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Redd Napa

Brunch at Redd in pictures. No commentary necessary…JUST GO!!!!

*click on any image for description and/or larger view

Website: http://www.reddnapavalley.com/

Redd Wood

Famed chef Richard Reddington has opened a casual Italian eatery in Yountville down the street from his Michelin star restaurant REDD.

We arrived early on a Friday night and the restaurant was pretty empty except for the mini bar area which was standing room only. The tables around us seemed to be filled with locals as they knew the staff and brought plenty of their own wine. We were seated in a cozy corner booth that had a view of the entire restaurant. We decided to get a sampling of eats to share. We started off with the grilled artichokes with balsamic & Parmesan cheese which was crazy good but messy. I wouldn’t recommend ordering if you are on a first date. The balsamic glaze ended up all over our fingers and dripping down our arms (but maybe this just happens to us 🙂 ).

Next, potato gnocchi w/ duck leg, rosemary, olives & pancetta. There was no real sauce just the natural juices from the duck. LOVED this.


Of course we had to try one of the wood fired pizzas. We went with the basic fresh mozzarella, tomato & basil. I was expecting this to be my favorite part of our meal but it wasn’t. It was good but the crust was a little over-charred which left a burnt taste in my mouth. Minor mishap.


We finished with the chocolate caramel tart w/ praline & sea salt which was highly reccomended by our server. It was super rich so we had a hard time finishing it. If you are a chocolate lover this dessert is for you!

I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived since the reviews I had read were hit and miss but I really enjoyed the food, service and vibe so I will definitely return.

Rating: 

Website: http://www.redd-wood.com/

Redd Wood on Urbanspoon

Morimoto Napa


There are a bunch of cool spots that have opened on the Napa river over the last couple years…Morimoto is one of them. Because this was a sushi restaurant run by an Iron Chef I admit I had some high expectations. Morimoto himself was not in town on our visit but that was okay as we’d seen him in-person before.

Our meal started out on a super high note. We decided to order the hot appetizer called kakuni – a ten hour pork belly w/ rice congee and soy-scallion jus. It was melt-in-your-mouth good. Next, we had the tempura calamari salad which had a fantastic white miso dressing. The calamari was a tad over battered for my taste but Mike enjoyed it. We followed this up with some sushi rolls (soft shell crab,eel avocado,spicy tuna) which were…sushi rolls. They were not at all imaginative. They looked and tasted just like the take out I get at the spot down the street from my house – just slightly higher priced. We probably should have gone with one of the menu entrees. Oh well, lesson learned.

We still had a little room in our stomachs so we split the kabocha squash sticky toffee cake w/ buttermilk ice cream and asian pear. This was a pleasantly sweet ending to our night.


Next visit, it’s all about the OMAKASE (the tasting menu). I’m sure it’s as mind blowing as the price.

Rating: 

Website: http://morimotonapa.com/

Morimoto Napa on Urbanspoon

Fremont Diner – Sonoma

Fremont Diner is a small revamped diner in Sonoma that serves up tasty vittles like pulled pork, corn fritters, Oyster Po’Boy, mac n cheese and fried pies. Yes, another healthy meal for us! When we told a local we were heading over for lunch he said the food was good but then warned us about the service. When we arrived we put our name on the waiting list and joined the small mob that was standing in the parking lot (no seating area). It looks like it used to be open seating but it is no longer which means on a Saturday you got a good 30 minute wait for your name to be called.

When we were finally seated inside we were not only starving but knew exactly what we wanted because we had plenty of time to peruse the menu. Here is were the poor service thing comes into action. We sat at our table for at least 15 minutes before our waitress decided to come and take our order and it wasn’t like she was buzzing around helping others because the 3 tables around us had just left.

We started off with a milkshake because I had heard they were a “not to miss” item. We chose the salted caramel which had chunks of crystallized salty sweet goodness throughout. I agree, they make damn good milkshakes. Next up Mike ordered the Chicken and Waffles. Bonus was that is was a boneless breast so no dirty hands.

I went with the Shrimp & Grits which I enjoyed but it came with those tiny baby shrimps (I prefer the big guys) and was pretty spicy, but it was topped with an egg and bacon so I forgave them.
For dessert we had the peach bread pudding which wasn’t as good as I had hoped. It had the consistency of a quiche and was a tad burnt but we still ate it all. Stuffed we waited and waited some more for the bill to arrive. Our quick bite at a local diner turned out to be an almost 2 hour event. Good thing we were not in a hurry.
Overall, the positive did outweigh the negative so we will return — on a weekday– and give it another go.

Website: http://thefremontdiner.com/

Fremont Diner on Urbanspoon

The French Laundry


What did we do for our 5 year wedding anniversary? We went to one of the best restaurants in the world…the French Laundry owned by Chef Thomas Keller!! How did we get a reservation? See below. It was a gorgeous July day in the Napa valley when we arrived for our three hour lunch. As we entered we were welcomed, congratulated on our anniversary and promptly escorted upstairs to our table. We were the first to arrive to the small dining room. As our waiter described the menu the other 4 tables in our area filled with guests from China, Florida, Arizona and New York but no VIPs or celebrities. Due to the close proximity of the tables it was easy to hear the conversations around us especially the woman who decided she was going to make and receive phone calls during the first half of her meal (she did keep them short but still so rude!).

Deciding what to order was easy as we were not going to do any of the supplements and for the few courses that we had a choice we chose one of each so we could try everything served that day. Mike instantly fell in love with the 100+ page wine list presented on an Apple ipad (the technology not the prices…). He decided on two half bottles to accompany our meal. We started with a Lazy Creek Riesling and ended with a Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel. Together they ran about $125 and were some of the cheapest bottles on the list which brought our total bill to $720. Both wines were wonderful but the Black Chicken blew us away so much that we are going to visit the winery next week.

