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Jun 15, 2008 06:41 PM

Three meals in Napa

OK - I hate doing this, but I only have one shot out here and I want to do it right, especially since it's my birthday.

I am going to have three meals in the Napa Valley, a lunch, dinner (both Tuesday), and a breakfast the following day (Wednesday). We will be based out of Napa, but my amazing wife is playing designated driver and is going to chauffeur me around that day.

I can't seem to narrow down a breakfast, but I have three choices for lunch and dinner:

Ad Hoc

Ad Hoc kind of worries me, as my wife is allergic to shellfish and I doubt any substitutions are allowed. (And I'd hate for her to essentially get one course and a side, or worse - neither if both courses happen to have shellfish.) But I'd really like to try one Thomas Keller restaurant besides Bouchon/Bouchon Bakery (which I've been to in Vegas and NYC, respectively).

But - are REDD and Ubuntu really where it's at? Can I forget about Ad Hoc and just rock these two places? (I'll be at Chez Panisse the night before, and am really excited about the possibility of a few amazing meals in a row.) If so, which one should I do for lunch and which for dinner?

Also, the last question I have is for breakfast - I'm going to want a good breakfast the next morning before we leave Napa, and I'd love to be able to pick something up for our road trip (we'll be driving the coast, and that day will take us from Napa to the Carmel Valley and Big Sur). Any recommendations nearby Napa or points west/south?

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  1. I know that alot of people like REDD but I had a bad experience there a week ago and it was pretty unforgiveable. I had to return a fish dish that was basically unedible. It might have been an isolated occurrence but I will not be back. A good diner-like breakfast in NAPA is at the BoonFly Cafe. If you go, get the minidonuts.

    1. I would go with Ubuntu for lunch, it's good, not great. You are going to get very memorable veg dishes at Chez, so Ubuntu may be overshadowed. I would rec. the cauliflower and the pizza (with an egg) at Ubuntu.

      I love REDD, one of my favorite places in the entire Valley for dinner. I think it has a wonderful menu, both bar and otherwise, great outdoor seating (if it's nice), and great drinks. I've been 5 times and never had a miss, not once.

      Ad Hoc would, I am sure work around your wife's allergies. They are a full-service restaurant, laid-back and willing to do the legwork to ensure a good meal. They have plenty of food, not just what's on the menu (i mean in back to sub in).

      Boon Fly Cafe, in the Carneros Inn is one of my favorites for breakfast. Solid choice, great space, lots of fun dishes.

      Other ideas: REDD does lunch, but I'd do dinner there. Auberge du Soleil for lunch at the bar or cocktails, not to be missed. Terra is a great dinner, too. It's up in St. Helena and I loved it.

      Let us know!

      8 Replies
      1. re: Doodleboomer

        As you mentioned, Ad Hoc will work around my wife's allergies, so I'm strongly considering it. As it stands, I'm planning on REDD for lunch and Ad Hoc for dinner, though I may try to go to Ubuntu if Ad Hoc's menu that night isn't too impressive. (Last night's looked great.)

        What are the disadvantages of going to REDD at lunch versus dinner? I notice that the dinner menu at REDD is a bit larger than that at lunch, but is the quality much different?

        As for the Boon Fly Cafe - it looks perfect. I had wanted to stay there, but in the end we decided to spend more on food and drink and to stay somewhere relatively cheaper.

        rworange, we plan on stopping by Oxbow and the Farmer's Market on Tuesday - will stop by on the way out of town on Wednesday and grab some stuff for the road.

        1. re: lambretta76

          The rotissarie at Oxbow makes a great chicken that would be nice for a picnic. Also, maybe to take home, Fatted Calf has some great products like Rancho Gordo beans or The Apple Farms balsamic apple vinegar.

          1. re: rworange

            Maybe the chicken is great. But how anyone can go to the rotisserie and not get the porchetta is beyond me. Seriously, I'd try to squeeze in an extra meal -- an early lunch, a late dinner (most NYers think Californians go to bed ridiculously early), and a picnic in the afternoon.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              So, I don't know if anyone can help me, but you've sold me on a picnic on Wednesday, with provisions secured from Oxbow et environs. The problem - where to picnic? Since we'll be going there in the AM - we're looking for somewhere to picnic about noon - which will put us in the Santa Cruz area. Are there any great places for a picnic in that area? Wilder Ranch? Big Basin?

