Chef's Blog

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

Last night we held a “Meet the Maker” diner with Joe Wagner from the Caymus family of wines.  Great turnout, lovely guests, amazing setting–the sun falling behind the Mayacamas mountains, casting an orange glow over our lawn and spring flowers and the first roses.


I’m not a pastry chef by trade or training, but my favorite pairing of the night was the Caymus Conundrum (whose varietals and percentages are famously secret) with a parfait of lavender-poached apricots, goat’s milk cheesecake mousse, almond streusel, and lavender gelee.  The white Rhone notes and varietals of the wine were PERFECT (IIDSSM–to coin a text-message abbreviation?) with the apricot, almond, and lavender, and the cheesecake mousse added just the right amout of richness to the parfait without being too sweet, because the Conundrum is more of an off-dry wine than a true dessert wine.

What a pleasure and a treat to cook with those wines in mind–something as unique as the Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay, as unctuous as the vineyard-designate Belle Glos Pinot Noirs, and as iconic as the Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon.  Flaubert, who I’ll go ahead and say was wrong about a great many things, tells us that “Idols are made to be seen and not touched; the gilding comes off on the fingers.”  I’m not saying you should touch Joe Wagner, but his wine is made to be enjoyed.  IIDSSM.

April 28, 2011

Robin worked as the lead pastry cook here at Solbar; she died in a fatal car accident on her way home from work, this past Tuesday night on the Silverado Trail.

Robin will be remembered as a creative, dependable, talented member of our team.  The thoughts and prayers of the entire kitchen, and everyone at Solage Calistoga, go out to her family and friends in this difficult time.

April 24, 2011

Download the WWOZ app to your smartphone.  Get acquainted.  Jazzfest is right around the corner.

Sorry for the lack of action here but we are at full tilt boogie in every direction at solbar, including a new bar and kitchen at the Solage pool.  It’s going to be . . . the ne plus ultra of the ne plus ultra of poolside dining in NV.  But you have to stay at the resort or be a Solage member to enjoy the Ensenada-inspired tacos del hambre (that’s correct).

Changes on the dinner and dessert menu too numerous to count.  Our Earth Day all-organic menu was a big sucesss; thank you to those who joined us.

Please call in (707 226 0850) to find out more about the wine dinner we are hosting with the Wagner family of Caymus on May 6.


April 9, 2011

So many new menu items I haven’t even had time to write them down, much less blog about them.  I think I wrote 12 new recipes this week.

We changed the chicken a la plancha to include duck liver-rapini ravioli; got halibut onto the menu; we’re steaming sole with artichokes, saffron-carnaroli rice pilaf, and fava bean-olive salad; sweetbreads are now a first course accompanied by some flavors I think would be great with fried chicken; &c.  More soon.

(And of course lots of asparagus and pork . . . )

April 1, 2011

Many cuisines have a signature pork dish, and seldom does it involve a premium cut like pork tenderloin or pork rack.  Baeckoffe, soppressata, carnitas, paté de campagne, char siu bao, North Carolina pork barbecue:  all of these are best made with pork butt (the butcher’s name for pork shoulder) because of its flavor and its ratio of fat tissue to lean.

A pork butcher offers a sample of his ham at the Paris International Agricultural fair, at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center, on February 20, 2011 in Paris.


March 23, 2011

Well, half a whole hog came in via Mike Panza from Long & Bailey Farms in Manteca last week.  On Thursday night, we served seven thick, juicy, mesquite-grilled pork chops with crispy macaroni and cheese croquettes (I know, right?), bacon-and-garlic-laced string beans, and sauce piquant.  Yahtzee.  And then . . .


March 19, 2011

Early spring in Northern California.  Only here can you buy seasonal, fresh citrus, strawberries, and butternut squash at the same market with a straight face.

Ten years ago, I was on my way home at this time of day.  All right, fifteen years ago.



Brandon Sharp, Executive Chef, Solbar, CalistogaCalifornia. “If you asked me this question 10 years ago, it would be fried bologna, American cheese, barbecue sauce and potato chips wrapped in a tortilla. But now, rice, vegetables and gravy is something that’s really soothing to me whether it’s Thai coconut curry, chili verde or ratatouille.”

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March 9, 2011

On this week’s pizza:  salsa verde, house-made ricotta, english peas, bacon, oven roasted tomatoes, fried egg.

In other exciting news from the bar, oysters are now available on a regular basis, though we still feature them on Thursday nights with special pricing.  Yesterday we had Beau Soleil, today it’s Pearl Point.