Culinary trip suggestions in U.S. for the fall?
Big birthday and want to go for about a week somewhere in United States where my palate will be excited and eyes will be happy with the beautiful scenery. I live in CT so want a change... Thanks
Go to Napa/Sonoma or NOLA for a big change. I'd prefer Napa/Sonoma for a week over NOLA, but you'll eat well in either. Are you limited to the US though? I mean if you've got a week why not head overseas and really challenge your pallette?
we went about five years ago, so some of this info might be a bit outdated, but here's what I remember:
we liked Sonoma a lot more than Napa--lower key, smaller wineries, fewer tasting charges, etc. If we were to do it again, we'd probably hit Sonoma for 5 days and Napa for 2 (to go to some of the heaviest hitters.)
We stayed at Applewood in Guernville (sp) in the Russian River Valley. We enjoyed it a great deal, and the food was great. We had one dinner there which was not only fabulous, but not tremendously expensive. The breakfasts were amazing.
We ate at Auberge du Soleil for our big (i.e. most expensive) meal (couldn't get reservations at the French Laundry). It was one of the best meals of our lives. On recommendations, we got there early and had a (very expensive) cocktail on the deck before the sun went down. The view was amazing. Then we went inside for a tremendous meal.
In Sonoma we had a lovely lunch at The Girl and the Fig. In Napa we hit a great, and I think pretty famous, drive-in, which I believe was called Taylors. Really fun combination of mini bottles of local wine, onion rings, seared tuna burgers, and milkshakes. We also had some great picnic lunches in between wineries; there are lots of small upscale groceries with lovely local ingredients.
some of the wineries I remember liking the best: Matanzas Creek, Hop Kiln, J, Simi (took a tour there), Gundlach Bundshu, Ravenswood, Mill Creek, and Merryvale.
As I remember it, though, half the fun was looking at the map over breakfast and choosing a plan of attack, then changing it midday as we drove by somewhere that looked good.
If you like champagne, I definitely recommend going to the Schramsberg vineyard...you get a great tour that exposes you to all elements of the champagne (technically sparkling wine) making process. And then the tasting was amazing...they were very knowledgeable and gave us samples of some of their best stuff. It was the most expensive tasting I went to ($20 or $25?), but the most enjoyable...and honestly the generous samples we tasted were worth more than whatever we paid. Another favorite was Sterling vineyard...not for the wine, which I wasn't a huge fan of, but for the beautiful grounds. The tour includes a tram ride where you have a great view of it all. Look up their website--I'm pretty sure I printed out a 2 for the price of 1 coupon, which made it all the more worthwhile, considering I didn't like the wine that much.
My favorite restaurant I tried in that area was Mustard's Grill. Excellent food, in a warm atmosphere.
My recommendation would be to check out Ramekins in Sonoma. They have a culinary school and catalog of classes offered. You can also check out Localwineevents.com for any wine pairing dinners that might be offered during your preferred travel dates. Lastly, I'd recommend looking at the California wineries mall website and searching by varietal or appellation for your preferences. There is a winery in Knight's Valley that has guest houses. It is centrally located relative to Napa / Sonoma / Alexander and the Russian River valleys.
Keep in mind that many wineries require reservations on weekends for tasting (particularly in Napa).
re: Andy Jacob
I would say that the small boutique and cult wineries require reservations but not most of them. It always helps to call however, and make a res if you can. Sometimes that gets
you some special tastes.
Nbermas, there are hundreds of recs of wineries and restos on the San Fran Bay Area Board. Go to it and type Napa or Sonoma and you'll unearth a huge amount of stuff.
I love New Orleans on so many levels, and would love to do Northern California, but would you consider going north? Montreal is an incredible food destination from the cheapest end to the highest. It's cheap too, so you could do a NOLA/Montreal week and spend the rest of your life trying to bring your cholesterol down.
Check out Michael Bauer's recommendations for the top 100 SF/ Wine Country restaurants--he's a bit stuffy in his writing, but rarely wrong. (www.sfgate.com) One of my favorite Wine Country memories is staying at Vichy Hot Springs in Ukiah (right outside of Hopland & some great microbreweries--about 1 hr north of Healdsburg, heart of Sonoma and home to a lovely restaurant by Charlie Trotter--and Healdsburg has one of the most fun Tasting rooms ever by Rosenblum). Vichy Hot Springs is the only place in the world outside of France that has naturally carbonated mineral springs--rent a gorgeous Victorian-feel cabin, hike through the hills on their trails, check out the ancient redwood forest nearby (it feels like a church for all denominations--holy, spiritual, ancient) then after a lovely dinner in Hopland, come back up and sit in the rough-hewn Victorian tubs and cover yourself in what feels like hot champagne. Nothing beats being surrounded by warm "champagne" in an antique spa tub while looking up at shooting stars in the sky...
O.k.--now I can't wait to go back! :-) www.vichysprings.com