On my last trip I followed Food & Wine’s restaurant recommendations and they were spot on.  Sharing them with you so you can eat as well as we did!

Their favorites

  • Oenoti

    Serves rustic southern-Italian cuisine, paired with a full bar and an extensive wine list that includes sought after bottles from Italy and Napa Valley.  Both of the chef-owners, Curtis Di Fede and Tyler Rodde, are Napa natives and trained under salumi genius Paul Bertolli at Oakland’s legendary Oliveto. Bertolli’s influence explains the sensational house-made charcuterie (there are more than 20 types) and wood-fired Neapolitan pizza with toppings like local lamb sausage and fresh burrata cheese. oenotri.com


  • Redd

    Minimalist, modern Yountville restaurant.  Even though chef Richard Reddington dislikes labels like “fusion food” and “global cuisine,” his wonderful food has a strong Asian bent.  Don’t skip the hamachi sashimi on sticky rice and glazed pork belly with apple purée, burdock and soy caramel. With Christian Moueix at Napa Valley’s Dominus Estate, Reddington developed the house wine, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet and Merlot, appropriately named Redd Wine. reddnapavalley.com

Their “splurge” list

  • Auberge du Soleil

    Oh what a wonderful hotel, and if you have the money to stay here, don’t go anywhere else.  They pioneers three decades ago, bringing world-class food to a region previously known only for wine. The restaurant is both rustic and refined, with exposed wooden beams, abstract paintings and a gorgeous terrace that offers unmatched vistas of the valley. In the kitchen, chef Robert Curry prepares seasonal, regionally sourced dishes like meyer lemon glazed duck served with farro and artichokes. aubergedusoleil.com


  • The French Laundry

    Chef Thomas Keller took over this world renown restaurant in 1994, and I had the privilege to eat there two years later.  A meal I will never forget.  And it has become one of America’s best, if not its best, restaurant, and a pilgrimage destination for food lovers from around the globe. Keller mixes French training and military-like precision with whimsy and humor—his signature Oysters and Pearls, for instance, features oysters and white sturgeon caviar laid on a bed of tapioca pearls. The 60-seat restaurant offers only nine-course tasting menus (with a vegetarian option) per night, each $270. frenchlaundry.com

  • The Restaurant at Meadowood

    Located in a sprawling resort amid mountains and vineyards, The Restaurant at Meadowood is the peak of wine country-chic, and the kind of place that leaves you speechless. Talented young chef Chris Kostow arrived at this famous wine country resort in 2008 and has since transformed its food. His superlative modern Californian menu owes as much to his garden as to his mastery of avant-garde cooking techniques, seen in dishes like thinly sliced breasts of squab topped with cocoa nibs and grated frozen foie gras. meadowood.com/dining/the-restaurant/

  • La Toque

    The formerly neglected downtown in the city of Napa is now one of the valley’s most vibrant areas: In 2007 the Oxbow Public Market opened, and in 2008 Ken Frank relocated his outstanding Rutherford-area restaurant La Toque across the street from the market, in the Westin Verasa Napa. The swank restaurant is renowned for wine director Scott Tracy’s excellent pairings (like quail with chestnut gnocchi and premier cruPommard) chosen from an over 900-bottle wine list. Frank is also a wine collector’s best friend: He creates tasting menus to go with bottles from customers’ cellars—“As long as I get a taste,” he says. latoque.com

And the classics

  • Bouchon

    Down the street from mega chef Thomas Keller’s French Laundry is his ode to traditional French bistro cooking, which offers immaculately executed comfort dishes like a croque madame, fragrant roast chickens, and sublime steak frites. Bouchon looks the part, too: The space features a red awning, curved bar and tiled flooring that recalls an idealized Parisian brasserie. bouchonbistro.com


  • Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen

    This weeknight standby by Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards Grill, Brassica) is popular for its eclectic comfort food, like the Oysters Bingo (a supergarlicky twist on Oysters Rockefeller) and the Mighty Meatloaf, served with horseradish barbecue sauce. For a break from wine-tasting, the caipirinhas with whole chopped limes and sugarcane syrup can be had at the zinc-top bar. cindysbackstreetkitchen.com


  • Terra

    Husband-and-wife duo Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani are Napa royalty both by blood (she’s the daughter of master vintner Carl Doumani) and by distinction. Their outstanding Terra restaurant has mesmerized the Bay Area since it opened in 1988 in a beautiful century-old fieldstone building. He takes care of the French cuisine, with Asian influences like sake-marinated cod and shrimp dumplings in shiso broth; she handles updated classic desserts, like bête noir chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream. In early 2011, Sone and Doumani opened Bar Terra next to their dining room, serving seasonally inspired drinks prepared with fruit from the couple’s orchard. terrarestaurant.com

  • Tra Vigne

    This nearly 25-year-old St. Helena standby is beloved for its shade-covered courtyard and rustic Italian dishes that range from antipasti like the mozzarella al minuto (handmade as soon as it’s ordered, served with grilled bruschetta) to a wide assortment of house-made pastas like sage-infused pappardelle with braised rabbit ragu. The nearby Pizzeria Tra Vigne doesn’t charge a corkage fee—perfect for a post-winery-hopping evening.travignerestaurant.com

One other I liked

  • Bistro Jeanty

    Bistro Jeanty is an often-recommended restaurant in Napa Valley, having been around since 1997 and the reputation of Chef-Owner Philippe Jeanty, who was born in Champagne, France, and came to California in the late 1970s to cook in fine-dining restaurant Chandon. It continues to draw the wine country crowds and a Michelin star for the last three years. You feel like you are in the French countryside dining here and eating coq au vin, boeuf Bourguignon, and a sinfully rich milk-fed veal chop with chanterelle.  http://bistrojeanty.com


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