Dining Around the Napa Valley

January 13, 2012

Over Christmas week, Spencer and I spent four days in Napa and four days in Carmel, California. It was a glorious time for beach walking, restaurant hopping, picnics centered around wine and cheese, and just being together.

Here are our dining highlights and fondest food-related memories from Napa. In a subsequent post, I’ll cover our best dishes from Carmel, so please stay tuned.

Bouchon Petit Plateau, a seafood tower comprising half a lobster, eight oysters, four shrimp, four clams, and eight mussels. Yes, this was my entrée, and yes, I did manage to eat each and every bite all by myself!

Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller’s new(er) resto in Yountville that joins Bouchon and The French Laundry, offers credible crab cakes; well-roasted monkfish and vegetables; and a rare, perfectly cooked and toothsome ribeye.

But, perhaps surprisingly, the star dish was a a salad made of French Laundry baby greens (grown right up the street), tossed with toasted almonds, citrus segments, red onion slices, beets, and a citrus vinaigrette. A crunchy crostini with a big dollop of Laura Chenel chèvre completed the dish. I’ve never tasted greens so delicate, fresh, and full of flavor!

Ad Hoc is currently closed until March for remodeling, as is Bouchon Bakery, which suffered a fire in late 2012 and has been unable to operate at full steam ever since.

Bistro Jeanty Escargots with Garlic Pastis Butter, properly served in the traditional way, in the shell (!), along with an escargot holder.

Not to be outdone were the Bistro Jeanty Moules au Vin Rouge, Mussels in Red Wine Sauce. Ooh-la-la!

For Christmas dinner, we enjoyed Sautéed Duck Breast with Chestnut & Pearl-Onion Confit, Parsnip Crème, and Thyme Jus at Brix (perhaps best known for its hearty Sunday brunches and gorgeous patio).

Cindy Pawlcyn’s Mustards Grill delighted for lunch with a Grilled Ahi, Basil Aïoli, and Pickled Ginger Sandwich, a veritable bargain at just $14.95. I guess I was too focused on eating, because I forgot to snap a photo.