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High-End Fast Food Calls for High-End Groceries

You know you’re in Northern California’s Wine Country when even fast food takes a Slow Food approach.

Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet

It’s true: that’s fresh-picked lettuce atop your hamburgers, and those heirloom tomatoes are still warm from the sun on your BLT, when you dine at Gott’s Roadside these days.

In a very un-McDonald’s move, restaurant co-founder Joel Gott has planted his own one-acre garden directly behind the St. Helena property, with the plucked-from-the-earth ingredients now offered at all three Gott’s locations, including Napa’s Oxbow Public Market Annex (daily) and San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace (on weekends).

A few months after setting the soil then waiting for the seeds and starters to bud, chef Rick Robinson celebrated his first official harvest last week. Through the summer, you can snack on these additions to the Classic Americana menu:

Fried Zucchini – spears are dredged in flour and spices, then quickly fried to golden brown crispiness and served alongside lemon wedges and house-made ranch dressing. Since Gott’s -- formerly called Taylor’s Automatic Refresher -- is also one of the country’s only fast food joints to have a wine collection, try the appetizer with the 2009 Bieder Rosé from Provence.

Pesto Home Fries - made with Gott’s Garden ‘potato of the week’. A debut spud varietal of Yellow Finn potatoes and fresh basil pesto (also from the garden), pair nicely with a cool glass of Scarpetta 2008 Pinot Grigio or The Show 2009 Malbec.

Fried Green Tomatoes - Wedges of heirloom tomato are dipped in buttermilk and seasoned cornmeal and then fried until they’re crunchy-edged outside and juicy inside. Dunk them in spicy chili aioli and chase with an ice cold Trumer Pilsner beer.

Gott's Ahi tuna poke taco

As harvest heats up, Robinson will be rolling out other Gott’s Garden-Grown menu items every Monday on the restaurant’s Facebook and Twitter pages (@gottsroadside). It’s part of his new Unpublished “B-Side”: Ultra-Fresh Menu for Diners “In-The-Know.” These “you gotta know to ask for them” specials takes advantage of each day’s freshest ingredients for favorites from Robinson and are available until they sell out – if you’re not hooked into social networking, ask to see the under-the-counter list at each restaurant.

Other summer specials include Crispy Ahi Poke Tacos brimming with Hawaiian-style raw, marinated tuna, avocado, green cabbage, cilantro and spicy mayo tucked in crispy taco shells; Heirloom BLT as a hearty sandwich layered with Gott’s Garden heirloom tomatoes, bacon, mayo and romaine on toasted wheat bread; and spicy grilled chicken tacos of chili spice rubbed bird, jalapeño, Mexican coleslaw, lime-cilantro sour cream and avocado on warm corn tortillas.

Details: Gott’s Roadside Tray Gourmet. The St. Helena drive-in burger stand is on Highway 29 (933 Main Street), 707-963-3486. The Napa eatery is in the Oxbow Public Market Annex, 644 First Street, 707-224-6900. The San Francisco restaurant is on the Embarcadero in the Ferry Building Marketplace, Space #6,415-318-3423. gottsroadside.com.

Tip: Gott’s St Helena is a terrific place for private parties on its lawn, next to the garden. Gather a group of friends, set up a feast of summer food favorites and wine, and leave the driving to Pure Luxury.

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