Clif Family Bruschetteria
Have you ever gone on vacation and had a unique experience that you wanted to replicate back home? Well, Kit Crawford and Gary Erickson, founders of the Clif Bar and avid cyclists have spent a lot of time riding bikes in the Northern Italy’s countryside. They discovered the delicious bruschetta made by their Italian friends, Nene and Paolo and bruschetta became a staple in Kit and Gary’s diet.
The active duo also own a large estate in Napa Valley equipped with a vineyard, olive trees, farms animals and acres of edible gardens. They opened their tasting room, Velo Vino just south of St. Helena four years ago to showcase their wines, bike apparel and packaged specialty foods. Memories of the Italian Bruschetta gave birth to Kit and Gary’s idea to expand their offerings for a food and wine adventure. Since they are always on the go, the Clif Family Bruschetteria Food Truck was the ideal way to share a little bit of Northern Italy with Napa Valley and beyond.
Kit and Gary hired Executive Chef, John McConnell formerly of Terra and he fell in love with the idea and ran with it. He has embraced a traditional yet fresh approach to the Northern Italian cuisine, fueled by ingredients from the certified organic Clif Family Farm and local purveyors. The Clif Family Bruschetteria serves a seasonal menu of bruschetta, spiedini, porchetta, farm fresh salads and John’s idea to add a rotisserie for rotisserie chicken. There are also daily specials depending on what’s in season at the farm.
The large outdoor deck behind the tasting room is warm and inviting with scenic views of vineyards in the distance, a perfect backdrop for a food and wine pairing paradise. Though the food truck cannot sell wine, a glass or bottle of one’s favorite Clif Family vintage can be ordered in the tasting room and brought out on the patio to have with your food. The staff can easily make recommendations on which wine will go well with your menu selection. Though deciding on menu items is the challenge.
I personally have been to the Clif Family Bruschetteria a number of times and my favorite thing to do is go with two couples and order four of the Bruschettas to share and compare. Add to that a couple of salads and we were all in heaven by the medley of tastes. My favorite is the Porchetta, a Devil’s Gulch Ranch Pig, garden herbs, red onion, aioli and Parmesan on light crusted bread. Another favorite is Funghi, seasonal mushrooms, fontina and chives or the Agnello with spices lamb meatballs, hummus, tahini and dukkah. The Pomodoro features tomato fonduta, goat cheese and garlic chips. Don’t forget to check out the rotisserie chicken or pork. They are so tender. After filling yourself with goodness, then come the desserts. You will just have to try them.
Occasionally the food truck is on the move so call ahead to make sure the bright green truck is available for your casual dining experience. NVL
Gourmet Comfort Food
Compact kitchens on wheels – yes, I’m talking about food trucks, and like many a Napa Valley robust red wine, these in-motion gourmets and their food boast big flavors. Nothing frozen, processed or artificial here – these chefs are serious about fresh. And true to California-style cuisine, their dishes are inspired by what’s in season. By Indra Fortney
Marks the Spot:
My teeth sink into a soft bun followed by a satisfying crunch. This is Mark’s famous “Ooh Girl Buttermilk Chicken Slider.” Highlighted by Mary’s organic, free-range chicken is fried with gluten free cornmeal in California rice oil, it’s served on a bun with tangy black pepper aioli and a refreshing scoop of coleslaw.
Mark Raymond, a native New Zealander, draws inspiration from blending Californian and Asian cuisine. An example of his simple but focused approach to the main ingredients comes through in his rice bowl. The first sensation to hit my taste buds is the tang of cilantro, then sesame, followed by earthy spinach and the cool snap of cucumber. The flavors are well balanced, allowing me to appreciate every taste this dish has to offer.
Chef Kevin Simonson started as a dishwasher but finished as a graduate of Western Culinary School in Portland, Oregon. His truck, resplendent with a dangling plastic chicken hanging from the rearview mirror, reflects his quirky personality.
As I step into the truck, Kevin is busy whipping up a fresh morel mushroom cream soup. He hands me a cup of a smooth puree with unexpected chunks of mushroom garnish, providing a nice chewy texture. His most popular dish is the chicken mozzarella sandwich with free range, oven smoked chicken on a fresh sourdough roll and lemon aioli, all topped with a handful of organic greens. He tells one of his customers who requests no lettuce, “Man, you’ve got to have your greens.”
Ring of Fire:
This impressive, refurbished black military truck is decked out in up-cycled materials, including a shipping container used as their kitchen platform and doors built from reclaimed pallets.. A blend of Italian and Central Texas cuisine, Ring of Fire’s owner Colin McCluskey serves up a mean BBQ.
The Italian brick oven pizza recipes go back four generations. The BBQ meats are served dry, not wet, and there’s always a big bowl of organic arugula salad with shaved Parmesan to dip into. Depending on the event they might toss in a grilled romaine salad or some veggie skewers.
The emphasis here is on family-style food, served at long tables and with long conversations.