Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

Photo essay of our last 48 hours.

So we have this glass cube of a satellite kitchen at the top of Diamond Mountain, with a view of the Farallons to the west and the Sierras to the east, equipped with Rational ovens, induction burners, massage chairs, heated floors, voice-command daiquiri machine, and Caddyshack/Die Hard on constant loop.  We sprung for the extra $3,500,000 on a solar-powered cloaking device, so it’s invisible on sunny days, and in the fogbank on others, which means Don’t try to find it.

Gustavo and I have been working with Bradley Borchardt, developing menu items for our temporary switch to Asian comfort food in the Solbar Lounge for January-March 2013.  I’m so full of noodles and dumplings at this moment that I can’t even stay awake to read the opening paragraph that I let Bradley ghost-write.


pork shoulder gyoza with ponzu sauce

korean shortribs

hijiki salad with yam, fennel, and hosui pear

chilled sesame noodles

beijing style noodle salad with peanuts

green papaya salad with fresno chile

four of eight different test batches of hong kong style pork ribs

roasted chicken and shiitake soup dumplings.  double-black-diamond territory here.

chilled chicken laab lettuce cups

five-spice beef brisket steam buns

family meal was an epic feast.

chiang mai sausage steam buns.


not pictured, but processed today:  tempura long beans with uni mayonnaise, clear-steamed chicken soup with mushroom wontons, pork siu mai, tom ka, dungeness crab rangoon with sweet chile and lime, pork belly ramen with onsen egg, fried chicken . . .


Do not eat this post



November 18, 2012

From a coupla weeks ago . . . the mission was to hit the grocery store, get chicken and pasta, and release the hounds.  I wanted dinner to be healthy and ready in 75 minutes.  AND not to involve pork.  I know, I know.


When in doubt, start with a vegetable flavor base. Here we have lightly caramelized onions and a lot of microplaned garlic, to create an Italian soffritto. For a Pro Move at this point and a thicker finished sauce, I decided to singer the soffritto. Singer is a French culinary term and it means to sprinkle flour over the sauteed items before adding the liquid. It's not quite a roux, but nearly.

I browned the chicken and finished it in the sauce.

You can see where this is headed, right?

Fusilli with braised chicken breast, broccoli, almonds, and the last of the season's good basil and organic sweet million tomatoes. The Chardonnay went into the pan to deglaze after I sprinkled in the flour, and then I added chicken stock. It's a white wine dish on the cusp of being a red wine dish, so we added parmigiano-reggiano and drank . . . hm, what did we drink? Obviously not something terribly memorable.

on the menu tomorrow

seared roasted pork belly, pickled carrots, cilantro, spicy mayo, handmade steam buns

Like a banh mi cart crashed into my commercial steamer.  Which piece of equipment I’ve written to Santa about.

I ate four of these things in the kitchen already this afternoon.  The fourth one was to make up for the cold beer that I should’ve been drinking instead.

And a lot of people are rightfully fired up about it, it’s not the most exciting event of 2012.  We’ve been working up some fascinating (penny-ante) sociological studies in the kitchen lately–people behave oddly in a restaurant environment, yet are perhaps the truest versions of themselves–and I really want to find out if folks other then homesick Southerners will order the pimiento cheese (served with an arsenal of dipping weapons).

The first hurdle will be explaining the ingredients.  I mean, it IS about 90% mayo and cheese.  95%

[verbal tirade excised at the insistence of Solage's lawyers]

AAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNd I was looking forward to giving you the recipe but I just spent the last 15 minutes ripping my office and the kitchen apart in search of it but I CANNOT FIND IT anywhere!  I know I wrote it down on the back of half an old BEO but it’s not in the hanging file folder outside my office where I swear I left it.

So I CAN tell you that seeded and diced piquillo peppers taste much better in there than the traditional jar of pimiento peppers, and that beyond those three ingredients, you should add a dash each of Worcestershire and Louisiana Hot Sauce (red dot) and one more thing that’s driving me crazy not to remember.

The moral of the story:  I need an executive assistant.

October 25, 2012

Good crowd at the release party for the 2013 Michelin Red Guide in SF last night, at Terra Gallery, close enough to AT&T Park that we saw the F-14s fly over us before the first pitch of the World Series.  Ryder, Goose, Yordan and I made duck breast–actually duck ballotines–with garnet yam spuma, duck glace finished with saba, and pickled radicchio.  Four other chefs had been invited to cook as well.

Ryder searing and basting the duck roulades

workers working

Workers working

Sauce/spuma locked and loaded in thermal isi guns and insulated thermoses

The finished plate--sliced roulade of duck with crispy skin, yam spuma, pickled radicchio, chives, black pepper, and roasted duck-saba reduction. We put out 150 of these bad boys in about twenty minutes, then over 200 by the end of the event.

