I’ve never forgotten the first time I walked into Mustards Grill in Napa Valley. This was back, oh, 24 years ago, when the food revolution was beginning to take hold. In those days, when it came to food, much was new, being invented, and being-reinvented. I was living in San Francisco, and everybody kept saying, “You’ve got to come to Napa and try this new place, Mustards.” So I did.
Entering Mustards that first time I was blown away by the new-to-me combination of smells: meats grilled over woods, home-made BBQ sauce and other condiments, oysters, fine wines (oak-heavy chardonnay then predominated). The Grill wasn’t even a year old, but that fabulous scent already seemed imbued in the very wood of the building.
This past Monday, June 16, founder/owner Cindy Pawlcyn (pictured above) threw a 25th Birthday Party for Mustards, and what a scene it was! The party took place entirely in the surrounding vegetable and herb garden, and something like 1200 people turned out to celebrate. Forty or so local wineries—Far Niente, Trefethen, Joseph Phelps, the Hess Collection, Silverado, Groth, Beringer, Robert Mondavi, Caymus, to name a few—were pouring. Musards was closed for the night to the public, but the kitchen churned out vast amounts of ribs, pulled pork, sliders, and chicken wings for delighted party-goers. Two huge heaps of ice were covered with Hog Island Oysters. There were small cups of Crab Gazpacho, a table groaning with fruits and cheeses, cones filled with onion rings. A lively bluegrass band, Poor Man’s Whiskey, played into the night. And all around were the pale yellow summer hills and green vines of Napa Valley.
As we stood waiting for our car at the end, my friend Karen said “Let’s look inside the restaurant for a second.” It was empty, since the party was raging in the garden, but the doors were open. I hadn’t been inside Mustards in many years, and I was curious to see if it had changed.
We wandered inside, and there it was: the scent of grilled meat, sauce, fine wine (now predominating toward Zins)… Despite the years, that smell was so familiar and evocative, so very Mustards, that I might have stepped back 25 years in time. Before it all got too Proust-like, the car came and we whisked ourselves off to the future.Thank you, Cindy Pawlcyn, for 25 years of Mustards Grill–and for knowing how to throw a great party.
Mustard’s Grill: 7399 St. Helena Highway, Napa, CA 94558 •707-944-2424 •www.mustardsgrill.com