North Beach is San Francisco’s little Italy. We absolutely couldn’t leave without enjoying something from my favorite food-genre. We elbowed our way into a tiny deli and settled on splitting a meatball sandwich with fresh mozzarella. Perfectly balanced, the meatballs weren’t overworked or dressed up beyond recognition. They were simply Italian meatballs. And I can’t wait to practice this at home.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent wandering through Nob Hill and Chinatown. Alas, my camera failed to capture these distinct and complex boroughs of the city. Chinatown was especially dynamic, bright and undoubtedly delicious. Well worth the visit.
Our day was capped off with dinner at Zuni Cafe where we experienced an unusual pairing that, when all parts were combined, was harmonious and delightful. Broccoli rabe with oranges and procuitto. Bitter, salty and sweet, the textures played off of each other. I will be putting my own spin on this concept at home.
An early rise the next morning brought us to Napa! We arrived and Glynnis and Matt’s beautiful home, ecstatic to be back. It wasn’t long before we were pulling the car into Robert Sinskey Vineyards. Large lemon trees framed the entrance and Glynnis and I made sure to help ourselves – this was pre-approved, of course :). I would be cooking dinner the following night and was sure the fresh, gorgeous lemons would come in handy. Glasses of their crisp and fresh 2010 Pinot Gris in hand, we traveled through a lush vegetable garden and into the caves where precious vintages of their creations were stored. Our guide was laid-back, knowledgable and set a great pace for the visit. I highly recommend making this a stop on your travels through the Valley.
Once our walk through the caves was complete we were treated to a beautiful assortment of freshly made delicacies. They enhanced the sips of full-on-fruity 3 Amigos Pinot Noir and the long, licoric finish of the Cabernet Franc. We brought home a bottle of each.
A bottle of the smooth and earthy Elizabeth Pinot Noir, named for Thomas Baldacci’s mother, and the four element blend in honor of the four Baldacci sons, IV Sons Fraternity, made the trip home with us. Pina presented us with an outstanding Late Harvest Chardonnay that I can’t wait to pair with bleu cheese. Then we were off to our tour at Far Niente where their boutique ‘winery within a winery’ Dolce, stole the show.
Our final stop of the day was at the Flora Springs Tasting Room. We visited the vineyard on our first trip to Napa and have been huge fans ever since. Outside of their fantastic and varied wine offerings, they are just really fun, exciting people, who make you want to stay a little longer, encouraging your questions and not once making you feel silly or unwelcome. Last year it was their Ghost Wine release that we fell in love with, among other varietals, and this year we couldn’t leave without a couple of bottles of their 100 year anniversary Sauvignon Blanc and their Bodacious Cabernet Sauvignon, both only to be found at the winery.
Dinner that evening was in Sonoma at The Girl And The Fig. Best meal of the trip, hands down. Rooted in traditional French inspirations, the menu is driven by fresh, local ingredients with slight modern touches that aren’t overly showy but manage to elevate each dish to a level that lets you know you are experiencing something special. We began with a variety of seasonal radishes, some thinly sliced, some left whole, that were accompanied by an unbelievably delicious anchovy butter. You will be seeing a post on my attempts at this in my own kitchen very soon.
Dinner brought us a lovely filet of wild flounder meuniere over a bed of spinach and yukon potato puree. Topped with a lemon-caper brown butter sauce, this dish, in all of it’s butter-laden glory, managed not to weigh me down but simply warm my soul. Z enjoyed a fabulously rich top sirloin burger with cheddar, bacon and a freshly fried farm egg. Each bite was better than the next. And if you’ve read any of my past posts then you know how much I enjoy the use of fried eggs as a garnish!
The next day began with breakfast fit for a day of wine tasting at Napa Valley Biscuits. Decadent and over the top, fried chicken, cheddar and fried eggs are sandwiched between perfectly baked biscuits. A necessary start for this particular day.
After stops at Joseph Swan Vineyards and Dutton Goldfield we headed up a one-lane rocky road to the top of a clearing where we found the outdoor tasting room for Iron horse Vineyards. Flights of sparkling wine were shared and we were thrilled that our beautiful friends Becca, Joe and sweet, adorable Emma joined us for the afternoon!
Upon returning home I set about preparing my rosemary roasted chicken with vegetables. The lemons from the trees at Robert Sinsky’s Winery made the perfect stuffing and the fresh rosemary, growing wild in the backyard, added herby richness. As the chicken roasted away, we bundled up and sat by the fire-pit, enjoying several bottle’s from Glynnis and Matt’s collection. My favorite of the night was a bottle of Vina Tondonia from Rijoa that Matt opened in honor of our upcoming trip to Spain. It had such great personality and attitude – it was a treat!
Sunday was our third and final day in Napa. We took a long drive to the top of Pritchard Hill, where my favorite winery, Chappellet, resides. My romance with Chappellet began last year, when we stopped in for a simple tasting. It was then that I discovered their Chenin Blanc and I have been in love ever since. We joined their wine club and I anxiously await the new arrivals of the season.
I know that part of my love for Chappellet is rooted in the artistic elements that present themselves throughout the experience. We took a full tour this year, walking well into the vineyards where we were able to observe the design of the building, created to blend in with the hillside. As the daughter of an Architect, I tend to geek-out over this type of thing. The contemporary paintings in the entrance draw me in as well. You feel like you are somewhere extraordinary – and you are. I treated myself to a very special bottle of their Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon that I plan to enjoy for my upcoming 30th birthday. I can hardly wait!
We traded the views of Pritchard Hill for the equally amazing sweeping landscapes at CADE. This LEED Gold Certified Winery is perched atop the hills of Napa Valley. We tasted through their fantastic portfolio while watching birds bathe in their reflection pond. This is a truly gorgeous winery and my new favorite find for our second visit.
Slightly sunburnt, we realized that the day was growing short so we set off for our final appointment at Hall. Art and wine played dual roles at this refined and elegant wine post. Instillations could be found throughout the property as we set off on an in-depth tour of their history. The wines are award-winning and deservedly so – they offered us the perfect toast to conclude our days of tasting.