Tacos + Tequila… Tout Suite!

Photo credit to Tout Suite

Mecaela: ToutSuite Social Club offers members the opportunity to participate in live tastings over a sophisticated video chat system and social media channels. When I first heard about the concept, I had a hard time understanding how it would actually work. When Harry and I were invited to the Tacos + Tequila tasting last week, we jumped at the chance to get a behind the scenes look (and taste) of the operation!

Photo credit to Tout Suite

Harry: Let’s say that you drink wine. Let’s say that you happen across a bottle. Let’s say that you love that bottle. Let’s say you love that bottle so much that you want to know more about it, where it comes from, and might even want to meet the individual who makes it! Tout Suite let’s you do just that. Meet your food, spirits, and winemaker right in your living room, as you taste their artisan products. Meet your maker with the Tout Suite Social Club.

M: When we arrived at the headquarters in downtown St. Helena, we were greeted by a room full of bright lights, cameras, and lots of wine! The founders, Susan Quinn and Didier Loustau gave us some info on how the company came to be and what we could expect for the first half of the event. We were stationed in the green room (actual wall color red) with a large screen to project the event that would be taking place just beyond our wall, and a twitter stream to accompany the tasting. The first half of the evening was the “Tasting in the Dark” Photo credit to Tout Suitewhere a group of tasters blind taste wines and rated them in order of favorites. It is hard to describe one of these tastings until you see it live: 5 tasters of varying professional levels around one table, 6 wines, multiple cameras- but the best part is the commentary! While the tasting takes place, there are two sports-like commentators giving viewers a play-by-play on the action at the table. This takes the tasting from a somewhat dull observance of 5 strangers around a table tasting wine to an exciting, thrilling, and thoroughly amusing piece of entertainment. The wines are then scored and the top 3 from the tasters are revealed to the audience.

Photo credit to Tout Suite

H: After the tasting, the ToutSocial begins! We learned all about tequila from Jesus Padilla whose family has been producing Los Osuna since 1876, and he was the one who first brought it to the US. Chef Paul Wiggins prepared scallop ceviche and grilled albacore tacos to pair with the spirits. We were also lucky enough to try the Blue agave ice cream!

M: A few interesting facts that we took away from Jesus:

  • To be a true tequila, the liquor must be made using 100% blue agave and also come from a specific area in Mexico. If not made within the Tequila region it is labeled Agave (think Champagne versus Sparkling Wine)
  • There are 3 levels of tequila, each determined by the amount of time it is aged: Blanco- aged less than 2 months, Reposado- aged 2 months to 12 months, and Añejo- aged 12-36 months
  • There is also “gold” tequila which is 51% blue agave but the other 49% can be fillers like corn ethanol (talk about a hangover)

Photo credit to Tout SuiteM: When tasting tequila we learned to not swirl our glasses or sniff as we are trained to do so with wine, but rather to dab a small drop in our hands and rub until dry. As the alcohol evaporates it leaves a sticky residue in the palm of the hand, pure agave, that gives off beautiful and subtle aromas.

Photo credit to Tout SuiteH: Now I can’t say that this is the first time that tequila had made it onto a part of my body other than my mouth… but this time it was different. The ritual of rubbing the tequila on your palms focused my attention and furthered my appreciation of the beverage even before it even hit my tongue, much like admiring a wine’s color or aroma before the sip. This ritual is something I will practice in the future when enjoying premium tequilas. Drinking wine is different than tasting wine – and the same goes for tequila.

Hopper Creek Kitchen at Hotel Yountville

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Brunch. That wondrous meal at the end of your week that where anything goes. With a mimosa in each hand and a stack of waffles at our feet, Mecaela and I have enjoyed brunch as our absolute favorite meal to share since we first started dining together. It is not uncommon for our table to order a “french toast appetizer” just to get things moving in the right direction. We love the no-holds-barred aspect of brunch. Who cares if the check doesn’t make any sense, it’s brunch! This may be the only time where it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy poached eggs, beer, a BLT, cocktails and a slice of mushroom Quiche in one seating.

If there’s a slice of bacon on the table then it qualifies as brunch.

M: Last week we were extended a special invitation to brunch at Hopper Creek Kitchen in the newly remodeled Hotel Yountville. Recently reopened after a two-year renovation by George Altamura, their restaurant is currently only open to hotel guests- so what a treat! The menu is limited to breakfast for the time being. Why compete with the 5 Michelin stars within walking distance of the hotel? Hopper Creek Kitchen knows what it wants to do, and does it quite well.

We started our meal with the “Coffee Experience”. After selecting one of four south American blends, the coffee is ground fresh and then brought to your table on a custom-built rack. Exactly 180 degree water is poured slowly into individual ceramic drippers releasing intense aromas from the coffee that circulate around the table and create anticipation for the perfect cup. While this is indeed a spectacle, the “Coffee Experience” provides an opportunity to slow down before dining, and open  and awaken your senses.

