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Calistoga, Napa, SF - Itinerary Critique Please!

Phoo_d Mar 24, 2009 06:56 PM

Hi San Francisco Chowhounds -

We're going to be spending 3 days in the Northern Napa region (based out of Calistoga) and then 2 days in San Francisco in early April. I've scoured the boards and several online sites to narrow things down and have come up with the itinerary below. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and suggestions on anything that should be missed, seems unreasonably timed or can't be passed by. Thank you in advance - I've been totally blown away by the helpful nature of this board already. (Maria Lorraine your suggestions are goldmines of information!)



Orin Swift Offices in St. Helena - Early Morning
Nickel & Nickel 10:00am
Frog's Leap 12pm
Shafer 2pm
Redd - Dinner, 5pm

Frank Family 10:00am
Barnett 12:00pm
Pride 1:30pm
Vincent Arroyo 4:00pm
Brannan's - Dinner 6:30pm

Montelana 9:30am
Santi Taverna in Geyserville - Lunch, 12:00pm
Drive into San Francisco
Dinner at Zuni Cafe 7:45pm

Breakfast at Tartine Bakery
Dinner at A-16

Sunday Schedule:
Breakfast at Boulette's Larder
Fly home - If they can drag me onto the plane!

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  1. maria lorraine RE: Phoo_d Mar 24, 2009 07:44 PM

    I think that looks about perfect. I'm not wild about Brannan's but it will probably be OK for one night. Nice work, nice research!


    1. rworange RE: Phoo_d Mar 24, 2009 07:45 PM

      Taking a look at your profile, you might try some of the ice cream places in the area such as Bi-Rite creamery down the street from Tartine. What I do like a lot better though is Humphry Slocome on 24th street. Address, website and linked reports are on this Place record

      The ice cream is wonderful and they have creative flavors, the Secret breakfast being the star, imo ... booze and cereal. They currently have foie gras ice cream. One of my favorites is the Valrhona fudgesicle. Mmmm ... I'm in SF this week. Going to have to stop by.

      On Saturday morning breakfast at the Ferry Plaza farmers market would be the much better choice than Tartine. Switch Tartine and Boulette. There are such wonderful food vendors and many of the areas top bakeries and cheesemakers that it would be a shame to pass it by. I will warn that Boulette's doesn't have breakfast on Saturday, but there are so many good breakfast vendors at the market.

      Here's the link for the farmers market

      Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
      2790 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      5 Replies
      1. re: rworange
        Phoo_d RE: rworange Mar 24, 2009 08:24 PM

        Thank you for the ice cream suggestion rworange! Mr. B is standing behind me excitedly saying "Oh, $*@% yes!" You pegged our profile well =). We will definitely make a stop by Humphry Slocome. Thanks for the breakfast suggestions too...we will make the switch.

        Maria - Is there a different restaurant in Calistoga that you would recommend over Brannan's? My other thought was Jole but there weren't many reviews yet. Thanks again for sharing all of your wonderful information.


        1. re: Phoo_d
          rworange RE: Phoo_d Mar 24, 2009 09:32 PM

          I know it is not in Calistoga and you didn't ask me, but just below Oakville is Brix which recently had a staff change. If you can get there between 4-6 they have a fabulous happy hour where the bar menu is half off as are many wines and cocktails. Here's the place record with website and reports

          Here's the link to the bar menu. Keep in mind all those prices are half off. during happy hour. The cheese plate is wonderful.

          Since you are going to Ferry Plaza and are interested in ice cream, Spring Hill cheese sometimes has ice cream. It isn't anything with a real wow factor, but they have Jersey cows which gives a certain richness to the ice cream. Ask them if they have it. They don't make a point of displaying it. I'm not as enamoured with their cheeses which are fine. However, they makes some nice quark. There are samples

          1. re: rworange
            kattyeyes RE: rworange Mar 26, 2009 09:16 AM

            I fondly remember trying quark for the first time at a farmer's market (in Santa Monica, maybe?). It was from Spring Hill and it was LEMON. I tried to get our local (CT) cheese purveyor to carry it, to no avail. Do try the quark--it's wonderful!

            Also, don't forget Recchiutti Chocolates in the Ferry Building.

          2. re: Phoo_d
            tom246 RE: Phoo_d Mar 25, 2009 06:10 AM

            Jole would be a great choice in Calistoga. Will be there in about a month.

