Monday, December 13, 2010

Bottega and a Fool’s Errand, With Rolls

My friend Carol and I made a plan to go to the Napa valley and I thought we should try Bottega, which Virginia and I had ditched in favor of Mulvaney’s in Sacramento. Bottega is in Yountville, a really pretty, really small town right smack in the Napa Valley. It mainly consists of great restaurants, wine and shopping. All in all, not a bad deal!

Hostess Station, Bottega

About Bottega, it’s an attractive place, with lots of covered outdoor seating and a fireplace. However, it was a pretty cool day and absolutely no one was eating out in the patio area. In the dining room the tables are really close together; we were seated next to two women who were eating smallish plates of risotto with porcini mushrooms. Of course, as I often do, I asked them what they were having and how they liked their food. They said it was great but they were on a wine tasting tour and I suspect feeling pretty relaxed, so who knows. I did found out those bowls of rice cost $25 each!!! But I was polite and didn’t get snarky.

Veal Burger with Parmigiano Fries

What looked great on the menu was the parmigiano French fries. Couldn’t resist; they were included on two dishes, the veal burger and the skirt steak. The server recommended the veal burger so we both went for it. Our meal arrived and first thing we dove into the fries. They were really good, hot, cooked through with a fair amount of parmigiano cheese and a little parsley. So far so good. But wait – the veal burger was so bland it screamed out for mustard. So why didn’t I request it? A question for the ages. I did mention the fatal blandness of my burger to our server and asked for a suggestion on how to goose the flavor. I settled on garlic aioli, which helped a very little bit. Man, I should have asked for mustard!!!!!!!!!

I opted not to have wine since this was Thanksgiving weekend and I had drunk wine on turkey day and eaten like a pig. But Carol did and the poor dear got them to let her taste three red wines before she settled on a passable one. The problem is they serve their RED WINES a little CHILLED. Don’t know why they do this, but neither of us is enchanted with chilled red. Ugh. I saw one man warming his wine glass with his hands – and it was a white wine!

I will say, however, the atmosphere is nice, the wait staff is warm, friendly and helpful. Maybe I would have liked the skirt steak better, or anything else for that matter.

In an earlier post I mentioned my desire to find Mast Brothers chocolate. I stubbornly refuse to order a dozen expensive bars online so I had determined I would drop in at Bardessono Hotel & Spa in Yountville to see if I could snag one. Bardessono is a beautiful place, with very clean lines in the Japanese way, very peaceful. The staff was so nice, encouraged us to walk around the property and showed us one of their rooms. Carol and I looked in the bar and the restaurant, and the menu looked delicious. We drank water with cucumber slices and generally had a heavenly time. Unfortunately their little spa store had been out of Mast Brothers bars for a month so I was left out in the chocolate cold. However, the really nice young woman in the shop suggested we go to the French Laundry because she heard they had it. And since I had seen them listed on the Mast Brothers website I said okay, let’s go there. What was I thinking?

Water Feature at Bardesonno

A Fool’s Errand

We headed for The French Laundry, a famous restaurant, hard to get into and also famously expensive, let’s say a cool $250 a head for the chef’s nine course tasting menu. I do have it on good authority the food is amazing. As soon as Carol and I walked in the door I knew this was a fruitless mission; the lack of candy bars lying around was only one hint. But I strode in and headed straight for the station where two men waited. As there was no greeting forthcoming (how strange! how rude!) I had to speak first. Diving into the deep end I briefly explained my mission and they looked at me like I was nuts. Could it have been the lack of furs, diamonds and 6” heels or the mission we had chosen to accept? I’ll never know for sure. But when the French guy said “we make our own chocolat,” I just couldn’t resist. I replied “you mean you take whole cacao, grind it up, make chocolate liquor…” Well, no, he allowed, they didn’t, and I had succeeded in pricking a very pompous balloon. Yee hah! So we left empty handed and moved on to much friendlier turf, Dean & DeLuca in St. Helena where I snagged a Vosges Red Fire Bar. Unfortunately it was sugar free and not as creamy as the regular sugar laden bar, yet nicely acceptable.

With Rolls

If you are at all into making your own holiday rolls, these are delicious and not at all that hard to make. You can make them in advance and freeze them if you wish. They are still wonderful. The recipe originally came from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook; my mother gave me the recipe years ago. It called for shortening (ugh, for many reasons) which I have changed to butter. I use a stand mixer with the dough hook and even knead the dough with the mixer. Here you are.

2 packages yeast (1/2 ounce)
¼ cup warm water
¾ cup milk
½ cup (1 cube) butter, cut up
½ cup sugar
2 tsp salt
4 ½ - 4 ¾ cups sifted all purpose flour
3 beaten eggs

Put yeast and warm water (about 100 degrees) in mixer bowl. Gently warm milk and butter until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm. Add one cup flour to yeast along with eggs and mix. Beat in milk/butter and sugar and salt. Add 3 more cups flour and mix well; add enough flour to make a soft dough. Let mixer knead dough on a lower speed (2 on a Kitchenaid) for 5-8 minutes, or until dough is glossy.

Here’s the secret to great tasting bread: spray a container with oil and dump the dough in it. Cover and put in the refrigerator overnight. It’s called retarding because of the cold, but it will definitely rise and in the process develop lots of  flavor.

Wedges with Bench Scraper

Turn out your dough and divide into 3 equal parts. Roll out each part into a 9” circle. Brush with melted butter. Cut into 12 wedges and roll up each wedge starting with the wide end (stretching out the wide part a little). With the little tip end on the underside, arrange on a baking sheet (you will need 2) and brush them with butter. Cover with plastic. Let rise about 45 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes on top rack. Keep an eye on them, they over brown easily. Enjoy.

Finished Product