What do world class restaurants Le Bernardin and Per Se in New York; The French Laundry and The Kitchen in northern California; and Mama’s Fish House in Maui have in common with Auburn’s Carpe Vino? All have been named to OpenTable’s Diner’s Choice list of 2011’s Top 100 Restaurants. A nationwide reservations network for 12,000 fine dining restaurants around the country, OpenTable’s list was based on more than 10 million reviews penned by diners around the country.
“We were absolutely blown away back in October when we were named to OpenTable’s Top 50 Restaurant Wine Lists for 2011,” said Carpe Vino’s co-owner, Gary Moffat. “But to be recognized with so many legendary restaurants around the country is one helluva Christmas present.”
Carpe Vino was one of only four restaurants to be named to both lists. Addison at the Grand Del Mar in San Diego also ranked tops in both food and wine, as did two restaurants in North Carolina.
“Of course it makes no sense for a 32-seat restaurant in a town of 13,000 people on the edge of civilization to be recognized in the same breath with restaurants operated by the likes of Thomas Keller, but the people have spoken,” Moffat said. “In the five years we’ve been open, I’ve heard it hundreds of times from people who appreciate fine food and wine. . .’Carpe Vino is a good as any place we’ve ever dined. . .anywhere.’ And now I believe them.”
Although Carpe Vino has been in business for nearly 10 years—opening in 2002 as a wine shop and wine bar—the restaurant has been serving since 2006. The same core staff is still in place: Chef Eric Alexander, trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY; Drew Moffat, co-owner and general manager; and Ada Campos-Sutcliffe, also CIA-trained and responsible for the front of the house.
“Eric is a remarkably inventive chef who has consistently executed creative menus exploiting the fabulous resources we have in Placer County and beyond,” Moffat said. “He has a sensitivity toward and understanding of everything about running a kitchen that have led to this recognition. He inspires everyone in the building.”
Carpe Vino’s core business is selling wine, and that’s part of the draw for so many people who make the trip to Auburn. “Even though he is only 30, my son, Drew, has an incredible palate,” Moffat said. “In my opinion he’s a superstar, and he’s taken our business to a level that is competitive with any of the big boys.”
While the restaurant has many local fans, it draws foodies up the hill from all around the Sacramento region. “I’ve always said that if we could pick up Carpe Vino and move it to a metro area, we’d have a line around the block every night,” Moffat said. “The double recognition from OpenTable can only help drive more people to Old Town Auburn, and that’s a good thing for everyone.”