Charlie Palmer's Harvest Table: A Napa Valley Oasis

Chef Charlie Palmer might best be known as a New York chef, with extensions in Las Vegas, but he's actually also a California hotelier. He has a hotel in San Francisco (the Mystic Hotel), one in Healdsburg (Hotel Healdsburg), and another in St. Helena (Harvest Inn). While on a recent trip to Napa Valley we had the opportunity to dine at the Harvest Inn's restaurant, Harvest Table, and it's a must-visit for those looking for a true taste of the region.

Epitomizing the "Wine Country casual" aesthetic, the refined and modern Harvest Table has a 12-seat U-shaped bar; a 110-seat dining room with plenty of light wood, a brick fireplace, and ample natural light; and a spacious patio overlooking the restaurant's extensive culinary gardens, from which much of the restaurant's produce is sourced.

We sat out on the patio for a leisurely brunch, and it was a relaxing and enjoyable experience from start to finish, a perfect way to enjoy a sunny Napa afternoon. Chef Levi Mezick's menu draws from the gardens as well as several Northern California artisanal producers, and fresh seasonal ingredients pop up in every dish, even the cocktails; the What The Fudd, with gin, limoncello, white vermouth, fresh carrot juice, and a syrup made with herbs from the garden, garnished with a sprig of fresh oregano, was unlike any other cocktail I'd ever had, and perfectly set the stage for the meal to come.

We started by sharing a plate of grilled sourdough toast topped with mascarpone, dried apricot compote, and candied bacon, and it perfectly toed the sweet-savory line while also screaming "breakfast!" Up next came a bountiful salad of winter vegetables and greens with Humbolt Fog goat cheese and puffed amaranth, lightly dressed with a simple Champagne vinaigrette; and a creamy and satisfying sunchoke soup with truffle crème fraiche, parsley oil, and sourdough croutons. Pan-roasted shrimp and grits with Andouille sausage, Cheddar, and smoked bacon was also delicious and brought a welcome and unexpected taste of New Orleans to the meal, and the appetizer-sized portion was ample enough to serve as a main course. An omelette was made with fresh local eggs, leeks, local cheese, caramelized onions, and spinach, and was spot-on, proving that a well-made omelette can be decidedly gourmet.

Other brunch plates included a buttermilk biscuit Benedict with prosciutto, hollandaise, and arugula; crispy pork belly hash with slow poached eggs and housemade sriracha; sunnyside eggs with spinach, hen of the woods mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts; and a burger with fontina cheese and caramelized onion on a homemade bun that looked delicious (nearly every table ordered one). The meal was washed down with a 2015 sauvignon blanc from Hall, a five minute walk up the road.

After your meal, make sure you talk a walk around the grounds. The gardens are definitely worthy of exploration, and the hotel is actually one of the only ones in Napa that directly looks out onto a vineyard. It's a perfect location for an outdoor wedding, and all of the spaces can be rented out for private events. Located smack dab in the heart of Napa's St. Helena Highway, with some of the region's best wineries a short walk away, Harvest Table is a perfect encapsulation of everything that's great about Napa Valley.