When the inn keeper at the bed and breakfast we checked into for the weekend learned we didn’t drink he seemed to stammer in shock. After briefly explaining our reasons for not partaking in alcohol (due to religious affiliation, personal preference, etc) we quickly assured him that we planned to take full advantage of the treats the Napa Valley offers, specifically the array of culinary and dining experiences.
Several months prior Clint and I were sitting on the couch watching a Food Network show, The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs, where several notable chefs from around the country competed for the title of Iron Chef. In one of the challenges, with only a few minutes to cook, chef Michael Chiarello cranked out fresh homemade pasta that had the judges exclaiming that it tasted like something they could only get in Italy. We then learned that Chef Chiarello owned and ran a restaurant, Bottega, in the Napa Valley and thus began our talk of taking our first anniversary trip to the Napa Valley and most importantly the Bottega Restaurant.
I was a little worried that the trip wouldn’t be as successful as we planned when one of first adventures was going to the natural Petrified Forest site the afternoon that we got to the valley. The Petrified Forest was a short nature walk that featured trees that were turned into a stone-like substance from volcanoes that erupted many, many years prior. I love nature and all, but these were just some trees on the ground that looked like they were made out of stone and I was not sold on the attraction. Then that night we went to restaurant in Calistoga, Brennans, that had been recommended and both Clint and I had dishes that were less than spectacular. I was a little bit skeptical that this trip would go as well I had been imagining.
Things did look up however with the so many highlights in the following two days that I could ramble on and on about, but I will just highlight all the good stuff since there is so much to share:
- Discovering of a European style castle in the heart of the valley—Castello di Amorosa
- Roaming the Francis Ford Coppola property (with iconic Hollywood memorabilia from this prolific film maker’s career)
- Dessert at the Culinary Institute of America—Greystone on the patio, overlooking the vineyards and watching the sun go down
- Breakfast at the Larkmead Inn with a heaping plate of fresh fruit and large pastries
- Playing Scrabble at the Inn at night after our daily adventures—there wasn’t TV at the Inn, which turned out to not be a bad thing
- Finding out what the long line at the Bouchon bakery was all about. Amazing fresh baked goodies, Dutch crunch rolls I think being our fav
- Using the smart phone to find dessert another night and finding Sift Cupcakes (and ice cream sammys)
- Taking a tour of the gorgeous and historic Culinary Institute of America—Greystone campus
- Attending a fun and informational cooking demo at the Culinary Institute of American—Greystone campus (and learning I do cut onions the correct way!)
- Eating a delicious, slightly decadent, but oh so worth is dinner at Bottega where Clint was able to get the hostess to have us meet Chef Chiarello and take a photo with him!!! It made the dinner and evening perfect!
As I sat in the passenger seat on the drive home reviewing the highlights of the weekend, I realized I had consumed five baked goodies in just one day! There were the two complimentary goodies in the morning at the Inn, a plump blueberry muffin topped with dusting sugar quickly followed by the flakey Danish wrapped around a gooey cherry filling. A moist red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting from the previous nights discovery from Sift Cupcakes which was devoured as a snack in between tours at the Culinary Institute. Our last stop before leaving the valley was at Bouchon where I picked a buttery, flakey, layered croissant with dark chocolate in the center and a soft and savory Dutch crunch roll. This was clearly not a typical day at home!
A day later and I have to admit I am still day dreaming a little bit about the fabulous food and adventure of the weekend. We just might have to do it again sometime…soon.