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Good BBQ Eats in Napa Valley

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Some days you just don't want to slave over the barbecue pit or grill for hours perfecting those, succulent, smoky, fall off the bone, perfectly marinated and spiced barbecue ribs. And let's not forget the almighty sauce that makes you want to lick your fingers and the plate! Mmmmm mmmm good! 

So, now that your mouth is watering for some ribs, where are you going to get them in Napa Valley? See a few of the restaurants we've identified as having good barbecue in Napa. (in no particular order)

bountyHunterWineBar_barbecueRibs.jpgBounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ, 975 First Street Napa, CA 94559

While they are known for their famous beer can chicken, but it's the ribs and briskets that keep locals and visitors alike visiting this downtown Napa restaurant on a regular basis. (Okay, and the chicken too....) Order a slab of ribs, or share the Smokin' BBQ Platter with friends. Doing double duty as a wine bar, each menu selection also suggests the perfect pairing. We recommend you indulge in both!

Mustard's Grill, 7399 St Helena Hwy, Napa, CA 94558, (707) 944-2424
If you're looking for some down home comfort food with a twist of Napa sophistication, look no further than chef Cindy Pawlcyn's restaurant "Mustard's Grill" also affectionately known as a "fancy rib joint with way too many wines". Order the Niman Ranch Barbecued Baby Back Ribs - perfectly cooked and tender rack of ribs with a sweet tangy barbecue sauce (ask for extra!) Not to go unnoticed are the sides - apple-golden raisin slaw and cheddar-jalapeno corn stix. Priced at $26.50, indulge to heart's content or take some home!

Tip: Don't forget about Fido. Ask to take the bones home and they'll doggie bag for you! Also, we hear the Mongolian Pork Chop is amazing!!!

Q Restaurant & Bar, 3900 D Bel Aire Plaza. Napa California 94558. 707 224 6600
Whether it's the ribs, pulled pork sandwich or brisket, take your pick and you'll be thanking us we pointed you in the right direction. It's located in a strip mall of sorts, but don't let the front facade fool you. Between the barbecue (if you're in the mood, fried chicken too) and a host of delicious sides (try the mac n cheese and collard greens) you'll wonder why you didn't know about this place before! View menu here.

smoakhouseGrill.jpgSmoakhouse Grill & BBQ,  
1755 Industrial Way, Suite 28 Napa, California 94559

This small outfit located off the main drag in Napa's Industrial Park specializes in classic Southern BBQ. We've got a special place in our heart, as do many others, for their St. Louis ribs and the out of this world "bacon chop" - a huge pork chop with the pork belly still attached.  Only open Wednesday - Saturday (11:30am - 8pm), it's best to get your orders in early before popular items sell out for the day. While they recently started a lunch menu, it is extremely limited, best bets would be their take-out, groups and catering menus. Recent article on them here.

Tip: Sign up up to be on their email list too, they send a newsletter announcing weekly specials!


New Napa Valley Restaurant: Empire Napa Grand Opening - May 18th

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empireNapa_Logo.jpgDowntown Napa continues to add sizzle to it's list of hot restaurants and wine lounges. Joining the ranks of Morimoto Napa, Carpe Diem Wine Bar, 1313 Main, Oenotri, and the Thomas and Fagiani's Bar is Empire Napa having it's grand opening this Saturday, May 18th.

Empire hopes to showcase the trademark Napa charm with a cosmopolitan sophistication as a new contemporary small plates restaurant and lounge. The menu will focus on high quality, fresh  ingredients with a host of influences including Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, French, and nostalgic Americana. Plates range from $5-$20 where an individual can easily enjoy a bite and something to drink in as little as 20 minutes or savor as many as 12 courses over three hours with cocktails and wines.

empireNapa_cocktail.jpgA sneak peek at some of the dishes on the menu:

  • Lemongrass Chicken Wraps, Peanut Sambal and Cilantro
  • Mushrooms, Crispy Sage Polenta, Spinach and Preserved Lemon
  • Lamb Belly, Moroccan BBQ Sauce and Pickled Cabbage
  • Mango Kulfi Popsicle with Peanut Caramel
Signature Cocktails ($12-$16):

  • French 75: Linie Aquavit, Lemon, Chardonnay
  • Daiquiri: Lemon Hart 151, Demerara Sugar, Lime Juice, Orange Bitters
  • Ukiah Sour: Mi Casa Blanco Tequila, Lavender Syrup, Lime, Bergamont Bitters

Perhaps even more exciting to those looking for more nightlife options in Napa is that Empire Napa will will be open Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday 5pm-12am, and Friday/Saturday, 5pm-2am which will showcase some of the best DJs in the Bay Area.

Empire Napa, 1400 First Street, Napa, CA; (707) 687.1234

Thanksgiving Dinner in Sonoma

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2012 Update!

turkeyDinner.jpgRestaurants That Will Be Open

It's not too late to have a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner with family and friends where you can leave the dishes and clean up to someone else. See below for which restaurants in Sonoma this year will be open to serve you a grand Thanksgiving feast.

