I’m sure I’m not alone, but amidst my excitement to reunite with friends and sidle up to an actual bar, I’ve been eating out a lot.
So, for this column, I thought I’d share my greatest hits of what I’ve eaten since getting vaccinated.
Breakfast: Le Paris Artisan & Gourmet Cafe
While I covered the opening of Le Paris’ original location in American Canyon for this paper several years ago, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t make it to their much-more-convenient downtown Napa spot until this month.
I’m now kicking myself over what I’ve been missing this whole time. The Maple Bacon Cronut and the Adoba Pork Belly Croissant were both absolutely delicious, but the standout in both taste and presentation was the Ube Halaya, also known as Purple Yam Jam. This hand-rolled, purple-filled croissant is a popular dessert in the Philippines and is a must-try for adventurous eaters.
828 Brown St., Napa; and 3921 Broadway, American Canyon, www.lepariscafe.com.
Lunch: Southside Napa and Gary’s Wine & Marketplace
I have a tie for this one. The locally famous Grilled Strawberry Toast at Southside Napa is back and it’s the perfect light summer snack. I usually go for the chicken salad here, but just couldn’t help myself at the sight of whipped mascarpone, grilled strawberries, smoked almonds, and honey served atop two slices of Model Bakery wheat toast.
My husband clued me in to the fact that Gary’s in St. Helena (the old Dean and Deluca) serves to poke bowls on Fridays. It comes in a seriously generous portion so you’ll likely have leftovers. At just $14, it’s a steal, at least by Napa standards, and it’s quickly becoming a best-kept locals’ secret.
Southside, 2770 Old Sonoma Road, Napa, and 135 Gasser Drive in the South Napa Century Center, www.southsidenapa.com.
Appetizer: Press Restaurant
I’ve been telling anyone who will listen about Chef Phil Tessier’s ricotta gnudi appetizer at Press since I had it at the end of last year, and when I went back for it this month, I was delighted to find that he changes it up seasonally.
The current rendition looks a little bit like two orange melon balls, but the ricotta gnudi is actually enveloped in squash blossom (also known as zucchini flower). I fell in love with fried squash blossoms in Italy, so every time I see it on a menu, I order it. My only gripe about these is that they've gone in just one bite and even though they’re quite rich, I’m always left wanting more.
587 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, www.pressnapavalley.com.
Dinner: North Block
One of the best dinners I’ve enjoyed recently was at North Block, Yountville’s newest eatery that’s occupying the former Redwood space at North Block Hotel.
From the cocktails to a savory sweet potato dessert, I loved every single item I tried. Top highlights were the NB Old Fashioned with coconut and tiki bitters, the duck liver mousse sprinkled with matcha, spring onion white pizza, half roasted chicken (it’s big enough to share) stuffed with a lemony rice, and the ribs. I know this sounds incredibly cliche, but you really can’t go wrong here.
6757 Washington St, Yountville, www.northblockhotel.com.
Winery Food: Ashes & Diamonds
Elaborate wine and food experience are starting to be a dime a dozen at Napa Valley wineries. I’m lucky to have tried most of them and I can confidently say that the A&D Wines + Food experience at Ashes & Diamonds is simply one of the best. It’s much more casual, yet also includes much more food than most of the offerings out there. Our group of four couldn’t even finish it all.
The menu changes monthly, but it always includes a multi-course, Mexi-Cali inspired, family-style meal prepared by A&D’s extremely talented culinary team (their Parker House Rolls, if you’re lucky enough to try them, are life-changing). Our menu consisted of dishes like bread salad with chicories, a bowl of salted cucumbers, and roasted koji chicken, which were all a refreshing take compared to the traditional, red meat-heavy pairings that you’ll find throughout the valley.
4130 Howard Lane, Napa, www.ashesdiamonds.com.
Out of Town: SingleThread
After years of lusting after it, I finally visited the three Michelin Star SingleThread in Healdsburg, which lived up to all of the hype and then some.
Through May, SingleThread put on a special Japanese-inspired Usu-Zan experience, and the core of this four-hour epicurean journey was a King crab Danube hot pot. I can honestly say it was one of the best — if not THE best — meals of my life. If you have a special occasion coming up that’s worthy of a splurge, you may even want to — gasp! — choose SingleThread over The French Laundry.
131 North St, Healdsburg, www.singlethreadfarms.com.
Out of State: Mama’s Fish House
Freshly vaccinated, I went on a much-needed vacation to Maui and finally got to try the legendary Mama’s Fish House, which was hands-down the best meal we ate on the island.
While I often have trouble choosing a main course, it was a no-brainer at Mama’s, so much so that my husband and I ordered the same thing: the Kona Kanpachi stuffed with lobster and crab and baked in a macadamia nut crust. It was incredible.
Pro tip: if you are headed that way this summer, book your reservation now as they were booked up over a month in advance.