It’s day two of our South Coast Plaza week and we’re taking a stroll through the captivating kitchen and lifestyle specialty store, NapaStyle. Founded by Napa Valley chef Michael Chiarello, this rustic yet elegant store is a delight for all the senses. Foodies may already be familiar with Michael from his cooking and lifestyle shows on the Food Network and Fine Living or you may have a copy of one of his phenomenal cookbooks (check out the already classic Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking to start). We have a feeling a lot more people will soon discover Michael’s easy-going, rustic meets classic style. He’ll be seen on the upcoming Top Chef Masters edition, which kicks off tomorrow night on Bravo (see you all in the forums!) We were thrilled to receive an up-close look at the tastes, flavors, style and wines that serve as inspiration to the Northern California style served up by this distinguished chef.
From the moment you walk into the store you are overwhelmed by the beauty. Attractive vignettes of tabletops and sitting nooks are artfully arranged to capture the casual yet striking style of NapaStyles tablewares, furniture, serving pieces and accessories. Tabletops were adorned with rich and beautiful dinner settings from the NapaStyle collection. While the rest of the we heart this crew ooh’d and ahh’d and found a new favorite at every table, I was partial to the adorable bunny pattern from the Coniglio set. (I finally decided the Oliveto Italian collection was my most wanted ~ T)
The entire store is a feast for the eyes; filled with oversized leather furniture, bright hand crafted ceramic pitchers, plates made from reclaimed metals, sparkling, bold glassware and incredibly beautiful recycled benches and tables. The result is a charming, rustic, California casual style that makes you feel right at home. We’re always happy to see people go beautifully green, so we were thrilled to learn all of the wood used for Michael’s products are made from lumber that has been salvaged from places across the country (such as old barns or wood floors). Thus saving our forests, reducing pollution and allowing the consumer to receive a truly unique, recycled item. The authenticity of these woods is confirmed by scent of the natural wood as you enter the store or inspect one of the striking pieces up close. Besides carefully sourcing materials, Michael employs local artists from Napa Valley, as well as regions in Italy. Ceramics and glassware’s are hand crafted by gifted artists using time-honored techniques and this careful attention to detail sure shows in the end product! We were wowed by kitchen standards that stand as works of art, too. These Barattolo Ceramic Pitchers could double as a vase and look fab on any counter.
Once you weave your way through all the gorgeous items, you will find yourself at (hooray!) the taste testing stations. First up, the Salts & Spices. We had a salt taste testing. I know it sounds a little strange, because I can’t imagine anyone wanting to eat straight salt if it wasn’t followed by a shot and a lime. Let me tell you, I could have sat and ate a few spoonfuls from these little jars of heaven. Each salt had its own unique taste, texture and moisture level. Everyone had a favorite, but I was drawn to the naturally flavored salts such as the Roasted Garlic Gray Salt, while other preferred the fruity and peppery Hawaiian Red Salt or the delicate and refined Fleur de Sel. You will be surprised at the flavor a truly good salt can bring to your foods. If you want to add some wow to simple summer cooking, try out the NapaStyle Salt Collection (top right picture) containing three of their best salts.
I was also enamored by the brick salt – you heat one of the bricks up in the oven, throw a steak or chicken breast on and it will be seasoned as it cooks. If you have ever had steak on a stone, it’s similar but much tastier. My hands down favorite purchase though, was the Ottimo! Poultry Seasoning Gray Salt. Hand packed at Michael’s ranch and packaged in an adorable glass jar, this seasoning punches up any chicken recipe you have in your arsenal. I’ve made just plain chicken breasts with a generous splash of this seasoning at home for guests and everyone wants to know how many ingredients I had to mix up to get such a robust flavor. I didn’t tell my secret that night, but now I’m sharing it with all of you!
After consuming a few tablespoons of salt we headed over to the to Olive Oils. We drizzled the full, rich and tasty oils over crackers and nibbled away, debating the merits of each. Did you know that light and heat is oils worst enemy? Make sure to store yours in a cool, dark space (not next to the stove) for freshness. To keep their testing oils in full flavor, NapaStyle has installed Fustino stainless steel “drums” to preserve and dispense the oils. You can even get your own mini Fustino Dispenser to keep your oil in tip-top taste. NapaStyle also offers filtered and unfiltered olive oil. Filtered oil is used to finish a roasted fish, sauté veggies or to caramelize onions. The olives used in NapaStyle filtered oil are cold pressed the day they are picked which gives it a great, fresh taste. The unfiltered oil is used for the fine drizzle over a steak right off the grill or for bruschetta. These olives are harvested from 100-yr old trees on Michael’s ranch in the California Foot Hills. If you’re tempted to try one, all oils you order will be bottled and shipped to you at the time you order.
Next up, eggplant, pepperonata & salsa, oh my! More commonly referred to as the Sauces & Condiments section. This tasting station, with a variety of delicious spreads set out with crackers, almost sent us over the edge. We could have pulled up some chairs and stayed all day. These mouth-watering spreads are hands down some of the best I’ve ever had. Even though they are jarred spreads, they tasted as if I (or my live in executive chef) had just made them at home. This set of Bruschetta Spreads was a stand out and Tyna was partial to the Marinated Parmesan Dips. When entertaining, just pour a dip into a cute little dish, spread out some fancy crackers and your guests will be very impressed with your cooking “skills”!
If you ever get a chance to step into one of the six NapaStyle stores I highly recommend it. The tasting stations are available to one and all and you will find the staff friendly and informative. While it’s always great to get to samples and taste before purchasing, we can’t all make it to California for the hands on experience. You can still discover everything Napa Style online. Click on over to gaze at all the pretty objects, plan a meal around the fine salts, oils and spreads and even check out some of Michael’s own recipes. Soon, you’ll be entertaining in the spirit of Napa Valley style no matter where you live!