I’m currently typing from my office while eating a puny ol’ turkey sub (with no cheese) for lunch. I look out my window, which should make me super happy since it’s a view of Chicago’s Michigan Ave, filled with shopping, good eats, and really cool skyscrapers. Lots of action. I used to look out that window and smile to see the city and all of its delights. Starting this week, I haven’t. It’s cold, constructed, loud. I find myself imagining (sometimes I catch myself daydreaming) that I’m in another place. I want to see fields of green grass, rolling hills as far as the eye can see, and vineyards galore. People are ok too, because they’re nice and not rushing to or from work. And they definitely are not honking their horns at stalling cars. In fact, many times they are a bit intoxicated 🙂 . Coats? Umbrellas? Those are not allowed. You ask me, “Where is such a place where all these lovely things exist?”. Ask no more – that place is Napa Valley. I know because I’ve been there. And it’s real – its really real.
As you read from my previous entry, hubby and I took a mini-vacation to Napa Valley last week. We were on a quest to find good wine and great food. We were on a quest to relax, to eat, drink and be merry – before another week of work and another quarter of classes. We got a whole lot more than we bargained for. And we definitely got plenty of good wine and great food.
So, my pals, sit back and relax. Take it from the Plain White T’s and meet me in California. Imagine yourself in Napa Valley, and I’ll tell you of our adventures. I think this is gonna be a long one, so consider this the first quarter. Grab something to drink – a nice glass of wine, perhaps. I have plenty to share!
Up bright and early to catch the 7AM flight. We had no problems at the airport, and slept all the way to Denver. Little did we know (in our packing, we only checked Napa weather and didn’t think about the connecting port – what did we care?!), it’s snowing in Denver. We were lucky – the last flight to leave before the airport CLOSED! That would have absolutely, positively, sucked the life out of our vacation. So we made it into San Francisco. After what felt like hours of waiting for the rental car, we were on the road in a tiny little Eclipse (my old car – how nostalgic!). The downside was that there was no mp3 port, and Chris had spent a ton of time picking tunes for the drives. That being said, we struggled to find a radio station that wasn’t blasted with Pink or Coldplay. With the extra two hours (thank you Pacific time zone) it was around 2, so we had time to get started with the wineries – nice!! Once we made it into Napa we chose two in relatively close proximity to one another and to the Bed&Breakfast.
Our first winery was Artesa, one of Napa’s “newer” wineries. What a lovely place with the coolest sculptures and architecture! They have an amazing sculpture garden, and the winery is tucked away down a long, country road. The wine wasn’t bad either. Something about that oaky, buttery chardonnay, and we usually aren’t big on whites. Plus they had tempranillo, a really good Spanish wine. We hung out for a while and sipped a flight of wine on the balcony. Wine bottle purchase tally (will further be dubbed WBT with the cumulative total in parenthesis): 2 (2).
Next stop, Hess. My culinary school friend and fellow blogger, Caroline, recommended this one. Great location. Unfortunately an enormous tour bus had just loaded up, which meant the wine hosts were pooped! Plus it was a half hour to closing time. Needless to say they weren’t very enthusiastic, but we didn’t really care. They poured wine, which is all we asked for! Their Mount Veeder 19 Block Cuvee blend was excellent, and was a “92 pointer” on the 100 point scale! It must be the 9% Malbec :). WBT: 2 (4).
Alright – two wineries down. Many to go. But it was time to check in at the B&B. I LOVE B&B’s, so I definitely did some searching to find the right one for us. I came across The Inn on First, which I thought was adorable. While most B&B’s are a little “old-fashioned”, this one was more contemporary and updated than most I’ve looked into or even stayed in. Plus, one of the innkeepers was a culinary school graduate, so I felt certain that breakfast would be tasty to the last morsel. They even emailed us a long list of recommendations for food and wineries, and they offer to make reservations for you. They were a huge help before we even got there! SO, after our winery visits, we went to check in. Just as cute as the pictures! We were checked in and shown around. They had complimentary soda (lavendar and rhubarb – yummers!) as well as decanted port, a computer and free Wi-Fi service. Our room was charming and simple with everything we needed. Chris was especially excited about the homemade chocolate truffles. I think he would have eaten them both if I didn’t see them. Aaaahhh…. vacation had officially begun.
Time for dinner. We’d booked three nights of dinners about a month in advance. These places fill up quick, so you sorta have to! The first night was a restaurant a short 10 minute walk away called Bleaux Magnolia
which is a combination of Louisiana and Nouvelle Creole. This was one of few restaurants with no corkage fee, so we brought the rose Syrah from Hess. We started out with apps, of course. Once Chris heard the word oyster, he was sold. I seem to navigate towards things with high calories on vacation, so I went for crab cakes. They were served with mango aioli, and a pear, jicama and macadamia cole slaw. Both were good choices.
Dinner was a tough one. We were both torn between the same two dishes (seafood gumbo and the special, pork shank with sweet potatoes and sauteed spinach), and fortunately we were slightly leaning towards one or the other. While the gumbo was tasty, mine was the winner. Chris was jealous eating his gumbo while I was trying to chew and drool over mine at the same time. The pork shanks were treading over a sauce with a slight Asian taste. I couldn’t resist the temptation to know exactly what it was – a simple concoction of soy sauce and garlic with the juices of the pork. Excellent!
Something about vacation makes me want to fill my belly to the very brim. Stuff my face completely. In other words, no matter how full we both were, dessert was a must. We’d heard from the B&B peeps that the root beer float with sassafrass elixir and vanilla ice cream was one of their signature desserts, so Chris opted for this. I again went for the fat overload and opted for the Lemon & Huckleberry bread pudding. We ate every last drop.
And so our first night in Napa comes to an end. No better way to end the day than with a few sips of port, which we grabbed on our way up to our room. Tomorrow brings many more wineries and eats, so stay tuned for more!