October 24, 2012

I had the honor of cooking for Bob Cook and Paula Brooks at the launch for their latest vintage of Dancing Hares.  Here is the evidence . . .


Mark Pasternak of Devil's Gulch Ranch supplied the rabbits. Here is a picture of the bacon-wrapped loins, but I also confited the shoulders, braised the legs, roasted the bones and made a sauce, and discarded the kidneys with extreme prejudice. (Ryder used the livers for a spot-on game terrine.) Once the legs were braised, I pulled the meat, strained the cuisson, reduced it, and folded it back into the pulled meat with chives, shallots, tarragon, and butter, then rolled that out into roulades, which were then sliced and breaded. A really fancy and expensive way to make a chicken-fried rabbit patty, which is even better than is sounds.

Ask any musician--life on the road is tough. Here, lunch consisted of a fistful of dungeness crab, basil, and fuji apple salad on toasted baguette. Wait, what are all those sad road songs about? COME ON!

Sous chef Jayson Poe, fixin' to wrap the crab salad with prosciutto san daniele and endive.

the finished plate. roasted rabbit and said patties on top of apple-spiked lentilles de puy with brussels sprout leaves and inflections of deliciousness too numerous and ineffable to name.

And, for dessert, solbar will keep its Michelin star in the 2013 Red Guide!  My heartfelt thanks, respect, and appreciation to everyone who puts on an apron in our kitchen.  Everyone.

Maybe the best “fragment” song I know . . . I wish they had made it to the winter months but it’s the more unique for being incomplete.  October is half done, the restaurant is still steaming ahead, Michelin announcements come out in two weeks.


Coupla things–we have an intriguing wine dinner coming up with Brian Fleury on November 2d.  He’ll be pouring some rare stuff, should be a big night.  Call us at 707 226 0850 if interested.  Deal of the century at $130 inclusive of food, wine, tax, and service.


The dinner menu continues to evolve . . . the latest addition (as of 1:50pm PST) is red curry poached shrimp with hearts of palm, tapioca, and fresh water chestnuts.  This one has been percolating in Ryder’s brain for about 5 months, so it’s kind of the end of an era to actually see it on the menu.


Something big going down in our bar in January of 2013 . . . don’t touch that dial.

time for some autumn menus ideas

flavor profiles we want to taste


when the computer is on the fritz, recipes go on the BWB

bread service at Del Posto--butter and pork fat. yep.

tsukemen at tabata ramen in midtown manhattan

pumpkin from regusci winery. I put my flip-flop in the picture the same way an archaeologist puts in a pickax. Gigantor!

a brace of fresh game at the Borough Market in London

langoustines, still twitching

maybe this is what powers the Manx Missile

lamburger at Borough Market

lazy man's macaroons, but they still look good. That's a $4.20 meringue for those who get paid in dollars

the empanada stand. nowhere near as good as Ian's at the st helena farmers market.

not the american bistro

hare pie at the potting shed pub

fish and chips with REALLY mushy peas

ex-ramen at ittenbari in London

composing the menu for a wine dinner

September 7, 2012

griddled adriatic figs from Rutherford Gardens with pine bud syrup, crispy pine nut meringue, fennel soubise, toasted farro, and pickled Oregon chanterelles

Coriander and dark rum-cured smoked salmon with a rye crouton, horseradish spuma, pink pearl apples and mustard-dill vinaigrette

Gone but not forgotten . . . chilled confit of foie gras with pickled cherries, spiecd almond shortbread, mustard sauce, and bitter greens circa June, 2009 . . looking back, I think we probably didn't charge enough for this dish. I think there's a good four ounces of foie gras on the plate, and that's AFTER about 18% of the fat rendered out in the confit process.

I don’t know why the pictures won’t line up.


When we opened the resort in July of 2007, one of the patriarchs of the Auberge Resorts group told me that we should be doing a thousand covers a day.  According to our point-of-sale system, we did 1,024 yesterday.

Not sure if that was the biggest day in our history or not, but after participating in a screaming busy brunch, a relentless late afternoon push in the grill/pool kitchen, and a full-tilt first turn for dinner service, all I can say for sure that the cold Modelo in my fridge at home went down easy.

From L Fignon:  ”Sometimes . . . we simply have to go out to meet the Man with the Hammer.”  I don’t know if that’s translated from the French.  Anyhow, no need to do that many covers again.

Here are a couple of new salads.  We are getting Adriatic figs from the big tree at Rutherford Gardens.  The smoked salmon features some of the first apples of the season (pink pearls); we’re also using Gravensteins.

< . . . waving phone around to try and get a signal . . . >

The iPhone is tired from yesterday and won’t send the pix to my laptop.  I’ll post them soon.