Friday, May 23, 2008

There's Something About Ubuntu

Who: Editorial Assistant Lisa Mickleborough + her parents
What: Lunch in the heart of wine country
Where: Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio, Napa
When: May 17, 2008
Why: When in Napa ...

The Scoop:
Like anyone, I love being visited by friends and family, particularly when they pick up and fly across the continent just to dote on their emigrant daughter. But hosting my very conservative, very old-world, very epicurean parents presented a new challenge: The visitors I’m used to expect little more than a floor to crash, cheap vegan food, a walking tour-guide—maybe a little toothpaste. My folks, however, had already visited San Francisco several times, would need to stay in a “proper bed” at a hotel, and would prefer to eat at high-end restaurants serving up slow-roasted body parts. Having lured them into the city’s finest vegan establishments—just to watch them poke cautiously at their cashew cream shitakes—I decided we needed to escape the city for the beautiful Napa valley, and try our gastronomic luck at the new, award-winning vegetarian dining and yoga establishment, Ubuntu. Named for the South African philosophy of reciprocal affirmation and community, the restaurant has earned myriad accolades and honors, including Food & Wine’s coveted Best New Chef of 2008 award. After cascading the breathtaking peaks and valleys of NorCal wine-country in our bronze rental car, we enjoyed an inventive yet simple spread of just-ripe marinated olives, crisp chickpea fries, and puréed mushroom and wilted kale-pesto pizzas—all incorporating the fruits of Ubuntu’s nearby organic garden. My parents were impressed. I dare say this was one of most exciting and satisfying meals I’ve ever had, and I’ll be going back again soon—you know, just to be sure. (Look for a full review of Ubuntu in the Sept+Oct Food Issue of VegNews.)

Here's a shot of my dessert: a beet-rhubarb-juice and candied kumquat Creamsicle Float that can only be described as both shocking and delightful:

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