After a recent trip to Calistoga and Napa Valley, I wanted to do a column on some of the lesser-known restaurants, markets and what some of the wineries are doing to quench your hunger along with your thirst:
Calistoga Roastery, Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga: Warm and inviting, with a Brit behind the counter that was all jokes and silliness at 7 in the morning. I enjoyed the largest blueberry and cream cheese scone known to mankind, warmed up just for me, which was matched only by an extremely large mug of their house blend coffee. Ed had a “breakfast muffin” that he also thoroughly enjoyed. There were several breakfast noshables, and plenty of different house brewed coffees. The Calistoga Roastery sells their own brand of roasted coffee beans to take home too. Also, if you happen to have finished the book you brought on vacation, feel free to take one from their free sharing shelf.
Sarafornia, Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga: Recommended as the best breakfast spot per the Calistoga Tourism office. We slipped in just before 7 in the morning as the waitress that day opens up “when (she) get here.” A couple of gents sat at the big U-shaped counter discussing life under a gathering of festive holiday ornaments that were strung – taken down periodically to wash and re-string – from the ceiling.
We happily sipped the fresh brewed coffee before being served our select-your-own-ingredients in a ham, cheese and salsa omelet along with fresh blackberry topped pancakes. What a great place to linger while waiting for the sun to warm up the streets outside.
Dean & Deluca, Highway 29, St. Helena: A staple for the eclectic picnic. Gigantic sections of cheese, deli meats, coffee, chocolate, pre-made and made to order goodies. You can also choose to peruse their wine selection, including their own wine label. (Think of it as a Trader Joe’s label with panache.)
We ended up buying a seeded French baguette, some soft cheese, tuna salad, deviled eggs and a Black Forrest prosciutto. As our winery appointments began to jam up we found ourselves picnicking in the car – me prepping while Eddie drove, and it was probably one of the best meals we had.
Napa Valley’s Finest: Cal Mart, Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga: Oakville Market was gutted for re-furbishing, so in the meantime, take advantage of wine country markets that cover the gamut of gastronomic delights – and at a lower price point than the high end markets.
At Cal Mart they have a small area where a cheese monger shares samples and makes recommendations. Adjacent to her is a large selection of olives and an even larger one of cheeses. A bakery and made-to-order sandwiches rounded out our needs. Not to mention I was able to get a new travel toothbrush at the same time!
Pacifico Restaurante Mexicano, Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga: Craving guacamole, fresh ceviche, soft tacos, chips and all paired with a Mexican Margarita that isn’t heavy on mixers but more on fresh lime? Worked great on arrival day before spending the next day filled on Napa Cabernets!
A word about winery food: Pleased to see so many wineries with so many choices. Tastings are sometimes served with small nibbles, pairings, bistro lunches, brunches to full out dinners. Check in advance. Some are complimentary as part of a tasting fee.
Of note from this recent trip was: The Wild Boar panini sandwiches and fresh-from-the-oven meat pizzas at Del Dotto, a trio tasting for meat lovers or vegetarians at Round Pond, nibbles of nuts, fruit, bread and cheeses at Robert Sinskey, cheeses and chocolates at Terra Valentine.