By Bekah Wright
Even the pickiest of kids will feel right at home when dining out with the family at Napa Valley Grille. Why? Because the chef-driven restaurants cater to diverse palates, even expanding the range of a taste bud or two.
There are three Napa Valley Grilles in the US to frequent; one in Paramus, New Jersey, another in Bloomington, Minnesota, and the one New Parent was lucky enough to partake in, Westwood, California. At its helm, Executive Chef Joseph Gillard.
Gillard’s interest in cooking began at the age of five when watching television shows of famous chefs like Julia Child and Graham Kerr. By the age of 10, he’d devoured the pages of Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. At such a young age, his desire to become a chef was set. So it’s little wonder, kids were given special consideration when it came to Napa Valley Grille’s menus.
Youngsters visiting Westwood’s Napa Valley Grille are presented with two menus – Chef Joseph’s Tasting Menu for ages 12 and under and the restaurant’s traditional menu. “The tasting menu offers three courses for $12,” says Gillard. Starters are a choice between a Mini-Green Salad or Soup. Next up, main course selections of kid-friendly fare such as hamburgers, chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese and cheese pizza. The tasting menu is capped off with a dessert of ice cream or sorbet.
Though the restaurant has a designated menu for children, Gillard is more than pleased when kids veer off the tasting menu. “We like kids to order from our core menu to encourage the growth of their palates,” says Gillard. “We created a menu that’s approachable for all with items that are shareable.” Some Gillard recommends – the restaurant’s signature Hearth Oven Flatbread (recipe to follow), the Napa Chopped Salad with blue cheese, farro and roasted beets and, coming soon to the regular menu, Gillard’s famous “Chicken Fried” Natural Chicken with Creamy Aged Cheese Grits and an Heirloom Apple Salad.
Westwood’s Napa Valley Grille menu is reflective of Gillard’s upbringing on a 40-acre farm. “It tuned me in to the seasonal approach and the skills and thoughtfulness to stretch seasonal bounty into other seasons by preserving and canning.” To encourage families to buy and eat locally, the restaurant hosts weekly outings to Westwood’s Wednesday Farmers’ Market. “Parents and children are always welcome,” says Gillard. “It’s a good opportunity to start influencing kids and their choices while it makes an early impact.” One of his favorite aspects of the weekly treks – “I like seeing food from a kid’s perspective.”
Additionally, Napa Valley Grille sponsors a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program with Country Fresh Herbs, which has farms in Tarzana and Somis. Participants can stop by the restaurant to pick up weekly deliveries from the farm. Seasonal dinners are also offered at Napa Valley Grille and Country Fresh Herbs.
Produce isn’t the only local, fresh fare highlighted on Napa Valley Grille’s menu. Each week, 100 pounds of pasta are made on the premises. “Memo Calderon makes all of our pasta,” says Gillard. “We use a heavier egg yolk-style pasta using Guisto’s ‘00” flour for its higher protein content. It not only works for tooth feel, but meets the challenges of our high volume kitchen.” Two from the winter menu to try – the Winter Squash Tortelloni and Turkey Bolognese made with pappardelle pasta.
Ready to follow in Gillard’s footsteps? Take the family on an outing to a local farmers’ market, get involved with a CSA or, simply cook-up a batch of Gillard’s famous flatbread from the recipe below. No matter how approached, Gillard will tell you — cooking, and eating, are definitely family affairs.
To learn more about Napa Valley Grille locations visit www.napavalleygrille.com.
Go to the next page for the delicious flatbread recipe!