Chef's Blog

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

April 13, 2010

They look like blue lake beans because Ryder picked them so young, but they are in fact the first baby fava beans from our garden at Fisher Vineyards, fresh this morning.  We put them on the lounge menu at solbar tonight, tempura-fried with ponzu sauce.  Tomorrow they’ll make their way on the dinner menu when we roast them in a saute pan and serve them with seared diver scallops, arrabiatta vinaigrette, persillade, and pine-nut butter.

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April 12, 2010

My professional experience with wine is limited, but the solbar Sommelier, Bradley Wasserman, and I have been working on a new format for our wine list since September 2009.  With the help of Solage Calistoga GM Richard Hill, we finally rolled it out two weeks ago. The challenge was to create a format and a style that matched my approach to food and how I write the dining room menus, dessert menus, and cocktail menus–and maintaining, all the while, an intelligible, logical, comprehensible document.

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April 7, 2010

A few new menu items . . . Ryder is working on a new dinner entree with pozzi farms leg of lamb, garlic-fennel lamb sausage, white bean puree and white bean dauphine, pepperonata, and artichoke-mint vierge. We tasted it last night, and it’s BANGING. Everything you could want in a spring lamb dish without a heavy reduction sauce, without “baby spring vegetables”, without, in fact, much you might expect at all.

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“Cooking great food in a resort where the kitchen prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner is a challenge, but Brandon sharp has defied the odds.”

- Michael Bauer, SF Chronicle, Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants, 2010

April 3, 2010

At the front of the kitchen, behind the expediter’s station and facing the hot line, is a 60″ dry-erase board, only a couple inches smaller than Ryder’s new flat-screen. (To its right in the above picture are the clipboards with BEOs [banquet event orders] and above them the clipboards with daily order sheets–meat, fish, produce, dairy, etc. The fish clipboard is the one that’s broken in half [whether over an angry sous chef's own knee or the head of a prep cook, no one will say] and the order sheets cut to fit.)  This reassuringly low-tech piece of equipment has uses that I haven’t realized in previous kitchens.

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March 30, 2010

My wife and brother-in-law raided the SF Farmer’s Market for me this past Saturday, and I went down to the city Sunday morning with a bottle of Saunter Petite Sirah (a gift from Josh and Heather Clark, made by Thomas Brown) and a bottle of Romililly RRV Pinot Noir from Aaron and Jesse Inman over at August Briggs. The edible loot: two racks of lamb, a bag of miner’s lettuce, two bunches of green garlic, a fistful each of brown morels, hedgehogs, and chanterelles, fiddlehead ferns, and baby artichokes. (more…)

March 25, 2010

Now that we’ve had it for a few weeks, the asparagus is finding its place(s) on the menu . . . we have a salad of seared asparagus stalks with raw asparagus strips and tempura asparagus, Zach put a great lunch salad on the menu of asparagus all’arrabiata (tr:ANGRY!) with arugula, pickled fennel, and some delicious coppa that he cured and slices very very thin. On fried chicken night (every Tuesday) we served an asparagus fricasee with pickled red onions and fines herbes as a side dish to the pollo frito (along with mustard-scallion potato salad and cavatappi mac and cheese).  We’re trying to resist the hollandaise, ham and cheese, and egg mimosa presentations that are part of our culinary past in other restaurants . . . those things are so delicious but they’re so heavy, and the flavor of the asparagus is a bit masked by all the fat involved. (more…)

In the days before solbar opened, we tried to figure out a great pizza dough recipe. We tested at least five, decided on one. Same thing with the tomato sauce recipe. Decided on a few toppings (less is more). Then it came to Shaping the Pizza.

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March 20, 2010

This past Thursday, we put on a wine pairing dinner with Bill and Dawn Williamson, two Australian expats who make their wine from mostly Sonoma fruit at Williamson Winery in Healdsburg.   Bill crafts a LOT of different varietals and labels, and for the dinner we chose a fairly conventional progression of chardonnay, sweet wine (with foie gras), followed by pinot noir, shiraz (which he does not label syrah), malbec, and cab (with pleasant ridge “reserve”). (more…)

March 17, 2010


Good news from Gardener Greg (he needs a better nickname, this one’s a little too wholesome)–the last few days of sun have dried out the soil enough that Jose, the vineyard manager, can till the back 40, which will be planted with a cover crop that then gets plowed in again as green manure before the vegetables go in. The back 40 looks out on the Napa River (click the link for the unvarnished truth), such as it is all the way up in Calistoga, and is surrounded by vines and a fields that have lain fallow for a few years.  The fava blossoms are going crazy and the first seedlings with be planted in the hoop house this week. (more…)