Soup’s On!

You can try, but you won't be able to resist Bistro Jeanty's signature tomato soup

Located in the heart of Napa Valley, Yountville offers a cozy, walkable atmosphere. Its streets are lined with luxury hotels and famed neighborhood restaurants such as chef Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and celebrity chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega, to name a few.

But one of the most approachable eateries within the 1.5-square miles of Yountville is a longtime favorite of locals and visitors alike, Bistro Jeanty.

Phillipe Jeanty arrived in Yountville in 1977 from Epernay, in the Champagne region of France, with the sole purpose of opening a restaurant on the property of Domaine Chandon winery. He left the winery restaurant and opened Bistro Jeanty in 1998; his vision was to create a menu that speaks to comfort food and incorporates French cuisine. In fact, one of the menu’s mainstays is an elegant presentation of tomato soup with a puffed pastry cover. Oh la la.

On a busy Saturday during lunchtime, I call to see about a last-minute reservation. The host at Bistro Jeanty proves accommodating, and five minutes following my phone call, we arrive, are seated and begin to peruse the menu and specials presented on a chalkboard at our table. A glass of Cabernet Sauvignon is ordered for my friend, while I decide to stick with sparkling water. We both agree the cheese plate would be nice, so we order one with my favorite French cheese, an Époisses de Bourgogne, known for its rind soaked in brandy ($12.50).

The cheese plate comes with slices of pear and candied walnuts. The cheese, as well as the pear slices, should have been served room temperature, but instead are chilled and difficult to spread on the large crackers that come with the plate. We have an easier time spreading the cheese on slices of baguette—if only the bread basket had arrived before we devoured most of the cheese!

It’s time to decide on our lunch course, but I knew all along I’d order a bowl of tomato soup ($13). What I hadn’t planned to order? The beet salad with marché greens topped with citrus vinaigrette ($13.50), a combination I deemed the perfect lunch on a rainy winter’s day.

My dining companion has the vegetarian bourguignon special ($23) on her radar, made with portabella mushrooms instead of beef, which, to her delight, is scrumptious. But she also adds an order of tomato soup after mine arrives.

As my companion now knows, among the list of menu selections at Bistro Jeanty that cater to foodies, the signature tomato soup is irresistible, especially once one has seen the piping hot steam rise from the bowl and let the puffed pastry soak in the soup before scooping up the saturation in all its tomato goodness.

My friend doesn’t regret ordering the soup, of course, and takes home the remainder of her main course. I eat every last bunch of marché and piece of yellow beet—and leave no trace of tomato soup or puffed pastry behind.

Bistro Jeanty, 6510 Washington St., Yountville. 707.944.01034.

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