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Travel Napa Valley

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My husband and I headed off to Napa Valley to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  We hadn’t been there in several years after moving back to Southern California from the Bay area.  I had heard that downtown Napa had been revamped with new restaurants, bars and food retail, so we decided to stay down there. 

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On our way from the Oakland airport we stopped in Wood Tavern in Oakland to meet a friend for lunch.  Wood Tavern if a darkish wood bar and restaurant with housemade specialties like Pork Belly sandwiches and farm fresh Salads.  We opted to share the Crispy Pork Belly Sandwich on a French Roll with a side of crunchy slaw.  The pork was crispy on the edges and juicy on the inside which made for the perfect sandwich, it reminded me of carnitas.  The slaw — my favorite — was finely shredded with an olive oil dressing.  The Roasted Asparagus with a fine layer of Lardo and Farm Egg was a nice accompaniment to our shared sandwich as well.  Our friend dined on the Pan Seared Cod Sandwich and his was even better than ours (he offered me a large bite).  The fish was mild but flavorful with a nice dressing smathered on the bun.  Lovely.

Now, we were off to Napa to taste some wine and dine on some more great food.  First, we checked in to our hotel.  The Milliken Inn, which sets right on the Napa River, was a lovely place with twelve rooms and a main house for checking in and out and wine tasting at night.  The service was outstanding and it was fun to share a glass of wine at night with the other visitors.

As for wine, we tend to be more Sonoma fans but we decided to hit a few wineries in Napa first.  Clos du Val is always a place to stop without feeling to gouged.  We missed Pine Ridge because they were closing but that is a great place to taste as well.  Del Dotto is a fun place to stop in and check out the crazy Venetian decor.  This place was alot of fun and they give cave tours for $60.00 per person which includes pizza at the end.  The wine was actually pretty good.

Some of our Sonoma favorites are Domaine Carneros which is owned by Taittinger Winery, one of my  favorite champagnes from France.  They have an awesome patio that overlooks the rolling hills of Napa and Sonoma.  You can order cheese plates and small nibbles to go with your tasting.  My favorite is the Brut Rose!  Next, we headed to our loyal favorite Arrowood.  The wine maker has changed so we are delicately deciding whether to keep our membership or not.  So far, we are staying in because Heidi, the wine maker, is still producing some pretty great stuff.  Imagery is down below and a fun place to stop.  As for their wines…well not as great as I remember but I won’t give up on them.

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Our first dinner and most spectacular, was at Oenotri in downtown Napa.  The relatively new wood- fired oven pizzeria is all the buzz, so we had to check it out.  The food, well let’s just say my husband wanted to eat there all three nights!  They make all their own charcuterie including Mortadella.  I know, I know….bologne?  No, this stuff delicately melts in your mouth without leaving a film and is divine.  The Tesarossa with hints of lemon zest was a favorite as well.  Now, about the pizza… Neapolitan pizza in the states I have tasted so far and trust me I have tasted many!  The Caputo OO flour is milled locally at Central Milling in Petaluma and after talking with the chef, he said this is the secret to making it the best.  The other stuff that comes from Italy is too old by the time it gets here.  I have got to get my hands on some since I am putting a pizza oven in my new kitchen!

The crust is light and airy with a nice char and perfectly topped with spicy local sausage, onions and arugula — delicious without a doubt.  As for the pasta, handrolled, all of it. The Lumache with Marsala Braised Rabbit and Olives was freshly prepared and a real homerun.  I had never seen a shell pasta that was handrolled with two and a half loops that held the sauce more perfectly AND they were half the size of your pinky finger, I can’t imagine the work involved.  Fabulous!  Overall, the best dinner in Napa and we can’t wait to go back.

The next evening we got into Meadowood Restaurant for a so-called great fine dining experience.  The restaurant had just received it’s third Michelin Star so our expectations were high.  I have never had a worse dinner experience in all my life and I would not recommend this place to anyone.  We were late getting seated at our table by thirty minutes and got bumped from the fireplace so other diners could eat their dessert.  Our canapes were served to us in the bar and all the management could say is that is was just bad timing and they couldn’t get previous diners out on time.  Well, maybe you shouldn’t offer a fourteen course if you can’t pace it correctly.  We were offered a free bottle of wine but we had brought our own.  So, we ended up taking two open half bottles of wine back to our hotel for the next day.  As for the food — too weird to mention but let’s just say the white chocolate ice cream dessert with fresh English peas almost sent me over the edge.  I left hungry and at $300.00 per person out the door there is no excuse.  Trust me Thomas Keller would have NOT let this happen!

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Trying to shrug off the bad dinner the night before, Bouchon Bakery is the answer!  Located in Yountville, this is my favorite bakery in the nation.  All the pastries are delicious as well as the desserts and homemade breads.  As many of you already know, the Citrus, Pistachio Brioche is my favorite thing but I must say the Cross Bun with cinnamon icing cross on top was a good second.

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Our final dinner was at Terra.  It was been in St. Helena for twenty four years and they still are making some delicious food.  My green garlic soup with jidori egg was warm and comforting as well as my husband’s foie gras tortellini in a light broth.  The seared scallop with warm tomato tripe was flavorful and unique and I enjoyed the small lobster tail with Gordo Rancho beans.  Overall a nice dinner to end our fun Napa weekend.

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