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Jan 4, 2013 11:18 AM

Preliminary Itinerary for Yountville/St Helena....comments/reviews greatly welcomed

Have had great responses on the New Orleans board for a trip that I am taking.....so, gonna try this one for some help concerning my first Napa Valley trip. A couple of points about my trip: 1. Not looking to visit any wineries, instead just relax (staying at Wine Country Inn in St Helena) and visit St Helena and Yountville towns; also looking for lighter farm-to-table menus rather than the heavier/complex dishes (which will eliminate Bouchon, Bottega, Bistro Jeanty, et al). Here goes:
Wed: Check-in, then first night later dinner at Goose and Gander.
Thu: Lunch at Lucy's Bar at Bardessono, visit Yountville, a wine tasting or two after lunch. Dinner at Tra Vigne for the "al minuto mozzerella:...
Fri: Lunch at Domaine Chandon tasting lounge for the light tasting menu; dinner at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch
Sat: Back in Yountville for lunch at Redd; another tasting or two and picking up macaroons at Bouchon bakery; dinner at the Bistro/Bar at Auberge du Soleil.
Sun: Visit the town of St Helena and have late brunch at Market; dinner at the Rutherford Grill
Mon: Lunch at the Grill at Meadowood; dinner back in St Helena at Cook.
That's the preliminary list.....Dinners will definitely be in St Helena or Rutherford and not in Yountville. Any comments or menu suggestions are warmly welcomed.

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  1. Kill Tra Vigne. It is probably the last place in the valley we locals recommend as its reputation is beyond mediocre. It was an amazing restaurant over a decade ago when Michael Chiarello was the owner and chef and before he got a T.V. show and bad attitude. Now it is a local's scab that we wish would go away.

    When I started reading that you wanted Farm-to-Table, Farmstead was the first that came to mind, so that is perfect!

    Rutherford Grill is "just okay" but a lot of tourists like it. It is owned by the Houston's chain which is why we locals tend to avoid it with the exception of the Prime Rib French Dip. If anyone really wants to eat there, I recommend it for lunch over dinner. I think you will be underwhelmed.

    If you are willing to drive down valley, I can heartily recommend FARM in Carneros as another farm-to-table restaurant.

    Other recommendations just north of St. Helena would be JoLe in Calistoga. Can't recommend it highly enough.

    14 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      Do you have any other thoughts about dinner in St Helena?....Cindy's resto or French Blue, perhaps?

      1. re: VegasGourmet

        I'm not a huge fan of Cindy's Backstreet but I know other locals love it. The menu is just all over the ethnic landscape and I found it too inconsistent. I haven't been to French Blue yet but the breakfast/brunch menu looks very enticing to me.

        1. re: CarrieWas218

          Hi....First, the reason for the dinner locales was that the Inn provides a complimentary dinner shuttle to St Helena and Rutherford restos...a huge plus.....French Blue looked more like a lunch place in town and I'm not dissuaded by the fact that Rutherford is part of a chain....the menu looks like solid comfort food with no pretense, ready for a hearty bottle of Zin. But, I will give you props on pointing out the negatives on Tra Vigne....other than than "al minuto" mozz, the menu did not impress me greatly....and Cook should be far superior for Italian.

          1. re: VegasGourmet

            Eliminated Tra Vigne and added Cindy's newer restaurant....The Wood Grill. Also added an evening stay in Paso (on the way to Napa) and having the tasting menu at Bistro Laurent.

            1. re: VegasGourmet

              I think the only downside to Cindy's Wood Grill - or any restaurant at that location, for that matter - is that *nothing* has survived there... Cindy keeps trying different things at that location; prior to it being a Wood Grill, it was Mediterranean for about a year and before that, it was Seafood and before that, it was a Joachim Splichal restaurant, Pinot Blanc. Maybe the location is cursed or something but considering the staying power of many, great restaurants in the valley (Terra, Cook, Bistro Jeanty, et al), SOMETHING about that location never seems to stick...

