Blue Note Napa - Serves Up Great Food & Talent
Since this building holds real Napa nostalgia for us and for so many in our community, this is a little
more than just a restaurant review. Dorothy was involved, beginning in the early 1990’s, as an Opera House League member, as a partner in its first marketing plans, and as a Board Member in the first, and subsequent, Napa Valley Opera House incarnations. Dorothy and Harry Price recall sweeping pigeon-poop prior to giving tours of the Napa Valley Opera House building shell to potential funders. Dorothy, and so many others, including Veronica Di Rosa and Bob and Margrit Mondavi, worked relentlessly to raise community consciousness and to secure the funding to restore, preserve and secure the historic Napa Valley Opera House’s rightful place in downtown Napa’s exciting renaissance…after having been shuttered for more than 90 years.
More recently, John served on the Board overseeing the City’s $1.5 Million loan to the Napa Valley Opera House nonprofit (NVOH.org), an organization now Chaired by Cassandra Walker, longtime community advocate and a wonderful friend of Dorothy and John. Cass tells us that NVOH’s educational mission will focus on cultural arts, education and community programs accessible to all in Napa Valley. They are lining up programs and will make announcements soon. We wish Cass and the current members of the Opera House Board every success as they embark on this latest effort to activate the building.
In the interest of finding out for ourselves, Dorothy and John joined Tom Fuller at the beautifully re-imagined, Blue Note Napa for a wonderful dinner and most enjoyable, jazz entertainment presented by Nicolas Beard and his band. The downstairs level has been converted into a beautiful, exciting, intimate and very blue room, with approximately 120 seats, including those at the bar. Once again, Gordon Huether’s unique, artistic talent has filled the room with an imaginative creation of musical instruments encased in a magical blue- hue that gives the space an otherworld feeling. We were also lucky to sit up-close and personal at Blue Note’s opening with Chris Botti, which was amazing! Having dinner with Tom Fuller and sitting close to the intimate stage to enjoy Nicolas Beard was the perfect end to our Thanksgiving weekend.
For foodies, Blue Note Napa’s executive chef, Jessica Sedlacek, is a welcome addition to downtown Napa. She does a great job of executing the simple, elegant and really-tasty menu. Jessica has a great background with the Thomas Keller Group, with stints at Bouchon and the French Laundry in Yountville. Jessica takes advantage of all the terrific seasonal-ingredients available from the region, and her approach is to allow those ingredients to shine. Based on our meals, she succeeds at Blue Note Napa, with style.
Blue Note Napa is dedicated to four, creative pillars of success: world-class music, gourmet, farm-to-table cuisine, spectacular, local wines and exciting art. From our perspective, they succeeded in all four areas. On the evening we were there, we had the opportunity to meet new owner/partners, Ken Tesler and Jeroen Gerrese, as well as Ken’s charming wife, Bianca. They have basically been living at the Napa Valley Opera House full time to ensure that the venture succeeds. They are not absentee owners, but dedicated music and entertainment entrepreneurs.
The Blue Note Jazz Club in New York has successfully been in business since 1981, and has featured some of the world’s greatest musicians, including Etta James, the late Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughan, Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, Dave Brubeck, Carmen McRae, and on and on. Blue Note Napa joins the family of Blue Note Jazz Clubs in New York, Hawaii, Japan, Italy, and China.
Back to the food: We chose to dine from Blue Note Napa’s, Three Part Tasting Menu ($45). Drinks were charged separately. Our server, Cejana, was friendly, experienced and delightful, and most respective of the musicians. Since Blue Note Napa not only serves great, local, Napa Valley wines, but also has a full bar, John ordered a gin and tonic ($16) and Tom chose a Negroni ($20). Dorothy enjoyed a St. Supery Chardonnay ($12). Tom Fuller suggested our dinner choices, and he was spot on. Dorothy’s “Opening Act” was Potato and Bacon Fritters, with caramelized onion-aioli. John’s was the Beet Salad, with sherry vinaigrette, crispy shallots and rustic arugula. For the main course, John enjoyed the Braised Short Ribs, with creamy polenta, foraged mushrooms, and a red wine sauce; Dorothy had the Dayboat Scallops with crispy potato-cake, apple butter and a lovely frisee salad. Tom ordered the “Blue Burger,” covered with Point Reyes blue cheese, caramelized onions, garlic aioli, and served on a Model Bakery, brioche bun and also made sure that we all tried the Fried Brussels Sprouts. Since the $45 Tasting Menu comes with dessert, we shared a Warm Chocolate Mousse Cake, with vanilla ice-cream and coca streusel, the Apple Tart with cinnamon ice-cream and the Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta, with Huckleberry compote.
After the show, we thanked both Jeroen and Ken for doing such a great job making Blue Note Napa a wonderful gift to the Napa Valley, and a great tribute to Margrit Mondavi’s vision and leadership. We dedicate this review to all those in our community who never gave up on the dream of a revitalized, exciting, 21st Century, Napa Valley Opera House. Together, we are saving the past as our gift to the future.
Tickets for shows and dinner can be purchased online. Upstairs in the Ballroom, great shows will pack in music fans in the years to come. And, if you don’t want dinner, there is a great selection of wines and spirits at the comfortable, full bar.
Here’s to the future, the vision and leadership that makes it possible, and to the continued success of the ever–evolving, downtown Napa. Thanks to so many over the past 30 years, the Napa Valley Opera House is preserved in its latest incarnation. It is better than ever thanks to the courage and tireless efforts of local, board-member volunteers, who refuse to let it sit in neglect or with an unsustainable financial future
The success of Blue Note Napa will aid the Opera House nonprofit to fulfill its Community Programming mission. We hope, after reading this review, that you will give Blue Note Napa a try.