Angèle - The Perfect Spot for Lunch with the Queen of the River
History of a Napa River Friendship Moira Johnston Block and Dorothy Salmon have been good friends for nearly 30 years. Their favorite place to catch up with each other for lunch, of course, is Angèle in downtown Napa. Why? Because it is adjacent to the Napa River.
Dorothy and Moira share a lot of history in Napa, beginning with forming Friends of the River 20 years ago and then continuing their work with the Napa River Coalition, which brought the Napa Valley together to understand, appreciate and ultimately vote in favor of, saving and reviving our beloved Napa River.
The effort to preserve and revive the Napa River began with a 1992 visit to the City of San Antonio to learn how they saved their river before progressing to the infamous 1994 three-party boat floating play (at which John met Dorothy) on the Napa River which also included Bob and Margrit Mondavi, Joe Vallerga, Mike Thompson, David Wolper, along with many other dignitaries. The plan was to share the Napa River’s illustrious history and its importance to the entire Napa Valley, which would encourage the Mondavis to believe that downtown Napa and Copia’s early beginnings would bring the Valley together, save the Napa River and create the vibrancy that we now enjoy today.
The shared passion for the Napa River, and its importance to the entire Napa Valley, cemented Dorothy and Moira’s friendship long ago. Now, 25 years later, two passionate and politically-active community organizers met alongside the river for lunch, to share a lively history of big projects, big visions and storytelling, mixed with the great food and wine of Angèle.
Angèle – a Culinary Gem on the banks of the Napa River
As always, it is wonderful to be at Angèle, one of our favorite restaurants in the world. On this lunch date, Angèle’s lovely owner Bettina Rouas greeted us. Angèle is a warm, wonderful French country restaurant serving bistro fare, great wine and cocktails in the heart of downtown Napa. Angèle is located in the historic 1890s ship chandlery which is now, thanks to Harry Price, known as the Hatt Building. Angèle has beautiful views of the Napa River and just outside is a riverside walking trail.
Their amazing kitchen team creates the always-wonderful food at Angèle. Freshly-grown organic vegetables are delivered daily thanks to Bettina’s boyfriend, Juan Restrepo, who owns VonGreiff Landscaping. Moira and Dorothy caught up with each other’s lives, laughed about some adventures and misadventures, and then ordered lunch. Since both had to rush off to work, Moira to work on her next book and Dorothy to go to The Pathway Home for a meeting, there was not time for a glass of wine, so they instead enjoyed iced tea ($5) from their favorite server, Dan!
Angèle has, in our opinion, the best bar in town and a fabulous selection of wines from the Napa Valley, Sonoma, the Russian River Valley, Amador County and Mendocino. Since Angèle is a French Restaurant, named after Bettina’s grandmother, great wines from France are also available. Additionally, Angèle offers interesting cocktails for $14, aperitifs for $12 and a good selection of imported, as well as locally-sourced, beers.
Moira and Dorothy both ordered the Half Roasted Heritage Chicken, fall greens and farro, with an amazing red wine vinaigrette ($22) and agreed that this was the BEST salad they had ever consumed. Before the half roasted chicken arrived, they enjoyed Angèle’s famous French bread with butter, which is the best in the world, and always perfectly begins lunch or dinner.
Although they did not indulge in Angèle’s Fried Truffled Deviled Eggs, with crème fraîche mousse, herbs de Provence and pickled shallots ($12) as is the Classic Steak Tartare with capers, egg yolk and toasted baguette ($17), they are both to die for! Angèle’s desserts are also incredible. Incredible personal and time restraints allowed them to pass on options such as the Banana Gratin with Streusel, pastry cream, vanilla bean ice cream ($12), the Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée ($12) and the House Made Ice Cream ($9). Each of which we have enjoyed many times before. Next time, we will will take more time and order dessert when we are not taking on a bigger project!
Now that the weather is changing and we are heading into winter, Angèle will be serving Wednesday Night Classic French Three-Course Dinners ($48) excluding beverage, tax and gratuity. This year, on the first Wednesday of each month, Angèle will be donating a portion of the proceeds of these dinners to a different charity. They will also open for Thanksgiving this year.
Angèle has a fabulous, full bar. The restaurant seats 60 inside and their outdoor seating in good weather which increases capacity to 80 is wonderful, along with their private dining area in the back of the indoor space. We have also purchased many of the signature, and very cool Angèle “no leak” Wine Bags ($25) as gifts for friends. Angèle charges a $25 corkage fee per 750ml bottle for the first two bottles, and then $40 for each subsequent bottle. One corkage fee is waived for each bottle purchased from their wine list, and a 20% service fee is applied for all groups of five guests or more.
From the kitchen of Angèle: The Angèle Burger
Ground Angus Chuck 8 ounce patty
ABC Bakery, 4 ounce Potato Bun 2-3 Leaves Angèle Garden Lettuce
1 slice Angèle Garden Heirloom Tomato
¼ sliced Avocado
1 slice Tillamook Cheddar Cheese
2 slices Hobb’s Slab Bacon
1 Taramasso Farm Egg, Sunny Side Up
1 slice Charred Red Onion
3 French Cornichons
According to the culinary team at Angèle, the method of creating a great burger is all about the ingredients. Using great Angus chuck beef to start guarantees a solid beef flavor. We also roast our burgers in a pan to ensure maximum sear on both sides. This provides a meaty and roasted flavor, without the char of an open gas grill (mind you if we had a wood burning grill, it would be the way to go). After that, it is nothing more than pairing it with a great potato bun produced by our neighbors at Alexis Baking Company, also known as, ABC.
What comes next, can only come from Angèle. At our small farm on Skellinger Lane in St. Helena, our farmers work hard to cultivate much of the produce on our menu, as well as on our burger. The onions, the tomatoes, and the lettuce all come in direct from our fields. Our other garnishes are selected for quality, consistency, and flavor profile to match. Such as a wonderful Tillamook cheddar from Clover Dairy, organic eggs from Taramasso Ranch here in Napa, Avocados from the markets of Marin-Sonoma, and the finest French cornichons sourced by our new specialty imports company called Food Matters Again. All of this comes together to form the Angèle burger. You see, at its core there are no secrets, no special sauce. Ketchup and mayo are just fine. There is no special recipe, just a perfectly cooked patty of excellent beef, and a series of ingredients you will not find anywhere else. That is what makes the burger at Angèle special.