I’m not one to bluff or pull punches and with that stated I’ll simply state my first visit to Redd was a disaster – it was so bad that the bait n’ switch menu and awful service led to me walking out ten minutes after I was seated and walking in the light rain to Bistro Jeanty where I sat at the bar and had a great time with some excellent food. That first visit to Redd was so bad that I really hadn’t even considered visiting on my most recent trip until Ad Hoc Addendum decided they would not be open for Labor Day thus leaving me with the choice of Bottega or Redd; a decision that led to me being seated on the patio of Redd in the beautiful Napa sun largely because of the menu and my general disregard for Michael Chiarello’s attitude, fame, and food.
Walking up to the hostess stand after wandering Yountville for the better part of the morning I was greeted by a pleasant young woman and on requesting a table for one I elected to dine al fresco since the weather was beautiful and the interior was hosting a large party who’d clearly started their wine tasting quite early. Delayed one minute as my table was converted from a two top to a setting for one I was led quickly to a nice seat near the fountain and soon greeted by Jeanna, another nice young lady who confirmed my water selection and subsequently presented the food and wine menus plus a list of daily specials for my perusal.
Seated partially in shade with my decisions largely made before I even sat down it would be perhaps ten minutes before Jeanna would return to take my order but to be fair unlike my first visit this was largely because she seemed to be the only server and the patio was quite busy. Eschewing the daily specials and opting for a glass of Schramsberg Brut Rose 2007 to begin I was complimented on my choices and left to take in the scenery while two small children were scolded by their mother for splashing around in the fountain.
Having already noted the busy afternoon and overall lack of servers – two waiters and perhaps two or three runners – it would be another ten minutes or so before my bubbly beverage would arrive and with just a touch of sweetness beneath the dry fruit tones the $14 glass was one of the best I’ve had and a great pairing for both my plates as well.
With no amuses or canapés the bread selection for the afternoon would be first food item to arrive at my table and featuring two slices of room temperature Baguette with largely flavorless butter that looked as though it had merely been cut from a stick in the kitchen I cannot say my first impression was a good one. Sure it kept me from filling up on bread, but if your bread program is such an obvious afterthought perhaps the better part of valor would be to simply not serve any at all.
Moving next to the item that brought me to Chef Reddington’s table in the first place and arriving more than thirty minutes after I’d taken my seat, “Tasting of Cold Foie Gras Preparations with Stonefruit, Pistachio, Brioche” would turn out to actually be well worth the wait and all things considered it was not only one of the best things I ate on this trip to the Bay, but one of the best Foie Gras preparations I’ve ever tasted. Consisting of a mousse, torchon, and pate served with peach compote, pistachios, pear butter, caramel, Frissee with vinaigrette, and a small puff pastry beneath the mousse this presentation hit on all cylinders with any number of possible combinations each highlighting aspects of the creamy liver while the salad provided an acidic touch to wash the palate between bites. While this was without a doubt the most memorable moment at Redd, it was quite a moment – sparkling wine, three types of foie gras, buttery brioche, and the warm Napa sun could double for heaven if you ask me.
Told that the next course would “be coming out soon” my next taste of Redd’s cuisine was a “gift” from the kitchen in the form of a small triangle of Wood Fired Pizza with Fontina, Basil, and Shaved Parmesan – a decent little slice with a bright and sweet sauce beneath the sharp cheesy tones and a crust somewhere between soft and crisp that did well to support the ingredients but really did not add anything in terms of taste.
Now a good sixty minutes into the meal and watching dishes slowly trickle from the kitchen while a second server stopped by to ask if I’d like a second glass of wine (declined, as I still had half of my first glass remaining) my main course would finally arrive and much like the first it was quite impressive. Titled “Crispy Duck Confit with Lentils, Foie Gras Meatballs, Crispy Spaetzle” and featuring all of the above in plethora this hefty dish was most certainly not an exercise in subtleties but rather an all out attack on the senses with the duck crispy and flavorful, the meatballs juicy, the spaetzle buttery and dense, and the lentils rendered in sherry and bacon to add a bit of acid and a smoky brine that simply put everything over the top. Another excellent composition and despite the size and richness a dish that never got ‘boring’ due to the multiple textures and flavors involved.
Told by friends that the pastry program at Redd had declined since Chef Plue was lured away to Cyrus and having already enjoyed two substantial dishes with dinner plans at Meadowood in less than 6 hours I’d originally not planned to order dessert, but never one to pass on at least looking at the menu another course became an obligation when I took a look and saw the words ‘bread pudding.’ Ordered with a cup of coffee that would be entirely forgotten and thus delivered free of charge ten minutes after dessert landed on my table “Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding with Strawberries, Yuzu Puree, Strawberry Ice Cream, Sliced Almonds” would arrive quite beautiful, but unfortunately prove the rumors of my pals to be true. Beginning first with the fresh strawberries and sweet meets sour balance of the ice cream and puree, the fruit components of the dessert were indeed spot but unfortunately while these shined the pudding itself was as dry as a KFC biscuit and only slightly more flavorful – a flaw somewhat corrected by using my fork to stir the berries and ice cream into the pudding, but overall more-so a bad attempt at strawberry shortcake than a bread pudding (let alone a good one.)
With coffee delivered only moments before the bill Jeanna apologized for the mix up and told me the coffee would not be charged and that I could take my time – something I felt I’d been doing the whole afternoon as it had taken nearly ninety minutes to enjoy three proper courses. Thanking her and handing her my credit card I drank the weakly acidic brew thinking one cup would be more than enough and glad that I’d not be charged – like the bread service the coffee service appeared to be merely an afterthought and considering my previous experience with Redd I can only assume that understaffing and underthinking everything but the food itself is par for the course – a shame considering the highs were quite high, but enough to ensure I’d not return save for perhaps some foie gras and champagne in the sun.