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Visiting CIA Greystone, need help

Hi
I'm a chef in Maine and plan on attending a 5 day course at CIA Greystone at the end of this month.

Its a bit sudden, I know. Since the courses end in the afternoon, I should have some evening time to enjoy the area.

I would really like to visit the French Laundry, but the tasting menu is a bit pricey. I may just end up going for the heck of it, just to visit and the possibility of getting a book signed by Thomas Keller.

Is there anything else, even non-food related that I should not miss out on while I am in the Napa area?

Also if I'm not asking too much...is there a cheaper place to stay in the St. Helena area other than on campus or El Bonita, both were roughly $600-700 for 5-6 days. My courses start at 7AM, so I wouldn't want anything extremely far...I'm definitely not a morning person.

Thanks in advance

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  1. Actually, spending just over $120 a night for accommodations in wine country is pretty cheap. There are some $75 rooms in Calistoga which is about 15 to 20 minutes north of St. Helena, but the money you will save will put that much further away from the south party of the valley, where you will probably want to be spending more time.

    Don't miss going to the French Laundry, regardless of the money. You will also want to make a trek down to downtown Napa for Ubuntu, the latest hot restaurant in all of California (being written about from as far East as the NYTimes). The drive back down to lower Napa for the Ubuntu dinner will take about 45 minutes so having to turn around to head back up towards Calistoga would add a lot of driving, if you see what I mean.

    1. I've thoroughly enjoyed every meal I've had at greystone so I'd definitely dine there one night if you could.

      I'm one of the few detractors of french laundry, but I really didn't find my meal there worth all the time and effort. Sure, there was nothing bad. But my expectations, while certainly high, were not met. We'd have better versions of almost each course at some other fantastic restaurant around the area.

      1. I'd stay on campus if you can. I stayed in Calistoga while I was attending an event at Greystone recently -- early morning drives in the foggy dark through unlit back roads are not so much fun when you're on deadline.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Nina

          Thanks for the replies.

          I forgot to mention, that I am on a budget of sorts. While I'm not afraid to spend money for something totally worth it, I am also a big fan of local favorites, hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, whatever you want to call them.

        2. My boss told me not to miss Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. He mentioned another place in Napa...short name, began with a T...i think.

          Anyway, thanks for the suggestions everyone. Anyone have any more? Possibly some foodie related activities in the area?

          5 Replies
          1. re: zeph74

            Terra (?) is in St. Helena and is owned and operated by Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani - one of my preferred restaurants in the valley.

            1. re: Carrie 218

              Yea, that was it, Terra. He said it was a number of years ago though and didn't know if it was still there.

              Any other suggestions? The trip is not only a learning experience, but a vacation, so any other activities or nightlife spot recommendations would be appreciated greatly.

              1. re: zeph74

                We're sorry, but Chowhound has a very narrow mission--where to find deliciousness. General travel planning questions, like where to stay or what else to do while visiting a town, are off topic for our boards. Please keep your replies focused on helping the poster find great chow, as off topic replies will be removed.

                Thanks!

                1. re: zeph74

                  Terra may be the oldest high quality restaurant in the valley, if you're only looking at restaurants with the same chef owners. It was started in 1988, and still seems to be going strong though Michelin only gave it 1 star. Any recent chow opinions?

                  1. re: SteveG

                    Ate there two weeks ago. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, as always.

            2. You can walk in to Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc in Yountville and eat at the bar, ordering only what you want (not the whole prix fixe). That could be a self-guided tasting menu right there. Last time I was there the bar (about 6-8 seats) was pretty empty around 8:30.

              8 Replies
              1. re: santoku45

                Wow sounds cool! The place is called "Ad Hoc"?

                Sorry Chowhound Team, I'll stick to the topic of Chow. Was just looking for some friendly suggestions.

                1. re: zeph74

                  Zeph, if it is any consolation, beyond the suggested opera house and the occasional movie theater, there isn't much in the Napa area that ISN'T food and wine related!

                  The main tourist industry is wine (obviously) and much of the towns tend to close up in the evening other than the restaurants. You are going to be in classes all during the day when there would be opportunities for touring local wineries or tasting at some olive oil producers. Near the CIA is a brew-pub which makes pretty good artisinal beers and you might want to go there one evening (not to eat, but just to hang out) and ask the locals what else is going on during your stay. I'm sorry I can't remember the name, but it is just north of Deer Park Road on the main drag. Good beer! There might be some evening events going on that we aren't going to be privy to, like small wine tasting events and the like.

                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    Carrie, I don't know if you've hung in Napa lately, but even I can say it's kinda hoppin' for a rural place at night now. Main Street Napa is a blast now at night, and Calistoga, seven miles straight up the road from the CIA, has consistently had the most nightlife in the valley.

                    The bar you're speaking of is Silverado Brewery. The Calistoga Inn, mentioned below, is also a micro-brewery. With music every night.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Thanks, Maria -- nah, I have been in the area at night for almost two years. Nice to know its livened up; back then, I had to go to Sonoma for action!

                      And thanks for the reminder of Silverado. Do chefs still hang out at the bar at Bouchon on late nights? That was always a great place to hang out to chat with local chefs after 10:00ish...

                      1. re: Carrie 218

                        Well, c'mon on up. I, uh, know who you are. You can email me at the address on my profile.

                        Re: Silverado Brewery. I respect what they're trying to do there -- they certainly use good raw ingredients, but this will reveal my individual preferences: It's a beer place and I'm a winehead. It's a sports bar, and that's generally not the type of place I hang out because I'm more of an arts person and prefer that vibe. But I adore Bouchon's bar. One of my favorites. Much prefer the bar to the tables, and from what I understand it's still a late-night foodies' place.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Good to know about Bouchon, thanks. While I enjoy sports, I'm not a big sports bar fan.

                          1. re: zeph74

                            zeph, I have some leads for you. Email me (on profile).

                          2. re: maria lorraine

                            Maria, I'm right there with you on Silverado -- I just know that was where the Assistant Winemakers would go and hang-out, chatting about the next possible promotion and inside dirt on the local wineries. That was the only reason I was going there...

                            And maybe I *will* come back up some time! Thanks!

                2. You can eat very well in Napa Valley without breaking the bank.

                  Go to the bar at the Calistoga Inn. Great beer and it's a fun place. There is a restaurant that is good as well and if the weather is nice, it's wonderful to eat outside.

                  Some reasonably priced places in the area are Cantinetta which is the grocery/sandwich cafe attached to Tra Vigne, Bouchon, and there are also Dean & Deluca and Oakville Grocery for really good sandwiches.

                  If you don't want to spring for a full meal at Greystone, definitely sit at the bar and have a glass of wine and some appetizers. The food is always great and it's a fun atmosphere.

                  The French Laundry will be booked solid, so the best thing to do if you really want to go is call them and throw yourself on their mercy. If they don't have anything, go in person and remind them that you called and beg again.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: dalaimama

                    I emailed the French Laundry 4 days ago, no reply.

                    1. re: zeph74

                      They will not reply in that fashion. You need to go there in person when you arrive and tell them of your availability during the week you are there. Only then might you get a last-minute cancellation.

                      1. re: Carrie 218

                        Be sure to mention you're a CIA student.