Napa Valley Weekend: JoLe, Calistoga

by Chris on June 15, 2011

Tasting menu at JoLe in Calistoga, run by chefs Matt and Sonjia Spector (formerly of Matyson in Philadelphia).

JoLe Calistoga

Where: JoLe: Farm to Table, Calistoga in Napa Valley

Why we went: Napa Valley may be Michelin-star central, but JoLe caught our eye because its chef owners - Matt and Sonjia Spector – ran the insanely popular Matyson Restaurant back in Philadelphia. Since the husband-wife team moved to Calistoga, they’ve racked up accolades in their new home.

JoLe Calistoga

Who’s there? Located in the boutique Mount View Hotel, JoLe oozes sophistication in the only Napa Valley town that still seems agriculturally based. The crowd on a May Saturday night looked Wine Country relaxed, in jean and button-down shirts. At first we were bummed by our table by the kitchen, but then we realized we could watch the pastry chef at work at an open counter.

Chowing down: The menu is made of small plates ranging from $7 to $19. You can put together a five-course tasting menu for $50 (you choose your courses) and add wine pairings for another $30. Between the two of us, we tasted most of the menu – and then added on a dessert course to share at the end.

JoLe Calistoga

Among the dishes we picked: grilled asparagus with balsamic vinegar and strawberries, grilled octopus, bacon and chorizo stuffed dates, veal sweetbreads with fava beans, foie gras mousse in endive (yes, this was a very politically incorrect meal), seared scallops with tabboulah salad, crispy duck rillette with dandelion greens, crispy lamb’s neck and pork belly with fried green tomatoes and cheesy grits. Don insisted on splitting a piece of coconut cream pie for dessert.

Um, yeah. We were full.

Libations: Here’s where JoLe made its mark. All of the wines served with our courses were unusual varietals that perfectly matched our food. My grilled octopus came with a 2010 Qupe Marsanne, while the foie gras was paired with a Calistoga Charbono that was so good, I begged the sommelier to let me know where he got it (from a small vineyard called Shypoke). The wines turned what was already an innovative menu into a memorable night out.

JoLe Calistoga

Order this: Comedian Jim Gaffigan calls bacon the “Fairy dust of the food world.” Pair it with chorizo and stuff it in a date? If you don’t like it, we probably aren’t friends. You should also save room for dessert; JoLe celebrates its pastries, so much so that the owners have opened The Bakeshop nearby.

Meh: I ordered the duck rilllettes primarily for the dandelion greens, which I love (my grandma used to make salads out of dandelions). But the dish faced stiff competition, so we felt it was the least memorable among them.

JoLe Calistoga

The Damage: $216.41.

Go back? Napa Valley is full of so many great restaurants that it’s hard to go back to the same place. But I would absolutely recommend it to foodie friends, particularly if you are staying in Calistoga.

Deets: Open for dinner seven days a week. Make reservations on weekends and holidays.

 

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kent @ NVR June 15, 2011 at 7:03 am

The pie looks incredible. Have you been to Dahlia Lounge here in Seattle? They are known for their coconut cream pie, and we are known for loving it :)

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Chris June 16, 2011 at 10:37 pm

@Kent – I have had the coconut cream pie at Dahlia. It’s delicious! Coconut is one of my favorite pies, followed by strawberry rhubarb and good old fashioned apple.

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Don Faust June 17, 2011 at 10:24 am

Now can you get why I am a pie person instead of a cake person? Coconut cream pie or red velvet cake?… I choose the pie!

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Sophie June 15, 2011 at 9:40 am

Oddly, I’ve been seeing heaps about Calistoga recently. Perhaps a sign this previously-unknown-to-me town (city?) is due a visit. It all looks delicious. Why is it called JoLe? Something Dolly Parton-ish about that name…

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Carolyn Hernandez June 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Sophie,
So glad you are hearing about Calistoga! You definitely need to do some first hand research! JoLe is one of our fabulous dining experiences and it is right downtown so you can stroll the city(village) streets shopping, listening to music, wine tasting…all in one place. Please let me know if you need some help getting a plan together! @CalistogaVisitors

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Don Faust June 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Sophie – JoLe is a combination of two of the owners’ kids first names, as I understood it. They owned a restaurant in Philly only 6 short city blocks from our house when we lived there called Matyson, which was also a combination-name of two of their kids. Unfortunately, we never made it to Matyson, but we had a chance to sample their new creation. I really enjoyed it.

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Jenn June 15, 2011 at 3:24 pm

First of all…each picture here looked great! I love it when someone takes the time to photograph food and make it look really good!! Secondly, I love reading about your trip to Napa and to JoLe. I would love to go to Napa Valley someday…and I would love to have lots of wine perfectly paired with good food!! Great post and thanks for sharing!!

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Kelsey June 16, 2011 at 6:44 am

Wow. That looks incredible!

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Sherry June 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Regretfully, I have not yet been to JoLe Farm and Table in Calistoga, but now I have reason to do so. The food, particularly the pie, was very well presented and your descriptions made them even more appealing. I’m highly looking forward to my next visit to Napa Valley.

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Paul June 22, 2011 at 11:10 am

Having eaten at Jole several times, I can confirm that every meal has been an absolute delight and the wine pairings are exceptional. BYW – Matyson is a combination of the owners first names – Matt and Sonya.

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