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4th of July at Spoonbar Restaurant in Healdsburg, CA

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Spoonbar Restaurant ~ 219 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448 ~ 
707.433.7222 ~ spoonbar.com

Stop by Spoonbar in Healdsburg this 4th of July to celebrate life, liberty and the American picnic! Enjoy the day with family, friends and community while grooving to the sounds of the Easy Leaves Duo. Chef Louis Maldonado, recent 2014 Top Chef Finalist and Last Chance Kitchen Winner, is bringing you a family-style menu fit for the 4th festivities. We've got cocktails to match, too!  (Space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot - call us or see more details online; $47pp)

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The menu offering will be served family-style. Guests will start off with a generous First course consisting of Scallion biscuits + honey, Iceberg chop salad, with avocado, goddess dressing, hen egg, bacon, tomatoes, pickled onions + cucumber, as well as a side of Charred corn with aioli, lime, chili + popcorn.

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Bar Manager, Tara Heffernon, has put together a cocktail offering that is reminiscent of days with grass stained jeans and campfires. The House Fireball will warm your belly with Weller 7 Year Bourbon, cinnamon syrup + red jalapeño shrub (learn how to make your own jalapeno shrub here) Looking for something more mellow? Try The Field of Dreams - we built it so you'd come - with New Amsterdam Vodka, midori, honeydew melon, lime + genepy. If you'd really like to take a trip, go for The PB and J. For those of you who preferred Mom to cut the crust, we're sure this will take the edge off. This adult version consists of Mixed Nut Infused Brandy, frangelico, raspberry liqueur + bitters

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We'll be opening up ALL of our doors so you can enjoy the summer breeze while you listen to the sounds of The Easy Leaves Duo. They'll be supplying country folk tunes to set the tone. Their Americana sound will be vibrating from guitar and upright bass--trap kit and pedal steel, "the whipped cream  and cherry". Feel free to get up and get down! 


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The Second Course will be classic picnic fare with Beef sliders, white bread rolls + flavor marmalade. And what is a picnic without some ribs and chicken? Chef Louis will be sending out Smoked Pork Riblets with BBQ sauce and Fried Chicken Legs, with Aleppo chili. Luckily, you won't have to worry about bringing potato salad, because we're serving it up Spoonbar style with grain mustard, shallots + herbs. To round out the mid-course, there will be Shelling beans cooked in smoked tomato + onion with corn meal crumbs.

Cool things down for the Third Course with fresh chilled berries, assorted popsicles + stone fruit cobbler! Then sit back, relax and we'll take care of the clean-up. Raise a glass in honor of life, liberty and the pursuit of savory fare + specialty cocktail! 

July 4, 2014. 5-10pm. $47pp Space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot! For more info on Spoonbar, visit our site http://spoonbar.com, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter + Instagram!

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

Rotisserie & Wine: So Much More Than the Name

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r_and_w.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Historically, the City of Napa--not to be confused with the Napa Valley in which it's located--has not been known for its wine tasting options, tourist attractions, or epicurean sophistication.  In the last three years, however, the city has welcomed the Oxbow Public Market, a remarkable community of over 20 tasting rooms, and a critical mass of excellent restaurants all within an eminently walkable downtown district.  The arrival last year of nationally renowned chefs like Tyler Florence and Masaharu Morimoto marked the end of Napa's status as the culinary ugly step-child of the Napa Valley, and a huge leap forward for all the other entrepreneurs fighting to put Napa on the food and wine map.

Healdsburg's Dry Creek Kitchen

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drycreekkitchen.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

All too frequently, restaurants run by out-of-town celebrity chefs reflect their out of town origins more than their actual location.  Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen bucks that trend in every respect, and more than lives up to its name.   

