What We Ate in Napa

Note:  I completely forgot to post about Taylor’s Automatic Refresher.  It’s been a month and I’m still thinking about how yummy our burgers and fries were at this little old fashioned outdoor burger stand.  They were really good and had special sauce.   I will be going back next time despite the price tag.

Ad Hoc
Martini House

Those were the big three reservations we had and the second step in planning our trip. (the first step was to purchase the plane tickets). When we do our extravagant French Laundry trip, I suppose we’ll have to switch those two steps around. Reservations were a little hard to juggle on a weekend. Apparently that’s all you people do when you go to Napa County.  So why these three?  We stayed in Yountville aka on Zagat as “Kellerville” as in Thomas Keller of French Laundry Fame. Had to have a taste of his stuff and if it wasn’t the hot new concept of home cookin’ at Ad Hoc, it would’ve been Bouchon.

Here’s our menu from Ad Hoc (they email it out everyday as if you can instantly make plans based on what’s served)

Hobbs’ Bacon & Melted Leek Fritters

blonde frisee, living watercress, shaved fennel
braised spring onions, shallot cream dressing

Prime New York Strip Steak
with point reyes blue cheese

fried baby spinach, yukon gold potato puree
tfl garden carrots, shiitake mushrooms

Tome de Chalosse

raspberry zinfandel jam
buttered soda bread

Banana Cream Tart

chocolate nib tuiles

Next was Bottega, Chef Michael Chiarello’s latest spot.  We were avid Top Chef Masters watchers and I thought his ruthlessness might get him the win. But he lost to the skilled softy Rick Bayless (who I also adore despite the fact that I think of the Pace Picante Sauce “New YORK CITY” comment because he’s making Mexican in Chicago.)  So I never believed old Chiarello was such a hardass Italian type since I am also very familiar with “Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello” on the Food Network where he makes approachable party food and is so laid back and shall we say “Metro” that I never suspected this other side of him.  Many wineries mentioned this as the new hot ticket in town when we talked about our dinner reservations.  So, it was a block from our hotel and we scoped it out walking around Thursday. Not only was he having a cool “Chef’s Table” thing in his retail store NapaStyle, but he popped out the door of the store and into Bottega right in front of us!  Like the goofy star-struck fan that I am, I called out (rather loudly, it may have been yelling) “HELLO CHEF!!”  He flashed us an award-winning grin and said hello back.  So cute! And now we are twitter friends [cheesy grin].

Now that I’ve established my love of this place and this chef, I have to say that the menu was lacking.  We were ready for some stick-to-your ribs Italian food.  And in hindsight, I guess we were wanting a Cali version of our beloved Vespaio here in Austin.  There are so many regions of Italy that I’m willing to take the blame and say I didn’t understand this region.  But maybe one of the appropriately attentive seasoned grey haired male waiters could’ve explained the main theme of the menu ’cause “Italian food” and “deep culinary roots” just didn’t describe it well.  When we finally did order, our food was great and perfectly prepared. I was just hard to figure it all out since everyone serves good short ribs at this price point and in this town.

Creamy mozzarella burrata with artichoke two ways, lemon braised and crispy

Ricotta gnocchi, salsa di pomodoro della Nonna, pecorino

Goats Milk Braised Lamb Shank ancient grain polenta, roasted heirloom carrots, orange – rosemary gremolata

Quail (or was it Game Hen?) with Italian Black Cabbage

Last reservation on Saturday night was Martini House in St. Helena.  This was an adventure. Not only were we totally wine saturated and exhausted from our daily tastings and nightly feasts, but our service was so  horribly bad that the meal was free.  I had a demitasse of mushroom soup based on the online reviewers pleas to try anything mushroom at this place. (They have an entire mushroom-based tasting menu).  It was really good.  My husband had a duck breast and I had a hanger steak and they gratted us something called a “savory carrot panna cotta” which was quite interesting and tasty.  We came back to this place based on what a wonderfully romantic 1st anniversary dinner we had there.  I think we may give it another chance, because the mistakes and slowness were so ridiculous that it must’ve been an off night.

And no, I did not snap any pictures of our food. It sort of interferes with the whole experience by letting things get cold and screams “Food blogger!”

Coming soon….I’m planning on posting our wine tastings shortly before I forget them.  If I don’t get around to it, please remind me!


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