By Kristin Michelle Miller – While people travel from all over the world to experience Napa, those of us who live here are fortunate enough to experience life living next-door to winemakers and chefs. Most everyone I know living in Napa has a small portion of land set aside for growing their own fruits and vegetables. In my neighborhood we come together regularly to unwind over farm-to-table dinners.

“The bounty of the farm here in Napa Valley offers the best glimpse into how food and hospitality should be,” says Chef Rebecca Peizer, a Chef Professor at the Culinary Institute of America, where she works with and trains chefs from around the world. “I like to think that as chefs in the Napa Valley we offer more than just food for nourishment, but a way of tying together everything that makes our community great – the beauty of knowing that we can learn, and grow, and thrive together by sharing the best in food and wine. Cooking food for friends is always something I am grateful for.” Rebecca, owner of All Things Culinary, also develops the curriculum for the teaching garden at Moving Forward Towards Independence, a local nonprofit helping mainstream young adults with learning disabilities.

As we walk through the rows of cabernet grapes to reach our picnic area at White Rock Vineyard, winemaker Christopher Vandendriesseche, another neighbor, points out that the grapes on the vine are just starting to form. Over a glass of his 2011 Napa Valley Claret, he reminisced about the large cabernet vines that he planted back in the ‘80s as a high-school project. Christopher spoke proudly as he shared their responsible farming practices and stewardship of the land.

Back at the table friends enjoyed Rebecca’s house-cured Arbequina olives in herb oil, paired with Mimolette (annatto-colored cows’ milk cheese from France), Humbolt Fog (goats’ milk cheese from Humbolt County made in the style of Morbier, a French cheese with ash separating the morning curd and the evening curd), and a Dry Jack cocoa powder and pepper wrapped medium-aged Monterey Jack. These cheeses were found locally at the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant. The bread included a Model Bakery Pan Au Levain and Epi loaf. Greens and vegetables were provided by the teaching garden as well as Rebecca’s own backyard. Garden greens were served with pickled spring onions, shaved rainbow carrots, and edible flowers with sage croutons and balsamic kumquat vinaigrette. Red and golden beets were glazed with Katz Blackberry honey, lavender, and butter. Lee from Hudson Ranch provided the pork shoulder which was braised with oranges and stinging-nettle pesto.

The combination of great local food, excellent local wine, and wonderful friends in a classic Napa setting made this meal truly special. We hope you get to enjoy some of the community’s hospitality while you are here.  NVL