Chef Chris Cosentino in the kitchen of Acacia House.
How do you jump-start a long-empty 1907 mansion in St. Helena and bring it into the 21st century?
You hire San Francisco Chef Chris Cosentino to showcase his patented blend of the bold and the finessed to a glorious new restaurant there, called Acacia House. That’s just what the developers behind the new Las Alcobas Hotel did when it opened earlier this summer on Main Street.
The property, the first by the Mexico City-based luxury hotel group, blends Old World with New World in a posh setting that still somehow manages to feel grounded and unpretentious. That’s what I found when I was invited as a guest of the resort one night last month.
The restaurant is housed in the original mansion, once a private residence, then a B&B. It still has a sense of grandness with its wrap-around porch, where diners can enjoy a drink or a meal.
A historic mansion houses the restaurant.
The dining room.
The big white house is still what you see from the front of the road. But venture to the back of the property, and the look becomes strikingly more modern with the hotel part done up in sleek steel, stone and wood.
Popovers to absolutely, positively die for — at The Farmer and The Fox.
As I sit down to the most incredible popovers of my life, it’s hard to believe I once rifled around to score discounted clothing and purses in this very same spot.
Yes, the buildings that make up the long-closed St. Helena Outlet Mall, which once housed Escada, DKNY, Coach and Brooks Brothers, have been redeveloped into decidedly new enterprises that surprisingly look like they were there all along.
Cairdean Estate now owns the property,which is lighted by strings of white lights and a glowing circular, tiered fountain. The buildings have been repurposed to include a wine tasting room, a mercantile (to open in the next few months), Butterscots Bakery, and The Farmer and The Fox. It is the latter that has drawn me to visit. Opened in June, this elegant riff on an English pub is headed by Chef Joseph Humphrey, formerly of the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, Murray Circle in Sausalito and Dixie in San Francisco.
The redone property that used to be an outlet mall.
The English pub-vibe of the bar.
The focal-point wine cellar.
Humphrey, who earned two Michelin stars at Meadowood, was cooking at a special event off-site on the November evening I was invited as a guest to try the restaurant. But you wouldn’t have known, because the food was still exceptional.