Valentines can’t buy her…

I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. Seems you just get over spending a lot on Christmas when you got to turn around and blow a bunch on a silly, made up holiday like Valentine’s Day. Not that I’m against romance, not at all. If you asked any of my ex gals they would all tell you that I am very romantic, a ton of fun, give thoughtful compliments at unexpected moments and sometimes combined with flowers, other small gifts or gestures at the right moments. In other words, I don’t need Valentine’s Day to prod me into appreciating my better half.

Jim Leiken

So where am I going with this?? Well, when I got an invite to partake in Lucy Restaurant & Bar’s Valentine’s special menu from Yountville’s Bardessono Hotel & Spa. The invite put a big smile on the web gal’s face when its excellent four courses would be delivered to our doorstep. Not that we wouldn’t have loved to sit in Lucy’s dining room on the big day as the Insider loves kibitzing with the sommelier and wait staff. With Covid restrictions changing by the day, Lucy’s Valentine’s Day menu is strictly takeout. But what a takeout menu! Black Truffle and Wild Mushroom soup. Absolutely! Roasted Rack of Lamb. Bring it on! Sauteed Broccoli Di Cicco with preserved lemon and toasted pinenuts. Tasty! And finish it off with half a dozen chocolate covered strawberries. Yeah baby! Toss in a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, and hey, we’re in Valentines Day take out heaven. Those are just my picks. If you prefer other offerings like oysters, Beef Wellington or other delights check out the special menu here. Intrigued by the fab menu for V day the Insider got in touch with Bardessono and Lucy’s Exec Chef, Jim Leiken got back to me in good time.

Mentioning how impressed I was that he had worked for Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in New York and Palm Beach, he reigned in my enthusiasm oh so lightly. “Let’s just say, you’re media and it’s a whole different ball game working for the man. But I really respect the man’s perfectionism.” Fair enuff. Being on the same page we happily dove into the NSI quiz. Cheers and enjoy..

What was last night’s dinner? We had a couple that were trying to celebrate a 50th birthday at the French Laundry that didn’t work out so I wound up trying to cook a 7 course meal for their room service and ate what was left over, a rabbit ragou and braised short ribs.

Bardessono Hotel & Spa

Favorite music? Oh man, my wife and I are totally eclectic on that one.. REM to the New Pornographers to Taylor Swift.

Favorite drink? Coffee, he says with a self-deprecating laugh. I know I live and work in wine country and I can have a glass with dinner but wine just doesn’t do it for me.

Favorite place to dine in Napa beside Lucy’s? Mustard’s Grill is always a terrific standby. The wife and I love going to Morimoto Napa for sushi. And recently Empress M has opened what I think is the best Chinese in Napa.

Veuve Clicquot

What makes a great restaurant? Teamwork. You got to have the front and back end of the restaurant working together. When you got the kitchen and the service working together it’s a beautiful thing, but if either one isn’t pulling their weight it shows up real fast.

What do you love most about living and working in Napa? The nature. My wife and I both grew up in the suburbs of New York so we’re used to wide open spaces. We have 9-year-old twins so it is just so awesome to bike all over the place that we could have never done if I stayed in New York.

Any brush with celebrity? Not so much here, but I understand that there must be some kind of underground thing with the baseball players from the Bay area as they keep coming up to stay here. When I was in New York I was thrilled that Lance Armstrong was a regular but that got dropped real fast.

Any wine, restaurant or trip on your bucket list? Actually a couple of places that I’ve been to but would like to go back. Daniel and I did a James Beard type dining thing in Japan in 2012 but it was so rushed that I’d like to go back. And my wife and I only had a day and a half in Singapore on our honeymoon so we’d love to go back and dine for a week.

Final thoughts? Oh it’s such a relief that it looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to cook for people in the restaurant again and the wait staff feel the same. Just this whole pent up feeling in Napa of people wanting to serve again. The sooner the better.