July 25, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Bar Terra | St. Helena, CA

Mami Gato: El Tesoro Reposado, Campari, Lillet Blanc, Yuzu

Let me be the first to admit that the photo isn’t great, but the taste: superb. While the Wine Blogger Conference of 2011 was going on, I felt the need to console myself (for not being there) by heading to Bar Terra in St. Helena. Bar Terra is the right wing of Terra restaurant, though there’s no conservatism present in the cocktail design or lighter fair menu. When in front of the building, Bar Terra is literally, to the right and to the left is Terra, dishing up pre-fix menus of “new creations and Terra classics” to quote their site. Let’s hope their Buttermilk Fried Quail is still involved… oh my.

So Bar Terra: I assuaged my situation by beginning with the Mami Gato, pictured above (Cocktails designed – well designed – by Kris Schram). The drink was really very nice – maybe a touch Campari heavy, but refreshing, delightful and the perfect accompaniment for this:

What would this world be without deep-fried pig skins?

The Chicharrones with chile and lime zest. And a secret sauce of spicy, yet pleasant components. Let’s call it the Diablo [tangy] Dipping Sauce! Perfectly crisped, fluffy, crunchy and a great way to segue from land to sea: Next up:

Fried Tuna Belly, Crispy Onion, Wasabi Sauce

Yeah, yeah. Fried, then fried. Don’t judge me. I’ve got lawyers. Listen: while all those bloggers wine writers, were living it up in Charlottsville, VA, drinking a slew of “interesting” and “exciting” wines with their “friends” in “hotel rooms” I was in the mood for a little deep fry action. But. Wow. I mean, WOW. This dish was fantastic (props to Chef de Cuisine, Andrew Salazar). The Tuna was perfectly crisped on the outside, but still good ole Tuna on the inside, and the Wasabi sauce added a welcoming yet subdued touch of fire. The Mami Gato was thrilled to pair itself with this dish as the drink cut through the fat of the tuna with surprising agility. That’s right, the drink exemplified surprising agility – like the feeling runners experience when they paste on these damn things.

I also enjoyed a glass of Hendry 2010 Albarino. And that was a hell of a glass of wine. Nice fruit, and good acid too which complimented the Tuna – a great recommendation from my waiter.

The atmosphere presented exactly what I was looking for: a talkative, congenially tempered crowd with a great vibe. Had I been in the mood, I could have approached the bar, or the table next to me and engaged in a bit of local comraderie, and speculative conversation:

ME: “Good weather we’re having ya know?”

THEM: “Sure beats the New York heat wave.”

ME: “You ain’t kiddin, Old Sport. You ain’t kiddin.”

THEM: “What did you call me?”

Exeunt moi.

Massive beams like something from a stable or barn keep the ceiling from crashing in and black and white elegant sexy images of female silhouettes mix with French inspired Absurdo-art and hang about the walls, waiting for you to ask your waiter what the deal is with them.

While I felt as though the fun was being had 3,000 miles away, I was in fact having a wildly fun time and even managed to jot down some exiting ideas for a future potential performance piece. I’m forever working toward the next best thing especially with respect to performance. I’m reminded of how the playwright Edward Albee approaches an idea: He suppresses it – pins it down, shuts it out of memory. If that idea resurfaces he does the same. Shuts it out, forgets about it. If that idea continues to bombard his thoughts, it is only when he can no longer take the incessant juxtaposition of a repressed thought with a realized thought, that he begins to write it out. The suppressed, repressed idea: love the imagery – love how the idea matures and presents itself by saying, “Here I am, and it’s about damn time you dealt with me.”

Deal with it.

Okay, Jonny. You’re in St. Helena, CA. It’s 86 degrees during the day with no humidity and the temperature drops into the 50’s at night. Bar Terra has Chicharrones and colorful cocktails. Why go anywhere else?

I don’t know. I have no rebuttal. See you at Bar Terra again soon?

You bet.

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