Cibo e Il Vino, parte due

… continued from parte uno.

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After our first day in wine country, we checked into the Arbor Guest House B&B, located near downtown Napa. We’ve had good luck with B&Bs in the past (Greenlake Guest House in Seattle and James House Santa Barbara) and this time was no different. We stayed in the Bella Vista room, which I believe is the smallest of the rooms available, but it was perfect for us. It was furnished with a comfortable queen sized bed, flat screen TV and a cute claw foot tub in the bathroom. There was a guest refrigerator downstairs in the patio area stocked with water, juice and soda. Hot water was also available in the dining room at night for tea or hot chocolate. Dan and Candy, the innkeepers, were very nice and though we didn’t go downstairs for afternoon wine and hor d’oeuvres (either I was napping before dinner or Henry was watching the Laker game), we heard other guests laughing and talking so I’m sure everyone was enjoying themselves.

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Every morning, Dan and Candy provided us with a delicious breakfast to start our day. My favorite was the sticky buns!!

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frittata stickybun

We spent much of our 2nd day in wine country around the Rutherford area. The first winery we visited was Cakebread, highly recommended by my coworker. Since Henry prefers red wines, he decided to make an appointment for their red wine tasting. After checking in, we were escorted to the small red wine tasting room. One man tended to 3 other couples besides us, so it was another, “this is such and such wine.. enjoy”. Since we were in such close quarters, it was really easy to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. The couple next to us seriously hyped up the wines too much; after each wine they tasted, we heard, “OMG, I love this”. And as if to confirm, the man pouring Henry’s wine also added, “this is such a treat.. you’ll love this”. Yea well, Henry didn’t love the $106 Dancing Bear Cabernet, but he did like the 2006 Merlot enough to buy it.

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The 2nd winery we went to was probably Henry’s least favorite in terms of wine, but the property was beautiful and the overall experience was very relaxing. Frog’s Leap Winery proudly boasts that they grow all their grapes organically and are committed to the principles of sustainable farming. Tastings are held on the “porch” of the vineyard house. There is a long table that can hold large parties (or several smaller parties) and there are also smaller tables that wrap around the porch.

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The wine tastings ($15) at Frog’s Leap included a plate of cheese, almonds, bread sticks and cranberries. SCORE!! I pretty much ate all of the cheese because I’m a fat ass.

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Unimpressed by the wines, Henry and I left empty handed and we headed to lunch at the Rutherford Grill. I decided on this particular restaurant because it was the only one in or around Rutherford that caught my interest and having a 4.5 star rating on Yelp didn’t hurt. When we arrived at 2PM, the hostess told us that the wait would be about 40-50 mins for a party of 2, but the inside and outside bar were first come, first serve. I put my name on the list and quickly began to scope out the bar area. I was prepared to fight for a spot, but good thing it didn’t come to that because 3 groups actually left the bar at the same time!

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We didn’t want to over-stuff ourselves so we shared an appetizer and an entree. This also helped us save a bit of money since even with just 2 items + drink, we paid almost $50! The spinach and artichoke dip was creamy, cheesy goodness. The ribs were fall off the bone tender, but had an overly smoky flavor. Overall, a good meal to hold us off until our much anticipated dinner: Ad Hoc.

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The last day of vacation is always a sad one. The realization of having to go back to the “real world” left us with an unsettling feeling the whole entire day. We knew we had a long drive ahead of us, but we didn’t want to leave just yet so we made two pit stops: Trefethen and Boon Fly Cafe.

A month ago, my parents, Henry and I went to dinner at Mastro’s Steakhouse. Remembering how he first fell in love with Buehler during a previous trip to Mastro’s, Henry asked our waiter for another wine recommendation. Our waiter suggested Trefethen’s 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and sure enough, it was another instance of love at first sip. So, of course we had to visit Trefethen while we were in Napa!

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Trefethen Vineyards, located in the Oak Knoll District of Napa, is HUGE!! A magnificent gate adorns the entrance and a drive down a lovely tree-lined street transports you to a 19th century winery building that houses the tasting room. Henry had a difficult time deciding between the Estate Tasting ($10/choose 4 of 8 wines) and the Reserve Tasting ($25/5 wines), but he ultimately chose the Reserve Tasting because it offered multiple cabs. Considering it was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I was surprised that Trefethen’s tasting room wasn’t crowded. This totally worked out for us because Henry received excellent service unlike the other wineries we visited; he was also given an opportunity to have a vertical tasting of their 2005 and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignons (the 2006 was only offered with the Estate Tasting). Henry loved the wines and experience so much, he bought 3 bottles: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (1.5L), 2007 O-K-D Five, 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. I guess, we saved the best for last? Well, Henry still says that he loves Buehler just as much. Whatever 😛

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I had made up my mind the night before to try Zuzu, a tapas restaurant, for lunch, so imagine my disappointment when we got to the restaurant and it was CLOSED! Stupid me, I didn’t pay attention to their hours listed on the website; they open at 4PM on the weekends. I had to think of a plan B quick and the first place that I thought of was Boon Fly Cafe.