Chef de cuisine and Healdsburg native Dustin Vallette manages the kitchen, crafting elegant menus from Sonoma County's finest seasonal ingredients to complement the region's distinctive wines.  Sommelier Drew Munro has created an all-Sonoma County wine list of over 600 different bottles, including the largest selection of dessert wines of any Sonoma restaurant, but the restaurant charges no corkage for Sonoma County wines brought in to the restaurant.   Dry Creek Kitchen's active participation in numerous special events throughout the year further celebrates the local winemakers, and food artisans of the area.

The restaurant is situated on the main square in downtown Healdsburg, immediately next to the swank Healdsburg Hotel.  I met General Manager Dan Prentice last year during an unrelated visit to the hotel last year, and after a fascinating discussion of the restaurant's numerous dining and wine programs, he invited me back to experience them first-hand. 

Last Call for Martini House...

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Martini House sign.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

For nine years, Martini House has been the place for a sophisticated night out in downtown St. Helena.  The romantic garden patio, Pat Kuleto interiors, and semi-secret Cellar Bar offered a comfortable scene for everyone, and chef-owner Todd Humphries' seasonal wine country menu consistently hit the spot in every context.  The restaurant earned a Michelin star in 2008, three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle, and was constantly touted as one of the best special occasion spots in the Napa Valley.  

When the news broke last week that the restaurant had been sold and would be closing October 30, a shock wave of dismay and mourning struck the Bay Area.  Owners Todd Humphries, Pat Kuleto, and Richard Miyashiro have sold Martini House to restaurateurs Brian Bennett and Paul Fleming (a founder of P.F. Chang's and owner of several other successful restaurants), who plan to re-open a new restaurant concept in the Craftsman-style space after a period of closure.  Humphries and Miyashiro are also rumored to be plotting a new restaurant venture, possibly in burgeoning downtown Napa, but Martini House as we know it will be gone at the end of this month.

Calistoga's Michelin Star at the Bar

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solbar3.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

I love dining at restaurant bars.  Your server is hardly ever out of reach, there is always something to watch (the bartender, neighboring patrons, the liquor bottles), and the meal experience is far more flexible and forgiving than at a traditional table in the dining room.  Dining alone, ordering plates to share, or ordering just dessert is all perfectly acceptable when you're seated at the bar--and if it isn't, you know you're at the wrong bar.  Dining at the bar also lets visitors to high-end places feel out a restaurant's style without reservations, and with less formality.  When a Michelin-starred restaurant has bar dining, those are the seats I beeline for without a thought to reservations.

Family-Style Dinners at Farmstead

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Photo by Kristen Loken
By Deirdre Bourdet

While some say the recession has officially ended, the focus on back-to-basics, close to home recession specials continues, unabated.  Farmstead Restaurant in St. Helena recently launched a series of moderately priced, family-style dinners aimed at starting some new monthly traditions for this fall.   Whether you're a fan of fish fries, intimate winemaker dinners, or whole hog roasts, Farmstead has a dinner for you.  And as always at Farmstead, the ingredients for these dinners are entirely local, sourced from nearby purveyors and from Long Meadow Ranch itself.  

French Laundry Alum Does Takeout

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tunasalad.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The French Laundry stands for many things... culinary perfectionism, wine country elegance, technical rigor, epicurean prestige, pristine ingredients, and the elusiveness of dinner reservations.  This August, a former French Laundry chef launched a more accessible form of culinary talent in the Oxbow Public Market.  

Graham Zanow and his wife Andrea are both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.  Andrea hails from Napa originally, so after several years of private chef-ing and other cooking jobs in various places, they settled in Napa and started Graham's Catering, an elite full service catering company with a passion for local and sustainable products. Last year the company catered meals for the Top Chef crew of celebrity judges, contestants, and crew members during the season 6 finale in Napa Valley, and this year, they opened a take-out storefront at the Oxbow Public Market.

Domo Arigato, Mister Morimoto

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morimoto1.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

To the collective delight of sushi lovers in wine country (and really, the entire state of California), Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto opened the doors of his first west coast restaurant in downtown Napa this July.  From what I can tell the place has been packed every night since it opened... including the random Wednesday evening I finally made it there to sample some of the Iron Chef's creations.

