ST. HELENA, Calif.
Anything tastes great on a beautiful day in wine country, with the sun shining brightly and providing warmth for Bay Area residents all-too-used to the San Francisco fog.
But when the food matches the beauty of the environment, then it’s pure magic in Napa Valley. You can expect such a dining experience walking into Farmstead restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena.
Opened three years ago, Farmstead grandly displays the shabby-chic décor of farmhouse dining, with unvarnished wood walls and furnishings, tin watering cans, and milk bottles. The spacious dining area (seats 110) is surrounded by herb gardens, a patio, and comfy outdoor bar.
The farm-to-table menu overdoses with the details of where each main ingredient is sourced from, but plays nicely to the reputation of Executive Chef Stephen Barber. He wasn’t the opening chef, but he’s no stranger to Napa Valley.
Chef Barber, who received attention in the Bay Area years ago at the former Mecca restaurant in San Francisco, came from the nearby Fish Story restaurant and previously opened a barbeque spot in Napa called BarbersQ. In fact, his penchant for barbeque is evident in the “smokers” section of the menu where he offers up dishes like St. Louis-style ribs.
I visited Farmstead for the first time a couple of weekends ago when a group of friends wanted to drive up for the day for some Napa Valley winetasting. The menu provided a nice variety for our group’s preferences, from the heavy to the light. A starter of wild king salmon rillette ($15) was a nice beginning to our lunch, with the pinkish salmon spread topped with a white lemon verbena crème fraiche.
For my lunch, I went whole hog with the wood-grilled heritage pork chop ($26) with broccolini, jalapeno grits and apple onion jam. The thick juicy chop may have been slightly sweet from the apple onion jam, but there was no denying the perfectly cook texture of the pork, both tender and moist.
The Last Bite
The bustling space got crowded as we ate, but the servers never seemed to let that bother them. The friendly service with the airy dining room provided an enjoyable environment to chow down on some delicious food and soak up everything good the country has to offer.
Farmstead, 738 Main St., St. Helena, Calif. PH: 707.963.9181. Open daily at 11:30 a.m.; Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. Website
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