CLICK HERE for a list of all the Sonoma wineries that will be open Thanksgiving Day as well.

Depot Hotel
Bring your family and friends and join Chefs Antonio and Michael Ghilarducci for Thanksgiving Dinner. Open for dinner 12 noon through 7pm with seatings every half hour. Call for reservations if you have a party of 6 or more. MORE DETAILS

Inn at the Tides - Bay View Restaurant
Join The Bay View Restaurant for a festive Thanksgiving Day feast.  Entree choices include traditional Roasted Turkey (children under 12, half price), Lobster Fettuccine, Poached Salmon, Pork Tenderloin, Rack of Lamb and Filet Mignon.  Full menu available on our website. Reservations strongly suggested. MORE DETAILS


Spice Up Your Summer Nights!

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Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma
From butchery to Mexican tamales, plan a culinary getaway to Sonoma Wine Country and spend your summer evenings learning new tricks, tips, and culinary techniques. With the addition of TASTE, a complimentary wine tasting event complete with tasty bites and good company, guests are invited to relax, unwind, and enjoy the warm nights.

ramekinsCulinarySchool_RedPepper.jpg
Summer Tamales with Agustín Gaytá
June 1, 6:30-9:30p.m., $100

Using the techniques and ingredients of his childhood, Chef Gaytá demonstrates how to prepare Mexico's oldest dish, the tamale. Students are encouraged to master the basics, then add their own concepts and experiment with a variety of flavors. From savory to succulent, dishes include Tamales de Mariscos (Shrimp and Scallops with Butternut Squash Wrapped in Swiss Chard and Served with Habañero Salsa) and Tameles Dulces de Coco (Sweet Coconut with Vanilla Cream Sauce). Register for Class!

Braised Pork Belly

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recipe_DryCreekKitchen_Pork-Belly_Credit-Bill-Milne-(2).jpgBraised Pork Belly
Caraway Sauerkraut & Potatoes

Wine Pairing: Dry Creek Kitchen Sommelier Drew Menro recommends the 2009 Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  Freeman strives to make wines of elegance and is able to achieve wines with body and concentrated fruit flavors without high alcohol levels. Their 09 Sonoma Coast Pinot displays brooding flavors of black cherry, plums, and roasted strawberries with hints of mushroom and tobacco. Plus, it has the firm acidity that is needed to match up with the tangy sauerkraut.

In celebration of Epicurean Winter in Healdsburg and the annual Pigs & Pinot event, try this delicious braised pork belly recipe for dinner!

If you are planning a trip to Healdsburg in the next few months (and we encourage you to plan one!), then be sure to take advantage of the Pigs & Pinot Connoisseur Package offered by Hotel Healdsburg. For lovers of Pigs & Pinot that couldn't make Charlie's big event this year, Hotel Healdsburg has created a package for people with a passion for both.

This one-of-a-kind package includes:
  • Two nights in a Hotel Healdsburg premium king or double queen guest room.
  • Private tastings at esteemed Pigs and Pinot wineries - Williams Seylem and Merry Edwards. Tastings are extremely limited and subject to availability.
  • Pigs & Pinot Inspired Dining at Dry Creek Kitchen
  • Pigs & Pinot welcome amenity.

CLICK HERE for more details and to make reservations!

Epicurean Winter in Healdsburg: Culinary Mecca

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healdsburgChamber_olives.jpgHealdsburg is literally a food-lover's paradise; a culinary mecca where chefs have access to fresh, local produce, sustainable seafood, and organic meats throughout the year. The town is home to some of the country's most celebrated restaurants, including two Michelin Star recipient Cyrus, Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, and Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar, which uses produce and eggs from their own farm.

Now through March, "Epicurean Winter" offers an array of culinary festivals, special dinners, wine tastings and specifically geared toward the epicurean. There's something for every food and wine lover who wants to enjoy a relaxing, indulgent escape that's still close to home.

Thanksgiving in Napa Valley

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2012 Update - Where to go for Dinner in Napa Valley!
CLICK HERE to see what Napa Valley wineries will be open as well.

turkeyNsides.jpgGrill at Silverado Resort & Spa
Enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day Buffet in the resort's elegant Grand Ballroom, featuring an array of traditional holiday dishes such as Butternut Squash Soup; Marshall Farm Honey Brined Petaluma Turkey Breast; Herb Roasted Prime Rib; Lock Duarte Salmon; Roasted Sweet Potato Gratin; and Wild Mushroom Stuffing. MORE DETAILS

Meadwood Napa Valley
Sit down to an elegant feast prepared at Meadowood Napa Valley featuring two preparations of Free Range Turkey (Brined & Roaste Breast, Crisp Skin Leg Confit), Duo of Housemade Bread Stuffing (Chestnut and Sage, Italian Sausage), several other sides and a decadent dessert buffet that include favorites pumpkin pie, chocolate cream pie, apple crumble, and an assortment of other treats. First seating is at 12pm. MORE DETAILS.

