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Dining in Napa, Sonoma, North Bay, and Sacramento

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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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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've enjoyed tasting at Pine Ridge.

For dinner, Zuzu in Napa is fun for tapas, but maybe you're looking for something a little more upscale?

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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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...You can pick up a gourmet picnic lunch at Oakville Grocery. Marvelous!
I'll 2nd that suggestion.

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

thank you all. my head is spinning.

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

Oh yeah. I forgot about Girl and the Fig. Had a couple great meals there. I second (or is that 3rd) that suggestion.

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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)?
Have you taken this trip yet? If so, please post details on where you ended up dining.

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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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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

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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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