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Oct 7, 2009 07:35 PM

Long Weekend in Napa

Celebrating our anniversary in Napa in December 2009.
Any suggestions for food outings in Napa & Sonoma?
(We know about Taylor's Refreshers.)
Looking for somthing a bit different.

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  1. a lot different or a bit different?

    I just ate at Ubuntu in Napa and it was phenomenal. Ubuntu is a lot different than Taylor's

    1 Reply
    1. re: vulber

      We did Taylor's last year (doesn't everyone need to do it at least once?)
      Looking for both "a lot" and "a bit" diff.

    2. We were just up in September and will be back at the end of this month. We really enjoyed Bottega for lunch, though we'd heard rough reviews...LA Times being one. Cyrus in Healdsburg is still one of the best up there and if you'll be in Sonoma, you can't miss with Girl and the Fig...great relaxed place. El Dorado Kitchen was pretty decent as well, and then there's Redd in Yountville and Martini House in St. Helena, a classic!! Good luck and have fun!

      1 Reply
      1. Brix in Napa near Yountville has a wonderful Sunday brunch.

        I agree Ubuntu is great.

        Fremont Diner in Sonoma is a better version of Taylor's. It is not open Sunday though.

        6 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          I know you're a big fan of Ubuntu, Brix for brunch and happy hour, and Fremont Diner.
          You mention them often.

          What are your impressions of other Napa Valley restaurants, if you have visited them?
          I wonder if you can place the ones you like in context with the others.

          E.g.: Martini House, Ad Hoc, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, Meadowood, Bistro Don Giovanni, Terra, Jole, Press, etc. I'm a big fan of those.

          I know you're not at all a Thomas Keller fan, which means you don't like Ad Hoc (which I love), Bouchon (which I think is terrific if you sit at the bar), Bistro Jeanty (great on a patio on a nice day -- many good menu items), and The French Laundry (a dramatic experience unto itself but not Mecca). Have you been to these restaurants and been disappointed, or is that you just don't like Thomas Keller?

          After repeated visits, I'm not a fan of Bottega, Go Fish, Zuzu, or Oxbow.
          after repeated visits.Bottega was lovely on the first visit, but disappointing thereafter
          and sloppy with details.

          I very much like Ubuntu, like you, but I'm wondering if you've enjoyed some of the other restaurant options. I also like Cole's for steaks, but not as much as Press. I used to like Uva but with the change of ownership I like it more for the live jazz now than the food. I also like the salad-topped pizzas at Azzurro Pizzeria. What are your thoughts on all these options?


          1. re: maria lorraine

            What exactly is all this about? I'm not even mentioning Thomas Keller.

            The only local Keller place I haven't been is Ad Hoc. What in the world has you thinking I have something personal against Thomas Keller? Never met him. I even missed meeting him at the Chowhound lunch at French Laundry. I an not a fan of his food. Tha't's all. I find while there is an attention to detail in the food, it is souless and too precise for me. Coupled with the price, I'd rather not return.

            As to Bouchon, even though I'm not a fan and it is unlikely I'm going to eat raw seafood in Napa,, I have taken you on your word and recommeded the bar at Bouchon a number of times in other posts if the situation fits. .

            I currently am not interested in celeb chefs with their upscale chains ... that includes Keller with his frozen french fries, Wolfgang Puck and his frozen pizzas, Bradley Ogden who I once loved, etc. etc. So Bottega is pretty low on my list in terms of the latest hyped celeb chef.

            Because I have business in Wine Country but it is earlier in the day usually, I've tried lots of breakfast places and have repeatedly asked on this board if there are any good breakfasts in the area with little response.

            Brix is the best breakfast I've had to date in the entire wine country and actually surpasses almost any other brunch in the entire Bay Area. It actually is up there in the top ten of best brunches I've had in my life.

            Boon Fly is the only place that comes near ... but not that near. I'd rather go to Fremont Diner.

