I have to admit that even though I am a foodie and write about foodie things regularly, it’s often long stretches of time between my visits to local restaurants. So many wonderful choices here in the valley, and just not enough time.
So, I’ll confess that it had been way too long since my last visit to Bistro Jeanty. I have been lucky enough to enjoy the pure pleasure of dining in France via my culinary tours to Burgundy groups each spring and fall for the past six years. Getting a true French food fix has been a joyful experience.
Typically, I am satisfied between trips to Burgundy but back here in the valley, something got into me and I had a craving that would just not go away. French food was calling me. I was convinced I needed Soupe a l’Oignon, (French Onion Soup), a long-time classic at Bistro Jeanty.
With a friend in tow, I set out for Bistro Jeanty in Yountville for a bowl of soup, and my plan just went to heck when I actually perused the menu.
There were so many choices of foods I have come to know and love while on my travels. My concern was: would I be disappointed because it was not classic French, but instead an Americanized or Napa Valley version of French favorites?
The onion soup was still on the menu, but my eyes darted back and forth over so many now familiar options, There were so many choices that the soup was on and off my radar as I tried to make up my mind. Luckily, as friends will do, we decided to order a number of dishes and share.
One of the specials that night was a classic foie gras, served with brioche toasts with subtly pickled fresh cherries. The first bite of this simple combination began the party in our mouths.
The Quenelles de Brochet were light and delicate. The airy, white fish dumplings were served with a silky sleek lobster sauce that was in no way overpowering — and urged one to wipe the plate clean with a bit of baguette.
Next up were the escargots with garlic pastis butter. Tender morsels, each and every one was perfectly prepared. Again, I kept the baguette nearby for finishing up the sauce.
Last, but not the least bit least: cheeses for dessert. Brilliant French cheeses like Brillat Savarin, Fourme d’Ambert and Burgundian Epoises literally danced across our palates.
I did have only one disappointment: I had no room for the soup. It looks like I’ll have to return sooner rather than later to fill this craving.
But there was not another disappointment in sight. Each dish we enjoyed was as if it had just been served to me at the Chateau de la Barge in Macon, Burgundy, or at one of my favorite bistros in the food mecca of Lyon.
With our dining choices, we drank a 2012 Reserve Pouilly Fusse Chardonnay from Chateau Pouilly in the Burgundy wine country that I’d brought from my last visit to Burgundy. The only bad thing about this amazing wine is that they have not found an importer yet, so the only place you can find this particular wine would be at Chateau Pouilly. I tell you this not to tease you but to recommend you look for it should your travels take you to France. It’s worth the hunt.
Celebrating 20 years
Due to the talent and passion of owner and master chef Phillipe Jeanty, Bistro Jeanty celebrated its 20th anniversary on April 2 this year.
Arriving in California in 1977, Jeanty was part of the original team from Epernay, France, who came to open the Chandon Restaurant in Yountville. A fine dining restaurant had really never existed in the Napa wine country before. Now residents and visitors could experience classic French haute cuisine in the countryside setting of Domaine Chandon winery. Within a year, he was promoted to executive chef. This allowed Jeanty to develop his personal style of world-class dining experiences.
The next 20 years of honors, awards, and culinary laurels from diners and critics proved that Jeanty was one of the most talented chefs in the U.S. His passionate and imaginative new taste sensations and dishes were enjoyed by thousands of diners at Chandon during this time.
Venturing out on his own in 1997, Jeanty called upon his childhood memories to recreate all of the favorite foods he grew up with as his inspiration and voilà: Bistro Jeanty came into being.
Although his early roots were in Champagne, France, his menu offerings were — and continue to be — many of the most popular dishes of the Burgundy wine region: Bouef Bourgngnone, Coq au Vin, Salade Lyonnaise and Cassoulet. Many regions of France are well represented on the menu.
When I spoke with Jeanty about this, he explained that his favorite wine is Pinot Noir and many of the creations on the menu pair beautifully with this varietal. His dedication to “keeping it real” requires quite a bit of resolve, as many of the ingredients needed for his recipes are quite difficult to come by in the U.S. He gets it done, however.
Today, although Jeanty enjoys regular visits to his get-away residence near Pebble Beach, he is still fully involved in Bistro Jeanty, with no plans of retirement anytime soon. This made me very happy.
