Whine country

The parmesan polenta cakes are deliciously creamy and crispy.

The parmesan polenta cakes are deliciously creamy and crispy.

Photo/Allison Young

For more information, visit www.napa-sonoma.com.

On a recent Sunday, my wife and I took our twins out to lunch to celebrate their birthday, and the recently opened Napa-Sonoma Grocery Company seemed like a good choice. We let our server know two more diners were due, and we’d wait to order. After 20 minutes of repeatedly being asked to order something, I gave in and started with a glass of draft IPA ($5.50), crispy polenta cakes ($10.95), and an ahi Napoleon ($12.95). We were only one of a couple of tables being served, and I could have done with a little less “service.” The kids arrived shortly after the appetizers.

The parmesan polenta cakes were deliciously creamy and crispy, stacked on top of each other in a flavorful pool of a chipotle and tomatillo salsa with goat cheese, finished with crème fraîche and toasted pine nuts. It made for a photogenic tower but required some deconstruction to enjoy.

The Napoleon also suffered from dramatic-yet-impractical plating. A cylindrical stack of tropical fruit salsa, incompletely chopped tuna, pickled ginger and sliced avocado was served with serrano pepper soy sauce, a dab of wasabi, tortilla chips and chopsticks. The chile-infused soy sauce was plenty spicy, leaving little reason for wasabi. The chips seemed out of a bag and added little to the dish. The chopsticks were useless with this mix, so we resorted to flatware. Fresh flavors, but difficult to eat.

Before finishing our starters, we were asked to move to a different room to make space for a private party. I’m still puzzling why they would seat us at our first table knowing we’d have to move in 30 minutes.

My son’s chicken caprese sandwich ($11.95) combined chicken breast, sliced mozzarella, spinach, fresh basil and pesto mayo on herbed focaccia with a side of soup. Not much pesto flavor and the chicken was quite dry. The potato soup was completely smooth in texture and well-seasoned.

My daughter’s mango and avocado shrimp salad ($12.95) was tasty, though I don’t feel “blackened tiger shrimp” was accurate. The seasoning rub was good but not Cajun-style blackened, and the shrimp were average-sized. Mixed greens, spinach, julienned mango, onion, cherry tomatoes, avocado and cilantro were tossed in a “spicy orange vinaigrette.” I couldn’t detect much spice or vinegar, and my daughter wished for more greens on the plate.

An oven-roasted turkey sandwich ($10.95) was my wife’s choice, featuring sliced turkey breast served on panini-grilled sourdough with Spanish manchego cheese, baby spinach, avocado, tomatoes and “white truffle mayonnaise.” The staff confirmed that truffle oil was used. It’s an ingredient I feel does more harm than good in any dish (chemical perfume, no actual truffles involved). It’s a foodie fad I hope dies a quick death, and had I not been distracted by the sudden seating change, I would have requested skipping the mayo. My wife noticed a difference but enjoyed her sandwich and didn’t mind the faux fungus.

My French dip sandwich ($11.95) featured certified Angus roast beef, melted Swiss cheese and creamy horseradish on a French roll served au jus. In actuality, it was a lukewarm, panini-squished sandwich with an underwhelming amount of meat and cheese. I couldn’t detect any hint of horseradish. For $2 extra, I substituted soup for a cup of “Napa-Sonoma Prime Rib Chili, our own special recipe made with prime rib topped with white cheddar cheese and onions.” The meat was pretty tasty, and the seasoning was unique with a strong cinnamon note. However, as a fan of true chili con carne, it would be nice to know beans are included when reviewing the menu.

The check was left at the table without mention of dessert. Obviously, they had better things to do than sell us more food. We paid the check and headed to a nearby frozen yogurt shop. The yogurt was delicious.