For those of you who do not know, Stephen has recently opened his restaurant, BarBersQ, in Napa. The concept is American BBQ, heritage cuisine elevated with artisnal, local ingredients with some modern flourishes. Stephen set us up with a tasting menu of sorts made up of dishes from the regular menu.
Course 1: BBQ'ed Oyster and Fried Key West Shrimp.
We liked the saucing on the oysters and never had BBQ'ed oysters that are smaller and more concentrated in flavour as these. I personally find the big, fleshy oysters one usually encounters for BBQ sort of gross and mealy. We LOVED the shrimp. Fried to perfection and sweet as August Jersey corn. The panko crust was crispy. The tartar sauce had just enough kick to contrast nicely with the sweetness of the shrimp. Fresh, good quality shrimp can be such a revelation!
Course 2: Mini sandwich sampler
Stephen has meal size sandwiches on the menu but in order for us to try them all, we got the baby version sampler platter - pulled pork, short rib, and lamb (from left to right on the photo). The saucing and the tenderness on the pulled pork could not be beat. I was liking the horseradish sauce on the short rib sandwich, and Maggie raved about the freshness and spicing of the lamb. I only tried the Carolina style vinegar sauce (which I liked). Wil, Maggie -comments on other sauces???
While I generally prefer pork over beef for BBQ, we were silent from eating for this rendition of beef brisket. The red onion rings were crispy and light. The meat so tender one really didn't need teeth for the dish.
Course 4: Biscuit with country ham and pepper jelly
We have gone over this before... I hate bread; but biscuits are another story. Full of flavour and brightened by scallions, I could eat these all day if I had the four stomachs of a real cow. Country ham - the real deal. Tastes like prosciutto (which is a honorific label if there ever was one) with the pepper jelly that had the perfect wisp of heat. This was also the last dish we finished every morsel of. Going forward, we couldn't polish off the plates as we knew we needed to pace ourselves.
These were meltingly tender, spiced from a dry rub with a thin coat of saucing for finish. The smoke rings and color on these were beautiful - almost like the rich hues of sepia, burnt umber, and dusty pink of sediment layers found in red rocks. We each had two or so pieces and really wanted to eat more. But this was when Stepehen informed us that he had fired a whole chicken that was coming next. We had to hold off. I was hitting the marathon eating wall.
Course 6: Mac'n'cheese
I'm a pretty tough critic of mac'n'cheese (just ask anyone who's had my version). This was good in that the pasta still had some bite to it. Pretty browning on the top. And the peas and country ham bits really added dimension and smokiness. Despite the high caliber of this rendition, Wil and I could only manage a bite each. Maggie, the true champ that she is, soldiered on.
Course 8: Vinegar Chicken
We all agreed the most succulent chicken any of us ever had. There was still crispiness to the skin despite the saucing. And the vinegard sauce just made us want to lick the platter. Alas, I could only manage to eat one piece. I think Maggie and Wil both did two pieces. Wil was devouring the left-over of these later around midnight.
Move over Zuni... there's a new chicken god in town!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Course 9: Key lime pie
Refreshing and tart with an airy whipped cream/creme fraiche. I also like the graininess of the crust. But again, I'm not a good judge of dessert.
We were all stuffed. Wil and I joked about purging. Maggie, our eating champ, had prepped for this by having a decent sized breakfast as ready her stomach capacity. We're a bunch of sick, food obsessed maniacs. I am not even going to go into our dinner of appetizers and drinks at Press and a whole charceuterie and cheese board/tray from Dean and Deluca except to say that this was not the end of the force feeding/drinking.