As Catherine Bergen takes me round her new C Casa restaurant at Oxbow Public Market in Napa, she explains she “all the time wished to do a restaurant.”

It’s an fascinating assertion, contemplating she opened her first C Casa restaurant 12 years in the past, simply ft from the place we stand right this moment.

The unique C Casa was a humble 400-square-foot taqueria tucked in a row of different Oxbow meals corridor purveyors. The brand new C Casa spans 5,000 sq. ft, together with a patio overlooking the Napa River. It replaces the previous Kitchen Door restaurant that relocated to Clay and Randolph streets subsequent to Archer Resort Napa.

I’ve all the time questioned why C Casa didn’t command a bigger house, and extra buzz. Bergen is a terrific expertise, with nice dedication to her craft and substances. She makes her tortillas by hand, utilizing non-GMO white corn. Eggs are free-range from The Hen Pen Farms of Napa Valley, pork is all-natural Duroc, beef is Black Angus, Sonoma poultry is free-range, seafood is sustainable and bison is raised on a Colorado vary.

Bergen additionally solely makes use of non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil and native grapeseed oil, and all menu objects are gluten-free, with many dishes that may be custom-made as vegan. Flavors are large, with recipes elaborately layered in herbs, spices, handcrafted aioli and vinaigrettes.

Inside the brand new C Casa, you’ll discover a informal order-at-the-counter taqueria and a full-service restaurant with a full bar. For the taqueria, you get your meals to go and dine within the frequent seating areas of {the marketplace}, as you probably did on the previous C Casa, or take it away.

As all the time, the traditional, 6-inch open-faced tacos are divine, in rainbow arrays of grilled steak, prawns, salmon or mahi-mahi, carnitas, candy potato with black bean or duck confit with spinach and oranges. Hen can also be extraordinary. The juicy rotisserie hen is rubbed with spices, hand-pulled and topped with a pile of combined greens, lime-cumin French dressing, cotija cheese, avocado, Fresno peppers, pico de gallo, garlic and chipotle aiolis and fleur de sel ($9).

I continually crave the meat taco, piled with succulent meat that’s been slow-braised with ancho and guajillo chilies, garlic, bay leaf, Mexican oregano and cumin, then shredded and topped in combined greens, lime-cumin French dressing, avocado, citrus-pickled onions, garlic aioli, lime crema, Fresno peppers, cilantro and fleur de sel ($11). It’s huge, messy and mouthwatering.

In the event you’re on the lookout for a extra enjoyable restaurant expertise, settle into fashionable white leather-based Mexican equipale chairs and take within the view of the baroque-tiled open kitchen with its rotisserie and wood-burning oven. I recommend instantly ordering a cocktail just like the refreshing Casarita made with Herradura Silver tequila, Licor de Naranja, recent squeezed Moro blood orange juice and lime juice, natural blue agave nectar and a blood orange wheel garnish ($14). Or strive the potent Smoky Strawberry Negroni with strawberry-infused Banhez Espadin Mezcal, Campari, Carpano vermouth and a pleasant contact of molé bitters ($16).

Begin the meal with guacamole, chips and salsas ($19). It appears expensive, however the monster portion might feed 4. The housemade chips are beautifully gentle and crispy, the chunky guacamole is laced with Fresno peppers and the dish is dusted with cotija and charred corn salsa. On the aspect: tart avocado tomatillo and spicy chipotle tomatillo salsas.

C Casa has the fanciest mesquite grilled avenue corn I’ve ever had. The cobs are reduce in three chunks and scattered with a colourful mixture of cotija, spicy Tajin seasoning, earthy furikake, pico de gallo, lime zest and dollops of garlic aioli. The dish is organized with lime slices and sports activities a dramatic husk-on cob finish ($10).

Like many C Casa dishes, the Caesar salad is “reimagined” (certainly one of Bergen’s favourite phrases). A thick wand of romaine hearts is grilled to provide a frivolously charred edge and draped in vibrant pink pickled onions, crispy capers, salty cotija cheese and tiny boquerones that I devour like sweet. Dunk all of it into creamy, spiced dressing ($11).

And, the place else in Wine Nation will you discover a bison chile relleno? I’ve visited a number of bison ranches — the free-range animals sometimes get pleasure from nice lives till their remaining day, and the ensuing meat is beefy however barely sweeter, richer and decrease in energy and fats than beef. Right here, the bottom meat is tumbled with a number of melted Oaxacan cheese, stuffed into a gentle poblano chile, then roasted and smothered in chipotle aioli, pico de gallo and ranchera sauce and served over cilantro lime cumin rice ($28).

For an much more decadent meal, go for the duck confit enchiladas ($29). The velvety poultry is an opulent match for the gooey Oaxacan cheese, roasted tomatillo, heavenly chorizo/goat cheese, black beans and avocado salsa, lime crema and a spring salad. I wish to go extra-big and add a aspect of white corn grits melded with loads of Fontina cheese and charred corn salsa ($7).

To steadiness this heavier dish, a zero-proof Prickly Pear Spritzer hits the spot — the brilliant, crisp quaff mixes Fever Tree ginger beer, lime, mint and a little bit of Prickly Pear syrup for an ideal palate cleanser ($9).

Apparently, for somebody who says she dreamed of sometime having a restaurant, Bergen already has proved herself as much as the problem. Alongside together with her authentic C Casa café in Napa, she opened C Casa in San Ramon three years in the past and a second taqueria in Emeryville. To make sure, these spots are much more informal than her new Napa showpiece. However, for her first “actual” restaurant, that is certainly a real, destination-worthy achievement.

Carey Candy is a Sebastopol-based meals and restaurant author. Learn her restaurant evaluations each different week in Sonoma Life. Contact her at

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