As the Doon Turns: The undulant evolution of the winery’s mission and focus has become as regular as the tides, and so it was a given that Randall Grahm would transform his tasting room once again.
Unveiled in a cascade of preview dinners over the past week, the Cellar Door Cafe — complete with hot new chef, new ambience and an edgy Euro dining concept — is now available as a venue for Bonny Doon Vineyard‘s wines. Softening Mark Primack’s industrial sleek with new couches, wall treatment and attractive staffers, the tasting room-in-progress now showcases a Wednesday through Sunday sit-down, prix fixe dinner created from the ultra-freshest, organic, seasonal fare by Charlie Parker.
A David “Iron Chef” Kinch protegé, Parker (at left in white shirt) sous cheffed at Kinch’s two-star Manresa, as well as Napa’s Ubuntu. He just returned from three months cooking in the Michelin-starred kitchens of Copenhagen’s Noma. Parker — as I learned a few nights ago at a 5-course press dinner in the cavernous tasting room — can conceptualize in synch with Grahm’s oenological galaxy. The menu that evening, starting with suzuki crudo , followed by sensuous confit of pork belly and smoked salmon roe, continued on into a rare beef panzanella heightened by pea shoots, favas, asparagus and garlic gremolata. A dessert of calavados-splashed almond cake, layered with rose petal whipped cream and fat, fragrant strawberries, blew away a table filled with seasoned food & wine writers.
The debut on Friday evening was just as dynamic. But let me underscore what’s new in all of this. Grahm’s opening salvo as a restaurateur allows him to actualize a long-standing fantasy — community tables, face-to-face hospitality, and a prix fixe three-course meal chosen by the chef. You eat what he cooks that evening. Period. No choices, no agonizing. For control freaks who can’t bear to take chances, the Cellar Door Cafe family-style dinner menu will be available in advance on-line. And besides, you can always choose from a listing of small plates available ala carte, served at the long bar. Something — exceptional — for everyone.
Here’s how the family-style Cellar Door Cafe dinners work. You make a reservation, you arrive, you are seated. The three courses are served from communal platters, and you order the wine you want to accompany (by the glass, the carafe, or the bottle). Dinners are $28 — wine, tax & tip are extra. A deal any way you slice it – especially given the extreme freshness and expertise of cuisine.