If you want to learn what spring tastes like, head to Farmstead, a restaurant from Long Meadow Ranch Winery in the heart of Napa Valley. That’s where chef Stephen Barber and crew draw from the surrounding gardens, and 30 acres in Rutherford, to deliver “excellence through responsible farming,” which was evident in every plate.
During my recent visit, the smell of rosemary was thick in the air, and rain was falling, as I stepped inside the barn-like space, which features farm implement chandeliers, a towering arched ceiling with exposed rafters, and open kitchen with oak-burning oven and grill. It was that final point of excitement that helped to elevate naturally scintillating vegetables, including carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, and my favorite vegetable of all, artichokes.
These wasn’t just any artichoke. This was a Wood Grilled Castroville Artichoke ($12), sourced from California’s unofficial artichoke capital, a city that’s hosted an artichoke festival for over five decades in Monterey County. This wonder of nature absorbed flavor from the wood grill, and luxuriated in olive oil crafted from trees owned by the winery. The finisher was a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt, a great touch. I squeezed on lemon juice and dipped the leaves in piquant sauce gribiche, a French classic that combines egg yolk, mustard and oil. I developed a savory rhythm, leaves mounted, and I reached the hearts, which were infused with oil and wood smoke. Simple but amazing!