Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, California, is irresistible both for its traditional French bistro "comfort food" and its adorable and welcoming ambiance. Yountville itself has become the shining star of the culinary scene in the Napa Valley and Bistro Jeanty holds a place of honor for it's deliciously prepared and perfectly executed dishes evoking memories of another age set in the French provinces.
We remember Chef Jeanty when he was serving up masterpieces at Napa's "Chandon Restaurant". His creative style introduced new flavors and dishes to the thousands of diners at "Chandon". It was the new age for an explosion of modern French cuisine in California. Twenty years later, in 1997, having more than proven himself as an inventive and creative chef and artist at the top of the heap, his thoughts turned back to his childhood, to the favorite foods of his childhood - the food of the local bistros that populate every neighborhood of France's country villages, towns and cities. So he collected authentic recipes, advertising signs, ashtrays, glasses, tables and chairs and much, much more to create the taste and the ambiance. He found a location in Yountville that he could transform into the essence of the French bistro inside and out and gave birth to "Bistro Jeanty".
It was soon chosen as the "Best New Restaurant in the Bay Area 1998" and chosen as one of four nominees for "Best New restaurant in America 1998" by the James Beard Foundation. But it is more than the food. The bistro in France is similar to the English pub, a place you go where you know them and they always know you, where you catch up with friends and have a "petit rouge" or a pastis. Almost a second living room, an extension of family, a place to meet and eat with friends. Philippe has achieved this and wrapped his food in its warmth.
Rather than recreating the food of just one area of France, he has woven traditional dishes from the north, south, east and west into his menu and often has daily specials. So the menu will offer "Cassoulet" from Toulouse in the south west, "Coq au Vin" from the north, "Salade Nicoise" from the Mediterranean coast and "Daube de Boeuf" from high lands of Provence and everything in-between. Escargots has its roots firmly planted throughout France, Chef Jeanty offers his with a drop of Pastis in the garlic butter. "Truite Fumee a l'Huile d'Olive" can be found everywhere but always with local refinements. His "Coq au Vin" with a touch of cocoa is sublime and he has give us his recipe to try at home.
We had ordered a number of different selections and all were beautifully presented. However, Chef Jeanty had, before the dinner started, sat down with Linda and insisted that we sample a range of his appetizers before tucking into our main courses. So we started with an amuse bouche of the traditional fresh from the garden "Radishes with French butter from Normandy and Kosher Salt". Then several appetizers arrived at the same time: "Truite Fummee a l'Huile d'Olive" (Home smoked trout and potato salad with olive oil), a succulent "Terrine de Lapin" (Rabbit pate with a celery root apple salad and mustard dressing), "Salade aux Lardons et Oeuf Mollet" (Escarole greens and soft boiled egg salad with a warm apple smoked bacon dressing), "Roasted Bone Marrow" in the cross cut beef bone sections, and "Pieds de Cochon Persilles" (Pigs feet and haricots verts salad with a shallot mustard vinaigrette - the feet had actually been rendered into 3 squares. So no "trotters" at table.) Frankly we were full after sampling this spread.
For main courses Peter enjoyed a quite exceptional "Daube de Boeuf". The vegetables were cooked separately then joined with the meat for the final cooking. Linda had a lovely classic "Sole Meuniere" with comforting mashed potatoes.
There were two dessert specials that day: Fresh strawberries with creme fraiche and brown sugar and an Armagnac soaked prunes with rich vanilla ice cream. From the menu there was the superb lemon tart, tangy and sweet at the same time.
It was a voyage back in time to the many bistro's we enjoyed throughout France but rendered in a style we describe as "Haute Grande Mere". Chef Jeanty is threatening to come out with a cook book featuring these recipes - we can hardly wait M. Jeanty! For more on Chef Jeanty, click here