We happened to be dining with two other brunch particulars, so from the start we had all agreed not to hold back. The menu was a well-balanced selection of lighter dishes for a warm summer morning, and richer indulgences to ready you for a day of taking in Napa Valley; we of course decided to try to them all. We started our meal by ordering the Brioche French toast and blueberry hotcakes to share. Naturally, we were prepared to be served two plates of sticky goodness and all dig in together, but we were met with a delightful surprise: our first course was served to each of us individually, on slender white plates.

H: The presentation of these dishes, even before tasting, showed the class and style of Hopper Creek Kitchen. The staff saw that we had in mind a syrupy sweet first course and while it would have been entertaining to watch as we all competed for bites simultaneously, they decided to take the time to plate these two dishes eloquently side by side. This small gesture elevated an experience we had already been looking forward to. Nothing makes us feel more warm and fuzzy than when a Chef takes the time makes you feel special. I am quite familiar with an elegant take on French toast, and even a fancy pancake or two, but was absolutely thrilled to see this detailed approach to my favorite meal.

French Toast vs. Pancake! The epic showdown.

M: Our French toast was a perfectly cut wedge of brioche, topped with arctic peach compote, mascarpone cheese and a “red hot” cinnamon sauce. To its right was a precision cut hotcake, loaded with fresh blueberries and topped with pistachio and rhubarb. Not only did the presentation of these items woo us, but the food itself was delicious, and FUN to eat. The little bites, each with their own perfectly selected toppings made for a delightful experience in our mouths!

H: And did we mention the Bourbon barrel aged maple syrup!?

After having the chance to taste two of the sweet options as “appetizers”, we continued on with the debate over our entrees…

...you know you want this.

When I eat I tend to get chatty; asking questions about the menu, the staff, the funky chandelier, learning about all the little details makes the experience more fun in my opinion. Sometimes to the chagrin of the other diners, I always bring an element of curiosity along with my appetite. Other times though it really pays off. My curiosity about the menu was directed toward the breakfast risotto, which sounded like it could be either very creative and good, or too creative and very bad. After inquiring, I had been informed that the original recipe had received only mild response, and that Chef Sean O’Toole was currently looking to fine tune the recipe. The maître d’ communicated our inquiry to Chef who used the opportunity to send us the newest version of the dish for personal review. Each of us was served an oversized bowl containing a dollop of vanilla bean risotto with paper-thin sliced strawberries, Meyer lemon zest and mint. Like a dressed up strawberry shortcake- delicate and delicious.

M: After our sweet beginnings, it was finally time to move to our savory entrées. After all of the rich beginnings, I was interested in a lighter route; I enjoyed the wild mushroom omelet with Vella dry jack cheese and fingerling potatoes. The omelet had a mix of at least 5 different varieties of fresh mushrooms, and was folded in a French style with the cheese intertwined. It was topped with lightly sautéed pea shoots which were a lovely green balance to lighten the dish. The potatoes were served on the side and had been cooked with caramelized onions for an extra flavor kick.

H: For my entrée I opted for the Hopper Creek Breakfast; a classic European approach offering a selection of cured meats, cheeses and also included a very nice bread basket. I recognized the perfectly toasted English muffin from ABC Bakery and fully enjoyed the chewy and flaky croissant.

M: Our companions decided to stick with the indulgent theme and ordered the Benedict with crispy pork belly and rich hollandaise. The locally farmed eggs were served perfectly poached atop soft brioche and sprinkled with arugula for a hint of color. This dish hit marks of perfection in many ways, but the most impressive part had to be the portion size of the meat served. Pork belly is a delicacy that we are fortunate enough to enjoy rather often here in Napa, but it is usually served in smaller quantities, leaving you always wanting more. Not at Hopper Creek. The portions were more than substantial, allowing a bit of crispy pork crunch with every bite of the meal. Our companions had only raves to give on their dish, that is when they were able to pull themselves out of the speechless state that the dish had left them in. I love sharing a meal with other foodies like us who love to indulge and also enjoy embracing their inner critic….

...put the pork in my belly.

M&H: Although dining at their restaurant is only available to guests staying with Hotel Yountville, (or unless you’re totally awesome like The Two Forks) I would encourage anyone to visit. Along with the other luxurious amenities available to guests, Hopper Creek provides a culinary edge when compared to neighboring hotels and frankly, should be considered a contender for one of the best morning meals in Napa Valley. Chef intends to produce a breakfast menu that will change often and seasonally.

With both grace and style, Hopper Creek Kitchen answers a very difficult question: How does one stand out as an impressive restaurant in Yountville? Do one thing and do it well, and hey maybe even kick a little ass at that one thing.

Who are The Two Forks

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foodies + lovers = food lovers!

The intention of this blog is to share our food, wine, cocktail and beer experiences with other lovers in the world. We are based in Napa, CA and working in the wine and food industry, so we are very fortunate to have access some of the most amazing restaurants, wineries, events and parties in the world. What makes these experiences even better is having someone to share them with….

So in turn what makes this blog unique and hopefully more enjoyable for you, is getting two perspectives on the same affair. We know how lucky we are, so we want to pass along the good fortune, in hopes to share our delightful experiences and create a place to store memories for us to look back on in the years to come!

We welcome you to follow the journey along with us - cheers!

Harry and Mecaela


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