Napa Valley Wine Train
Thanksgiving on the Napa Valley Wine Train is a traditional Thanksgiving feast in a non-traditional (yet extremely memorable) atmosphere. We'll have all of the customary Thanksgiving fixings, and of course, a perfectly cooked turkey. Many guests have made Thanksgiving on the wine train their family tradition, returning year after year. Lunch Train is already sold out! So make sure to call and make reservations for the Dinner Train.
MORE DETAILS

Siena Restaurant at the Meritage Resort
Keep calm and gobble on this Thanksgiving at The Meritage Resort. Leave the cooking to our award-winning restaurant and enjoy this time of thanks with your family and friends.
Savor a prefixed menu by our Executive Chef Michael Collins that includes turkey carving at your table, choice of an appetizer, a dessert bar, and much more. Turkey leftovers will even be wrapped to take home for a turkey sandwich the next day! MORE DETAILS



Best Food & Wine Destinations

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food_wine.jpegTraveler's Choice Awards 2011 by Trip Advisor

The votes are in and Napa, California was chosen as the #2 travel destination for food and wine by travelers on Trip Advisor in 2011. Are we really surprised? Not really. In fact, what's surprising is that Napa was not chosen as #1!

Trip Advisor sums it up well when it says "Everyone knows Napa as a wine destination, and it lives up to the hype. This is oenophile heaven, and you could spend days going from tasting room to tasting room. There's a flourishing restaurant scene, too, featuring everything from Michelin-starred standouts to tiny local bistros."

CLICK HERE to read the full article and see other destinations that topped the list for 2011.

Restaurant Month in California

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All around California, restaurants are celebrating the month of January with fabulous dining specials and savings for lunch and/or dinner. Splurge, savor, and save is the name of the game. See if your favorite restaurant or one you always wanted to try is on the list in the regions below.

Gold Country. You may not find gold, but with savings on food like these, you might as well have! Restaurant Week in Gold Country is January 32-30 with a grand finale on January 30th where the area's finest chefs will offer a unique opportunity to be an El Dorado Epicurean in a countywide progressive dinner. More Details

Monterey County. Catch some fresh seafood in Monterey during Restaurant Month. Participating restaurants are offering prix fixe dinner menus for $20.11 all month long. More Details.

Napa Valley - see our Food Writer's top restaurant picks for deals and steals. Or see the full list of Napa Valley restaurants and their specials here.

Santa Barbara Wine Country
  • Santa Barbara -Dubbed "Film Feast", the prix fixe restaurant program coincides with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival all happening January 27-Feb 6, 2011. Film goers and foodies are invited to choose from "Short" (two-course), "Feature" (three-course) and "Epic" (four-course) length seasonal menus at participating restaurants. MORE DETAILS.
  • Santa Ynez Valley - The foodie fun begins January 23rd and ends January 29th. It's this region's first time participating in Restaurant Month and they will be featuring special 3-course tasting menus for $20.11. A list of participating restaurants is listed, but you will need to contact restaurants directly for specific days, dining hours and to make reservations. MORE DETAILS.

Thanksgiving Dinner in Napa Valley

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Restaurants That Will Be Open in 2012!
CLICK HERE to also see Napa Valley wineries open for tasting!

Spend more time with family this year. There's no need to slave all day in the kitchen cooking up everyone's Thanksgiving favorites. Leave the cooking and dishes to the chefs of Napa Valley! See what some restaurants have planned for the big Turkey Day!


Grill at Silverado Resort & Spa
Enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day Buffet in the resort's elegant Grand Ballroom, featuring an array of traditional holiday dishes such as Butternut Squash Soup; Marshall Farm Honey Brined Petaluma Turkey Breast; Herb Roasted Prime Rib; Lock Duarte Salmon; Roasted Sweet Potato Gratin; and Wild Mushroom Stuffing. MORE DETAILS

Meadwood Napa Valley

Sit down to an elegant feast prepared at Meadowood Napa Valley featuring two preparations of Free Range Turkey (Brined & Roaste Breast, Crisp Skin Leg Confit), Duo of Housemade Bread Stuffing (Chestnut and Sage, Italian Sausage), several other sides and a decadent dessert buffet that include favorites pumpkin pie, chocolate cream pie, apple crumble, and an assortment of other treats. First seating is at 12pm. MORE DETAILS.

