Tag Archives: Mediterranean cuisine

It’s Time for Wine: Napa for 2013 Part 2

By Monty and Sara Preiser

Click Here for Part 1

As promised, we continue to share our experiences with new finds and some old favorites. Today we touch primarily on dining, but won’t leave without some wines being mentioned as well.

Ca’ Momi is “Obsessively” Good

The old saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t quite fit here. It is more like, “You should always take the time to read the cover before making a judgment.” We admit we had passed by Ca’ Momi more than once because we thought it was a small operation in Oxbow Center (kind of like a mall if you are not familiar with the property) where customers ordered from the counter and found a table. Boy, were we wrong!

Ca' MomiOur perception was guided by the relatively small open kitchen, which we thought limited any restaurant, but which we now know can produce some stunning food. Beyond that, owners Dario De Conti and Valentina Guolo-Migotto have acquired the bar and sitting area around which Oxbow foot traffic must flow, and have created a romantic setting on the outside walkway of the building. Even on the off season Monday night we visited, the bar was crowded with young, good looking Millennials, and the outdoor ambiance was set to receive them for dinner.

We had the good fortune that night to sit with Valentina and Dario while we dined, and their driving force was quickly apparent. It is their goal to present truly authentic regional Italian cuisine with organic ingredients whenever possible. While many ristorantes use these words, it is unusual when they are adhered to, especially in the U.S., where diners so often expect the restaurant to conform to their tastes rather than vice-versa. At Ca’ Momi, however, the motto is “Obsessively Authentic Italian,” and they lovingly stick by it.

Interestingly, Dario and Valentina also own a winery with the same name as the restaurant – Ca’ Momi. Neither they nor we will tell you these wines are designed to satisfy someone who only desires to buy expensive bottles. They are, instead, painstakingly crafted to well accompany the cuisine with which the owners expect them to be consumed. Once again, we were willing test subjects who were converted to believers, for time and again a wine that was pleasant alone, became a present with food.

Our favorite dishes:
– Pan fried sardines in white wine marinade with caramelized onions and pine nuts;
– Chickpea flower cake cooked in a wood burning oven and seasoned with pepper;
– Any of the cured meats and artisanal Italian cheeses;
– Classic Tuscan soup with veggies and cannellini beans;
– The Napoletana style (not Neopolitan) pizzas, which are actually “VPN” certified (Verace Pizza Napoletana) as to style, manner of preparation, and taste.  There are so many pizza options it would take weeks to get through them. Take a night and try a few.
– And the best: Spezzatino (beef stew) and Polenta.

We do want to call attention to the spezzatino above and the 2010 Ca’ Momi Napa Pinot Noir ($26). They are spectacular allies.

The Ca’ Momi 2011 Napa Merlot ($22) went well with our soup, and we particularly enjoyed the tropical and banana nuanced 2011 Ca’ Momi Napa Chardonnay ($22) with the sardines. Just so you know they can produce the more complex wines as well, our proprietors offer an excellent 2009 Napa Cab Reserve for $58. But they are more than happy to show off their beautifully made lesser priced wines with their beautifully spiced food. Here is a place you cannot help but be happy.

Ca’ Momi, 610 First Street, Napa, California. (707) 257-4992


Marita’s Vineyard – More then Just a Wine

We recently spent a delightful afternoon at Marita’s Vineyard as the luncheon guests of Bulmaro, Sara, and Mara Montes (for whom the winery is named – Marita is the diminutive of Mara). We went primarily to review the wines, but left with a story just as equal in richness and longevity.

Marita's VineyardWineries are born in many ways. Generations ago almost all vintners were farmers from birth while in this day and age a celebrity might simply stroke a check and purchase an ongoing brand in a heartbeat. However, there is a middle ground – the upwardly mobile vineyard worker who goes on to “make it” in business, and then turns back to his love of wines  – only this time as the boss.

As you may have gathered, Bulmaro is that very guy. Coming to California from Mexico as a teenager who spoke little English, his hard work in the vineyards saw him promoted to Vineyard Manager at the prestigious Joseph Phelps Vineyards, and, subsequently, to the organization’s Vice President of Operations. In this key position, Bulmaro helped produce some of the world’s most respected wines for decades, including the iconic Insignias.

Retiring from Phelps in 2003, Bulmaro purchased acreage east of the town of Napa, and set about planting vines and farming it to his own demanding specifications. This dedication has culminated in the two wines his family now produces – Soma and Marita’s.

Soma ($86) is named for the two daughters (So = Sofia, who is also a bank manager, and Ma = Mara, who is also in the financial world and serves as the winery’s stately ambassador). It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and evidences cassis, black plum, and raspberries, all dancing within a velvet mouthfeel.

Marita’s Vineyard ($150) is named after Mara, who was inspirational to Bulmaro. It is one of the best wines made in the Valley, and the one that inspired us to first visit the family, and then pull out a credit card so we could own some. Showing even darker plums than its sister wine, there are chocolate notes throughout. We love a layered wine that noticeably evolves in the glass, and Marita’s does just that until it explodes on your back palate.

You can taste these wines by calling the winery and setting up an appointment. The cost depends on the number of wines and types of food to be paired. With Sara’s cooking, Mara’s instruction, and Bulmaro’s wines, it is an exceptional experience.

