In addition to Elusa Winery, the hyper-local winery with a tasting room on property, the Four Seasons Resort in Calistoga hosts two dining concepts that share the property’s expansive terraces: TRUSS and Auro.
TRUSS is the more casual concept, with food served from morning to night. That might mean a wild mushroom omelette or avocado tartine in the morning, afternoon snacks like oysters with mignonette or onion dip with potato chips, or a Strawberry Fields gin cocktail with a sausage and smoked mozzarella pizza for dinner at the bar, a table, or in one of the restaurants cozier, lounge-like seating areas where a kindled fire casts warmth on the modern farmhouse scene.
Step through the partition to partake of chef Rogelio Garcia’s elevated, hyper-seasonal California cuisine at Auro. It’s a Napa homecoming of sorts for Garcia, who came to wine country after years as executive chef at San Francisco’s Intercontinental Hotel restaurant, Luce, but first put on a chef’s hat as Chef de Partie at Yountville’s The French Laundry. At Auro, Garcia delivers a five-course tasting menu that reveals the exacting French techniques developed during a starry culinary career while peppering each dish with signature flavors and a soupçon of Mexican spirit.
What to Eat
Witness a dish of Japanese kampachi. A fish beloved for its clean, crisp bite and high oil content is paired with golden kiwi aguachile, a preparation more familiar in Mexican and Peruvian ceviches. In Garcia’s hands, the kiwi’s sweetness is tempered with lime and amplified with chile, the trio an able partner to showcase the fish’s natural character.
Honeynut Squash Velouté returns to Europe. Cut into coins, the fatty richness of Ibérico Ham de Bellota and Asian pear serve to boost the soup’s creamy sweetness, a nod to the region’s bounty. Perhaps it is chef’s wish to calm the palate before another chile wave washes over me in a dish of King crab. Here, crab is set atop a froth of spicy Calabrese sausage smoothed with fennel and potato. It is a dish at once elegant and homey, the presentation of the whole Alaskan crab before the dish arrives a reminder that joyous food sometimes comes from beyond the immediate food shed and chile need not be Mexican to be playful.
Before a plate of Japanese Kagoshima A5 Wagyu arrives, sparkling with salt and an oh-so French Périgord truffle Bordelaise sauce, chef offers a few amuse – a zero-proof elixir of lemon and lavender set onto a squash ring, tobiko on a crisped potato round topped with borage flowers – tiny bites that serve to delight and refresh the palate. You’re going to need them because even a few ounces of the Wagyu was enough to make this food writer beg for mercy. (The included gianduja chocolate pave for dessert found its way into a box to take home – it was just as delicious two hours later.)
Do take advantage of the wine pairings or the wine list as curated by Sommelier Derek Stevenson. Though I was familiar with the NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé paired with the kampachi and the Elena Walch Pinot Bianco with the velouté, each wine added a fine expression to its dish, a highlight that would otherwise be missed. The 2021 Arnot-Roberts rosé with the crab was revelatory for its sharp acidity on the front palate and smooth finish – it paired beautifully with the chile in the saucisson.
Is It Worth It?
At $165 for dinner (plus $95 for the wine pairings), the meal is a splurge, a chance to spend an evening exploring technique and flavor with an experienced chef and restaurant team at an up-valley Napa restaurant. Make an evening of it – this is an experience that is meant to be savored, not rushed. Move back to a cushy couch at TRUSS for a nightcap, as the Wagyu’s heft demands. The hotel Living Room and its many charms awaits.