Every once in a while, it’s fun to play tourist, to see this valley as visitors do; but that’s not why we went to brunch at Farm last week.
Farm at Carneros Inn launched its brunch a few weeks ago with locals in mind, said executive chef Aaron Meneghelli, a Napa native who oversees the culinary team at the upscale resort in southwest Napa.
“We wanted to do something a little different,” Meneghelli said, as he brought out samples of the dishes he’s devising for the brunch service.
It will be a changing menu inspired by what he finds in the Farm gardens and from local producers, he said.
What won’t change, however, is the vista from the veranda at Farm. You can eat inside, but on a perfect sunny Sunday, few brunchers were opting for this. It was far more pleasant to sit in the shaded porch and watch bocce players while sipping one of the Farm brunch cocktails.
Even these, Meneghelli noted, take their inspiration, if not their ingredients from the Farm gardens: Farm carrots are in the Ox Heart, along with Uncle Val’s botanical gin, apricots, and ginger beer. The Bloody Mary, too, gets its smoked tomato juice out of the gardens. I opted for a taste of the Mimosa, which combines sparkling wine from Domaine Carneros down the street with either peach or orange juice.
I followed this with a wonderful Chablis (Willam Fevre, 2014) from the brunch wine list.
But to get to the food: Rather than offer a traditional brunch buffet, Meneghelli has designed an inventive family-style menu. The way it works is that a table can choose four dishes to share from an extensive menu. The portions are generous: One of the four items we chose was the Blueberry Crostada, and each person got an individual pastry, plump with fresh berries and garnished with lemon zest and creme fraiche.
The menu goes from light to decadent choices. On the lighter side, some of the options offered on this particular Sunday morning were Deviled Eggs with Siberian Caviar, Beets and Berries with fresh ricotta, garden greens, pistachios and granola, and Roasted Asparagus served with hen of the woods mushrooms and sunny-side-up eggs.
A favorite at our table was the Avocado Toast, a colorful dish served on rye bread with smoked salmon, capers, pickled pearl onions and garnished with garden flowers.
“We make everything that we can in house,” Meneghelli said, noting that the breads are house-made, as are the capers and pickled vegetables. “The salmon, of course, isn’t from Farm, but we did smoke it here.”
The local favorite Silverado Trail strawberries are featured in the Buttermilk Biscuit dish that comes with house-made foie gras mousse.
Eggs? There are several choices. Scrambled eggs were dished up on a tasty flatbread drizzled with creme fraiche and trumpet mushrooms. Another of our hands-down favorites, however, was the simple Bacon and Eggs, which Meneghelli scrambles soft, using a French technique that involves stirring them as you cook them. The “bacon” was prosciutto chips, tucked about in the eggs, which were finished with a sprinkling of white truffle powder.
I would have been entirely happy with just these eggs and the Chablis, but we digressed into two other dishes as well. The perfectly decadent Brioche French Toast with caramelized bananas and candied pecans, and the Lobster BLT, a lavish serving of the crustacean served on a fresh house-baked roll — that was another favorite.
As you can see, it’s easy to rack up the favorites here. We had to pack up half the meal to take home. We wanted to be able to move to play bocce before we left.
Other offerings that day included Shrimp and Grits, Cavatelli Pasta Cabonara with a house bacon and cured egg yolk, Seared Alaskan Halibut, Smoked Chicken and Waffle with pepper jelly and maple syrup, and possibly topping the decadent list, Crispy Duck Confit with poached eggs and pickled ramp — a frisee salad for a healthy touch.
All of these had to wait for a return trip. Which we will certainly make. All in all, it was a fine taste of what visitors find so delectable about our valley.
Farm at The Carneros Inn, previously only open for dinner, is serving Sunday brunch at the newly renovated outdoor patio and with a round of bocce from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $45 per person. The Carneros Inn is at 4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa. To reserve a table, call 707-299-4880 or book through OpenTable. Bocce courts are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For information, visit FarmAtTheCarnerosInn.com.