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Aug 14, 2008 03:13 PM

Yet another Napa itinerary

My wife an I are making our first ever visit to Napa over Labor Day weekend, and after meticulously studying the board here, I've put together the following itinerary. We're coming from Austin and staying in Napa and are aiming to keep this food- rather than wine-centric. I'd welcome any feedback, but my specific questions are:

* I had originally had Redd for Friday night, but from what I've read here, it sounds like Cyrus is worth the extra drive. Good decision? I still haven't canceled Redd, so I could switch back.

* We're on the waiting list at TFL. In the unlikely event that they call us on Friday morning, would you go there instead of Cyrus?

* Anything I've blatantly missed? It sounds like the favorites we're not going to are Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, and Redd. But there are only so many meals in 3 days!

* Though they have historically had good reviews, Round Pond received some negative posts in June. Anybody have a recent experience with their tour?

* It might be fun to visit a cheesemaker or something like that in addition to or instead of Round Pond. I saw another post that linked to an extensive list of farms that take visitors. Any particular suggestions?

Get food from Oxbow, tasting and picnic at Pride Mountain.
Tour & tasting at Schramsberg
Early dinner at Cyrus

Tasting at Whitehall Lane
Lunch at Martini House
Maybe a few oysters at the Bouchon raw bar in the afternoon or on Sunday afternoon
Late dinner at Terra

Lunch at Ubuntu
Olive oil tour & tasting at Round Pond
Dinner at Ad Hoc

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  1. I don't know anything about Round Pond or farms, but think you have made some good choices. If you get the magic call from TFL, I'd go there over Cyrus. In fact, I'd seriously reconsider possibly canceling Redd for Cyrus--only because of the drive. Cyrus is, of course, excellent and probably second best to TFL. But, it is about an hours drive on two lane roads from Schramsburg and the drive back to Napa is about an hour and a half. If I were doing that, I'd be worried all through dinner about how much wine I could enjoy with dinner and trying to speed through it before it gets dark. I have been to Redd many times and have never been disappointed. Not sure what your budget is, but other visitors who have stayed in the Napa area and wanted to go to Cyrus have hired a car and driver to haul them there.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bobpantzer

      Thanks for the advice. A driver is probably too expensive for us, but fortunately for me, my wife doesn't drink much. In fact, if we end up at Cyrus, we might see if they can do some sort of non-alcoholic cocktail pairing for her since their bartender is supposed to be amazing. We also reserved at 5:30 to hopefully take the pressure off of getting out in time. So if it weren't for the drive (given that I have a designated driver) would you recommend Cyrus over Redd?

      1. re: Brian Lindauer

        Yes, if not for the drive, I'd recommend Cyrus over Redd, though it would be a tough choice. I like the atmosphere at Cyrus much better than at Redd. Plus, the drive over there is beautiful and you would be getting a touch of the Alexander and Knight's Valleys. In addition, you might have a few minutes to check out the square in Healdsburg. So, given what you have said, go to Cyrus and cancel Redd. I hope you have a nice three days in the area.

    2. Brian, you deserve a gold star for research and asking the way that will benefit you most.

      The schedule looks great, so I'll just offer some suggestions.

      At Oxbow consider the porchetta sandwiches at Fatted Calf or Rotiserio for your picnic. I still can't pick a favorite ... though FC kind of has the slight edge. A chicken from Rotiserio would be a nice thing as well. The Cheese Merchant should give you some ideas for good cheeses. Not for a picnic, but do stop by Whole Spice and pick up some of their spice mixes to take home. Model has a decent sourdough. Skip the cookies and pickles. They also have samples, so you can decide from there. Fatted Calf will also sample some things so you can decide if you like them. Beer brittle at the candy shop is good. They also have samples.

      With Ubuntu go with the more experimental stuff. IMO, this is where they shine.

      1. Hi Brian-
        You've done a great job on your itinerary! In regards to your Laundry vs.Cyrus "dilema".. it depends on what kind of ambiance your looking for as, the food at both restaraunts is outstanding. The Laundry is a bit stuffy, wheras Cyrus is a bit more lively and comfortable. I personally like Cyrus, they have inventive cocktails and dishes that make the meal a bit more fun. The risotto is to die for!
        Redd is great, if I was choosing between Ad Hoc and Redd, I'd choose Redd.
        Ubuntu is my new fav place, make sure you order the cauliflower, and the cheesecake for dessert.
        As for as cheese, Cow Girl Creamery does tours. They are a bit off the beaten path though and last I checked they were closed on odd days. However, they have great cheese and I heard the tours are interesting.

        Have a wonderful trip!

        1. Very good choices.

          Any reason you chose Whitehall over another winery? It's a fine winery...I'm just wondering.

          Where are you staying in Napa Valley? That may determine where you pick up your picnic supplies the morning of your picnic at Pride. Don't miss the Cabernet Franc there --it's one of my favorite wines.

          Good job on research,. and I hope you have a lovely time.

          4 Replies
          1. re: maria lorraine

            I was out there two weeks agao and went to Cyrus on Fri. night at 5:30 as well. We had a really good meal, but I don't think there's any comparison between Cyrus and French Laundry. We stayed in Calistoga and even from there, it was a 40 minute drive to Cyrus, so it will be much longer if you're coming from the Napa area. We hired a driver, but it was really expensive and I wouldn't do that again.

            We did TFL 3 years ago and it was a truly remarkable experience. If you get the reservation, that's where you want to go, even if you have to wear a jacket!

