Brassica Napa Valley

Lucky me, I was invited this past week to the friends and family tasting at Cindy Pawlcyn’s new restaurant Brassica in St. Helena.

It’s in the former ‘Go Fish’ location, with a little bit of interior restyling and the same wonderful outdoor patio for those fabulously warm days and balmy nights in the Napa Valley.

They’re also doing something new and brilliant with the wine program: Brassica’s offering the entire wine list — which includes a dozen small producers without tasting rooms — by the glass *and* in 2 oz pours so you can pair each and taste a broad range of different wines. See what I mean? Brilliant!

The menu is truly inspired and encompasses flavors from all areas of the Mediterranean– Southern Europe, N. Africa and the Middle East. Everything from the kitchen is made with tremendous care…even the ceramic salt cellars and olive dishes were made by Cindy herself [because she clearly didn’t have enough to do in opening a new restaurant].

We started off the meal with the lightest, fluffiest, creamiest hummus I’ve ever had — almost the texture of a mousse, but with substance (if that seeming contradiction makes any sense). The fava bean ful in the center, perfectly cooked farm egg and freshly made pita bread right off the grill just elevated the it to a whole other level.

I love haloumi cheese and was so excited to see it on the menu. This amazing fresh haloumi seasoned with oregano, chili and garlic was heavenly. In addition to the little cast iron skillet being a sweet presentation, it kept the cheese perfectly warm and tender.

If you like a good fruit/cured pork combo like I do [think bacon-wrapped date], these delicious salty/sweet pancetta-wrapped and roasted Colavolpe figs are right up your alley.

For all you shrimp fans, these wild shrimp with espelette and plenty of garlic are so flavorful and tender, they just melt in your mouth.

Okay, I’ve had eggplant fries before but I have to say that previous encounters were nothing — and I really mean ‘nothing’ — like these light as air, za’atar seasoned strips of satisfaction. The spiced yogurt dipping sauce is bright and the perfect companion.

I must confess that I am not generally a sardine fan. However, my dining companion adores them and I like to share and taste, so was game to try. The verdict from this non-oily fish loving girl: the crunchy skin and rich flavor of the fish combined with the tang of the mustard vinaigrette on the bitter greens salad was just the right balance and I liked it so much, I just might order it on my own next time. Swear!

Despite having an already full belly, I called on my dessert stomach to come to the game and was so happy it was able to rally. This lemon, ricotta cake made with ground pinenuts was divine — great texture, light and lots of lemony goodness.

These spiced, poached figs in orange blossom sauce with vanilla ice cream and a date and honey stuffed phyllo ‘cigar’ were rich with flavor, not too sweet and a wonderfully satisfying end to the meal.

There’s so much more I had the desire yet no physical capacity to try: leek and pancetta risotto with friend egg, coriander & thyme braised rabbit with pappardelle, Turkish lamb with fig & onion yahni, and, and, and….I guess that just means I’ll have to return a few more times with more friends in tow so to taste it all.

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