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Feb 4, 2009 09:22 AM

Going to Napa

My 17 year daughter has set her sights of attending the Culinary Institute of America upon graduating High School...We are going to Napa Mar 23 to 26 to attend the Open House of the Napa campus. While there we will sample as much as we can of the restruants.....and the wineries (sans daughter)
We will have a car so we can travel a bit. Our daughter will accompany us and she is a vegetarian so we will prefer places that can accommadate her.
We don't have an unlimited budget.....tuition will take care of our daughters inheritance...but are willing to spend for quality. We have often found lunch at top restruants ie the French Laundry is the best bang for the buck...all suggestions are welcome

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  1. This is a fairly regular topic. Be sure to do "Search this board" searches for Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga, Napa, etc. for the many prior threads that will have dozens and dozens of helpful suggestions for you.

    Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena is a nice place for lunch. Taylor's Refresher, also in St. Helena, is a landmark burger/drive-inn spot. Don't know if they have any veggie offerings.

    5 Replies
    1. re: DavidT

      Thanks for the prompt reply....I have been checking the board something I do before every trip and during most the best aspects of this board is extremely up to date recommendations...
      We eat just about everything in our household...coming from Vancouver we have access to unbelievable sushi and chinese food so usually prefer other options when travelling..with my daughter along places specializing in meats eg BBQ, chop houses, steak house wouldn't be high on our lists. Open kitchens would be nice.Specialty desserts would be nice as my daughter is going to be doing the BA Pastry and Baking program

      1. re: pgj98m3

        Why not have lunch at the CIA? The on site restaurant offers nice lunches, open kitchen exc.. and she would have the opportunity to see some of the students and graduates in action. For a more Veg. driven option Ubuntu still offers lunch on the weekends i believe. Cook in St Helena offers fantastic food in a very comfortable environment. In Yountville Bistro Jeanty offers great French fair Mussels, Tartar, Fried smelt. Thought the wine list is a bit small. In Napa ZuZu is a favorite of mine for fun mix of small plate Spanish offerings. You will have plenty of options and the odds are you will have a great meal. Enjoy and good luck to your daughter, it’s a tough but great industry.

        1. re: Phil O

          I have never understood what's the fascination with ZuZu. I admit that my wife and I have been there only twice, but the dishes seemed to be, generally, overly garlicky and over cooked and not very interesting. I've been through Spain three times, and love Catalan and Basque cooking, and this doesn't come near that (though I've had bland, garlicky tapas in Spain, too).

          Much, much better is Elements Enoteca on 2nd St. I'm told that a former ZuZu chef runs it, and the small dishes are much more interesting, varied, and fresh tasting. (I plan to submit a full review of Elements after we'd been there a few times...)

          And sit at the counter, to get a little view of the kitchen. (Oh -- they have a very large wine selection, many by the glass.)

          Other than that, other posters have offered good ideas (Ubuntu, Brix, CIA).
          Oh -- and the Hog Island Oyster Company at the Oxbow Market has a killer clam chowder.

          Have fun on your visit.

          1. re: teleme

            I think Hog Island at Oxbow is a nice choice. I would only add that the chowder is more of steamed clams in shell and broth. Go for it with that mindset, and it is fine.

            829 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

            Elements Enoteca
            1400 Second Street, Napa, CA 94559

        2. re: pgj98m3

          >>> as my daughter is going to be doing the BA Pastry and Baking program

          Sorry to beat the drum so loudly, then you really should go to Brix. If you can, take advantage of their free wine get together on Sunday afternoon. You can have the wine and bring something non alcoholic for your daughter.

          The restaurant will uncork your wine and provide glasses. The chef's will be stopping by tables and it would be an excellent chance for your daughter to speak with the wonderful pastry chef, Danielle. She is really a great person. Maybe do a late brunch at Brix and stay for the wine program.

          Taylors does have a veggie burger, but i was soooo underwhelmed by my first visit last week. The outside isn't even all that attractive. I pictured it differently.

          Ubuntu has an open kitchen and the people there are very nice, I'm sure they would spend some time talking to your daughter. The desserts are very delicious and creative.

          Another place with an open kitchen that I just read about in Napa but haven't tried is La Toque which recently moved to the Napa Westin. While dinner is on the expensive side, there is now a casual lounge serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It would be a chance to try some of this acclaimed chef's food on the cheap .... however, they DO have a chef's table right in the kitchen.

