They've Got Sol


As if cozy accommodations, free cruiser bikes and aromatic, bake-yourself mud treatments weren’t enough, Solage Calistoga, the new wine country hotel, has also got a fabulous restaurant—Solbar, headed up Chef Brandon Sharp, who comes by way of Gary Danko and French Laundry.

Solbar has a casual vibe, but the attention to detail and execution that goes into the menu is anything but. You can almost feel Chef Sharp and his team sweating it out in the kitchen while you sip a nice Viognier and gaze at the modern sculpture-cum-fireplace.

Solbar's beef short ribs.

Since I’m commitment-phobic, one of my favorite things in the world is an extensive menu of starters, and Solbar’s is beyond enticing. My favorites were an inventive hot-and-cold endive salad garnished with ruby red grapefruit, light-as-summer lettuce wraps filled with spicy chicken, glass noodles and carrots; and handmade gnocchi with little cubes of butternut squash, wild mushrooms and pancetta. If my appetite were limitless, next up would have been the sliders with something temptingly called “ten-hour onions” and the barbecued pork buns with chile-mustard sauce.

The entrees are straightforward: flatiron steak, seared halibut, Berkshire pork spare ribs. My pick: The beef short ribs, marinated in red wine and served over a creamy garlic risotto with a smattering of watercress alongside. This was the kind of meat dish that creates pauses at the table, followed by sighs and closed eyelids, followed by an increasing level of general happiness until the dessert menu arrives, and you conclude there is no possible way you can eat one more bite, but then you order two of them anyway and by the time you’re through you stumble back to your little cabin with your gay best friend thinking, it would be nice for us to sleep together, wouldn’t it? And look how gorgeous the moon is. And even though you sleep in separate beds, you both wake up the next morning feeling a little bit like you’ve shared something intimate and almost sinful.

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