Mall Magic

The last time I was at the Napa Valley Grille for a wine dinner, baby-faced chef Eric Scherwinski was called into the dining room and applauded madly--one rather tony brunette in a gold-buttoned suit even put her fingers between her teeth and whistled. Cynics might say it was the effect of the Grille's incredible wine list, but it just might have been in praise of a chef who balances bold flavors with confident, subtle arrangements, giving trend-sick gourmands the restaurant of their dreams. Don't believe me? Then drop by the Napa Valley Grille for Eric's latest creation, a special wild-game menu offered only from November 3 - 23. It's $49.95 per person, or $59.95 with wine, for five courses ranging from Szechuan Roast Duck Turnovers to Tarte Tatin (858-9934 for reservations). While most of Eric's recipes are too complicated for the cooking proletariat, here's one that's workable, so you can drum up your own applause.

Eric Scherwinski's Acorn Squash Flan Flan

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2 acorn squash (to yield 1 cup cooked squash) 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 4 eggs pinch cinnamon 1/4 cup brown sugar Whipped-cream topping: 1 cup heavy whipping cream 2 tablespoons powdered sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cut squash in half, clean out seeds, and roast in the oven in a water bath until tender, about 45 minutes. Puree the meat of the squash until smooth. Add all remaining ingredients. Pour batter into buttered ramekins and bake in 325-degree oven for 35 minutes, or until they are set in the center. Chill, and serve topped with the seasoned whipped cream.

 
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