            1. re: tom246
              mick RE: tom246 Mar 25, 2009 10:03 AM

              Given your itinerary for Thursday I would not travel south to Brix I would eat in Calistoga. Will make for a more relaxed and less hectic day since its pretty full already. I think once your in Calistoga you could check out Brannans,Jole and others and decide where you want to eat. Should not be a problem getting reservations or just walking in.

        2. c
          chadders RE: Phoo_d Mar 25, 2009 10:49 AM

          I live in Calistoga and I agree it's better to eat there instead of traveling down valley. Your time will be less hectic. My choices for dining would be first Jole, second Solage especially for a leisurely lunch and finally All Season's Bistro. Spring has arrived so you should have perfect weather for your visit. Enjoy

          6 Replies
          1. re: chadders
            Phoo_d RE: chadders Mar 25, 2009 01:42 PM

            Thank you for the suggestions. We will keep that evening open and poke around Calistoga to see what we can find. It sounds like there are several good options.

            I may need an alternative to A-16 as they only had a very early reservation for Saturday. Does anyone have a comparable suggestion? My in-laws will be joining us that evening and are not the most adventureous eaters or big fans of tasting menus after a bad experience at Charlie Trotters in the 90's. (I've tried to tell them that not all tasting menus are like that...but it's hard to overcome the memory!)

            1. re: Phoo_d
              mick RE: Phoo_d Mar 25, 2009 01:58 PM

              SPQR is A-16's sister restaurant located on Fillmore in a nice area.

              1. re: Phoo_d
                Melanie Wong RE: Phoo_d Mar 25, 2009 02:03 PM

                Did you try calling A16 for a res or use opentable? If opentable, be aware that there are more tables available by calling.

                And, note that SPQR doesn't accept reservations.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  Phoo_d RE: Melanie Wong Mar 25, 2009 02:07 PM

                  I called A16 directly as I've run into that problem before with Opentable. Right now we're on the books for 5:45 but I'm not sure that everyone will be out of their meetings by then so I'm trying to identify other options.

                2. re: Phoo_d
                  rworange RE: Phoo_d Mar 26, 2009 01:49 AM

                  While it doesn't take reservations, you might give the new Pizza Nostra a try.

                  If you don't need Italian, Zuni might be a good choice.

                  1. re: rworange
                    Phoo_d RE: rworange Mar 26, 2009 12:45 PM

                    We're headed to Zuni on Friday night - again with the in-laws and I think it will be a good choice from everything I've heard. (I'm just excited to try the chicken!)

                    I think reservations are going to be a must as the in-laws aren't the best at seat-of-your pants dining. That being said I've heard great things about Pizza Nostra!

              2. m
                mick RE: Phoo_d Mar 25, 2009 02:27 PM

                On a Saturday except for early or late you'll probably be out of luck for A-16, SPQR,Delfina,Perbecco,Incanto etc. For prime time res hours may want to try Antica Trattoria,Zuppa.

                1. c
                  chowdog21 RE: Phoo_d Mar 25, 2009 04:53 PM

                  I've lived in Napa for 2 years and eaten at Redd at least four times and never come away satisfied (not sure why I keep repeating my mistake), although the reasons vary from food to service. Even the chef's tasting menu has left me disappointed. Instead, I'd suggest trying Michael Chiarello's new restaurant in Yountville - Bottega. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article... Or, you can't go wrong with Martini House in St. Helena (especially if you love mushrooms!). As for wineries, you might want to check out Alpha Omega and Elizabeth Spencer. Bon voyage!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: chowdog21
                    mick RE: chowdog21 Mar 25, 2009 07:28 PM

                    Could not disagree more with chowdog, with this caveat. I think at Redd its best to eat at the bar, even if its only the bar menu. Have been to Bottega several times since opening and it is good but I would avoid Martini House other than the decor/design forget it. Although Mon-Thur between 5:00-6:30 they have a good inexpensive family meal. As far as wineries good choices may also want to check out Del Dotto.

                    1. re: mick
                      loomco RE: mick Mar 26, 2009 08:44 AM

                      Del Dotto is known locally as "Del Blotto". Make them your last stop of the day, and have a designated driver ready...

