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'mktye said:

dry.gif I've never understood the fascination with In-N-Out. Good burgers, but not worth driving an hour+ to get one (and I know people who have!). I actually prefer Carl's Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger to In-N-Out. Of course, after eating either, I feel as if I am about to keel over for the next day or so! tongue.gif

But back to DC-Area burgers (on which I have nothing to add because I have not eaten a burger in the almost 2 years we've been back here)...

yes, when I finally got around to having an In n Out Burger for the first time last year I was a little underwhelmed - good but not the life changing experience some had painted it to be

on the very same trip though I did find the best burger I have ever eaten....at a roadside diner somewhere in Napa:

Taylor's Refresher 

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[The above link is now broken. For the benefit of readers across the country: In 2010, Taylor's Refresher morphed into Gott's Roadside, resulting in a contentious family feud - details can be found here, and for those pining away for the Taylor's of yesteryear, here's a remnant of their old menu.]

Screenshot 2017-03-04 at 4.35.56 PM.png

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Dining near Deer Park and Meadowood Napa Valley (JLK)

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First trip to Napa: - Sweetie Pies - This bakery was in / next to our hotel (Napa River Inn) and provided breakfasts with our room each morning.  The "AM Bun" was a wonderful cross between a croi

A quick rundown of 2 weekends ago.  PM me for more details. Coqueta for dinner Thurs night.  2nd year coming here and we will be back next great.  Great Tapas, and yes I have been to Logrono.

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My parents are attending a wedding at Meadowood in Napa in September.  I could really use any non-fancy pants restaurant suggestions you might be able to share.  They just prefer simple food done well. 

Cost isn't really an option (although some moderately-priced suggestions would be welcome), but I really want them to enjoy this experience and not walk into every restaurant feeling intimidated.

I was in Napa earlier this year and had a fantastic dinner at Bouchon. I expected it to be more fancy-pants than it was, but was pleased with the comfortable, casual atmosphere. The food is incredible (the oysters are a must) and the neighboring Bouchon Bakery is a great place to pick up some treats.

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I am going to SF area and want to spend one day/night up in Napa. Anyone know of some of the best wineries to tour around (nice scenery; not super tourist; friendly)?

Anyone know of a place to get a good meal (can't afford FL, but was thinking of hitting up Buchon)?

thank you.

jonathan

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I am going to SF area and want to spend one day/night up in Napa. Anyone know of some of the best wineries to tour around (nice scenery; not super tourist; friendly)?

Anyone know of a place to get a good meal (can't afford FL, but was thinking of hitting up Buchon)?

thank you.

jonathan

I have had several good meals at Bistro Jeanty which is right up the street from FL. You cannot go wrong with Bouchon. If you are up in St. Helena you might want to stop in at Market.

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I am going to SF area and want to spend one day/night up in Napa. Anyone know of some of the best wineries to tour around (nice scenery; not super tourist; friendly)?

Anyone know of a place to get a good meal (can't afford FL, but was thinking of hitting up Buchon)?

thank you.

jonathan

Bouchon is overrated IMO. It's good decent fare, but there are much better options in Napa Valley. If you kick up you price limit just a tad, go to Terra. You will not be disappointed.

As for wineries in Napa Valley, you might try heading up to Neal Family at the extreme Northeast end of the valley. They are kind of up on the mountain a tad... If you're willing to head over to Sonoma, I'd suggest Bella (certainly not the 'best' wine or winery, but the folks there are very friendly and the place is beautiful. I'd suggest a picnic there on their grounds.

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If you want nice scenery, pack a picnic and head up Oakville grade, off of 29, to Diamond Oaks. They have a beautiful wooded picnic area that overlooks the valley. The view really can't be beat. You do need to buy a bottle of wine to eat there, but they have a couple of good reasonably priced merlots and chardonnays. As a disclaimer, my sister's boyfriend's family owns the place.

I'm also partial to Cakebread and Grgich Hills which are close by on 29. Avoid Coppola.

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I love Frank Family Vineyards in Napa. Their tasting room isn't much, but their wines are really great.

However, Sonoma wineries often have less expensive tasting fees, and their wineries aren't nearly as crowded.

You can pick up a gourmet picnic lunch at Oakville Grocery. Marvelous!

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I am going to SF area and want to spend one day/night up in Napa. Anyone know of some of the best wineries to tour around (nice scenery; not super tourist; friendly)?

Anyone know of a place to get a good meal (can't afford FL, but was thinking of hitting up Buchon)?

thank you.

jonathan

Bouchon has some pretty good dishes here and there (the boudin blanc in particular) and is open very late unlike most of the other restaurants, but there are much better dining options. The best new restaurant in Yountville is Redd named after Chef Richard Reddington, formerly of Auberge du Soleil and Masa in SF. Excellent place - reservations likely required.

