BJ and I just returned home from our very first visit to the Napa Valley. We took a short 4 day venture up north while my parents came and hung out with their favorite (and only!) grandson. Culinary adventure for Mommy and Daddy, serious grandparent time for baby Kellan. Perfect scenario. There is so much good food in Napa. Like…so much good food. We stayed in the delightful little town of Yountville, which means we were within walking distance to some of the finest restaurants in the country. Walking distance! To the French Laundry! Oh my goodness!
I’ll calm down. Unfortunately for us, walking distance or not, Thomas Keller’s world-famous restaurant was booked solid 13 weeks out. Trust me, we tried. We even considered paying off some of the lucky patrons who were taking photos by the sign before walking into the greatest food experience of their lives, but we decided that might be a little nuts. Just a little. I did, however, get to take a stroll through the French Laundry’s garden, complete with hens and playful little goats, to see where all of the magic begins. It doesn’t get more “farm fresh” than that.
While in Napa we had the privilege of eating at some seriously awesome places including Keller’s Bouchon and Ad Hoc, and Chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. All top notch and some of the tastiest meals we’ve had. Our favorite experience was the tasting menu at Chef Richard Reddington’s Redd. Both of us had our own five-courses to taste, which meant a total of ten completely different dishes between the two of us. Best meal of our lives, hands down. The fun thing about a tasting menu is that you don’t get to choose what you eat, the chef chooses for you. I wouldn’t usually love that, especially since I’m not a big fan of seafood, but when in Napa you can sit back and happily chow down on whatever they put in front of you. My favorites were the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Asian Pear, Avocado, and Chili Oil on Fried Rice and the Glazed Pork Belly with Apple Puree and Soy Caramel. Before dinner BJ and I were just talking about how neither of us really care for pork belly even though it’s all the rage. Now I’m a believer! This pork belly was perfectly crispy and sweet on the outside and succulent and tender on the inside. No chewy weirdness. Just perfection. My meal also included Black Bass with Coconut Jasmine Rice and a Saffron Curry Nage, New York Strip and Short-rib and a delicious Chocolate Banana Cake to end on.
Another highlight of our trip was the Perfect Circle Tour at Robert Sinksey Vineyards. We began our tour with the chef in their organic and biodynamic vegetable garden and vineyards, continued with an underground stroll through the wine caves, and ended at a communal table where we were served a delicious lunch to round it all out. Definitely my favorite winery experience!
If you’re a self-professed foodie and have not yet been to the Napa Valley, do yourself a favor and go soon. There is so much to explore and enjoy. You will leave with a full belly, a happy heart and a whole lot of inspiration.