            2. re: VegasGourmet

              Rutherford Grill has excellent baby back ribs . . . worth a trip I think. I always get the coleslaw and potatoes colcanon(sp?) as sides rather than what is offered on the menu

              1. re: vday

                Colcannon, Irish mashed potatoes mixed with greens and scallions and lots of butter and cream. With the ribs you might as well set up a cholesterol drip.;-)

                1. re: wolfe

                  haha :-) - but then you would miss all that scrumptious enjoyment of savoring them! Have you tried the ribs and potatoes at RG Wolfe?
                  Seriously though, I think it's better to eat real food including fatty stuff than a lot of the things people are eating these days . . .

            3. re: CarrieWas218

              I'd re-think some things. Unfortunately, a few of your farm-to-table resto selections don't make very good food. But no matter, most of the food is very fresh and sourced from the Bay Area or the best location for that product.

              Yes, I agree with Carrie that Tra Vigne has to go. So does Lucy -- sadly, the food is nowhere near where it needs to be -- read the reviews.

              Market is tired and boring. Be warned: Dinner at Auberge is likely to disappoint flavor-wise and sting your wallet as well -- stick with cocktails and an app only instead. If you want to spend Auberge kind of money, go to The Restaurant at Meadowood, which is stellar, and actually get something for that amount of money. Don't confuse The Restaurant at Meadowood with the almost lifeless Meadowood Grill.

              Rutherford Grill works for me, and I'm picky, but it's mostly well-executed comfort food. One fine dish there in keeping with lighter fare -- the terrific ahi sashmi salad with mango (lose the hot peppers -- it KOs everything). I love the cheeseburgers, and the house salad is one of the best anywhere -- comes with a deviled egg. Love the side of marinated olives and outstanding cornbread. Others really like the enchilada plate and the ribs -- too heavy for me. I always bring my own wine to Rutherford Grill (no corkage), so bring a bottle purchased from one of your tastings and sit at the bar for the most interactive fun and great people watching. You may find others sitting near you to trade tastes of wine with -- it's a big hangout for the wine industry and people are easy to talk to.

              I love certain menu items at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen -- the duck burger with shiitake ketchup is outstanding, rabbit tostada, short ribs). Agree with Carrie again and think Cindy's new resto -- the Wood Grill -- is yet another loser in that same location.

              Goose & Gander is a great call (check out the cocktails), as is French Blue, especially for breakfast or lunch. Redd in Yountville is great (be sure to reserve a table in the rear dining room because the front room has abysmal acoutics). Check out the new Ciccio in Yountville -- small authentic Italian place. Haven't been but it's been getting raves from those in the know -- and it's only two blocks from the French Laundry so the Inn's shuttle can surely accommodate you.

              You're mistaken to think that Bistro Jeanty food is heavy -- just choose the lighter dishes like the wonderful smoked trout salad and best mussels anywhere (order them with frites) -- when the food at Cook is far, far heavier, and dated. Plus, the environment feels totally crammed and zoo-ey, and you may have to wait forever. I have no idea why people like it other than it's convenient and the prices are OK.

              Be sure to take the time to go to the websites for each resto and read the online menus. Check the reviews for each place, here on Chowhound, and elsewhere. Probably best to not trust the Inn writeups on restos (I've read a few) or wineries. Get informed and enjoy yourself. This is such a wonderful place.

              The Inn is on Lodi Lane, and though you're not looking to visit wineries, a pleasant short stroll is down to the end of Lodi Lane to Duckhorn Vineyards for their excellent Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. The Concierge will surely have tasting passes for you, but pay extra if need be to taste the reserve bottlings.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Wow....many thx, Maria.....A few thoughts:
                Dinner at Auberge will be at the Bistro/Bar, split a margherita pizza for an app, then have the burger with pommes frites...going for the ambiance and bar. Market will be for my one day on Main St in St Helena for lunch..once again, probably a burger and a couple of glasses of zin..then window shopping and picking up some cheeses and salamis at Sunshine Foods. I can certainly switch French Blue for Market for lunch if you think that;s a big improvement. The Inn's complimentary dinner shuttle does not go into Yountville, so not doing dinners there (also do read a lot of reviews about the noise/table spacing at Jeanty being an issue...would have gone for lunch anyway; but preferred Redd. As far as Lucy's...that was also a bar/lounge lunch....or sit outside if they will serve the bar menu outside. Meadowood will be the Grill for lunch (and the view). And choose to do Cook on a Monday night which, I had hoped, would be less of a crowd issue than other nights....I can drop in on my "St Helena Main St day" and judge for myself...Finally, I had expected to walk over to Duckhorn; was looking forward to Silverado Brewing Co at Abbey; but they lost their lease.

