Amid a countrywide tour to promote his recently released cookbook, Chiarello, chef-owner of Napa Valley's Bottega, wine producer at Chiarello Family Vineyards and Emmy-winning Food Network host, took a break from signing autographs last night to hang out with the Frasca crew, who cooked a five-course dinner paired with Chiarello's own wines.
The menu was steeped in the same southern-Italian-meets-California cuisine that made the chef famous, beginning with crispy sweet-and-sour chicken wings and roasted red-pepper bruschetta, moving into grilled radicchio salad and tuna conserva, building to an entree that featured a thick cut of juicy steak (paired, of course, with the Chiarello Family Vineyards cabernet).Our favorite course was the potato gnocchi raviolo, a potato dumpling pocket stuffed with an egg yolk, which burst forth under the fork and mingled with decadent sage brown butter on the plate. Chiarello had matched it with his high-octane, fruity old vine zinfandel-- made, said one of the sommeliers, from grapes from the oldest vines in California. We finished with the molten chocolate cake, pleased with a bittersweet dark-chocolate version of a dessert that we otherwise think is played out. We particularly enjoyed the hazelnut brittle accoutrement -- and the scoop of sweet, creamy coconut sorbet that we ordered on the side.
Chiarello was a jovial host throughout, working the room and adding personal anecdotes to the cookbooks given, alongside a canister of gray salt, to each diner.
At the end of the night, he packed up his knives and waved as he exited. He's back on the book trail today.