Saturday, November 1, 2008

Staunton Grocery shopping

The Staunton Grocery is a grocery the same way the French Laundry is a laundry.

It may not have the service-staff theater of the latter Napa Valley legend, but it has crisp white table cloths, attentive servers and a creative menu. Its presentation is assured but not overly fussy. And the food, from the amuse-bouche to the tiny sweets that appeared with the check, was prepared well with fresh ingredients from many local producers who were listed on a prominent chalkboard over the full-service bar.

On an early Friday night, in order to take in some Shakespeare at 7:30 p.m., we were one of four couples in the restaurant, but the warm brick and cosy bench seating made it feel welcoming despite the sparse population.

The amuse-bouche was a smoked mackerel with lemon and radishes; salad, shaved green pumpkin and arugula tossed with a molasses vinaigrette and topped with a sunny-side-up egg and chili threads; entrees, crusted halibut with truffled gnocchi, roasted fennel and green apple shreds, and grilled monkfish on butternut latkes and chard topped with green pumpkin shreds and blood orange sections; after-dinner sweets, a dense spiced stout cake and little langues de chat cookies held together with a plum jam, a bite each. Beautiful.

We'll have to go back sometime to enjoy both the wines and the desserts. The selection of wines in the cork-covered notebook looked to be mostly European, and broken down into red and white, bold and supple. It was tempting to start the evening with a glass of Dubonnet, the better to enjoy the 1920's inspired jazz wafting in the background. The desserts, too, were tempting: Cinderella pumpkin bread pudding with stewed figs and ice cream, apple-almond tart, lemon verbena donuts swimming in a chocolate soup, poached pear with chocolate caramel, allspice anglaise and black sesame sprinkles; all were $8. There was also an artisan cheese plate for $14.  Coffee from a local roaster is offered, as well as an assortment of teas.

And the best part of dining at a grocery rather than a laundry? The bill. It was about a quarter of the price.

Click on the restaurant's name at the start of this review for address, map, directions and hours.

Photos by Lori Korleski Richardson and James Richardson; from top: amuse-bouche, halibut entree, monkfish entree.


  1. An amuse-bouche,[1][2] also called an amuse-gueule, is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre. Amuse-bouche are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but, when served, are according to the chef's selection alone. These, often accompanied by a complementing wine, are served as an excitement of taste buds to both prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef's approach to cooking.

    The term is French, literally translated to "mouth amuser" [for bouche = mouth; amuser = to amuse, to please]. The plural form is amuse-bouche or amuse-bouches.[3] The original French word, more frequently employed, is amuse-gueule (gueule is slang for mouth but in fact means animal's mouth (one word in French)), although amuse-bouche is more often used on menus in fine dining restaurants