Napa Valley isn’t just about wine, it’s has some of the best dining in California.
You may come to Napa Valley for the wine but you will stay for the food. With nine towns making up the Napa Valley region from Calistoga to Yountville chances are pretty high when you drive through exploring the wineries you are going to ask yourself where to eat in Napa? You are in luck because great restaurants are everywhere. During our 36 hour visit to Napa we only had time to eat at two restaurants and our gourmet Wine Train experience. This is my biggest regret about the visit to Napa. I should have booked a few more days and as I learned during the visit I should have made reservations. But not to worry I still had two great meals with my friends Geoffrey and Daniel. One in the town of Napa itself at Torc and the other in Yountville at Hurley’s Restaurant. I can tell you right now that one of the best meals of my entire 30 Days In SF series happened in Napa. You’ll have to read below to find out where it was…
My first taste of the Napa culinary scene starts off walking distance from our hotel the Westin Verasa Napa in Napa. At the recommendation of the hotel concierge we ventured to Torc at 1140 Main Street. With no reservation we were lucky to get in, it may have helped that we arrived after 7:30 so the first seating was just starting to leave.The restaurant space is large with exposed rock walls, very high ceilings and some interesting art and light fixtures to keep your eyes entertained. More important than the decor though is the staff and I have only one word to describe them, amazing. If every restaurant manager could have staff that work this seamlessly I’d be a very happy diner.
A round of cocktails for the table, don’t ask me to tell you what I had because I can’t remember. All three of us opted for the bartender custom option, we told our server what spirit we wanted and when she returned it was with what the bartender decided to make us. A Russian Roulette drinking experience and quite fun. To go with our cocktails we ordered a couple of small nibbles, Deviled Eggs with pickled onions and bacon and an order of Bengali Sweet Potato Pakora with a yoghurt truffle dip. I’ve always been a big fan of Deviled Eggs but these certainly aren’t Momma’s Deviled Eggs and as for the Pakoras, well we almost ordered a second order
Now it’s time to get down to serious business, our main courses. I was dying for something warm and creamy so I ordered the Celery Root Soup while my friends ordered the Beets with pistachio, burrata cheese and sherry gastrique for our starters. It was exactly what I expected, warm creamy and deliciously rich. As for the beets, the boys said they were the perfect balance of earthy and sweet balanced again the creamy richness of the fresh Buratta. Divine.
For our main courses Daniel chose the Shellfish Risotto, Geoffrey the Hanger Steak and I went exotic and ordered the Veal Sweetbread. This is one of the best meals I have had in recent memory. The sweetbread was so tender yet full of flavour but it paled in comparison to the Winter Vegetable Blanquette that accompanied it on the plate. The vegetables and the delicate hollandaise sauce that coated them were in my humble opinion the outstanding memory from this dish. In fact Chef Sean O’Toole should make this as a main dish, I would order it every time. As for the risotto and the steak, also big successes.
I loved my meal at Torc and I can guarantee you the next time I’m in Napa I will be back for more.
For our second culinary adventure in Napa Valley we venture to Yountville. The Culinary Capital of Napa with restaurants like French Laundry, Bottega and Redd just to name a few. While we are here the big news in town was the theft of $300,000 worth of wine from French Laundry, WOW. We hadn’t planned on being in Napa this late so this is where our poor planning hurt us. All the places we wanted to try were either not taking any more diners or the reservations weren’t available until after 9pm. I learned it helps to plan your culinary adventures far in advance in Napa. So instead we walk along the main drag in Yountville until we find a restaurant with an available table and that is how we discovered Hurley’s.
The boys and I are hungry so we waste no time in putting in our orders. To keep my hunger at bay I order a side of Mac and Cheese as an appetizer. What? Don’t judge me sometimes I just want something cheesy, ooey and full of carbs. It was just what I needed and so you don’t think bad of me I didn’t eat it all, but I did box it up and have it for a midnight snack later on.
Our mains were all about meat. I had the Pork Loin Chop with sweet potato gnocchi, sautéed broccoli rabe and an apple and red onion compote. Geoffrey ordered the Braised Wild Texas Boar, which is a specialty of the Chef, and Daniel went with the Tamarind and Chipotle Glazed Buffalo Short Ribs. According to my friends I had the best dish of the night. My Pork was cooked perfectly and it was huge. The gnocchi was a tad lacking in flavour but they were very pillowy which is how I like them. For Geoffrey he was looking forward to the wild game taste but it was lacking which might make it perfect for other diners. Daniel’s short ribs didn’t last long with nothing left but the bones.
Not the best meal I’ve ever had but it did the job. We ordered a Banana Cream Pie to share which was divine. Who doesn’t love Banana Cream?
So there you have two options for dining in the Napa Valley. Like I said I wish I was in Napa for longer and that I’d planned my trip better. I would have loved a side stop at Bouchon Bistro, maybe the Bakery next door and any number of awesome restaurants all within walking distance of each other. Lesson learned, plan ahead when going to Napa Valley. I’d love to hear your about dining adventures in Napa. Where should I put on my list to visit the next time around?
30 Days In SF Over the course of 30 posts I’m exploring Where to Stay, Where to Eat and Drink and What to Do in San Francisco and the Bay area. I won’t get to everything awesome but I welcome your suggestions and if I don’t get to it on this visit there is always the next time!