We used my friend Goody’s birthday as an excuse to finally make it back to Napa Valley last Saturday, or more specific, to Yountville. Our target destination: Bottega. We had lunch there a year and a half ago and had talked since then about going back. The day had finally arrived
We decided to make a day out of it and left the south bay at 10 and made it to Yountville just before 11.30. As we had scheduled a late lunch, we decided to start our day at Bouchon for coffee and pastries. When we got out of the car, we could already smell the deliciousness that they were baking inside. With our trays loaded with croissants, eclairs and pain au chocolat and boxes to take home, we found a table outside in the sun.
Our initial plan had been to go for a hike or visit a winery in between “breakfast” and lunch, but by 1.15 we were still sitting at that same table, chatting and munching. So our hike ended up being a walk across the street thru the market place next to Bottega and into the restaurant. We were happily surprised that they had reserved the wine cellar for us, at the end of the main dining room. A beautiful room, with 3 walls of wine bottles and 1 glass wall separating us from the main dining room, our table set for 6 was ready for us. They must have had the telepathic inside that by putting us in this room they were doing all the other diners a favor, as our lunch ended up being pretty loud and rowdy, but we were in our own private room, no damage done.

To start we ordered a bottle of bubbly to toast the birthday girl, while reviewing the menu. We ordered a selection of appetizers: the shaved Brussels sprout salad, the beets, the shaved artichoke salad, the Creamy mozzarella burrata with caramelized mushroom & shallots and the “green egg and ham”. I am not a fan of Brussels sprout and I don’t eat beets, but that didn’t matter as I was in food heaven with the mozzarella with the mushrooms and even more with the “green egg and ham”: green asparagus with some sort of vinaigrette over it, topped with a poached egg and bacon bits. Oh my god, what a delicious combination. When I close my eyes, I can still taste that last bite……

Our main courses were all delicious as well. For the birthday girl, they made a special vegetable risotto and some of the other dishes were the ravioli, gnocci, Dungeness crab, and for me the spaghetti Carbonara with a soft duck egg on top. We washed our lunch away with 2 bottles of delicious Petit Syrah.

Of course some of us couldn’t resist dessert. Some ordered the Italian doughnuts and others the tiramisu profiteroles. Our waiter had called the gnocci little pieces of heaven, I’d say these tiramisu profiteroles better deserve that name and they should put them on the menu under that name. Not having paid much attention to what was happening around us during our lunch, we noticed when we were paying the bill that the restaurant was virtually empty, but for some people sitting at the bar. When we looked at our watches we realized why: it was after 5pm and the restaurant was getting ready for dinner.

We have to thank David, our waiter. It was his first day and I can imagine how he felt after his first day serving this group: one of us has a gluten allergy, one is vegetarian and our birthday girl, well let’s just say that she is not only vegetarian, in addition she is extremely picky…….but David had the patient of an angel and joked with us through our 3 plus hour lunch. The only 2 little disappointments were: having asked for a little birthday surprise with a candle for the birthday girl, this is what showed up on the table:

Embarrassing for a restaurant like Bottega and no comparison to the one they brought last time. The second, that unlike last time, Chef Michael Chiarello wasn’t there so we couldn’t ask him to join our table for a picture.
But despite that I cannot think of a more wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon. We need to find a word for a lunch that runs into dinner, like they did for the breakfast turned to lunch……linner…..or dunch……hmmmm I am not sure it really works but I guess, until somebody comes up with a better word, I will be more then happy to dunch my way thru a couple more afternoons like this.


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