Getting Away from it All

April 22, 2018

I’m just back from the Worlds of Flavor Conference in the Napa Valley, where the food was stunningly good. And abundant.  Every day dozens of chefs from around the world cooked mountains of food in astonishing variety. So much food, in such profusion, that it became almost numbing.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting impressions of the conference, a meal at the new Charter Oak, and a final feast in San Francisco at Mourad.  But right now I want to mention a meal I snuck away for.

On the last night of the conference I found myself at yet another global feast provided by what seemed like hundreds of chefs. People milled around, munching and exclaiming. Suddenly I looked at all those stations and…. I just couldn’t do it any more. I wanted to stop grazing and sit down for a civilized meal. I wanted to order a few dishes, talk to friends, sip some wine.  Wonderful as it was, I wanted out of the movable feast.

And so I escaped to one of my favorite restaurants: Terra in St. Helena.

It was an oasis of calm and quiet.  And the food was… fabulous.

I started with that hamachi at the top.  Simple. Elegant. Delicious.

A little fritto misto of maitake mushrooms.

White asparagus, shrimp, caviar.

Fantastic tripe stew with white beans and seared scallops.

And a dumpling soup, rich with kimchee, fresh vegetables and bright flavors.

It’s a comfortable restaurant, popular with local winemakers who pass glasses from one table to another.  But as I was leaving I noticed that I was not the only escapee. Sergio Rossi of Milan’s Trippa was there.  Earlier in the day he’d done a demonstration of deep fried tripe, where he managed to turn the honeycombed innards into deliciously crunchy little strips dusted with salt and rosemary.  They were like French fries with a college education. And what was the great Italian chef eating at Terra?

Tripe,, of course.

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