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Ruth Bourdain: The CHOW.com Interview

Ruhlman?

Sep 16, 2010
Indy_Foodie in Features

Martini House (St. Helena), Jole (Calistoga) or Something Else?

From La Luna, head toward Silverado Trail and hit Frogs Leap. It's a fun tour with a great story about the winery (make an appt.)

Four days in Napa - An overview of our most recent trip

My wife and I just got back from our eighth trip to Napa (We got married in Napa and go back for our anniversary every year). Here’s a recap:

Note – We went the week after Labor Day, so it was not really busy anywhere we went, which was great. Additionally, the weather was unseasonable cool (upper 70’s every day, rather than they typical 90’s-100), which was also perfect.

Arrived at SFO around 10:00 on Tuesday the 7th and were in Rutherford by Noon – Just in time for lunch. My wife has to have Mexican food at least once a week, so following the recommendations of fellow Chow Hounds, we went to La Luna Market (just across from BV tasting room) for some VERY authentic tacos. We both had one each of the Carne Asada and Chicken Tacos. Both were very good. Next time I’ll have to try the carnitas. We also bought some fresh chips and salsa (very good and very spicy) and 2 beers. The entire lunch cost less than $15.

Following lunch we wanted to relax with a little sparkling wine, so we went to Mumm. It may not be the most glamorous place, but they make a solid bubbly, and have a wonderful outdoor patio where you can enjoy a great view of the valley. My wife had a flight of 3 different sparkling wines, and I got a class of reserve that was poured from a Magnum. Once the person serving us heard it was our anniversary, she poured a couple other varieties to try. In all, a very nice time relaxing.

After Mumm, we decided to check out Honig. We had never been there before and we had a great time. The guy helping us was very fun - sarcastic and snarky. They only make Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon and everything we tasted was very good.

That was enough tasting for the day, so we headed up to Calistoga to check in to our hotel. We stayed at Carlin Cottages for the third time. It’s basically like an old motor lodge. The people who work there are very nice, they have a natural spring-fed pool and hot tub, and every room has a small kitchen. It’s also very affordable by wine country standards ($105 a night during the week).

That evening we went to Solbar for dinner and shared some small plates: Cheese fritters, Shrimp Lettuce Wraps and a Pizza along with a glass of wine each. Everything was very good, but we felt a little uncomfortable because our entire bill was probably less than what one person normally spends there (considering their cheapest room is $450 a night). It felt like our server wanted us out of there ASAP so she could turn her table again.

Wednesday: Lunch at Rutherford grill. We each had a small salad and split the Prime Rib French Dip. The sandwich is sooooo good. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The accompanying fries were the shoestring variety and were super crisp and tasty.

We has a 1:00 tasting at Chappellet - another new place for us. There were only six of us on the tour and it was very fun. We walked around the property and heard the history of the winery while enjoying some very good wine. The tour concludes at a table in the barrel room. Two young ladies on the tour were very fun and shared our enthusiasm for wine and food, so we all went to Darioush afterward. Yet another new place for us. The person who owns it is Iranian, and he built a palace for his wine. Kind of touristy, but overall quite nice. The wines are fine, but we won’t be rushing back.

Our new friends came back to the hotel with us and opened a bottle of Sparkling Red they had bought at Domain Chandon. We sat at a picnic table and had that along with some cheese, crackers, nuts and other snacks we had. After that, we all went to the Culinary Institute for Hogs Island Oysters (and more bubbly). YUM! Note - The guy from Hogs Island is there only on Wednesdays. Our new friends had to hit the road, so my Wife and I went to Press to have a couple more apps at the bar. Two words – Bacon Sampler! Yes, seven different types of bacon on one plate, including Duck bacon, and wild boar. OM NOM NOM. We also had some delicious Truffled macaroni and cheese and a half bottle of Duckhorn Sav Blanc. They have a Blue Plate special every wed. for $10, but they were sold out by the time we got there. The restaurant is quite elegant, and I would have felt under-dressed in my jeans if we weren’t sitting at the bar. The regular menu looks quite good, but fairly pricy.

Thursday: 10:30 tasting at Schramsburg. If you don’t know anything about how sparkling wine is produced, this is the place to go. They have the second oldest caves in the valley (dug in the 1800’s). The tour is ~90 minutes long and the bubbly is very good. Their higher-end stuff is $100 / bottle, and in my opinion is just as good as Dom Perignon. We also found out they make a Bordeaux style red still wine. It was so good we bought a bottle to bring home.

For lunch we went to Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. I had one of the best Burgers I’ve ever tasted. A half pound of freshly ground beef that was really moist, with bacon and fries. My wife had a very nice salad and some of my burger (which she was lucky to pry away form me). Service was very good.

