A lot has happened at Bardessono in Yountville since I last visited in 2009 a few months after the luxurious, eco-friendly resort opened.
First, it became one of only three hotels in the world to be LEED Platinum certified, the highest standard for environmental design.
Second, its opening chef, the very talented Sean O’Toole, has departed. The former group operations chef for the Michael Mina Group is now the chef and culinary director of kitchen operations at Quince and Cotogna, both in San Francisco. Bardessono is in the process of looking for a new executive chef to replace him.
Last month, I was invited to be a guest of the hotel for a night’s stay and to experience dinner in the soothing 93-seat restaurant with its towering windows that slide open to the main courtyard to let the breeze in on warm evenings.
The suites, which run about $650 or more a night, feature such touches as organic bed linens and robes, gas fireplaces, private courtyards with an outdoor shower, motion-controlled window shutters, complimentary bottles of filtered water, and enormous bathrooms that conceal massage tables.
The look is loft-chic with hard, industrial surfaces softened by natural wood and soft, natural fibers.
The resort sits on five acres of gardens and vineyards. Take a stroll around and you’ll find all manner of herbs and greens growing in the garden even in winter. They’re featured in the restaurant’s dishes, which are built on local ingredients.
You’ll find more inspiration when you sit down in the dining room and unfurl your dinner napkin, which hides a small packet of flower seeds for you to take home to plant.
The a la carte menu is divided into “Field and Forest,” “Ocean,” and “Pasture and Range.” Many of the dishes also offer the option of ordering them either as a “small” ($9 to $24) or “whole” size ($11 to $35).
My husband and I settled on the six-course chef’s tasting menu ($85; or $130 with wine pairings). Four dishes come from the current a la carte menu, then are supplemented with a cheese course and dessert. The kitchen also was kind enough to throw in a few extras on our visit.
The evening started with Dungeness crab salad, accented with peppery arugula, crunchy jicama, avocado, blood oranges and creamy creme fraiche. If there were only a little more acid, the dish would have really popped.
Next, a very fun dish — Maine diver scallop with a paper-thin sliver of crisp chicken skin on top with the playful crunch of a potato chip. It was unexpected and memorable.
That was followed by a luxe rendition of mac ‘n’ cheese done Alain Ducasse-style with house-cured ham, rich mornay sauce, plenty of Gruyere and Burgundy black summer truffle shavings. It was salty, earthy and cheesy. It’s a dish to be eaten with a spoon rather than a fork to make sure you get plenty of the sauce, thinner than expected, in every bite.
Liberty Duck farm followed, with the breast roasted and the the leg done confit. What looked like strands of pasta on the dish were actually daikon cut cleverly to look like noodles. An oozy egg lay on top to incorporate into the “noodles.” It was a fun dish, but the daikon noodles could have used a little more seasoning.
A creamy, piquant wedge of blue cheese with Asian pear was a nice bridge before heading to dessert.
The sweet finale was pear soup with tiny scoops of lemon verbena sorbet. The soup, thick like nectar, was sweet and tasted intensely of pears. With it came sugar-dusted beignets, which needed to be a little crisper and were rather on the bland side. Vanilla bean seeds would have done wonders to liven them up so that they didn’t taste only of dough.
I can’t say this dinner reached the heights of the one I enjoyed under Chef O’Toole. Still, there were promising moments that make me look forward to seeing how the restaurant continues to evolve in the future.