Sunday, October 9, 2011



Brix rhymes with "sticks" and is named for the scale used to measure the amount of sugar in grapes. This October, with a late harvest, someone is out there with a hydrometer most days hoping the level is right. The restaurant, on Highway 29 north of Yountville, has a great wine shop, with small production wines not available elsewhere. Remodeled since my last visit,  Brix still focuses on farm-to-table. My favorite thing at Brix--aside from the food-- is suspended from the ceiling. I first saw wine bottle chandeliers in an artsy shop in Austria, but now I know they were in Napa Valley first. Made by JeAnne Ettrick of San Mateo, they reflect ambient light and remind one to order a bottle of something divine.

Despite tourist season in high gear and the approaching noon hour, Brix is not exactly busy. It looks like another solo hour at the counter, just the bartender and me. A group of diners sits   outside in the sunny garden, which extends to rows of vines receding into the hills. My hemoglobin must be low, because I'm in a mood for meat. Mulling the choice between a cheeseburger and a sausage and pasta dish, I consult Dustin the bartender. He recommends both and isn't sure which he will choose for himself later on. I pick the cheeseburger along with a glass of Groth Sauvignon Blanc.
While sipping my wine and waiting for lunch, I ask Dustin to show me the bar menu. This bar is rumored to be a great place for a late afternoon bite to eat with happy hour prices for wine and mixed drinks. Dustin confirms that most afternoons after 4:00 there is a crowd of winery folks at the bar. The bar menu has a lot in common with the lunch eats--the same cheeseburger, vegetable tempura, pizza, flatbreads and cheeseboard. There are also oysters, mussels, and a salmon carpaccio. I make a mental note to come back with a girlfriend when there may actually be some men to meet here, then shift my focus to lunch.
The best thing about the burger is the choice of cheese--brie, cheddar or blue. Blue sounds just right, and the flavor it adds to the succulent beef is sublime. I am especially impressed by the glamorous slice of heirloom tomato and fresh crisp lettuce that I slap onto the burger and struggle to keep from falling out onto my lap. Dustin explains much of the produce is from their garden in the back. He praises the lavender they grow and use in desserts.
Every bite of my burger and almost all of the fries have disappeared, and I'm pretty full, but the dessert menu beckons. Have I ever eaten anything made with lavender? If not, it's time to try. The lavender and honey panna cotta,  a two inch round, comes on a plate with a tiny lake of honey caramel, and across the lake, a forest of fresh berries and cream gratinĂ©e. The flavor is delicate and, well, lavender. A bit of panna cotta, a tad of honey and a berry or two makes a delightful mouthful of flavors. I continue on to my writing class feeling fat and happy. What more could one want in Napa Valley, aside from a handsome beau with whom to share the pleasure?
Next time I'm hungry in Yountville, I'll avoid the tourist crowd and head for Brix.


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