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Bravo to Bardessono

Bardessono may be the newest hotel to open its doors in bucolic Yountville.

But it’s quite unlike any other.

This luxurious eco-resort, which opened in February, sits on five acres of gardens and vineyards. The 62-room hotel features a “green spa” that is heated and cooled by an underground geothermal system. Doors, tables, and other furnishings are made of sustainable, hand-milled and reclaimed woods. The hotel hopes to garner a LEED platinum-rating for environmental responsibility. 

Granted, not everyone will be able to afford to check into one of the posh suites that start at about $500 a night that feature outdoor rain showers, and bathrooms as large as the main bedroom areas. More folks, however, might be able to splurge on dinner at the resort’s restaurant, overseen by Executive Chef  Sean O’Toole, formerly group operations chef for Michael Mina’s 14 restaurants.

Yours truly was invited recently to try the serene restaurant, done up in soft earth tones, and towering windows that slide open to the main courtyard. On a Sunday night, there were only a handful of diners at the 93-seat restaurant. And that’s a shame because O’Toole’s food was just flawless.

In keeping with the resort’s philosophy, ingredients are sourced locally. There’s even a garden on site, where O’Toole can have his pick from a bevy of herbs, produce, and fruit trees.

The chef’s tasting menu, five courses with a couple of amuse bouches to start, is $85 per person. There’s a lightness to O’Toole’s cooking, which marries well with the setting.

Flavors pop and linger on the palate. The skin on the striped bass was crisp as a potato chip, and the flesh meltingly tender. The spot prawn floating in the gazpacho was tender, and meaty like lobster. Its accompanying tiny green almonds (immature nuts that have yet to develop a hard shell) looked like translucent pumpkin seeds, and had a delicate flavor and an almost soft, grape-like texture inside. And the gnocchi, which O’Toole makes in small batches with potatoes put through a ricer, were the most ethereal I’d ever had.

O’Toole’s wife, Cynthia, the assistant food and beverage director, pairs her husband’s dishes with spot-on wines.

Here’s what I enjoyed:

* Marin Sun Farms house-cured beef  tongue, with pickled ramps, mustard vinaigrette, cress, and rye bread crostini

* Tomales Bay oyster on the half shell with lemon, and mignonette

(Brocard Auintessence de la Rive Droite du Serein “L ‘Extreme” First Cru 2007)

* Green almond gazpacho with spot-prawn

(Charles Audoin Marsannay Rose 2007)

* Little Farm potato gnocchi with local chanterelles, green asparagus, and Parmigiano-Reggiano

(Scott Paul Pinot Noir “Cuvee Martha Pirrie” Willamette 2007)

* Roasted striped bass with Swiss chard, grapefruit, and Sparrow Lane balsamic vinaigrette

(Keller Pinot Noir “La Cruz Vineyard” Sonoma Coast 2005)

* Watson’s Napa Valley lamb, roasted and curry braised with coconut basmati rice, pink lady apples, and fennel

(Round Pond Cabarnet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley 2005)

* Seasonal citrus soup with toasted orange cake and citrus sorbet

(Grof Degenfeld “Fortissimo Tokaji Hungary 2006)

The next time you’re in Yountville, stop in. Food this good deserves to command a larger audience.

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