The menu for 7.8.2011

Amuse-bouche #1
Gruyère Cheese Puffs

Amuse-bouche #2
Salmon Tartare atop a Crème Fraiche Filled Poppyseed Cone

Course #1
“ O Y S T E R S  A N D  P E A R L S ”
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

Course #2
S A L A D  O F  H A W A I I A N  H E A R T S  O F  P A L M
Lychee, French laundry Garden Cucumber and Greek Basil

Course #3
A T L A N T I C  C O D  “C O N F I T  A  L A  M I N U T E”
Brentwood Corn Mousse, Summer Squash, Parsley Shoots and Demi-Sec Tomatoes

Course #4
S W E E T  B U T T E R – P O A C H E D  M A I N E  L O B S T E R  T A I L
Charred Leek, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Piedmont Hazelnuts and Vanilla-Sauternes Emulsion

S A N T A  B A R B A R A  S P O T  P R A W N S
Green Mission Fig, Young Coconut, Hass Avocado, Red Jalapeno and Cilantro

Course #5
L I B E R T Y  F A R M  P E K I N  D U C K
“Confit de Canard,” Steamed Bun, Nantes Carrots, Radish, Edamame and “Sauce Japanaise”

D E V I L ‘S  G U L C H  R A N C H  “E P A U L E  D E  L A P I N”
Summer Pole Beans, Smoked Garlic Puree and Hobbs’ Bacon “Jus”

Course #6
S N A K E  R I V E R  F A R M S  “C A L O T T E  D E  B O E U F  G R I L L E E”
“Pommes Darphin,” Chanterelle Mushrooms “a la Greque,” Quail Egg and English Peas

Course #7
“B R I L L A T  S A V A R I N”
Pistachio “Pain de Genes,” Celery Branch and French Laundry Garden Strawberries

Course #8
N E C T A R I N E  S O R B E T
Earl Grey Tea “Granite,” Honey and Grilled Nectarines

Course #9
C A R A M É L I A  C H O C O L A T E  “ C R È M E U X ”
Gros Michel Banana, Georgia Peanuts, “Dentelle” and Salted Popcorn Ice Cream

“Î L E  F L O T T A N T E”
Lemongrass, Meiwa Kumquat, Black Sesame and Ginger “Anglaise”

ANNIVERSARY BANANA CAKE

M I G N A R D I S E S:
6 Truffles (hazelnut, cherry, ginger, meyer lemon, olive oil, peanut butter & jelly)
Cold Espresso with Cappuccino Foam & Sugar Doughnuts
Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts from Hawaii

PARTING GIFT:
Shortbread Cookies

Our experience in photos:

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Lunch, like dinner, includes a couple Amuse-bouche items followed by 9 courses and concludes with Mignardises which are bite-size desserts. All the dishes were prepared perfectly and arrived at timely intervals. Mike’s favorite course was the devil’s gulch rabbit. He oohed and aahed through every bite. The thing I enjoyed most I hate to say was the desserts. Even though the beef melted in my mouth the caramel mousse with salted popcorn ice cream was off the charts. At the end of our meal we also received a small banana cake for our anniversary. As it was being placed on the table Mike told the server that banana was the top tier of our wedding cake which the server in turn said with a smile…we did our research. It was a nice coincidence.

About the service…you would think that a place that requires men to wear a jacket even at lunch (in California) would be uptight and stuffy, but our servers were all super friendly, down to earth and casual in their approach. They didn’t speak only when spoken to but engaged us in conversation about where we were from, how long we would be in town and what other plans we had while in town. We found that very refreshing.

Lunch vs. dinner… I was psyched that we got a reservation on our exact anniversary date but mildly disappointed that we didn’t get an evening seating. After finishing our meal we were extremely pleased that we had come for lunch because we were stuffed. We didn’t even finish half of our Mignardises and couldn’t imagine having to go to bed immediately following that food marathon. We couldn’t eat for the rest of the day. Another bonus was prior to the sweet portion of our meal we were offered the opportunity to stretch our legs. Being able to take a short walk outside in the sun and check out the garden across the street was just what we needed after 2 hours of sitting and probably not an option if dining late at night. I wouldn’t change a thing about our time spent at the French Laundry.

Rating:

Website: http://www.frenchlaundry.com/

How to get a reservation at one of the 16 tables? Perseverance is the key… just keep trying and you will get in. I read all the tips online about how to get an elusive reservation. It really was not as difficult as everyone says. It may not be the exact time you want but you will get something, especially if you are in the area for a long weekend… although booking a table for 2 is more difficult than 4+ because they have fewer small tables. 2 months to the calendar date I began dialing at 9:58am (they open at 10am) and was able to get through to a reservation agent by 10:20ish. On the two days I called all reasonable times for dinner (before 9pm) were taken but lunch and late night dining was available. I ultimately went with a lunch opening I found on opentable because Mike goes to bed early and I didn’t want him sleeping through dinner. On opentable reservations would randomly pop up between 9:30-10:20am. Another option is to have your hotel or credit card concierge call, but in my case both only got me wait-listed. I don’t think they are hitting the phone lines at 10am…

In the late 1920′s the building housed a French steam laundry

French Laundry on Urbanspoon

Long Meadow Ranch Grass-fed Beef Club


Yes, we like meat!

As stated in my Farmstead post we were impressed with the beef served so we decided to join the Long Meadow Ranch grass-fed meat club. There are many advantages to eating grass-fed meat: lower fat & calories plus it’s rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. We signed up in December and received our first shipment in late January. Since we spend so much time in Napa we actually pick up our shipments to save the $30 shipping fee. Each delivery contains 12+ lbs. of meat and is approx. $100. We feel this is a good price for the quality. When I saw our first shipment I thought there was no way 2 people would be able to eat it all but by the time the second batch arrived 3 months later we had consumed everything.

