Interview: Cindy Pawlcyn on the Napa Valley dining scene, CP’s and more

by TrevR on December 7, 2012

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Cindy Pawlcyn has spent some 30 years cultivating local gardens and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the Napa Valley a particular focus.

Her iconic Mustards Grill, which opened in the early 1980s, is one of the most recognized restaurants in the valley and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen has long been a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

We recently asked Pawlcyn to share a bit more about her newest venture, Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill & Wine Bar (or CP’s for short), and more…

Q: How has the dining scene in the Napa Valley changed in the past 5-10 years?

Pawlcyn: It has exploded — there are tons of great places! With so many choices we all must be on our mark. This can be tough sometimes but it’s so much fun. I’m also seeing many new purveyors coming up, which makes cooking much more interesting.

Chef and restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn signs copies of her cookbook in Yountville, CA (August 2009)

Q: How is CP’s different from Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Mustards?

Pawlcyn: Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen is more eclectic with a menu of my favorite dishes from around the world. It is also more intimate, like being in someone’s home for lunch or dinner. Built in the 1800s, the building has wonderful character and was actually a former bordello!

Mustards Grill is a Napa Valley institution that we jokingly refer to as ‘truck stop deluxe.’ The food is hearty, upscale ‘meat and potatoes,’ with lots of fresh fish and of course loads of fresh produce from our huge restaurant garden. The space itself is cozy, elegant and always buzzing.

CP’s is more spacious and contemporary. Here I serve –my version of classic American fare including grilled and roasted dishes, pizzas, pasta and fresh salads. We also have a fantastic bar with really creative cocktails and an award-winning wine program including over 70 wines by the glass. When the weather is warm, the patio out back is the place to be – shaded by mulberry trees and with a big stone fireplace.

Q: Tell our readers about the “Vintner Splash” program…How did you come up with the concept and who has participated so far?

Pawlcyn: We were doing something similar at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen but in a very informal way. It was so successful we decided to move it to a bigger venue like CP’s and let more people actually meet the winemakers. Every Saturday night we invite one of our acclaimed local vintners to pour complimentary splashes of their wine. Guests have the chance to meet the winemaker, ask questions about the wines, and also buy anything they taste.

We have been lucky to get Jim Barbour from Barbour Vineyards, Fritz Hatton from Arietta, Lily Oliver and John Berlin from El Molino, and Andy Ericson and Anne Favia from Favia. These are all very accomplished movers and shakers in the wine world. Vintner Splash is one of our most popular programs and we will definitely continue inviting in the valley’s talented winemakers.

Q: What’s the one thing you want a guest at CP’s to take away from the experience?

Pawlcyn: I want to exceed our guests’ expectations, which means making sure they leave with a full and satisfied belly! It’s a fun place, full of energy, especially during the holidays.

Stay tuned for part two of the interview.

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About the Author

has written 726 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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