- Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine
Grille 29 - Embassy Suites Napa Valley
You may not think of going to one of the local hotels for brunch, lunch or dinner, but one of our Few Hungry Locals knew where to get a great meal with reasonable prices and she chose our location this time. We made a midday trek down California Boulevard, near the First Street exit, to Grille 29 at Embassy Suites Napa Valley. Chef Chris Johnson oversees the restaurant and we are looking forward to give it a try.
On the way to the dining room, we were surprised to see the grounds beautifully landscaped and quickly became side tracked watching the elegant swans swimming in the pond, while a few, happy ducks floated lazily in the afternoon sun. The courtyard and surroundings look like a scene from
a movie set. If we were guests here, we’d be sitting outside––bird watching.
We gradually made our way to the restaurant, which is tucked away from the busy, hotel lobby. The dining room is sophisticated and welcoming, with spacious seating areas, high ceilings and a warm atmosphere. We chose to sit at a table, but for a more casual gathering of friends––or if we wanted to watch the game––we’d sit back and relax, on the comfy, leather couches and chairs. The focal point of the room is the massive oak bar on the back wall. If you’d like to enjoy a cocktail, or one of your favorite, local varietals, this bar is well-stocked.
Our server greeted us, took beverage orders and brought menus, as soon as we were seated. There’s a nice selection of appetizers, salads, soup, and entrées to choose from.
Every good lunch begins with greens, and we all love Little Gems. Bright, crisp wedges of lettuce were accompanied with pickled red onion slices, halved cherry tomatoes, Pt. Reyes blue cheese crumbles, and cubed bacon. The salad was drizzled with a light, creamy dressing ($12). This was a refreshing starter set the mood for the rest of the meal.
One of these hungry locals is a Macaroni and Cheese connoisseur; so of course, he had to try it. With its rich, cheddar flavor, you could tell this wasn’t your average ‘mac-n-cheese’. A generous serving of shell pasta was smothered with a thick, creamy sauce, bacon, and topped with an evenly browned layer of crunchy, Panko breadcrumbs, which added texture to the dish ($12). This appetizer made one one diner very happy, and he shared. Next time, we’ll order two.
Let’s talk about the Brussel Sprouts. Just reading about this item on the menu made our mouths water. The dish was served piping hot, in cast-iron crock, it was studded with chunks of bacon, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette and had a fine shaving of parmesan melted on top ($8). One of our diners had never eaten a brussel sprout before; the dish looked appetizing enough to encourage him to try.
The next item brought to the table was the Pappardelle pasta, served with Foraged Mushrooms, bright, fresh Asparagus and Parmesan ($15). The pasta was light, well-seasoned, and the serving size was more than enough to satisfy.
We all happened to be pretty hungry this day and we ordered accordingly. We shared two sandwiches, one of which was the French Dip. The rustic, sourdough roll was grilled, which added a touch of smoke flavor to the sandwich. The roll was sturdy enough to hold up when dipped in the au jus; it was filled with a hearty serving of tender, sliced beef, horseradish and melted, provolone cheese. ($17). The second sandwich we chose was a chicken sandwich, served with bacon, swiss cheese, avocado, and arugula on an herbed, focaccia roll ($16). The sandwiches came with a side of
waffle fries, which were crisped and golden brown.
Doing research for this story, we were surprised to learn the Grille 29 menu often features vegetables grown at Harvest Middle School. (You may notice a ‘HMS’ notation on the menu at times.) We are always impressed to learn how our tight-knit community supports each other and wanted to share some insight of how the collaboration came about…
Rebecca Johnson, Embassy Suites Sales Manager––a long-time, hospitality professional in Napa Valley––told us the story.
“In April 2015, an important connection was made with Ms. Karen Fleming, science teacher at Harvest Middle School. Karen told Embassy Suites/Grille 29 the school garden was in need of a watering system for the garden. We wrote a grant through Hilton’s Travel with Purpose program for $3,000. When the award was made, our engineering team members volunteered their time to install the watering system. Karen was grateful that she no longer had to water the garden with a hose, and the plants had a better chance of producing to full potential. We felt this project needed to go a step further.”
She added, “We created a program whereby Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa Valley purchases the fruits and vegetables grown in the garden, for Chef Chris Johnson’s Grille 29, farm-fresh menu. We pay market price to the school with the money earmarked for the garden. When the bounty is more than we can use in the restaurant, we create a ‘farmer’s market’ in our team-member restaurant forour employees.”
“Furthermore, our Chef taught a group of seventh and eighth graders knife skills as well as demonstrated dishes from produce grown in the garden. Can you imagine putting sharp knives in the hands of middle grade students? Well, we did, and the results were amazing. The students were so excited, that we held a salsa making competition for them.”
Rebecca concluded, “We have donated $1,000 in garden tools to Ms. Fleming’s class. We purchased tools and gloves that were designed to fit those smaller hands (grades 5-7). We are in our third year of the partnership. Chef returned to Ms. Fleming’s room to demonstrate winter veggies. We showed the students how to make veggie art and then allowed them to create on their own.”
It’s the little things such as this––a local middle school and a restaurant joining forces to benefit each other––that makes Napa Valley such a special place.