A Review of PRESS Restaurant’s Pop-up Dinner Event with Salty Magazine

Salty Magazine and Chef Steven Greene of Herons restaurant at Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, North Carolina host another pop-up dinner loaded with star chefs. Chef Philip Tessier of one-Michelin PRESS in Napa joins chef Roberto Solis, who holds #58 on Latin America’s 50 Best List for his work at Huniik in Mexico’s Yucatan town of Mérida. The pop-up is April 29 but Salty is on a mission to bring exceptional chefs from around the world to cities around the United States.

Reserve a table at HERONS.

Salty Magazine events offer an insider-y look at the restaurant industry. Run by founder and editor-in-chief Geeta Bansal, the magazine is mostly written by chefs and somms for chefs and somms. Diners at Salty events are treated to another level of knowledge, one driven by the chefs love of cooking and, often, delight in training others in the wonders of the culinary world. The events are an extension of the magazine, a chance to dig in on the glories of food and, by extension, restaurants.

Pop-Up Dinners that Rethink Food

At a recent dinner at Michelin-starred PRESS restaurant in Saint Helena in the Napa Valley, Salty sponsored a dinner hosted by chef Philip Tessier who welcomed chefs Jenner Tomaska (one Michelin-starred Esmé, Chicago) and Marcus Jernmark of Habitué, Los Angeles (formerly of Stockholm’s Frantzén, listed at number six in the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants list in 2021). The dining room was full, packed equally with fans of exceptional cooking as well as other chefs and sommeliers, as eager to experience the meal as any other guest. And me, an invited guest.

The multi-course journey was stunning, as much for the stunning platings as the exceptional craft of cooking on display. As an example, a dish from Jenner Tomaska of Chicago’s Esmé. Delivered as a stack pieces, I “designed” my own plate, adding color to the face’s outline. Once assembled, a server brought a bitter greens bouquet and three dips – carrot, broccoli-basil, and black garlic-concord grape – representing bitter, sweet and savory flavors. I then used the bouquet to create a swirl of colors on my plate-palette while simultaneously assembling the perfect bite from the bouquet.

An Unforgettable Oxheart

oxheart carrot in a brown bowl served at PRESS restaurant in Napa Valley

Whimsical? Yes. Silly? Maybe a little. But it was a delightful way to “play” with my food and consider it in a new way. The nine-course meal continued with plentiful highlights but another favorite is chef Tessier’s coal-roasted Oxheart carrot. The dish makes regular appearances on his menus at PRESS, likely because it is a show-stopper, inviting guests to rethink not only a carrot’s flavor but its size and texture.

The plump Oxheart, which can grow to be a pound in heft, was treated to a seasoning of XO sauce which seeped into the flesh via a series of Hasselbeck cuts. Stefan, my husband and frequent plus-one at my dining experiences, said: “I wouldn’t need to eat any more beef if I could just eat this instead.” It’s an eye-opening dish of what a vegetable can accomplish in a talented chef’s hands.

Other dishes included:

  • Jernmark’s Dungeness Crab, with champignon de paris, buddha’s hand citrus, and aged pork fat
  • Chef Tessier’s Flannery Beef, with winter lettuces and braised short rib
  • Chef Tomaska’s Rack of Dover Sole, wrapped in persimmon with vin jaune and hearts of palm

Creative Dining Around the Country

all the chefs at Press restaurant in St. Helena, Napa Valley, surround the editor of Salty magazine, Geeta Barsal

Geeta Barsal surrounded by PRESS chefs and guest chefs

These are chefs seeking out creative opportunities, bringing culinary thrills to diners around the country. Salty’s dinners are yet another creative outlet, bringing together chefs of exceptional caliber to create something as a community. I encourage you to seek out a Salty dinner (keep an eye on locations and more pop-up dinner events by following along on Instagram.

Chef Tomaska will be in Atlanta, cooking with chef Joey Ward at Georgia Boy on March 26. Look for Chef Tessier to cook at another Salty pop-up dinner event later this spring in Las Vegas.