Farther north in St. Helena, definitely try Market as previously suggested or Martini House. Both are outstanding in their way and offer dining at the bar if you're interested in a more casual experience. Market appears more homestyle since it offers things like Mac & Cheese, but believe me, it is the best M&C you will EVER have. They refer to it as adult-style and one dish easily serves two. We stopped in for lunch and had it along with the fried calamari made with tempura batter which also included fried red jalapenos and cactus (nopales) -- very unique twist and delicious with two sauces. The mac & cheese is made with Hobbs bacon and a local white cheddar from Fiscalini. Some sour cream and many different herbs & spices really make it extraordinary. Note that the co-owner (former head chef and recipe-creator) is Doug Keane who now spends much of his time over in Sonoma Valley at his restaurant Cyrus in Healdsburg. Doug is one of Food & Wine's 10 Best New Chefs so he knows how to cook. When you can splurge, I recommend Cyrus instead of French Laundry. It's pretty amazing. Also stay in the hotel where it is located if you can (Les Mars Hotel)

I posted previously about Martini House and after a recent re-visit (two weeks ago), it's as good as ever. They do extraordinary things with mushrooms of all types. Beau and I make a special trip to visit them every time. If you sit at the bar downstairs, see if Patrick is working the bar. If so, you'll definitely have a good time.

Wineries on the Silverado Trail are a lot of fun to visit -- most are much smaller than their counterparts on the more touristy Highway 29 side of the valley. Some of our favorites are Vincent Arroyo for excellent Syrah and Petite Sirah, Zahtila for Zinfandel and Casa Nuestra for the VERY low-key hippie-ish atmosphere. Good fairly inexpensive wine all around. They're all up on the northern end of the Silverado Trail. For the scenery, travel a bit further south, also on the Silverado, is Joseph Phelps which has good wine and amazing scenery. It's a huge operation so you'll be there with more than a few other visitors, but the views from the porch are lovely. More upscale than the three previously mentioned.

If you want to stay further south on the Highway 29 side and stay on the upscale side, Cardinale is a beautiful place with great wine and really lovely 360' valley views. If you can meet the winemaker, Chris Carpenter, you're in for a treat. Cardinale also offers Atalon and Lokoya wines.

You should consider stopping into the Oakville Grocery located in, of course, Oakville. EXCELLENT wine selections in the back from places you'll either not have time to visit or that don't offer tours/tastings. Don't let the hordes of tourists packing into the place be a deterrent. Dean & Deluca in St. Helena has an outstanding collection of local wine as well, but lacks the charm of Oakville Grocery which also offers great hot & cold deli sandwiches & other food items.

Wow... too many choices. Regardless of where you go, I'm sure you'll have a great time and be sure to post about your experience.

-Camille

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love the oakville grocery suggestion, also the market one and terra.

thank you all. my head is spinning.

you could also check out this cia greystone student's blog - lots of restaurant reviews (bouchon, girl and the fig, etc)

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you could also check out this cia greystone student's blog - lots of restaurant reviews (bouchon, girl and the fig, etc)
Keep in mind that one day will not really offer enough time to spend in both valleys, so there is that choice between NV and SV with all the other valleys north of them (Alexander, Russian River, etc.) If in the town of Sonoma, then I enthusiastically second the suggestion by AlliK for 'The Girl and the Fig'. HIGHLY recommend their eponymous cookbook as well. I've been cooking my way through it and have been impressed with everything in it thus far.
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I love Frank Family Vineyards in Napa. Their tasting room isn't much, but their wines are really great.

I will second the recommendation for Frank Family. The people are very friendly and they make a very nice Chardonnay (not your typical CA Chardonnay).

After you pick up lunch at Oakville Grocery, head over to La Famiglia winery, buy a bottle of their wine, and enjoy one of their picnic tables [marriage proposal is optional, but it worked for paula and me :) ].

Jarvis is probably the CIA of Napa vineyards. You need to make an appointment for a tour, and the whole operation seems clandestine; however, the tour was pretty cool since the entire winery is built into the side of a mountain.

We missed the tour of Joseph Phelps. However, we did a tasting that included a very generous (and very free) pouring of their Insignia wine, for which they normally charge $10 per glass.