Shipment #1 - frozen & vacuum sealed

I gotta say there is some getting use to eating grass-fed beef. It is super lean and depending on the cut can be chewy and gamey in flavor. My favorites so far have been the stir fry, lamb shanks and the NY steak (pics to come in future posts). They were delicious. Even though we used the stew meat in a slow cooking Texas chili the meat was a little dry and our bbq’d London broil was a bit tough and gamey. Overall we have been very happy with the beef. I will update this post once we have received all four 2011 shipments.

Note: Grass-fed beef cooks much faster than corn/grain fed on the bbq so shorten the cooking time by like 2-4 minutes or you will overcook it!

2011 Shipments:

January, 2011: Winter: “Stews, Soups, and Comfort”
Stew Meat (4lbs)
Lamb Shanks (4lbs)
London Broils (4 London Broils)
April, 2011: Spring: “Family Packs”
Stir Fry Strips (4 lbs)
NY Steaks (6 Steaks)
June, 2011: Summer: “Summer BBQ “
Ground Beef (6 lbs)
Hot Dogs (5 lbs)
Ranch Hand Filets (8 Filets)
October, 2011: Fall: “Holiday Entertaining”
Chateaubriand (4 Chateaubriands)
Petite Tenderloins (4 Petite Tenderloins)

Things we have made:

Texas chili made with our stew meat

London broil just off the BBQ

Join the club here: http://www.longmeadowranch.com/Clubs/Grazier-Membership

**You can also just order beef from their website without joining the club.

Farmstead Restaurant


Mike and I had lunch at Farmstead on one of our many trips to Napa to work on our Crushpad wine. The restaurant is unique because it sources many of the ingredients from Long Meadow Ranch including all-natural grass-fed beef, vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, and honey. If you venture outside they also have a garden and a chicken coop with some of the cleanest and attractive chickens I have ever seen. They serve a seasonal American menu in a modern renovated barn.

The day we arrived the special was a pulled pork sandwich with blue cheese slaw (yes, please!). Mike went with the burger with california cheddar and arugula which is pretty notorious. When they arrived they looked so good we ended up splitting the two. Both were fantastic! To push us over the top we concluded with the scrumptious chocolate cream pie.



Because we were so impressed with the meat we ate we decided to give the LMR grass fed beef club a try. So far we have received our first two shipments and we are lovin’ it.

Bonus:  there is no corkage fee at Farmstead; instead a $2 per bottle fee is collected as a donation to a featured local community-building not-for-profit organization each month.

Note: Be sure to stop by next door for a tasting of wine at Long Meadow Ranch. The wine is good and the woman pouring (at least on the day we went) was a hoot.

Website: http://www.longmeadowranch.com/Farmstead-Restaurant

Fish Story Napa

FRIED CLAMS

The dude behind BarBersQ is now the chef at Fish Story which is located in the snazzy new Napa Riverfront area. As soon as I heard lobster was on the menu I made a reservation. The first thing our waitress told us upon being seated was that their seafood is all sourced in accordance with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which is cool. Mike decided to go with the HOOK, LINE & SINKER 3 course meal (which was a steal at $27). It included a cup of chowder, shrimp & grits and butterscotch pudding. I chose the fried clams appetizer and the Maine lobster roll. The clams were my favorite thing of the night… plump with a light salty batter and a zingy cocktail sauce (wish it was a larger portion!). The lobster roll with kettle chips was very good, especially the super buttery bun, but I have come to the realization that I am a lobster purist. Lobster boiled or grilled and drenched in butter with a squeeze of lemon is heaven. Mike was happy with his dishes but felt the grits could have been a little creamier. We shared the pudding which was delish. If you’re looking for a seafood meal in Napa that won’t break the bank (especially if you order the prix fixe menu) check it out.

LOBSTER ROLL

SHRIMP & GRITS

Note: after drinking wine all day I wanted something non-alcoholic and the Mixed Berry Cooler was yummy!

Rating:

Website: http://fishstorynapa.com/

Fish Story on Urbanspoon

Dim Sum Charlie’s Napa


I don’t know if I have mentioned this but we are making wine at Crushpad which means we spent most of the month of October in Napa sorting, punching and pressing our Pinot Noir grapes. I will tell you more about that experience in another post. On one of our many weekends we decided to check out Dim Sum Charlie’s dim sum truck for lunch. I had read about it on twitter. The airstream is located right around the corner from Oxbow market, basically in the backyard of someone’s home (I assume Charlie :smile:)

When we arrived we grabbed a pen and the menu and marked the items we wanted to order as you would in any typical dim sum establishment. We opted for the honey baked bbq pork buns, white fluffy pork buns, stiiiicky rice, pork sui mai dumplings and the ten dolla make you holla dumpling combo (7 different items). The staff was friendly and happy to serve and everything tasted as it should. My only gripe would be the price. It is really expensive. The average price is $6.85 for 4 dumplings. I thought Sino at Santana Row was the most high-end dim sum at $3.25-4.25 but it’s dirt cheap in comparison. You would think they would be able to keep the cost down since they have no real overhead.

Verdict: You gotta give it a try. It’s something different in Napa.

Note: all seating is outside so if it’s raining and cold dress accordingly. It is also surrounded by construction so beware of loud noises even on the weekend.

Website: http://www.dimsumcharlies.com/

CADE Winery


Guest post by Mike (my wine guy)

On one of our recent trips to Napa, Nicole and I decided to visit Cade Winery (a PlumpJack property) because we had tasted their wine at Pebble Beach Food & Wine and were impressed. The winery is located at the top of Howell Mountain which takes a bit of time to get to but it’s worth every mile.

