Last fall, area voters overwhelmingly put their stamp of approval on Chardonnay Golf Club’s desire to open up its dining room to the public.
With the snipping of red tape at the ballot box, veteran Napa Valley chef Adolfo Garcia can now show off his culinary skills to more than golfers who regularly play the Jameson Canyon links. Until voters struck them down, county regulations had prohibited the facility from hosting weddings or feeding anyone who was not a member or member’s guest.
The club’s executive chef is so excited at the prospect of hosting more locals that he’s scheduled a number of special dining events in coming weeks and plans to open the indoor/outdoor dining space for dinner next month.
Garcia is no stranger to the local dining scene. In fact, he’s been top toque at many local eateries since his late teens and will celebrate three decades manning local restaurant stoves come May.
The only professional chef in his family — he’s one of 13 children — Garcia started cooking out of necessity. “I was 9 or 10 — just a kid,” he recalled. One afternoon his mother told him there was “no food in the house and she was waiting for my father to get home from work so she could go shopping.”
Garcia scoured the pantry and kitchen cabinets and located a number of ingredients he thought would feed his parents and the seven kids living at home. “I made dinner to the surprise of all,” he said. From that point on, he got to cook dinner for the family twice a week “or whenever they would let me.”
Garcia came to the United States from Mexico with his family at age 7. His father, a retired military man, worked in the vineyards while his mother took care of the family and cooked exceptional Mexican dishes for him and his siblings. Garcia observed and learned quite a bit.
When a job opportunity presented itself in the early 1980s at the brand-new hilltop restaurant, Auberge du Soleil, the young teen applied. After school every day, he rode his bike along Silverado Trail and up the fairly steep hill to the upscale dining destination built by Claude Rouas. It was here that he met celebrated chef Masa Kobayashi, who’d been wooed away from the New York dining scene to cook in the Napa Valley.
The shy teen earned his paycheck by washing dishes. He’d been there a month or so when chef Kobayashi promoted him to helping with prep and other kitchen chores. It seemed Masa had taken a shine to him, the chef revealed.
Garcia’s continuing culinary experiences include working with Philippe Jeanty at Domaine Chandon, opening Napa’s Pasta Prego with chefs Greg Cole and Charles Holmes, working on the Napa Valley Wine Train for more than seven years (during which time he hired the current executive chef, Kelly Macdonald), and opening Piccolino’s in downtown Napa. He’s also consulted for other food operations and helped friends open several restaurants. Garcia has been at Chardonnay Golf Club Grill for the past 13 years.
Because his customer base has consisted mostly of golfers and those who work in nearby corporate parks, Garcia has built a menu around dishes that can be served quickly — meaning a lot of prep work goes into readying his kitchen for daily service.
“A lot of ladies drop by, so I make sure that I have a variety of salads,” he said. He noted that he offers diners what he labels “wine country cuisine” — including Asian accents — as well as dishes generally associated with French and Italian kitchens.
The View Bar & Grill opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast and early risers. Lunch and snacks are served throughout the day until 6 p.m. through March. Dinner hours will be announced next month, the chef said.
On the plate
Chef Garcia is quick to point out that he serves a variety of fresh fish dishes daily. Offered at prices ranging from $13.95 to $16.95, seafood specials this past week included egg-battered and pan-seared petrale sole with lemon caper butter sauce; grilled swordfish marinated in lime and cumin; pan-seared mahi mahi salad with sweet and spicy sesame vinaigrette; lobster risotto; and Alaskan halibut stuffed with Dungeness crab. Other specials included oven-roasted half chicken served over primavera penne pasta ($14.95) and Kobe flat iron steak marinated in vinegar soy, served with scallion fried rice ($17.95).
Grill fare ($15.95-$18.95) includes herb and lemon marinated half chicken, New York steak, petite filet mignon and rack of lamb with chasseur sauce.
Salads ($8.50-$12.95) range from iceberg wedge with blue cheese and candied pecans to a yummy Southwestern steak salad with corn, tomatoes, scallions and avocado. There’s a Cobb salad as well as a Caesar salad to which the diner can add chicken or grilled prawns. The kitchen also offers a couple of wraps.
Sandwiches ($11.50-$14.95) include a reuben, a French dip, a turkey and ham club, a cheeseburger and a Kobe beef burger topped with brie, caramelized onions and mushrooms. The sandwiches come with a choice of french fries, coleslaw, green salad, onion rings or fruit salad.
One of the tastiest and most popular dishes is a spicy beef and vegetable rice bowl ($12.95). Another is fish and chips — deep-fried cod and french fries with caper tartar sauce and coleslaw ($14.95). Pasta offerings ($13.95-$16.95) include jumbo cheese ravioli tossed in basil, tomato and garlic Champagne cream sauce; fettuccine with chicken; and capellini with prawns, shrimp, mussels and tomatoes.
Garcia’s sous chef, Carmen Guzman, also serves as the grill’s pastry chef. Guzman not only tempts diners with toothsome tiramisu, she also knows how to turn out yummy fresh fruit tarts. A recent tart of the day featured a mix of blueberries and cranberries, making for a tantalizing sweet-and-sour taste treat enhanced with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. With the local strawberry season on the horizon, Guzman will be incorporating those red berries into her pastry offerings. Other desserts that pop up on the grill menu include chocolate lava cake, passion fruit cake and peach tiramisu.
At present, Chardonnay Golf Club is accepting brunch reservations for both Easter and Mother’s Day in the grill that overlooks the golf course and vineyards.
Chef Garcia is also planning a special dinner paired with Grey Goose vodka on Saturday, April 27. The grill is accepting reservations for that event now. A tequila pairing dinner is on the books for May, he says.
Now that public events are permitted at the picturesque facility owned by Napa grapegrower and vintner Kenneth Laird, there are already more than three dozen weddings scheduled at Chardonnay Golf Club’s hospitality center this coming spring and summer.