            We also ate at Redd, Terra and Ad Hoc, and all 3 places were consistently wonderful. You will not go wrong going to any of them.

            We had a back-up reservation at Ubuntu for the night we reserved Ad Hoc, but they called us and told us they would be remodeling their kitchen that day, so we never made it there. Ad Hoc was really terrific, though, so we didn't feel we missed out.

            Have a great time. Enjoy the food.

            1. re: tlubow

              I absolutely agree that there is no comparison between the FL and Cyrus. In fact, I really didn't like Cyrus. I found it very pretentious.

              My notes from a December meal.

              Sometimes, I feel as if I am bucking against the tide or I am unduly negative or maybe just plain contrary. But Cyrus generally underwhelmed me. I found the room out-of-place for a wine country restaurant – full of pretensions and trying too hard for sophistication.

              Within seconds of being seated, the champagne and caviar cart is wheeled over. The hit of the evening was my “caviar purse” seen pictured on the box at the front. We decided to skip the caviar course as we had just indulged in quite a bit of oscetra at Christmas. We decided to have the full 9 course tasting menu.

              With our champagne, a plate of bite-size appetizers arrives. A completely forgettable peeky toe crab salad with pomegranates and an excellent goat’s milk cheese and truffle dumpling.

              The next amuse was poached lobster with celery root remoulade and blood orange glaze. This just didn’t have enough flavor.

              Truffled Red Wine Risotto with Shaved White Truffles and Parmesan Reggiano Foam – this was the dish of the night, although much of the truffle flavor was from oil not the actual truffles.

              Ahi Tuna Tartare with Celery Root, Portabellas and Watermelon Radish, Black Perigord Truffles and Soy Vinaigrette – This was in a word unpleasant. There was absolutely no balance of flavors, way too acidic, generally weird, the shredded portabellas threw everything off plus there was an overwhelming taste of truffle oil.

              Seared Foie Gras with Toasted Chestnut and Sherry Soup - The foie with chestnuts is presented first and then the soup was poured on. The foie was excellent, although the chestnuts were soggy. The soup was horrible – thin with too much sherry added. I had served chestnut soup for Christmas and my husband declared my version 100 times better.

              Langoustines with Cauliflower Cream, Crayfish and Uni – the langoustine was slightly overcooked, although the uni and crayfish was a nice addition. I wasn’t that taken with the cauliflower cream as I found it quite bitter.

              Truffled Kurobota Pork Belly with Flagolets, Roast Fuji Apples, Trufffled Cipollini Onions, and Calvados – Again more is more with Chef Doug Keane – I wish he would edit his food. Both my husband and I made the comment that you always wish for one more bite with Keller and with Keane you wish there were fewer bites. Also, there were too many flagolets so that the balance of the dish was “off.”

              While we were waiting for the meat course, the staff surprised us with a bowl mounded with glass rocks holding frozen lollipops made with Lemon Myrtle (similar to Verbena)

              Red Wine Braised “Kobe” Beef Cheeks with Farro and Bloomsdale Spinach, Bordelaise Sauce – this would have been excellent, but the crispy farro threw the dish off. This seemed to be a running theme of Keane’s food – the main ingredient was excellent, but there always seemed to be one component that marred the whole.

              Now, the cheese cart is wheeled over and it was superb. But I am at a loss to understand the way it was served. I chose my three cheeses and John chose a different three as we have very different likes and dislikes in cheese. However, we were served only one cheese plate.

              Soda Pop Hibiscus Syrup – very sweet

              Caramel Soup with Kettle Corn Sorbet and Chocolate Filigree – this was an absolute winner - The waiter brings a scoop of salty sorbet in a bowl, covered with a lacy filigree of chocolate and a pile of popcorn on top. He then pours on the hot caramel broth so that the chocolate net melts and collapses into the bowl. What’s not to love about salty popcorn, hot caramel and chocolate?

              My husband – Champagne Caramel Custard and 5 Citrus
              1. Meyer Lemon Cardamon Sorbet
              2. Blood Orange Pate de Fruit
              3. Kumquat Beignet
              4. Ruby Grapefruit Curd
              5. Key Lime Shortbread

              I didn’t taste any of his dessert so I can’t give an accurate account.

              The bottom line for me – Cyrus is not French Laundry or Manresa. The level of execution is just not there. The “dazzle” is more from the ambiance (if that is your cup of tea) than the plate. In point of fact, I could eat Keller’s and Kinch’s food on a picnic bench! Of course, I wonder why my reaction is so contrary to Bauer’s and other critics. I just felt that too many dishes needed editing and too many times, I wished for one less bite.

              You can see pics here.

              1. re: lizziee

                The cheese plate in your post made me remember how weird I thought it was that when my husband and I told them we'd like to share the wine pairing, instead of serving each each a 1/2 portion in our own glass, they brought only one glass for each course for us to both drink from. I found that very strange. I'm glad there's another person out there who was just as underwhelmed as we were.

                1. re: lizziee

                  'Within seconds of being seated, the champagne and caviar cart is wheeled over'..what a heavenly thought!

            2. Thanks to everyone for the feedback. We decided to double book Redd for the same night as Ad Hoc and decide later. Interesting that people have had bad experiences at Cyrus, but I guess no place on here has 100% good reviews, not even The French Laundry.

              Maria Lorraine: We're going to Whitehall because my uncle is friends with the owner and loves their wines. We're staying in the City of Napa, so Oxbow will be convenient.

              I'll let you know how it goes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Brian Lindauer

                Sounds good to me. If you do a search, you can find several references to Whitehall. Sure hope you have a nice time.