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I would also highly recommend touring Sonoma or Silverado Trail wineries -- they are generally less crowded, charge less (or nothing) to taste, and are more friendly/receptive. In Sonoma, I've had good experiences at Cline (very generous pours & many wines available to taste), Kunde, Gary Farrell, and De Loach. For something different, you could stop by Viansa -- an italian-themed winery in a beautiful location. They also have lots of food products to sample. The wines are relatively inexpensive and you can taste some lesser-known varietals such as arneis, primitivo, charbono, dolcetto, aglianico, etc.

For dinner, I've had good meals at Brix and the CIA (mentioned previously).

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After you pick up lunch at Oakville Grocery, head over to La Famiglia winery, buy a bottle of their wine, and enjoy one of their picnic tables [marriage proposal is optional, but it worked for paula and me :) ].

The La Famiglia winery was sold and is now the property of Diamond Oaks. The picnic tables are still there and the view is still awesome!

Congrats on the marriage proposal there . . . I couldn't think of a more beautiful place to do it.

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Just to continue heaping praise on Market - Camille-Beau is right - best mac and cheese I've ever had, hands down. And darn near the best fish and chips made with a sparkling wine batter.

My favorite winery visit was at Joseph Phelps. We signed up for some sort of extended tasting and ended up the only people in the group. We sat on their veranda and had extra pours of thingsthey don't normally do tastings with. These people love their wines.

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just got back from california; and my day trip to napa was fun.

went to Havens Winery and Robert Sinskey. both had nice pours and delicious wines. beautiful country up there and so accessible from SF and Oakland.

ate lunch at Buchon and sat next to the owner of Elyse Vineyards. tried his wine. ate a filling lunch at Buchon and tried to weasel my way into the French Laundry to no avail.

have to say, i thought the FL would have been more secluded, but i guess maybe 10 years ago it was?????

buchon was tasty, ate charcuterie/pate/boudin blanc.

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I am heading off to Napa and Sonoma in August. I was wondering whether those of you who have been might recommend moderate-to-nice range hotels in Sonoma and Napa? Looking online, I can't get a sense of where places like Santa Rosa are relative to Sonoma, Healdsburg, etc. The most important aspects are cleanliness and reasonable location relative to the wineries...Advice? Thanks!

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I can't believe I am uttering these words, but I will not be returning to the Oakville Grocery. I loved it intensely, but it just got more and more and more crowded. It's not worth going in there and being smothered in the lines snaking through the store.

Last time I was in Napa Valley, we went instead to Dean and Deluca, and that's the route I'll take from now on. Comparable product quality (which is to say: the best), and so much more variety and space.

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I can't believe I am uttering these words, but I will not be returning to the Oakville Grocery. I loved it intensely, but it just got more and more and more crowded. It's not worth going in there and being smothered in the lines snaking through the store.

Last time I was in Napa Valley, we went instead to Dean and Deluca, and that's the route I'll take from now on. Comparable product quality (which is to say: the best), and so much more variety and space.

Summer is, unfortunately, the worst time to visit the Oakville Grocery. It's a very bad sign to pull up out front and see the buses unloading... Perhaps a revisit during the off-season (basically anytime Spring, Fall or Winter) will show that it really is the same old place minus the vast majority of other tourists.
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Restaurant news worthy of note for Napa Valley:

The Napa restaurant formerly known as Budo has reopened as Cuvee Napa, serving comforting American dishes like Cabernet-braised short ribs, clams with chorizo, and fruit crisps. Owner Roger Roessler hired chef Octavio Barrera of Bistro Don Giovanni.

Cindy Pawlcyn has opened Go Fish Grill in St. Helena in the old Pinot Blanc space, partnering with longtime Pinot Blanc chef Sean Knight and Hana chef-owner Ken Tominaga, who runs the sushi bar. Andrew Budnyj, formerly of Michael Mina's Arcadia in San Jose, will be executive chef. The focus is on California-style seafood preparations.

Thomas Keller has opened Ad Hoc in Yountville in the former Wine Garden space he purchased last April. Keller and chef Jeff Cerciello are serving a four-course, fixed-price menu for around $45, featuring the kind of comfort food they grew up with, like fried chicken and beef stroganoff, along with salads from the nearby French Laundry garden. Conceived as a temporary project, Ad Hoc is expected to be open only through winter 2006.

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On a trip last month I hit a couple of newer places, Redd in Yountville and Press in St. Helena. Both seemed to be on the radar screen for new and trendy.

Redd was very busy on a Friday night in August. Menu was very diverse and eclectic. Several dishes with emulsion, aka foam, incorporated into them. Had a risotto starter which was very tasty with lemon truffle oil, which surprisingly wasn't over the top rich. The duck entree was quite nice. Had a $9 chocolate shake, which was in a shot glass, yes that small but ooh, so good. They have a great wine list with many unheard of producers. We had a wonderful Grenache Blanc and several great Pinots. There were lots of folks strutting their stuff with magnums under their arms for corkage. Nice they allow you to do that but we preferred to trying something new.