Napa Valley Wine Train
Thanksgiving on the Napa Valley Wine Train is a traditional Thanksgiving feast in a non-traditional (yet extremely memorable) atmosphere. We'll have all of the customary Thanksgiving fixings, and of course, a perfectly cooked turkey. Many guests have made Thanksgiving on the wine train their family tradition, returning year after year. Lunch Train is already sold out! So make sure to call and make reservations for the Dinner Train.
MORE DETAILS

Siena Restaurant at the Meritage Resort
Keep calm and gobble on this Thanksgiving at The Meritage Resort. Leave the cooking to our award-winning restaurant and enjoy this time of thanks with your family and friends.
Savor a prefixed menu by our Executive Chef Michael Collins that includes turkey carving at your table, choice of an appetizer, a dessert bar, and much more. Turkey leftovers will even be wrapped to take home for a turkey sandwich the next day! MORE DETAILS



Take a Gourmet Retreat

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casaLanaGourmetRetreats.jpgCALISTOGA, CA - What better way to experience the essence of wine country cuisine than with a gourmet retreat? If you are an avid home cook or food enthusiast, then take your cooking to the next level with a culinary vacation in Napa Valley.

At Gourmet Retreats, located in Calistoga, CA at CasaLana B&B, sign up for hands-on cooking classes taught in a professionally equipped kitchen. To ensure personalized attention and one-on-one attention, classes are limited to only 9 participants. They include printed recipe handouts and a generous sampling or meal of the food prepared served with wine/beverage. All kitchen equipment is, of course, provided as well.

Gourmet Retreats offers Culinary Vacations, Boot Camp, One-Day Wine Country Classes, and Gourmet Weekend Retreats as well. Choose from a variety of class lengths ranging from as little as 5 hours to 5 days.

View sample Itineraries for a Culinary Vacation



Best Bets For Brunch in Napa

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By Deirdre Bourdet

I'm a firm believer in the classic mom maxim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day--particularly if your day begins in Napa.  Lining the stomach against all-day wine tasting, and feeding the brain in order to remember what you've experienced are both essential for optimal enjoyment of this food and wine paradise. Here are some of the best places in Napa proper to begin your taste adventure.

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.

Secret Gardens of The French Laundry and Bardessono

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By Deirdre Bourdet

frenchLaundryGardens1.jpgWho doesn't love being let in on a secret? Particularly a secret that involves the magical stuff that The French Laundry puts on its dinner plates. Summer is the perfect time to discover Jacobsen Orchards and Hill Family Farm, the tiny, family-owned, organic farms that sell only to The French Laundry and Bardessono Restaurant.
 
You can walk the Jacobsen Orchard rows, taste and smell the organic peaches, plums, herbs, and esoteric vegetables that are inspiring Thomas Keller this season, and hear all about the history of this farm connection and its golden wares from the godson of the Jacobsens: Ryan Hill.  Ryan will regale you with tales of the Jacobsen Orchard's humble beginnings in the 1970s, when San Franciscans Peter and Gwenny purchased the Yountville land and tiny wooden shack as a country getaway, complete with outdoor shower/garden hose. Their cabin is still there, just across from the larger barn residence brought in several years later, and the fabulous outdoor kitchen that now looks out on the farm rows themselves.

Go West, Young Gourmand

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uptown-theater.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

According to my friend Chris (@NapaChris on twitter), a New York Times reporter stopped in to his tasting room last week as part of an upcoming piece on Napa's developing  "West End" district.  Pretentious name aside, national coverage is well deserved.  This part of town has some of the best--and best priced--foodie fun Napa has to offer.

I don't know how the Times is planning to define the region, but I'd say the cool stuff is bounded by Seminary Street on the west, 4th Street to the south, Coombs Street to the east, and 1st Street to the north--a small area to be sure, but one that already boasts four note-worthy restaurants, a swanky boutique hotel, a newly renovated historic live music venue, several intensely social art galleries, and two of my favorite tasting rooms in Napa.

Another Yountville Star

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michelin_star02.jpgÉtoile's wunderkind chef, Perry Hoffman, has joined the Michelin ranks.

By LeeAnne Jones (Napa Sonoma Magazine)

In 2009, at the age of 25, Perry Hoffman of Domaine Chandon's Étoile Restaurant became the youngest U.S. chef to be awarded a Michelin star. Knowing his story, it's obvious why: Hoffman has restaurants in his blood.

His grandparents, Sally and Don Schmitt, were the original owners of the French Laundry, and Hoffman spent his formative years helping in the kitchen. "I grew up on French Laundry leftovers," he says. "We'd have family meals at a picnic table in the herb garden. It was a lot of fun." Continuing his family's legacy of cooking was an easy decision. Hoffman worked in the kitchens of the Boonville Hotel, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, and Auberge du Soleil before landing at Étoile in 2007, where he was quickly promoted from sous chef to chef de cuisine to executive chef.

Bacon and Egg Salad

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solbarRecipeBaconEgg.jpgChef Brandon Sharp of Solbar at Solage Calistoga - Calistoga, CA

A full-service bar and restaurant, Solbar serves up delicious California Soul Food and is open to the public. Named Napa Valley's Best New Restaurant, Solbar features a woodsy-chic vibe inside, and a spacious outdoor terrace where you can dine or relax with drinks by the firepit while taking in stunning views. In-room, take-out and poolside food service is available.