When you first arrive it almost seems like you’re in the Sierras. The building is Gold LEED certified which means is was built in the most environmentally conscious way. The tasting room is more like a living room than a business and we got to sit on comfortable couches while tasting four outstanding wines. It costs $20 per person but the “pours” are huge and you get personal attention – there was only one other couple that joined us. The winery-rep spent an entire hour explaining the wines and the production process. We were told they only have about 6-8 people max per tasting session.

We tasted the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Cuvee, the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain and the 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. All were amazing. The Sauvignon Blanc was refreshing and the 7% Semillon blended in made it that much more complex. All three Cabs were out of this world but I particularly loved the Howell Mountain for it’s smokey aroma and herbal/black cherry finish.

After the tasting the winery rep took Nicole and I on a quick tour of the wine caves and barrel room – very impressive. If you’re looking for a unique tasting experience you can’t find a better, more inviting place than Cade.

Website: http://www.cadewinery.com/cade/

Tastings offered Monday-Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm by appointment only.

I have to say this is one of my favorite spots now (I almost didn’t post this so it stays a secret…Nicole)

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BarBersQ


If you’re looking for Memphis style BBQ in Napa look no further than BarBersQ. The place is rockin’  — literally. Mike couldn’t stop shimmying his shoulders as classic R&B and Neo Soul tunes piped through the restaurant.

You’d think this being a barbecue joint I would order ribs or pulled pork but I had heard they had fried chicken and I NEVER pass up fried chicken. Mike chose the Caesar salad (very nice) and the Q combo with brisket and chicken. My 4 pieces of Southern fried chicken arrived with a side of collard greens and mashed potatoes. The chicken was hot with a light crispy skin that had a hint of sweetness. Compared to competing fowl I’d put it above Ad Hoc but just below Boon Fly’s versions. It comes with a vinegar hot sauce that looks more intimidating than it is. It actually could be hotter.


Mike enjoyed his BBQ but preferred the chicken over the beef.


We finished off our meal with a hefty slice of chocolate bundt cake from our favorite ABC Bakery.


We were beyond stuffed…it took days to digest.

Although it’s not located in the most prime location (in a strip mall sandwiched between a Target and a Whole Foods) I’d go back in a heartbeat. The large portions, tasty eats, reasonable prices, casually chic decor and jazzy music make up for the lackluster outdoor setting.

Rating:

Website: http://www.barbersq.com/

BarBers Q on Urbanspoon

Ad Hoc Brunch

Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc serves up Brunch every Sunday from 10-1pm and it’s become supremely popular. We arrived at 10:10 and the placed was full by 10:30. It’s a 3 course meal for $34.  I had heard from others that the Brunch menu included Bouchon pastries, yogurt and then a choice of a breakfasty main dish (waffles, pancakes, eggs) but on our visit the format had changed. This is the menu we received on May 16, 2010 (no choices available).

Ice berg lettuce with buttermilk dressing, red onions, apples and walnuts

Steak & scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, wild mushroom ragu and fava beans

Oven roasted potatoes

Beignets covered in sugar with strawberry, vanilla and chocolate dipping sauces

The salad was good but nothing special. The steak and eggs on the other hand was a masterpiece. It still amazes me how every single bite is perfectly seasoned. The man knows how to use salt! The beignets were divine even though they were more like donuts; dipped in a combo of vanilla-strawberry sauce was delish. We left satisfied but not stuffed (which is always a good thing).

Next visit I would make my reservation for a later time. It definitely is more of an early lunch menu than a breakfast. I don’t usually wake up and have a salad with my french press.

See our past Ad Hoc adventures:
Fried Chicken night
Pork dinner

Bottega


Mike and I took my sister and her husband to Napa for a weekend before they moved from the Bay Area to Hawaii. We decided we would dine at Bottega, Michael Chiarello’s newest creation. On the night we arrived he was actually in the house. While waiting for our table he walked through the bar and mingled with guests. As he was making his way back to the kitchen he made a comment to my sister and brother-in-law. The waiting area is small and the place was packed so my sister was sitting on her husband’s lap. Chef Chiarello said something like  “You guys look comfortable… I’m gonna bring you a menu, actually maybe just dessert.”  (at lease that’s what I think I heard — it was noisy so I could be a little off but that was the jist).

Soon after we were seated at a large round table in the side dining area. We started our meal with a raw fish appetizer and fresh mozzarella. For mains, I chose the seafood stew, Mike had the Quail and my sister and hubby shared a giant porterhouse steak and fries. For dessert we had a yummy cookie plate and a tart. The food and service was very good definitely worthy of a Top Chef Master but we didn’t expect anything less. For years Mike & I have been fans of the NapaStyle empire Chiarello created. If you haven’t heard about his wine club check it out. We have been members for over 2 years and we love it.

Pictured: Mozzarella (top left), Fish app served on a salt rock (top right), Stew (bottom left), Quail (bottom right)

Rating: drumstick rating drumstick rating drumstick rating halfdrumstick

Website: http://www.botteganapavalley.com/

Note: This dinner occurred in May 2009.
Bottega on Urbanspoon

Boon Fly Cafe

Boon Fly is a cozy cafe located in a bright red barn facade at the Carneros Inn (a Plumpjack resort) in Napa. It is a casual set up with a homey menu. The night we went I ordered the Fried Chicken and Mike had the Meatloaf special. Mike’s meal came with a large carafe of wine, salad AND dessert for $29. Great deal! It took some time for our meal to arrive. We found out it was due to the chicken being made to order. I was surprised by the huge serving size. The chicken was amazing. Just like I make it at home…it had a crispy light batter without any fancy herbs and spices but to give it a little kick they added a hint of hot sauce to the batter. Brilliant! It is the polar opposite of Ad Hoc’s famous thick buttermilk battered herby creation. To all those folks who think Ad Hoc’s got the best fried chicken in Napa, think again…they’ve got some serious competition! Mike gobbled down his meatloaf within minutes without any complaints. We finished things off with an awesome slice of banana creme pie.

