If you’re a fan of Top Chef, you’re probably already familiar with Marisa Churchill, the pastry chef and dynamo who’s cooked at San Francisco restaurants such as Ame and Yoshi’s. This month, you can meet the chef in person when she hosts an intimate day of food shopping and cooking in Napa as part of a weekend at Calistoga Ranch.
Churchill will be leading a small group through downtown Napa’s new Oxbow Marketplace, where summer delights from sweet white corn to Sharlyn melons should be abundant. Produce is central to Churchill’s cooking, thanks in part to the sticky fingers of her Greek grandmother. “If the neighbors had a fig tree, an olive tree, even weeds like dandelions in their yard … watch out!” recalls Churchill. “As far as my grandmother was concerned, it was fair game. She still does not get the principle of property lines. When we try to explain, she shakes her head and asks, ‘Why I no take it?’ ”
After paying for their purchases, as opposed to just taking them, participants will head to Vineyard 29 to prepare a full dinner and dessert. Come evening, class members will take a seat on the cult winery’s patio overlooking the vineyards and enjoy the fruits of their labor, along with some of Napa Valley’s best Cabernet.
“I want to teach not only how to shop for and find the best ingredients,” says Churchill, “but also how to prepare dishes that are innovative but simple enough to replicate at home.”
The Marisa Churchill class and weekend takes place July 11–13 and includes two nights at Calistoga Ranch, and a Friday night reception with the chef. $4,450 per couple, $3,425 for one, (707) 254-2800, www.calistogaranch.com.