Press was more of a meat place. Lots of chops, heavier dishes. Very nice decor, right next to Dean and Deluca. Huge wine list with hundreds of CA Cabs to choose from. Some very small productions on the list, which was nice to taste things that will never make there was out here.

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The Doubletree in Rohnert Park is typically a great deal -- within easy striking distance of the Sonoma County/Healdsburg/Russian River-area wineries and just a trip over the hills into the Napa Valley. Very reasonable price for quality and location. It's about 10 miles south of Santa Rosa.

Michael

What MugZ77 failed to mention is that the Doubletree is RIGHT next door to Hana Sushi - which is amazing! A huge selection of fresh fish flown in from Japan, as you can imagine, of exceptionally high quality. We shared some dishes, starting with a special starter - Ken-San's omakase appetizer. This included Shima Aji (amberjack), Tai (Tai snapper), and several other tasty bites, beautifully presented, each with a tiny tasteful garnish. Next was Ken-San's Sushi Mori - another great selection of the freshest fish available. Unfortunately we were too full to go for the full-blown omakase, but another table of 6 appeared to enjoy the (seemingly) endless parade of dishes coming out of the kitchen. (should have skipped the milkshake and sweet potato fries at Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena :) )

Another meal we enjoyed was at Monti's Rotisserie in Santa Rosa. Part of the Willi's family, this location focuses on Mediterranean flavors from the wood-fired rotisserie. This was another sharing experience, which the starter menu leant itself to very nicely - there is an option to compose a selection of 3 'tastes' for about $11-12. We went with hummus, caponata, and a duck liver mousse with lavender honey. A nice concept with not-huge, but big-enough portions. The salad we shared WAS huge and plenty big for two. There is a daily special and we went with it, the mixed grill with a pomegranate BBQ sauce. If memory serves me, the plate included lamb, guinea hen, and a merguez (or was it chorizo?) sausage. Selections for other days of the week all looked equally good, and if they were as nicely prepared as what we had, would be a good choice. The wine list was interesting and offered the choice of small or large pours. The total bill with a couple glasses of wine and dessert (a wonderful lemon blueberry pudding cake) was around $60. Though the restaurant is in a shopping mall setting, the outdoor seating was quiet and surrounded by vine-covered trellises.

The standout meal was at Cyrus in Healdsburg. I'll have to attach the menu tomorrow, but the chef's 7-course tasting menu was a delicious and memorable experience. The variety of ingredients, many of which I haven't seen before and which may not be as available on this coast, was one of the highlights. Pen Shellfish was chewy and sweet in a scallop-like way. (I see it's been an ingredient on the original Iron Chef), and the lemon verbena broth/sauce/jus that was poured around the dish as it was served was a lovely, subtle flavor. The BLT of pork belly, fried green tomato and wilted iceberg lettuce was a favorite. The dessert brought a huge smile to my face - caramel soup with kettle corn sorbet and chocolate filigree. It was VERY sweet, but a lot of fun - the warm caramel poured through the filigree that covered the top of the bowl melted through the chocolate. A very fun dish! I also loved the palate cleanser - a frozen raspberry pop that tasted just like frozen mulled wine to me.

We were seated in the side room which only had 3 other tables, so it was a quiet and calm setting, but for our first visit there it might have been nice to be in the main dining room where the action is :) . I only made the reservation a week out, so I'm not complaining. Having learned our lesson about going overboard with wine pairings, and having bit of drive back to our hotel, we were pleasantly surprised when the option to share a wine pairing was offered. A nice touch that allowed both of us to enjoy the meal, even if it created a little extra work for the very efficient and kind staff. We didn't opt for anything off the pre-meal caviar and champagne cart - we had plenty to work with at dinner.

(Maybe this should be in a new Hwy 101/Santa Rosa/Healdsburg thread)

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Has anyone been to Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar? Tom had it in his recent Sonoma Postcard. (doesn't seem to be a Sonoma thread as yet... not sure if these should be or if Napa is happy to share, or rather this should go with SF, which is where most Sonoma posts seem to be thus far...)

We ahd a delighful if not a little expensive meal at Willi's Wine Bar in Healdsburg. I don't recall what we ate, except many an oyester met their death that night.

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I would also highly recommend touring Sonoma or Silverado Trail wineries -- they are generally less crowded, charge less (or nothing) to taste, and are more friendly/receptive. In Sonoma, I've had good experiences at Cline (very generous pours & many wines available to taste), Kunde, Gary Farrell, and De Loach. For something different, you could stop by Viansa -- an italian-themed winery in a beautiful location. They also have lots of food products to sample. The wines are relatively inexpensive and you can taste some lesser-known varietals such as arneis, primitivo, charbono, dolcetto, aglianico, etc.

