Cindy Pawlcyn’s Brassica Mediterranean Kitchen Spices Up Napa Valley’s Restaurant Scene
St. Helena, CA -- Pioneering chef Cindy Pawlcyn and business partner Sean Knight have transformed Go Fish into Brassica, a modern Mediterranean concept, with an extensive and innovative wine program. The restaurant’s grazing-friendly portions are inspired by a host of Mediterranean countries. Brassica is Latin for the plant family of crucifers and mustards native to the Mediterranean and grown in the Napa Valley. It links the new restaurant to Pawlcyn’s legendary Mustards Grill and bridges the distance between Southern Europe and Northern California.
Culinary offerings range from smaller plates such as "Eggplant Fries with Spiced Yoghurt" and "Garlic Shrimp with Brandy and Espelette Pepper" to more substantial offerings such as "Moroccan Lamb with Golden Raisins & Couscous" and "Braised Beef Cheeks with Pedro Ximénez Sherry and Cauliflower." An example of Pawlcyn’s use of sustainable seafood along with house-grown produce can be seen in her "Crispy Sardine Salad with Bitter Greens and Mustard Dressing."
Brassica’s menu also reflects the way Pawlcyn herself likes to eat "enjoying lots of variety and not too much of one thing." The restaurant was designed to offer everything from a small bite to a full meal, provides good value, and reflects the trend of a lighter diet. The robust, hearty flavors of the food are designed to pair with both local and Mediterranean wine selections.
The appeal of the Mediterranean for Pawlcyn, has much to do with its affinities with wine. It is a natural match for Napa Valley, where Pawlcyn and her team will continue to focus on local products, with global inspiration. Pawlcyn affectionately calls Napa Valley "Chef Heaven," because for her it is all about food, wine and the hard-working people who create it.
Executive chef Darren McRonald also has an extensive background in these traditions, thanks to his passion for travel, and work experience in French kitchens. "My heart and soul really lie in the Mediterranean style," he professes.
The design of the restaurant is typically Napa Valley laid-back. "Come as you are, just come on in," notes Managing Partner Sean Knight. The restaurant was designed by architect Howard Backen and features warm, lush colors. Rich chocolate leather and mahogany wood melds with a mirror and lighted glass bar. Brassica also carries on the tradition of live music on the patio.
Brassica has five unique points of difference in its drinks program. Pawlcyn’s restaurants have always been known for their comprehensive wine programs and Brassica is likely to set new standards in that arena. The restaurant offers 70 wines by the glass, serves 8 wines on tap, and pours the "Brassica 12"- a dozen lesser-known local wines that can only be tasted there. Brassica also offers a seasonal cocktail program with fresh syrups and produce. The restaurant also offers retail wine sales.
Knight says that Napa Valley needs "restaurants that have a key focus on wine programs that are accessible to a broad demographic." Chef Pawlcyn promises the list won’t overwhelm because servers will help guests zero in on regions and grapes with good food-pairing synergies. The approach will be savvy and low key, she notes, as diners "like to be in the know, but don’t want to go back to school."
The "Brassica 12," features a rotating selection of exclusive high quality wines and acts as a wine tasting collective inside the restaurant. The program, actively promoted by producers with events, offers barrel samples and library wine - with a focus on reds. Brands on the first list include El Molino, Arietta and Bressler.
The cocktail program also features a series of food-friendly cocktails. Wine director Jennifer Ingellis sources many ingredients for these drinks directly from the restaurant’s own gardens. She says that Brassica features "interesting twists on traditional cocktails using ingredients that you might find in the Mediterranean." She also incorporates her own house-made syrups in flavors such as honey-ginger, tamarind and hibiscus.
Cindy Pawlcyn is the pioneering founder/owner of Napa Valley’s legendary Mustards Grill, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, Chef / Partner of Monterey Bay Aquarium and now, Brassica. An inductee of Who’s Who of Cooking in America and recipient of the Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence, Pawlcyn has a devoted local and national following and has twice been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in California. Her strong belief in sustainable cuisine manifests itself in creative, award-winning dishes made from fresh, seasonal ingredients. Business partner Sean Knight has been featured in Gourmet, Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, The San Francisco Chronicle, and public television’s The Chefs of Napa Valley. Cindy and Sean’s other restaurants include Mustards Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen.