La Calenda, named for the traditional parade that occurs before weddings, graduations, and other celebrations, officially opened for business—albeit, without much pomp and circumstance—at 6518 Washington Street in Yountville, California, a mere stone’s throw from Thomas Keller's three-Michelin-starred restaurant The French Laundry.
The menu at La Calenda focuses on casual Oaxacan fare, a first for Keller. Helming the kitchen is executive chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling. Trilling, a Oaxaca native, is no stranger to restaurant life. His mother, Susana, owned restaurants in New York and Fremantle, Western Australia and she currently runs Oaxaca’s Seasons of My Heart Cooking School. Prior to La Calenda, Trilling worked on the line at Omni La Mansión del Rio and Omni’s Mokara Hotel and Spa in San Antonio, Hugo’s and Caracol in Houston, and Jonathan Waxman’s Bajo Sexto Taco in Nashville. (Most recently Trilling served as a chef consultant for Oxomoco in New York City.)
Antojitos include all the necessities: tortilla chips and various salsas and guacamole, queso fundidos and grilled cactus tostadas. Tacos (two per order, and ranging from $11 to $13) include carnitas with avocado-tomatillo salsa, al pastor, barbacoa and achiote-rubbed grilled chicken with sour orange pickled onions and habanero salsa. Larger plates include pork jowl cooked in mole verde with white beans, grilled adobo-marinated skirt steak with charred cambray onions and nopales, and shrimp sautéed in roasted garlic and wilted garden greens.
La Calenda also touts itself as having an “ambitious beverage program punctuated by a full-service bar specializing in tequilas and mezcals, beer and local wines produced in partnership with the Mexican-American Vintner’s Association.” The classic margarita gets a lift by way of pineapple agave syrup; and bourbon gets swapped for añejo tequila in the Avión de Papel—or, the paper airplane—which also features Amaro Nonino and Aperol.
La Calenda is located at 6518 Washington Street in Yountville, California, and open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (First come, first served!)
Photos by David Escalante.