Any other tips on wineries to visit in Sonoma (or Napa)? I'm making my first trip out there next week. Thanks for any and all advice!

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A few highlights from a jaunt through Napa:

Schramsberg Winery Tour (Calistoga, $25, by appt.) The first US sparkling wine makers to utilize the Méthode Champenoise, the tour is serious and informative, and leads you into their caves where their 'champagnes' age. It ends with large pours of five of their bottlings including 2-3 tete de cuvees. Really neat and delicious stuff. The caves are gorgeous and the price of admission was justified by the time tasting their wines in a candlelight-lit area of the caves alone.

L'Auberge du Soleil (Rutherford, expensive lunch/dinner). This place has an amazing view. Specify outdoor seating when reserving. The food was very good, but the opporunity to dine on their deck overlooking their pool, the valley, and the distant mountains is the reason to go.

Candlelight Inn (Napa B&;). I loved this place. Its beautful, pretty reasonably priced, very friendly helpful staff, and serene. They are at the end of a cul de sac and have a lovely back yard patio with pool.

Zuzu Tapas & Wine Bar (Napa) Thanks to Metrocurean for the tip on this place. Its just a nice little tapas spot with a comfortable bar area for a light meal of fairly traditional tapas with lots of local wines avaiable by the glass.

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5 days in SF/Napa.

Day 1: SF

Day 2: SF, then up to St. Helena in the afternoon. Wine tasting at Sullivan (didn't hit that many wineries but this was the clear favorite) and Hall, both of which had Cab, Merlot, and iirc, Chardonnay. Dinner at Bouchon started with a "just ok" dry gin cocktail with mint. Apps were Salmon Rillettes and Páté de Campagne, both of which were really well done (the butter layer on the salmon was a perfect contrast, and the use of chicken liver in the campagne meant it was a much smoother, more refined liver undertone). Mains were Sous Vide Pork Shoulder and Boudin Noir, again both stellar. Service at the bar was standoffish, but all of the food was spot-on. Split a bottle of dry red from the Rhone with dinner, then an Aventinus with cheese course. Finished the night shooting some pool at Bilco's and had a Moylan's Hopsickle and what they call a "Bob Reeve's Special" (3/4 Blind Pig IPA and 1/4 Old Rasputin).

Day 3: The whole point of this trip was to visit my friend who is working at The French Laundry, and this was the day I'd be having dinner there. Sadly, he had to work a morning shift, so I had most of this day to myself, but couldn't indulge too much in food/booze since I wanted to save room/liver for dinner. Drove down from Yountville to Napa and checked out the Fatted Calf Charcuterie where I picked up some Páté and Salumi for snacking over the next couple days. Light lunch at Hog's Island Oyster Co: three Kusshi and three Kumamoto, a side of collard greens and a simple salad with cara cara oranges. Spent the rest of the day napping and reading Under Pressure (the new-ish Keller book on sous vide cooking). Dinner at The French Laundry lived up to the hype in every way. I wont go through the entire menu, but the highlights for me were the Cod Milt fritters, the sous vide Calotte beef, and, above all, the corned veal tongue with tuscan lentils, black trumpet mushrooms, and brussels sprouts. Incredible, earth-shattering stuff. I brought in a bottle of Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, which was ably paired with our cheese course (Tomme De L'Ariege was the cheese, served with green grapes, watercress, endives, and black truffles). We did a bunch of half-bottles to pair with the rest of dinner, all suggested by our Sommelier, Anani. Just an amazing experience. Afterwards, had a couple beers at the local dive bar, Panchas.

Day 4: Split a Reuben and picked up a baguette at Della Fattoria bakery in Petaluma, then headed up to the Russian River brewpub, where we sampled the Perdition (a dark belgian), Sanctification (a 100% brettanomyces beer, incredible), Dead Leaf Green (an english pale), and Happy Hops (a "hopped up" blonde). Great beers. Drove up to Healdsburg but found Bear Republic closed for renovations, so we instead stopped into a local dive bar, B&B, where the best beer on offer was a Sierra Nevada Pale. Headed back down to Petaluma to hit Lagunitas, with a quick lunch stop at In & Out for a Double-Double, animal-style. Tour at Lagunitas was good, tasted the Pils, New Dogtown Pale (a big kick up in hop aroma from the previous version. great), IPA, Maximus, and Hairy Eyeball. Dinner at Ad Hoc completed the three-night cycle of Thomas Keller Yountsville restaurants. Family-style fixed menu included a salad with San Danielle proscuitto with a glass of sparkling white, main of Veal Parm with dried capers with Blue Apron beer, a good cheese course and a stellar buttermilk panna cotta. After all this, time to head in to SF.