                1. re: VegasGourmet

                  There's an amazing cheese that read is carried by Sunshine Foods. Winnimere. It's a seasonal cheese and not widely available. Highly recommend.


                2. re: maria lorraine

                  I second your comments about Bistro Jeanty. I've only had lunches there and didn't get anything heavy. Altough it's been on the menu forever the tomato soup with puff pastry dome and frites are still great.

                  I'm glad OP is going to Goose and Gander. We had a wonderful lunch there recently and the place is just so darned handsome :)

                  We had a very enjoyable lunch at Cindy's Backstreet. I'm glad people mentioned the name change at Wood Grill. Whe driving by, we thought 'wait wasn't that Mediterranean last summer?"

                  We enjoyed walking aroud the little downtown are of St. Helena and had a pre-lunch cocktail. There's a place called Olivier' where I bought a scumptious 20y.o. balsamic vinegar at a really reasonable.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Made a couple of switches.....moved the Redd Lunch to Redd Brunch Menu and moved Market to the French Blue Brunch. One for Sat and one for Sunday. One day each in Yountville and St Helena. Gonna do a "winery day" instead of a second in Yountville. Wanted to address the comments on Cook.....and looking for one good Italian meal. Eliminating Tra Vigne and not going to Yountville...would Cook still be a good choice?....Alex is an option; but I did not like the menu as much as I did the one at Cook.

                    1. re: VegasGourmet

                      Cook is much better than Alex...

                      I guess since you are limited with the shuttle, that is your best bet. I would have recommended Bistro Don Giovanni as the best Italian in the valley.

            4. Redd Wood in YV is great. Tra Vigne was not great the last time I went. Farmstead is very good, and even better if you can sit outside. Boon Fly has great comfort food, brex, etc. Rutherford grill is OK, but good enough that I would return. Too bad Ubuntu closed.

              7 Replies
              1. re: mr_morcilla

                Agreed on Redd Wood (to @VegasGourmet, Redd Wood is different and a few blocks down the street in Yountville from Redd). Had dinner there last week and thoroughly enjoyed it.

                1. re: jcormac

                  Thx but cannot do Yountville for dinners ( I intend to do some serious drinking at dinners and, therefore, will be using the free dinner shuttle back and forth from the Inn) and strongly prefer the weekend brunch at Redd to ReddWood for why I am going to Yountville in the first place.....

                  1. re: VegasGourmet

                    I'm a dissenter on Redd Wood and think you are okay to miss it. It is - when all is said and done - just a pizza joint. Good pizza, yes, but Redd is the preferable establishment and I don't think Redd Wood is worthy of going out of the way for, so you are fine with the choice.

                    You are a close enough walk to Praeger Port Works that you should consider that a stop one day; great sweet wines!

                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                      I just love Prager's white port. And, yes, within walking distance. Small and family run. Nice.

                    2. re: VegasGourmet

                      If it's not too plebian for you, you might avail yourself of the
                      #10 Vine Bus that runs up and down Highway 29.

                      Several stops in Yountville, and it drops you right at Lodi and HIghway 29, a half block from the Inn. 20 minutes from Yountville to Lodi Lane. Last bus leaves Yountville at 9:21 PM to go north. About $2, and you can throw your bike on the front of the bus.


                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        As always, Maria Lorraine has a brilliant suggestion!

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Hi Maria.....I did see that on the town website; but I usually prefer later dinners (8pm ish)......the only one that I will go early to is the Bistro/Bar at Auberge....no reservations taken. Also....I am really drawn more to the nature of the St Helena/Rutherford restos than those in Yountville. I have "Yountville" (and better, here in Las Vegas)....which is also why I chose The Wine Country Inn and their shuttle rather than the Cottages of Napa and their shuttle (to Yountville).