Boon Fly is a great place to grab a tasty bite for a reasonable price. We look forward to coming back to try the breakfast. We hear it is out- of- sight.

Note: This meal took place in May 09.

meatloaf

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick rating

Website: http://www.thecarnerosinn.com/

Boon Fly Cafe on Urbanspoon

Alexis Baking Company

abccafe

I found out about Alexis Baking Company from a Napa local. It’s known for having awesome breakfast and baked goods. As soon as I heard they serve eggs benedict it was put on my list of things to do. We arrived early on a Sunday morning and the joint was jumpin’. If you’re from the South Bay this place has a Sweet Pea’s vibe but is double the size (thank goodness). We grabbed the last table and placed our order with our hip waitress dressed in all black. No need to say what I ordered. Mike chose the creme brulee french toast with huckleberries (I know, sounds sooo good!). We sipped on some really great coffee as we eagerly waited for our food. We were both pretty famished after our horrible Go Fish dinner the night before. Our meals arrived and they looked too scrumptious to eat but we quickly dug in. Mike’s french toast was sweet, nutty, creamy and rich. A mouthful of decadence. Now on to the important stuff, the benedict…

OK everybody, this was the best icon_censored eggs benedict I have had in my life. Everything was insanely fresh right down to the homemade english muffins. The ham was caramelized, the hollandaise light and flavorful and the home fries (NOT HASH BROWNS) were made out of red potatoes!!! I thought I had died and gone to breakfast heaven. The portion was large enough to make me sick but I couldn’t bare to let a single morsel be thrown away. I was in a food coma the entire ride home to San Jose.

The best Benedict in the world!

The best benedict in the world!

From this day forward I will never venture to Napa without getting my ABC fix. What a find! You can always trust a local…

Tasty Tip: The english muffins were so amazing Mike wanted to take some home but unfortunately you have to order them a day in advance. Note to self: call ahead next trip!

Website: http://www.alexisbakingcompany.com/
Alexis Baking Company on Urbanspoon

Go Fish Restaurant

gofishsignWe were excited to try chef Cindy Pawlcyn’s restaurant Go Fish since we had a fantastic meal at her other establishment Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen earlier this year. When we arrived the decor was similar to other Pawlcyn joints — homey and comfortable. The menu was a cross between a Pier 39 seafood shack (with items like chowder/fish & chips) and a Japanese sushi bar. It was a weird combo but I thought if anyone could make it work she could. My first impression of the menu was that the sushi was over priced at $10-20 per roll. Luckily, I came in craving fish not sushi or we would have been in for a whopper of a bill. We did decide to order a Spider roll as an appetizer because I wanted to see if the sushi was worth the hefty price tag. The $12 roll arrived and it was just crab rolled up in rice NO avocado, lettuce or cucumber. It was the most boring, unoriginal version I have ever had, and to boot there was only 5 pieces not 6. Maybe the chef got hungry… For a main course I chose the cod with clams and Mike the branzino with mushrooms. I was surprised to see such a limited selection of fish entrees. When they arrived they were fresh but tasteless. The fish had no seasoning whatsoever, not even salt. We both barely got through our dishes. I will say that the 4 miniature clams on my plate were out-of-sight. I wish I had ordered a big ol’ bucket of them. After all that I was ready to bolt but Mike was still hungry so he ordered dessert. It was the highlight of the night – a pear pandowdy (like a tart). Needless to say we were highly disappointed with our dinner. As we left there was a gang of people waiting to Go Fish… I just don’t see why this place is popular, maybe because it’s one of the few sushi spots in town? I hate to say it but I’d rather go to Red Lobster.

Rating: drumstick rating

Website: http://www.gofishrestaurant.net/
Go Fish on Urbanspoon

Rubicon Estate Winery

rubicon

The Chateau

I was amazed to find that Mike had never been to the Coppola winery in Napa since his favorite filmmaker is Francis Ford Coppola. Mike told me he had tried a couple Coppola wines in the past and was not overly impressed so he didn’t have an interest in visiting the winery. Well, I thought it was time to check it out.

When we arrived at Rubicon (formally named Niebaum Coppola Winery) we were instructed by the parking attendant/security guard to go inside the Chateau and pay our guest fee. There was a $25 per person entry fee which included a tasting of 5 wines, a guided tour* and access to the Chateau’s museum and exhibits. We had about 50 minutes before our tour so we walked around the museum and then had our tasting. The ladies that were pouring in the tasting room that morning were a hoot. They were friendly and fun. Rubicon Estate is where Francis has decided to exclusively showcase all his higher end wines. Mike and I were blown away with the selections. The Zin was robust but not overly peppery like so many other Cali Zins. The highlight was the “Rubicon,” a Bordeaux style red that uses only organically grown estate grapes. It’s mild enough to drink now or will age perfectly for another 15 years. Another thing that impressed Mike was that the wines were not overpriced… just like his favorite winery, Phelps. As we finished our tasting the tour started.

The 30 minute tour took us on a walk around the grounds and explained the history of the estate. It was very educational. We learned that Coppola has moved all his lower end everyday wines to a 2nd winery called Rosso & Bianco in Geyserville, CA (it’s currently being remodeled but I’m sure we will make a trip soon). The Rubicon estate was beautiful and a landmark not to be missed. Our visit went surprisingly well. We arrived with no expectations and left with a couple bottles of wine and a wine club membership so we will be returning.

coppolahome

Front yard of the Coppola Family Home --straight ahead behind the mass of trees is their house

*Note: If you want to take the tour that’s included with your entry fee sign up early! The tours run 3 times a day (11:30,1:30,3:30) with only 20 people and its first come first serve. When we arrived at 10:20am we were the last 2 people that made the 11:30am tour. I would suggest coming in before 11am and signing up for whatever time you want.

