Named for the wild mustard flowers that bloom in Napa vineyards every spring, Mustard’s Grill, the iconic Yountville roadhouse created by Cindy Pawlcyn, celebrated 40 delicious years this summer. The legendary chef who rose to fame via such Bay Area favorites as MacArthur Park, Meadowood, Fog City Diner, Bix, and Buckeye Roadhouse, to name a few, is credited with creating wine country cuisine. “My dream since childhood was to own a restaurant.” At eleven-years-old, her father, who made potato chips for a living, took her to the prestigious Minneapolis Athletic Club for lunch, where he was a member, instructing her beforehand to order the escargots and raw oysters. As the waiter took her order, he laughed, got the attention of other staff, and said, “This kid will never eat that!” “Wanna bet?” her father asked, then bet eight waiters a hundred bucks each. Cindy and her dad walked away with $800 that they split.
At thirteen, Pawlcyn catered her first dinner party for a neighbor, which the King and Queen of Sweden attended. Her menu included gravlax, deviled eggs, cheese balls (it was Minnesota), and little roast beef tenderloin sandwiches. She earned ten dollars an hour for labor– “that’s more money than most thirteen-year old’s make,” she added. After earning a chef’s certificate from trade school – while attending high school – she was turned away by the CIA (Culinary Institute) because “they had filled their quota of females.” They missed out on a three-time finalist for the “Outstanding Restauranteur Award” from the James Beard Foundation. Pawlcyn has also authored five cookbooks, including Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook, which won the “James Beard Foundation Award for Best American Cookbook.”
Forty years later, the Mustards Grill menu still boasts “Truckstop classics for 40 years.” The organic vegetables grown in her own gardens and the fact that she sources everything else from local organic farms, wineries, and purveyors, combine to make Pawlcyn’s classics truly special. It is the favorite local place to go for the most outstanding and delicious versions of hearty, American fare such as Baby Back Ribs, with slaw and honey cornbread, Mustard’s Mighty Meatloaf (recipe follows) with garlic mashed potatoes and horseradish BBQ sauce, a slow smoked BBQ pork sandwich, or a half-pound hamburger or cheeseburger. Be sure to try her signature dishes like Sweet corn tamales with many mushrooms, Ahi Tuna Crackers, or Adult Grilled Cheese. The Umpqua Valley Lamb, Seafood Tostada, Pasta, and Fresh Fish, change daily. Don’t skip the most popular dish on the menu, Onion Rings with house-made tomato-apple ketchup, a heavenly pile of tender, crispy onion strings fried to perfection. And leave room for dessert: Lemon-Lime Tart, Jack Daniels Cake, Campfire Pie, or Fresh Fruit Cobbler.
To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Pawlcyn brought back some classic old favorites, printed on menus in retro typewriter font, “at current market prices,” she said, “if we want to stay in business to celebrate another year.”
Cindy’s Mighty Meatloaf
At home I bake potatoes while baking the meatloaf. At the restaurant we serve garlic mashed potatoes and a seasonal fresh vegetable with the meatloaf.
Traditionally meatloaf is baked in a loaf pan. I prefer to form the loaf and bake it in the middle of a small roasting pan like a Pyrex rectangular baking dish.
1 jalapeno chile, minced without seeds
½ pasilla chile, minced without seeds
¾ cup celery minced
¾ cup carrot minced
½ tablespoon garlic minced
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon fresh thyme minced
½ teaspoon fresh sage, minced
2 pounds ground beef
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 ounces Heinz ketchup preferably organic
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup cocktail sauce (see recipe below)
1 ½ – 3 cups chicken or beef stock
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Sweat the chiles, celery, carrots, and garlic in butter until soft. Add the minced herbs and remove from the heat to cool. When cooled, mix them with the ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, ketchup, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix all the ingredients until well combined and place in loaf pan or form into a loaf and place in the center of a baking dish. Using the back of a knife, make attractive crosshatch marks across the top.
Smear ½ cup of cocktail sauce over meatloaf.
If baking in a baking dish, fill the baking dish with ½ inch of chicken or beef stock.
Bake at 325 degrees about 1 hour or until meatloaf reaches 140 degrees. If baking in a baking dish, you want the sides of the meatloaf to caramelize nicely.
Cocktail Sauce, makes 1 cup
1 cup Heinz ketchup preferably organic
1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon chili flakes (depending on your taste)
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 drops Worcestershire sauce
While the meatloaf is baking, add 1 cup of the chicken or beef stock to the remaining cocktail sauce. Bring to a low simmer and reduce by a third. Serve the meatloaf topped with a generous spoonful of this gravy.