Monday, May 31, 2010

A little bit of Paris in Yountville.

On our first afternoon in Napa, my mom and I paid a visit to an old favorite: Bistro Jeanty. Bistro Jeanty sits on Washington Street in Yountville, one of a few restaurants that make up what is quite possible the best couple of blocks for food in the entire world: The French Laundry, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Bistro Jeanty and Ad Hoc. They're all right there; you could, theoretically, spend the entire day just eating, never walking more than a couple hundred feet between meals. (Someone's probably done it; if not, get on it, people with stomachs of steel!)

Bistro Jeanty opened in 1998, and has been packed to the gills for pretty much every meal ever since then. It's a bistro in the classic French style, serving perfect versions of all the dishes you've ever loved from that genre, including vol-au-vent made with sweetbreads and braised rabbit, cassoulet and daube de boeuf. On our visit, I decided to go for two smaller dishes, starting with one of my favorite things: frisée aux lardons salad.

Bistro Jeanty's version is served as a perfect poached egg perched atop a tangle of frisée and teeny, just-this-side-of-crunchy pieces of bacon. The vinaigrette itself is deliciously smoky; I wouldn't be at all surprised if this were due to a pinch or two of bacon fat in the dressing. In fact, I hope it is, because I plan to copy it.

Next up, one of the day's specials: pieds de cochon. When I ordered this as my main, the waiter cautioned me that it was an appetizer; was I sure I wanted such a small portion for my lunch? I assured him it would be fine, and was soon vindicated by the arrival of a dish accompanied by mashed potatoes. Anything that comes with mashed potatoes simply is not an appetizer!

Regardless of how you classify it, this was a delicious dish. Pieds de cochon does, in fact, mean pig's feet, and consists of the random bits of meat from the trotters, bound together in a kind of charcuterie not too different from headcheese. It's not unusual to see it served lightly breaded and fried, as this version was. It was very rich, and seasoned with tiny bits of black truffle. In face, I don't think I could have handled a bigger portion; it was perfect as it was.

For dessert, Mom and split what has to be one of springtime's great treats: fresh strawberries with creme fraiche and brown sugar. The tangy cream, the sweet berries and the molasses flavored sugar all combine into a little piece of heaven. If you've never had a chance to enjoy this combination, do it now - especially since strawberry season, at least on the East Coast, is at its height.

Bistro Jeanty
6510 Washington Street
Yountville, California

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