after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Napa


leave a comment »

t says:  It’s my fault.  It’s not due to a lack of eating.  It’s not due to a lack of photo-taking.  It’s not even due to a lack of time to type.  I’m not sure what’s gobbling up my time (it’s clearly not because Scrubs is now on … ok … maybe it is …).  Let’s play some catch-up:


While in SF, we went to Nopalito, where g had her most “craveable” meal. I mean, we ate a LOT of good things, but she chose this place when pushed (g confesses: I think it’s dumb when t asks me these questions, like, “what was your best meal?” – they were all fantastic meals – for different reasons – how do you choose? [t breaks in: ok “every-parent-ever”; “no I can’t choose between my children – I love them all the same – just differently] back to g: *rolls her eyes* whatever … anyways, I was telling t that when I look back, I’d definitely “crave” the food at Nopalito – it’s simple but it’s soooo good, and it’s not too fancy of a place, and the prices are reasonable and it’s not too much of a production when you get there – you pick up a menu, you order, and delicious food comes out! done!)!  t takes over: so above is a seafood and avocado “soup”/gazpacho thing that was wonderful opposite the ?Brussels sprout quesadilla?.  Yes.  Brussels sprouts.  In Quesadilla.  Boom.  Mind blown.  Brain bits splattered on the wall behind you.


And of courrse, the carnitas, which is like the best tacos I could ever put together. Oh, and the empanada in the foreground? See all those bright colors. As good as it looks, it was 10 times better to taste. Gawd we love this place.  g says:  and it’s different than when we get “fancier” Tex/Mexican food in Philly.  Our dishes weren’t “too heavy” or “too oily”.  I mean this was heavier than Don Pepe that cm’s parent’s delivered, but it still was much lighter than here in Philly.


Oh yes … Griddle Fresh for brunch … first page of the menu blew my mind – I had no need to read anything else on the pages that followed.


green tea latte – exactly as you imagine it would taste. It did look like a milkshake, however, which was a funny incongruence with what it tasted like (it’s a warm drink).


This mess-of-a-dish was fabulous. I should incorporate more parm-reg in all of my morning breakfasts. The savory-salty note really helped me consume more sweet-juicy strawberries and syrup-laden French toast. Dangerous …


k had some issues with her pancakes. she asked if they were going to be “too cheesy”. The guy said “no – not at all – they’re pancakes”. I think the miscommunication centered around exactly how cooked through the marscapone/ricotta pancakes were going to be. It’s ok – they were delicious.


If your corned beef hash experiences are like mine, they are courtesy of a Hormel canned product … but not in California … where they use real corned beef slices and real potato chunks to make their hash. I swear cm must have had a whole cow’s worth of beef in this thing (don’t be fooled by the photo – it was a lot of hash – I’m pretty sure he had some leftover).


g went fruit + egg. No frills. Just fruit and an egg. Snoozeville, right? I agree. Well … just so long as she’s happy …


Dinner at Redd was “ok”. I mean, the food was good, and in line with what we’d expect to pay for fine dining in Napa. However, they didn’t quite nail the dishes as they did the first time we went. We missed the “spark”.


I have no idea where I ate this.  I distinctly remembered “wanting to be healthy” … so I got a “salad”.  Of course, it had these little pork cubes on the side – so as a “salad” and it was fabulous. I should routinely take some shreds of pork and fry them together into a chicken-nugget-like objects more often.


my name is t, and I have a problem. No, the problem is not alcoholism, the problem is that I only have 12 spaces in my wine-bottle-carrier for the airplane. Fortunately, I’m also a master probem-solver (we had to drink a bottle or two right then-and-there …).


kp has bigger problems than me. He lacks the 55-bottle wine fridge I have. So he had to perform a “draft” of which of his bottles were going to be stored in perfect conditions … and which ones were going to be in “near-perfect” 65-degrees of his SF apartment … cuz, you know, temperatures don’t really get much colder than that in SF … *looks out the window at the 27-degree weather outside right now in Philly*


We hit up brenda’s “Meat and Three”, which is probably kp’s most frequented restaurant/take-out. This is their watermelon sweet tea. Yes it’s outrageously good. Can’t believe I’ve gone this long without Snapple bottling this stuff. Sooooo good.


Imagine banana chocolate chip pancakes you might have had at Honey’s. And make them better. Like WAY better. Much fluffier, with a richer more buttermilky taste. I’m thankful my pants couldn’t expand anymore, otherwise I would eaten myself into insulin resistance.


Meanwhile … back in Philly … a and I hit up Zavino for lunch. Here they started off with a bang – a delicious “ricotta of the day” that was light and sproingy (“sproingy”? is that a word? is it onomatopoiea? sure, why not?) Not as decadent as Barbuzzo, but at least they give you ample bread …


Also had top-notch meatballs – I was afraid the sauce was going to be too sweet, but these were solid.


And now: bacon pizza … BACON PIZZA. Slam dunk, right? WRONG. a and I can’t figure out what went wrong. It had bacon and onion and arugula. But it just couldn’t get itself together. It also had some pickle on it, which made it weird – it made it come off like “all-the-toppings-you’d-want-on-a-burger-but-no-burger”. Weird. We won’t be ordered that again. We missed the ‘Stache pizza. Teaches us for committing to “trying something new”.