Website: http://www.rubiconestate.com/

Tra Vigne

travigne

For 20 years Tra Vigne has been a Napa staple serving up classic Italian cuisine. When we arrived we were seated in a large booth in the gorgeous open air dining room. We started our dinner with the hand made mozzarella and garlic crostini. It’s as fresh as you can get as it is made the moment you order. This appetizer is becoming one of their signature dishes and it didn’t disappoint. The cheese was smooth and milky and the bread was perfectly browned. Mike and I both opted for house made pasta for our main courses. I chose the rigatoni carbonara and he had the duck risotto with apples and thyme. Mike never orders risotto but the way the server described the dish he couldn’t say no. This was my first carbonara… I’m usually a red sauce gal but for some reason this called to me. The sauce was rich, creamy and peppery with thick slices of bacon. It was delicious, but filling. I could only finish half. Mike was in heaven with his duck which was succulent and tender. He said this was the best risotto he ever had (next to his). We really should have called it a night but, of course, we had to order dessert. Unfortunately it wasn’t a highlight. The gelato tasted like ice milk and the chocolate torte was just so-so. Next time we will pass on dessert and leave on a high note. If you’re looking for a great Italian meal at a reasonable price you can count on Tra Vigne!

rigcarbon duckrisotto1

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratinghalfdrumstick

Website: http://www.travignerestaurant.com/
Tra Vigne on Urbanspoon

Chateau Montelena Winery

chamont

After seeing the movie Bottle shock Mike and I were curious to check out one of the wineries that put Napa on the map. The Chateau is nestled in the hills of Calistoga. They definitely took some creative license with the film since the drive up didn’t look at all familiar. The estate on the other hand was as beautiful as it was on screen. For $15 we got to taste the following 4 wines: the Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Montelena Estate Zinfandel, and Potter Valley Riesling. I was kinda bummed that we didn’t get to try a Chardonnay. The wines didn’t disappoint. They were all yummy. We ended up bringing home a bottle of the Zin. After the tasting we were sent off with a map of the property so we could go on a self guided tour. We took a quick walk around the grounds as it was a gorgeous day and the vines were filled with colorful fall leaves. It was fun to visit a place with such rich history.

Tasty Tip: By the way, the tasting fee is not waived with purchase which I find chintzy.

Tasting Room Hours
9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. daily
(except major holidays and the third Saturday in May)

Website: http://www.montelena.com/

Bouchon Bakery

bouchonbakery

If you can believe it we have never been to the Bouchon Bakery. Since it’s located across the street from NapaStyle we decided to stop by and grab some sweets and breakfast for the following morning. It’s a tiny little shop with many french bakery items to choose from. We purchased the following:

bouchongoodies

Nutter butter, coffee cake, walnut roll, Thomas Keller oreo cookie (TKO), blueberry muffin, chocolate bouchon (not pictured)

Everything was very good and even tasted fresh the next day. My favorite was the blueberry muffin and the TKO. Mike’s was the coffee cake and the Nutter butter. I think this will be a regular stop on future Napa trips.

Website: http://www.bouchonbakery.com/
Bouchon Bakery on Urbanspoon

NapaStyle Yountville / Paninoteca & Wine Bar

napastyle-sign

We headed back to Napa for my bday weekend. First stop was Michael Chiarello’s flagship NapaStyle store in Yountville. It was not exactly what I expected. The space was small and packed to the gills. Things it has that you won’t find at other locations include an olive oil bar, house-made salami section as well as a cafe. I was most impressed with the Panini cafe called Paninoteca. Mike and I had lunch there and the sandwiches were terrific. Very fresh, tasty and light. On the way out we picked up a jug of the NapaStyle everyday olive oil. It tasted delicious.

napastylechick

Toasted spice chicken with braised potatoes

napastylesteak

Grilled flank steak with red onions and blue cheese

Shout out to the weather gods…thanks for the fantabulous weather. It was one of the nicest weekends I have experienced in Napa. On November 14th it was 86 degrees! At that time of year it’s normally in the 60’s. I was wearing shorts and flip flops. 😎

Address:
V Marketplace
6525 Washington St.
Yountville, CA

Bottle Shock

© 2008 Unclaimed Freight

Mike and I spend a good amount of time in Napa so we of course had to see Bottle Shock. When I saw the previews I was a bit worried that a movie about a 1976 wine tasting competition between the hippies of Napa and the wine snobs of France could get boring fast. Fortunately this was not the case. As it is not heavy on wine mumbo-jumbo those who are not fans of the grape juice will be able to enjoy the film, and those that are will love the film. Check it out before it leaves the theaters. See Mike’s more in-depth review here.

Film website: http://www.bottleshockthemovie.com/

Joseph Phelps Insignia Blending Seminar

Mike’s kind of a wine connoisseur. Before we met my wine of choice was a glass of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill or Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel. Growing up in an alcohol free home I missed out on Wine 101. Over the years with Mike’s guidance my palate has changed. These days I find myself liking Red Blends, Cabs and Rieslings. Mike’s favorite winery in Napa is Joseph Phelps. He has been a preferred club member for over 15 years. Whenever we are in the valley tasting Phelps is always on our list because they have informative seminars, friendly staff, reasonable prices, a beautiful location, and most important fantastic wine.

