I’m sometimes ashamed at how much of California I haven’t experienced. Yosemite? Haven’t been. Santa Barbara? Nope. Laguna Beach? Just making sure you’re still paying attention.
One of the closest of tourist destinations is the Napa Valley. Millions of people come from the ends of the world to traipse through the Wine Country to look at vineyards, taste wine and eat at the numerous frou-frou and fancy and delectable restaurants started by celebrity chefs. I live about 15 minutes from Napa and the last time I was really in the Napa Valley, I complained about how long of a drive it was from my house to St. Helena [it was about 45 minutes]. I’m a big, whiny baby, I know.
That said, I know there is so much more to the Wine Country than what I’ve seen and its really a shame that I haven’t taken the time to fully explore it like the most intrepid travelers do. I’m blessed that these places are so close that I can take them in at my leisure instead of trying to fit in as much as possible within a few days so it’s really sad that I haven’t taken advantage of my proximity. Heading up to the Napa Valley is easy and really, can be done on a whim. So why haven’t I done it? Not sure.
Tam took the wheel and drove us along highway 29 through the valley to show us some of the sights. Our first stop of the day was Dean & Deluca in St. Helena.
Dean & Deluca is just a fancy schmancy specialty grocery store – though the cheese samples were infinitely better than most of the offerings at the local stores. I couldn’t help BUT comparison shop while I was wandering through the store. The biggest difference was that the vanilla bean paste I’ve come to love so much was $16 at D&D when I can pick up the same exact bottle for $11 at Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table!
My first snack of the day was this chocolate chip whoopie pie:
I was excited. A whoopie pie? Made out of chocolate chip cookies? Love! Except not. I was not impressed. I wasn’t sure what was going on with the middle layer; was it marshmallow? was it buttercream? was it edible? if it was edible, do I really want to eat it? No. I do not. The cookies were okay. They could have been better and I was really sad about the money Tam essentially wasted on it. I much preferred my own whoopie pies better. Needless to say, I never got around to finishing it.
We trudged on and landed in downtown St. Helena. It’s a cute little town area with tons of boutique shops. My favorite was Woodhouse Chocolate. When I saw the shop, my eyes lit up, immediately going back to the moment I tried the chocolate for the first time [hint: scroll to the bottom]. This chocolate, people, just get it. I know it’s expensive but it’s sooooo worth it. This will be the smoothest chocolate you’ve ever tasted. I was more than excited to introduce the family to the deliciousness and they were not disappointed. I’m drooling at the thought of getting more.
The nephew was starving by then so we made a stop at Gott’s Roadside for lunch. I had eaten at the Ferry Building site and was amped for the food. We ordered a mess of food and I was only one bite into my delicious chili cheese dog only to be struck with a full stomach. I couldn’t eat any more! I was so disappointed. Thankfully it was just as delicious warmed up later that day.
Full from the burgers and fries and one bite of chili cheese dog, we headed back home, making a stop at Robert Mondavi Winery to look around.
Our final stop turned out to be a bit of a whim. We had decided to take the Silverado Trail back home and decided to stop in Yountville to make a trip to Bouchon Bakery. Sure I was too full to eat my chili cheese dog, but apparently that didn’t stop me from nearly knocking over the display case in the bakery. Classy.
I picked out a chocolate bouchon, which is essentially just a brownie [pretty much sums up my impression] and a raspberry macaron.
Had I known how amazing Thomas Keller’s macarons are, I would have gotten more than just one. The deliciousness really deserves its own post so I’ll just say that I ate mine and then ate some of Tammy’s. And tried to eat Lindsey’s. And have gone back twice within the past two weeks. And gotten two macarons each time. And ate them both within a day.
In all, it was a fun day and now I’m intent on “Eating the Wine Country.” Just thinking about all the eating and fine dining opportunities that await me makes me incredibly happy and excited. I’m turning 30 next year; I think I’m grown up enough to enjoy the occasional fine dining experience. There are tons of restaurants there that I am now chomping at the bit to try. I probably won’t eat at most of them, but if I can make my way through a good chunk, I’d be one happy camper. We’re already planning on saving our money so we can try the French Laundry next year [provided we're able to get reservations!] and I’m already eying Bouchon Bistro, Bistro Jeanty and maybe possibly Ad Hoc and Morimoto in Napa. Yes these places are not cheap at all but I have no problem saving my dollars for a good meal and honestly, if I can get a great meal and the experience of eating at these places, that would be worth it to me. It’s not like I’ll be eating there all the time.
They’re not Bouchon macarons, after all.