MICHAEL CHIARELLO'S BOTTEGA IN NAPA


If you're a fan of Top Chef, you probably already know the name Michael Chiarello. The chef and owner of Bottega in Napa competed in the first season of Top Chef Masters with other celebrity chefs including Hubert Keller and Rick Bayless. At the invitation of Sherry Page of Culinary Getaway, a woman who is very much in the know of wine country and all things tasty, I went along for a lunch that demonstrated the merit of Chiarello's status among Top Chef Masters.
 

Bottega is located in the rustic and picturesque town of Yountville, which has become popularized in the last two decades by many of Thomas Keller's ventures, mainly French Laundry, Bouchon and most recently, Ad Hoc.



Sherry's the woman sitting at the table, she's my soul food sister. I'm looking forward to traveling  on one of her Culinary Getaways, perhaps the truffle getaway or the Provence getaway. One day ...*sigh* ... hopefully sooner rather than later.

 

We arrived early at Bottega roughly an hour before the lunch crowd, when all seats in the house are occupied. Cavernous isn't it? But in a wonderful rustic and elegant way. Sherry started with the shaved brussels sprout salad ($9), marcona almonds, sieved egg, pecorino, whole citrus vinaigrette. It's a light, airy, fresh and well-composed salad. This is one of Sherry's favorite dishes at Bottega.

 

Roasted golden and chiogga beets salad ($12) with Point Reyes blue cheese and pistachio vinaigrette is an excellent example of Bottega's emphasis on fresh and high quality ingredients. The salad is a warm combination of sweet, earthy, tangy and savory flavors, which are on the bolder side with a generous foundation of pungent blue cheese to complement the sugar sweet beets and refreshing pistachio dressing.

 

Monterey calamari ($10), crisped with Arborio rice flour, aioli nero accompanied by a roasted meyer lemon half. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying a plate of lightly battered and well-crisped fried calamari. The plate arrived with a squid ink sauce that both sounded and looked intriguing. While quite good, the commonality of fried calamari makes it easy to be overshadowed by other spectacular offerings at Bottega.


Wood-grilled octopus ($14) olive oil braised potatoes, pickled onion, salsa verde. Tender and supple octopus flesh, smoky with a sprinkle of hot spice. I thought it was going to be tough to outdo the refreshing and colorful chiogga beet salad, but a bite of the smoky, paprika seasoned octopus made me pause. I think this was the best dish of everything we ate.

I know octopus is going to be a challenging ingredient for some, but the phenomenal texture, lightly charred on the exterior and tender and almost briny meat, makes this a dish worth at least a try, even for the non-adventurous eaters. After finishing with the satisfying octopus tentacle, tender green leaves, I was surprised to find a large slice of yukon potato at the base of the salad, and thought twice about eating it. Potato, it's such an ordinary ingredient and could be skipped, but I took a small bite, and again, was corrected on my assumption. I don't have any memories of being impressed to such extent by a simple potato. It was full-flavored, rich, nutty, and seasoned perfectly, so much so, that I hope one day to learn how to cook this potato just like Mike.

Each one of these dishes are on the appetizer menu, Sherry and I had two each, and it was sufficient for us to leave full and happy with no extra room for dessert, unless we tried, but we didn't. I'm certainly looking forward to revisiting Bottega again and trying some of the spectacular entrees. Carolyn of Food Gal picked one of the dishes at Bottega, the gnocchi topped with a duck chestnut ragu as one of the top 10 dishes she ate in 2009. I'll definitely return for that and perhaps it will be on a warmer day so that I can enjoy the meal on their stylish outdoor patio.


Bottega
6525 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599-1300
(707) 945-1050

59 comments:

my boyfriend cooks for me said...