Day 5: Back to Napa, tour of Chandon, the sparkling producer. Terrible, useless tour, and wines that I couldn't get excited about at all. Lunch afterwards at Bottega was a great way to reverse the way the day was trending. Between the two of us, burrata with artichokes, salumi plate, short ribs, gnocchi. The burrata and short ribs were both great, the rest just pretty good. Terrible beer list, but we split part of a bottle of Italian Red and my buddy took the rest home. Drop him off, and back to SF.

It was a good week.

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Our recent dinner at The French Laundry was perfection in almost every way imaginable. It was worth the hype. It was worth the pricetag. It was worth the transcontinental flight, and the hour-long drive from San Francisco to Yountville. It was worth snaking into my sleekest, classiest dress, even though I knew I'd be busting at its seams by night's end. It was, without a doubt, the most amazing and complete dining experience of my life. Yet, somehow, magically, there was no pretention to be found within its hallowed walls. Here is the menu I enjoyed:

Before the official start of the meal, there were two amuses: a gougere (warm pastry filled with cheese) and the signature "cornets" of salmon tartare and sweet red onion creme fraiche. The former were light, tasty, and a warm and inviting start to our four-hour dining adventure. The latter were mind-blowingly delicate, yet intensely flavorful.

"Oysters and Pearls" - "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and California Sturgeon Caviar. This dish is out of this world. Somehow, the saltiness of the oysters and the caviar combine with the buttery sabayon to transport you to a beautiful French seascape. No ingredient overpowered the dish, which is quite something considering that two of the components are oysters and caviar. Magnificent.

Salad of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm - Cucumber, Radish, Cilantro and Avocado Puree. Compared with the foie gras that was also available for this course (for a $30 upcharge), this salad may seem unremarkable. However, I found it really satisfying and interesting and balanced, particularly each time I got a burst of flavor from a cilantro shoot. The avocado puree was also impressive in its smoothness and intensity.

The bread service was impressive and full of many lovely carby varieties, including mini-baguettes, sourdough, multigrain, and ciabatta. I personally tried the sourdough and the multigrain, and they were both incredible (as were the other choices, according to the peanut gallery). The breads were made even more special and delicious by the availability of salted and unsalted butter, both from small, artisan dairies, and both served at the appropriate temperature.

"Tartare" of Japanese Bluefin Tuna - Sacramento Delta Asparagus, Navel Orange, Perilla and White Sesame. This was one big bowl of concentrated flavor. The tuna practically melted in my mouth, and was really fishy - in a good way. Because it was so rich and velvety, the oranges provided a welcomed acidic punch.

"Beets and Leeks" - Maine Lobster Tail "Pochee au Beurre Doux" with King Richard Leeks, "Pommes Maxim's" and Red Beet Essence. This course was INCREDIBLE. I am still thinking about it, salivating with joy each time I remember the tender, butter-poached lobster'the sweet and oniony leeks (which almost had a consistency like dip) - the beet essence that was exactly that - and the pomme that was the crispiest, most decadent example of a potato chip I've ever tasted. As with each preceding course, the components were delicious on their own, but they reached their peaks when combined as a cohesive whole.

Sauteed Veal Sweetbreads - "Chou-Fleur a la Grenobloise." Absolutely delicious, and perfectly cooked/seasoned.

"Navarin d'Agneu" - Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye with French Laundry Garden Vegetables. I am not normally a huge lamb fan (I'll eat it, but I rarely make a point of ordering it), but this dish was the pinnacle of lamb deliciousness. There were two thick, perfectly cooked (rare to medium rare) slices of meat, accompanied only by their own jus and some colorful, adorable baby vegetables. This course represented, for me, the height of culinary excellence - no frills, no foams, no fancy-shmancy distractions. Just meat, cooked properly, with vegetables.

"Zamorano" - Globe Artichokes, Iberico Ham Croquette, Black Truffle and Mache. This was the cheese course, and I was so very thrilled that we weren't presented with something from the blue family. Instead, we were served a delicious Spanish cheese - it had more bite than a manchego but not as much funkiness as cabrales. I guess it reminded me most of an idiazabal. In any case, yum! The cheese paired beautifully with the artichokes and the ham croquette (which was delicate yet powerful in flavor).

Second bread service included a crusty white bread and a couple of different types of sweet slices (with dried fruit and nuts). I opted for the plain, and I only took a few bites because I was really starting to feel full, but everyone seemed to enjoy their selections.

