Carpe Vino in Auburn: Named one of America’s best restaurants

AUBURN, ONCE CONSIDERED A PIT STOP on I-80 between Lake Tahoe and the Bay Area, is now redefining itself as a fine dining destination, thanks largely to Carpe Vino in Auburn.

Carpe Vino epitomizes the trend of small cities increasingly “expanding the culinary frontier from a few urban enclaves,” as The Wall Street Journal wrote recently. “Ambitious chefs are breaking new ground.”

Carpe Vino, located in a restored Gold Rush-era building in Old Town Auburn, also includes a wine shop and wine bar. Guests are surrounded by the wine and encouraged to make their own selections from hundreds of labels.

Carpe Vino has been honored with some of the nation’s most prestigious restaurants, including the French Laundry and Per Se, by being named to OpenTable‘s Diner’s Choice “Top 100 Best Restaurants in America.”

It has also been named to OpenTable’s Top 100 Wine Lists in America, and Wine Spectator has praised the restaurant for its wine program. Carpe Vino also won a four-star review from the Sacramento Bee.

The credit goes to owners Gary Moffat and his son, Drew, and to two Culinary Institute of America-trained chefs, Eric Alexander and Courtney McDonald. Eric is the chef, and Courtney is the pastry chef. Carpe Vino opened in April 2006.

Eric describes the food as “modern American using French techniques and influenced by flavors from around the world.” One example from its seasonal menu: Roast bone marrow “pho” with Vietnamese herbs, bean sprouts, jalapeño, spiced veal glaze.

Other menu items might include braised beef cheek, roast organic chicken, Beeler’s Duroc pork chop or Australian barramundi.

Eric and Courtney also tap the other great resource for fine dining in many smaller cities: the ingredients.

The couple has their own 9-acre farm in Auburn that produces fruits and veggies. Courtney also is the general manager for the Foothill Farmers Market, so the couple knows most of the farmer on a first-name basis. “It’s a real advantage to know the farmers and be close to where your ingredients are coming from,” says Eric.

(Photo: Carpe Vino)

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