Savor our flavorful, seasonal, ingredient-driven menu that features the best local, organic and sustainably farmed elements for both indulgent and healthful selections.

Easter Bunny In The Tummy

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Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen

Image by GoodWineUnder20 via Flickr

By Deirdre Bourdet

I think rabbits are very, very tasty to eat.  I should disclose here that I had a pet rabbit as a young kid. Though soft, cute, and all the rest you would expect, my rabbit was a serious curmudgeon that hated to be picked up, petted, or otherwise distracted from his business of constant eating and pooping. Consequently, I feel no remorse in eating his brethren at every possible opportunity. And what better time than Easter?

The macabre appeal of an Easter bunny for dinner enchants far more people than I would ever have thought.  A few years ago I decided at the last minute to make an Easter rabbit, but incredibly, none of the local butchers had any unclaimed bunnies to offer in the last few days before the holiday. EVERY STORE had sold out. Clearly, my sick mind was not alone in craving some Easter bunny for dinner; it was just too slow to plan ahead to reserve one like everyone else.
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The Pearl of Great Price

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By Deirdre Bourdet

The Restaurant Pearl has anchored the corner of Franklin and Pearl Streets in downtown Napa for almost fifteen years, and is much beloved by locals with a taste for internationally-inflected wine country cuisine.  The steak soft tacos, the Guerrero-style grilled corn on the cob, and anything and everything seafood on the menu have cult followings.  But as the restaurant name suggests, the oysters are the most unique and fabulous things to eat there...  and the most fabulous time to eat said oysters is in the winter, on a chilly Saturday afternoon during the Oyster Extravaganza.

Taste of Suisun Valley

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Suisun Valley has more going on than just grapes!

While you're initial trip to the Suisun Valley AVA might be wine tasting geared (and we don't blame you), be sure to stop in at the local farm and produce stands. Suisun Valley has several farms open year-round with fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables. Many of these are family-owned farms and we're sure you won't be able to resist a myriad of juicy peaches, sweet corn, strawberries, plums,  tomatoes, squash, watermelon and much more.


Yountville's Moveable Feast

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hemmingway.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Adding to the list of delicious off-season promotions, Yountville continues to buzz with the excitement of the first annual Moveable Feast--a self-styled "Seasonal Gastronomic Gallop" through the town's luxurious lodging, spas, and eateries.  Eleven hotels and ten restaurants have put together value-focused packages and prix fixes to lure visitors into the charming little foodie mecca.

Most participating restaurants offer either a massively discounted prix fixe menu (about $24-25 per person for lunch, $28-55 for dinner) or a special price on some of their greatest hits.  Bouchon Bakery hands away free chocolate bouchons with the purchase of any coffee, while Bouchon Bistro next door promotes its late-night scene after 10:00p.m.with a $20 two-course supper of oysters or French onion soup, and croque madame sandwich.  Bistro Jeanty offers one dollar oysters and foie blond paté during happy hour Monday through Thursday (3:30-6:30pm).

Tavern of Burgery Delights

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burger1.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The much-anticipated Norman Rose Tavern opened with a bang at the end of December, with crowds out the door and throngs around the bar.  No one expected any less for a new restaurant from the folks behind the deservedly and wildly popular Pizzeria Azzurro just a few blocks away.

The Tavern is the first restaurant open for business in the new Napa Square Building, in a quickly upscaling section of First Street in downtown Napa. It bills itself as offering "elevated American classics" like big chopped salads, fried chicken sandwiches, all-beef hot dogs from Fatted Calf, mashed potatoes, french fries, and of course... cheeseburgers.

Mini Bistro, Mega Delicious

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mini mango kitchen shot.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Mini Mango Thai Bistro opened this month in the downtown space last occupied by Bleaux Magnolia, and judging by the packed house and fifteen minute wait last Friday night, Napa's Asian food fans have already heard about it.  The place is indeed mini, as the majority of the seating at that location is outside on the fabulous (seasonal) patio.  But in a commendable show of restraint, the new tenants have not festooned the tiny indoor space with diminutive mangoes as you might expect from the name.  The look, like the cuisine, is minimalist and contemporary, with nary a mango in sight.

'Tis the Season... for Olives

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By Deirdre Bourdet

The start of olive season always gets me excited because it means olio nuovo is here--the bright green, fresh out of the press, creamy and practically alive-tasting oil. It's the first, freshest extra virgin oil from a crush and it only keeps its magic for a short time, making it an elusive commodity. I love to finish salads or fish with a drizzle of the stuff, or just set out a dish with good bread and sea salt for one of the simplest and most delicious snacks ever... more than worthy of a quality bottle of vino to wash it down.

