Chef's Blog

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

July 4, 2010

I’ll skip right over the brilliant lamb entree (leg of pozzi farms lamb, wrapped in our house-made lavash bread with babaghanoush and summer squash, and served over tomato chutney with red wine-lamb sausage, tabbouleh, and pickled eggplant) that Ryder added to the dinner menu tonight–so I can speak to the PORK CHOP that I composed with cornbread, rapini, white corn, our cajun andouille, and roasted fig-sherry jus.

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Big spread in the Chronicle’s F&W section for our town this past weekend!  From restaurants to tasting rooms, wow.  Chateau Montelena, Dutch Henry, and Kelly Fleming are Vintner Members at Solage, Joe and Jill Cabral of Lava Vine are members, and the Lynches and everyone at Bennett Lane have always been loyal solbar supporters.

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This week, Andrew and Ryder brought in pork racks from Long and Bailey Farms, and Goose brined them with rosemary, brown sugar, black pepper, and apple juice.  The term for cleaning up a rack (be it buffalo, rabbit, or anything in between), is “french”.  Now normally when we french a rack of anything, we trim it all the way down so that there is no fat or sinew left on top of the “eye”–the long loin muscle that is the eye of the rib, or ribeye (and which becomes the saddle of lamb or veal or the strip loin of beef in those respective animals)–and the bones are made long and clean.

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June 20, 2010

On Friday, Lily Berlin came to our staff lineup before dinner service to pour her wines for the crew. She and her family are the owners and operators of El Molino, on of the smallest wineries in NV and (I believe) the only one that makes Pinot Noir from exclusively Rutherford grapes. They also make a Chardonnay, and those are their only two labels. It’s an insider’s wine, rather than a cult wine–there’s no tasting room, there’s no marketing scheme, but it’s available if you ask for it.

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It’s finally fruit fruit and more fruit as the rains have stopped and the sun ripens everything . . . we have peach cobblers going out to banquets, red plum mostarda on the new duck breast, and a killer parfait of lemon cream and crumbled graham crackers with Ortiz Farms raspberries on the solbar dessert menu. Look for pecan French toast with vanilla-poached peaches at breakfast soon.

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Last Thursday night, Zach and I went to Shane and Suzanne Phifer-Pavitt’s house to cook a Wine Auction dinner.  Ted Osborne is the winemaker for Olabisi and Datenight (which is Suzanne’s Cab), the labels of the five wines that were poured over the course of dinner.  I’m going to let the pictures tell the story (Kim Wedlake, Ted’s wife, took the good ones), and try and locate a couple of links for pieces done by food writers who were at the dinner.

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I used to be such a sweet sweet thing
till they got ahold of me

The kitchen of The Tonic, a well-conceived and -funded but relatively-short-lived-then-reconceived restaurant on 17th between 6th and 7th in 1999, was the first place and time I was ever yelled at, and by “yelled” I mean a full-throated, profane scream–along with coaching, suggestions, insults, encouragement, discouragement, a dare from the executive chef to punch him in the face (glad I didn’t try), blistering sarcasm, and flat-out laughter and dismissal in French, pidgin French, Spanish, Farsi, and Canadian.

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June 4, 2010

The two zins were giants, and we thought lamb was the meat to stand up to them–game would’ve also worked but is generally a little more lean, and we used lamb saddle and a red wine-garlic lamb sausage to give real power to the dish.  To contrast, rather than compement, the spice and fruit in the two wines, we served the lamb with socca nicoise (a chickpea crepe), salsa verde (full of herbs and  olive oil), and a ragout of yellow wax and blue lake beans with tomato confit.

Above is the saddle, all bone and sinew removed, and with the loin and tenderloin muscles seasoned and rolled inside the cleaned and pounded fat cap.  And here is the finished dish:

Tasty.

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June 3, 2010

The pinot noir from Oak Cliff was huge, juicy, cherry-y, just LARGE.  A broad canvas for medium-weight savory foods–the sous chefs and I threw poached eggs, softshell crab, scallops, pork, mushrooms, cold duck breast, and ricotta agnolotti at it before we decided to contrast its fruitiness, and to evoke the understated earthiness in its depths:  we went with a ragout of santa cruz morels and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms accompanied by seared scallops, pork belly lardons, and english peas.

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May 28, 2010

Last night we put on a winemaker dinner with Bruce Regalia and JR Richardson of Oak Cliff Cellars.  The menu read as follows:


flash-grilled hawaiian hamachi with compressed pineapple,
serrano chiles, vanilla oil and puffed rice
2009 napa valley sauvignon blanc

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seared diver scallops with santa cruz morels,
hen-of-the-woods, crispy pork belly and sweet peas
2007 mendocino county pinot noir

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roasted saddle and sausage of pozzi farms lamb
socca nicoise, tomato confit and a pole bean-marjoram ragout
2008 curtis ranch vineyard zinfandel
2008 firebrick hill vineyard reserve zinfandel

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uplands “pleasant ridge reserve”
rogue creamery “smokey blue”
toasted brioche, candied walnuts, huckleberry mostarda
2008 lake county petite sirah

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