Summer Lunching in Yountville

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diningalfresco.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The glorious Napa Valley summer has arrived, bringing day after day of perfect sunshine, and a compulsive, irresistible urge to lunch al fresco.  Downtown Yountville offers one of the highest concentrations of outdoor dining spots in the whole valley, all within an easy walk of one another, and all with their own brand of wine country charm.

At the north end of Washington Street, the Hotel Luca's Italianate stone archway opens onto a serene courtyard patio with fountains, lounge seating, and the delightful Cantinetta Piero.  Seasonal ingredients, house-cured charcuterie, and rustic lusty flavors capture the spirit of Tuscany with a California accent.   The restaurant's courtyard facing walls open up entirely to the balmy air, allowing even those seated inside to enjoy the weather, while well-placed umbrellas by the terrace tables offer courtyard diners shade from the often searing sun.  To celebrate the arrival of their full bar license, and the indulgent noshing time between lunch and dinner, the restaurant is now offering a Margarita and Margherita promotion.  Between 4 and 6 p.m. during the week, buy any cocktail you like from the bar and score a gorgeous, thin-crust margherita pizza for only $5.  Yes, and yes.
bard_restaurant.jpgThe Bardessono Resort just a few yards off Washington Street offers a totally different look and vibe.  This all-green, all the time operation is pure West Coast modern, combining natural colors and materials with modern style and Asian sophistication.  The lunch menu also draws from international traditions, using local meats, fish, and impossibly fresh vegetables from the restaurant's own gardens.  Whether you want seafood, sandwiches, salads, or just a fat burger with all the fixins, you can have it--beautifully prepared, and elegantly presented.  Outdoor tables on the courtyard patio are shaded by a miraculous shade that blocks the heat, but not the sunshine.  After lunch, meditate on your good fortune with the reflecting pools in the courtyard, or retreat to the cabanas on the rooftop pooldeck for a post-prandial nap in the lap of luxury.

bistrojeanty.jpgFrancophiles visiting Yountville must make the pilgrimage to Bistro Jeanty, with its red and white striped awning and 1000% French décor.  The interior is too bistro adorable for words, but the south facing terrace seating is the place you're headed in the summertime.  The cozy and classic chairs and tables set the tone for the rustic country French flavors on their way, and the handwritten chalkboard of seasonal daily specials puts lyrics to the music.  Regardless of the specials, I'm always hard pressed not to order their exemplary salade lyonnaise: toothsome but tender escarole leaves studded with luscious sautéed lardons and a perfect, perfect poached egg.  While while heavier than some people might want at lunch, the deservedly famous Petit Salé aux Lentilles is another must-try.  Tender, earthy French lentils are taken to decadent heights by a cross cut of pork belly fried up like bacon, a delicate escalope of seared foie gras, and the chopped pork belly bits and foie gras "juices" that enrich the sauce. Lentils are good for you, so don't resist.

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