                      1. re: loomco
                        rocio415 RE: loomco Mar 26, 2009 09:48 AM

                        It's too bad that chowdog21 has not had a memorable experience at Redd. I have been going practically every Sunday for the last year and have never had a bad experience. Sit at the bar to get the best service. Plus, the chef is always in the kitchen cooking.
                        Bottega is very good and a beautiful restaurant, but for some reason it feels a little bit like an L.A. restaurant.
                        Don't even think about Del Dotto, it's a phony. They claim to have caves but it's just a building with dirt and grass on the roof. Notice there is no hill or mountain around the building so there can be no real caves.
                        Alpha Omega is a great reccomendation. To avoid the heaviest traffic try tasting rooms on the Silverado Trail. A personal favorite of mine is James Cole.

                    2. re: chowdog21
                      Missmoo RE: chowdog21 Mar 26, 2009 10:40 AM

                      I've been to Redd twice and loved it the first time and was not as happy the second, but that was because the tasting menu didn't work for me. I would still go back, but I wouldn't do the tasting menu. Also I really disliked the main dining room, the lighting is terrible!

                    3. Phoo_d RE: Phoo_d Mar 26, 2009 12:51 PM

                      Thank you everyone for the responses. Those of you who enjoy Redd - what dishes are consistently good? (I realize the menu changes, but in general.)

                      Kattyeyes- I will look for quark! I've never had it before. Sounds wonderful.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Phoo_d
                        mick RE: Phoo_d Mar 26, 2009 03:46 PM

                        As far as apps love the glazed pork belly and the scallops!

                        1. re: mick
                          cortez RE: mick Mar 26, 2009 04:21 PM

                          For me at Redd, it's the petrale sole over jasmine rice with small bits of chorizo and a saffron foam. Outstanding.

                          For your winery visits, I'd tend to delete Nickel + Nickel (long on atmosphere, architecture and horses -- shorter on wine) in favor of a change of pace: olive oil tasting and light lunch at Round Pond on Rutherford Road. We and our guests were blown away by the tour, tasting and fun lunch (casual platters of chicken breast, tomatoes, cheese, etc.) in their lovely, modern olive oil facility. Check it out.

                          1. re: cortez
                            maria lorraine RE: cortez Mar 26, 2009 05:06 PM

                            I disagree about N&N, for what it's worth. It's best to ask if one can design a tasting of wines that best suits one's palate and purposes. I love the single vineyard bottlings. While Round Pond got good reviews at first, they are not all favorable now. Respect your input, Cortez, on this and many other posts, just disagree as my experience has been different.

                            1. re: maria lorraine
                              cortez RE: maria lorraine Mar 26, 2009 06:44 PM

                              Maria lorraine:

                              Thanks for your feedback. To be more specific about mine, I found N&N to be a very polished marketing experience, like the tours of its sister winery, Far Niente. I am a nut for architecture, design and brand development -- all of which are superb at N&N and Far Niente. The wine experience is not, however, of the same qualtity -- low information, moderate quality and premium prices.

                              As to Round Pond, I used to be a member of their wine club but dropped it. The property is gorgeous -- particularly the wine tasting on the second floor open deck of the winery in front of the fireplace. But, again, the wine lags.

                              My recommendation for Round Pond is aimed specifically at the olive oil tour, tasting and lunch. In my experience, visitors to Napa tire of tasting room after tasting room and enjoy another agricultural experience in the valley. For me, the Round Pond olive oil tour fits that bill. Let me know if you've tried it.

                              Thanks again.

                              1. re: cortez
                                maria lorraine RE: cortez Mar 26, 2009 07:01 PM

                                Nice post. Actually, I find the olive oil a bit lacking from Round Pond -- I prefer California olive oils that are a bit more like the quality ones from Spain or Italy -- but agree that a different type tour might offer some variety to those who've had enough of wine-tasting.

                      2. c
                        chef jd RE: Phoo_d Mar 26, 2009 05:56 PM

                        I would suggest Morlet family vineyards, there office is in St Helena. I am in the wine business and probably think Luc Morlet is making some of the best pinots and chards in California. I would highly suggest tasting his La Proportion Doree, Robert Parker calls it the best Bordeaux blend in the world. He doesn't produce very many so they are pricey.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chef jd
                          Phoo_d RE: chef jd Mar 27, 2009 07:31 AM

                          That sounds interesting. I will look them up as well as Round Pond. I have the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing company on my list to work in if time allows. I really enjoy oils so would love to squeeze something in.

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