As I’ve been eating out a lot, my waistline is growing. It was hard to notice because I spend so much time in pants with drawstrings … but it was noticed! As a result, I had to miss out on a bakesale. How good could the “Ultimate Bake Shop Triple Choc Cake” be? I don’t know.


g and I hit up Pizzeria Vetri the other day as well. The salad was an interesting concoction of cauliflower, kale, raisins, etc. I felt like it was the best thing we ate!


This cinnamon-roll-looking thing was actually dough, rolled up with a layer of prosciutto and topped with nuts. It’s funny because all of the visual cues and proprioceptive cues (like the feeling of the fork as I was cutting it) and textural cues were that of a cinnabon … but it tasted like meat and nuts. So bizarre. It didn’t stop me from finishing it.


g loved the pizza. Personally, I felt like it was a little sweet, but she loved the fennel-on-fennel-sausage combo. She housed it.


But for me – I saved room for one of the most delicious affogatos ever. Affogato made with soft-serve? Yes please!

Ok, so now my iPhoto is all caught up.  Hooray!  Now I feel far less guilty about not updating the blog.  Ahhhhh.  I’ll be sure to try and keep up with the holiday eating season.  It’s tough, but I’m up for the challenge.


Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 December 2014 at 10:36am

Manly Epicurean Adventure

leave a comment »

t says:  I had the opportunity to visit Napa with kp and another colleague (our fourth, a, bailed at the last minute), but only for a day; we had a lot of stuff to cram in a single afternoon+evening.  Realizing that our better halves were unable to join us, we nicknamed it “the manly epicurean adventure”.  Below is a recap of all we conquered:


First thing we did was conquer brunch at Zazie.  We killed some bread pudding pancakes that were out of control.  On one hand, some were put off by the soft almost-mushy texture of the pancake, but I loved every bit of it (it was like real bread pudding!).  I likened the experience to eating forkfuls of sweet sweet banana-laden clouds …


Zazie also served up some poached eggs which we wasted no time pillaging.  One had the equivalent of salsa and bacon, while the other had tomato and prosciutto.  Beautifully balanced salty-savory-acid in both cases – could not think of anything worth improving upon.  We now know why there is a line to get into Zazie when they open at 9am on a Sunday.


Our first Napa destination was Ma(i)sonry, but have no photos, as we’ve already photo’d the bejesus out of it on the blog.  My tastes must have changed over the past 6 months because this time, I was drawn to less fruit-forward cabs, favoring instead some well-done 2011’s with the right balance of acid and fruit.  Funny how things change.  Overall, Maisonry was a fantastic way to get in the mood for the cabs of Napa (the gang preferred reds to whites, so that’s what we focused on).  Our second tasting of the day, at Paloma, courtesy of hookups by a and a’s dad, is pictured above.  We could have listened to Barb, the proprietor, for hours upon hours, with her stories from 31 years in the valley.  As you can see, her view is incredible (the tasting is literally at her house).  Her wines were impressive expressions of Merlot, inspiring us to walk away with a few bottles in hand.  A great visit!


In contrast to Paloma, MacDonald Vineyards, our third and final visit for the day, was a super-tiny cottage hidden amongst the vines …


… and some gnarly old vines at that!  As Graeme and Alex walked us around, it was exciting to hear their story.  It was hard to not catch their infectious enthusiasm.  This was not one of those times where the goal was to wow you into believing that they were the end-all-be-all of vine mastery, rather, humble pupils who recognize that they have a unique opportunity to make great wine from hallowed land.  These guys are young, they have no obligation to any sort of winemaking legacy, and they have open minds … in the world of wine, they are dangerous as hell … in a good way …


There’s no tasting room at MacDonald – instead there’s a picnic bench under a giant tree next to some vines.  I cannot imagine a more perfect setting.  Even when these guys do get around to building a winery and a cellar and a tasting room, I hope they never lose that sense of chatting around a wicker basket and vinyl tablecloth. I have to say that out of every tasting I’ve ever had, this was probably the most personal.  I don’t know if it’s because my tablemates had already consumed ample amounts of wine throughout the day (I spit at every tasting, so I was DD), but the conversations meandered from wine to friends to weightlifting to medicine to bachelor parties and back to wine.  Before we knew it, the sun had set and we were near-shivering … now that is a tasting!


Oh … and the wine … we had the opportunity to sample the 2011 MacDonald Cab, which was really a treat.  Not to be released until Fall 2014, I have to say that this was easily the best wine we had all day, and we had had wines from multiple talented winemakers (Thomas Rivers Brown, Melka, Jeff Ames, Pahlmeyer) over multiple vintages from multiple sites!  My companions agreed.  But beware – this is no fruit bomb or berry milkshake; certainly no oak monster here.  Bright red-and-dark fruits up front saturate the palate with silky tannins so smooth that you forget they’re there; the fruit is followed by a mouthwatering, moderate-length finish of cool-vintage cab flavors that dance on the palate.  As time passed, it took on even more layers of flavor, including herbs and baking spices.  Overall, it’s a feminine expression of cab, but don’t construe that as “wimpy”, rather, think of that seasoned, graceful principal ballerina, floating across the stage … no one would dare call her “wimpy” – she’s just ridiculous at making it look effortless.