Dinner at Ad Hoc. Our first experience at Ad Hoc last year was amazing, so we had to go back. If you’re not familiar with Ad Hoc, it’s a Thomas Keller restaurant with a four course prix fixe menu for $49. Thursdays are “Steakhouse” nights, and this one did not disappoint. First course was a wonderful salad of baby lettuces, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes picked from The French Laundry gardens that morning along with torn croutons and a lovely lemon vinaigrette. The main course was a perfectly cooked New York Strip with marble potatoes, pancetta and sautéed greens. It was the most tender NY Strip I’ve ever eaten. I think it has been sous-vide first, then quickly broiled just before serving to put a nice crust on the outside. The cheese course was a nice firm cow’s milk cheese served with mixed nuts and wildflower honey. Dessert was chocolate panna cotta with house-made cinnamon-sugar shortbread cookies. Needless to say, we were stuffed and VERY satisfied. We weren’t able to finish the entire cheese course so we asked for the rest to go, and they vacuum-sealed it for us - just another really nice touch. The service was also perfect.

Friday – 11:00 tasting at Cain on Spring Mountain. This was the fourth time we visited Cain, and as usual, we had a great time. Holly, the person who conducts the tasting is an absolute hoot. She reminds us of Jane Lynch. The wine is always very good. Our tasting lingered on well past its scheduled time and a good time was had by all. If you ever go, ask about their “fight club” wine – that’s all I can say about it, or I’ll get in trouble.

We had lunch at Gillwoods Café in St Helena. It’s a favorite place of ours and we go there every time we are in Napa. We each had a cup of wonderful black-bean soup. My wife also had a very tasty chicken sandwich, and I had some biscuits & gravy. Overall, it’s good, homemade food that hit the spot.

On our way out of town we made a quick stop at Alpha Omega winery, and I really wish we hadn’t. I’d have had just as much fun throwing $20 out the window of the car. The guy helping us (and everyone else there) needed to pull the sticks out of their rears. The wines are so-so, and very over priced. I would not recommend this place to anyone.

Anyway, sorry to be so long-winded, but I wanted to share our overall wonderful experience. We’ve now been to well over 100 wineries in Napa/Sonoma and many great restaurants, so if anyone has questions about any other places, feel free to ask.

Happy Chowing!

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The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

Blue Plate
3218 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

Gillwoods Cafe
1320 Napa Town Ctr, Napa, CA 94559

Martini House (St. Helena), Jole (Calistoga) or Something Else?

My wife and I just got back from Napa, and for the second year in a row we had one of the best meals of our lives at Ad Hoc. It takes ~30 minutes to get there from Calistoga (which is where we stayed).

Hole in the wall for lunch - La Luna Market in Rutherford. Great Tacos - very authentic. We were the only non-hispanics there.

If you like Oysters, go to the CIA on Wednesdays. One of the founders of Hogs Island Oyster Co. is there shucking them fresh.

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Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

Your tried and true Cook's illustrated Best recipes.

We've had a subscription to the magazine for a few years and have made many recipies from it.

Love the marinade for the Chicken Fajitas, but instead of grilling, we throw everything in a skillet.

Also really like (off the top of my head):
Penne ala Vodka
Chicken Kiev
Fettuccini Alfredo
Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Margarita Pizza

Sep 01, 2010
Indy_Foodie in Home Cooking

Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller.

Another reason for the "saltiness" may be due to the pork you are using. Most pork that people purchase has been enhanced by having brine added to it. Natural pork has not been enhanced, and won't be as salty. Good point above though - if you use table salt rather than kosher, you're using about twice as much by weight.

Sep 01, 2010
Indy_Foodie in Home Cooking

Sonoma and Napa Valley in 5 days

My wife and I have been to Napa seven times and we always stay in Calistoga. St. Helena to Calistoga in one day and the rest in a second day is reasonable. As for wineries, we have found it is best to share tastings. You get to taste a greater variety of wines and don't get drunk. For food, we love Gillwoods in St. Helna for breakfast, and the Prime Rib French Dip @ Rutherfords grill is wonderful for lunch.

Are there any specific wineries or restaurants you plan on going to?

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Gillwoods Cafe
1320 Napa Town Ctr, Napa, CA 94559

Napa and Sonoma Wineries itinerary + restaurant help for foodies

My Wife and I reall like Gillwoods Cafe in St. Helena for breakfast.

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Gillwoods Cafe
1320 Napa Town Ctr, Napa, CA 94559

WTF Tex Wasabi

Sushi does not equal raw. Sashimi is raw.

Aug 16, 2010
Indy_Foodie in Features

6 days in SF/Napa - suggestions?

Picnic supplies:
Oakville Grocery
Dean and DeLuca
Cal Mart (in Calistoga)

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Oakville Grocery
124 Matheson St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Help!! Need advice for a 1st Anniversary Trip to SF/Napa

Have eaten at both Coles and Celedon, and both meals were very good. Coles is just what is says it is - a Chophouse - Big cuts of meat. Celedon has a more diverse menu. If you definitely want steak, I’d go to Coles.

San Francisco Napa Valley for the first time

Rutherford Grill = Prime Rib French Dip = YUM!

