me: the sweet beets and creamy avocado against the plump sour grapefruit. An unexpected hit was the chickpeas, which my mother wanted, but I thought would be boring. The dish was fairly straightforward, but warm and delightfully offset by creamy, delicious burrata.
By the time we got to the egg and robuchon, we were pretty full. This was good but not fantastic--I actually wanted more egg (specifically, more yolk) to liven up the plate.
Sum total for dinner plus two $15-ish glasses of wine was about $100; I thought it was a great value. Ubuntu wasn't a flavor revelation to me, but it seemed like honest, creative food, beautifully prepared.
The yoga thing was less weird than I expected, but in light of my assumptions, I was surprised by some things (they pushed bottled water, and replaced our plates and silverware every time we blinked). The service was a little flaky (share plates were removed and replaced long after our food arrived), but I'll definitely return.
(2) Farmhouse Inn
We stayed and ate at the Farmhouse: breakfast two days and dinner one day. Breakfast was straightforward and well done (zucchini quiche one day, berry french toast the next).
Dinner was...amazing. Really, really good. From the service to the wine to the food, everything was special.
We had the lasagnette appetizer (housemade noodles with spring vegetables); rabbit rabbit rabbit entree. Rabbit rabbit rabbit, one of the signature entrees, is rabbit done three ways: a bacon-wrapped loin, roasted rack, and confit of leg. Each part was exceptional, but I'd have to pick the bacon-wrapped loin as my favorite, because, hey, it's bacon. My mom had a sea bass she really liked, but I didn't try.
Like everything else on the menu, desserts were straightforward and well executed. I had a ricotta and mascarpone cheesecake; my mom had a chocolate souffle.
We split a bottle of Cornas Geynale Syrah, a superb old-world wine that went beautifully with my rabbit and (I hope) my mother's fish. The wine director was friendly and helpful; it seemed like every table received special attention.
OK, one minor complaint. Maybe not so minor for me, but I like to know where my meat comes from. Maybe an Omnivore thing, maybe a geek thing, maybe just a concerned person thing, but especially at restaurants of this caliber (and price range), I think it's a fair question to ask. There were three meats on the menu (rabbit, steak, lamb); the rabbit was from Sonoma (Cloverdale, I think?); the lamb was from Australia or New Zealand, and the steak was of undetermined origins. I probably would have ordered the steak had it been local. End rant.
(3) Round Pond olive oil tour
I'd come before for the wine tour across the street and had such a great time I had to return. Really, the Round Pond tours are probably the most fun I've had in Napa, thanks mostly to great product and sophisticated, yet completely down-to-earth tour guides.
We tried four oils (Spanish-style, Tuscan-style, blood orange, and meyer lemon) and two vinegars (Italian style and California style). My favorites were the peppery, assertive Tuscan oil and the low profile California vinegar.
As part of the tasting, you take a look at the trees and the crushing equipment, then have a guided tasting of the pure oils and vinegars, followed by some light food to sample with the oils and vinegars. We had some salad, cheeses, bread, strawberries to try.
All in all, a great time at each place; I can't wait to visit again.
Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558
7871 River Rd, Forestville, CA 95436
Round Pond Estate Winery
886 Rutherford Rd, Napa, CA
Thanks for the report!
I did not enjoy the almonds at Ubuntu; sorry, but I can't get past that lavender taste...however, I loved the farm egg and potatoes, but was with a group and they served a larger portion family style: how many eggs were there in your regular serving? In our serving the yolks were perfect, IMO...
the beet salad was a little too sweet, partially because I think we happened to get a sweet grapefruit in the prep...
The fried sunchokes and the cauliflower were wonderful...but the absolute top hit was an ethereal asparagus dish....listed on the menu as:
roscoe’s delta asparagus (v)
preserved lemon coulis, SYLVETTA ARUGULA (by the way, the caps mean it was grown in their own gardens...
Not sure why lavender worked for me here, but it did. Usually I like to smell it, not eat it.
I forgot to mention that we shared the 'signature' cauliflower dish, which was great. I'd read several reports here that serving sizes were small; only for the cauliflower dish did I desire more than we were served, but it was a rich enough did that I didn't really need more.
In mid-August 2007, when we were spending a dinner or two at the now passed-on Bistro V, at either end of camping forays at Van Damme State Park and Hendy Woods, The Farmhouse was one of the restaurants that was emphatically, fondly recommended by Bistro V chef Rick Vargas and his wife.
Since our meals at Bistro V were truly memorable, I will keep The Farmhouse in my mind for our next sojourn up to the Sonoma/Mendocino/Anderson Valley environs.
And I must thank Pane for the Round Pond Estate Winery recommendations, also!