Julia Child and Me. Kind of.

Julia Child needs no introduction, but her kitchen surely does. Housed in Copia in Napa, California, Julia's Kitchen it is a cultural and gastronomical center of a restaurant. Julia was on the founding board of COPIA and helped its non-profits grow. The kitchen was named after her and she was a part of operations until 2001.
(NOTE: update 1/12/09 COPIA closed its doors in late 2008)

I was first made aware of this place during season one of Top Chef on Bravo. According to leaflets and information from the Web site, between 60%-80% of the produce comes from the center's Edible Gardens. Local products rule here.

Does this look familiar? Yes, it is the wall to Julia Child's TV kitchen. In the foyer before you reach the captain's stand of the restaurant, you see this. She outlined each of her pots and utensils so she'd know where each one belonged. I'm not so sure what happened in the bottom left-hand corner. But, we'll let that go...

The reason why we're here...the food...

We started with a pairing of oysters. I'm into oysters these days. Since my last cooking class, I've been shucking and eating oysters like a crazy woman (apparently they're an aphrodisiac). Spring is in the air! Go figure! Our choices were between a margarita granité oyster, panko-crusted oyster with strawberry gastrique, and a bloody Mary granité oyster.

We opted for two of the panko-crusted delights. Two; One for each of us. It was fresh. It was crispy. It was presented beautifully. It was the size of a pea. OK, make that two peas, minus the pod. These mollusks were Lilliputian next to the shrimp fork we were given. And I believe they mixed up the strawberry gastrique with a huckleberry one because last I heard, strawberries aren't small, circular, and purple. At $3 each, we were sorely disappointed.

Then came the entrées.

First was the COPIA arugula and frisee salad. Caramelized apples, house-cured Berkshire pork belly, shallots, and violet mustard vinaigrette.

There is something to be said about fruit and meat together in a dish. Mincemeat pie comes to mind and then fruit cake comes shortly after that, but my mind was far from both of these chronically seasonal disasters.

Braised Spring lamb and purple potato ravioli with sauteed snap peas, edamame, green garlic, and garden mint jus.

Each pillow of lamb and potato was fresh and minty-filled. The pasta melted in my mouth and the jus was the right bit of saltiness to make my umami jump. The vegetables were indeed fresh and unbelievably crisp.

Last, but not least: Spring garden vegetable risotto. I don't remember the exact description, but there were peas, carrots, a hint of mint, and even a garnish of edible violets on top. I could tell they added cream to the dish (which is apparently a no-no in purist circles) and I wish they hadn't. Arborio or Carnaroli should thicken and be creamy on its own when cooked properly. I worked in a "premier" restaurant where cream was added to the riso and I was taken aback then too.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. I'm a closet alcoholic, I wanted to drink a glass of wine with every course but it was my turn to drive. We didn't open the extensive wine menu. Our steward didn't offer any suggestions either. I wish he had. Wine is still a daunting world to me and I plan on taking many trips back to Napa to learn and experience more.

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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  1. What a fantastic meal. I would love to visit this place. You sound like you had a great trip.

  2. I did! Vey relaxing. I was so relaxed I thought I was sleepy!

  3. looks like a wonderful trip. i've got julia's kitchen envy, now. would love to see that myself someday!

  4. If you're still interested in learning more about wine, we have a column in Winston-Salem Monthly called Wines & Vines (which, I've gotta admit, I primarily write for these days): http://www.journalnow.com/winstonsalemmonthly/wines-vines/. Local wines really are amazing!

    I also discovered this infographic a couple months ago that really helps put things into perspective:


  5. I always meant to go there, but by the time I was going to make another trip to Napa, it had just closed! Oh well ...


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