Aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train with chef Kelly Macdonald

By Jennifer Graue

t's arguably a restaurant with some of the best views in all of California — and scenery that constantly changes as the Napa Valley Wine Train whistles and chuffs along the Highway 29 corridor.

The 25-year-old train has become a fixture — albeit a traveling one — in the Napa Valley, where it has wined and dined nearly 2.5 million passengers over the years.

Chef Kelly Macdonald has been on board for most of that journey. The Sonora native, who has known his calling literally since kindergarten, joined the wine train in 1993 and became executive chef 14 years ago — assuming the role of conductor of cuisine and engineering everything edible for many more than a million diners.

These movable feasts are not some prefab, heat-and-eat, foodlike substance served on compartmentalized trays. Macdonald uses fresh, local produce; humanely raised meat and seafood that's either line caught or sustainably farmed.

With dishes such as the Wine Train's signature roasted beef tenderloin or porcini-encrusted halibut made with fresh fish the chef personally selected that morning, the multicourse menu reads just like that of any number of Napa Valley's storied restaurants. The only difference is that Macdonald doesn't have the luxury of a single, stationary kitchen to prepare the food in.

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