The big boys are back in town, which can only mean one thing: The Oakland Raiders have reported for training camp here in Napa.
If you're out dining in Napa in the next few weeks and run into guys the size of the Incredible Hulk, there's a good chance it's one of the Raiders' tackles or linebackers.
You don't want to get stuck behind one of them in a food line.
Superstar iron chef Masaharu Morimoto opened his namesake Japanese restaurant on the new Napa River waterfront in downtown a few days ago. I had dinner there on one of the opening nights and give it two chopsticks up.
It's an amazing menu. You could eat three meals a day there for a week and not get through the menu. That's because the list of entrées is not only deep and detailed, but it changes daily. My friend and I enjoyed a handful of dishes, including the yellowtail pastrami, tuna pizza, rock shrimp tempura, kakuni (ten-hour pork belly) and a soft shell crab roll. I noticed other diners enjoying the whole fish, king crab legs, lobster, and a dish Morimoto calls duck, duck, goose, a clever mix of duck and foie gras.
Some of those snapping pictures of every entrée had to be food bloggers, right?
Wine is always tough when Asian spices are involved. A Chenin-Viognier from Pine Ridge didn't cut it, nor did a Sauvignon Blanc. We settled on a Domaine Carneros rosé sparkling wine, which offered a refreshing fruity edge. I studied the sake list and know how wine neophytes feel. I don't know much if anything about sake, but the list is long and deep. Next time I'll venture into new territory.
Morimoto Napa is a spacious restaurant. Inside it has a modern, urban flair and seating for 100. Outdoor seating overlooks the Napa River. Right now, though, the building it is in is mostly vacant, including the residences above. Coming soon is Tyler Florence's new spot, a few doors down from Morimoto. A tough time to open a restaurant. These high-profile chefs should give the local economy a good stress test.
On the night I dined there, a swift, cool breeze zipped up the Napa River, making it too cold to dine outside.
This has been an abnormally cool year. Yesterday I heard that June and July were the coolest months ever on record. Can't say I'm surprised. Growers seeking warmer weather are getting restless. Zinfandel growers need it to get much hotter; ditto for Cabernet. Pinot, though, is happily moving along, enjoying the milder temperatures.
If the tomato-grape crop theory holds, it could be rough going for warm-weather varieties. The tomato-grape theory is that when tomatoes thrive, so do wine grapes. The link is heat, and it's been a terribly chilly summer. The other day I wore a sweater to lunch. I haven't used air-conditioning once. My patio heat lamp, however, has been in use.
The tomato crop has been slow to develop, much less ripen. I just got my first Brandywine the other day. Tasty, but very small, barely enough for a sandwich. Doesn't look like I'll be harvesting any time soon. Winemakers, too, are likely looking at a later harvest. Whites and Pinot should be fine. Zinfandel could be iffy. Cabernet from Napa won't get busy until October.
Adam Lee — Santa Rosa, CA — July 30, 2010 4:43pm ET
Mike Drash — Napa, CA — August 1, 2010 11:51pm ET
Ed Lehrman — Sausalito, CA USA — August 2, 2010 5:47pm ET
Russell Quong — Sunnyvale, CA, USA — August 3, 2010 5:36pm ET
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