Monday, April 4, 2011

A Sweet Guy on a Sugar High

New Pastry Chef I Love: Boris Portnoy

Meadowood is my favorite place to stay for a weekend in the Napa Valley. And it’s now the lair of one of the most exciting new pastry chefs.

Anyone with a sweet tooth will want to head north along the Silverado Trail, and turn right on Meadowood Lane.

Boris Portnoy’s witty and wonderful desserts are, as Michelin loves to say, ‘worth a detour’. Come for a visit.

Pastry Chef Boris Portnoy

Impermanence of Citrus Veil of The Napa Valley Reserve Olive Oil

Hidden at the end of a secluded driveway beyond the region’s finest vineyards and olive groves, Meadowood is the kind of ultra-private resort I love. White-painted cottages are perched on sun-struck hillsides among a tangle of manzanitas and mossy old oaks.

The interior décor, a calm wash of white linens, cozy leather armchairs, grand taupe chenille sofas, and dreamy photographs, is more Nantucket than California, so it’s very escapist, totally understated, not design-y.

On foggy afternoons, a fire blazes.

Sunday mornings, you can relax with the papers, nibbling on raspberries and plain yoghurt. 
Deer wander into view, birds cackle, squirrels dart, and the city is far away.

But the restaurant is near.

To Quicken the Heart', flavors of Umami, red cedar, buttered popcorn. Includes brown butter Dacquoise, maple gel, red cedar icecream, popcorn custard, and chocolate décor.

Vanilla Bean Oeufs a la Neige with Caraway Sabayon, and wood-grained Speculoos.

In the evening, it’s just a few minutes’ stroll down shadowy flights of stone steps and through foggy forest paths to the Restaurant at Meadowood. Décor here is comfortable and low-key, and it definitely takes a back seat to the cuisine. Snowy white linens, but no flash.
We spend a quiet evening dining with friends, tasting wines and enjoying the three-star cuisine of chef Christopher Kostow. And now the double delight of Kostow and Portnoy.

Meadowood, above, in discreet Napa Valley location overlooking croquet lawns and a golf course. The restaurant is an elegant and superbly managed setting for wine country cuisine—and a lovely place for a celebration or a weekend treat. In summer, the terrace opens and it is spectacular there, dining beneath the moon and the stars with the silent valley beyond.

Few Napa Valley pleasures are as thrilling as sitting outside on the terrace, a full moon rising above the forest, and tasting Christopher’s artfully presented, light, seasonal, fresh-from-the-garden fare. His cooking is modern but with flavor, enticement, playfulness, and heart.

Now The Restaurant at Meadowood has a dazzling new talent—Boris Portnoy, a pastry chef with space-age technical skills, sweetly-attuned artistry, and a wonderful zest for light-hearted creations and sugar-dusted humor. It's entertainment for the tongue and taste buds, a bit of theater at the end of a seriously wonderful dinner.

Impressions of coffee, pine, light chocolate Cremeux
( includes: coffee, light chocolate, coffee cookies, pinenut foam and coffee nougatine.)

Green Tea Granite and Moss Ice 

Boris has been in the Meadowood kitchens for just a few weeks, but already he’s caught my attention with his highly original ingredient (ash, smoked huckleberries, red cedar), de-constructionist styling, Warhol-esque dessert names, and daring concepts. A scatter of mignardises perched on a mossy Meadowood log! 

Boris told me, “I am looking forward to working alongside Chef Christopher, creating an evocative gastronomic experience for guests.”

Boris was recently at San Francisco’s Campton Place where his exploration of innovative pastry concepts began to take shape. His creations reached beyond simply employing modern techniques with creative flavor combinations and varied textures. Interactive concepts had begun to emerge.

Follow me for a sweet adventure.

Last Bites (Mignardises) are placed on top of a foraged moss log from the Meadowood estate. 
The five bites on top are: Powdered Financier; Milk and Honey Chocolate; . Black Truffle Meringue Kiss; Goats Milk Jam-filled Croissant; Smoked Huckleberry Marshmallow.

The Restaurant at Meadowood Napa Valley

The Restaurant at Meadowood Napa Valley
Petits Fours include: citrus pate fruit, yogurt relleno;acai fruit, bread crisp; butter financier; macadamia praline; ,hot chocolate; carrot granite; white coffee mousse.

Avocado Parfait with Carrot and Coconut Ravioli.

Tea with Boris
I admire Boris for his adventurous creativity, new ideas and experiments that will surely influence other chefs and pastry chefs.

I chatted with this brilliant talent recently to see where his daring imagination is taking him next.

DDS: Favorite ingredients at the moment?
BP: Smoked beet flavor. We are also making our own slightly sweet and rich rye mead. We make our own churned unsalted butter to complement our bread. New crop Mexican vanilla beans—the flavor is intense, pure, fragrant and memorable.

DDS: Most unusual ingredients?
Delicate and poetic smoked fruit and vegetable juices. We have been smoking huckleberries, beets, and apples with great results. The flavor is very subtle and enticing, and it wakes up and surprises the taste buds.