      2. Not too far from the CIA is the just remodeled Brix with a new chef and pastry chef who has a very impressive resume from some top restaurants in the past. I have been a fan of her cooking and love what she is doing here. The restaurant has a beutiful view and some great bargains especially at happy hour.

        At Brix I could have had a burger on a house-made bun and top-class cheese with fries for $7 in a beautiful restaurant. I spent about $6.99 for a miserable take-out cheeseburger from Taylor's Refresher that was served in a paper box and had wilted iceberg lettuce.

        They have veggie options as well ... great cheese plate among other things.Here are a few recent veggie dishes with happy hour prices ... don't forget the produce is from their own garden and everything is house made by top chefs ... the pizzas are large enough for two to share

        - Margarita pizza Tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella $6
        - Roasted mushroom pizza Parmesan cheese sauce and fingerling potatoes $8
        - Grilled cheddar cheese, bacon and butternut squash sandwich Warm escarole salad $6.50 (ask to skip the bacon on this
        )- Butter lettuce salad Pecorino cheese, Champagne vinaigrette and Asian pears $4.50
        - Crispy hearts of romaine Lemon garlic vinaigrette and sourdough croutons $4.50
        - Trio of artisinal cheese Garden pears and toasted nuts $7.50
        - French fries $2.50

        There are also interesting non alcoholic drinks on the menu for happy hour. They have a three course Sunday supper for $29, but that unfortuantely doesn't have a vegetarian dish. Here's my reports

        Napa: Love and Desiree – Chef Anne Gingrass-Paik and Danielle Bouzios at Brix … WORLD’s best happy hour

        Napa: Brunch at Brix – Maximum deliciousness … steak and eggs with shaved black truffles and caramelized red onions

        If your daughter is vegetarian then don't miss Ubuntu in the city of Napa

        The Oxbow Public Market has a number of casual restaurants with good food

        1. If you are looking for vegitarian Ubuntu is one of the in the country. You can't go wrong with anything Jeremy Fox creates.

          2 Replies
          1. re: dvsarao

            If your Daughter is vegetarian, then definitely go to Ubuntu. The CIA/Wine Spectator also has vegetarian options, and at the time you come will be staffed with students (it isn't always), so there will be lots of students to talk to...although not B&P students. Martini House has a mushroom tasting menu that might appeal to you, but not sure if all of it is vegetarian.

            I'm currently a student at Greystone (and will be in the class working at the restaurant), so if you or your daughter have any questions, feel free to contact me. I promise I'll give you straight answers and not just the CIA party line.

            1. re: Piperdown

              Since your daughter will be taking baking and pastry classes I think the best desserts in the area are at Ubuntu and Redd. If you have time to drive to Healdsburg, Cyrus has a new Pastry Chef from Balthezar in New York City. Each of these places offer bar seating so it won't be necessary to eat a whole meal. You may also like to check-out Woodhouse Chocolates and Model Bakery in St. Helena

            1. As a former pastry chef myself having trained and worked in great kitchens in Paris and NY I would have to recommend that you take your daughter to Redd in Yountville solely to sample some of Pastry Chef Nicole Plue's creations. I have been a fan of her work for years and believe she is one of the best in the business. Totally consistent and super yummy stuff. Although I would call first to make sure she's still there. I would hate to have referred you if she's left.

              1 Reply
              1. re: aka helen

                Just got back from a few courses at CIA Greystone. Two instructors there said that they had some of the best desserts they've ever had anywhere at Redd. Plus Nicole Plue was nominated for a Beard award last year.

                I was a vegetarian for a number of years, and was at Ubuntu the other night. It was fantastic. Definitely go there. Zuzu is also a great place, but totally different. Very casual, full flavored small plates, great prices.

                If you can, fly into San Francisco and stop at Tartine Bakery. Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson won the 2008 James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef award.

                In the St. Helena area, I had great meals at:
                Martini House
                Bistro Jeanty
                Ad Hoc
                of course the French Laundry, but $250 a head its more of a special occasion place.

                A fellow chef in my class said he went to the new La Toque, and had a great meal.

                Enjoy your trip, its an amazing area.