CALIFORNIA DINNER #4 BOTTEGA (YOUNTVILLE)
There was little doubt at any time in the planning stages of this trip that Bottega was going to be one our destinations. All of us were anxious to experience the culinary skills of Owner/Chef Michael Chiarella (Food Network TV star). We arrived much too early for our 8:00 P.M. reservation (my fault, as I had thought we were scheduled for 7:00 P.M.). We did some window shopping which is all one can do in both Napa and Sonoma after 5:00 in the evening. It makes no sense to me, or the rest of us, why shops would close at 5:00 P.M. when this would be the perfect time to cater to the tourists who have spent the day visiting wineries and are looking to fill the hours prior to dinner with some shopping. We sat on the terrace for a while and had a drink and soon we were seated at our table in the chic, fashionable eatery.
Once again we had brought with us a bottle we had purchased earlier. Tonight it was the 2006 EMH/Black Cat Cabernet Sauvignon, just a shade less appealing than last night’s 2007 vintage but still a wonderful wine. From the Bottega wine list we chose one of Michael Chiarella’s own wines, the 2006 Chiarella Family Vineyards, “Eileen”,Cabernet Sauvignon. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this wine and it was also reasonably priced on the wine list at only a few dollars above retail.
Before I even start on what we ate I should probably say that none of us considered this a great dining experience. It’s even a little hard to pinpoint why. The food, overall, was good, not great, the service a little slow and it felt like we were one of many tables that our server had and we certainly had our turn but it felt like “our turn”.
For starters I had the Burrata Caprese, Joe had the House-cured salumi and some of the others had the Butternut squash soup with creme fraise and pumpkin seeds. Carol had a spinach filled ravioli for her pasta dish .
What Gerry had for his pasta dish, his wife Joann had as her entree,
For my entree I had the Toasted Trade Spice Fulton Valley Chicken Breast sweet corn & potato velutata, arugula & shaved corn salad, sherry vinegar pan sauce. It was pretty good. Joe had one of the fish “specials”, I believe it was halibut. He thought it was fine.
Carol and Kathy both chose the Smoked & Braised Natural Short Ribs preserved Meyer-lemon spinach, smokey jus. Carol thought it was good, Kathy was disappointed. Although the meat was tender she felt it lacked flavor. We also ordered the truffled fries for the table. I had read more than one review claiming “the truffle fries are to die for”. You die for them. I’m not; they were just OK. As I mentioned earlier, there was just something about the entire meal that made everything slightly unfulfilling. It may be that we went in with expectations set too high. Chef Michael walked thru the dining room and stopped at a few tables but much to Carol B.’s dismay (she’s a huge fan) he didn’t get to our table. Eventually, he changed from his white Chef jacket and sat with some friends to enjoy his own meal. As we were walking out, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind posing for a photo. Carol was mortified that I would disturb him while he was eating. She is totally correct. It is NOT something I should have done but, he was very gracious and got up and told Carol and my wife, Kathy that, “it’s no trouble at all”
Michael Chiarella was very nice to take the time to pose with us. He also makes a very nice Cabernet. I also have read enough reviews on Bottega to know that it’s usually a great dining experience. We just didn’t feel it on this particular night.