Deirdre Bourdet: July 2010 Archives

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.
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.

Sonoma Dining Guide

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girlfig.JPGBy Deirdre Bourdet

Sonoma Valley boasts dozens and dozens of restaurants, from tiny holes in the wall to luxurious palaces.  Where to go depends entirely on the kind of ambience and sustenance you're craving.  Here are some suggestions that may speak to your mood next time you're in the area.

The Depot Hotel.  For old-school Italian nostalgia, you must go to the Depot Hotel.  The 19th Century plumstone building is only two blocks off the Sonoma square, but feels sixty years away with its circa 1950s time capsule dining room and outdoor terrace, with fountain and reflecting pool.   Rest assured, however, that the cuisine has evolved since the 1950s.  Chef-owner Michael Ghilarducci is now joined in the kitchen by his son, Antonio, who has worked at such places as The French Laundry, La Folie in San Francisco, Angele in Napa, and El Dorado Kitchen down the street.  The finest local ingredients are prepared in true Italian style--simply, deliciously, and with a minimum of fuss.  The kitchen produces its own pastas, fresh ricotta, and salumi, and also offers regional cooking classes at its Scuola Rustica.  This month is Summer Sardinian Grilling, offered July 26 and 27th.

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