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Rutherford Grill
1180 Rutherford Rd, Napa, CA 94558

Best Breakfast in Napa/Sonoma?

Love Gillwoods Cafe in St. Helena.

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Gillwoods Cafe
1320 Napa Town Ctr, Napa, CA 94559

3 Nights in Yountville

I agree about Oakville Grade being more than a little twisted. My wife became nauseous. Wouldn't even consider it if I had anything to drink.

Napa and Sonoma Recommendations for July 4 Weekend

Clos Pegase (across form Sterling on Dunaweal Lane) also has a large art collection.

Napa V. Sonoma

Ad Hoc in Yountville is another Thomas Keller restaurant that is very good. $49 per person fixed price and you get whatever they are serving that day. The 4-course menu changes daily. One of the best meals I've ever had. I also agree with everyone else about Boon Fly (breakfast and lunch only I believe).

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Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

Boon Fly Cafe
4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa, CA 94559

Napa: casual + great lunch after DiRosa Preserve

Have been going to Napa for seven years now and Boon Fly is our favorite "Lunch on the way from San Francisco" place. Love the Flat Bread Pizzas. You can also get fresh dounuts - Yum! Plus you can go to Domain Carneros right after for some delicious Bubbly.

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Boon Fly Cafe
4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa, CA 94559

Wine & Food Tour of SF/Napa

Had dinner at Ad Hoc last September - One of the best meals of my life. Going back to Napa next September. Tried to make reservation but you can only book 2 months in advance. Have a reminder set to call them in July. Also, Jarvis is Amazing.

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Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

Wine country ideas for a 1st timer

Very few wineries allow picnics. It depends on what type of tasting room permit they have. If they don't have the correct type of permit, it is against the law for you to have a picnic there.

best mexican food in indianapolis?

Yes - Chili Verde - Yummy

May 26, 2010
Indy_Foodie in Great Lakes

Best Hamburger in Midwest

For a Chain restaraunt - Steak and Shake

Napa Wineries Trip Report

Frogs Leap used to have a much better tour. First of all, it was free. Then they took you all around the grouds, through the garden, in to the barn etc... while they told the history of the winery. It sounds like it's become a lot less personal, which is a shame.

Tastings in Napa Valley on Monday

On Spring Mountain, Cain is also great (and free), but they only have 2 tastings a day at 10:00 and 11:00.

Tastings in Napa Valley on Monday

I'm pretty sure that Siver Oak only makes Cabernet, one from Napa Valley and the other from Alexander Valley. Frog's leap is a fun tour. Sinskey is nice if you can do one of the tastings that come with food pairings (Robert's wife is a well known Chef). Caymus,Quintessa and Shafer are great for reds, but they are kind of expensive.

Wine country ideas for a 1st timer

The same guy owns V. Sattui winery, and their wine is horrible. We stopped by the castle one time and just wanted to look inside real quick to see if we wanted to do the tour. The guy at the door looked at me like I had two heads. The only way to get inside is to pay for the tour, so we left.

Wine country ideas for a 1st timer

My Wife and I got married in Napa Seven years ago and go back for our Anniversary every year. It's really easy to get around. Hwy 37 is the western border and Siverado Trail is on the east side. There are several cross roads that join the two.
Rutherford is pretty much the middle part of the valley, so you might want to hit the northern part of the valley the first few days. By the way - The Rutherford Grill is a good lunch place - Prime Rib French Dip - need I say more?
For a great (and free) tasing, call Cain in St. Helena. Really good wine, but it will take you 30 minutes to get up to the winery from downtown St. Helena. Speaking of St. Helena - Great Breakfast/Lunch place called Gillwoods. Good Italian place called "Cook" accross the street. One last thing about St. Helena - nasty traffic every day around 3:00-4:00.
You mention Ad Hoc - we went there last year and it was one of the best meals of my life. Thursday is typically "Steakhouse night". Their menu is posted on their website every day.
For Sparkling Wine, Domain Chandon and Domain Carneros are great. Great lunch place called Boonfly Cafe on the way to Domain Carneros.
Closer to Napa there is a really cool winery called Jarvis that is amazing. The entire place is built in to the side of a mountain. Tasting is $$ but the wine you are drinking is at least $70 a bottle.
Other restaraunts - Bisto Don Giovanni (italian - near Napa), Brannans Grill (American - in Calistoga), Coles Chop House (Steaks - in Napa)
Other wineries - Frogs Leap, Cardinale, Joseph Phelps, Nickel and Nickel (expensive but good), Whitehall Lane, Silver Oak, Shafer (another expensive but good one)...
One last tip - Share your tastings. You get to taste a greater variety and don't get too drunk.

Have a great time!

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Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

Cardinale
7600 St Helena Highway, Oakville, CA

Rutherford Grill
1180 Rutherford Rd, Napa, CA 94558

Gillwoods Cafe
1320 Napa Town Ctr, Napa, CA 94559