“If only we could see the miracle of a flower clearly, our whole lives would change”–Buddha
ALTHOUGH Copia’s closed doors declare its current state of dormancy, its garden spaces lining First Street are very much alive. They are leased out to local restaurants of Napa, in which Carpe Diem enthusiastically received keys to its own garden plots in late September. With hoes and shovels resting on our shoulders, our crew marched through the gates to play around in the dirt.
Carpe Diem’s Sous Chef, Scott “Isaac” Coles, who grew up on his family’s farm in Virginia, originally planted the idea to utilize a garden space as a benchmark for our menu. “Freshness and quality is a big part of a restaurant that shouldn’t be overlooked, but often is for lack of accessibility” said Isaac. “The gardens allow the food to speak for itself through its fresh flavors.” It is unfortunate that produce immediately starts to perish the moment it is boxed in a warehouse and distributed days later to restaurants all over the country. The greens and vegetables we have grown so far are hand-harvested by us and then transferred from the soil to Carpe Diem located only four blocks away.
During this winter, we’ve discovered that gardening is not all daisies and cute caterpillars. As Isaac observes, “It is not necessarily labor intensive, it just takes time and commitment. People don’t know how long it takes for lettuce or a squash to grow anymore. People have lost touch.” A healthy garden requires that we monitor the changes that occur, along with regular weeding and watering to give the seeds a desirable habitat in which to flourish. We have also mulched three of the garden spaces to nourish the soil for spring time, leaving the fourth plot as our first experiment. So far, we have had great success with beets, cilantro, mustard greens and kale.
It is challenging, however, to predict some of nature’s little tantrums, whether it is frost, flood or fighting off pests. In response, we have seized the opportunity to create and discover new protective techniques. It appears as though we have built a culinary war zone, fully equipped with an army of ladybugs, steep banks, and barbed-wire like barricades of hand-crushed oyster shells surrounding our precious plants. We imagine miniature raised white flags popping up from the soil signifying the surrender of slugs and aphids, as we walk away with armfuls of voluptuous greens, and look back to wink at the ladybugs in victory.
Ultimately, the time spent gardening is filled with serenity and connects us with nature, a refreshing break from the lively restaurant atmosphere. It is invigorating to feel sweat and the dirt beneath our fingertips; even the occasional back-ache feels gratifying when we are able to bring fresh produce to the table. Working in the garden not only gives us a deeper understanding of how to properly cultivate our produce, but how to cook our food as well. It unites the world of simple, seasonal ingredients with the final product, sophisticated dishes we offer to our guests. There is always something new to learn while we patiently “watch the grass grow,” while dreaming up new dishes that the greens will be a part of.
Just before pruning our first bushel of cilantro, Isaac knelt down and tore off a single leaf. “Mmmm, tastes like sunshine,” he mumbled. His statement holds true, because everyone needs the taste of sunshine as much as the plants do. During these cold months as we shift into spring, Carpe Diem presents to you bites of bloom throughout our menu.
At Your Service,
EVERY two weeks the Carpe Diem front house staff congregates for wine education meetings to taste and learn about new items on our wine list. Every so often we are privileged to tour and taste at the actual wineries, and recently, we had the opportunity to visit Purlieu Wines. We have sold their cabernet sauvignon blend, Le Pich, since summertime.
The tour was organized and guided by our friends, Aaron Debeers and Dustin Ramey. Winemaker Julien Fayard also joined us for this adventure. We hiked through their seventeen acre vineyards to the top of the hill to observe an unbeatable view of the Napa countryside. Aaron informed us that the land was originally occupied by the Wapo Indians, which influenced their design for “Le Pich,” a Wapo term for the golden eagles that inhabited the property.
From the vineyards we continued on to a large hay shed where the grapes are sorted and barreled. We were introduced to a humungous optical sorter, called Protec, which electronically sorts the grapes before being transferred into the press. Julien switched on the machine to demonstrate. We all jumped out of our skins as three pieces of wine barrel metal rings shot off the conveyer belt and clanged into the bin. Julien quickly shut it off, “That wasn’t supposed to happen… but that is sort of how it works.” We all laughed, and were thankful all our limbs were still intact.
To see the wine drip from the press made us drool, so we headed off to the tasting room. First on the menu was a very crisp and refreshing Le Pich 2011 Sauvignon Blanc that will soon be on our wine list. Next, we revisited the Le Pich Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux blend, which is undeniably delectable. Julien explained that the point of this particular blend is to not have a dominant, single varietal expression. It has an “Italian softness” that balances the varietals, making it easy to drink. “It’s not about taking three hours talking and drinking, it’s about finishing the bottle,” Julien said with a smile. He wasn’t kidding around, because we polished off four bottles by the end of the tasting.
We also tasted the very sophisticated Purlieu, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, whose grapes come from Rutherford, St. Helena and Coombsville. The name “Purlieu” translates to “pure location,” and also “the edge of the forest.” Since wine is a direct expression of its land, Julien stressed the importance of finding the “purest” and best regions in Napa to plant the vines. This cabernet is very “French” with a dark fruit, chocolate character and “blossoming finish.” It is elegant and bold, making it a perfect addition to our reserve list at Carpe Diem.
The afternoon at Purlieu Vineyards ultimately embodied the Napa Valley experience with good company, outstanding wine, and breathtaking scenery. We found ourselves drawn in to their story, and felt the staff’s enthusiasm for the growth of their winery. As Julien said, “People remember stories, because you can touch a story.” Come to Carpe Diem and immerse yourself in the flavors of Purlieu, wines only from the purest locations.
Thank you Aaron Debeers, Dustin Ramey and Julien Fayard for accommodating the Carpe Diem Crew.
At Your Service,
Carpe Diem “Seized the Tatas” on October 25th for our first Breast Cancer Awareness Fundraiser. The restaurant was covered in pink decor while guests sported “Seize the Tatas” T-shirts and sipped glasses of Rosé. Allison even baked delicious pink sugar cookies in the shape of the breast cancer awareness ribbon to give to those who supported the cause. Ten percent of the Rosé and one hundred percent of the proceeds from the T-shirts were donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. To further accentuate the liveliness, the Giants took the national championship that night. Positive energy poured out from every part of the restaurant.
Despite all the enthusiasm at the event, I feel that fundraisers most often do not expose the life-altering journey that victims of cancer are forced endure. We don’t see the hours patients spend in hospitals or the tears from families and individuals that must be strong throughout their battle. One cannot truly understand unless they have experienced it themselves.
It is impossible to prepare oneself for the unknown. Therefore, hearing and watching guests interact, smile and enjoy the food and wine at our fundraiser illustrated the importance of togetherness, a reminder to celebrate good health and to live every moment to the fullest.
Carpe Diem raised over $1,000 dollars for the foundation. Thank you to all for the donations and support that made this event a success. Remember always to “Seize your Tatas.”
At Your Service,
WELCOME to the home of Carpe Diem Wine Bar’s new blog, where we will share all the enthralling adventures happening at our restaurant. Climb aboard our blog-train to read the details of past and upcoming events, new food creations and wines recently added to our ever-changing menu.
Carpe Diem is truly a business that lives up to its name. Our hard working and passionate front house and kitchen staff seizes every moment to provide an enjoyable and tasty atmosphere for all.
As a literary voice, hostess and server of Carpe Diem Wine Bar, I vow to write with a sip of wit, a whiff of humor and a bite of sarcasm as only “Marti Parti” can do. Cheers to the old, stay tuned for the new.
At Your Service,