Andante Dairy Yogurt Sorbet - Cream Scone, Sour Cherry and Black Tea Foam. This was technically the palatte cleanser, but it was like an extra dessert. The sorbet was perfectly creamy and had an amazing yogurty tang, and the sour cherry was the perfect accompaniment.

"Mousse au Chocolat Amedei" - Toasted Cashews, Curry "Arlette" and Gros Michel Banana Ice Cream. This dish was the definition of decadent - rich chocolate mousse, thick banana ice cream, and some wonderful nuttiness from the cashews and the little curry cookie. Even though I was pretty darn full at this point, I was quite tempted to lick the plate.

Mignardises - While I knew that little candies would be part of the end-of-meal service, I had no idea that we were basically in store for two more desserts. First, the server came around with a beautiful silver container full of homemade sweets like meringues, salted caramels, nougatines, pates de fruits, and caramelized macadamia nuts dusted with powdered chocolate. Everything was just wonderful, but the table seemed particularly fond of the macadamia nuts. THEN, the server appeared with a huge tray of homemade truffles - in SIX different flavors (salted caramel, lime, white chocolate yogurt, peanut butter, praline, and one more that I simply don't remember). My sister asked how many she could take, and the server said, "As many as you want!" Music to our ears. Not surprisingly, the truffles were absolutely fabulous - my personal favorite was the white chocolate yogurt, though the lime and salted caramel were also superb.

Throughout the evening, the service was formal, but somehow it felt accessible and friendly rather than stiff and stuffy. We were dining for approximately four hours, but it didn't seem overly drawn out or like there was too much pomp and circumstance. The staff took great care of us, but I didn't get that sense of fakeness and butt-smooching that I've felt at some other restaurants. Just like the food, the service was simultaneously intricate and straightforward.

As we drove away from The French Laundry, full of food and good cheer, it was hard to believe that such a "bucket list" experience had come and gone. Thankfully, everything about the night will remain in my fondest of memories.

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Just returned from another week in Sonoma/Napa. The French Laundry was closed for their summer break that week so was unable to go there. :rolleyes:

A few nice places we liked were:

Bottega - Michael Chiarello's new place in Yountville. Food was very good. Our waiter was top notch as well. Got to meet and briefly chat with Michael. Seems like a really nice down to earth guy.

Armadillos - In St. Helena. Nice place for lunch. Good tamales and quesadillas.

El Dorado Kitchen - Run by former Thomas Keller trained chef - interesting preparations of classic dishes. I had a pizza with figs, caramelized onions and blue cheese. very tasty.

Although didn't make it to either this trip, have really enjoyed Market in St. Helena and Hana Sushi in Rohnert Park in the past as well.

Hit tons of wineries as well. Found several small producers I will add to my rotation.

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Hit tons of wineries as well. Found several small producers I will add to my rotation.

Any you'd recommend we hit during our honeymoon trip next month? I'm very much looking forward to returning to Van der Heyden, but would love a couple of other small producer suggestions. Thanks!

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Any you'd recommend we hit during our honeymoon trip next month? I'm very much looking forward to returning to Van der Heyden, but would love a couple of other small producer suggestions. Thanks!

We spent a couple of days in Sonoma on our honeymoon last summer -- my favorite small winery was Christopher Creek, in the Russian River Valley; Preston of Dry Creek also stands out in my mind. (Preston also sells some food of the bread/cheese/olive variety if you want to picnic.)

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Any you'd recommend we hit during our honeymoon trip next month? I'm very much looking forward to returning to Van der Heyden, but would love a couple of other small producer suggestions. Thanks!

I've always enjoyed Rustridge. It's up in the hills outside Napa. It's also has a B & B and they breed race horses as well.

This time I liked Nicholson Ranch, Hop Kiln and Limerick Lane. Also Artesa has a beautiful facility with awesome views. The wine was pretty good too.

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Any you'd recommend we hit during our honeymoon trip next month? I'm very much looking forward to returning to Van der Heyden, but would love a couple of other small producer suggestions. Thanks!

Try this place. They represent a bunch of tiny producers who for the most part don't produce enough wine to merit having their own rooms. I loved it there and joined the wine club.

http://www.tastelocalwines.com/

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I want to try a Keller place at some point in my life.

