Chef's Blog

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

“I love meat. I fantasize about ribeye. I would live inside of one of Momofuku’s pork belly buns if I could. But I have to say the meal that’s seared in my memory after a recent trip to California is the plate of perfectly cooked, delicately dressed vegetables I had at Solbar in Calistoga. A lovely arrangement of carrots, beets, parsley root and Tokyo turnips, this was a shockingly flavorful dish that made me rethink my carnivorous ways—at least for a night.”

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December 2, 2010

We have a lot of favas going as ground cover in the garden.  The black tuscan kale is ready, and we dug up about thirty pounds of beets today, and tracked about fifty of mud into Ryder’s truck.

Sous chefs antagonizing the kale and clipping each other, or the other way around.  If those plants respond to the timbre of the human voice, we’ll have an old-growth rainforest by tomorrow morning.


November 30, 2010

These past three weeks alone we’ve been through squab rossini, miso-mushroom soup, a new Dungeness crab salad by Andrew, a killer foie mousse and crispy squab leg first course, Ryder’s seared foie gras with cornmeal griddle cakes and huckleberry jus, smoked shortrib chili (on the bar menu) . . . . this time of year, our cover volume diminishes and the sous chefs and I get more time to work on changing up the food–it keeps the guests, the servers, and us interested.  Here are a few photos:

Seared blue-nose bass with pear-sage puree, roasted cauliflower, preserved chanterelles, and bacon.


The – Jim Byers’ Travel Blog

“Solbar at the Solage Restaurant was particularly outstanding, with an elegantly casual decor and monstrously good local food; ranging from perfectly seared bass to local lamb. The salad was quite inventive: escarole and red endive with pears, prosciutto, caramelized honey and a pear-verjus dressing. And there’s an outstanding wine list, not surprisingly.”

November 28, 2010

Well, the piece on restaurant Thanksgivings that ran in the Chronicle the other day was . . . hmm.  I’m glad it appeared, because it showed that there’s not a lot of glamour to what we do in this industry.  Maybe .01% of cooks get to enjoy the glamour of cooking, and then, probably only 1-5% of their time, making for a massive .0001% of our long hours that are celebrated.  The rest is a GRIND, and sometimes it’s best not to ask oneself why one does it . . . but anyway:

What I want to get across is what a pleasure–once the personal resignation has fully set in–it is to welcome our guests into solbar and cook for them on Thanksgiving.  On New Year’s Eve we complement champagne with caviar.  On New Year’s Day we cure hangovers with fried chicken and waffles.  But on Thanksgiving, we cook with our restaurant family, for other families.  It’s gratifying in a vicarious way, and delicious, and just right.

(And don’t you, at times, wish you could hire and fire members of your own family?  I’m just saying.)

November 19, 2010

“Sharp is executive chef of the Michelin-starred Solbar Restaurant in Calistoga. He is preparing turkey for Thanksgiving but will brine and roast the breast while deep frying the leg. This, he says, turns the different parts of the turkey into the best versions of themselves. Accompanying the turkey is one of his personal favorites — sour cream and chive whipped potatoes. At Solbar, Brandon concentrates on making the best possible version of traditional dishes. For the dish, Yukon potatoes are boiled then dried. Add hot sour cream and slowly add in chunks of cold butter (not melted). Sharp explains that using cold butter will result in creamier potatoes, while also letting you use more butter without making the dish too greasy. Whip potatoes and add in desired amount of chopped chives. Brandon recommends Fisher Vineyards “Unity” Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon; Lang & Reed’s “Two Fourteen” Cabernet Franc or Chateau Montelena’s “The Montelena Estate” Zinfandel with dinner.”

Read full story here

Recipes for the Good Life

“One of his signature dishes is Lucky Pig – it’s currently on the lunch menu (did you think I’d tease you with something you couldn’t have? Shame on you for thinking that.).”

November 17, 2010

Time for an interlude.  Autumn in Napa Valley is stunning.  Again, this is the best I can do with a camera phone from a moving truck . . . if you haven’t heard Ryan Bingham yet, he’s the perfect music for this ride . . .

Across the valley floor, from Highway 29 to the Trail.

Alongside the Napa River on Dunaweal Lane.


November 14, 2010

So far, about 1200 words have been written, erased, and are (thankfully, believe me) forever gone.  As I drove home from work tonight, I worried that this post could run to 50,000 words.  Points I want to make for sure:

I. Chang / Appleman follow the link–there’s a recent history.

II. Daniel Patterson v Chez Panisse follow the link–we may be doomed to repeat less-recent history.