Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BRASSICA


Cindy Pawlcyn has transformed Go Fish on the St. Helena Highway into a Mediterranean dining paradise named Brassica for the mustard family which includes broccoli, kale, and cabbage.  I have been here recently with a friend and know when I sit down at the counter that I have to have the eggplant fries. Bartender/waiter Dan says he loves the appetizer, but is miffed that the Chronicle review singled it out as one of the "best things on the menu." Dan would give this honor to the Moroccan Lamb Shank or Seafood Risotto.

I start with the eggplant anyway. How something breaded and deep fried can be so fragrant, light and crisp is amazing--Dan says rice flour has something to do with it.  I decide to skip the wine, wanting a clear head for my afternoon meeting. It's difficult to pick another course. They serve hummus and baba ghanoush, pizza, salads featuring persimmon or artichokes, as well as roast chicken, braised beef and lamb kebabs, all of which sound delicious. There are many small dishes on the menu, great options for the diner who wants a light meal and/or a small check at the end of the meal.

I decide to go with the Grilled Lamb T-Bone-Ettes with red pepper and pomegranate glaze. Dan explains the meat is sliced thin--bone and all--before cooking. I love the sweet and spicy glaze and the thin slices of lamb are easy to cut and chew. The only trick is figuring out where the little slice of bone is under that yummy sauce.

The restaurant is attractive, but almost empty at noon on a Wednesday. I have Dan to myself at the bar for most of the meal. The service is so quick, I am afraid I'll have to kill time before my meeting by browsing the St. Helena shops, which could turn this into a very expensive lunch outing. Instead I look at the dessert menu. On the last visit I tried their affogato, so I could compare it to the one that I love at Bottega. Theirs was pretty good, but I want something more adventurous, so select Five Easy Pieces, a dessert sampler which changes daily.

In order of increasing pleasure, I eat my way through an apricot-pistachio nougat, a coffee cookie, a tiny lemon tart, zabaglione ice cream and a caramel--filled chocolate truffle. Nougat is not my favorite candy, although this homemade bit of chewy sweetness is pretty good. The coffee cookie is crisp and buttery--a stack of them with a cup of coffee would be delightful. Lemon tart is always a pleasure, even just a  mouthful or two of tangy lemon curd on a slice of piecrust. The ice cream has  wonderful flavor from the Marsala wine that I know is critical, along with a lot of egg yolk, to creating zabaglione. Yes, only in Napa Valley can you have wine-flavored ice cream. The pi├Ęce de resistance is the truffle. I think of truffles as round and mostly chocolate, but this candy has a square hard shell. The homemade buttery caramel inside has just the right consistently to be a little chewy and melt in your mouth at the same time. The perfect way to end another wonderful Napa Valley meal.

Next time, Dan, I promise to try the Moroccoan Lamb Shank. For those who like their  middle eastern spices, sesame, thyme, artichokes, pomegranate and yes, brassica, there is a lot to like here.