*I’d like to thank Anne Elcon and The Meritage Resort and Spa for reaching out to Napa Valley Vegan about this exciting vegan food & wine pairing experience. As you may already know, I am now based out of Berlin Germany & was just getting my dog Violet and two cats Stig & Clover settled into our new flat. Sadly, I could not make it back to Napa Valley to celebrate this truly groundbreaking event! Instead, my good friend and longtime vegan, Julia Orr, stepped in to represent the blog. Napa Valley Vegan agreed to help promote this event & publish a post about the evening while The Resort provided Julia with a complimentary ticket to the dinner, seated her at the VIP (Vegan Important Person) table with Chef Chloe’s Mom & gave her a tour of the food preparation line. For those of you who have never had the pleasure to met Julia, she is a vocal, committed and unapologetic vegan! So, regardless of the VIP treatment she received, what you are reading today is truly Julia’s honest opinion of her evening! So let’s explore the world together and as always…eat, drink & be vegan! Cheers, Tonia
As someone who recently moved from the vegan mecca of Los Angeles to the vegan desert of Napa it was with a sigh of relief I was invited to enjoy The Meritage Resort and Spa’s Veggie & Vino dining experience with Chef Chloe Coscarelli last Thursday. It was by far the best vegan food I have eaten in Napa since arriving, and I have to give huge kudos to the team at The Meritage for having the vision and foresight to invite Chef Chloe here to create a delightful menu for this event. Chef Chloe asked me into the kitchen to watch the food prep which was fascinating! I’d never seen the line in action before but feeling a little bit in the way took my seat. I was lucky enough to be seated next to Chef Chloe’s mum Shelley, who was a fabulous dining companion and obviously a significant influence on her daughter’s career choice.
So straight to business! The first course was a Corn Carbonara – heirloom tomatoes, basil and house fettuccine paired with a La Crema Pinot Noir. The dish was bursting with the sweetness of the corn with a hint of spicy heat, which made for a deeply flavorful first course. Chef Chloe explained that the sauce was made from blending sweet corn and raw almonds resulting in a deliciously creamy sauce. A good sign of things to come and my taste buds were already in deep appreciation of something other than the regular Napa vegan option of a hummus plate.
The second course was a Vegan Taco Trio – cauliflower verde, brussels al pastor, tempura avocado and mango paired with a Napa Cellars Merlot, a slightly bolder wine with a hint of cherry. The tempura avocado was a favorite, but I wasn’t overly keen on the mango as it added such a different texture I couldn’t place it at first. Chef Chloe and Sommelier Asa Christensen talked us through each course and wine pairing which was met with cheers of approval from the 70 strong crowd. Like me, my fellow diners seemed so desperate for a great vegan dining experience everyone was very enthusiastic and joyful to be participating.
When the main course arrived, Chef Chloe asked if there were any Beet haters in the crowd and alas there were a few. I feel sorry for them! Personally, I love beetroot, and it’s so darn good for you. When the Beet Bourguignon arrived, I could barely recognize it as it was smothered in a wonderfully intense dark red sauce of heirloom carrots, cabernet, wild mushrooms and pearl onions. It was the deepest, most earthy tasting beet and wonderfully surprising in its luscious richness. I’m not a huge red wine lover but the Kith & Kin Cabernet Sauvignon it was paired with was a soft, perfect accompaniment. I have to say the wine pairings on each dish were equally surprising for their delightfully mellow taste unlike most of the Napa reds I’ve sipped, which can be overly bold for my palate.
The final dish was a Blackberry Cobbler with salted caramel coconut ice cream served with a Dow’s 20 Year Tawny Port. Now not being a “sweet” girl, more salty (wink wink) I’m not overly fond of dessert but if you had to bend my arm a berry cobbler with a salted caramel “nice” cream is definitely the way to my heart. It was scrumptious and a perfect end to an excellent and wonderfully flavorful dining experience.
At the end of the evening I was curious as to why the Meritage had decided to create this vegan dining evening and upon asking Anne, the hotel’s Director of Marketing, discovered not only was Shashi Poudya, the Resorts’ Managing Director, vegan, but they were always asked by guests for vegan dining options. So come on Napa! It’s an idea that’s beyond its time and you need to catch up!
By Julia Orr