A blog about food and cooking by Chris Norris

Yountville Celebrity Chef Birthday Tour!

What do you give a 48 year old guy for his birthday when all he really wants is a KTM (hint to Laura) to add to his already over sized collection of dirt bikes?  How about a weekend food trek in the Napa wine country?!   I’m writing in front of the fire in a very cozy room at the Yountville Inn north of Napa, working on my appetite in advance of a day of feasting and wine tasting.  Yountville, named after trapper/settler/farmer George Yount, is the hometown of Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and a collection of other high-end, celebrity chef-owned culinary establishments.   This weekend, with the exception of a kickoff tapas dinner at Zuzu (www.zuzunapa.com) in Napa, we’re eating entirely in Yountville. Coming later today is Keller’s French Laundry, followed by Michael Ciarello’s Bottega.  And tomorrow, we’ll start the day with another Keller rendition, Bouchon!

As for Zuzu, our weekend started off with gastronomic goodness at this pretty darn authentic tapas bar in downtown Napa.  True to their Spanish heritage, Zuzu doesn’t take reservations but has plenty of bar seating and tables for two, so schedules can be flexible and places to sit open up fast.  We had a near perfect rendition of the Spanish Tapas we’ve come to love, whether we’re in San Francisco, New York/Boston, or Valencia and Madrid.   Our choices included olives, Iberico ham, grilled octopus and potatoes, bocalao (salt cod), grilled green peppers fresh from the Zuzu garden, and grilled and marinated cauliflower and yellow beans.   While the octopus was arguably slightly over-cooked, the peppers were the best I’ve ever had.  In fact, the only dish we thought was a miss based on our experiences in Madrid and Valencia was the cauliflower and yellow beans, which were over-marinated in sherry vinegar and then served neither hot nor cold, confusing both the diners and the cauliflower.  We finished the meal with a very fine empanada filled with apple compote and topped with house made caramel.  Rockin!

Next stop: French Laundry!

Tapas on the Napa River at ZuZu
Lovin' It!

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