Frankie's Italian Deli & Grocery

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frankiesDeli.jpgNew Downtown Napa Deli

I had pretty much given up hope in finding a really good deli sandwich for lunch in downtown Napa. Too often workmates tried to lure me to makeshift deli places and each time I left disappointed and many times throwing my sandwich away on the sly. As a result, I decided to just part ways with this standard fare for lunch. And certainly, downtown Napa has plenty of other lunchtime options.

However, today I ventured into Frankie's Italian Deli located on 1502 Main Street at the urging of a friend who boasted she loved everything on the menu.  "Everything"?  Hmmm. I decided to order the Genoa sandwich which had Italian salami, provolone & anchovies, red onion, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette on a French roll. (had them add pepperonchinis too).  And my opinion on the matter?

Pumpkin Lovin

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Pumpkin Cupcake Karas 3.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

This time of year you can't turn around without a pumpkin or nine staring you in the face. Every storefront has trotted out at least ten or twelve for the window display, and the Stanly Ranch Pumpkin Patch is rockin' and rollin' with its hay bale maze, giant sunflowers, and pumpkins of every size and color. Though the decorative pumpkin frenzy will die down after Halloween, the edible pumpkin bandwagon is just getting going in wine country. It's one of my favorite seasons for sweets.

Open Studios, Open Mouths

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short_season_.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The sensory delight of Napa Open Studios begins September 19th. What better way to celebrate wine country's artists than with local wines and nibbles?

Although many venues are hosting special events, the offbeat G Studio in the upstairs of an old factory in Napa lets visitors meet the artists and their creations in the actual studio space where they work. The resident artists include Kate Salenfriend, Reuben Godinez, Katie Roberts, Deb Lubin, and glass maven Patti Wessman, whose fabulous tableware designs look straight out of that sexy wine country restaurant you've been dying to visit. Visiting artists Yvonne Henry, Heather King and Nancy Shapiro join the party for Open Studios this year. Walk around and chat with these crazy colorful characters about their inspiration as you sip seriously good wine (Bennett Lane, Bighorn, Tres Sabores, and many others), enjoy the late summer light streaming in the windows, and ponder the beauty of life.

Five Fun Things in Downtown Healdsburg

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healdsburgmarket2.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

(1) Healdsburg Farmer's Market.
One of the most famous farmers' markets in the Bay Area is mere steps from the square. Unusual heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers are only the beginning... local cheeses, meats, seafood, and breads round out the offerings and make it clear you are in a very delicious place.

Healdsburg Farmer's Market
Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings (check website for seasonal closure)
North and Vine Streets, Healdsburg
707-431-1956

Perfect Patios

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williseafood.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The heat is on! And few things are more glorious than summer dining alfresco in wine country. I offer only three recommendations here because there are far too many fabulous patios than I can do justice to in the space permitted.

Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar just off Healdsburg's main square has a blissfully shaded garden patio on which to sample their delectable and different small plates. Tuna tartare--normally a snore-inducing must-skip item for me--goes in an entirely new and awesome direction here with cashews and slivered chilies in a cool coconut milk sauce, served atop crispy taro chips. Pumpkin seed-cilantro pesto takes bacon-wrapped scallops to new levels of delicious depravity. If it hits triple digits on the patio, move inside to the bar and have Bob the bartender (or one of his compatriots) cool you down with a cucumber martini.

Summer Love

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Summer romances are as old as time, and like clockwork, I find myself falling in love every year around this time. I speak of course of fresh salmon.

Nothing says summer more enticingly than a huge piece of barbecued wild salmon, charred and smoky from the grill, its succulent pearlescent flesh crying out to be devoured. Unless you consider sweet and toothsome and absolutely impossible-to-say-no-to grilled corn on the cob... ; or the intoxicating fragrance of farm-fresh heirloom tomatoes seducing the unwary into $30 salads... or hunks of cold watermelon so juicy that you need a napkin just to think about putting a piece in your mouth.

In Memoriam: Ubuntu's Strawberry Sofrito Pizza

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strawberry sofrito sandwich.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Napa recently experienced a sudden, tragic, and devastating loss... Ubuntu took its strawberry sofrito pizza off the dinner menu. In my humble opinion, this dish showcased all the best qualities of the restaurant: uber-local organic ingredients, creatively prepared, internationally inspired, and perfectly executed. Who else would think to combine Napa's famous summer strawberries with onions and garlic, slow cook the mixture in olive oil for three days to a sweet, savory, caramelized nirvana, and then spread it on a thin-crust pizza with fresh burrata and pine nuts? It was bliss, and I was in love.

The Locals Know Where To Dine in Monterey

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Marie Galbo

Business brought me to Monterey; my stomach brought me to the Monterey Fish House.

I have only been to Monterey a couple of times so I stopped a few places and asked some locals for recommendations on where to eat with the remark "I don't need fluff & puff, just want good food".   Nearly every person mentioned Monterey Fish House.  I set out to find the location and turns out the fish house was right around the corner from where I was staying at Lone Oak Lodge.   

