I am just returning from a quick weekend getaway to Napa Valley and all I can say is that I am truly and utterly in love. Not only is Napa Valley insanely gorgeous (think Italian countryside), but their wine and food are superb. Here’s a quick guide to eat and drink your way through the Valley…
Ad Hoc & Addendum (Brunch)
Between all three of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, this is the most laid-back option. While the menu is a four-course fixed menu, it changes daily and consists of the most amazing comfort foods such as their famous fried chicken (It honestly was the best fried chicken I had ever had!). Honestly, each dish was perfectly executed and flavorful. Standout dishes include their famous fried chicken & waffles and their lobster eggs benedict !
Tip: This is a popular place for brunch so make sure to make a reservation! Also, make sure you get a few add-ons, they are also delicious.
Farmstead oozes farm-to-table chic. It’s the perfect place to go in a big group and order everything. Some of their standout items were their cheddar biscuits (I’m still dreaming about them), their beet salad and absolutely delish mac and cheese. Everything is incredibly fresh and beautifully presented. Their menu changes daily depending on the produce received that day from the Rutherford Estate. You can even get a glimpse of their produce at their stunning gardens and nurseries which run parallel to a picturesque piece of the mountainside.
Tip: Try to get a table on their outdoor patio—it’s the most idyllic place to soak up the scenery (trust me this place is very INSTA material)!
If you’re craving a place where you can indulge in a good piece of dry-aged USDA Prime steak look no further than Press. Press provides you with four different sauces for your steak, however, I found them to be unnecessary because Press is the type of place where steak is done right. Additionally, their sophisticated barn with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooks St. Helena’s mountains adds a nice subtle flair to the atmosphere making it an even more appealing option for dinner. Everything was quite tasty here and stand out food items includes their classic wedge salad that features a local blue cheese from Pt. Reyes and their bone-in ribeye steak.
The French Laundry (Dinner)
I was ecstatic to cross off The French Laundry from my food bucket list. TFL boasts 3 Michelin Stars! Eating at TFL is an experience everyone should enjoy. Every aspect of the meal was meticulously planned. Chef Keller offers two distinct menus – the chef’s tasting menu or the vegetable-tasting menu- which change daily and offer Keller’s classic flair of French techniques executed with the freshest ingredients. My dinner highlight included the oysters paired with caviar and the wagyu steak (it literally melted in my mouth if that’s even possible with steak?!). Oh, and the dessert selection is absolutely amazing!!
Tip: Ask for the opportunity to tour the kitchen! Also, keep tabs on when reservations go up. I purchased mine four months before I actually visited.
There’s a reason you always find a huge line outside of this bakery. Although the line does move fast don’t be discouraged. Every dessert is decadent and created with the highest regard to quality and French technique (think lots and lots of butter, YUM!). You really can’t go wrong with anything you order. So, if you’re in the area definitely make a quick stop at this iconic bakery. There’s even a cute sitting area next to the bakery where you can enjoy your pastries and relax for a bit.
TIP- Don’t forget to try the macarons, skip the espresso!
The Model Bakery
This is one of Napa’s little gems. It has been open for almost ninety years, serving customers delicious breads and pastries. However, what it’s most famous for is their English Muffin. Not only are they Oprah’s favorite, but they are also featured in The Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate- Regional Favorites”. After learning this little tidbit of information, I absolutely had to try them and say that they definitely lived up to their reputation. I ordered half a dozen to bring back with me to Dallas.
Tip- This is also a good place to have breakfast/lunch. The Model Wrap and the cinnamon swirl were my favorites!
Opus One Winery
Opus One Winery oozes opulence (ha ha). They only produce one blend every season and their wines are some of the most expensive wines on the market, today. The winery is meticulously kept and offers spectacular views. Make sure to make a reservation with time, you won’t regret it! After a tasting, you’ll ask yourself if it’s worth being broke to constantly drink this wine.
Tip: Buy their more “affordable” bottle Overture, it’s honestly fantastic and offers the quality Opus One is usually known for.
This vineyard is absolutely gorgeous. It is located right in the center of the Oakville valley. I had the opportunity to attend an enormous release day party, a tradition set forth since 1980. They had multiple food stations such as ones from La Toque (Michelin Star restaurant) among others and wine stations where you could sample their Sauvignon Blancs and their award-winning Cabernets.
Definitely try to go visit this vineyard if you have an opportunity! Their farming techniques are incredible; they have vineyards nestled at three different elevation points which are divided into 46 different lots each with a different type of soil producing a diverse and incredible wine selection. Palmaz vineyard boasts an intricate system of subterranean caverns, which happen to be the largest man-made caverns in the United States, where they ferment the grapes to turn into wine. If you can, schedule a private tour. They will take you through their large cavernous cellar and you’ll get to learn the rich history of the vineyard itself and the fascinating way in which they combine classic practices and modern technology to produce their tasty and savory wine. The wine tasting itself is held in newly decorated tasting rooms and includes fancy food pairings.
Some quick DO’s & DONT’s:
Don’t, I repeat, don’t make anyone be designated driver. It’s Napa Valley, EVERYONE should be enjoying their wine so Uber away!
Do keep in mind that Napa Valley consists of more than just the town of Napa. Napa Valley itself stretches for miles and includes cities such as Yountville and St.Helena.
Don’t forget to pace yourself, but also enjoy yourself!
And lastly, do yourself a favor and book that trip already.