Today Mike and I are celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary – five years ago at this moment I was sitting down to a beautiful breakfast in the dining room of the Fontainebleu Inn giddy with excitement and nerves for the day to come. I can’t actually remember what I ate but I think crispy potatoes were involved, maybe waffles? Let’s hope it was waffles.
After a day filled with joy and lots of dancing we re-packed our bags and flew to San Francisco for a honeymoon trip in Napa. It worked out beautifully that we were in Northern California earlier this month and had a chance to revisit one of my favorite places in the world for an anniversary trip.
There were a handful of spots that stood out five years ago and we found some new places on this trip that have become new favorites. If you have a chance to go I highly recommend putting at least a few of these on your itinerary.
Frog’s Leap – We had fond memories of sipping wine on the back porch here and had to come back. FL takes a lot of pride in growing grapes and making wine with great respect for the environment, and that feeling of communing with the valley carries through to the tasting experience. A perfect spot to relax, watch the bees buzz, and let the magic of Napa fall over you.
Paraduxx – A new find on this trip and we absolutely fell in love with the wines as evidenced by how difficult it was to choose which ones to bring home. A laid back vibe with really warm, friendly guidance from the tasting room hosts. Who doesn’t want to try a glass (or six) while surrounded by rustling vineyards?
Tamber Bey – The excellent wine and location on Sundance Ranch make Tamber Bey unique, as do the pairings: specially prepared miniature cookies. The combinations are developed by local pastry chef Michelle Romaine and it’s amazing to see in action the way a chardonnay is transformed by lemony shortbread spiked with pink peppercorn. But, I bet I had you at cookies, right?
Ad Hoc – This was the first place we had dinner on our honeymoon and the memory of that fried chicken has lived on in our dreams. Definitely an auspicious beginning. The atmosphere is casual, but don’t be fooled – this is a Thomas Keller restaurant and the cooking is top-notch. Ice cream sandwiches for dessert don’t hurt anything either!
Gott’s Roadside (neé Taylor’s Refresher) – Classic roadside food of the type popularized by In N Out and Shake Shack on their respective coasts. We kept it old-school with a cheeseburgers and diet coke. The grassy backyard dotted with red picnic tables and shaded by umbrellas combined with the mid-century vibe make it easy to pretend you’ve been transported into a Beach Boys song.
Oakville Grocery – Another re-visit, but when the food is this good it’s hard to blame us. We made this our lunch stop on the biking day and I was grateful for the miles covered when it came time to choose a sandwich. So many great combinations and delicious treats it’s hard to decide where to start, so here’s a hint: roast turkey with apple jam and pickled red onions.
The Restaurant at Meadowood – Probably the most elegant, beautifully prepared and presented meal I’ve ever eaten. The entire tasting menu is full of whimsical touches and the experience feels like an adventure – who knows what delicious and inventive bite will arrive next? I really can’t overstate the attention to detail in every dish and in the service. Definitely a place for a very special occasion.
Stay & Do:
Solage – Is it possible for Napa (a little oasis in and of itself) to be more tranquil? Somehow this boutique hotel in Calistoga manages to distill that peace and amplify it with carefully appointed rooms in a gorgeous setting. Case in point: real milk in the fridge to go with a freshly brewed pot of coffee, from actual grounds. In a world where shelf stable creamers and pods seem standard this alone wins my devotion. I wish we had more time to sample the spa and make better use of the pool, but all the more reason to go back!
Napa Valley Bike Tours – There's an almost 0% chance that I'm going to hit the gym while I'm on vacation. A little ambient exercise is more my speed - a long walk, or in this case a bike ride fit the bill. The valley is easy to navigate, so we did a self-guided tour and NVBT makes it simple and stress-free with helpful maps, wine pick-ups, and great recommendations. It's also a cool way to stop and smell the roses along the way, see the valley from a different perspective.