Grilled Ribeye with Red Wine Porcini Sauce

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recipeMerryvale.jpgSubmitted by Chef Jim Filaroski of J. Alexander's

Wine Pairing: Merryvale Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Summer's here and the time is right... for a barbecue!  Invite your friends over, uncork a bottle of Merryvale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and get the coals hot.  This great grilled rib-eye dish is sure to be a crowd pleaser and pairs impeccably with Merryvale's Cab.

Pizza and Pinot

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estate.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

A $10 dinner with wine in a wine country restaurant is like a unicorn--beautiful, magical, fun to think about, but totally a mythical beast... or at least that used to be the case.  I can now say with certainty that such an animal exists, every night, AND you can sit outside by a fireplace to enjoy it.  

Estate is Sondra Bernstein's latest restaurant project in the old General Daughter's location just a few blocks west of the Sonoma square. The restaurant offers up some seriously well-priced California-inflected Italian cuisine, and the Pizza and Pinot special is perhaps the best example of the restaurant's bicultural offerings.  Every night, and all day Saturday and Sunday, the bar menu features your choice of pizza with a glass of featured pinot grigio or pinot noir... for ten dollars. Total.  

Killer Bread

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recipe_KillerBreadSilos.jpgThis food item is the absolute best; cheesy, tasty, and makes your mouth water. The tomatoes are awesome with the sour dough bread and the cheese. Everyone orders and loves this item at Silo's Wine Bar and Jazz Club.

Recipe: Killer Bread

Wine Pairing: Pinot Grigio (favorite is by Luna Vineyards)

Chef Name: Linda Whitted

Ingredients:
butter, mayo, Parmesan cheese, garlic, mozzarella cheese, sour dough bread

Directions:
I cant tell you anything more or give details . . . its a SECRET!

Readers: Looks pretty good from the picture and easy to make.  Probably perfect as a snack or along with dinner. Would love to get some readers thoughts on how to make this since we aren't given any directions...

Silo's Wine Bar and Jazz Club
"Pairing Great Wines with Great Music"
530 Main Street
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 251.5833
www.silosjazzclub.com

Indulgence Within Reach

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bounty_hunter_winebar.jpegby Deirdre Bourdet

Far more could be said about the positive aspects of the recession than would fit on this blog, so I'll limit this discussion to some of the incredible discounts available these days on Napan indulgences.

One of my personal favorites is the all-day Monday happy hour at Bounty Hunter, where the entire stable of "house" brands is two-for-one by the glass... including the Waypoint Vineyards Beckstoffer/To Kalon wines, normally $20 a pop.  If you can make it in between 3 and 6 p.m.  on the other weekdays, the same deal applies.  Consider adding a "mini" barbecue sampler plate heaped with pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and coleslaw to your tab, and you've basically got dinner and two glasses of killer wine for $35.

Deirdre's Top 5 Oxbow Market Snacks

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cupcake.jpgby Deirdre Bourdet

For those of you who love food emporiums as much as I do, here is my list of the top five things to hit on an eating romp through Napa's Oxbow Public Market.  Warning: may be habit forming.

The Best Shrimp Tacos north of Baja...

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La Taquiza sign.jpg

By Deirdre Bourdet

Who knew they would turn up in a suburban shopping plaza just off Highway 29 in Napa? Or that they would be offered alongside fabulous mushroom quesadillas and scarily good grilled octopus burritos?

La Taquiza is a gem. Though the restaurant name suggests that the fish tacos are the can't be missed signature item, do not be misled. Shrimp is the way to go here. Perfectly grilled to order, juicy, succulent shrimp, to be specific, buried under fresh shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, salsa verde, and a luxurious dollop of crema. All you need to attain nirvana is to anoint them with your condiments of choice--pickled onions, more pico de gallo, and/or one of the housemade salsas, as you prefer--and lift the Mexican masterpiece to your lips.

Cheap Burger no More?

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By Robert Farmer

Can somebody tell me what happened to Babe's Burgers? Actually, I think the official name was Babe's Burgers and Franks but everybody just called it Babe's. It's the little ramshackle shop along the highway (Hwy. 121, to be exact) that neatly ties together Napa and Sonoma valleys. You know the place. Or maybe you don't. That was the beauty of Babe's, it was beloved by some, completely off the radar for others. It was the kind of place that maintained an "insider" vibe no matter what restaurant was currently the talk of the valley - either valley. It was easily blown by when cruising along the Highway in the Carneros District, bouncing from one winery to the next.
recipeDryCreekKitchen.jpgSubmitted by: Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen
Chef: Les Goodman

Wine Pairing Suggestion:
Papapietro Perry Winery 2005 "Peter's Vineyard" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, located in Hotel Healdsburg, serves an ever-changing menu celebrating Sonoma County's fresh seasonal ingredients and wines. Each March, Chef Palmer hosts Pigs and Pinot, a two day festival of spectacular food and wine.  This dish is a tribute to Pigs and Pinot and is paired with this year's winning Pinot Noir.


