Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

Just kidding.  They’re all brilliant of course.

I’d rather use this space instead to talk about the beef we serve at solbar.   Yesterday, a guest asked me about our (double) cheeseburger, which I described in mouthwatering (for me and, I hope, for her) detail, from the pain au lait buns we bake fresh in the morning to the well-raised beef that we grind ourselves.  We melt sharp Tillamook cheddar over both 4-oz patties and add bibb lettuce, pickled red onion, a slice of heirloom tomato (in season only),  and the best fried pickles west of Shreveport.

All the meat we use is hormone-free and antibiotic-free, and for the bavette steak on the dinner menu we use american Kobe beef from Snake River Farms up in Idaho.  The bavette steak come from the bottom sirloin, a muscle that gets a good workout and therefore has good flavor, much more then tenderloin, ribeye or strip.  On most cattle, this steak is a chewy one that ends up on bistro menus as steak frites, but on a Wagyu cow, it’s well-marbled and tender without giving up any flavor, so the result is a juicy, full-bodied steak that can take a good sear and has no chewy cartilage or tough sinew.

In these characteristics, it is similar to two other cuts that are in vogue with chefs, the flatiron (or blade chop) and the hanger (or onglet).  I think the bavette is more texturally interesting and flavorful than the flatiron, and less bloody/livery than the hanger steak, which is very close up against the cow’s internal organs.

One of our signature items is the beef shortrib, for which we use boneless shortribs from the corner of the shoulder chuck.  We marinate them overnight with red wine and aromatics, then sear and braise them gently the following day.  The result is an incredibly rich, succulent cube of meat that is sauced with its own (cleaned and reduced) braising liquid.  If there was ever a dish born and bred for big Napa Cabs, the shortrib is it.

I agree with Michael Pollan in principal on most things, but a cold, hard fact of professional cooking and restaurateurship(?) is that good beef is considered a birthright by many Americans.  We (try to) eat salad and vegetables daily, and then we celebrate with steak.  As an unknown, surely amateur, and future marketing genius once put on a t-shirt, “I love animals.  They taste great.”

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