3111 St. Helena Highway N.
St. Helena, Calif. 94574
Elegant California Cuisine
12 – 9 p.m. Daily
If you’re looking for a romantic day-trip getaway and a fine-dining experience, Brasswood Bar+Kitchen located at Brasswood Estate in St. Helena, is the perfect place to melt into the day and enjoy the bounty of Napa Valley. I ventured there on a Sunday afternoon with three friends to experience Brasswood Estate, which opened in February last year.
We began in the tasting room, sampling a few signature wines—the 2013 Estate Cabernet Franc, the 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2013 Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, poured by Gretchen Jensen, tasting room associate. Made with sustainable grapes, their wines are soft and balanced, and the tasting room is quintessential relaxed, elegant California casual. There, we met Kevin and Jackie LoVullo, from Buffalo, New York, who were visiting their son, Len LoVullo, who moved to Napa for adventure, and, like us, they were there to relax and enjoy the afternoon with their son.
Next, my friends and I tour the property, which features a variety of event spaces—perfect for a wedding and complete with a bridal suite fit for a princess—a fountain and outdoor fireplace. There’s also an art gallery, a bottle shop where they sell wine and spirits, and a Sensory Wine Room, where they host private tastings with the intention to create a beautiful sensory experience for guests. Their bakery is a popular stop for locals on the way to work and offers a salmon burger and other sandwiches, a variety of salads including an ahi tuna salad, and fried chicken made with buttermilk and paprika.
We arrive for dinner at Brasswood promptly at 6 o’clock and were shown to our booth. While Brasswood, bills itself as a bar+kitchen, the ambience is upscale, California casual. As we sank in to the oversize booth for four, it felt as if we were in a world of our own. We begin with their signature hot mozzarella. Though it’s not on the menu, be sure to ask for it. Cheryl Counihan, our server, explains that the mozzarella is made in the moment‑fatta nel momento‑from curd sourced in Sonoma. Simple, yet lush creamy perfection served on a puddle of olive oil with crostini, we all agreed it was the best cheese experience ever.
In contrast, Counihan serves the arancini, a mozzarella stuffed risotto balls delicately fried and offer a satisfying crunch, served with a rich Bolognese sauce. The Dungeness crab cake is also delicately fried and served with arugula, frissee, cilantro and a remoulade sauce. Brasswood sources most produce and ingredients from local Napa Valley farms and the dining experience is California cuisine at its finest.
The butternut squash soup is rich and creamy squash perfection with crème fraiche.
Next we try the mushroom ravioli made with wild mushrooms and ricotta, brown butter, truffle oil and parmesan, which is woodsy and rich, yet delicate, and I found myself thinking about this entrée days later. The herb-infused papardelle and short rib sugo was a hit all around—rich, delicate and served with a sprig of sage. Each plate at Brasswood is a work of culinary art, and though portions are light, the food is rich and fulfilling.
David Nuno is the executive chef, but on this evening Israel Gomez, sous chef, was overseeing the kitchen. “Our goal is to create an environment and food that is refined, but cozy,” says Jennifer Bohr, general manager. “Our kitchen cooks simple food with lots of flavor and lots of love. Our mission is not to re-invent the wheel, but to make the experience so ‘crave-able’ and comforting that you dream about coming back for more.”
Guests at Brasswood come from around the globe, but it’s also a popular spot with the locals, too. Says Counihan, “Our success is all word of mouth.”
For dessert, Counihan brought the butterscotch panna cotta, drizzled with rum caramel sauce, crème fraiche and served with a rosemary hazelnut cookie and a dash of sea salt with fresh, French pressed coffee. It was the perfect end to a relaxing day-trip in Napa Valley, Brasswood-style. As for my small entourage that day, we’re still talking about our dining experience, and plan to make it back one day soon. Kudos to the chef and the rest of the staff! Brasswood is the perfect place to relax, slow down and enjoy the bounty of Napa Valley.
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