              1. re: lambretta76

                What route are you taking? Since you mentioned Wilder Ranch, it sounds like you're planning to drive down Hwy 1, at least part of the way. If you do, there are many, many places to picnic between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. Just pick a beach and pull over. I personally recommend Bean Hollow. Pigeon Point Lighthouse is another great spot -- they just (well, last couple of years), built a beautiful overlook next to the lighthouse itself.

                Bean Hollow State Beach
                11000 Cabrillo Hwy, Pescadero, CA 94060

                Pigeon Point Light Station
                210 Pigeon Point Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

        2. re: Doodleboomer

          I would really recommend against doing Chez Panisse one night and Ad Hoc the next; although entirely different ingredients, having the same type of meal where you get what is served may be too repetitious. And someone's comment that the vegetables at CP are going to over-shadow Ubuntu's is so far off-track. What Ubuntu does with vegetables is almost revolutionary.

          I would definitely put Ubuntu higher on the list than Redd as well. I know there have been good reports, but the inconsistencies and problems make it too much of a crap-shoot.

          1. re: Carrie 218

            We're actually doing the cafe at Chez Panisse as we'll be there on a Monday evening and didn't love the main on offer - forgot to mention that, so we'll be able to choose our meal there.

            I think I'm kind of set on Ad Hoc for dinner, but will keep Ubuntu around as a backup. And since neither are open at lunch on a Tuesday, I'm going to give REDD a whirl - the positives listed here and on other food boards outweigh the negatives IMHO.

        3. Stop by the Oxbow Market in Napa to stock up for your picnic ... Fatted Calf for pate, cold cuts and Model Bakery for bread and dessert, The Cheese Merchant and Wine Merchant will help you complete the picnic. One stop shopping

          I see you are from Brooklyn, and I would definately put Ubuntu on the list for lunch. One of your fellow New Yorkers who writes for the NYT, put it second on a recent list of US restaurants.

          The only thing Ubuntu shares with Chez Panisse is a passion for local and top quality. Otherwise I can't think of two restaurants more different in style. To be totally obnoxious, while the caulflower and the egg are signature dishes, if you are there in summer I would go with whatever is seasonal that week.

          There was a recent breakfast thread on Napa so if you do a quick search there were lots of good selections. I like Boon Fly, but I think it is more of a great for locals but not a visitor's only breakfast.

          The reports about Auberge's food is mixed. However, getting a drink there at sunset is a special experience.

          1. Fellow NYer who will be heading to Napa in July. You may want to look at this thread. Seems that everybody is really pushing Ubuntu as it's hard to get that type of food in NYC. I've decided to eat at Ubuntu for lunch instead of after French Laundry so I can really appreciate it.


            7 Replies
            1. re: Miss Needle

              The problem is that Ubuntu doesn't do weekday lunch, and despite going to a few of his other restaurants, I really want to go to a Thomas Keller joint while in Napa. I'd have to say that I'd choose Ubuntu over REDD, but REDD serves weekday lunches and Ubuntu doesn't.

              1. re: lambretta76

                and REDD is a better choice, IMO. It's just creative, high quality, and for lunch you can guarantee yourself a place outside while it's bound to be hot. they have umbrella's.

                1. re: lambretta76

                  Wow - that was news to me; the three meals I had there were all weekday lunches. I'm wondering when they changed that and am really sad to read it.

                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    It isn't a permanent thing, I believe -- when I was there in May, there was a sign saying that it was closed for weekday lunches because of construction, but I got the impression that it would reopen for lunch after the construction was over.

                  2. re: lambretta76

                    I see. Three meals is not a lot, and Napa certainly has a lot to choose from. I wish I was going to be there for more than a weekend myself.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      Yeah - we have four days to drive from SFO to LA, and we're going the wrong direction on the first day ;) So I'm trying to do a greatest hits as it's rare that I actually get to travel within the US.

                      1. re: lambretta76

                        We did not like Redd at all. Some of our favorites have been the terrace at Auberge du Soliel and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. Bouchon is very nice and I'd do that rather than Ad Hoc

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