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The Charter Oak Napa: local, seasonal produce in family style

Our short visit to Napa is not complete without a gastronomical evening at one of it’s many restaurants of course. So for tonight we have booked a table at The Charter Oak. A fairly new concept by Michelinstar chef Christopher Kostow of ‘The Restaurant at Meadowood’.

His vision for The Oak is more family style dining with a focus on local and seasonal produce. Aka sustainable good quality. Which is being prepared in their impressive (not exaggerating here) wood oven. They also offer a extensive selection of wines (community spirit-wise bring your own is allowed) and innovative cocktails.

Photo by The Charter Oak, 2018

The interior of the restaurant is dark with brick walls, wooden tables and spotlights. The heart of the restaurant, literally, is the roaring wood oven, decorated with herbs. This is where all the dishes are created. The industrial looking bar on the left side is already filling up with a laughing group of friends. 

The menu is diverse but structured. Each plate highlighting a few elements. Their very own Charter Oak bread seems like a good choice to begin with. It is accompanied by a ‘house cultured butter’. Meaning made with cream and subsequently fermented (like ghee). This gives the butter a pleasant hazelnutty-ish flavour. To pair, the enthusiastic sommelier pours us a El Molino chardonnay. He also tells us that the vines of this particular vineyard are already plus 45 years old. And that after eleven months aging in oak barrels, the wine spends another nine to ten months in the bottle prior to serving. It pays to be patient. Seriously. The taste is rich and buttery, hints of pineapple and limestone (thirsty yet?).

When the spicy chicken wings for the other table arrive we doubt for a split second, but Tom is more than ready for his main: the classic cheeseburger with handcut fries. I decide to let the chef and team surprise me, since everything on the menu looks delicious. They go for the cantharelles and beef rib. Basted for twelve hours in it’s own fat. Lightly brushed with saba (the main ingredient of traditional balsamic vinegar). And smoked over old cabernet barrels to top it off. Wow. Take my money already. 

We are, however, a little surprised by the lack of silverware. Miscommunication about the table setting? We ask one of the waitresses, who smiles and points at the table ‘They didn’t tell you?’ Turns out there’s a secret drawer. For silverware. And neatly folded napkins. This is just brilliant. And stylish. Mommy, I want one!

The 2015 Stag’s Leap cabernet sauvignon is thé perfect combination for both plates. A lot of Napa winefarmers were struggling during that year, because of the extreme temperatures and drought. So a smaller crop, but according to the sommelier ‘The berries are packed with even more intense, fruity flavours’. Praise.

Later the desserts are presented on an old school style cart. I’ll add that one to the interior wishlist as well. There a multiple, delicious options. But nothing beats (smoked) dark chocolate, the king of desserts. Unfortunately I forgot to write down details of the excellent matching sweet wine. Anyway, we stick around long after the last bite.

And, finally, (as mentioned above) an inspirational wisdom to remember our visit by.


1050 Charter Oak Av, St Helena (Napa valley)

California, USA