A Napa whirlwind, a new food blog home and CSA restaurants.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
One could spend a rather hedonistic lifetime exploring the land called Napa. On a mission for a cover photo of Cindy Pawlcyn (see story, p. 16), a pal and I squished that lifetime into about 10 hours.
We started at downtown Napa’s immaculate Oxbow Marketplace, which combines irresistible spots like Kara’s Cupcakes, Pica Pica Maize Kitchen and Ca’ Momi wine bar with a market-style stall configuration in a large hangar-like space.
Since Hog Island isn’t open at 10am (the nerve), we honed in on C Casa for the first super snack in what would be a day stuffed with ’em: breakfast tacos with fried eggs, fresh goat cheese and savory chorizo – plus fresh drips from Ritual Coffee Roasters.
Just down the street we jumped on the Napa Valley Wine Train (707-253-2111) and started exploring its beautiful and diverse range of cars, which house three different kitchens, a wine bar, a coffee lounge with stuffed chairs and a “dome car” with raised views and a VIP menu. Those views take a minute to materialize as the train trundles out of town at a cool 15 mph, but soon become spectacular as they reach the outskirts and the breathtaking vineyard vistas.
Well-curated native Napa tastes from sociable wine educator Mike Delacy, who directs $10 tastings at a polished wood bar, help folks enjoy the view.
The food – and the simple there-and-back route – reminds riders it’s more taste than transportation on these tracks; the train’s motto, after all, is “Napa’s most unique restaurant.” We grazed on baby lettuce salad and smoked salmon soup; achiote pork tederloin with celery root mashed potatoes and sundried tomato-apricot jam; a “salmon hashbrown” topped with local caviar in an orange beurre blanc sauce; and chocolate mousse cake (lunch is included in the $99 ticket; dinner rides, vineyard tours, holiday events and water taxis from San Francisco are also available as part of a diverse lineup of packages). There are some appropriately high-style wines like Mondari, Opus One and DZ; we had some Domain Chandon bubbly ($35) with lunch since we’d be passing the property on the way.
The fun five-hour run demanded five more, so after a visit to Pawlcyn’s hillside sanctuary, we rolled over to her pioneering sushi joint Go Fish, where a stunning chalk-mural carp decorates the hip space and a wildly good off-menu scorched scallop roll decorates plates ($18). Mustards is only a few miles further, but with the place overflowing, our visit stuck to its ever-growing gardens.
The closing tastes came at the sparkling new Napa cousin of the Cantinetta Luca-L’Auberge Carmel family, Hotel Luca, a David and Kathleen Fink endeavor. The fireplace-accented patio is nothing less than ideal come dusk and the dining room-bar is a beautiful, bustling setting too, vivid with reds and sexy lines. We had a couple morsels also available at Cantinetta, the braised baby octopus with housemade calabrese sausage and toasted couscous ($11) and a pizza with pancetta, wild mushrooms, caramelized onion, charred radicchio and a farm egg on top ($16). Then we quietly laid down and died.
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If you thought I took a food blog vacation at www.mcweekly.com/edible, thanks for noticing. The Special Edible blog hasn’t stopped, it merely munches on in a new spot. The easiest way to get to www.mcweekly.com/weblogs/edible-complex/ is to click on the “blogs” link at the top of our new website.
There you can find Dory Ford’s winning recipe from the Big Sur Chanterelle Cook-Off, which returns this Feb. 26 at Big Sur Lodge.
More good news: you can find his recipes at all five strategically located Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company outposts (Mid Valley, Crossroads, downtown Carmel, the Barnyard and East Village Coffee Lounge in Monterey). The artisan line includes 30 things like a signature coffee cake made with CRC espresso ($3.95), breakfast paninis ($4.75) and robust grilled veggie wraps ($8.50).
Ford’s AquaTerra Culinary has also launched a new @eats delivery service that’s sprouted out of his work in local schools. Delicious sandwiches and snacks, packaged in an “@ home kit,” a thermal bag and reusable bakeware. Hit www.AQUATERRAculinary.com
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Reports from the field: Weekly Editor Mary Duan says the saga of the Lumpia Hut in Oldtown Salinas just took a turn for the bizarre, when police had to prevent former owner Rod Daquiaog from changing the locks on space that no longer belonged to him. More on the blog… That’s also where local grower and Weekly contributor Jamie Collins explores EcoFarm from a farmer’s perspective, including the story of a Vermont restaurant-bar called Claire’s that operates on a community-supported model.… Former Brophy’s owner Joe Cingari’s helping Firok Shield out at Bistro Boujelais – that’s like Montana-to-Rice, baby (speaking of Rice, he’s partnering with 49er vets Dwight Clark and Harris Barton to smack current S.F. Giants Matt Cain and Aubrey Huff around Pebble as part of a new AT&T Pro Am benefit Tuesday, Feb. 8)… “I’m an omnivore,” Pawlcyn says, “by profession and desire.”