Located in the heart of Napa Valley, French Blue is a beautiful and warm neighborhood restaurant from renowned architect Howard Backen, his wife interior designer Lori Backen, and vintner Leslie Rudd (also owner of PRESS restaurant). French Blue will open Tuesday, May 29.
Set in the old Vanderbilt building on the north end of downtown St. Helena, the restaurant’s name comes from the blue doors, which graced its entrance for more than 50 years. The space will feature a large open kitchen with a wood burning oven and grill, two fireplaces, a communal table in the center, and outdoor seating.
The menu, from Executive Chef Philip Wang, features rustic, wood-fired Napa cooking, seasonally inspired from the local gardens of Rudd Farms, located on Mt. Veeder and at Edge Hill Vineyards–the best ingredients, simply prepared. The food is matched by a carefully edited selection of Northern California wines and handcrafted cocktails.
Upon opening, French Blue will serve dinner only, with opening hours from 5–11 p.m., seven days a week. Beginning June 4, the all-day restaurant will also offer lunch, with breakfast following June 13.
Bringing this restaurant to life is managing partner Stanley Morris. Stanley brings 30 years of hospitality experience to French Blue. Most recently, he has acted as managing partner at a world-class dining and entertainment venue in San Francisco, Teatro ZinZanni, which he helped establish in 2001.
Formerly, Stanley was vice president of operations for Stars Bar & Dining in Singapore, Seattle, and San Francisco. His California restaurant career began with famed restaurateur, Larry Mindel, where he was general manager of Prego on Union Street in San Francisco, followed by the position of director of operations for the first five Il Fornaio restaurants along the West Coast.
Joining Stanley from Teatro ZinZanni are Nicole Whitten and Adam LaCanigna, who will oversee front of house operations as restaurant manager/partner and beverage director/partner, respectively.
Serving as executive chef will be Philip Wang, formerly the executive chef of Merriman’s Kapalua in Maui, Mason’s in Sacramento, Napa Valley’s Carneros Inn, and Truc in Boston. Chef Phillip also worked in the kitchens of Blackbird in Chicago, Restaurant Daniel in New York, Jardinière in San Francisco, and several others.
French Blue’s menu by Chef Philip will showcase local food sourced largely from nearby Rudd Farms, located on Mt. Veeder and at Edge Hill Vineyards, with fresh baked goods crafted by Noe Valley Bakery Owner, Michael Gassen.
The flavorful dishes will be simply prepared with excellence and care, using the best local ingredients. Nearly everything will be house-made from the bread to the honey and jams.
The beverage program will feature wines from the growing regions of Northern California, local craft beers, and seasonal cocktails. French Blue’s retail market will offer house-made products and other specialty foods that highlight artisanal techniques.
Designed by Howard Backen with interiors by his wife, Lori Backen, French Blue captures the warmth and comfort of wine country living, re-imagined for its contemporary setting.
Behind the restaurant will be Howard Backen’s newly designed office for his architecture firm, Backen, Gillam and Kroeger. One of California’s most renowned architects and recently named one of Architectural Digest’s 100 Designers, Howard Backen’s work includes wineries such as Harlan Estate, Ovid, Screaming Eagle, Rudd, Bond and Paul Hobbs; restaurants such as PRESS, Evvia, Kokkari and Il Fornaio; and hotels Meadowood Resort in Napa Valley, Esperanza in Cabo San Lucas, and Sundance in Utah.