The girls weekend continues in Napa Valley! As I mentioned while we were wine tasting, I was most concerned with pleasing my Paris friends' French-leaning palate, but luckily we had some success there. As far as food goes, I wasn't as concerned. Yes, they like good food, but Napa Valley has some great restaurants to accompany all of the delicious wine. I decided to use Yountville as our headquarters for the weekend as it has a central location for wine tasting, and more importantly, it has many good restaurants in walking distance so we could ditch the car after a day of drinking. Though I will say that downtown Napa is making a good name for itself with its revitalization, so let's start there.
I picked Oxbow Market as our meeting spot for a late breakfast since we were flying into different airports and it's at the southern base of Napa Valley. The market is also a fun spot to wander and enjoy the foodie shops with sweets, syrups, shrubs and spices.
We picked C Casa to lay in our foundation before drinking. They have a great selection of interesting tacos ranging from spiced lamb, ground buffalo, garlic citrus prawns and a hearty vegetarian option of white beans, spinach and avocado that I devoured. You can check out more restaurants in downtown Napa during my last visit there.
Another great market in the Napa area is Dean and Deluca. It's a superstore for prepared foods, jams, breads, salads, sandwiches, meats. And seeing how it's right on Highway 29 in St. Helena, it's a good mid-day stop for wine tasters. Oddly, it has no picnic area, but there's an open patio with a wall that most people sit on while they refuel.
If you want some good bread products or sweets to-go in Yountville, you want to stop by Bouchon Bakery. Bouchon Bakery is part of Thomas Keller's food empire. It shares a patio with Bouchon restaurant and is down the street from Keller's Michelin starred French Laundry and the more casual family-style Ad Hoc. Yes, Yountville is Keller-ville when it comes to the culinary department.
There was a line at Bouchon Bakery at all times of the day. It's a tiny slip of a spot, but it moves people through quickly with beautiful bags filled with fresh baked baguettes, croissants, macarons, donuts, cookies, tarts, eclairs and the list goes on. It's as much eye candy as stomach candy.
We did make the rounds to some of Keller's other restaurants in Yountville. We dined at Ad Hoc our first night. The restaurant serves one menu a night and you don't know what's on that menu until the day or your reservation. The first time I dined at Ad Hoc, I eagerly awaited the menu details, and when I saw chicken, I felt a bit deflated. Anyone can make chicken. Yeah, but Thomas Keller isn't just anyone. I still dream of that chicken and compare it to all others (spoiler alert: no comparison).
I had a similar reaction when I heard that our dinner would include a pork chop. I never order pork chops. It feels a little caveman-esque and boring. Keller proved me wrong yet again. We received chops the size of dinner plates. They were slathered with a piquillo pepper, salsa verde and sat on the most beautiful bed of butter bean ragout and button mushrooms. We were slightly overwhelmed with the portions, but then proceeded to lick the chops clean. Best. Chop Ever. Even the seemingly simple chopped romaine salad was top notch. Dessert was fall in a jar with pumpkin bread, gingerbread and butterscotch sauce. Divine. Ad Hoc has now officially earned a place my top 10 favorite restaurants. Yup, I said it.
Redd is a non-Keller restaurant in Yountville, but has been drawing crowds for years. It has a large bar area and a sterile dining room that was extra-boisterous Saturday night post-wine drinking. I've had decent meals there, and did on this trip too. Not as memorable, but still satisfactory.
There were some stand-outs like a crispy chicken thigh with mushroom dressing and cranberry marmalade - Thanksgiving on a plate. The sole and scallops were done as expected, but the smoked trout rillettes salad with pumpkin mole and spaghetti squash brought a unique set of ingredients together in one dish.
The crowned jewel of Napa Valley and Yountville is the French Laundry. I had the good fortune (emphasis on fortune) to dine there after my friends from Paris left. Here's the plate by plate of that exquisite meal.