Not just a wine bar, the food at Carpe Diem in Napa is eclectic, tasty, and happy-making. Owner/chef Scott Kendall serves a creative assortment of Small Bites meant to be sampled and shared, along with Bigger Bites.
NAPA, Ca. October, 2011 “People didn’t know we had food. It took a while for them to understand. Now they’re coming to eat,” says Scott Kendall, 28, owner/chef of Carpe Diem Wine Bar in downtown Napa. Although his menu offers wine-friendly snacks, it’s much more than cheese and crackers, “Even when they do come in just to drink, they end up socializing and eating something.”
Scott and his wife Stephanie opened the wine bar about a year ago with partner Steve Distler. Both Kendalls are nearby Sonoma natives, but they met in college in San Diego. A common love of wine and food was one of the reasons they got together.
Scott, after considering culinary school, chose business/management because he knew he wanted to open his own place. Cooking since high school, he worked in restaurants in La Jolla during college. Just before opening Carpe Diem, he worked for Smoke catering company in Napa. After graduating from college Scott and Stephanie spent a year traveling the world. “We got a lot of cool ideas. I kept a journal. One reason we wanted to do a wine bar was to tie in lots of bold, interesting flavors; not be set to one cuisine,” Scott said.A global outlook is seen in his menu (see below) with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and Greek elements. One way the chef explores his creative side is through tacos. He changes them often, most recently doing an Edamame hummus taco topped with grilled onions, and lamb followed by a fresh slaw, crumbled feta cheese and toasted sumac. Past editions include Filet Mignon with a Blackberry Balsamic glaze, grilled Onions and Slaw, and Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi with a charred Jalapeno Aioli topped with a Coconut Slaw. “We make a few changes every couple of weeks. It’s a lot of work finding the right way to present it, the best ingredients, and the best price,” Scott comments. He runs specials to test consumer response before putting new items on the actual menu.”For locals we have to make changes. Who wants to go back and see the same menu?” he adds.
Chef Scott is pleased with business so far, “We’ve had a steep learning curve. It’s scary to open a restaurant in a saturated area. But business is better than we thought and we’re seeing a great local following and write-ups.”
Wife Stephanie, 27, runs the front of the house, does the marketing, events, and parties. “I enjoy all the great people we have met and the customer loyalty. We know about half of the people that walk in the door!” she exclaims. Carpe Diem is open every day during summer, and five days a week during winter; for now it serves only dinner, though lunch is a possibility for the future. This frees Scott up to enjoy motorcycle riding, tennis, basketball, and time with Stephanie. Menu highlights:
- Crispy olives$6 herb goat cheese filling, panko crust
- Truffled popcorn$6 Marcona almonds, black truffle salt, white truffle oil
- Housemade burrata$14 heirloom tomatoes, evoo, sea salt, cracked pink peppercorns, balsamic glaze, fresh basil, grilled bread
- Grilled Flatbread Roasted wild mushroom$11 Cave-aged gruyere, truffle, fine herbs, garlic, arugula
- Tiger prawn$14 Torn basil, fresh peas, preserved lemon, red onion, parmesan, chili flakes
- The Gyro$14 Fennel lamb sausage, grilled onions, Cypress Grove Midnight Moon cheese, radicchio, tzatziki, fresh watercress
- Pan Seared Spicy Calamari$13 Not your everyday calamari. Chorizo, red Calabrian peppers, roasted fingerling potatoes, baby arugula
- Quack n’ Cheese$12 Our take on the classic macaroni and cheese. Duck confit, caramelized onion, bread crumbs
- Cabernet Braised Short Rib Sliders$ 13 A Carpe classic. Our BBQ sauce, radicchio and snap pea slaw, aioli, ABC potato bun (3)
- Housemade “Twix Bar”$7 Shortbread cookie crisp, caramel, chocolate, our “WTF” Lagunitas beer ice cream Happy Ending Nutella, flambeed banana, vanilla bean ice cream, lattice crisp
Carpe Diem Wine Bar 1001 2nd St. Napa, CA 94559 707-224-0800