Dancing to a live band performing Johnny Cash on a warm California night drinking Napa Valley wine, underneath the stars. That’s the scene at the outdoor bar at Farmstead, a St. Helena favorite. It’s as perfect as it sounds, one of those classic scenes out of a movie. Simplicity at its finest.
Farmstead is lively, with crowds ranging in age from their mid-twenties to late-sixties. Everyone is dancing, having a great time, enjoying the evening and atmosphere. Some people sit near the fire place, eating delectable dishes from the restaurant inside, while others dance in the open area, drinks in hand and giant smiles of their faces.
Rarely do you love waiting for a table at a restaurant. Arriving at 8pm for our 9:30 dinner reservation was absolutely no problem at all. We didn’t even check in with the hostess until closer to 9, loving our time spent outside among the happiest crowd.
Once our stomachs began to grumble, it was time to head inside the restaurant to enjoy our meal. The environment inside the actual restaurant at Farmstead, is just as lively as outside, minus the dancing. The wait staff is super friendly and equally knowledgeable giving the rundown of the farm-to-table menu.
I checked in on FourSquare to see the bright orange pop reading “Free Cheddar Biscuits.” Not a bad way to kick off the meal.
Soft buttery cheddar biscuits arrive in a iron skillet. These are delicious and extremely addictive.
When you see something called “potted pig” on the menu, it’s bound to spark your curiosity. The waitress explained the dish as a version of pate in a mason jar, with a layer of fat protecting the protein underneath.
Remove the thick layer of white, clarified fat to reveal the soft protein underneath. The texture and flavor of the pork is eerily reminiscent of tuna fish. But this is way better then your average product mixed with mayo. There’s a soft texture, with a creaminess to it and a really subtle after taste. On the side, a really creamy mustard with a hint of sweet inserts another level of complexity with the pickles cutting through the richness. Charred bread acts as the necessary vehicle for enjoying the potted pig, laying all of the components onto the smoky, crispy toast.
Next, we moved to the locally sourced, Long Meadow Ranch Steak Tartare.
It’s a bit of a DIY tartare, pouring the beautiful, local egg yolk over to the top of the raw steak.
The yolk oozes down the side of the chopped raw steak, adding a creaminess and a sauce to the tartare. The tartare itself is packed with flavor from the salty capers and acidic cornichons. It’s a really good, simply prepared tartare that proves less is definitely more when using high quality ingredients.
Probably the least exciting dish of the evening came in the form of wood grilled artichokes.
Sauce Gribiche, a mayonnaise-style cold egg sauce on the side adds a lot of flavor to the simply prepared grilled artichoke. A little bit of lemon adds some acidity, but this dish really doesn’t bring any excitement to the meal. Besides the subtle hints of smokiness from the wood grill, it felt like a dish I could easily prepare at home.
Our meal ended on a higher note with the caramelized beets and goat cheese hidden underneath a pile of greens.
The roasted beets are marked by a dark, char adding a layer of smoky, sweetness to the vegetable. A light, local goat cheese crema adds a sweetness, giving a slightly different play to the traditional pairing. While the addition of the traditionally Latin American Chimichurri sauce seems a little out of place, it actually works perfectly with the dish. I don’t know why I’ve never seen this utilized before as a way to infuse a bright herb mixture into each bite. The peppery arugula rounds out the dish. It’s a great, fresh play on the traditional beets and goat cheese dish.
Farmstead offers one of the most fun experiences in Napa. From the lively outdoor vibe with cocktails and dancing, to the delicious, friendly meal instead, Farmstead strays from the traditionally stiff, overly romantic spot associated with wine country. We had the most amazing time and I would recommend Farmstead to anyone visiting the area. Even if you want to head over for late night dancing, you can skip the meal and still have an amazing time. I wish there was a place like Farmstead on every trip.
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch – 738 Main Street – St. Helena, CA
Location: St. Helena, CA
Type: New American
Perfect For: Farm to Table, Casual Meal
Reservations: Recommended via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: Cheddar Biscuits, “Potted Pig,” Caramelized Beets