I never thought much of him. I would occasionally watch his show, “Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello”, but he never held my interest for an entire episode. It wasn’t until he appeared on Top Chef Masters that I truly started appreciating his culinary expertise.
Michael Chiarello is currently the Chef and Co-owner of Bottega Ristorante, located in Yountville, CA, where worthy competition such as Redd, Ad Hoc and The French Laundry are just right down the street. He was previously the Executive Chef/Founder of Tra Vigne in St. Helena. He has published numerous cookbooks, owns a small family winery as well as a catalog/retail store, NapaStyle. Even with all his success, Chef Chiarello has still managed to stay humble. When I told him that I LOVED his food, Chef Chiarello was quick to point to his Chef de Cuisine, Nick Ritchie, and teasingly said, “It’s his food. I just take credit for it.”
We started off the night with two appetizers: “polenta under glass” and “wood grilled octopus”. The polenta was highly recommended by Page Buehler (of Buehler Vineyards), and well, THANK YOU Page because the polenta was absolutely AMAZING! It arrived in a glass container (hence the name “polenta under glass”) topped with a parmesan crisp and caramelized wild mushrooms. Drizzled with a little balsamic game sauce, this dish was to die for! The polenta was rich, creamy and very well flavored. The caramelized mushrooms added a sweet, earthy element and the balsamic sauce complimented the mushrooms in sweetness while asserting its own presence with a bit of tartness.
The octopus was amazing as well. I loved the grilled flavor and I can’t believe how tender the octopus was!!
When our waiter took our order, we decided to have a “regular” entree and a “lighter” entree since we were also eating two appetizers. The “lighter” entree we chose was the Adriatic Seafood Brodetto (monkfish, mussels, rock cod & fresh Monterey calamari, forno-confit tomato broth, olive oil crouton, paprika-saffron rouille). As you can see, brodetto is a fish stew similar to cioppino or bouillabaisse. One difference I noticed right off the bat was that the tomato broth of the brodetto was more rich and dense than a cioppino (which usually tends to be more thin and watery). All of the seafood was perfectly cooked, but the broth was by far the star of the dish.
Ok, everybody knows I have a thing for duck. I just can’t help myself from ordering it when I see it on the menu. So… what did we order for our “regular” entree”? Yup, Confit of Half Duck (mostarda di frutta, Forni Brown green, red win duck jus). Now, I’ve eaten duck confit at many restaurants and I can say, without a doubt, THIS WAS THE BEST DUCK CONFIT I’VE EVER HAD! The skin was brown and crispy while the meat was fall of the bone tender. Mostarda di frutta is a traditional Italian condiment of candied fruits bathed in a mustard flavored syrup. The duck was great on its own, but even better when eaten with the fruit; the sweetness of the fruit helped cut the saltiness from the duck. This was truly perfection on a plate. If I ever appeared on the TV show, “The Best Thing I’ve Ever Ate”, I would be raving about the duck confit at Bottega. LOVE.
We were already pretty full at this point, but pass up dessert? No way! We ended our meal with Chocolate Bourbon Tortino (banana brulee, roasted banana gelato, milk chocolate peanut butter bar). Basically, this was a high class Reese’s sundae! Though I found the tortino a little rich by itself, eating everything together in one bite was delicious! Henry loved the chocolate peanut butter bar!
At the end of the night, our waiter led us to the kitchen where Chef Chiarello was nice enough to sign our menus and take a picture with us. I can’t wait to come back to Bottega.
Bottega Ristorante Napa Valley
6525 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599-1300