July 4th, A Napa Valley Birthday!

[This is a "Throwback" or "Back in tha day..." post. One of many originals that were lost. Back in 2009 my wife planned one of my most memorable fourth of July birthdays of all time! We were currently living in The Bay Area, California and we spent much of our time exploring the 'culinary scene', beaches & ocean, and enjoyed the riches of Farmers Markets in a state that can darn near grow everything!]

5 Years Ago:
My wife knowing she would be out of town, and I would be working on my birthday (July 4th!) planned a trip to Napa for later in the month.  So last Tuesday we headed out for a few days in Napa Valley.

What's in Napa?  Wine, wineries, vineyards, restaurants...all kinds of culinary delights!

Tuesday morning after a mere 2 hours of driving we arrived in Yountville, home of many Restaurants more notably Thomas Keller's French Laundry.  Then we could also talk about Ad Hoc, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery...But we also wanted to visit Michael Chiarello's Bottega!  Not to mention the yummy deli sandwiches at the Oakville Grocery Co...Ok, so as not to drag this out here is how it went in a nutshell:

Breakfast at Lou's Cafe a favorite local place (Tuesday morning) then on to Napa Valley.  Stop at Yountville and get macaroons, brioche, eclairs, and coffee at the Bouchon Bakery.  Next we headed to our appointed wine tour at the Robert Mondavi Winery (Excellent! I read the book The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty) which helped form pictures, places, and the 'feel' of the book I read about the Mondavi's...it was like a sense of coming full circle - completing a study, if you will -  for me after reading the book and drinking the wines then being able to get an inside look at the winery and history.

On the way back to Napa City we stopped by the Oakville Grocery for a little lunch outside at their tables with sandwiches from the deli.

Later Steph and I checked into the The Inn on First (Bringing a touch of San Francisco to Napa Valley its a luxury Bed & Breakfast) you will just have to trust me on this one, or check the link, it was worth it!  Excellent!  Jacuzzi/Hot Tubs in the rooms...complimentary champagne and chocolate truffles, all the services you could think of and the Chef, Jim, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy (Le Cordon Bleu) who cooks you a signature breakfast every morning (included in your stay).  Mercedes, Morgon, Jim (Jamie was on holiday) all graceous hosts!  This was in Napa the city, not Yountville. All of it is considered in Napa Valley.

Then we went for a little walk around town and ate and excellent meal at Allegria.  We didn't even order a real meal, just ate multiple choices from the appetizer menu! We once again headed out for a little walk and stopped at Cole's Chop House for a dessert.  A Banana's Foster which some may consider a classic...it came to the table FLAMING.  It was an impressive display even though that's what I was expecting.  That was for Steph, I enjoyed a warm chocolate brownie paired with a caramel gelato and chocolate sauce.

The next day we had a breakfast quesadilla that was sent out by the chef, and of course there was all the cold breakfast things like cereals, oats, granola, fresh fruits...Then we headed of to the other side St Helena where stopped in to tromp around the Culinary Institute of America in Greystone after asking, wandering, and looking at everything they would let us see (I believe classes were in session) we headed out to the side of the establishment to visit the school store/shop.  Some of the stuff was unique to the CIA but a lot of it was like being in a Williams-Sonoma, not really anything I wanted to buy that I didn't already have or see a need for.  But it was all interesting just the same.

On the way back thru we stopped at Dean & Deluca's for 'lunch stuff'.  Then we went to the Yountville Park to have a picnic where we got run off by bees and the French Laundry Company Picnic (they had the whole place reserved)...but my interest was in who was catering THEIR company party?

Going to the French Laundry unfortunately was out of our budget range and we didn't have a reservation.  Looks like they were doing some heavy maintenance or construction to the back of it when we came thru, not sure.  We also tried to eat at Ad Hoc but strangely enough they were closed both of the 2 full days we were in the neighborhood...but thats OK on to that nights reservations at Bottega!

We first took a little refresher back at The Inn on First and then, Bottega.

This is Michael Chiarello's restaurant.  Current Top Chef: Masters competitor and food network personality also owning NapaStyle trademark stores and Chiarello Family Vineyards.

It was wonderful!  Or as my friends in England would say, Brilliant!  I didn't even make it to the 'Secondi!' course (Which was a shame for me...but I didn't want to leave being in to much pain to enjoy it!) because we had multiple antipasti's and pastas.  Although we did skip to dessert, who could miss that?

What a night, we made our way back to the Inn slowly and took another walk.  Unfortunately Stephanie's pregnancy 'sickness' decided to re-appear for awhile so it was early to bed for her...but besides her feeling bad, we couldn't have ended the night any better...I spent some time just relaxing and thinking about what was going to come out of the kitchen for breakfast the next day...

More could be said and was done, But alas I have probably bored you with my excitement.  Our time there was great, and my wifey did an excellent job with plans and putting up with me tasting and commenting on everything (more just to myself than actually being a critic of anything).  Being only 2 hours away I am sure we will continue to visit and explore all the culinary avenues available to us.

[I suppose I should have took pictures of the food, like in Bottega...But as you are 'in the moment' sometimes you can't be bothered.]