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Jul 6, 2012 03:34 PM

Napa - local dishes/restaurant recommendations please!

Hello there,

My name is Lucy and this summer I am undertaking a big food project: I am travelling across the United States from California, through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York. The purpose of my journey is to discover the best dishes, restaurants and food producers in the country - essentially my project is to eat my way across the country. I am really looking to get to the heart of each state's cookery. I will be writing about my journey along the way and publishing it on, my food website.

For example, I am undertaking a big exploration into US bbq along the route - travelling around Texas to find the best Texas BBQ, and then comparing it to East and West North Carolinian BBQ!
All very exciting stuff, I think!

I am looking for a bit of advice on all of these places - but especially Napa (mainly because its appropriate to this particular forum section, but don't hesitate to recommend for the other places too!).

I am looking for a bit of advice on a few things:
- Particular dishes to try - what is the local 'thing' in Napa.
- Restaurants/shops/producers/food places to try
- If you know of any opportunity for me to get some hands on experience cooking that would be great!
- Any other suggestions welcomed!

If anyone could offer any advice on the above that would be fantastic!

Many thanks,
Lucy x

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  1. Napa's kind of an odd choice for such a project, there's not really much of a local culinary tradition there. Until the 1980s, the valley was a sparsely populated agricultural area, and the city was a lower-working-class town where the main businesses were supplying the local farmers and running a state mental hospital. Today the local economy is dominated by well-heeled tourists, retirees, and second-home owners and the fine wine industry. Sonoma's more diverse and has more interesting producers. San Francisco has numerous local dishes.

    That said, Rancho Gordo is a great place.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I included Napa primarily for the wine - am going to be visiting a few vinyards while am there (so any recommendations for good ones...hit me with them!), but also looking for interesting food places!

      San Francisco I am also going to and have been reading up from the board on places there - but more recommendations, welcome!

      1. re: FoodGoblin

        I appreciate your enthusiasm but without much guide to your budget, tastes, types of wineries/wines etc.. I think people are going to be at a loss as to what to recommend. There are hundreds of wineries in Napa. This post is a good one to look at if you truly have no budget:

        1. re: goldangl95

          Thanks for your suggestion. I haven't included these specifications because I don't want to restrict any suggestions that people might have. I want to hear about everything, regardless of budget or genus. I like all foods, all wines, have no allergies or food restrictions and am interested in writing about and experiencing all of these things.

          1. re: FoodGoblin

            With that said perhaps you should plug Napa into the search engine and read what has been posted for the last year or so.

      2. Napa local here... The only Napa "thing" of note are all the local restaurants which have their own gardens and those are proliferating. All of the chefs are working hard to include farm-fresh ingredients and, yes, you will find Rancho Gordo beans at most of the restaurants in one form or another.

        Last evening, I ate at an off-the-radar, locals restaurants, Grace's Table. The chef has as an appetizer "Frickles" - deep fried, pickles he creates from his own garden which include cauliflower, shallots, bell peppers, etc. Served with a dill dipping sauce, it is a favorite of mine and a little unusual. The beans in his cassoulet and fish taco are from Rancho Gordo. Speaking of tacos, Bistro Sabor is another under-rated hole-in-the-wall favorite and I prefer their asparagus and mushroom taco. Their crab quesadilla is more like a Chinese Crab Ragoon in its sweetness.

        Most of the restaurants serve bread from Model Bakery and morning pastries come from Sweetie Pies.

        House-made salumis are also becoming popular as seen at restaurant Oenetri. But a lot of restaurants will serve Fatted Calf pork products and Five Dot Ranch beef products (both available at Oxbow Market). You should also drive up-valley to Long Meadow Ranch's roadside market and eat at their Farmstead Restaurant.

        The other Napa valley "thing" is Gott's née Taylor's Refresher. The original (still called Taylor's) is in St. Helena and has an outdoor service area for their burgers, amazing shakes, and wine service, with a second re-named Gott's at Oxbow. I'd recommend the Ahi Burger personally.

        Hope this helps!