48 hours in Napa

Almost two years living in San Francisco and I still feel so lucky to call this place home. On top of that, I sometimes forget how many amazing places are just a short drive away, including Napa.

When I think of Napa, I instantly think of all the wineries. But, there is so much more to Napa, specifically downtown. Luckily, I have a friend that lives there and have frequented some of the establishments downtown before, but there are so many places I didn’t even know about.

I recently took a weekend trip up to Napa with my girl Aimee, to explore some Downtown Napa restaurants, bars, and more.

We basically ate our way around Napa, making time for one winery and a balloon ride (which was probably the best decision I’ve made in a while).

We arrived Friday night around 8pm and decided to grab a drink at Cadet before our slumber party at Vista Collina. After ordering a glass of sparkling Gamay and sparkling Riesling with a grilled cheese on the side, I knew we’d come back to Cadet again that weekend. And we did ;)

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Saturday morning started bright and early at ABC for breakfast, where we shared the challah french toast with blackberry jam. Still dreaming about this dish tbh. Also, if you order the hot chocolate, say yes to the whipped cream on top.

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Next up was Butter Cream Bakery & Diner, where we got a box of donuts to go. Also, their website describes themselves as “A classic diner bustling with energy and conversation which for 70 years has been serving locals a hearty meal and a cup of sass.” A cup of sass? They are speaking my love language.

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After donuts, we hit up Oxbow Market, because you can’t visit Napa without making a stop here. We grabbed a drink at Ritual Coffee, picked up some Vinho Verde from Oxbow Wine Merchant, purchased some bitters from Napa Valley Distillery and wandered around Napa Bookmine.

We took a break in our Downtown Napa day and headed to Ashes & Diamonds for a quick tasting before lunch.

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Then we headed back to Oxbow for some much needed and anticipated Gott’s. Gott’s holds a special place in my heart. Their impossible burger is impossible not to get, and it is the only thing I’ve ordered since I’ve lived in San Francisco and had it for the first time a year & a half ago. HIGHLY RECOMMEND OMG.

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After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to change. We then made a bunch of stops to round off our last evening in Napa. First up was Outland, where we tasted Poe & Forlorn Hope wines.

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Next, we made our way over to Compline for a glass of bubbly + two orders of duck fat fries. Yes, two orders. Then we headed over to Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar to watch the sunset and then back to Cadet for our final drink for the night.

On our last morning, we got up bright and early at 5:30am to go on a balloon ride with Napa Valley Drifters. Both Aimee and I were a little nervous, since we both aren’t super in love with heights. We met our driver Ro, who was also the pilot and absolutely amazing, and made our way to the balloon site.

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We waited until we were called over, and once that happened, we had to hurry and climb in. Then, the balloon just started climbing and we took off. Aimee and I were definitely “white knuckling” as they call it, and holding on for dear life. Once we got high enough, everything started feeling better. It was absolutely breathtaking and calming to be that high in the air, at that time of the day. It was like no one else even existed. Real talk.

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We were in the air for a good hour before making our descent. The descent was definitely a little sketchy, since Ro had to constantly lower the balloon, but also raise it if needed, as he found the right wind currents to bring us to a certain location. We were trying to land in an open field where people walk their dogs but couldn’t make it. We then tried for a little park in a neighborhood but couldn’t make that either, which led us to land in a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood! It was kind of scary, but we made it to tell the tale without running into a telephone poll. With all the being said, it was one of the best experiences and I would do it again in a heartbeat. No joke.

The French Laundry vs. Saison

I'm going to be completely honest, I don't know if I can say which restaurant I liked better out of TFL & Saison. My husband, Paul, has a definitive answer but I do not. 

Let's start with a breakdown of our evening at TFL, located in Yountville. 

"Happy Anniversary Halee and Paul"-the attention to detail was impeccable. 

"Happy Anniversary Halee and Paul"-the attention to detail was impeccable. 

