Central California

30 Jun

A true food and wine lovers paradise, I’ve dreamed of visiting Napa Valley for years. My fiancé and I finally made the trip and I was not disappointed. I was delighted to find a downtown Napa undergoing a major revitalization with historic renovations, a beautiful riverfront and delicious restaurants around every corner.  The postcard perfect towns of Yountville and St. Helena also have great dining options.


Oxbow Public Market

Inside Oxbow Public Market

This permanent indoor market is a bit overwhelming for a foodie like me. Too many amazing choices! The founder was Project Manager for the Ferry Building in San Francisco and it’s easy to see the connection. The Oxbow Public Market even has some of the same vendors like Hog Island Oyster. Oxbow is a great place to grab items for a picnic or eat in. There’s a gourmet taqueria, an organic ice creamery, a Ritual Coffee Roasters and a Kara’s Cupcakes just to name a few. The market also hosts an outdoor farmer’s market ever Tuesday and Saturday morning, so if you go then prepare to be even more overwhelmed!

610 and 644 First St.
Napa, CA 94559


Redd may get overshadowed by Yountville’s iconic French Laundry, but it is absolutely delicious and a good choice if snagging a table at Thomas Keller’s legendary restaurant alludes you. The first venture for Chef Richard Reddington who has worked in such kitchens as Jardiniere in San Francisco and Napa Valley’s Auberge, Redd serves inventive, regional cuisine in an elegant, modern setting. The dinner menu at Redd is made up of entrees, and decently sized small plates. If you’re having trouble making up your mind do what my fiancé and I did and eat tapas style. Everything we had was delicious, but the risotto with lobster and meyer lemon and the yellowfin tuna tartare were true standouts.

6480 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

The courtyard outside Bouchon

Bouchon Bakery

If you think Yountville is a tad too perfect, eating at Thomas Keller’s idealic French bakery might put you over the edge. Sitting in the courtyard outside, you feel literally transported to a quant café in Provence.  You can’t really go wrong with any of the pastries. My fiancé and I had zero self control and ordered one of just about everything, but we especially enjoyed the banana muffin and a sort of open-faced strawberry, almond croissant.

6528 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599

Ad Hoc

Another Thomas Keller establishment, we did not have the pleasure of eating here, but we peaked our heads in and loved the laid back vibe and look of the homey comfort style cuisine. Ad Hoc serves a four course, prix fix menu five nights a week and is much more affordable then Keller’s nearby French Laundry. When we popped in they were serving fried chicken, which looked delicious. We’ll be back!

6476 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599


This Michelin starred restaurant in downtown Napa is a truly unique concept. A restaurant and yoga studio, Ubuntu takes local and sustainable to a whole new level. Much of the vegetarian restaurant’s garden-fresh menu comes from its own biodynamic garden. The interior has a modern, zen aesthetic. Dishes like warm focaccia with truffled pecorino and apricot/almond agridolce, will leave even a meat lover like me going bring on the veggies. Many of the dishes can also be prepared vegan.

1140 Main St.
Napa, CA 94559


Iron Chef star Masaharu Morimoto opened his first west coast restaurant in downtown Napa’s new riverfront development last year. The Asian fusion food is a tad spendy but extremely fresh. I like the large light filled space right on the boardwalk, overlooking the Napa River.

610 Main St.
Napa, CA. 94559


The view from Farmstead's patio

This farm to table restaurant was exactly what my fiancé and I were craving one night, simple, seasonal cuisine served in a beautiful outdoor setting. Farmstead also has a beautiful interior. Housed in a former nursery, the 110-seat restaurant has a modern yet rustic feel. The restaurant is owned by Long Meadow Ranch and serves the ranch’s all natural grass fed beef. We had the sirloin with arugula and potatoes and the rock bass with sausage and cioppino broth. Both were delicious. Perhaps our favorite thing about Farmstead though, the unbelievably cheap $2 corkage fee. The proceeds are donated to local community serving non-profits.

738 Main St.
St.. Helena, CA 94574


Napa River Inn

Napa River Inn's entrance

This reasonably priced hotel is located right on the Napa River in the historic Napa Mill.  Built in 1884, the red brick building has been beautifully restored and iswalking distance to the Oxbow market and many of Napa’s best shops and restaurants. There are also some great restaurants and shops located in the hotel complex.

500 Main St.
Napa CA, 94559


Wine Taste

View from the porch at Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

The tasting room at this winery is located in a house that feels ripped from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalogue, but in the best possible way.  Guests are served tastings out on the wrap around porch surrounded by lush gardens. At $20 a piece, the tastings aren’t cheap, but the pours are bigger than average and can easily be shared. Guests are encouraged to walk around the property. Be sure to check out the  iconic red barn. It was built in 1884 and still houses winemaking facilities today.

8815 Conn Creek Rd.
Rutherford, CA 94573


This Napa green certified winery has two tasting rooms, one in Carneros and one in Calistoga. We visited the latter, which featured friendly servers and a small modern tasting room. The tasting fee is $15, one of the more reasonable in the valley. The Calistoga location also has a great outdoor picnic area and is one of the only wineries where you’re allowed to bring your own food.

4550 Silverado Trail
Calistoga, CA 94515

Buena Vista

A courtyard at Buena Vista

Considered the oldest premier winery in California, Buena Vista feels like a slice of Europe. The original ivy covered stone structures are still there nestled in the hillside. Tasting’s are only $10 and last I checked you could print a two for one tasting coupon on the winery’s website.

18000 Old Winery Road
Sonoma, CA 95476

Ehlers Estate Winery

Another historic winery, Ehlers’ tasting room is located in a beautiful stone structure built in the 1800’s. The wine is all estate grown and 100 percent organic. It’s delicious, but you’ll pay for the privilege of tasting it. The tasting fee is $25 a person. You may feel better about it though when you know one hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of Ehler’s wines go to a non-profit dedicated to funding international cardiovascular research. Appointments are recommended.

Outside of Ehler's tasting room

3222 Ehlers Ln.
St. Helena, CA 94581

Visit Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls

About a 4-hour drive from Napa, Yosemite could easily be its own trip, but my fiancé and I love to rough it then pamper ourselves so we decided to combine the two destinations into one road trip.

Yosemite is a place every American should see.  Our national parks are true treasures and this one may be the crown jewel. We drove in on Big Oak Flat Road. The view after you pass through the tunnel is jaw dropping and almost seems like something out of a Pixar movie. The lush valley unfolds in front of you with a huge waterfall at the end cascading down to the valley floor.

We did not have reservations, but we managed to snag a camping spot at Camp 4. Campsites are shared and the facilities are nothing great, but at 5 dollars a person it’s a steal. I also like the communal atmosphere. The Yosemite Falls trailhead is basically in camp. We hiked to the top of Yosemite point (about 9 miles roundtrip).  The trail is extremely steep and not for beginners, but you get to see the falls from pretty much every angle and the view of Half Dome from the top is spectacular.

The Ahwahnee Lodge

Don’t leave the park without a visit to the Ahwahnee. The historic Lodge’s dining room complete with a 34 foot tall beamed ceiling is stunning and serves a legendary brunch on Sunday.



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