The City of Napa, which doubles as the county seat, often gets second billing to Yountville, a smaller city that’s ground zero for The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, along with talented chefs like Richard Reddington and Michael Chiarello. However, restaurants like Torc are helping to make south county even more formidable. Chef Sean O’Toole, a Massachusetts native who previously cooked at high-profile restaurants like Cotogna and Quince in San Francisco, and Cafe Boulud and Tabla in New York, has his own culinary showcase. I squeezed in two meals at Torc during my visit to Napa for the wine-focused Bud Break Boot Camp, and every dish hit the mark, but none so squarely as the Milk Chocolate Caramel Bar ($9).
When I spoke with O’Toole after brunch, he preached layered textures and ingredients, and they were certainly in effect for this standout dessert. The bar consisted of four layers: crispy feuilletine, fluffy sunflower mousse, milk chocolate mousse, and chocolate caramel ganache. Coconut foam, chocolate snow and candied sunflower seeds capped the bar. Decorative chocolate sauce graced the plate, along with creamy quenelle of toasted sunflower ice cream.
Brunch, which Torc hosted, brought several highlights, including house-cured steelhead trout, and hip-hop songs from old school rappers like Slick Rick, EPMD, and Run DMC. Still, that last bite of milk chocolate caramel bar was the best.