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Jul 17, 2001 09:44 PM

attempting to chow thru the napa valley - long

  • r

it's taken me a while to find the time to post about our culinary misadventures thru the napa valley over independance day but here goes:

began with the Large visit to Angelo's to get jerky and sausages to grill for the festivities. we ended up with 4 different kinds of jerky: bbq, cajun, black pepper and plain, and two kinds of sausages, linguisa (sp) and one other, andouille? turkey? ah!so much food to remember...

we dove directly into the jerky and the taste took me right back to camping trips north of jenner when i was in college and their jerky was a mainstay of such adventures.

for lunch we enjoyed? a semi-traditional picnic with friends of pasta salad, potato chips, turkey and tofu dogs and sandwiches and sliced watermelon.

this meal was fine once, but when we were seeing it for the second time that night, well think of it. napa valley, delicious food everywhere and here we are eating turkey dogs again...

the next day for lunch we proposed travigne so we all piled into the car and set off. our driver, however, had other ideas and we ended up instead at greystone. so there we ate.

our entrees were all passible, and one of the desserts was good, but overall, for $170 for lunch for 5 i expected more.

this is what we ate:

roast chicken with dandelion greens, sweet garlic sauce and wild shrooms, grilled wild king salmon with asparagus salad, yukon gold potato puree and bueree rose, field greens and herbs with a mustard vin., warm potato and leek galette with goats leap goat cheese, herb salad and hazelnut vin, endive, cress and radicchio salad with gogonzola dolce, walnuts and lemon vin, rotisserie duck breast with fava beans, polenta and red onion jam.

for dessert: strauss creamery panna cotta with strawverry and rhubarb, reblochon cheese plate, creme brulee.

the things i found the most interesting were the polenta and the compote with the panna cotta. the polenta was a crisp disc that had been sauteed but was very creamy inside, the contrast very nice. the compote was chunky and flavorful, a nice counterpoint to the creaminess of the panna cotta.

all in all a disappointing and expensive lunch. we sat at the end of service, just before 3:00 so i'm sure that had something to do with the less than high level of service we had. it also makes me uncomfy when the kitchen and floor staff are dishing up their off-shift meals and bringing them into the same dining room we're spending a pretty penny to sit in. i definately would not hurry back again.

on a positive note, the dining room is quite great, rock walls, bright colors, heavy wood, a castle-y kind of feel (or maybe that's just the movie i watched last night...)

after this less than thrilling lunch we were really on the prowl for some chow so come evening we headed out to calistoga with the thought that with such a high latino population finding a good taqueria would be a cinch and i had a hankering for a fish taco something fierce.

after a beer and a game of pool at susie's- a great dive-we found a likely spot called sr restaurant (santa rosa). it was getting late and the place was empty, but both spanish music and television were blasting so we went in.

the owner said after all the excitement of the holiday no one was out so we heartily dug in to the two fresh and delicious salsas (salsa fresca and roasted salsa with peppers) while we perused the menu.

steve, being the ever adventurous one, ordered tongue tacos "oh, they are so tender..." and i ordered fish tacos with taquitos to start.

and yes, tongue is tender. i did taste them, but it's not something i needed to eat. and my fish tacos weren't either. rather fishy for my taste. we asked and it was mahi mahi, but it wasn't as fresh as it should have been. i dug into the taquitos only to find the tortillas overcooked and thus the beef dry. thank god for the delicious chips and salsas.

wait, there's more! another taqueria in napa the next day (yes i had read the posts about the taco trucks, no my companions wouldn't go to a "roach coach") which was equally dismal. i'll spare the details.

How Can This Be? Three days in napa valley without a single decent meal? could it be the company? or was it just a miserable trick of the gods?-- i have ever so much more to say now the next time there's a thread about how do you get a family member to become a hound. i never realized before how much is at stake...

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  1. My condolences! Better luck (or better dining companions?) next time.

    1. hey Rochelle. I'm sorry to say, I have lived here the past 6 years and have the same experiences. We ate at Jeaunty for the first time in months tonight & they were dead. Our meal was exceptional, more so than normal. It seems too easy to hit places at the right or wrong times. I know of this personally. Next time in Napa Valley, try the fish taco's at Taylors Refreshers in St. Helena. They are really good, not fishy and the frys are so good. It's a treat. I hope you have better luck next time up in this area!

