Calistoga Ranch – The Lakehouse

The Lakehouse celebrates the rich culture of food and wine for which Napa Valley is famous. Making use of the lush bounty of the region, each dish is a pure reflection of fresh, organic, and local produce, complemented by an extensive wine list. Blurring the line between indoors and outdoors, glass walls offer pastoral views of the magnificent oak groves and open onto expansive decks overlooking Lake Lommel, where guests can enjoy dining under the stars.

The Lakehouse offers a natural approach in terms of the indoor–outdoor atmosphere, and Chef Meneghelli’s menus reflect the seasons in an equally harmonious way. “Food of place is very much our style of food.” The focus is on being in-house, local, and seasonal.

Calistoga Ranch is very much a home and a haven for Chef Aaron Meneghelli. Although he only recently joined the team as executive chef, Meneghelli grew up in Napa Valley and even worked at Calistoga Ranch after it first opened, eventually becoming sous-chef. Cooking with the local and seasonal products at his fingertips in Napa Valley is at the heart of his culinary philosophy. “When we can say that our produce came from the a farmer just down the road, it automatically gives people a sense of place,” he says, “and I love to just let the freshness of these ingredients speak for themselves.” Chef Meneghelli focuses on creating as many in-house products as possible. Calistoga Ranch is expanding its own gardens on the property and works with local purveyors such as Forni-Brown Organic Gardens, among others. “We will be making our own charcuterie and pasta, fermenting, pickling, and preserving. It’s very special for us to be able to showcase things we are making in-house and to make that connection for the guests with ingredients that are literally grown 200 hundred yards away and developed by our team in our own kitchen.” With a menu dictated by the season, the possibilities are endless, regardless of the influences. “I am very inspired by Asian and Moroccan cuisine, and you can find a lot of flavor sources that tie them into Napa,” he explains. “It might sound cliché to call it ‘Californian cuisine,’ but it’s hard to find other words to describe it when you’re sitting in an area where everything grows and you have easy access to fresh ingredients.”

February Honey Harvest
Beekeeper Rob Keller of Napa Valley Bee Company and Landscape Manager Steve Ferrini joined Chef Meneghelli in Calistoga Ranch’s Secret Garden for a Backyard Beekeeping Class. “It’s always great to see what is happening in the hives, even if the honey is not ready to harvest,” explains Meneghelli, who pointed out to the guests how helpful the bees are in the garden in terms of pollination and cultivating great produce. “It’s an integral relationship of nature that is needed, and I think a lot of us, myself included, take it for granted.” After seeing the bees and learning about everything from how they build their hives to how they survive winter, guests were then treated to almonds that had been toasted and candied with honey and crostini with a red cabbage sauerkraut topped with honey-glazed duck breast.

March Mustard Madness
With mustard flowers blooming throughout the Valley, Chef Meneghelli makes good use of incorporating into his dishes mustard flavors. “Right now we’re pairing Brussels sprouts with pickled mustard seeds as well as a toasted mustard seed gnocchi to go with a lamb dish.” At this event, he walks guests through the process and applications, from harvesting mustard seeds and creating different varieties to mustards to pickling the seeds and incorporating them into different dishes. “I’ll do a cooking demonstration, grind up the seeds, talk about their application in food other than as just a condiment on your favorite sandwiches, and then invite the guests to sample some mustards that have a more unique flavor—it’s more than your typical Dijon! The average home cook might not use mustard seeds a lot, but it’s a versatile ingredient to add to savory dishes and definitely a different flavor component.”

June Locavore and Farmers’ Market
Each food of place experience is designed to bring guests a little closer to their food, and there is no better way to get an insider’s view of “local” than on an excursion to the St. Helena Farmers’ Market. Chef Meneghelli cements the food-of-place connection with a morning tour of the market, where he guides guests through the stalls, giving tips on selecting the best ingredients, introducing you to farmers, and have you select the produce that will be components of that evening’s menu. He and his guests then head back to Calistoga Ranch to help prepare the dishes for your meal. “It will be a fun team-building experience where guests are encouraged to get as involved in the cooking process as they want to!”

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