Oh wow, you are SO LUCKY to have had the opportunity to check out Chiarello's restaurant! I'll be honest that I wasn't rooting for him when I watched Top Chef Masters (I kind of love Hubert Keller), but I still wouldn't turn down a meal at Bottega!

lululu said...

only by the look of the restaurant decor and the delicious food, i'd think the price must be something. but it's actually a very good price to eat there!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I love Hubert too. Fleur dy Lys is a great restaurant! I'll admit I haven't watched too many of the episodes, but I certainly enjoyed this restaurant.

doggybloggy said...

what a fantastic lunch you had - you are starting the new year right - oh, what are the copper posts used for?

Chef E said...

Okay, I never thought I would say 'tentacles looked so appetizing', but these do indeed!

Your description is note worthy, and tasty at best!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Doggybloggy - the copper cups are kind of funky, they are used to serve water. They're pretty heavy and cold, so I felt a bit weird about drinking out of them initially. It's definitely memorable.

John D. said...

We ate lunch there last summer. It was one of the highlights of our Napa trip.

Aux délices des gourmets said...

ton assiette a l'air délicieuse
le restaurant est magnifique
à bientôt

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

I loved reading your review and can't wait to go there. I read Carolyn Jung's review of the restaurant, and I decided right then that I had to try the gnocchi!

Sarah said...

One of these weekends we will head to the Napa Valley and visit a ew of these iconic restaurants. The plating is beautiful and the cuisine looks fresh and appetizing!

Jenny said...

I've been enjoying his show for sometime as well as his competitions and his retail catalog. My husband and I will definitely have to get there. Hopefully on a road trip this year. What a beautiful and elegant blog!

Yasmeen said...

I liked his show on FN.The restaurant looks classy,especially like the beet salad :D

Chow and Chatter said...

oh wow what a fab place and the countryside is stunning have fun my friend

Rebecca

Cristin said...

Oh man! I love Michael AND I love the whole Yountville/Napa/Sonoma area. Beautiful pictures - I would have LOVED the calamari, looks delicious!

And yes, I will definitely make time for a visit in June!

and this blog said...

ohhh i love michael! he's a hottie! i'm so jealous... must visit next time im in napa =)

Gelareh @ Orange Truffle said...

I enjoyed your review of the restaurant and visiting it through your words.

A Year on the Grill said...

Oh I love these travel posts... I may never get there, but i sure enjoy reading your trip

Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ said...

I really love Chiarello's style of cooking. I thought he got kind of a bad rap on top chef masters. What delicious eats! I'm envious.

Victor said...

Awesome looking place. And, the grilled octopus - amazing photos. The price seems reasonable too. Wish I can be there.

HippieMom said...

Great place! the photos are superb! One day we have to share lunch in 1 of those fab resto;[:-) Who knows?!
Plz It will be on me!!
((Bisous))

3 hungry tummies said...

What a feast!! Thanks for sharing those beautiful photos too :)

MaryMoh said...

Very beautiful settings and food! I love it. Love all the photos. I would love to eat in a place like that. It would be so relaxing.

Katy ~ said...

Absolutely beautiful, the scenery, the restaurant, the food! What a package, and all for a price I'd be willing to pay. Must be a wonderful experience, but I know I certainly enjoyed your post.

Joanne said...

Wow this meal sounds awesome. All of the dishes look like art rather than food...I would almost not want to eat them! Almost.

Little Inbox said...

The octopus looks good! :)

Gloria said...

Nice post Christine, I really love hima and like cook, (The last year I see at TV Food channel)
I love his style to cook, thanks by the pics, gloria

Angie's Recipes said...

The colourful beets salad looks just sensational!

TKW said...

The photo of the beet salad is amazing!

Thanks for sharing your experience with us! I think Chiarello is a jerk, but his restaurant certainly sounds worth the trip.

Anna said...

Wow...It looks amazing, what a beautiful place. Loved the shaved brussels sprouts salad.

Jennie said...

Amazing! I am sooo jealous!

Beth said...

one day, I am going to make it to Napa and all of these fantastic places! But I actually think I will likely make it to Provence first...it's on my 2011 list!