On our latest visit we took the Insignia Blending Seminar which discusses the different elements that make up a bottle of Insignia. For those of you not familiar with Phelps wine, Insignia is its award winning proprietary red blend. The class started off with a tasting of 4 other Phelps wines: ’06 Viognier, ’05 Pinot, ’05 Syrah & ’05 Cab Sav. Then we moved on to the 5 wines that made up the 2004 Insignia. Once we tasted the components we were free to create our own blend of Insignia by mixing the various wines provided. We had lots of fun and wine…but my Insignia concoction didn’t compare to the original!

Tasty Tip: call ahead, all tastings/seminars require an appointment. If you are member pack a lunch and reserve a picnic table.

Website: http://www.jpvwines.com/

Ad Hoc part II – Fried Chicken Night

THE Fried Chicken everyone goes gaga over

Typical conversation about Ad Hoc:

Have you been to Ad Hoc?
Did you have the fried chicken?
Oh, my gosh it’s the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. It’s life changing bla,bla,bla

Back in May we did go to Ad hoc but not on fried chicken night. We instead had a marvelous pork dinner. If you are not familiar with Thomas Keller’s beloved restaurant in Yountville, Ca read this past post.

Mike and I returned to Ad Hoc to finally try the legendary fowl. We arrived on July 28 super syked and ready to devourer some breasts and wings. Here was our menu for the evening:

First Course - Baby Iceberg Wedge Salad with house cured speck, sweet 100 tomatoes, red torpedo onions, herb-cream dressing

Second Course - Buttermilk Fried Chicken brentwood yellow corn & yukon gold potatoes

Third Course - The Cheese Board with berry jam & medjool dates

Fourth Course - Pecan Tarts with whipped vanilla cream & caramel sauce

The answer to every ones question…Did it live up to the hype? Unfortunately for me – No…as I have stated in the past I like my chicken with a thin salty skin. Keller’s chicken didn’t have either of those components. His chicken has a thick herby skin. Good, but not my style. Mike enjoyed it. At least I can now say — been there, done that!

My favorite parts of the meal were the two sides. The corn was so sweet I didn’t mind the kernels stuck in my teeth and when I die I want to be buried in a vat of that creamy buttery mash. Just because I wasn’t crazy about the chicken doesn’t mean I like Ad Hoc any less. The food is amazing and I love the concept of the restaurant. It still gets 5 drumsticks in my book and I will be back. I look forward to trying a fish and beef menu.

Tasty Tip: If you want to try it for yourself a fellow food blogger has a calendar that lists all the monthly Ad Hoc fried chicken nights. For those of you who can’t make it to Napa Keller’s chick recipe can be found here or to try my version go here.

Round Pond olive oil tour and tasting

imported Mediterranean olive trees

I read about the Round Pond olive oil tour and tasting on Giada’s Weekend Getaway to Napa recap on the food network website. It sounded like fun so Mike and I went July 26th. The tour was very private with only 6 people. It began outside next to the olive trees with a discussion about the family-run business. Then we moved inside the mill and learned how the olives are processed. I didn’t know this but olive oil is only pressed one time during the year (November) so we didn’t get to see the equipment in action. The tour portion ended and we went onto the tasting which included taking shots of the Round Pond Italian and Spanish olive oils as well as their lemon and orange infused oils. Mike and I preferred the peppery Italian blend to the fruity Spanish and the zesty blood orange over the delicate lemon. Next we tasted their two gourmet red wine vinegars by drenching a sugar cube and sucking out the juice. Odd procedure but deliciously sweet. We enjoyed the Sangiovese vinegar best. To finish things off we were given heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, bread, strawberries and mixed greens to try all the varietals with food. We had a foodie feast!

Mike and I highly recommend this unique experience. If you’re going to be in Napa for a number of days it’s a wonderful alternative to going to yet another wine tasting. I will definitely go back, hopefully during the harvest.

mill

tasting room

olive oils

(click images to enlarge)

Tasty Tip: Appointments required. 1.5 hours / $25 per person
Website: http://www.roundpond.com

Ad Hoc

Ad Hoc is a fairly new restaurant in Yountville from the famous chef Thomas Keller (the French laundry/Bouchon). When you enter the building you will feel as though you stepped into a Pottery Barn catalog. The decor is casual and homey yet hip and fun. Ad Hoc is billed as a family style restaurant which usually means everyone at your table orders a few dishes and you share. Here, things are done a little different… Ad Hoc serves ONE 4 course menu every night which you share at your table. So whatever the chef decides to make, you eat. There are no choices to be made. When I first heard about this unique business model I was highly intrigued. With that said I expected every dish to be prepared flawlessly and guess what?…they were! Every morsel was perfectly seasoned. I could actually taste the salt and pepper in every bite.

Here is the menu we were served on May 10th, 2008 ($48/per person):

First course – Frisee salad with beets
I absolutely love beets so I was totally excited about this salad. It was delectable. It was simple yet refined. When you have fresh ingredients you can’t go wrong.

Second course – Stuffed pork with rice, barley, baby carrots, asparagus and apple compote
Mike was drooling…The pork skin was crisp and salty and the meat tender. The veggies and rice were a perfect accompaniment.

Third course – Goat cheese with pinenut brittle and blackberry jam
A combination I would never think of was a symphony in my mouth.

Fourth course – Thin pastry with baked bananas topped with strawberries and vanilla bean ice cream
I don’t know if you notice from previous posts but if a restaurant offers a dessert with bananas and ice cream Mike and I order it. We adore banana anything. It was like this menu was tailor made for us.

The one and only thing I did not care for was the music blasting in the dining room, it really contradicted with the homey vibe they wanted the restaurant to portray. Don’t get me wrong the soundtrack played throughout the night was great but extremely loud. I found it hard to talk with the friends at our table. Around 8ish the music and lights were turned down which was much appreciated.

