Wine Country Eats: Mac & Cheese with Bacon, Violet Artichoke Soup & Wine
Check you out, Napa! In the 707, the space that once housed the vegetarian dining powerhouse Ubuntu is now the home to a popular new restaurant that plays to the needs of the region by offering a range of edibles and a wine list to match. Further down the road on Main Street is a spot that has not one, not two but four sommeliers on staff, all the better to assist guests with an important assignment: sourcing that perfect glass or bottle of grape to pair with seasonal fare. Garden fans, note that there is an on-site garden, which tends to keep the plates interesting and delicious.
On Main Street, Torc opened in the old Ubuntu spot in late November, where high ceilings and an open kitchen create a warm and welcoming spot complete with French and local wine favorites from Petrus to Screaming Eagle. Get twisted: torc is the neck ornament made of twisted metal by Gauls and Britons of days past. Boar is this restaurant’s apparent spirit animal and its dual nature represents "both the principles of hospitality and feasting and the skills of hunting and war” according to the restaurant site.
And you thought we were ready to get twisted and dive into Torc’s heady wine list! There’s lots to love there, oenophiles of all stripes. For the food scene, dishes from chef Sean O’Toole show some nice culinary twists: salads (beet is on trend), pasta and meaty proteins; order heritage pork, free range chicken for two and duck pasta. Sweet potato fritters, crudo or Deviled eggs are among the creative dishes you may want to share or not, depending on how well you play with others at the table. The violet artichoke soup with hedgehog mushroom, mint and lemon may win for must-have starter and pineapple French toast with Tahitian vanilla and coconut-lime sorbet bring a breakfasty element and fun to the table at the end of the meal. 1140 Main St., Napa. (707) 252-3292.
Also in downtown Napa, Lulu's Kitchen at 1313 Main launched with great food and ambience – begging the question: is this possibly Napa's nicest wine lounge? Look to the fireplace for highly desired seats; the color scheme throughout the space is appropriately warm. The updated menu from chef Isaac Coles skews seasonal and local, with an onsite garden for top freshness. 1313 Main was a wine bar and retail shop only, and last year owner Al Jabarin decided to increase the offerings with the add on of Lulu’s Kitchen. Menu musts are luxe and include mushroom pasta with crispy leeks (pictured), mac and cheese with bacon, lobster brioche bites, and caviar blini; a prix fixe menu is a good way to get five courses. The business is now a full restaurant with a wine focus that is apropos for the Valley. Another wine-centric detail is the work of Sommelier Ada Reyes, who is among the four total sommeliers on staff—all the better to guide you thru the glass and bottle options. 1313 Main St., Napa; (707) 258-1313.