Brix Napa Valley
By David Leighton
After sheltering in place for a couple of months, I began to identify with hibernating bears. I had a mental picture of one, leaving his cave for the first time. He’d look around, sniff the air and think, “Hmm…what do I want to eat?”
My wife and I asked ourselves that very question when we decided to venture back out in the world, and decided to go to Brix Napa Valley. Although we’ve been going there since they opened, we haven’t been in quite a while. After being cooped up at home for so long, we were counting on this being a great experience. Could Brix deliver under that kind of pressure?
If you want to skip the rest of this article and get straight to the bottom line, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Our meal and experience at Brix were fabulous. Even though the temperature was in the 90s, we enjoyed a leisure walk on the grounds and around the garden area before settling on the large, shaded patio for a superb meal and great service. After a long spring in the cave, this is exactly what Papa and Momma Bear needed.
Originally opening in March of 1996, Brix Napa Valley has been creating farm-to-table cuisine for more than two decades. The Kelleher family’s warmth and hospitality was evident. Once inside, we were taken with the remodel. The linear bar, which used to be along the north wall, is now U-shaped and in the center of the room. All the dark wood has been painted white, making the entire space open and inviting. The west wall is still glass, so indoor diners can still enjoy the expansive green lawns leading to 25 raised gardening beds. Beyond that are the hills of Napa Valley, and surrounding the property is ten acres of Kelleher Family Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard.
My wife started the afternoon with a glass of Kelleher Family Vineyards “Three Sisters” Chardonnay ($22) of which only 150 cases are produced each year. It was the perfect wine for the day and the meal. For starters, we had Dungeness Crab Fondue ($17) with braised artichoke, melted leek, gruyere and brie, served with garlic crostini. I wondered if it might be too heavy, given the temperature, but it was perfect. The flavors blend well while allowing the crab to take center stage.
Since asparagus is in season (and I love it), we next we ordered Roasted Asparagus Salad ($17) with kalamata olives, capers, raclette cheese, brown butter and blood orange vinaigrette. One bite and I felt like I’d died and gone to culinary heaven. I realize Brix didn’t invent asparagus, nor are they the first people to shave it, but they might be the first to pair it with those ingredients. The asparagus was so unbelievably tender and tasteful I enjoyed the bottoms as much as the top. And using raclette cheese? Sheer genius. I could have pushed away from the table and gone home a happy man, but why stop before the main course?
My wife chose the Wood Grilled Smoked Salmon ($33). The blackened salmon looked and smelled wonderfully smoked, and I expect the texture to be dry throughout. Not the case – the salmon was as pink with the texture as if it had been lightly seared. A bed of sweet corn succotash with the lobster butter made every bite delightful. The hush puppies served with it met my wife’s strict Southern standards.
Call me basic, but I’m a burger guy, and had to try the Brix Burger ($24) with Redwood Hills smoked goat cheese, bacon marmalade, pickled pepper, mushroom and chipotle remoulade, served with parmesan fries. I asked for medium rare, and that’s exactly what I got. One of my tests for burgers is how a small bite of bun with the “secret sauce” alone tastes. Get that right and you’ve got me. Well, Brix had me. I didn’t just stop with that – the whole burger was delicious. And if you are a burger guy, you know how the fries can make or break the whole thing. These were well seasoned, not the least bit greasy and made perfect by parmesan.
The rubber always meets the road when it’s dessert time. Do they “get” chocolate, and recognize its importance in the food chain? Brix indeed does. We had a Chocolate and Strawberry Bombe ($13) with cream cheese mousse, chocolate glaze and summery berry compote. The compote gave the Bombe a run for its money. All of it together was close to being perfect.
“Perfect” was the Butterscotch Pot de Crème ($13) with Guittard Chocolate pudding and hazelnut bark. I’ve run out of superlatives, so I’ll make this one easy: get it. Make the commitment and order it first, in case you think you don’t have room for dessert. It’s light, delicious, and made this chocolate lover very happy.
As if we hadn’t eaten enough already, Wednesday is Fried Chicken to-go day at Brix, and since everything else was so good, we had to have it. Prepared for two ($40) it includes eight pieces of chicken, three biscuits, seasonal vegetable (ours was mustard greens and oh, were they good!) plus mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s really good, and available Tuesday’s only, 4 to 8 p.m. Allow thirty minutes. Call 944-2749 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
7377 St. Helena Highway | 707-944-2749
Wednesday-Saturday | brix.com