I've got a good buddy who works at Ad Hoc, so I'm not the most impartial advisor...that being said, they do fried chicken every other Monday night and it's supposed to be great. If your Monday night is friedChickenNight, I'd recommend that. If not, take a look at the AdHoc menu (it's posted a day before, usually) and make your decision based on that. Also, Ad Hoc is closed on Tuesdays/Wednesdays so you're gonna be limited to Monday night. If the Monday menu doesn't tickle your fancy, you will have no problems finding delicious things to eat at Bouchon. You'll likely spend more money on food and not leave quite as full, but if you want the classic French dishes, Bouchon is where it's at. </ramble>

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Going to Napa for the first time. Two days in October. I guess the question is...

Ad Hoc or Bouchon?

Both. But if you can only fit one, Ad Hoc.

(They're posting menus same-day now, so you'll need to make your reservation long before you know what the menu is. Bouchon gives great bistro, but there are other places to get bistro. Ad Hoc is unique. Though they really do only do the set menu, so not a great place if allergies or aversions are in play. Honestly, either will be a great experience.)

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Just returned from a wonderful honeymoon in Napa.

We stayed at the beautiful Carneros Inn and ate at the FARM twice. We stuck to the bar menu but had the most delicious chilled corn soup and a very nice flatbread - arugula, fig and point reyes blue. We liked them so much we ended up getting the exact same thing (plus an eh charcuterie plate) the second time we went.

Very much enjoyed the atmosphere of Bottega (although the outside - the little strip of restaurants/shops in Yountville felt kindof Disney-ish with its perfectly manicured "town" setup) - a nice, suprisingly local feel to the bar as everyone knew each other on Monday night. Michael C was sitting at the bar when we walked in and seemed to know a lot of the regulars as he popped in and out. An app of shoot peas and corn salad was refreshing and light and the pasta bolognese was very, very meaty. I didn't love it, as the "sweet 100" tomatoes didn't really sweeten it enough for me, but when I added the cheese spread (romano and oil?) that comes out with the bread in lieu of butter, I liked it more.

We went back to the bar for lunch later that week and really enjoed the polenta with mushrooms and balsamic, and the burrata-filled arancini.

Cindy's Backyard Kitchen was a nice meal. The feel of the spot is very "lunch with the ladies" but the menu wasn't really restricted to that type of food - although sandwiches (shrimp salad, a grilled cheese, etc.) looked delicious and felt like they fit in there, the duck tosdada was awesome (and big) - even though it's totally not what I would have expected from the look of the place. I had a really nice fromage blanc ravioli (in brown butter) and another special app I can't remember and didn't have room for the white wine braised short ribs I wish I could have tried.

Dinner at the French Laundry was as people have previously described. It was a once in a lifetime meal that I guess I'm glad I experienced. The service was excellent - the wine list recommendations were extremely pricy though and while I enjoyed the wines, I probably would have been just as happy if we had reigned that in a bit. ($200+ for a half bottle of red...zoinks!)

My favorite meal was at the Martini House in St Helena. They had a really nice outside patio area and an eclectic dining room that was dark and kindof odd but awesome at the same time...a native-american decorated medieval castle with an open kitchen...(?) The cream of mushroom soup was fantastic - just creamy enough and served with a light froth on top - so, so good. My duck breast with cannellini beans (with some rigatoni stuffed with duck and fennel sausage) was excellent. Might have been the best plate I ate the whole trip.

An excellent trip, perfect weather, stellar food and for the most part, surprisingly reasonable prices for the meals we had. I can't wait to go back.

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Just got back from SF/Napa Valley and ate at the following:

A16 Not bad.

RN74 Very Good, loved the ambiance, wine, dishes were spot on.

Chez Panisse Excellent as always. Farro/tomato app was outstanding.

Mustards Very good, always interesting ingredient combinations.

Ubuntu Outstanding, every dish popped.

Bottega Excellent, visually appealing, risotto/pork app was amazing. Pureed melon dip was awesome.

Martini House Outstanding, the best of the trip.

Girl and the Fig Very good as always.

Overall, the freshness of the ingredients still amaze me each visit. Quality of service at each place was very good and most every server had a genuine liking of the dishes being served. Can't wait to go back.

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Other than Cyrus (already have reservations) and Willi's (trust Dean's opinion on such things) are there any other recommendations for the town of Healdsburg?

If you at all enjoy beer, Bear Republic is a necessary stop. If you are in bare need of alcohol, B&B Saloon served as a pretty divey bar last time I was up that way (when Bear Republic happened to be closed).
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Other than Cyrus (already have reservations) and Willi's (trust Dean's opinion on such things) are there any other recommendations for the town of Healdsburg?

There's a little slow-food place called Bovolo in the back of a bookshop off the main square that's quite tasty and casual (counter, not table, service, and a little gelato case.) Ravenette Cafe has only a few tables and a short menu but our dinner there was delicious. I love Healdsburg. Enjoy.
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