            I am also a fan of the Brix chef and pastry chef from their days in SF at Desiree where I ate weekly. If I lived closer I'd be at Brix weekly.

            I don't feel I need to apoligize for places I like a lot. We have so many good places in the Bay Area, my to-try list is quite long. It is unusual that I return to a place more than once. Fremont Diner just fits my taste perfectily. It is rare that I'm on that road that I don't stop by for something. I have enjoyed almost everything there. Ditto with Ubuntu.

            I like Oxbow. I guess I don't understand people who drool over Cowgirl Creamery, don't like the sister shop in Oxbow ... or fans of the Fatted Calf stand at Ferry Plaza turn up their noses at the superior shop in Napa. Love Hog Island in SF, but somehow it is no good in Napa? Worship the chicken and porchetta sandwiches at the Roli Roti trucks but sneer at them in Oxbow? I don't get it. Model Bakery is what it is, but fits nicely to help complete the market.

            I guess if you don't like Oxbow it would be better to posts specifics as to why not rather than cryptic one liners of having tried to like it. Maybe some detail would help others guide you to the good stuff you might be missing. I know I've done detailed post after detailed post about what I do like about Oxbow.

            How many years have I been writing about the Wine Country cheeseshops, yet in all that time not one Wine Country poster has directed me to Raymond and Company. Yet when I finally find it ... through Yelp ... finally Wine Country posters jump in saying the man is a genious.

            I see no reason for doing comparative evaluations of every wine country restaurant for a simple request. I suggest the places I like best or that seem to fit in with a posters request. The rest I post about as I try them such as my recent visit to Bardessono. In certain contexts this might fit some posters, but for most ... nope. How does that place fit in with your restaurant evaluations?

            The OP asked for Sonoma recs. How does Estate or LaSalette or any of the other dozen restaurants fit in. I know from one liners you don't like the Sonoma restaurants but I'm not clear as why they don't meet the standards of Napa restaurants in your evaluation.

            So I don't get your post at all. Are you saying you don't like the places I recommeded? Cool with me. Suggest better places. I'm not sure out of all your mentions in your post exactly who you would recommed to the OP.

            But I recommend three of my favorites to a post that doesn't go into any detail ... the places I consider failproof and best of the best ... and I get this response? Seriously? Why?

            If someone asks for help on the SF board, must I have tried every restaurant in the city to be able to recommend the places I frequent and enjoy?

            As I said, I have a long to-try list for the entire BayAe rea. Of those you mention and I haven't tried they are on my list and based on following posts on the board they are prioritized. For those I have tried, I just didn't think they were worth recommending.

            The OP doesn't indicate that they searched the board at all. So though I recommended those three places often ... with numerous detailed reports ... the OP has probably not caught those.

            I love those restaurants. Recommeding them keeps them, in Chow radar. That is a win-win-win situtation. It gives the poster a great place to eat, IMO. It hopefully throws a little more business at them which is the win for me so that they continue to have business and are there for my dining pleasure.

            Many of the places you mention are in the guidebooks. Everyone knows about them. With the exception of Ubuntu, the others are excellent restaurants that fly under the hype radar.

            1. re: rworange

              Odd tone.

              You have not read my posts on Oxbow or Sonoma restaurants if you describe what I’ve written as “one-liners.”

              I have mentioned the specific reasons why I don’t care for Oxbow many times. To reiterate, the main problem, for me, is the unattractive industrial space and its location in the city of Napa. When in Napa Valley, I prefer — and I’ve heard this often from those who visit here and live here — to be in a setting that takes advantage of the enormous beauty here, and not be in an urban food-court.

              I find the food offerings better elsewhere as well. Even though I appreciate Fatted Calf’s creations, I’m more a fan of well-made Italian or Spanish charcuterie, finding it more flavorful, better-priced and easier to find. I am a fan of Model Bakery’s baguettes, but many Bay Area bakeries do an admirable job with bread, and those breads are conveniently found throughout Napa Valley.