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Boon Fly Cafe is located in the Carneros Inn (so damn pretty, but WAY too expensive for us to stay there). The exterior is absolutely adorable! There are swings outside for people to sit on while waiting for a table and coffee is also available in case anyone needs a pick me up. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait; we were seated right away. Little did Henry know, I already knew what I wanted us to order before we were handed our menus; I studied the menu during the planning phase of our Napa trip. Henry and I generally like the same foods, so with little resistance from Henry, we ordered the “green eggs and ham” and the kobe beef burger.

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“Green eggs and ham” consisted of poached farm fresh eggs wrapped in honey-cured ham on crispy hash browns with lemon leek cream. Oh my gosh, it was so freakin’ good! I love runny eggs so breaking my eggs and having the yolk soak into the hash browns before I took a bite was a real treat. The ham provided the perfect amount of sweetness and the leek cream added a bit of “Napa elegance”. The kobe beef burger with poppy-seed brioche bun was absolutely divine. It was unbelievably juicy and tender, cooked to a perfect medium rare, and was so much more flavorful than a regular burger. And did I mention the brioche bun? I love, love, love brioche; I use it to make my bread puddings. The richness/sweetness of the brioche pairs well with any burger in general, but even more so with a decadent kobe beef patty. Needless to say, we left with happy stomachs.

I can’t wait for my next trip especially since I’ve been averaging 14 hour work days. Le sigh.

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Napa Food & Wine (+our verdict):
Bottega Napa Valley, 5/5
Cakebread Cellars, 4/5
Frog’s Leap Winery, 2.5/5
Rutherford Grill, 3.5/5
Honig Winery, 3/5
Ad Hoc, 3.5/5
Trefethen, 4.5/5
Boon Fly Cafe, 4.5/5
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Cibo e Il Vino

After much anticipation, Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. There were a few glitches along the way: a shit-load of work I had to finish before I left for SF on Thursday, rain forcing me to cancel my original plans on Thursday and a weird allergic reaction to something during our stay in Napa. However, the delicious food and near perfect weather we had over the weekend more than made up for these slight inconveniences.

Henry and I didn’t leave for SF until about 12:30 or so because I had to take care of something at work. Even though Thursday was supposed to be my day off, it sure didn’t feel like it. I kept having to check my work blackberry during the day. Yes, I have two: work and personal blackberries. It’s sick, I know.

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Rain was in the forecast for Thursday (which made me cancel my original plans to hike the Land’s End trail) and sure enough, dark rain clouds spotted the sky as we approached our destination. I guess we chased away the rain because we didn’t experience a drop of rain during our entire stay.

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We arrived in SF just in time to change and get ready for dinner. We decided to revisit one of our favorite restaurants, Gary Danko. The first time we ate there was during our first trip to San Francisco together back in 2008. We fell hard and fast for Gary Danko and even though two years have gone by, it still remains as one of our most memorable dining experiences.

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The next day, we ate brunch at Honey Honey Cafe and Crepery before heading up to Napa. Honey Honey Cafe is located on the corner of Taylor and Post and if you’re planning to drive here, expect to pay $3.50 AN HOUR for street parking (parking in SF is RIDICULOUS!!!!). The restaurant is pretty big by SF standards and fast-food-esque in the sense that you order and pay for your food at the counter and then pick a table to sit and wait while your food is brought to you. They have an extensive menu including the usual breakfast and lunch items as well as their signature sweet and savory crepes.

If Henry hadn’t knocked some sense into me, I would have ordered the Post Street omelette, which is basically a traditional Denver omelette with a San Francisco derived name. Henry made me realize that since we were at restaurant that specializes in crepes, perhaps I should order one of its namesake. Thus, I ordered the Half Moon Bay crepe (cheddar, tomato, mushroom and crab cake) and Henry ordered the Cancun burger (jack cheese, crispy bacon, tomato, avocado and salsa). Delicious!!

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After brunch, we made our way to Buehler Vineyards for our 2PM appointment. Buehler is located in the mountains east of St. Helena, approximately a 6 mile windy drive from highway 29. The overall experience was unlike all the touristy wineries located along the 29 or on the Silverado trail.

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Page Buehler, the son of John Page Buehler, Jr., gave us a tour of the property while explaining their general wine making process. It was just us and Page (and his cute dogs :)) so we felt really special to have all his attention. We made our way back to the office for a tasting and Henry ended up buying two bottles: 2008 Zinfandel, 2008 Reserve Chardonnay. He probably would have bought some of the Cabs, but he already has two bottles at home. Buehler is one of Henry’s favorites.

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After Buehler, we went to one of the most touristy wineries EVER: V. Sattui. And well, it’s touristy for good reason: the grounds are beautiful (many weddings are held there), they have a great deli and cheese selection that you can enjoy outside on the picnic tables and oh yea, the wines themselves aren’t too shabby either.

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After Henry had a tasting and purchased a 2008 Zinfandel, we bought a black forest ham panini, some prawns in mustard sauce and a salt cod cake and had a wonderful picnic outside.

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SF/Napa Food & Wine (+our verdict):
Gary Danko, 5/5
Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery, 4/5
Buehler Vineyards, 5/5
V. Sattui, 4/5
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To be continued…