Chef Christopher Kostow at his new, more casual restaurant, the Charter Oak.
The name references a massive oak tree that was once the focal point of the property before it was mowed down in a train derailment long ago.
Now, what has opened there is creating a big bang all its own.
The Charter Oak, which debuted just over two months ago in St. Helena, is the new hot spot in the Napa Valley. It can’t help but draw all comers when it was opened by Chef Christopher Kostow of the Michelin three-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, and his business partner Nathaniel Dorn, Meadowood’s restaurant director. Katina Hong, former chef de cuisine at Meadowood, heads the kitchen at the Charter Oak.
It’s also enticing tourists, curious to see what has become of the storied stone building that housed the popular Tra Vigne restaurant for nearly three decades.
The hearth, where much of the cooking is done.
Like its namesake, the restaurant embodies wood throughout — from the polished wood tables to the expansive wood bar to the kindling used in the kitchen hearth where beef rib is grilled over cabernet barrels to the wooden cutlery drawers underneath dining tables to the pocket-sized “The Observer’s Book of Trees” that the bar menu gets tucked into.
Rossotti Ranch’s veal rib eye grilled with herbs and spices. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)
For decades, veal has been shunned by many.
For good reason, what with horror stories of calves snatched from their mothers, only to be confined in crates so minuscule they couldn’t even turn around.
But just as some farmers now have instituted more humane treatment of chickens, pigs, and full-grown cows, so too have they done so with calves.
Rossotti Ranch is a ninth-generation, family-owned ranch on the border between Marin County and Petaluma, that is committed to raising 100-percent pasture-raised goat, chicken, duck, and veal. It was established by husband-and-wife Tony and Julie Rossotti, who hail from ranching families originally from Switzerland.
Ranch Co-Owner Julie Rossotti (photo by Kristina Franziska Haas).
They recently just started selling their meats nationwide through their Rossotti Ranch Web site, where you can purchase different packages, such as the Rancher’s Box, 5 pounds of premium veal cuts, plus 2 pounds of ground or stew veal meat, a jar of seasoning, and a cookbook — all for $125. Or create your own custom box of products.
Broccoli gets a punchy-good companion.
Imagine your favorite tuna salad sandwich — but in creamy, thick dip form.
That’s the beauty of the Italian classic of tonnato, made with good-quality, oil-packed tuna whizzed in a food processor until smooth with olive oil, mayonnaise, and lemon juice.
It’s traditionally served with cold veal that’s been braised or simmered. You might think the combination of tuna sauce and meat a strange one. But it’s actually an inspired marriage that’s proved a happy coupling for generations. It’s like how opposites attract: a mild-mannered tasting veal gets brought to the foreground by the exploits of its more exuberant, brash, salty-sassy sauce.
But tonnato can go with so much more, as Chef Joshua McFadden shows in his new cookbook, “Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables” (Artisan), of which I received a review copy. McFadden, owner of Ava Gene’s restaurant in Portland, OR; wrote the cookbook with Martha Holmberg, CEO of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
The book delves deeper into the seasons so that you learn what’s best not just in spring, summer, fall, and winter but during the in-between times as one season starts to disappear into another.
Scallion bread reinterpreted at China Live.
Growing up in San Francisco, I remember attending many a celebratory Chinese banquet dinner at the huge, three-story Gold Mountain restaurant in Chinatown.
This year, long-time restaurateur George Chen took over that old space, pouring more than $20 million and more than three years of work into transforming it into China Live, which some have likened to a Chinese version of Eataly.
I’m not sure it’s quite that yet, what with only the first floor occupied so far. But it’s wonderful to see a splashy new food emporium opening its doors in a neighborhood, where time has stood still for the most part.
Chen plans a fine-dining concept upstairs in the near future, which will be named Eight Tables by George Chen. And a Scotch-centric bar, Cold Drinks, is set to open any day now on the second floor.
A display of products in the retail store.
For now on the main floor, there is a Oolong Cafe, a tea bar with savory and sweet bites; a cocktail and wine bar; and a store that sells everything from woks to China Live Sichuan seasoning to barrel-aged soy sauce to cute T-shirts.
Lightly Salted Route 11 Potato Chips.
When one of my former magazine editors told me I had to try Route 11 Potato Chips, my ears and appetite perked up.
And when he told me that none other than celebrated Chef Jose Andres was a big fan (he even calls for them specifically in his recipe for a Spanish tortilla), well, how could I not order some?
Now, I don’t normally buy or even keep potato chips in my house. Yes, they are too much temptation to have on hand. So the thought of actually mail-ordering potato chips from Mount Jackson, VA was rather mind-boggling.