This was the best meal of the weekend and probably the best I have ever had in Napa. I hear the evenings with fried chicken and chocolate brownies are to die for. Unfortunately, they only post the menu the day of so you can’t plan ahead. It’s the luck of the draw. Make your reservation (far in advance) and keep your fingers crossed. But really unless you are a picky eater I don’t think you can go wrong on any night.

Side Note: We were told by one of the servers that Ad Hoc originally was a temporary fix until Keller could open a burger and half bottle joint but it became so popular that it had to stay. I’m so glad it did!

Rating:

Website: http://adhocrestaurant.com/

Keller cookbooks:
The French laundry
Bouchon

Ad Hoc on Urbanspoon

Solbar at Solage

I had heard rave reviews about Solbar the restaurant in the new Solage resort in Calistoga. A bit off the beaten path, Solbar is an interesting mix of hip Napa style and a tropical island. The dining area is split in two — indoor and outdoor. It’s very open and airy and when you are inside you still feel like you are outside, as one main wall is open to the patio. Very much like you would find in a Hawaiian restaurant. Our group of 6 decided to sit on the patio next to the beautiful fire/water display. Mike and I had dinner with 4 friends so we sampled the majority of the menu (Hi- DB, CB, R & JB). We started off with a couple orders of the flatbreads & spreads to share and a bevy of unique mixed drinks. The breads were light and flavorful and the drinks refreshing. The appetizers that followed were the sliders, a mixed green salad and I had the asparagus soup. No complaints there. The dishes were enjoyed by all. Dinner then arrived for everyone except me. I had ordered the sliders as my main course and the kitchen forgot them. No worries …I was actually not super hungry that evening — for a change. Our server was very apologetic for the mix-up and she removed the charge from the bill. Other entrees included the yellow fin tuna, barbecued pork buns, pasta with fava beans and roasted lamb. When my sliders with bacon, cheddar and ten-hour onions arrived they were not all that they had been built up to be. Prior to coming I had a bunch of people tell me to try the sliders. They were tasty but a bit bland, they needed a sauce of some kind (maybe it was left off in the rush to get to my table?). I actually prefer the sliders at the Paragon restaurant in San Jose. For dessert we had the cinnamon sugar doughnut holes and a mix of house made sorbets. The sorbets were the hit of the night. Some were still talking about them the next day.

The food was good but the setting was magnificent. It was a great spot to hang out with our friends. I would go back to have cocktails and dessert anytime.

Rating:

Website: http://www.solagecalistoga.com/dining/index.shtml

Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen

For our first night in Napa we decided to check out Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena. The owner Cindy Pawlcyn, is the James Beard award-winning cookbook author, Chef and owner of Mustards Grill, so we knew it would be good. It was a beautiful evening so we chose to sit outside on the small patio under a large 100 year old fig tree. Light Jazz music pumped through some speakers. Don’t expect a loud, mardi gras like environment. Some colorful hand blown drinking glasses and rooster signs are as crazy as you will get. Cindy’s serves up home inspired dishes in a charming rustic setting.

Mike and I started our meal by sharing a warm spinach salad with smoked apple bacon, caramelized onions and pouched egg. It was nice and the vinaigrette dressing gave it a tangy kick. For the main course Mike picked the smoked duck with fritter and I had the pan seared halibut with fava bean mash, pickled onions, asparagus and artichokes. Both dishes were remarkable!! Check out those photos, they were almost too pretty to eat…but we did 😀 . Mike’s duck was HUGE. The skin was crispy and the meat juicy, it had been cooking all day in a wood burning oven. My halibut was cooked to perfection, light and flaky and the artichokes were magnificent. I love fresh artichokes not the marinated kind in a jar. These were soft and buttery like when I make them at home. Even though we were stuffed we couldn’t pass up a dessert called Campfire pie. I didn’t get a photo because we tore into it as soon as it hit the table. Picture marshmallow fluff filled with peanuts and chocolate chips on top of an oreo cookie crust placed in the oven so it had a meringue like finish. Sooo scrumptious.

I actually enjoyed Cindy’s more than the beloved Mustards. It has all the elements for a perfect restaurant: comfortable atmosphere, awesome food, attentive and fun staff plus very reasonable prices. I can’t wait to go back.

Rating:

Website: http://www.cindysbackstreetkitchen.com/

Cindy’s cookbooks:
Big Small Plates

Mustards Grill

Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Del Dotto Wine Caves

We have been going to Napa for many years. For the first time we decided to check out the Del Dotto Cave Experience & Barrel Tasting as it was recommended by a friend. The tour starts off with some history about the winery owner, some background about the caves and info on the different kinds of oak barrels. A guide then takes you into the caves and you taste their red wines directly from the barrel. Following the barrel tasting you return to the winery and sample a few bottled wines along with chocolate truffles and cheese. Our guide was fun and knowledgeable and the wines were good. The tour lasted 1 ½ hours. You taste over 15 different wines so be prepared to be buzzed!

Tip: Make a reservation, not a walk-in situation ($40 per person)

Website: http://www.deldottovineyards.com/

Oxbow Public Market

Mike & I took a trip to Napa May 8-11. Our weekend started off with a visit to the Oxbow Public Market. It is a new market in downtown Napa (very similar to the Ferry Building in SF). I had first heard about this establishment when reading the January 2008 Food & Wine Magazine 100 best. It was #29 and listed as Napa’s best Market. We were going on a picnic so we stopped by to pick up some eats. What we found was a snazzy building filled with restaurants, wine shops, butchers, bakers and a fantastic cheese merchant. On the outside was about 4 farmers market stands. I was expecting a lot more. Hopefully on the weekends (it was a Thursday) they have a bigger selection of produce. It’s a great start and looks like more will be coming soon.

Website: http://www.oxbowpublicmarket.com/index.htm

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