St Helena, CA
Tastiness Factor: 10/10
Locavore Approved? YES- Chef Christopher Kostow is dedicated to using local ingredients in his avant-garde dishes. I loved the story we were told by our server about his use of whelks. Apparently Chef Kostow used to love using lobster at the restaurant. When the local fishermen would catch the lobster, there were whelks caught in the nets that were typically just discarded. Chef Kostow started experimenting with different ways of using them in his dishes and he now embraces them.
Reservations required? YES-Aalthough not as hard to get as French Laundry, you still need to book far in advance (up to 3 months, by phone or online on Opentable). You may have a better shot at getting a reservation if you are a guest at the resort but this is certainly not a given, especially in high season. To be safe, plan far in advance!
Hubby and I had the great pleasure of not only dining at Meadowood but also staying at the resort over New Years this year. What an experience!
Before I get into details on the dining experience, it deserves mentioning how phenomenal the resort itself is. The attention to detail here is unrivalled. To start, the Concierge service is outstanding. On arrival, the concierge asked if we needed anything, so I mentioned a bunch of different things we were considering (wineries, Oakville Grocery, Oxbow Market). Within an hour of our arrival, we were hand-delivered a typed personal itinerary for our next 2 days, including winery tours that the concierge had booked for us. Other notable luxuries include a 24-hour car service to drive you around the resort, a beautiful hike around the grounds (with little water stops at intervals along the way), a full gym with multiple fitness classes throughout the day, a brand new spa, and much, much more. Prepare to be amazed!
Now to the restaurant itself which is equally spectacular. The room is magical, bringing in elements of Mother Nature like magical "floating" branches high on the walls of the front room, and a phenomenal pillar in the middle of the main room covered in bark that looked just like a cedar tree growing out of the floor. The front room where we waited for your table and enjoyed a pre-dinner cocktail was pretty chilly on the New Year's Eve night that we visited, but fortunately we were able to snuggle up near one of the massive fireplaces to stay toasty. I loved my tequila based cocktail which had a great evolution of flavour from sweet to sour to spicy, while Hubby enjoyed the Butter Bourbon.
The service at in the Restaurant at Meadowood was some of the best we have ever experienced. The servers were so genuine, so accommodating and so willing to entertain our questions. We were introduced to our main server and sommelier right off the bat, and they made us feel as though we were the only ones in the dining room. They seemed genuinely pleased to be spending their New Years Eve at work! We particularly appreciated the free bottle of champagne given to each table to ring in the New Year.
The wine list at Meadowood is impressive, with glasses of wine starting at $30 and bottles averaging $300-500, with some more than $5000. Although we stayed at the lower end of price range for wine, the very knowledgeable sommelier was very gracious in helping us make a choice that suited our tastes. For those who are so inclined, there are also wine pairings available ($225).
Now to the star of the night- the multi-course dinner. We had no idea what would be delivered to our table as we were not actually given the menu until the end of our meal (a beautiful keepsake, presented in a covering that looked cedar bark). Our tasting menu had more "blow your mind" moments than any other I have had. Chef Kowtow threw in lots of surprises along the way (chicken cooked in sourdough, whelk that was transformed by combining it with scallop and butter, a whole pumpkin brought tableside and scooped out) without being overly theatrical. There was just enough wow factor to make it fun and entertaining, but still classy and elegant.
The meal is very seafood-forward, and there were only 2 courses that needed to be altered from the Chef's Tasting Menu to accommodate on my pescatarian request. Chef Kowtow uses the best ingredients he can get his hands on, including produce from his garden (they use a greenhouse in the winter) and meat and fish sourced locally. Even their legumes were special, with heirloom beans brought in from Rancho Gordo which is renowned for bringing back extinct heirloom bean varieties. One of my favourite treats of the evening was the matsumamaki mushrooms picked and delivered the day before. Its not every day you have to eat those beauties!
All in all, there were 12 courses of deliciousness in total, starting with a few small bites and ending with cheese, sorbet and a small dessert plus a few chocolates as a farewell. We left feeling perfectly satisfied, without being overly stuffed.
Simply put, Meadowood is magical. From the moment we drove through the tree-lines road leading into the resort, I knew I was headed somewhere very special. And what I found was beyond anything I could have imagined.
Until we meet again, dear Meadowood!