Hotel Healdsburg
25 Matheson Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448
800.889.7188
www.hotelhealdsburg.com

Dry Creek Kitchen
Hotel Healdsburg
317 Healdsburg Avenue
Healdsburg, CA 95448
707.431.0330
www.charliepalmer.com



Pigs & Pinot: The Perfect Pairing

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pigsPinot.jpg
***Find 2010 info HERE. Event is March 19-20, 2010!***

HEALDSBURG, CA - Don't miss this year's Fourth Annual Celebration of Pigs & Pinot 2009 event, March 20-21, 2009 at Hotel Healdsburg. The weekend will include a series of intimate dining and educational events hosted by renowned Chef Palmer.

Tickets can be purchased directly online and there are several lodging packages available at Hotel Healdsburg which include access to all Pigs & Pinot events, including exclusive access to the Gala Dinner. But space is limited; so make sure you make advance reservations now!

Happy Hour at Bounty Hunter Wine Bar

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bountyHunterBBQ.jpgNAPA, CA - Locals or any in the area during the work week trying to save a buck (or two) on a light late lunch or early dinner should stop by Bounty Hunter Wine Bar in downtown Napa.  Bounty Hunter boasts 40 wines by the glass and a seven page wine list of wines from around the world.

The items on their regular food menu can start to add up, but their happy hour is quite the bargain.  Happy Hour is Monday - Thursday only from 3 to 6 pm and features:

  • 2 For 1 - Bounty Hunter Brands By-The-Glass
  • 25% off the Wine List
  • $5 Quarter Slab BBQ Ribs & Slaw
  • $10 Smokin' BBQ Taster Plate
  • (includes ribs, brisket, & pulled pork)

Stop by for a small respite from the worries of life.

Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ
975 First Street
Napa, CA 94559
www.bountyhunterwinebar.com


Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery - Chocolate Bouchon Mix!

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bouchon.jpgIf you've ever been to Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in Napa Valley Wine Country, then most likely you have tried their signature chocolate treat called "Bouchon".  It is chocolaty, brownie, cake-like goodness that no person should be without! If you have yet to go, definitely make this as a must visit, see, and taste for yourself stop next time you are in town*.  But what will you do until then???

Apparently, Bouchon Bakery has partnered  exclusively with Williams-Sonoma who are now selling the Chocolate Bouchon Mix directly to consumers.  "The mix combines Guittard cocoa powder, Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla and a generous helping of Callebaut chocolate chips".

It's only $18.00 and yields 18 bouchons.  Of course, you also have to buy the "bouchon mold pan".  Sigh...just looking at the picture is making me salivate all over again. I may have to order my mix tonight or since I live local, maybe just pop over to the bakery itself.

If there are any readers out there that have already tried the mix and have tasted the original, let us know if it tastes the same!

*Note: Bouchon Bakery is also located in New York and Las Vegas.

Nut Case

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erika_newheadshot.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Erika Heinemann is nuts.

You'd have to be to leave a comfy job as chef at one of Napa's best-known wineries to start from a business from home making and selling...nuts. Well, wine nuts, to be exact. Heinemann, a professionally trained chef who's logged time on the line at the French Laundry, left Duckhorn Wine Company several years ago to start Savvy Wine Food, a food-and-wine-pairing business headquartered in the Napa Valley.

Falling for Fallfest

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fallfest2.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

San Francisco Magazine's annual Fallfest festival of food and wine   goes down soon - October 11, to be exact - and is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated food events of the fall season. After all, any event that transforms San Francisco's waterfront into a European-style epicurean market is just fine by me, particularly one that features a bevy of the Bay Area's top restaurateurs, winemakers, eco experts and artisans as its hosts.

DIY Gourmand

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how_works_body.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

IKEA got it right:  Give design conscious customers appealing, easy-to-assemble furniture at reasonable prices, and - presto! - they score designer-caliber furnishings, a feeling of accomplishment and even cross the finish line with enough dough left in the bank to splurge on the matching ottoman.

Everyone wins.

Mat to Table

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By Courtney Cochran
Leave it to wine country dwellers to divine a venue where you can master downward dog, realign your chakras and dine on sustainably farmed eats and drink all in one place.  At Napa's new Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio (ubuntunapa.com), a daily roster of classes including Ashtanga, Hatha, prenatal and Vinyasa techniques is complemented by - what else? - vegetarian-inspired cuisine crafted from goods sourced from local farms and the spot's nearby biodynamic gardens.
by Courtney Cochranoxbow.jpg

If the flurry of construction that's been underway along the waterfront in downtown Napa is any indicator, the once-sleepy city is on the brink of becoming a major tourist destination. And the Oxbow Public Market (oxbowpublicmarket.com) - at just three months' old one of the newest additions to the downtown area - may be one of the city's most promising new arrivals.  Read on for the scoop on our favorite purveyors in this venue that looks poised to become the next big thing in a whole new Napa.

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