December 13, 2011

December 13, 2011
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Brassica’s perfectly grilled mushrooms of the day; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

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The killer margaritas at La Condesa have a cactus-lemongrass sugar-salt rim; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

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This pozole is pure shortribby goodness; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

~BRASSICA~—the Cindy Pawlcyn and Sean Knight concept that took over the Go Fish space in St. Helena—seems to be hitting its stride just in time for the holidays. On a recent food bender (generously hosted by the restaurant), I was lovin’ on their seared halloumi, grilled wild mushrooms, feta-crusted sturgeon, and the silky sherry-braised beef with cauliflower purée. Lord have mercy.

This kind of hearty, flavor-packed cooking cries out for wine, and Brassica has put together one of the most comprehensive and varied wine tasting programs in the entire Napa Valley. Over 70 wines are available by the 2-oz. taste, 5-oz. glass, 500mL carafe, and 750mL bottle, including the “Brassica 12”—a rotating selection of premium local wines from small producers, most of whom don’t have tasting rooms. The restaurant included plenty of interesting non-Napa choices too, like Trousseau Gris from the Russian River, old vine grenache from Mendocino, Moschofilero from Greece, Vermentino Nero from Tuscany, and the like. Since you can also take home any bottle off the list at 25% off (taking you down to retail price), Brassica is shaping into a truly awesome one-stop wine tasting destination. 641 Main St. at Mills Ln., St. Helena, 707-963-0700.

~LA CONDESA~ in downtown St. Helena has added weekday lunches (11am-3pm) and weekend brunches (10am-3pm) to their lineup. The lunch menu has a tasty smattering of ceviches, tostadas, ensaladas, sopas, tortas, tacos y mas, while the brunch menu offers a short list from these categories (don’t miss the short rib pozole or the crab tostadas with green mango), plus a half dozen or so egg dishes. Note that the famed huaraches are only available at lunch and dinner, but the house-ground, oak-grilled sirloin hamburgesa can only be had at brunch. Torturous, evil choices. Fortunately the bar serves its unique cocktails, 100+ tequilas, beer, and wine at every meal … and corkage is always free, in true wine country style. 1320 Main St. at Hunt Ave., St. Helena, 707-967-8111.