      22 Replies
      1. re: Lucy Gore

        Hey, thanks for the tip, Lucy. I didn't know they made fish tacos. Drove right by at lunch time today. Next time...

        1. re: Melanie Wong


          thanks for the heads up. when i was in school up there taylors had really good burgers but i don't remember tacos. we're headed back up for another 3 day trip in a few weeks and will definately check it out along with a couple places in napa hopefully. have you got any tips for calistoga besides catahoula? well, there's always that too cute grocer for a picnic, but what about dinner?

          1. re: Rochelle
            Christine Vallejo

            What about Bosko's in Calistoga? It's been a few years since I've been there but I recall all pasta dishes being under $10, sawdust on the floor, good cheesecake.

            1. re: Christine Vallejo
              Brandon Nelson


              I haven't been here for more than 2 years. I guess that tells part of the tale. A decent place to eat, but not worth going out of your way.


            2. re: Rochelle

              Rochelle, I'm sure that Lucy is too modest to recommend her own restaurant, so I will. Not open every night for dinner, please check ahead.

              Cafe Lucy
              1408 Clay St.
              Napa, CA

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Modesty aside, will Lucy give us her schedule. Next time we go to Napa, we want to try it...probably lunch. Any chance of a basic menu???

                1. re: Jim H.

                  The menu changes frequently. Here's a link to Ann's latest recommendation.


                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Man 'o man. I am abit overwhelmed. I wasn't planning to come home from work to this! Thank-you for the interest. We are open Tuesday - Saturday from 11:00 to 3:00 for lunch, Thursday, Friday, Saturday for dinner from 5:30 to 9:30. The hours make it possible for me to be there throughout. I have an awesome husband who spends alot of time waiting for "non-cafe" hours, which is why we have made them family-friendly. I hope any of you who comes in will please introduce yourself. It means alot. Thanks, Melanie & Ann. You rock! Luc.

                    1. re: Lucy Gore

                      Lucy, I've always has a good time at your place (3 lunches, 3 dinners). But to not oversell the virtues of Cafe Lucy, a couple comments may be in order to let chowhounds know what to expect.

                      Cafe Lucy is not restaurant as theatre. What makes it so special is the feeling of home with an intimate decor and elevated home cooking. This is a relaxing place to mingle with locals and vintners vs. the too LA-ish bustling dining establishments who cater to tourists. The food relies on the freshest of ingredients, prepared simply with tender loving care.

                      Last week friends from Toronto visited SF. When I asked them what kind of place they'd like to eat, they replied - We really loved our dinner at Cafe Lucy, let's find another cozy nook.

                      A couple months ago I brought some friends from SF there after tasting in Napa. Rebecca, who grew up in a restaurant family and was named young sommelier of the year, surveyed the room with the critical eye of a professional then exclaimed - This is so lovely, when I have my own restaurant, it will feel just like this.

                      The wine list includes not only Napa Valley selections, but many imports. A passion for Rhone Valley wines shows, and I was impressed to see one of the rare cuvées of Paul Bara Champagne. With attractive pricing, the list turns over pretty quickly and every table orders wine. People come here to eat and drink well and kick back.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Is there a website for Cafe Lucy?

                        1. re: WC

                          WC, last time I looked there was no web site for Cafe Lucy, so you'll just have to talk directly to her....low tech, like her Cafe. (Not to say there may not be one in the future.)

                          I hope everyone enjoys the wonderful food and the warmth of this place. We'll take it over L.A.-type theater anytime.

                          I am going to shut up now because I'm afraid we won't even be able to get a table in the future. It's sort of like telling too many others about a great babysitter. But then, I have gotten some great tips from you guys.

                          1. re: Ann Leneave

                            One last post from me on this thread.
                            I truly do appreciate all and any feedback. If any of you could look back on previous posts from "me", they are normally about customers feeling confident & comfortable about making their meal a positive thing. If you worked front-of-the-house at cafe lucy, you would have me asking you 20 times a day how everyone was, how are they reacting, what are they saying. It means alot and now feeling that there will be some "chowhound investigations" going on (good thing), I would really like to hear any response.
                            I now need to go and decide on a new identity, new email address, new image. It's been fun. (Thank-you!)

                            1. re: Lucy Gore

                              "I now need to go and decide on a new identity, new email address, new image. It's been fun."

