Appetizers
October 16, 2012
Bistro Jeanty speaks French in California Cuisine Central

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We were coming back from visiting Brian Streeter in Napa Valley last week and decided to stop in restaurant-rich Yountville for a bite.

Streeter is the culinary director of Cakebread Cellars, and will present "The Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Cookbook" for the Bee Book Club at 6 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento; (916) 452-5881.

In Yountville, the first bit of luck was something unheard of - an actual brief wait in a short line to get inside the legendary Bouchon Bakery for a bagful of the world's best croissants (6528 Washington St.; 707-944-2253, www.bouchonbakery.com).

The second piece of good fortune was the discovery of the charming and relaxed Bistro Jeanty (pictured). Sat at the bar and cruised the chalkboard specials, which included rabbit terrine, fried boneless pig's foot and Mediterranean seabass with ratatouille ($12.50 to $30).

Homed in on a seldom-seen dish that is usually disappointing and overcooked when you can find it - smelt. These had been shipped in from the Great Lakes and were spectacular. The tasty, tender morsels were fried to a gentle crisp and served with spicy aioli.

Continuing the Great Lakes theme, next up were pike quenelles - luscious, cloudlike fish dumplings in creamy lobster sauce ($14.50, from the standard menu).

Years ago, executive chef-owner Philippe Jeanty came from Epernay, France, and ended up serving as executive chef at the nearby Domaine Chandon winery for 20 years. He opened his bistro in 1998.

"We had a Michelin star for three years in a row, but haven't had one for a couple of years now," chef Jeanty said on the phone Monday. "We're working on getting another one."

When the weather turns cold and wet, we'll revisit the bistro for its straightforward boeuf Bourguignon and cassoulet. It's heartening to know that French cuisine lives in a gourmet town where so many California-centric menus have become duplicative and redundant.

Bistro Jeanty, 6510 Washington St.; (707) 944-0103; www.bistrojeanty.com.

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