NOTE (05/07): Pastry Chef Nicole Plue is now at Redd in Yountville. Chef Victor Scargle is now at Go Fish in St Helena.
We went to Julia’s Kitchen for dinner last weekend. It’s the restaurant inside COPIA that’s named after Julia Child. It’s open and airy, and comfortable. I liked that they serve many vegetables from their own garden, but the food was a pretty mixed experience. The main courses were rather uneven, but the desserts were spectacular, so I’ll start with them.
Peanut-Milk Chocolate Gianduja, Peanut Honeycomb Parfait, Milk Chocolate Sorbet. I loved this. Each component had its own world of creaminess and crunchiness as well as peanut and chocolate. Even the parfait, which I had mentally shrugged at, given its volume of whipped cream, turned out to be delightful, with peanuts and a chocolate sauce at the bottom and honeycomb on the top. The whipped cream was also a nice foil to all of the chocolate and peanut butter flavors in the whole dish. And the sorbet was so creamy, without the heaviness of ice cream.
The “candy bar” had a slightly crisp matted top, a smooth and peanut-y filling, and a very crispy and slightly crumbly bottom. The waiter explained that the top was simply a thick layer of sprayed chocolate and the bottom was feuille de brick. He explained a process to make it that sounds a lot like a laminated dough, but additional butter was incorporated at different stages. I’ve come across numerous spellings and explanations about it online, and it seems to be similar to a phyllo dough… but this version seemed crumblier, so I’m a little confused now, even though I was elated while eating it.
Dark Chocolate Cake, Bergamot Mint Cream, Chocolate Mojito. That chocolate mojito was amazing — it was like an iced milk hot chocolate with mint.
The only thing that I’m a little bit uneasy about with these desserts is putting crumbs and sauces under glasses. Aesthetically, it’s great, but it’s awkward in practice.
Peach and Cinnamon Tartine, Vanilla Bean Brioche, Peach Ice Cream. The vanilla contributed an overall flavor of the dish, as if perfumed with peach and cinnamon. Great.
Apricot Cinnamon Chai Tea. Most of us were talking as complimentary mignardises were brought out, so when Chad tried this and burst out with “Oooh. That’s nice,” there was an awkward silence until I laughed at him. Two minutes later, when I got around to trying it, I said, in complete innocence, “Oooh. That’s nice.” Then Chad laughed at me. It began with the apricot and ended with a slightly muted chai, and was overall, so cool and refreshing.
Dragee Nuts, Ganaches, Toffee. The toffee seemed to have crackers among its chunky bits, and that was great. Nuts were similar to what we made at school, but the caramelized layer seemed more like toffee.
Ruby Red Grapefruit Cosmo, and Amuses Bouche of Gougere and Watermelon Soup. I didn’t like this combination of the amuses, but they were good in their own right… except my soup had a piece of hot pepper that I don’t think anybody else had. But, um, it gave it a nice kick.
The cocktail was very sour and good.
Mai Tai with House-Infused Lychee Rum, Orgeat Syrup (almond-flavored), and Triple Sec. This was the best mai tai I’ve had outside of Hawaii, but it’s not exactly traditional. I liked how it was fruity and sweet while retaining a muted, not quite sour charm.
COPIA Carrot, Curry Dijon Vinaigrette, Garden Beet Greens. This was a lively carrot salad, with the curry flavor giving way to the mustard, and the mustard giving way to the carrot in every bite. The beet greens were an interesting addition of slight bitterness and softer crispness.
Pan Roasted Rib Eye Steak, Sweet Corn Pudding Freshly Dug Potatoes, Sauce Bordelaise. I order steak about once or twice a year, so I’m a bit angry that I wasted my order on this steak. It was very fatty, and the taste was insipid… and the sauce did nothing to help out. Thank goodness for the hand dug potatoes, though — they were full of flavor. The pudding was different — it seemed to be made of a starchy base that had corn mixed it into. The base was like a thinner mashed potatoes, and you expected it to taste starchy, but it didn’t. It tasted nice with the corn, but I never could get used to the texture of the base.
Oven Roasted Pork Chop, Hobb’s Smoked Bacon and Garden Leek Tart, Stone Fruit, Sausalito Springs Watercress. The pork was actually juicier than it looked, but this was pretty boring overall.