Course 1-Salmon Tartare Cornet

Course 1-Salmon Tartare Cornet

Course 2-"Oysters and Pearls"

Course 2-"Oysters and Pearls"

Course 3-Chilled Garden Carrot Soup

Course 3-Chilled Garden Carrot Soup

Course 4-Slow Cooked Fillet of Wild Scottish Sea Trout

Course 4-Slow Cooked Fillet of Wild Scottish Sea Trout

Course 5-Alaskan King Crab "Poelee"

Course 5-Alaskan King Crab "Poelee"

Course 6-Bread and Butter

Course 6-Bread and Butter

Course 7-Thomas Farm Squab "Roti a la Broche"-FAVORITE

Course 7-Thomas Farm Squab "Roti a la Broche"-FAVORITE

Course 8-Charcoal Grilled Japanese Wagyu

Course 8-Charcoal Grilled Japanese Wagyu

Course 9-"Chateaubriand" of Marcho Farms Nature Fed Veal

Course 9-"Chateaubriand" of Marcho Farms Nature Fed Veal

Does all the wine count as a course?!

Does all the wine count as a course?!

Course 10-Assortment of Desserts

Course 10-Assortment of Desserts

Raspberry, Dark Chocolate, Olive Oil

Raspberry, Dark Chocolate, Olive Oil

Assortment of Truffles for us to choose from

Assortment of Truffles for us to choose from

Handmade Hershey Kisses with another nice touch

Handmade Hershey Kisses with another nice touch

Checking out the Wine Cellar onsite

Checking out the Wine Cellar onsite

Kitchen tour pt. 1

Kitchen tour pt. 1

Kitchen tour pt. 2

Kitchen tour pt. 2

My experience at TFL was one that I will never forget. I definitely enjoyed every minute of it and they really do make you feel special when visiting. From showing us the kitchen and the cellar, to changing our tablecloth when Paul spilt carrot soup on it (while we were away looking at the kitchen). From personalized messages on our menu and in our chocolate kisses to complimentary glasses of champagne to celebrate our anniversary. The big question: would I go back to TFL? Probably not. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that both Paul and I can tick off our bucket list, but I don't think there is any need to go back and experience all of it all over again (and definitely not at that hefty price). 

Next, I will breakdown our evening at Saison, located in San Francisco.

Look at this handsome man!

Look at this handsome man!

Dining area

Dining area

Open kitchen

Open kitchen

Course 1-Saison Private Batch Caviar

Course 1-Saison Private Batch Caviar

Course 2-Diamond Turbot with Edible Flowers 

Course 2-Diamond Turbot with Edible Flowers 

Course 3-Ground Turbot on the bone

Course 3-Ground Turbot on the bone

Course 4-Box Crab

Course 4-Box Crab

Course 5-Uni on Sourdough Bread

Course 5-Uni on Sourdough Bread

Course 6-Artichoke

Course 6-Artichoke

Course 7-Barbecued Quail

Course 7-Barbecued Quail

Which knife did I choose??!

Which knife did I choose??!

Course 8-Pronghorn Antelope (from somewhere in TX!)

Course 8-Pronghorn Antelope (from somewhere in TX!)

Course 9-A broth made of Grilled Bones

Course 9-A broth made of Grilled Bones

Course 10-Ice cream & Caramel with all the fixings 

Course 10-Ice cream & Caramel with all the fixings 

Course 11-Fruit & Tea

Course 11-Fruit & Tea

1970 Sauternes dessert wine

1970 Sauternes dessert wine

Whatever the hell Paul ordered 

Whatever the hell Paul ordered 

Take home Tea!

Take home Tea!

My experience at Saison was extraordinary. From the knowledgable and friendly staff, to the exciting and unique food. We started off with a glass of complimentary champagne. Then, the plates started coming. They had plenty of waiters/waitresses and staff that they would interchange for delivering each meal and explaining it. We then finally got to meet the infamous Mike Hoe, one of the Somms at Saison. Backstory: When we were visiting Mayacamas and met Kassandra, the daughter of McPherson Wines, we mentioned we were going to Saison when we got to SF. She then told us she knew the Somm and Paul said "Mike Hoe?!" and she said yes! She ended up sending him an email letting him know about us and how we were coming in. He was seriously the best, along with all the other staff, and made the evening 10x better. Being able to see the kitchen at Saison is probably the number one thing that sets it apart from the FL for me. I really did enjoy both meals and both experiences, but the kitchen part was set Saison slightly ahead. 

