Photography / See Hatsie Travel

Travel: Napa Valley – Where to Eat

It’s Napa Week!  I was recently lucky enough to find myself in Napa, California for 5 days with my mom and sister in law.  We ate, drank, and soaked in the beautiful, inspiring views.  It was a trip of a lifetime.  This week I will be relaying my adventures here, starting with what and where we ate.  And believe me, it was a lot.

We arrived in San Francisco Wednesday afternoon and took a quick detour to Pier 39 to visit the sea lions (much more of that to come), picked up some San Francisco sour dough for breakfasts in our bungalo, and then were on our way to Napa.

We arrived at our little rented house around 6pm, which rounded out our total travel time that day to about 12 hours.  We were exhausted, hungry, and really, really thirsty for wine.  Luckily, we had come to the right place.

Thursday morning we each woke up before 7:00am, more rested than we had ever been.  If you’re from the East coast, the time difference is great; you wake up ready to take on the day and are exhausted and ready for bed by 10.  I don’t remember being more rested, vacation or otherwise.  Because of our early rise, we had some time to kill before our day began, so we got in the car and found a local coffee shop.

The Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company is locally run and has great coffee, tea, and breakfast options.  If you’re really into coffee, and even more into local businesses, this place will make you happy.

Our first two days in the Valley were spent touring vineyards, sipping wine, and grabbing picnic lunches to eat outside.  Prior to our picnic Thursday, we stopped at the Oakville Grocery to buy provisions.  Oakville Grocery has been a stand-by in the area for over a century.  Founded in 1881, it’s the oldest longest running grocery store in California.  Needless to say, I wanted to get lost in this place.    Seriously, go on without me.  It was quaint and I wanted to spend all of my vacation budget on olive oil and bread and cheese.  So typical.

Instead I bought a tote bag, a single baguette to place inside of said tote bag because I want to be a French woman always, and a sandwich.

We ate our sandwiches, bread, and cheese overlooking the Vineyards of Pride Mountain.  It was a cool day and we chose a sunny picnic table, each of us turning our face to the mountains and the sun.
I chose a turkey sandwich with brie, arugula, and fig compote on crusty ciabatta bread.  It was slightly sweet, creamy, and a little bitter from the peppery greens.  We spent a few blissful minutes consisting of caprese salad, a couple of asparagus spears pilfered from my mom, a mountain view dotted with pine trees, and wine knowledge swirling in my head.
We had a similar lunch the next day, mostly out of necessity.  When one begins drinking wine at 10am, even if it is little sips, one needs sustenance by mid-day.  We stopped at Dean and Deluca, (where Felicity worked!) which is another specialty grocery store, and another place I could have been left in.
I bought some proprietary spice mixes for my Aunt Joan and Dad and an Italian sandwich for myself.
The Italian at Dean and Deluca had premium salami, prosciutto, and capicola cured meats and balsamic marinated fresh mozzarella all surrounded by crunchy ciabatta bread.  It was the perfect meal to eat outside, next to a fountain, between wine tastings.
Our last full day in Napa was left unscheduled.  We wanted to explore the Valley, shop a little, and enjoy our free time.  We started at Model Bakery which is famous for their homemade English Muffins, among other things.
The English Muffins are crispy on the outside and perfectly light on the inside.  They’re unlike any English muffin you’ll find at the store, and for that, you’ll rejoice.  We also got a cherry cheese danish and pain de chocolate, because chocolate croissants are my love language.  Look at those flaky layers and ribbon of dark chocolate.  Forget Dean and Deluca, want to live there.
We explored the Oxbow Public Market which is filled with different food vendors and shops.  I bought some adorable olive dishes, a cute demitasse spoon, and kicked myself for being too full of chocolate croissant to eat a couple of breakfast burritos from C Casa.
I can also recommend Gott’s Roadside for burgers and fries from a previous visit.  Lest you think me a true glutton, no, we didn’t get a burger because it was morning time and I’ve already told you about the pastries, but Gott’s is a must-visit if you are in Napa.
Saturday, we ate a late lunch at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen outside on their patio.  I ordered the roasted pork tacos (I couldn’t stop thinking about Mexican food after I saw those breakfast burritos) and a salad while Mom and Kels ordered soup and salad.
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen feels like you’re eating in someone’s home and serves good, honest food.  They have a broad menu and each item is delicious, I’m sure.  The caesar salad is to die for.
As for dinner, I don’t have pictures because I won’t be that obnoxious girl with a giant camera in a nice restaurant.  (I have no problem being that girl with an obnoxious camera in a bakery, fancy grocery store, or picnic table).  That said…

Other Restaurants at which we dined:

We started with Oenotri in Napa.  Oenotri changes their menu daily, but regardless of what’s in season, the menu is always filled with delectable and exciting Italian dishes.  We started with a simple green salad with a bright lemon vinaigrette and shards of Parmesan cheese.  It was simple, and actually was the best thing I ate all week.  We each ordered a different entree: a margherita flatbread, pan roasted shrimp in a garlicky wine sauce with fresh pasta and greens, and tender pork ragu over fresh pasta.  Oenotri was my favorite restaurant; sure, we were hungry, thirsty, and more than a little bit travel weary, but I’m going to give credit to the food, the wine, the service, and the atmosphere.  It was the perfect way to begin our trip.  If you are in Napa, you must try Oenotri.
Carpe Diem is a wine bar in Napa that was lively and fun.  It is casual eating; many people were there for drinks and appetizers, which in Napa is bubbles and burrata (that’s Champagne and creamy mozzarella cheese for all of us who don’t live in the Valley, although from now on I’m never not calling Champagne “bubbles.”  You’re welcome to join me).  I ordered a wild mushroom flatbread with truffle and a shot of their seasonal pumpkin soup, while my mom ordered the fresh ricotta appetizer and my sister in law ordered something called Quack and Cheese, a name which still makes me giggle.
We chose Angele on Friday night, which specialized in French inspired fare.  I surprised myself and everyone else and ordered steak tartare, which was good but not great, and a signature cocktail.  When my brother found out what I ordered, he suggested I send it back because, you know, it’s raw beef.  That said, the atmosphere at Angele was intimate and upscale.  We had a lovely time.
After our late and large lunch at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen on Saturday, we wanted something light for dinner.  Actually, we were all so exhausted, what we really wanted was to curl up with a book and a glass of wine, but we made ourselves get off the couch.  We arrived at ZuZu, a Spanish tapas bar in Napa which offered an awesome atmosphere and great service.  We ordered some incredible sautéed shrimp, a Spanish tortilla (omelette), some olives, and spiced almonds to share.  It was a small dinner which probably would have irritated us had we not been stuffed from lunch.  That’s tapas for you, though.

I had such a wonderful time eating my way up and down the Napa Valley.  I pushed my culinary boundaries and came back more inspired than I had been in a long time.  Stay tuned for my next post, Napa Valley – Where to DRINK!  (It’s an extensive list–we did the drinking thing well).

*None of these restaurants/shops/vineyards know me; I just went there and liked them.  These Napa Valley posts are because when I was researching Napa Valley, I found it hard to find reviews and itineraries that I felt I could trust.  So, here you go, Internet!*

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