Some of Napa Valley’s Best Restaurants Share Recipes to Help Employees and Those in Need

When the Glass Fire ravaged Napa County in September 2020, it was just the latest calamity to hit the iconic wine country in the past decade. For journalist Jess Lander, an eleven-year-old resident who covered the 2014 earthquake and the 2017 Atlas Peak fire, it hit home. The house she and her husband lived in burned down. So, she turned to the one place that could bring her comfort, the mix of restaurants that populate the county. But they, too, were struggling to hold their heads up high because of the financial blows that the pandemic closures were inflicting at the same time.

Long before the fire brought her home and most of her belongings, she had ordered take-out and ate in their outdoor dining rooms in an effort to offer them assistance. With every restaurant closure and staff layoff, she wondered what she could do to help. Shortly after her tragedy, she came up with the idea of ​​creating The Essential Napa Valley Cookbook to raise funds to help. She was inspired by two other cookbooks quickly born during the pandemic- A bite of rock and Serving New York.

“I thought we should do something like that in Napa,” she said. “We have a world famous food scene despite our size. I researched and found that there hadn’t been a Napa Valley cookbook created in almost fifty years. There are many books out there. cuisine from individual chefs and restaurants, but none that are a collection of different establishments.

Realizing that many establishments would not be very open to participating in a for-profit project, she decided to donate all of the proceeds from the sale of cookbooks to those in need. Seventy-five percent of the funds would go directly to employees at participating restaurants, and the remaining twenty-five percent would support the efforts of Feed Napa Now, a nonprofit that feeds Napa families in need.

She immersed herself in the project and started contacting establishments during the winter shutdown, which proved difficult. Many owners and chefs were disconnected. She broke down, and as spring rolled around and establishments began to reopen, she began to be successful. In the end, she collected thirty-six recipes from thirty different restaurants. There are luminaries such as Charlie Palmer Steak House and The Charter Oak and local favorites such as Pizzeria Tra Vigne and Model Bakery.

To help finance production costs, she contacted the many wineries in the region. She offered them the chance to get a small sponsorship. Each participant would have one of their wines associated with a recipe. “I thought there was no way to make a Napa Valley cookbook without adding food and wine pairings,” she says. “Plus, most of the wineries here are feeling the effects of the pandemic as well as the fires that have damaged their crops. I thought it was a win-win situation for all parties involved.”

The whole project was a collaborative effort with the help of the people of the valley, from the development of the recipe to the layout of the book. “Although the last few years have been particularly difficult, the Napans are very resilient and we have a strong community bond which is unusual,” said Ken Frank, Michelin-starred chef and owner of La Toque restaurant. “We have been through earthquakes. , floods and fires, so the pandemic was just the next challenge. Napa’s restaurant community has truly come together to heal itself during the pandemic. We were each looking for different ways to help our teams and our business weather the storm, so this was a no-brainer.

Here is an example of a recipe with a food and wine pairing found in the cookbook.

Mussels in Cider, Bistro Jeanty, Yountville

“Mussels with apple cider and crème fraîche is a traditional dish that originated in Normandy, France. When Chef Jeanty lived in Paris as a teenager, he frequently rode motorcycles to Normandy to visit friends and family. One of his friend’s families made their own apple cider and calvados. It is a dish they would enjoy frequently at home. – The owner of Bistro Jeanty Philippe Jeanty

For 2 people

Food and wine pairing: Mondavi Fume Blanc


2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of chopped shallots

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

½ cup of sour cream

1 heaped quart of Saltspring Island or other fresh mussels, cleaned

1 cup dry apple cider

4 pieces of toast

1 clove of garlic


In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then add the shallots, bay leaves and thyme. Once the shallots are tender, add the mussels, apple cider and crème fraîche. Cover the pan and cook until the mussels are open.

Take the mussels out of the pot, place them in a bowl and pour the cooking liquid over them (beware of sand or gravel at the bottom of the pan). Garnish with freshly chopped parsley. Serve with toast, rubbed with a clove of garlic.

About Jonathan Bell

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