Overall, for me, both win. They both were roughly the same price after all was said and done, they both offered very interesting and appetizing meals, and they both had excellent service. If you are looking for that old school fancy dinner with a reputation to back it up and it takes months to get a reservation, then TFL is the place for you. BUT, if you are looking to eat at one of the best restaurants in the world (currently ranked at 37, whereas TFL is no longer ranked), then that alone should tell you Saison is your place to dine. 

I am glad both Paul and I got to experience both of these wonderful restaurants and I definitely feel privileged to be able to do so. Now it's back to homemade pizzas and spaghetti & meatballs :)

Thanks for reading! See ya soon.

-Halee  

Napa + Muir Woods

Our week long vacation started in Napa. We arrived in SF at about 8:15am, went to pick up our car, and on to Napa we went! Our first stop was Bouchon for some pastries where I finally met up with the infamous Emma K. Morris

After Bouchon, we went to The French Laundry (where we would be having dinner that night!), to check out the garden onsite. They try to use as much as they can from their garden in dishes, and at times they are using 95% of what they grow. 

We then had to hurry off to make our first tour & tasting at Schramsberg, which has been served at official state functions by every U.S. President since 1972. Bravo! 

After Schramsberg, we had to rush back to check into our Airbnb, get ready, and head over to The French Laundry for our reservation. I will posting a different blog post talking about my experience at TFL compared to my experience at Saison in San Francisco (both 3 Michelin stars). Stay tuned for that!

The next day we had two more tour & tastings booked, but we had to get one more meal in with Emma, before setting off. We met at this amazing local place called Alexis Baking Company or "ABC". I ordered the chilaquiles, which was amazing and such a large portion! Their iced chai was pretty spot on as well. We still had a bit of time before needing to leave, so we walked over to Oxbow Market after breakfast. 

Oh yeah! Before we went to Oxbow, Emma took us to this authentic Italian shop that only does to-go orders and the man that runs it is 95 years old and still working there (pictured talking to Emma). He created "malfatti" years ago, which is a cheese, spinach, and herb dumpling. Wish we had the time to stay and eat some of his delicious food, but off to Oxbow we went. 

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Malfatti

Malfatti

Next, we were on our way to Mayacamas Vineyards for our first tour/tasting of the day. When we arrived, I seriously and literally was in awe. The property was so beautiful and private. We were introduced to Cassandra, who gave us the tour, and who happens to be the daughter of McPherson Wine. Once we knew who she was and her being from Texas and all, we instantly bonded with her. The 3 of us hopped on an ATV and Cassandra showed us the land. She mentioned that Mayacamas owns roughly 475 acres and 50 or so is used for wine. The tour was breathtaking. We got to see so many different areas where they are making wine, learn about the struggles they have gone through and are still going through, and see so much beauty and nature. This was by far my favorite experience in Napa. 

Next stop, Cade! This place was stunning as well. The view was unbelievable and the tour in their "cave" was pretty impressive. We really did our homework when we picked these places. Both vineyards were relatively quiet and away from all the packed touristy vineyards like Cakebread and Lewis.   

After Cade, we headed to Gott's Roadside before making our way to Mill Valley for the night. Now this burger was off the chain. I will forever put a fried egg on my burger if I have the opportunity. Oh, and I can't forget about that Horchata milkshake! 

Okay, treehouse here we come!

This house FTW!

This house FTW!

We woke up bright and early after a quiet night in the woods. We grabbed some coffee for the road and headed to the Muir Woods. We were told to get there before 8am because it starts to get busy after that. 

Hello Muir Woods!

After ending our 2-3 hour hike, we noticed tour bus after tour bus as we headed to the parking lot. We really did go at the right time!

And that's a wrap for Napa + Muir Woods! Next blog post will be all about San Francisco, and the one to follow will be my experience at TFL vs. Saison! Stay tuned guys, and thanks for reading :)

 

-Halee