One of the perq’s of living in Napa and working in the hospitality industry is that we are invited to different events throughout the year. This past week we were invited to dine at the Wine Spectator CIA Greystone Restaurant with others in the hotel and BnB industry. Having eaten there twice before we knew we were in for a great meal. It started with a selection of “small bites”, an assortment of small tapas-style plates served at the table: pea mousse with tortilla strips, spelt with a sun-dried tomato and pepper sauce, duck pate on brioche, and a selection of olives. Although looking at something bright green on the plate (pea mousse) is not always appetizing, it surprised us with its freshness of flavor. Spring is here, it said to me. The spelt was a bit “fishy” for others at the table, but Jamie and I both enjoyed it. The duck pate was excellent…but then again, in my book, anything on brioche is excellent! For the main course I enjoyed a grilled Angus hanger steak with Sunchokes, king trumpet mushrooms, and watercress puree. Jamie ordered the crispy skinned grouper with baby arugula, fingerling potatoes, fennel, Picholine olives, roasted pimiento peppers and a blood orange gastrique. Both dishes were well-presented and the flavors came together nicely. The chef, Polly, came out at the end of the meal as we were finishing our creme brulee with biscotti and the molten chocolate lava cake. She offered her recipes for anyone who wanted them, and we found out that if you dine at the restaurant you can submit a request for the recipe to be sent to you. What a nice touch to the meal. We were also offered a full tour of the school, and I was really impressed with the student kitchen on the 3rd floor where the latest generation of chefs is being trained in the culinary arts. It reminded me of my days at the CCA in San Francisco and how much fun it was to be learning so much so quickly every day. That same energy was there as I peered at all the students working hard at their stations. Although you can see the chef’s working in the open kitchen in the restaurant, the student kitchen was even more spacious and open and afforded you a view of everything going on in the kitchen, and thus it was a bit more exciting and happening. I did ask if guests were allowed to see all of this and we were assured that if the concierge knows ahead of time that you want a tour that someone at the school would show you around all the kitchens, the cork collection of the departed Christian Brother who collected them, as well as the old Christian Brother’s Barrel room. It is a beautiful location and the surrounding countryside is gorgeous right now. During the summer the restaurant provides outdoor seating which would really add to the experience of dining there. It’s a great place to eat and well worth the 30 minute drive up the valley to get there. One other special note: we found out that Robert Parker does his famous blind wine tasting there at the CIA in November, a sold out event for 120 lucky people to experience this wine expert drink wine blindly, tell you where it is from, even down to the vineyard, and why certain wines are doing so well. You may not remember that he is the one who came up with the 100-point system that everyone uses today in wine-tasting. And event for the future. Mark it in the calendar! We are planning to attend.