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Day One of Meadowood's 12 Days of Christmas

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Solomonov, Director Nathaniel Dorn, Kostow and other Meadowood staff
Solomonov, Director Nathaniel Dorn, Kostow and other Meadowood staff

[Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux]

The annual star-chef-studded 12 Days of Christmas got underway over the weekend at Meadowood in St. Helena with James Beard Best Chef (Mid-Atlantic) and celebrated robot dancer Michael Solomonov, of Philadelphia's acclaimed Israeli restaurant, Zahav. The 12 dinner holiday extravaganza attracts high-rollers the world over who come to eat a tasting menu made by a breakout chef. Each meal gets paired with wines from acclaimed Napa Valley vintners, and it's the only time you'll go to the three-Michelin-starred Meadowood when executive chef Christopher Kostow isn't creating the menus. Here we have behind-the-scenes snap shots of night one. Peek the gallery highlights above and read on for hangover observations:

· Kostow remarked on how the event has changed through the years. At previous 12 Days events, headlining chefs included the likes of Morimoto, Michael Mina, Daniel Humm and Ludo Lefebvre. "Now we're looking for more up-and-coming chefs that are predicting the future," says Kostow. "We're turning it into something like the Sundance of professional chefs."

· Staff remarked that Solomonov was one of the most excited guest chefs they've ever brought into the kitchen for 12 Days. He kept smiling and saying how honored he was to be in the kitchen.

· During Solomonov's pre-dinner intro, he talked about sending his ingredient list to the Meadowood staff prior to the trip. "Everyone was so accommodating," he said. "It was no problem for them to go forage for the more exotic herbs I asked for. That doesn't happen in Philly. When my cooks go to 'forage' before their shift on 2nd St., well, it's not that kind of foraging."

· Covenant wines vintner Jeff Morgan opened the evening with a ceremonial chant of the kibbeh. Overhwhelmed, Morgan remarked that he knew this was the first time the kibbeh was sung in a three-Michelin-starred restaurant, and it made him a little nervous. Solomonov chimed in with a funny: "Isn't this probably the first time the kibbeh has been sung at a Christmas dinner too?" The crowds roared.

· The dinner included five courses: fish kofte, lamb kibbe naya (tartare) with figs and porcini, duck hearts with pomegranates and tehina, grilled squab with eggplant and carob, and for dessert, konafi, a take on the traditional Israeli sweet made with chocolate, phyllo and kumquats. Guests left with menu copies signed by chefs Solomonov and Kostow.

· "You know it's 12 Days when my pastry chef is deboning John Dory." Kostow laughed while walking through the kitchen. One of the many reasons the event started four years ago was so the Meadowood kitchen could try new things with new very talented chefs. It seems to be working.

· Solomonov's dinner was sold out, but there are seats available for some of the remaining dinners. Still on tap in the coming weeks are Curtis Duffy of Chicago, Shin Takagi of Kanazawa, Japan, and Sean Brock of Charleston's Husk. The full lineup is here.

· Sticker value starts at $990 per couple for weekday dinners, and $1065 for Friday and Saturday events. Prices include one night's lodging at Meadowood. Book by emailing Twenty percent of each dinner ticket and $2K in the name of each chef goes to Share Our Strength. Tis the season.

· The Twelve Days of Christmas at Meadowood [Official Site]
· All Michael Solomonov Coverage on Eater [-EN-]
· All Hangover Observations Coverage on Eater [-EN-]

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