Auberge du Soleil, Terrace des Délices

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aubergeOutsideDining.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The terrace seating at Auberge du Soleil is an institution. Not simply for the people-watching possibilities, or for the ultra-romantic setting, or for the impeccable Relais & Chateaux service, or even for the perfectly executed and perfectly delicious cuisine from chef Robert Curry.  Dining on the Auberge terrace is special because it offers all of these in one spectacular place--and that's the reason it belongs on the bucket list of everyone who loves the wine country.

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.

It's Never Too Hot To Eat

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gougere blt.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Sunday's Wine Women and Shoes event at HALL St. Helena had the largest, hottest turnout to date... literally.  The temperature felt like it was well into the triple digits, and guests were gulping down the white wine and water like camels at an oasis.  Fortunately, many of the participating food vendors anticipated the fiery June inferno and were dishing out cool, refreshing nibbles to reinvigorate our appetites, help us cool off... and inspire follow-up visits to the kitchens from whence they came.

Several savvy restaurants were offering chilled soup shots to down in between mouthfuls of sauvignon blanc.  The Restaurant at Meadowood offered up elegant shooters of their peak-of-the-season English pea soup with yogurt and hazelnut oil, a beautiful layering of earth, nuts, sweetness, and tang.  Zuzu Restaurant also went green with their avocado gazpacho, a naturally buttery, round and soothing little cold compress for your mouth.  I had to escort myself from the area to avoid stealing all the remaining samples from Betty Teller of the Register, who was womanning Zuzu's table that afternoon.

Dining in Santa Ynez

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Salmon special at Trattoria Grappolo

Image by greenlagirl via Flickr

By Robert P. Farmer

Trattoria Grappolo
Typically bustling with locals, this lively hotspot was opened by an inspired chef transplanted from the Calabria region of Italy. The roast fish and chicken specialties suit nicely after a day of wine tasting in the area. The pizzas from the wood-fired oven are also a popular draw. The wine list features greatest hits from the surrounding valley vineyards as well as selections from the chef's home country. When dinner's done, slip next door to the Maverick Saloon for some true local flavor.

Open for lunch:
Tues-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm;
Open for dinner:  Mon-Sun 5-10pm
3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez
(805) 688-6899

Yeti, I Know You...

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yetifrontdoor.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

I'm sure my girlfriend and I are not the only ones who loved that guy on American Idol who auditioned in Atlanta with his original one-man duet lovesong, beginning "La-ty, I know you," in falsetto.  Now I hear that guy every time I hear a word that starts with "lay" or ends with "tee"... or anything remotely similar.  As we strolled under the large Yeti Restaurant sign into the historic sawmill building of the Jack London Village Shops in Glen Ellen, the Atlanta guy was with us.  But the delectable smells wafting up from the open kitchen into the restaurant quickly put to rest any fears of further comparisons to that performance.  Warm spices, creamy curries, and blistering tandoor breads filled the air with their enticing aromas and made it clear that we needed to get to know Yeti, stat.

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.

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.

Formule de Fig

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fig+front[1].jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

I love prix-fixe menus, and wish more restaurants outside of Europe embraced the concept. There is something very satisfying about walking into a restaurant and having the whole meal just brought to you without instruction, all thought out and planned and decided by the chefs. So obviously, when the girl and the fig invited me to come check out their Bistro Plat du Jour prix fixe, I jumped at the chance.

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?

Redd-y for Action

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redds.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

I'd heard that Redd's bar has quite a scene, but I couldn't quite believe it until I showed up on a Monday night to standing room only. The two guys next to me were trying to pick up their to-go order (and whoever else would tag along), the newlyweds on my other side were toasting themselves and making lifelong friends with anyone who'd hold still long enough, and Patrick the St. Louis sommelier was charming his way into everyone's evening with his seductive beverage list and bedroom eyes.

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.

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