A fine dining experience, Napa, CA
"I was a vegetarian until I started leaning toward the sunlight."
Today, the words, "gourmet" and "vegetable" are synonymous. Although there are still some 60s vegetarian restaurant holdouts, a number of creative, inventive and enlightened people are serving vegetable-only dishes in their restaurants. One such establishment, Ubuntu, may be the only one serving an all vegetable menu.
Upon arrival, the following words are prominent on the window of the building: Ubuntu - restaurant, yoga studio and annex. If you didn't know what to expect, you might think you were entering a sacred facility. In a sense, you might be correct. As explained below, the restaurant is born out of a philosophy of giving back to the community - a gift of health and vitality to nourish both body and soul.
The name, "Ubuntu", has its origins within the language of the Zulu people of South Africa. Defined as a humanistic philosophy of interconnectedness, it refers to community, sharing and generosity. The owner, Sandy Lawrence, was introduced to the term while living in South Africa over a fourteen year period.
Ms. Lawrence advocates a sustainable philosophy starting with the green design of the building itself and ending with an exceptional organic dining experience. Executive Chef, Aaron London (see link, below, to find out more about Mr. London), prepares seasonal vegetables, bio-dynamically grown within the restaurant's local garden and with participation from other local farms - all in the spirit of lowering the carbon footprint.
Appearing as lively, colorful works of art, delicious vegetable dishes are titled, along with a list of ingredients. For example, one might find, "clear cantaloupe and sage gazpacho, compressed and blackened melon", or, "rustic rancho gordo yellow eye bean stew - rosemary, hand-torn levain, chili and carrot tops". And for dessert, "chocolate brioche, braised figs, smoother pistachio - balsamic caramel ice cream, Micro Amaranth". Reading each ingredient allows the diner time to savor and wonder and it gives equal importance to all the ingredients. As with any untitled work of art, all elements are listed, allowing the viewer to unearth meaning.
The dining environment includes a community table, thought-provoking artwork and subtle lighting in a spare and sleekly designed room - all within a converted 19th century stone building in downtown Napa.
Dining at Ubuntu is truly a unique experience - a delight to the eye and palate. With its clear philosophy of community and interconnectedness, of working within a sustainable framework and providing locally grown produce, Sandy Lawrence has created a very special place - a place to dine, a place to practice yoga and a place for the community - an all around success!
(From left: Aaron London & Steve Thorlton in the Ubuntu garden.)