Chef's Blog

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

September 23, 2010

It’s difficult if not impossible to eat your way from Calistoga to Napa this time of year without tasting every California fruit (except Meyer lemons) you could name.  From apriums to pluots to nectarines, figs, and every berry, all are featured on both the sweet and savory sides of our menus.  But what about Napa Valley’s most widely-planted fruit?

Oh, right.

Inspired by sole veronique, we created a lemon-poached petrale sole with pickled shiitakes (thank you David Chang), cashews, broccoli, icicle radish, fresh lime, black corinth grapes, and sesame-radish vinaigrette.  Very healthy, vibrant, huge flavors, great with Riesling and Sauv Blanc.

For the new lamb dish, we actually started with the idea of making a syrah grape gastrique, but most wine grapes have a higher ratio of skin and seed to pulp than nonviniferous (?) grapes, which makes it an expensive and onerous process to use them in a refined application.  So we began with Bronx grapes, deep purple beasties that suddenly went out of season after four days, and switched to red flame grapes, which have a decent balance of sweet and sour with a bit of tannin to the skin that works quite nicely in the dish.

We start with a whole saddle of lamb from Pozzi Farms (the saddle is from the lower back, between the ribcage and the hips; you can split the saddle and then cut cross-sections for t-bones).  We clean and denude the loin and the tenderloin, and use the lifter meat and the fat to make a red wine-garlic lamb sausage (thank you Brian Polcyn).  A 1/4″ thin layer of the sausage is used to wrap the tenderloin, and the mixture is seared on the plancha, then served over a mostarda of red flame grapes.  The loin is seasoned and grilled, then sliced and served over parisienne gnocchi and grapes than have been seared in brown butter.

Red chard provides the vegetable and astringent element to the dish (and we dice and pickled the bright red stems for a piquant garnish).  The sauce is made in the pan we use to sear the grapes and gnocchi from white wine, shallots, grain mustard, dijon mustard, veal stock, and thyme.

A lamb lover’s lamb dish, and a cook’s lamb dish.  Great with our local wines and true to the season.

Don’t get me started on the hamachi with watermelon . . .

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