Marita’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 4164, Napa, California. (707) 259-5313


Tarla, the Mediterranean Cuisine Napa Needs

It looks like Napa (downtown Napa at least) is turning the corner toward its acceptance of ethnic cuisines (except for the disastrous loss of Neela’s, one of the country’s best Indian houses). Thai, Southern Comfort Food, Himalayan, Japanese, and, of course, Italian, are all thriving along with the ever prevalent wine country contemporary food. Now comes Tarla Grill, a welcome addition.

TarlaLocated downtown on revitalized First Street, the menu reflects elements of the entire Mediterranean region, but is probably most influenced by Greece and Turkey, along with a fusion of these two nations. The wine list is more than adequate, and good news for all is that a full bar will soon be serving cocktails.

We truly enjoyed the meatballs with wild truffle-wild mushroom cream, and the caramelized diver scallops. Saganaki, a traditional Greek dish of flaming cheese, always pleases our palates, and this one paired beautifully with beer. The night’s clear winners for us were the mussels and clams in Calabrian chili, garlic, roasted lemon, and butter.

Service at Tarla is friendly, timely, and professional. We think this addition to the Napa dining scene will be around for a while.

Tarla Grill, 1480 1st Street Napa, California. (707) 255-5599

images from winery and restaurants’ websites


It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com.  Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley and Sonoma, the most comprehensive guides to wineries and restaurants in Napa and Sonoma. Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.

Eos: A New Dawn for Old World Cuisine

You’d better visit Eos now because once word spreads about the great food you’ll need a reservation.

EosEos is the new Mediterranean-inspired restaurant from Chef Michael Psilakis (whose New York City restaurant Anthos is one of only two Greek restaurants in the world with a Michelin star), and restaurateur Donatella Arpaia.  It’s located on the 15th floor of the Viceroy hotel at the northern end of Brickell Avenue, a short trip over the bridge from downtown Miami.

EosThe word Eos means “new dawn” in Greek.  This idea is captured in both Psilakis’ modern take on his native cuisine and the restaurant’s bright mix of geometric shapes and eye-catching furniture.  At intimate tables for two you’ll feel like a king, sitting on the oversized grey chairs.

The menu at Eos is part Greek, part Mediterranean and part Japanese.  You order from it like you would order at a tapas bar.  From sashimi and salads to poultry and fish, everything is meant to be shared.  The friendly waitstaff are happy to guide your selections.

If you like sushi, you’ll find an array of fresh fish on the menu.  However, the portions are smaller and the fish is more expensive than most sushi restaurants, so you may want to skip it unless you’re craving raw fish.  I’d recommend trying the Beausoleil oyster ceviche or lamb tatare instead.

lobster and sea urchin risottoMy favorite dish on the menu is the lobster and sea urchin risotto.  It is just as rich and decadent as it sounds.  The creaminess of the risotto is enhanced by the melt-in-your-mouth texture and salty taste of the sea urchin.  There’s plenty of large chunks of lobster to share, even though you won’t want to.  There’s even caviar thrown in for good measure.  I could easily eat this risotto every night.

smoked octopusAnother must-taste dish is the smoked octopus.  It’s a dish I couldn’t get enough of during my trip to Greece two years ago.  Biting into Eos’ version transported me back to my favorite tiny cafe overlooking the dazzling blue-green Aegean Sea.

I also enjoyed the whole grilled Loup de Mer (seabass).  Though it looks basic in preparation, the fish is moist and flavorful.  Even if you don’t like having to work for your food, this dish is worth trying.  The seabass is cut into sections which makes it easier to get to the meat, and there are very few small bones.

A big disappointment was the crispy rabbit, which came out looking more like chicken fingers.  The meat was hidden under a thick and salty crust and was fried beyond recognition.  Even after I peeled off the crust the meat was dry and salty.  I kind of felt bad for the rabbit — the poor little guy deserves more respect than this preparation!

If you know you’ll be dining at Eos at least three days in advance and are feeling adventurous, call ahead to order from the “big party” section of the menu.  It’s modeled after traditional celebratory feasts held throughout the Mediterranean region.  The chef will prepare spring lamb, baby kid goat or suckling pig for your special dinner.

While Eos excels with food, it falls a little flat with drinks.  Many of the cocktails sound better than they taste.  The bright pink Pisco Campari Sour I ordered was too sweet to drink with the meal.  If you like rum I’d suggest ordering it neat or on the rocks instead of in the Eos Especial or the Viceroy Old Fashioned.  Though the wine list is a little limited, it does feature bottles that you won’t find at many other restaurants.

This month Eos is launching a Wine Dinner Series organized by the restaurant’s wine director, Sergio Caceres.  The first dinner on June 23rd will feature winemaker Peter Figge of Figge Cellars in Monterey County, California.  The dinner is from 7 to 9pm and costs $95 per person, including tax and gratuity.  To reserve a spot call 305-503-4400 ext 7151.

If you’re a fan of Greek sweets you’ll be disappointed by the lack of Greek desserts at Eos.  Sure there are tasty options like tiramisu or flan but you can find those at many other restaurants.  Even a basic baklava would be a welcome addition.

Still, all I need at Eos is the lobster and sea urchin risotto and the smoked octopus.  A warning to my future dining companions: order your own since I’m not sharing!

Eos at Viceroy Miami is located at 485 Brickell Avenue in Miami.