                              Lucy, I'm very late to this, but you have me EXTREMELY puzzled by this remark. Why exactly will you be switching identities? With what intent? Also, are you aware that our message board rules (see link below) prohibit the use of multiple identities?


                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                Caitlin McGrath

                                I read it as Lucy feeling self-conscious about posting after all the great things fellow chowhounds said about her restaurant, but also that she was kidding about assuming a new posting identity. At any rate, she's still posting under her name.

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  any connection to the Cafe Lucy in Sebastopol? (which is a great place)

                  1. re: dixie day

                    Not that I know of, but we'll let Lucy Gore speak for herself.

                    The place in Sebastopol is Lucy's Cafe. My friends in the nabe love it for breakfast, although driving by a couple weeks ago I noticed a Help Wanted-Chef sign in the window. I haven't tried it yet - Willowood Market in Graton gets my lunch business when I'm nearby.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong


                    lucy's is definately on our must do list next time. and brandon, point Well! taken!!


                    1. re: Rochelle

                      'Shell - I hope you pick a day when she's cooking. The two of you have a lot in common to talk about.

                  3. re: Rochelle

                    Regarding Calistoga, we love Wappo Bar and Grill. It's not on the main drag--just one block off, with a lovely outdoor patio. The cross-cultural chile relleno is awesome--with walnut-pomegranate sauce! Cin Cin is also quite nice, very SF-style Cal-Italian. As for eating around the Napa valley, I've never been impressed with Greystone. Big name chefs seem to use it as a stepping stone to getting their own place, or to getting big "consulting" fees while not doing much for the day-to-day operations. Went to Miramonte, in St. Helena--a mix of Southern-American and California-S. American fare--a nice, cheerful place, food is pretty good if not thrilling (although we did have a really good pork chop with mirabelle plum chutney). It's right next to Terra, which is supposedly wonderful, if quite pricey. Anyone been to the Friday night dinners at Gordon's in Yountville?

                    1. re: Dixie Day

                      It's been a couple year, but yes, I've been to Sally Gordon's place for Friday night dinner. We had a lot of fun swapping wines with a few other tables. I still remember the appetizer - lump crab meat salad on radicchio cups. Can't remember the name of this special variety, it's very delicate in taste and texture and has a variegated color.

                      I had breakfast at Gordon's not too long ago - croque madame, which is a croque msr. with a poached egg on top. Simple but made with the best quality ham and cheese.

                3. re: Lucy Gore
                  Randy Salenfriend


                  We will be passing through on our way to Mayacamas Vineywards tomorrow. After reviewing all the wonderful posts about your restaurant by my fellow hounds, I must ask if you are open for lunch tomorrow? We would love to stop by. Thanks.

                  1. re: Randy Salenfriend

                    Hey Randy. This is very humbling, I must tell you for one. There was a guy in tonight for dinner from Michigan who is a chowhound & has been in twice now. I am so amazed. Yes, we are open from 11:00 to 3:00 for lunch. Dinner starts at 5:30. I am there all day so please come and introduce yourself if you do make it in. I've had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Melanie a few times ( I was so nervous) and Ann Putnam, another majorchowhound of whom originally introduced me to this site. Good friendships have evolved. It has been an honor. Thanks. Luc.

                4. c
                  Christine Vallejo

                  Which taqueria did you go to? There are one or two that I would never go to again, but there are some decent places as well.

                  Too bad your friends wouldn't go to the taco truck. Tacos La Playita's truck is new and not a roach coach at all.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Christine Vallejo

                    i don't remember the name of the taqueria, it was right next door to the mervyn's. they may have had some good things, the burritos are appearently a fav of our companions. we, however ordered plates and were gravely disappointed. and they even had radishes on the tables, to me usually a promising sign.

                    1. re: Rochelle
                      Christine Vallejo

                      I wonder if the restaurant is Tres Hermanos? It's close to Mervyns, you order at a counter, there are a few tables and chairs at the storefront outside.

                      There is also a place called Don Perico and I've not been impressed by this place.

                      Taqueria Rosita gets a lot of business but again, I'm not impressed.

                      Taco trucks rule!

                  2. I'm glad you enjoyed Angelo's, Rochelle. One hit at least. (g)

                    Also, I'll point out that Angelo's two locations are both in Sonoma County, not Napa.