Napa Part Deux

Napa Part I

Allow me to paraphrase my adaptation of an Avett Brothers song that played in my head during my trip… Napa, Napa take me in… are you aware the shape I’m in? …ROUND now thanks to you
Downtown St. Helena. Maybe it was the full belly and great shopping or just the lovely NoCal weather, but I truly relished my time there. Another eatery I frequented whilst in St. Helena was Cook.

Cook in downtown St. Helena is a local hotspot. This restaurant was recommended by friends who own a winery in Napa, and their recommendation was right on cue! Sandwiched between stores, this tiny spot is huge on flavor. Whether it was the fresh mozzarella and olive oil salad or the amazing house-made pastas or the mushroom soup, I may have enjoyed several courses and bites! Walking around St. Helena is a treat in and of itself and any meal at Cook is icing on the cake! Honestly, I think I’m still dreaming about the Caesar salad and that mozzarella salad…

Ok, I did not just eat in Napa. I slept too! After the ACS convention concluded, I checked into the Rancho Caymus Inn. This all suite inn is an old school, Mexi-chic B&B and comfortable and great locale! Smack dab in Rutherford and just across from a fabulous Mexican grocery store, Rancho Caymus was a vintage throwback to the sleeker, newer inns and hotels in Napa. I don’t mind a bit of avocado tile here and there, so the coordinating avocado toilet, Jacuzzi and sinks were totally apropos! We loved it! My friend and I enjoyed our suites and had progressive cocktail hour(s) on each other’s terraces.

Dean and DeLuca is just up the road, thus we stocked up on this amazing sheep’s milk yogurt that I’m obsessed with now, wonderful OJ, and everything from Marcona almonds to gourmet Rice Krispy Treats for our cocktail hour(s). Of all the fabulousness that Napa’s restaurants can afford, sippin’ and savorin’ on the terrace with a dear friend just might be some of the best memories I made.

Of course, Thomas Keller's places are nice – very nice! I truly enjoyed Bouchon . French Bistro style places are Farmer’s Faves, and Bouchon reminds me of Balthazar in NYC, another one of my favorite haunts. I love the huge palms, the glass, the crusty French bread and delicious butter, the mosaic floors, the brass fixtures and the long apron-clad servers. The food is truly fine French food – from lobster consommé to charcuterie to profiteroles and tarts, BUT the cheese plate and some bubbly is DIVINE!! I indulged in some fantastic mac-and-cheese and Brussels sprouts of course, but the cheese plate with cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheeses, honey glazed walnuts and thinly sliced pears was my slice of heaven. That is the memory I cherish from Bouchon – the cheese plate!

Just down from Bouchon is Bistro Jeanty - authentic French Bistro and it is the favorite place of a group of French gals we met - that says a lot, ya’ll! I’ll add it to my list next time. I could only eat lunch so many times in one day. That is sad – I wish I could eat lunch several times a day!

Other dashes of fun included the Oakville Grocery (which is superb and fun - Ina Garten likes it too, so I had to check it out), touring the local country side (the mustard was in full bloom) and riding up and down the Silverado Trail- one of the prettiest roads I've ever toured!

But speaking of pretty roads, my friend insisted we travel up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. Never doubt this pal, ya’ll; for when she says go somewhere, then YOU MUST GO! She knows her way around the globe! I had never seen the Pacific and now I have and am enchanted! I heard that once you have viewed the Pacific, it never leaves your soul. I concur. The colors were those I love –  deep greens and blues. The smells were absolutely amazing. The air was so crisp, clean and clear I could pick up the scent of the wild chamomile, the sequoias and eucalyptus densely canopying the forest, the ferns and grasses and the slight twinge of salt – all melding together to create a perfume I will forever link to my first sight of this mighty ocean.

We lunched in an adorable coastal town and ventured well into Northern California before reluctantly having to check in at the San Fran airport and fly the red-eye home. Camellias brought me to California and they greeted me upon my return home to Georgia, but the scents, tastes, sounds and sights of my trip to the Napa Valley and up the California coast shall remain forever engrained in my memory as moments to treasure and cherish.