Napa Dining Icon Makes Thursdays Special

    When most people think about dining out, they target Friday or Saturday night.

     That could change, at least in the Napa Valley, as one restaurant is seeking to start the “weekend” a day early.

     Mustards Grill, Napa’s landmark restaurant, is debuting a dinner series on Thursday nights. “Way Too Many Wines” will offer diners the opportunity to pair renowned Mustards Grill cuisine with wines that are almost never offered by the taste or glass.

     For example, one week from today (on the 23rd), the Harissa-Marinated Quail and Red Grapefruit Salad that will be part of the “Way Too Many Wines” dinner will be paired with Chateau Montelena Riesling (Potter Valley 2007).

     On Thursday, November 20, the Wood Fire Grilled Pork Loin will be paired with glasses of “Promis” Maremma (Tuscany 2006).

     Diners on Thursday, December 18 can enjoy Dry Aged Prime Rib “Bond Jus” with the Bond “Matriarch” (Napa Valley 2004). That dinner also will feature glasses of J. Schram sparkling wine (Napa Valley 2004), paired with Truffle and Polenta “Souffle.”

     When award-winning Chef Pawlcyn first fired up the grill at this wine country roadhouse in 1983, she was at the forefront of the farm-to-table revolution, and set a precedent for culinary innovation and excellence that continues to be an inspiration today.

     A place where Mac trucks are as welcome as Mini-Coopers, Mustards enchants and surprises all who visit with creative twists on America’s favorite comfort foods.

     Mustards Grill became an instant hit when it opened its doors. But just like a movie or song that keeps fans entranced for decades, this overnight sensation had staying power. More than just a neighborhood hangout, some devoted fans have been meeting there for lunch every week for two decades.

     Perhaps even more telling is the fact that newcomers never feel out of place. Much like “Cheers,” which gained a foothold in America’s imagination that same year, Mustards is a place where everyone knows your name. The idea of a spot beyond the realms of home and work, where people can let down their guards and meet new friends, resonates just as strongly with today’s customers as it did then.

     This warmth, however, is just one part of the recipe.

     With Northern California’s bountiful harvest at her fingertips, Pawlcyn draws inspiration from her extensive travels and vast cookbook collection (with upwards of 6,000 volumes) to invent the cross-cultural combos for which Mustards is famous.

     From the very first menu, it was clear that Pawlcyn had a unique approach: She combined grilled, home-smoked ham with Jarlsberg cheese and tomato chutney for a new take on the classic ham and cheese sandwich.

     With Executive Chef Erasto Jacinto by her side, other scrumptious dishes followed: Sonoma duck with tomato salsa and black beans (1988), fried calamari with curried slaw (1994), and chile marinated lamb shanks with mashed potatoes and pumpkin seed pesto (2006).

     Pawlcyn”s commitment to fresh, local and hand-grown food goes beyond the norm. The onions in Mustards’ famous onion rings (1983) come from her personal organic farm. Mongolian pork chops (1986), tea-smoked duck (1992), and baby back ribs (1990) all get their wood-smoked goodness from the house smoker, hand-built by a German bricklayer. Italian prunes grow on trees in Mustards’garden, one of the first organic restaurant gardens in the country. Local blueberries, the size of marbles, show up in cobblers and crisps.

     Pawlcyn went on to become a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, chef-owner of Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Go Fish in St. Helena, and co-creator of many renowned Bay Area restaurants, including Fog City Diner, Bix, Roti, Tra Vigne, and Buckeye Roadhouse — quite a journey from 25 years ago when Pawlcyn was in her 20s and had just realized her dream of opening Mustards.

     Due to its extensive viticultural offerings, Mustards has been called a “wine geek’s paradise,” but also is accessible to casual sippers thanks to an extensive and varied list of wines by the glass.

     The comfortable dining room and lively atmosphere is the perfect backdrop to this snobbery-free wine country dining experience. And now, Thursday nights are sure to be the friendliest of the week with “Way Too Many Wines” dinners scheduled all the way through next April.

     Mustards Grill is located at 7399 St. Helena Highway in Yountville, and offers lunch and dinner seven days a week. For reservations, call 707-944-2424 or visit mustardsgrill.com.

Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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