“The Essential Napa Valley Cookbook” is a compilation of more than 35 recipes from Napa’s restaurants and chefs. Each recipe features a wine pairing from a Napa Valley brand.
The cookbook features recipes from Cindy Pawlcyn’s Mustards, the Charlie Palmer Steak House, Christopher Kostow’s The Charter Oak, and Ken Frank’s La Toque, along with most of the Napa Valley’s other top chefs.
The goal of “The Essential Napa Valley Cookbook” is to raise funds for the restaurant workers of participating restaurants and to support the efforts of Feed Napa Now.
Feed Napa Now is a coalition of Napa chefs, restaurateurs, and others who cook and provide meals for children and families who are feeling the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises, such as the fires. Its long-term mission is to have a system in place for future Napa Valley emergencies.
The cookbook project is the brainchild of Jess Lander, whose writing appears in Wine Enthusiast magazine, Decanted, the San Francisco Chronicle, Eating Well, and others. She writes the “Leftovers” column for the Napa Valley Register and previously wrote the Register column “Public Displays of Affection.”
“I’d seen the cookbook idea done twice before, in Boulder and New York,” Lander said. “The New York cookbook raised $200,000 for restaurant workers.”
“We realized we’d have to have a 501c3 non-profit help us so we could collect money and donate it. I talked to Chuck Meyer, owner of Napa Palisades Saloon and First and Franklin Marketplace, as well as one of the founders of Feed Napa Now. He suggested the Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley partner with us as the fiscal agent. We then reached out to an amazing group of volunteers to help.”
One of the pivotal volunteers is Alexander Rubin, a Napa wine, food, and event photographer, who assembled the sumptuous photos of the food and wine.
“I had made a couple of videos for Save Napa Restaurants that people noticed mostly on Facebook and Instagram,” said Rubin. “Jess saw them and thought of me.”
“I believe that restaurants are the lifeblood of the valley. Visitors may come for the wineries, but they stay for the restaurants. Hospitality is the culture of Napa.”
“It was great to work with the restaurants who were very happy to step up and help,” he continued. “Photographing food and wine has always been my biggest passion. I started working in restaurants in college as a dishwasher and then a cook, so I understand the restaurant business.”
To help with the wine pairings for every recipe, Lander called on Master Sommelier Desmond Echavarrie, CEO and partner of Scale Wine Group, who counts the French Laundry as one of the many restaurants he’s worked in his profession.
“I thought it was incredibly important to offer my help to the community and especially the small, independent restaurants,” said Echavarrie, who also started his restaurant experience as a dishwasher and worked his way up. “The process of choosing the wines for the recipes wasn’t much different than my work as a sommelier, knowing the wines. Fortunately, many of the restaurants and recipes are favorites of mine, so I could use sense memory to pair the wines with the food.”
Lander, who rates herself as “a mediocre home chef,” also called on friends, like editor and recipe developer Deirdre Bourdet, for help editing responses from the chefs as well as testing, a prime component in cookbooks.
“We had to make sure the recipes were doable to home cooks,” Lander said.
For design assistance in assembling the cookbook, she turned to Kim Shaeffer of designthis! design firm.
“Designthis! has been a part of the Napa Valley community for over 25 years now, said Shaeffer in an email. “We’ve seen such amazing growth over those decades. Winery, restaurant, hospitality workers — those people have become clients, friends, associates.
“This pandemic has devastated our community in ways we’ve never seen before. We’ve been so fortunate in our business continuation and keeping our own employees aboard, this was the least we could do to give back.”
The restaurateurs and chefs contributed recipes for starters, sides, main courses, desserts, and cocktails. Most are relatively easy to make, such as Goose and Gander’s G&G Burger and Bistro Jeanty's Moules au Cidre.
Of the cookbook’s proceeds, 75% will go to restaurant workers in need and 25% to Feed Napa Now.
“I realized that restaurants are starting to open up now,” Lander said. “But in the last 12 months, restaurant workers have lost income or been laid off. We want The Essential Napa Valley Cookbook to help them catch up and get them on their feet.”
The Essential Napa Valley Cookbook retails for $39.95. It is available primarily through the website Napavalleycookbook.com. The book is currently in pre-release with hard copies shipping in June.
Moules au Cidre, Bistro Jeanty, Yountville
Bistro Jeanty owner Philippe Jeanty says that mussels with apple cider and crème fraîche are a traditional dish originating in Normandy, France. When he lived in Paris as a teenager, he would frequently ride his motorcycle to Normandy to visit friends and family. One of his friend’s families used to make their own apple cider and calvados. This is a dish they would enjoy frequently at home.
Wine Pairing: Mondavi Fume Blanc
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
½ cup crème fraîche
1 heaping quart of Saltspring Island or other fresh mussels, cleaned
1 cup dry apple cider
4 pieces of grilled bread
1 garlic clove
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then add the shallots, bay leaves, and thyme. Once the shallots are soft, add the mussels, apple cider, and crème fraîche. Cover the pan and cook until the mussels have opened.
Remove the mussels from the pot, place them in a bowl, and pour cooking liquid over them (be careful of any sand or grit at the bottom of the pan). Garnish with freshly chopped parsley. Serve with grilled bread, rubbed with a clove of garlic.