Yes, there are many reasons living in San Francisco is fabulous but in my top 5 is our proximity to the many wine regions of Northern California. During the Easter break, I took a day trip up to St. Helena to have lunch at Farmstead with my sister and to take in the change of the seasons.
Farmstead is a new restaurant in St. Helena run by the owners of Long Meadow Ranch Winery and Long Meadow Ranch. An ideal set up—they have their own first-rate supply of seasonal ingredients to be inspired by. I had the California halibut with roasted beets, asparagus, lemon and mint which was heavenly. The sauce was rich and buttery with a perfectly balanced profile of Meyer lemon, tarragon and a few other herbs, a delightfully bright homage to the season. But even while enjoying my halibut, I was eyeing the featured grass-fed beef cut of the day at the table next to us. I really wanted to order it but went with the lighter halibut since we were planning on dessert—be sure you do, too!
The wine list was one of the most exciting elements about the restaurant. They featured wines from around the world, all extremely reasonably priced and their corkage fee was only $2 (which is donated to a local charity), not typical of the area. I know Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle criticized the decision to pair a menu centered on local foods with a wine list made up of wines from France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, and Austria. I see his point but I'm okay with it because this wine list truly rocks! They didn’t reach for big brand names, but selected wines of character and more importantly.... GREAT FOOD WINES at GREAT PRICES!
The restaurant has only been open for a few months and is still working a few kinks on the service side. All in all, I found the meal, ambience and wine a real inspired find for the area. There are many restaurants I love in the area, but they tend to be more expensive. I think Farmstead did a nice job carving out their niche.
During our visit, we also stopped for a behind the scenes tour with a friend at Vine Cliff Winery. The view from the winery was magnificent. On the way home, we HAD TO make a stop at Bouchon. If the French Laundry is a stretch for your budget, then stop at Thomas Keller’s bakery and grab some bread and macaroons. I even bought a foie gras biscuit for my dog Frank! I'm very thankful that we are close to the area and will be back soon for to be inspired by the scenery, great food and great wine.
Angela Camacho, a certified sommelier and author of a best selling wine tool, The Wine Wheel®, shares her obsession with wine and food.