PHOTO: Oven Dried Parsons' Tomatoes at Vintners Inn (c) Sery Kim
Last night our fashionable group of women sat down to a surprisingly fresh and delightful farm dinner at Vintner's Inn. I don't use the word "surprisingly" lightly because I expect to be showered with glorious dishes, tantalizing every tastebud, so I rarely get disappointed in a restaurant. Conversely, it is equally rare for me to find dishes to be better than advertised. After all, Vintner's Inn isn't on the San Francisco Michelin Guide, and they are a four diamond rather than a five diamond resort property, so it's not as if I expected to be blown away by the food.
So I was really shocked to discover how remarkably pleasing the entire dinner was.
PHOTO: Fresh chives in Rhonda's Garden at Vintner's Inn (c) Sery Kim
Every dish presented before us was curated to literally feed into our theme of "Wellness." Fresh ingredients from Rhonda's Garden onsite at Vintner's Inn was pulled directly from the ground and strategically placed onto our table. John, the official gardener of the property, took us on a brief tour of the garden, and I plucked this bright chive from the ground. I immediately took a huge bite, and my mouth exploded with sensation. The churning of bright tang circled my mouth and brain cells, leaving me wishing I had some "french fries and ranch dressing," so glorious was the depth of flavoring I desired my favorite plated food, haha.
PHOTO: Our beautifully appointed dining table in Rhonda's Garden at Vintner's Inn (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: Floral centerpieces from one of Vintner's Inn vendors (c) Sery Kim
And each plate of food placed on our table popped with the holistically feeling of, "Wow! It's so FRESH!" Nothing felt chemically altered like so many items inside a grocery store, where picking vegetables always makes me feel as if a mass-producing grower had showered the vegetable or fruit with unnatural products so as to increase it's shelf life. Yuck. Instead, every ingredient on the first course, from the Fresh Mixed Garden Lettucesto the overwhelming table favorite of Oven Dried Parsons' Tomatoes -- baked for an excruciatingly detailed two hours with garden thyme --, resonated with purity.
PHOTO: Garden Artichokes, Gourmet Mushrooms Beech Mushroom (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: Fava Beans with tendrils, sweet onions and estate olive oil (c) Sery Kim
Even the meatier main course of Coffee Crusted Roasted Devils Gulch Pork Loin (with a garden fig gastrique) as well as the Half Moon Bay King Salmon (with garden chives and blossoms, horseradish beurre blanc) landed lightly rather than with the thud that Main Courses at other establishments veer towards. The pork arrived cooked to perfection, with just the tiniest blush of medium plus, so as to leave the pork marvelously tender. And, naturally in a group of nine women, the salmon was demolished with a glee of "MMMMMmmmmm soooo good!"
Since the dinner was hosted by a winery, every plating was soothingly accompanied by one of Ferrari-Carrano's wines. As owners of the Vintners Inn property, this 200,000 a year bottler has heavily invested in bringing to life a true destination-experience. They are proud to be the only four diamond property in the area and want an avalanche of guests coming to "Celebrate Life," as the Vintners Inn motto stamps itself on any product which can be branded. Naturally, we drank a slew of different varietals -- Ferrari-Carrano offers 20 different kinds of wine -- but my favorite was the Pinot Grigio 2018. I drank three full glasses of them ("I would like a 'wedding pour' please") and decided to pack away a bottle for the trip home to D.C.
PHOTO: Ferrari-Carano's Pinot Grigio 2018 (c) Sery Kim
A word to the wise: if you just pop into Vintner's Inn during the day time to their casual bistro, the River Vine Cafe, the quality of the ingredients as well as the overall presentation of the food is not at the standard of the "Farm Fresh dinner" we had last night in Rhonda's Garden.
At the River Vine Cafe on Friday, I tried the Fried Chicken Sandwich for lunch, as well as the Beignets and Huevos Rancheros for breakfast. The chicken in my Fried Chicken Sandwich was decidedly under-cooked, with an overall lack of batter and crispy texture to it, while the beignets were also not fried enough (again an issue with the kitchen not being able to fry well) so this sweet treat lacked any discernible crisp. As for the Huevos Rancheros, the main ingredients were very good (eggs, beans, chorizo and avocado) except for the underlying tortillas which were again (surprise, surprise) under-fried.
When I queried the Executive Chef and General Manager as to the difference in presentation, they both mentioned the River Vine Cafe is "a locale's spot," which I supposed meant it was a drive-through destination not meant to impress but to simply satisfy. Still, because I am who I am, I made suggestions of how they should add the Fresh Mixed Garden Lettuces to the menu because, despite its deceptive simplicity, "I would have paid $20 for that salad," and it's so true. I am obsessed, absolutely obsessed, with salads and this one was the best I've had all year! (Sorry Sweetgreen!) Every ingredient in the salad felt ALIVE, and the local farming partner Bohemian Creamery made one hell-of-a-mouth-watering chevre!
PHOTO: Fresh Mixed Garden Lettuces with garden strawberries, Bohemian Creamery Bodacious chevre and Meyer lemon poppy seed dressing (c) Sery Kim
But whatever emotions I have about the River Vine Cafe food, I adored everything given to me at dinner last night, particularly the Salted Honey Pie we had for dessert. Famed Pastry Chef and Owner of Momofuku Milk Bar Christina Tosi's equally famous Crack Pie has absolutely nothing on the addictive nature of Vintner's Inn's Salted Honey Pie. Made with Kiss the Flower blackberry honey, Alley 6 whiskey whipped cream, fresh berries and estate calendula flowers, I annihilated this dish and then looked around the table for who had slivers of it still left on their plate.
Just simply magical in its ability to balance being sweet yet feel wholly healthy to eat. GIVE. ME. MORE!
PHOTO: Salted Honey Pie (c) Sery Kim
With the bar set fairly high now, I am really looking forward tonight's dinner at John Ash + Co, Vintner's Inn high-end restaurant. If it's anything like the special curated wellness menu presented last night, I am sure to blossom with weight at the bounty of calories I consume! Until then, it's off to a full day at the spa here. Can't wait!