Heavenly Housewife said...

How fabulous that you got to eat at such a wonderful place. I am just the teeniest bit jealous... okay, more than a teeny.
*kisses* HH

The Diva on a Diet said...

I love Yountville ... but then again, who doesn't?! What a fabulous meal and such a treat to be taken along for the ride with this post. :) Beautiful photos, too, FLB!!

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

Mimi said...

Thanks for sharing your lunch with us. Such an incredbile meal.
Happy New Year!
Mimi

Michelle said...

What a fabulous lunch! The pistachio vinaigrette sounds wonderful but everything looks gorgeous!

Sometimes I just order 4-5 appetizers, seems I can eat more that way, then getting a main course!

The Blonde Duck said...

I've always wanted to decorate my kitchen with copper pots. I have no idea why.

Kitchen M said...

I'm not following top chef anymore but man, I'd better check out this restaurant since I live so close! The brussel sprouts salad looks amazing!

HippieMom said...

Hello Christine ;-] I nominated you for the Happy award ;-D
XoXo.

Fresh Local and Best said...

Thanks HippieMom for the award! I'll meet you for lunch anyday!

xo, Christine

Lori said...

I love his show on the Food Network. How exciting to go to the restaurant! It looks absolutely beautiful - food and atmosphere. :)

Simply Life said...

oh my, it looks just gorgeous in there! wow, what a fun place to go!

Erica said...

I love him!!!! Wow! Looks like a wonderful restaurant. I would love to go.

Stephanie Miskew said...

Great review and wonderful photos - I feel like I was actually there!Everything looks soooo delicious:)

The Cooking Photographer said...

Reading your post I have died and gone to heaven. If I could get my hands on even half these ingredients I would be attempting a recreation.

I need to move. Seriously.

Laura

Diana Bauman said...

How fun that you were able to dine here! Those golden beets look delicious and the octopus, wow! Thanks for sharing this :D

5 Star Foodie said...

How cool that you had a chance to eat at Michael Chiarello's place! Great review and a delicious lunch!

Juliana said...

Oh! Everything looks so nice and the dishes yummie...it seems that you had a great time...good for you :-)

Kathleen said...

I love Michael Chiarello! I've gotta plan a new trip!

Nina's Recipes said...

Wow... gorgeous pics! I like Chiarello's food and style!

Carolyn Jung said...

I still dream about my dinner there. Everything from the gnocchi with duck-chestnut ragu to the tempura-fried soft oozy egg to the unbelievably fork-tender porchetta was just phenomenal. I can't wait to go back.

Selba said...

What a great restaurant to visit!

Happy New Year :)

Debinhawaii said...

What a wonderful lunch--your meal looks just perfect--that calamari is making me drool. ;-)

Donna-FFW said...

What a gorgeous restaurant, great way to start off the new year. The dishes all look delicious!

Joy said...

What surprises me is that his restaurant is not overpriced -- I had the biggest crush on Michael Chiarello during Top Chef Masters. He was so charming and his food looks beautiful as well! Hope you are doing great and happy new year :)

nancy at goodfoodmatters said...

Gorgeous photo essay!!
I'm inspired by that beet salad with Point Reyes Blue ( a firm favorite!)and pistachio vinaigrette....thanks, Christine!

Pam said...

What a great looking restaurant - the food looks amazing too. I love Michael Chiarello.

Mari @ Once Upon a Plate said...

Fabulous review Christine! It's on my list for when I visit home next time.

It's not easy to get good shots of dimly lit restaurants but you did a GREAT job of capturing the ambience. Cheers!

Krissy @ The Food Addicts said...

the colors of this photo are amazing. It looks so refreshing, healthy, and delicious. when they say eat the rainbow to be healthy, they really mean it :)

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Thanks for walking us through this meal! Looks like an amazing experience. We're headed to California this summer and our trip included a few nights in wine country - ans, I am hoping, a trip to Bottega too.... It's hard to fit it all in.