Checking out Livermore’s Top Dining Spot

Checking out Livermore's Top Dining Spot
Photo by Meg Baggott

For a long time the fine dining options in the Livermore Valley were so sparse that a family like the Wentes had to open their own restaurant at The Course at Wente Vineyards golf course.

The food scene has gotten better with more options and rising sophistication, keeping in line with the area’s growing reputation for its wines.

Winemaker Collin Cranor of Nottingham Cellars recommends Zephyr Grill and Bar in downtown Livermore for Martini Mondays and Wine Wednesdays featuring half-price bottles. “It has classic California cuisine, great ingredients, a great bar and the owner is there to open the door for you,” he says.

Steven Kent Mirassou of Steven Kent Winery says Uncle Yu’s at the Vineyard, an established and elegant Chinese restaurant, has the best wine list in town. To that end it offers a chef and sommelier’s tasting menu in addition to its regular fare. Wine pairings lean toward Chianti Classico and aged Port on top of exceptional locally made wines.

Mirassou also likes the Double Barrel Wine Bar, a recent addition to downtown Livermore. The restaurant is popular with local vintners and growers who love its historical setting in a 100-plus-year-old building and the views of the Tri-Valley hills. 

The restaurant specializes in tapas made from the best nearby ingredients and wines from around the world—with a nod to the area’s best, of course.  The list features wines of Steven Kent, Ruby Hill, Wood Family and others, in addition to a rotating flight of draft beers.

Double Barrel also offers live music every night and a wonderfully inviting back patio with fire pits. To highlight regional seasonality, the menu changes every eight weeks. Everything is made to order, from paella to desserts.

Locals especially love to come for Sunday Brunch, with a menu that features everything from omelets to antipasti, as well as a smoked salmon tart and crispy mushroom risotto cakes.

Brunch can be a challenge for wine pairings after a start of orange juice (acid) and coffee (tannins), or an order of maple syrup-swamped French toast or waffles. Still, a Mimosa or a rosé works well.

The house savory egg dishes are often sublime with a dry white wine high in acidity and low in oak, like a solid, bright Grüner Veltliner.

Favorite Farm-to-Table Finds

Eggplant: The Terra Bella Family Farm in nearby Pleasanton grows unusual varieties of eggplants and peppers, as well as heirloom tomatoes, melons and other fruit, much of which goes to local restaurants.

Olive oil: Victorine Valley Farms is a family operation focused on Tuscan-inspired extra virgin olive oil, harvesting Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino and Maurino olives from their own trees. It also makes flavored olive oils (including lemon, blood orange, garlic, wild mushroom sage and Persian lime) and balsamic vinegar. In the Livermore area since 1881, Olivina makes olive oil, fig and blackberry balsamics and olive oil soap.

Salsa: Flaca’s Salsa is made from a traditional family recipe inspired by producer Aurora Nava’s mom. Available
in mild, hot and salsa verde, Flaca’s also sells homemade chips, mostly through the Livermore Farmer’s Market.  

Smoked Salmon Tart

Courtesy executive chef Tony Murray and chef de cuisine Ashley Ullrich, Double Barrel Wine Bar, Livermore

1 prepared 9-inch pie crust
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 small leeks, chopped
2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
4 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Bake pie crust shell for 10 minutes then remove. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk, cream, salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, mix together the Gruyère, Parmesan, leeks, rosemary and flour. Sprinkle the cheese mixture and salmon over the bottom of the warm pie shell. Pour egg mixture into warm pie shell. Bake on middle shelf until quiche is lightly browned and knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Finish with either crème fraîche or a dollop of sour cream. Serves 4.

Wine recommendation:

TateDog Wisner Vineyard Chardonnay (San Francisco Bay-Livermore Valley)

Mushroom Risotto Cakes

Courtesy executive chef Tony Murray and chef de cuisine Ashley Ullrich, Double Barrel Wine Bar, Livermore

Risotto Rice

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound Arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons onion, minced
½ teaspoon garlic, minced

Sauté garlic and onion in oil until onion is transparent. Add rice and stir until all rice is coated with oil. Add 1½ cups chicken stock and ½ cup wine and bring back to simmer while stirring constantly. Add remaining chicken stock and white wine and continue stirring until liquid is absorbed and rice is al dente, about 20 minutes. Spread out risotto to cool on sheet pan.

Mushroom mix

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1½  cups mushrooms, fresh, sliced
¼ cup parsley, fresh, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil and butter in sauté pan. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, approximately two minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are cooked through. Remove from heat and add parsley and mix until well incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste. Cool completely on sheet pan.

Mushroom Risotto Cakes

1 each egg
6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup heavy cream
Pre-made risotto (from above)
Pre-made mushroom mix (from above)

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and work with hands until a dough-like consistency is formed and all ingredients are evenly distributed. Form into two-ounce cakes and sauté in a non-stick pan until golden on each side and warmed through.

Wine recommendation:

Owner Kristin Armstrong suggests BoaVentura de Caires Winery Livermore Valley White Table Wine. A blend of locally grown Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc and Orange Muscat, the wine is crisp in summertime tropical fruit.

Published on November 18, 2015
Topics: California Travel GuideFood Recipes