              I love many Sonoma County restaurants and post about them. My favorites are in Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, though. Ravenous, Cyrus, Willi’s — I’ve mentioned these and others many times.

              >>>“How many years have I been writing about the Wine Country cheeseshops, yet in all that time not one Wine Country poster has directed me to Raymond and Company. Yet when I finally find it ... through Yelp ... finally Wine Country posters jump in saying the man is a genious.”<<<

              Did you forget Cynsa’s thread on John Raymond’s cheese store on June 20, 2009?.
              You even commented on that thread, as did I.
              “Glen Ellen-Raymond & Co. Cheesemongers”

              Your own post on John Raymond’s store several months later on September 7, 2009, was very good.

              BTW, I also recommended John Raymond in a Cheesemongers thread on Chowhound
              last October, 2008, here, but did not talk about his store. I’ve known John since 2001, and he has long been selling at the North Bay farmers markets:

              Thomas Keller — “I'm so far not a Thomas Keller fan,” is what you said on Chowhound on June 10, 2009:
              It was understood that you weren’t talking about Thomas Keller personally, but about his food.
              I’d characterize Ad Hoc as serving the most soulful food of his Napa Valley restaurants. And the reviews lately of TFL certainly reflect a commitment to local, fresh, high-quality food, at a premium price to be sure.

              As far as the OP’s request for something different, different can be many things. Different from everything you’ve had so far, different in concept, unusual cuisine, unusual venue — all of these.

              Answering the question generally, Ubuntu is very different. Ad Hoc is different. As are the taco trucks, and picnics at wineries.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                I'm sorry, I still don't get how my three little recommendations elicited the response it got. That was the odd tone to me.

                At the moment I like those places best. Until something better comes along I'll recommend them ... especially to a post like the OP which has no detail.

                Ad Hoc is on my to-try list but nothing I've read about the place leads me to think it will be soulful. I won't go in with that expectation because I know I would be vastly disappointed.

                My expectation it is that it is a good take on California cuisine ... a technically perfect one ... and that is what I'm going with. How that stacks up with other similar restaurants in the area, don't know. Again, within the first post I never mentioned Keller and don't see why I would given I'm not a fan.

              2. re: rworange

                What do you think of pacific blues breakfast?

                1. re: mick

                  I haven't tried it yet. IIRC, I thought I asked about it and got either no or a lukewarm response. What do you like there.

                  Speaking of Yountville, it seems that Etoile now has Sunday brunch. It seems there are more of the lunch items than breakfast but it sounds pleasant enough. I may move that ahead of Silverado on my to-try list.

          2. So, "Napa & Sonoma" covers a lot of territory, where are you staying and planning to visit?

            Price ranges? Formal, informal? Lunch, dinner?

            2 Replies
            1. re: MRMoggie

              We'll be staying at the Carneros going to either Sonoma or Napa for a meal works for us.

              We think we'll do two breakfasts out, one lunch and two dinners. Maybe one formal dinner, the rest can be informal. Mostly we want to enjoy good food and eachother's comapny. Last year we went to Genova Delicatessen and Ravioli Factory and then took our lunch out for a little picnic. We went to Press and to Sisho for dinners. Press was okay, a bit overpriced and the atmosphere was so-so. We had more fun doing a salt tasting next door at Dean & Deluccas than we did at dinner. We liked Sisho. We sat at the bar and the chef/owner was gracious and friendly.

              1. re: FoodieForFun

                In addition to the other places mentioned, Boon Fly Cafe right at the Caneros inn wold be a good choice for breakfast.

                The General's Daughter closed and is now Estate.I haven't had a lot there, but liked what I tried so far.

            2. Rutherford Grill in Calistoga is pretty simple, but the food is good, and there's no corkage on the first bottle. CIA (Culinary Institute of America - St. Helena/Calistoga) is open to the public. I haven't been there, but any of my friends who have say it's great. On the Sonoma side, the restaurant in the Swiss Hotel is very good. Bon Appetit!