We had visited Oakville Grocer earlier in the day for a cheese break (after all, with all the wine we had been tasting, we needed a little something in our stomachs), but when it was dinner time, we needed to get some serious grub.  I picked out Bistro Jeanty – a Yountville staple at reasonable prices.  And that night, they were on fire.  The above escargots were amazing, exceeding the deliciousity, texture, and size of Bibou’s.  Similarly, the bone marrow in the background with that red wine sauce was absolutely stunning – made oh-so-simply but so profoundly flavorful that I could have eaten every single piece if allowed; once again, it bested even Bibou’s bone marrow.


Bistro Jeanty’s momentum carried through the main courses.  My lamb was perfectly prepared, coupled with blue cheese potatoes and green beans …


… and kp’s cassoulet surprised the hell out of everyone.  On the menu, it sounded almost benign – like a “light bean dish” … except for, you know, the hidden duck confit, bacon, and garlic sausage … Oh, and the beans that could have potentially been healthy?  Not no more – because all the fat from those meats had to go somewhere …


Dessert was of high caliber – maybe not as crazy as the first two courses, but still damn good.  The chocolate creme brulee struck again (I loved it before when I had it), and the lemon tart was so close to being perfect (the orange marmalade-ish sauce was confusing – they should have kept it lemon … or maybe gone lime … but orange was weird).

Don’t let the above picture mislead you: I was sad that g wasn’t there – she would have loved it.  And of course we missed a …  but … be that as it may, I’m pretty sure I can say that Man Trip 2014 was a success!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

24 February 2014 at 11:30pm

Napa in pictures … Day 1

leave a comment »

t says:  g and I had the opportunity to revisit Napa over a long weekend and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Rather than give the super-detailed blow-by-blow, we’ll try to do the Napa-related posts more like a picture album for super-fast skimming …

greetings from Napa!  (This was sitting on the bed of our hotel room when we arrived … why I decided to start off this post with this particular pic, I have no idea … but it’s pretty hilarious-looking, right?)

So if the towel-dog wasn’t weird enough, you can see that the “cottage” we stayed in was jam-packed full of oddities … like Breathe-right strips …  But the way we figured it: the place was clean, convenient, and relatively inexpensive, so if nothing else, it was a bed to sleep on and a spot to park our rental car …

Our first real meal in Cali was at Bistro Jeanty (we did eat some SFO airport sushi for lunch that was surprisingly good!).  It’s without a doubt one of the best “steals” for dinner in the Valley … the food is simple and solid, the wine list is respectable, and the service is kind.

Without a doubt, the most remarkable dish of the evening was the heirloom tomato salad – it was the most perfectly homely dish of tomatoes that really made you wish you could have it for lunch every day for the rest of your life (and I don’t even really like tomatoes that much).

The most humorous dish was my pig’s foot – but it’s misleading, because while it’s shaped lie a pig’s foot …

… it’s actually just a pile of shredded pork molded into a foot-shaped construct and then fried … it was delicious, but it’s not like it’s going to challenge Bibou’s pig’s foot or anything …

Sadly, we lack pictures of where we went on Day 1 for wine …  So here’s some boring text …
1)  Revana Family Vineyards:  It’s a somewhat “exclusive” place in that visits are done by appointment only, and the facilities are actually quite small (<15 acres total).  I seem to recall them putting out something like 1000 cases per year, but I could be wrong.  They only do cab (with a splash of other Bordeaux varietals) and have a pretty impressive track record.  Our hostess Nathalie was very nice – perhaps the best of our entire trip.  The tasting was free for us (we’re part of a wine club of their sister property Alexana in Oregon), but there were only two wines (both cab) available.  I’ll go on record right now and say that their 2009 cabernet has such a beautifully feminine flavor profile, with wonderful balance of lively red fruits, tart acidity, and nice length that had I had $150 to drop on a bottle of wine, I would have considered it!  That said, I doubt it’ll score well by wine reviewers, so maybe it’ll go on sale in the future …  Grade: A- (they definitely need at least one more wine to taste – it doesn’t even need to be a third cab – they could just pull from Alexana and give us a glass of Riesling to start as they talk about the winery.)

2)  Back Room Wines:  This wine bar and retail shop is fun place to go.  It’s kind of like a cross between Moore Brothers, a Starbucks, and your favorite pair of jeans.  It’s a bunch of casual guys who know a lot about wine.  The owner is a little awkward, but for small-production wines by some up-and-coming Napa talent, it’s hard to beat ’em.  However, I really wished that they had more of their “fancier” bottlings on tap – inspire me to drop some dough!  Given the atmosphere, I don’t think this is a place I would recommend newbies to go, though, as to most, it’d come off as little more than a boring wine shop.  Grade: B+

Written by afterdinnersneeze

26 September 2012 at 11:32pm