In the kitchen I am experimenting with fish protein called isinglass. It’s much like gelatin, but with much greater flexibility. 

Vegetable ash is great and very versatile. We just made vegetable ash-covered goats cheese and are aging it in the unfinished cave at the Napa Valley Reserve. It is a really curious experiment.

DDS: Newest dessert?
BP: ’ReadyMade’ icecream cake, with roasted white chocolate and saffron caramel. The name and quote are a direct reference to Andy Warhol and his readymade objects like a can of soup or a company logo. The dessert looks utilitarian and at the same time it is very thought-out, artistic and precious. 
I also like the new combination of soy caramel spheres, soy milk tapioca pearls, light chocolate mousse, citron preserve, mint ice cream.

DDS: Travel?

I am planning a trip to the country of Georgia, the country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. It’s fascinating because it is at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. I’m specifically interested in the remote region of Svaneti in the Caucasus mountains. The people in this crossroads of cultures remind me a bit of the Basque region of Spain. In Svaneti cuisine all dishes are created using local, natural products, giving a unique taste and aroma to them. The area, influenced by Russia and the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Europe, is unlike any other.

This remote region, Svanetia, is known for architectural treasures and picturesque mountainous landscapes. The botany of Svanetia is legendary among travelers. Lots of flavors. The famous Svanetian towers erected in the 9th-12th centuries make the region’s villages surreal and dramatic. There is also the most complex form of Georgian polyphonic singing, traditional to Georgian vocal music, and I can’t wait to hear some performances.

DDS: Bon voyage. I can’t wait to taste your new inspirations.

The Restaurant at Meadowood Napa Valley: 
Chef Christopher Kostow and Pastry Chef Boris Portnoy

Photography: Justin Lewis
Photos courtesy of Meadowood Napa Valley

The Restaurant at Meadowood
Chef Christopher Kostow
Director Nathaniel Dorn
Sommelier Rom Toulon

Meadowood Napa Valley
900 Meadowood Lane
St. Helena, California
(800) 458-8080, Hotel
(707) 967-1205, The Restaurant at Meadowood.


JMW said...

I hope to someday make a trip out to Napa, so I'm adding Meadowood to my "must visit" list. His desserts look like works of art!

The enchanted home said...

Wow no twisting my arm necessary to get me there..ever since I went to Napa about 8 months ago, have been brainstorming as to how I can go back...thanks you just gave me another reason to add to my list. Enjoy your day!

peggy braswell said...

Can't wait to visit. Sent this blog to friends in Napa. Thanks you D...

Philip Bewley said...

He really takes this to a place of the highest art, of sublime creativity. Love his culinary inspirations, of describing Svanetia. As always, your posts are at the cutting edge of aesthetic inspiration. Warmly,

Kaveri Singh said...

Like pieces of sculpture wonderful pictures great write up. I particularly like the Impermanence of Citrus Veil evokes quite an image.

Allison Egan said...

What beautiful food and settings! Now on my MUST visit list! thanks for sharing!
xo allison

Brillante Interiors said...

I so enjoyed the give-away book from you on French I am dreaming of tasting these delicacies.
Diane, I have a GIVE-AWAY on my blog, a beautiful silk robe from Manito Silk...

red ticking said...

i love napa and have heard wonderful things about meadowood... now just another great reason to go ...
immediately. maybe saturday!

wonderful post... as always... xx

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Sweet friends and sugar Lovers!

I'm so pleased to read your enthusiasm and your pleasure at Boris's creativity and spirit.
'Impermanence' a title for a've got to taste it...with olive oil from the nearby Napa Valley Reserve (private wine club). Oh, the joys!
I'm thrilled that you are heading up the Silverado TraiL...right now! Christopher Kostow is a brilliant chef (approaching Thomas Keller's exceptional discipline and talent)--and now Boris is performing his magic.
Please be sure to report back and tell me exactly what your ordered and ate. The sweet hereafter, indeed.
Best of the best to you all, DIANE

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...


Sadly, we have yet to visit the USA and so have no knowledge of this most magical of restaurants. Indeed the food looks like pictures from Vogue, but it is surely the roaring open fire which is a touch of wizardry. Although needed [the fire, that is]in the Autumn and Winter in England, every stylsh house will have an open fire in Spring and Summer [with the windows and doors left open if necessary!

We are newcomers to the world of blogging and are delighted to have found you, signing up immediately as Followers.

Dovecote Decor said...

I just found you. What a beautiful post. The Napa Valley has the best food in America. I have not visited Meadowood, so I have something wonderful to look forward to.

Jamie Herzlinger said...

Wonderful post! Was not at all familiar with this wonderful destination!
I look forward to the experience!
Have a lovely weekend!
Jamie Herzlinger

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Diane, the palette of these desert plates should be in the museum. At the same time I feel like I've just gained another five pounds from reading this delightful post. Mexican vanilla bean sounds divine!! Hope you have a wonderful week. ASD xxx