Robert Parker Wine Advocate stops by Kitchen Collective

Robert Parker Wine Advocate, R.H. Drexel.

Visiting the Napa Valley can be a little overwhelming. With literally hundreds of wineries from which to choose, a staggering array of exceptional dining experiences, charming farmsteads tucked so deep into the landscape they’re hardly visible from the road, olive groves, chocolatier ateliers, boutique shops and galleries… well, I can’t help but feel I’ve missed something each time I visit the region...

That evening, I headed down to Napa’s Kitchen Collective, an elite event space, where chefs Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh—perhaps best known for their Food Network program, “Party Line with the Hearty Boys”—and a personal favorite of mine, Chicago-based chef Gale Gand, greeted guests for what turned out to be a spectacularly intimate and well-executed dinner party. The evening began in the Collective’s courtyard, where guests huddled around a fire pit, enjoying cocktails prepared by the Hearty Boys.

While chef Gand’s sublime pavlova was served to guests as the evening wound down, Southern California-based singer-songwriter, Keaton Simons, and percussionist Mona Tavakoli performed a down-to-earth, deeply moving set of songs. At turns playful and vulnerable, both artists brought the best out in the audience. By the end of the set, hardly any of us seemed capable of keeping our legs and shoulders still. A few of us hummed along to songs we’d maybe not even heard yet, but that were so immediately likeable they became woven into the fabric of the evening in that rare way that makes something new seem suddenly comforting and familiar...