after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Napa/SF Recap: Day 1

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t says:

As hinted, we took a recent trip to Napa/SF. Here are the events from Day 1 of our adventure! WITH PICTURES!

We started off the day with a healthy breakfast:

There’s nothing like an airport terminal McDonald’s Egg McMuffin. g was impressed with the meltiness of the cheese. If you haven’t had one of these in a while, go and have one. It really brings you back to a better time …

We were a little disgusted to find pickles in the vending machine at the airport …
No, we didn’t try them …

The flight was ok.  I sat next to a rather chatty, older woman with a pleasant Southern accent.  She started off a conversation with a:
“Where are you from?  Ooooo – Let me guess! … China?”
“Oh, Okinawa is in Japan.  I meant that other one …”
“I’m from New Jersey.”
“No, but your heritage.  Where are your parents from?”
I eventually gave in and told the lady I was half-Korean.  g chuckled the whole time.  She thinks it’s funny when this happens.  I guess there are worse conversations to be had …


The flight was long, but we finally arrived at SFO. Meet our rental car! Mustang Sally! Equipped with GPS, she was ready to show us California. Yes … we were stereotypical tourists. I asked for a red one, but the customer just before me got the last one – darn!

After g was sad that we did NOT drive through Sausalito to get to Napa (we took the more efficient, albeit, less pretty route), Sally led us to Oxbow Public Market … where a surprise awaited g (you can see it in the photo …).

This is not the surprise. This was lunch. It was from one of the indoor vendors named “C Casa Taqueria”. There are two soft tacos (one was spiced lamb with mint and goat cheese – we can’t pronounce the name of the other one) and some delicious nachos. I don’t know if we were hungry or what, but these were better than Distrito!

This was the surprise! Kara’s Cupcakes! There is a short-list of things that put g in a better mood … no matter what. They include glasses of sparkling wine, jelly doughnuts, convertibles (with the caveat of good weather), and … cupcakes. But these were more than just cupcakes. These were “the bomb”. The one on the right was a chocolate cake with blackberry filling and cream; g enjoyed it very much. The one on the left was the “fleur de sel” cupcake, featuring chocolate cake, caramel filling, dark chocolate whipped cream (almost like a ganache) and sprinkled coarse salt. I will go on the record right now and say that the fleur de sel cupcake was the single best cupcake I have ever had. Period. The cake was as soft as a cupcake’s cake could possibly be. The caramel filling was perfect. The topping was perfect. But it was the sea salt that made it unbelievable. Brown Betty is lucky that there’s no Kara’s Cupcake here. It was so good that I made sure to stop at another Kara’s Cupcake vendor in SF later on our trip. I ate four of them throughout our stay in California, each one as good as the first. I am now reminded that I should go to the gym, pronto …

Then we visited our first winery.  This is what we saw:

This is Artesa winery. We were psyched to visit because the first bottle of wine we ever bought was an Artesa. As you can see, the view is beautiful from their estate. The grounds are spectacular with nice/modern/faux-infinity-pool fountains and a very modern-looking facility. But the people … suck. First off, the bar was mobbed. I guess I can’t fault Artesa for that – it must be because the wine’s really good, right? We reasoned that this was surely because they had improved a lot since that first cab we had some years ago (our recollection was that it was … not so hot). But when I wiggled in to the bar, the bartender completely ignored me. I reasoned that maybe it was because I was at the very edge of the bar without room for a proper tasting. So g and I walked around, looked at the pretentious art, relaxed on the outdoor patio, and took in the view. Gorgeous. Then we returned to the bar. This time, the bartender acknowledged we were there but was completely unwilling to do anything more than absolutely necessary. No history of Artesa. No description of the wine. Not even a “welcome to Artesa!” (although he did make sure to correct my pronunciation of Artesa – it’s Artesa, not Arteesa). I even gave him opportunities to talk to us by asking open-ended questions … but no – he wasn’t having any of it. Furthermore, only “club members” are given a splash of their higher-end wines, which I am totally fine with – but the delivery was more of a “neener neener” attitude than a “I’m sorry, I wish I could give you a splash, but I can’t” attitude. By the way, none of their offerings are at all that expensive/exclusive versus whatever else can be found in Napa, so they can keep their single-vineyard wines. Conclusion: we had come full circle to Artesa after 7 years … and now we’ll never again consider buying another bottle of their crappy attitude. Also – I’ve seen sippy-cups with thinner walls than their champagne flutes … just sayin’ …

We checked into Napa Valley Railway Inn. This place, despite the awful website, is awesome! Lots of room. Very clean bathrooms and bedding. Close proximity to everything in Yountville (i.e. Keller-ville). Free parking. The only downside was that the water temperature was a little temperamental; it kept you on your toes! Also, the railway cars are kind of “cute”. I’ve decided that when we do re-visit Napa, even if we do have more money, we’ll always return to Napa Valley Railway Inn …

For dinner, we dined at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. It was wonderful for multiple reasons.  The first was that we could walk to it.  The second was how not-fussy the decor and environment were.  Finally, they do rustic French food very well (and it wasn’t ridiculously priced!). The coq au vin was delicious with tender chicken and a powerful braising liquid (my braised chicken never comes out with that depth of flavor), and g had salmon dumplings and ratatouille, which were also fabulous.  I think it’s either here or the cupcake where g started off her new “word of the trip”: “yummy”.

While the entrees were very good indeed, let me introduce you to the star of the meal:

What you see before you is a creme brulee … with a twist. The bottom layer is traditional creme brulee custard, which was creamy and delicious, as the inside of a creme brulee should be. This layer was topped with chocolate mousse, which was then sprinkled with sugar and bruleed. This was awesome. I mean, seriously, there is absolutely NO reason that ordinary creme brulee should ever be offered. However, because not all restaurants are reading this blog and therefore will be unaware that they should make the appropriate change to their menus, I guess I’ll just have to be satisfied with never ordering another creme brulee again unless it comes with a layer of chocolate as Bistro Jeanty has done. In any case, this dinner in its entirety was a superb start to the lineup of amazing dinners that awaited us.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 September 2010 at 11:02am

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