The Four Seasons has struck culinary gold in Northern California. The hotel chain recently opened two new hotels in the region, the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley in Calistoga and Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco at Embarcadero — and both properties have new signature restaurants with names inspired by gold.
Napa’s Auro combines the words aura and oro, Spanish for “gold.” The restaurant marks a homecoming for chef Rogelio Garcia, who began his culinary career as a dishwasher in the area. “To be able to come back to Napa, it was always a thought, and I think I must have gotten an email about the Four Seasons,” Garcia says. “The minute I walked in, I fell in love with the property.” The brand’s established standards and the upscale clientele are icing on the cake.
Although Garcia oversees the entire culinary production at the resort, including its all-day eatery Truss Restaurant + Bar and room service, his mastery of fine dining on display at Auro earned him a spot on Bravo’s season 15 of Top Chef. Here, he works with local farmers to source super-seasonal produce but doesn’t limit himself to ingredients within a range. Instead, he seeks out the best fish from Japan or masa from Mexico. He enjoys creating relationships with producers who have “made it their life’s goal to grow that perfect tomato or cultivate that caviar,” he says. Garcia uses these top-quality components to make a constantly changing five-course tasting menu. One recent menu included buttery, sweet Maine lobster with earthy, vibrant green goddess dressing; yellow corn ravioli with English peas and ham broth; and perfectly cooked porterhouse with bordelaise sauce.
Standout cuisine isn’t the only reason to visit Auro. Sommelier Derek Stevenson’s wine program is also notable. He pairs each dish with a special wine from the 250 labels he’s collected, most locally procured. About once a month, Stevenson and Garcia host a wine dinner with a special menu and pairings from a specific producer (the famous Opus One will be featured Oct. 25). These dinners are a great way to learn about a winery and experience Garcia’s cuisine.
In San Francisco, at the newest Four Seasons on Sansome Street, chef Gunnar Planter heads the kitchen at Orafo, which means “goldsmith” in Italian. Planter shares Garcia’s culinary philosophy — both chefs believe vendor relationships are crucial to a restaurant’s success. At Orafo, Planter serves sensational Italian cuisine — housemade focaccia and elevated renditions of traditional pasta dishes. There’s also hearty and inventive secondi; the mussels and nduja with sherry wine, butter and peppadews is a revelation. He imports many of the ingredients directly from Italy and, in many cases, Orafo is the only restaurant in the city with a certain type of burrata, prosciutto or canned tomato, resulting in a singular dining experience.
Although Orafo doesn’t offer a tasting menu, Planter constantly edits and curates the food he prepares. He’s developing a cannoli pancake with mascarpone and ricotta filling for the brunch menu.
Planter is eager to discuss his cuisine and feels accomplished after plating each new creation. “My favorite thing about being a chef is having a passionate conversation about food,” he says. “I love to have a great idea, and then I could turn around and make the idea real in minutes. That’s probably my favorite thing: to take something from idea to reality.”