What also reassured me was he shared that his daughter Camille will be graduating from college in about four years, and when her studies are complete, she will be taking over the daily management of Bistro Jeanty and work with him to keep the key ingredients in the recipe of his bistro’s longevity: consistency and a classical menu.
He feels it’s incredibly important that when a guest returns to the bistro and is looking forward to their favorite dish, that it’s still there on the menu, that way they remember it. Hence his many loyal return guests.
Chef Gregory Short
Executive Chef Gregory Short has worked side by side with Jeanty for almost four years. Previously, Chef Short was at the famed Masa’s restaurant in San Francisco the French Laundry. There is serious talent in this kitchen.
The chefs generously shared two of of Bistro Jeanty’s most popular recipes with us.
Merci beaucoup, Chef Jeanty, for keeping it authentic. If I had an appreciation award for authenticity I’d hand deliver it.
Toutes nos felicitations Bistro Jeanty. A bientot.
Cream of Tomato Soup in Puff Pastry
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
1/2 pounds yellow onions, sliced
6 garlic cloves
1 each bay leaf
1/2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, ripe, cored, and quartered
1 cup water (no more, use only if tomatoes are not ripe and juicy)
4 cups heavy cream
2-4 Tbsp. butter
Salt to taste
You have free articles remaining.
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1 pound puff pastry, or store bought sheets
1 each egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. of water
Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns; cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Do not let the onions color. Add tomato paste and lightly “toast” the tomato paste to cook out the raw flavor the add tomatoes, and water if needed. Simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the tomatoes and onions are very soft and broken down.
Puree by passing through a food mill. You may also use a blender in batches or a handheld immersion blender until finished, but a food mill works best. Strain and return the soup to the pot.
Add the cream, salt, white pepper and remaining butter to taste. Bring soup to a simmer then remove from heat. Allow the soup to cool for two hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Divide the soup among six 8-ounce soup cups or bowls.
Roll out the puff pastry to 1/4 inch. Cut into 6 rounds slightly larger than your cups. Paint the dough with the egg wash and turn the circles, egg wash side down, over the tops of the cups, pulling lightly on the sides to make the dough somewhat tight like a drum. Try not to allow the dough to touch the soup. These may be made up to 24 hours in advance and covered with plastic in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Lightly paint the top of the dough rounds with egg wash without pushing the dough down. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. Do not open the oven in the first several minutes of cooking as the dough may fall. Serve immediately.
4 lbs. short ribs (we use boneless, brined 4 hours)
2 whole garlic cloves, cut in half
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. juniper berries
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 gallon dark chicken stock
1 bottle Cabernet wine
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large thick bottom braiser, season and brown short ribs on all sides. Remove and place on sheet pan and set aside. Pour off half of the oil. Add carrots, onions, and garlic and roast until vegetables are brown. Add peppercorns, thyme, juniper berries and bay leaves.
In a large thick bottom braiser, season and brown the short ribs on all sides. Remove and place on a sheet pan and set aside. Pour off about half the oil. Then add carrots, onions, and garlic, and roast until the vegetables are brown.
Add peppercorns, thyme, juniper berries and bay leaves. Add tomato paste and cook for five minutes. Add red wine using a wooden spoon rub down the bottom of the pan removing all of the fond. Reduce by half. Add the seared short ribs and enough chicken stock to just cover and braise for 3 hours at 375 degrees. Remove from the oven when fork tender.
Place on a sheet pan and allow to cool. Strain the braising liquid and skim off all the fat, reserve for sauce. To serve reheat the short ribs in the finished sauce (see below) adjusting salt if needed. We serve it with roasted carrots and pearl onions over a bed of buttered egg noodles and garnish with fresh chives.
Brine Recipe (Brining is optional.)
1-1/2 gallons water
1 lb. brown sugar
2 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup juniper berries
1/8 cup black peppercorn
6 bay leaves
Mix all ingredients in large pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add one gallon of ice, chill brine down till cold to the touch. Cure meat for 5 hours. Remove and drain
1 bottle Cabernet wine
1 bunch thyme
Reserved braising liquid
Sweat shallots down in small amount of olive oil, then add thyme and Cabernet. Reduce by three quarters then add the braising liquid and reduce by half or until desired consistency is reached.