Drum roll, please. After nearly a decade, the resort known outside the city limits of Calistoga as the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley has finally opened, along with its flagship restaurant, Truss. Well, sort of. Half of the restaurant is open — the casual half. They call it the “Living Room.” The other half — the yet-to-be-opened fancier section, called the “Dining Room” — is still in the works. A third onsite restaurant — the poolside, Cal-Mexica-inspired, Campo — is currently only accessible to guests of the hotel.
In what has been a near-Odyssean saga, the resort and its accompanying three eateries have been stymied and otherwise hindered. Construction delays, multiple fires (the Glass Fire came as close as a couple of hundred yards away), near-yearly evacuations, the pandemic, and a historic labor shortage have all conspired to waylay and thwart a full opening.
Led by Chef Erik Anderson (San Francisco’s COI, Nashville’s Catbird Seat, French Laundry), the not-yet-fully staffed team is already replete with talent, including Chef de Cuisine Craig Wilmer (COI, Petit Crenn), Pastry Chef Joshua Gaulin (Quince, Michael Mina, Meadowood), Sommelier Morgan Grey (Gary Danko) and Randy Languerand (Brix).
What’s in a name?
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Because the city of Calistoga prohibits the opening of any businesses that are franchises or chains, within the city limits of Calistoga the resort must be called the “Resort at 400 Silverado Trail,” but outside of the city of Calistoga the resort is called the “Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley.” Discuss.
Next, the name of the restaurant itself — Truss. For many — myself included — Truss brings to mind the trussing of a bird prior to cooking. In this way, the name Truss evokes classical French culinary techniques that speak to Anderson’s penchant and reputation for serving up delectable fowl and game. For others, Truss conjures up the straight, clean lines of an architectural structure, which is another wonderful image. For those with a medical bent, Truss evokes an image that is a little less appetizing.
Naming aside, Truss and the poolside eatery, Campo, directly compete with Solage’s two oddly similarly themed Solbar and Picobar, both of which are right across the street. It will be interesting to watch how these two organizations hold their ground or modify their offerings going forward.
The 150-seat indoor-outdoor restaurant was built atop a small hillock that overlooks the resort’s grounds, surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills. The dining spaces are broken up into distinct areas. A spacious wraparound bar flanks the casual Living Room, which is full of simple tables, comfortable booths, and floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to an outdoor seating area that includes a large firepit. The Dining Room is tucked away in a private section and also has its own outdoor patio.
Taking up one corner of the entire space, the glass-enclosed open-style kitchen makes it feel as if one is being entertained in someone’s home — all of the kitchen’s activities clearly visible sans the noise.
On the two occasions I’ve eaten dinner at Truss — once at the bar and once at a table — by 7:30 the restaurant was full. The vibe was energetic and fun, although there was a hint of an earnest seriousness by the Truss team as they iron out the early-stage hiccups.
To launch any restaurant under the current challenging conditions is admirable, and I suspect the majority of the Napa Valley community and those visiting the region are appreciative to any who attempt to create anything that combines attributes of new, exciting and welcoming. Truss checks all these boxes.
From the layout of the restaurant and a first, peek at the menu, it appears that the Truss team is looking to meet three goals. First, the restaurant will serve the resort guests by providing breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service. Second, Truss appears poised to become a new go-to high-end eatery for locals and tourists who are looking to enjoy a meal that is comparable to Solbar, Charter Oak, Goose and Gander, Auberge du Soleil or Press. Finally, their Dining Room aspirations seem distinctly aimed at shooting for the stars. That is — although not planning to serve a Prix-fix menu, which is a near must-have for obtaining three-Michelin-stars — Truss seems set on aspiring to obtain at least one.
Although I applaud such aspirations, I am left scratching my head as to how exactly such a range of goals can be serviced by one relatively small kitchen. That said, if anyone can perform such culinary gymnastics, Anderson and his team — along with the skillful experience of the Four Seasons’ front-of-the-house crack staff — are good candidates. Anderson has already achieved two Michelin stars when he was at COI and has won numerous awards and accolades.
The food and drinks
The Living Room menu includes a few items that I imagine will eventually end up being best suited for the Dining Room menu. These include the exceptional caviar offering ($150), the Prosciutto-textured duck ham ($24), the colorful and surprisingly spicy “pressed” chicken ($40), and the stylish trout ($34). All these dishes show off Anderson’s talents and flare, although the caviar dish exemplifies this point best.
Through a collaboration between Anderson and the California Caviar Co., the Truss team harvests, cleans, salts, and packages their own caviar. Beyond that extraordinary fact, every minute detail of the dish is executed at the highest level. Take, for example, the inch-high sourdough blinis — fluffy and tender with a perfectly browned top. Even the side of “scrambled eggs” is mind-bendingly creative with small beads of egg white and separate yolk that include a touch of tabasco in the process. A side quenelle of tiny-diced shallots and smoked crème Fraiche all combine to make a sublime combination of textures and flavors.
The remainder of the menu — thin-crust pizzas ($24), a cheeseburger ($22), a grilled Caesar salad ($20), pressed chicken ($40), pork ribs ($32), and the like — ranges from good to very good, but these are not in the same category as the items mentioned above. And a few items seem unsure exactly to which category they belong, including a small nod to the vegetarians with a crudites plate ($20) replete with artistically plated crispy local vegetables served with a whipped tofu green goddess dressing and an interesting oyster-leaf wrap. So, too, is the strip loin for two that comes with anchovy butter ($130). Brushed with an onion glaze, the crust has a pleasant sweet-saltiness, but to really enjoy this item it’s necessary to order the three optional side dishes ($14 each) of sautéed mushrooms, roasted asparagus, and deliciously buttery potato puree.
Pastry Chef Gaulin offers three desserts, each of which is delicious, textured, and crave-able. Pecan Babka and brown sugar ice cream ($14) is a must for anyone having New York withdrawal. The small dab of fig-leaf ice cream ($9) is creamy with a hint of savory, and the Gianduja tart ($14) is a luscious take on what Nutella might aspire to if it could dream.
Sommelier Grey has created a wine list of about 250 labels mainly focused on Napa Valley and Sonoma. The dozen-plus wines by the glass range from $14 to $40, with some interesting non-local options. At the bar, Languerand crafts a small collection of creative cocktails, including my favorite, the Jekyll and Hyde ($18), made with locally distilled Burning Chair bourbon, St. George, pear liquor and brown sugar. The drink comes to the table enclosed in a glass case filled with wood smoke to add a nice flourish of aroma and show during the unveiling.
The opening of Truss is a welcomed addition to Calistoga and the Napa Valley more broadly. Although expensive ($40 chicken!) and still in the refining and tweaking stage, the exceptional team is poised to make a big splash in the coming months as they staff up and are able to fully execute their ambitious plan.