**Another one bites the dust. Seems this Calistoga fave has closed and the space been sold to a neighboring spot for a new concept****
On our wine country jaunt over the holidays we were able to try many different wines and several different restaurants in the area. I previously reviewed several of the places we went though not all of them. There was one restaurant we dined at that has gotten some good press since it opened. It's one of those farm to table places run by a husband and wife team--he's chef she's pastry chef. I was mildly intrigued to try the place based on reviews I'd come across. It's called JoLe and it's on the main drag of downtown Calistoga. We had reservation for New Year's Eve of all times. It's in the ground floor of a hotel and is a smallish place with two topper tables and a small bar. We took our seats and as the hostess handed us our menus we were informed they were presenting brand new menu this evening. Oh joy, I thought, untested dishes. Thus it has taken me sometime to digest what I thought about what we had while taking into consideration our guinea pig status. But hey, that's what eating out is about sometimes, being adventurous and trying something new.
The first thing I want to mention is about service--for the evening it was inconsistent. It took sometime for someone to eventually greet us. Our waiter had an odd way of describing the new tasting menu options and knowing how some of the dishes were done. Plus the dishes came out either too quick or too slow. I'll chalk that up to a new menu on a busy night. Evidently you can get a 4, 5 or 6 course tasting menu of any of the items listed including entrees and dessert--they'll just be a slightly smaller size than if you got the full entree--get it? There were about 15 things on the menu so we each decided to go with the 4 course tasting menus and we can cover many of the things they have that way, without feeling too gluttonous. One point of note, seems their menu changes almost daily and many of the ones we had are not even on the current menu listed on the website. Thus you can think of the current posted menu as more of an idea guideline of what you might get. Since there were so many dishes I'm gonna keep my reviews of each short and to the point, noting only specific highs and/or lows, otherwise it could turn into a foodie novel and really, who wants that.
Thai chile spiced brussels sprouts with sesame seeds and peanuts. You get what you ask for with this dish. The chiles were smoking hot and that was pretty much all I tasted. I got notes of the texture crunch from the nuts and the sprouts but nearly burned my tongue off trying to enjoy this. Starting with this was almost a mistake as my buds were nearly ruined for everything else. Fortunately (or not) it took some time to get the next plate so my tongue was able to recover somewhat. Yowza!
Kale stew with pumpkin and beans. This was actually good. Warm, earthy and soothing as it was quite cold out. It's one of those bowls you get comfort from on a winter night. Herby, hearty and probably pretty healthy. Very tasty.
Sea scallops with cauliflower puree, chorizo and nuts. Kind of an odd combo. The scallops were perfectly cooked--soft and buttery. The chorizo didn't make sense as a compliment since it's spiciness kind of overwhelms the delicate scallop. The rest could have used a flavor infusion as the puree didn't have much taste and I'm still not sure why they needed nuts. Confusing dish.
Deep fried salt cod ball fritters with remoulade. Exactly as advertised and a reminder to me that I'm no fan of salted cod. Too fishy, too salty for me. The SO however, really liked these. They were densely packed with cod and served hot and crispy. If salt cod is your thing you'll love it.
Buttermilk fried quail with mushrooms in brown gravy. It was just like eating a tiny fried piece of chicken. The batter was light and crisp and the quail was tender and juicy. Didn't really need the gravy. As a light, fun bite, this was surprisingly delightful.
The venison with cherry gastrique and sautéed radicchio. If you are a fan of deer meat they did a pretty good job with this. Cooked perfectly, something that is hard to do, and didn't have real gamey aftertaste that can happen sometimes. A pleasant mix of slightly sweet, salty and meat. A decent dish the SO really enjoyed. I've never been the biggest venison fan but will say they did well with this.
I don't remember the exact name for this dessert but it was basically a deconstructed pumpkin pie and it was fabulous. Deep fried layers of phyllo dough interspersed with a creamy pumpkin mousse. Flaky, not too sweet, smooth and all around yummy. I could have eaten this all by myself, though did manage to share with the SO.
Pecan pie tort with caramel ice cream. I loved this dessert also. While I would have liked just a tad more of the pie filling, this was still a sugar bomb delight for me. Some folks may find it too sweet, but not me. Sticky, gooey pie filling, buttery, crunchy crust and a dollop of ice cream. Both of these were autumnal holiday desserts that evoke memories of family gatherings and sugar crashing on the couch. They were great dishes to end a meal on.
Like with any new menu there are going to be some highs and lows and JoLe definitely has some of each going on here. I think if you are going to change the menu as much as they do, each visit would be interesting, but a hit or miss affair. For me there were enough highs to overcome the few lows and the inconsistent service. Particularly where desserts are going on. The pastry chef of the house is whipping up some solidly spectacular flavors that left me with good warm feelings, even as I paid the bill. The tasting menu thing is a deal and I'd recommend trying that. It doesn't include wine but it does dessert and that I also highly recommend.