12 May, 2015

Clif Family Bruschetteria - Wine, Snacks and Respite in St Helena

You've probably had Clif Bars on your hiking, biking or outdoor adventures.  You're good like that.  I recently discovered a  Clif Family offering that  lets even slothful  couchpotato indoor cats like me enjoy the genius of Gary and Kit and the amazing Clif Family team.

LusciousLushes Thea and I sampled the Bruschetta Trio and their wine pairings and came away thoroughly addicted.

Exec Chef John McConnell
Addiction is how the idea started when on a cycling trip, Gary and Kit (Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, founders of the Clif Bar Company) ate bruschetta at Rifugio Samsara in Bassano del Grappa, Italy.  When they returned home, a craving for those flavors sparked the idea to bring that deliciousness back to California.  Enlisting the aid of Executive Chef John McConnell and a food truck tricked out in that epicenter of cuisine on wheels, PDX, they are now rocking it all over the Napa Valley.  Since you can also try their delicious wines at their location in St. Helena, Velo Vino, I suggest that as your best bet.

For the winning hand, choose three pairs or the Bruschetta trio and the matching paired wine selections:

First, Clif Family Chardonnay, Oak Knoll, Napa 2012 was paired with a Porchetta Bruschetta.  Porchetta, for the uninitiated, is a juicy (read: glistening with fat) stuffed and roasted pork dish.  Here, the roast meat is pulled and then enhanced with chopped herbs, fresh from their garden, and a shimmering aioli.  The Chardonnay has just the right amount (50%  French) of oak for smoothness and a backbone of acid. Combine a perfectly balanced Chardonnay with porchetta and you have a delightful introduction.  Citrusy notes in the wine made a perfect match for the herby richness of the pork dish, which was my favorite.

Next,  Clif Family Kit's Killer Cab,  2011, Napa was paired with a Pomodoro Brucshetta.  Kit's Killer Cab is made from two parcels of  Howell Mountain fruit grown on their estate.  The first, Cold Springs Vineyard, produces fruit that is  masculine but gentlemanly.  Also used is Croquet Vineyard, which is described as feminine and elegant. Combined, it shows juicy, but structured, red and black fruit and was easy to drink.  This elegant wine is also completely at home at a casual lunch.  The Pomodoro Bruschetta had melted tomatoes mixed with tangy goat cheese and garlicky elements.  The sweetness of the tomatoes went perfectly with the structure of the wine.

Batting cleanup was the Clif Family Gary's Improv Zin, 2011, Napa Also made with estate fruit in this case zinfandel, the wine was bold with spices, dark fruit and a lovely finish.  Paired with Funghi Bruschetta it was the best pair.  The bold spice of the wine meshed perfectly with the savory mushroom and fontina cheese of the dish.

Yum!  Such a fun experience More info on how you can make plans to visit here

When Executive Chef John McConnell came by, I quizzed him and learned a lot about the philosophy and ingredients.  First since cycling was the inspiration and many cyclists come by, he strives to make things delicious, but also nutritious. Two accompaniments to our bruschetti, were salads.  One, Fagioli e Grano ws an Italian inspired side dish made with farro, Fregola Sarda, broccoli rabe, ricotta and heritage beans.  Fregola Sarda is a pasta shaped like a grain that was as toothsome as it was delicious.  Both Lina Sisco Bird's Eye and Eye of the Goat beans were incorporated into the dish.  All together it formed a harmonious taste and delivered enriching satisfaction.  The Tre Colori salad, whose three colors come from arugula, romaine hearts and radicchio was similarly satisfying.  What lifted the salad's  flavor was a combination of lemon scented bread crumbs and pecorino.  Chef John gave us a tip for home cooks.
The leftover ends of your baguettes can be roughly cut, then left to dry for a few days.  After that, grate in a food processor .  Quickly saute those crumbs in a pan with garlic and a little olive oil.  Perfect to jazz up your salads. More great tips here:

Many thanks to the Clif Family team who hosted us for lunch.  Everyone there took such good care of us,  answered all our questions and delighted us with dessert: Tiramisu, Chocolate Budino and a perfect espresso. Expect a wonderful experience when you visit as the staff all rock collectively and individually!  You cannot ask for a better place to while away some hours of glorious Napa sunshine with comfortable, nourishing al fresco wining and dining.  

Make plans to visit:
Where: 709 Main Street, St. Helena, CA
Drop ins welcome, but for elevated pairing, make a reservation here:

I was hosted by the Clif Family for this lunch
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