Saturday, January 3, 2009


Today we indulged ourselves in another of our New Year Traditions, the Annual Sale at Vanderbilt and Company in St. Helena in the Napa Valley.
We left home a little before 8 a.m., to assure that we'd be there for the 9:30 a.m. opening on this, the first day of the sale. It was a clear but very cold early morning with temperatures in the low 30s...very cold by Northern California standards.

We had an easy drive up which left us with plenty of time to get tea/coffee and pastries at the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company around the corner from Vanderbilt.

We had Louie with us, so all our dining for the day was outdoors. We found a sunny spot on the deck at the Roasting Company and spent a pleasant half hour sipping our drinks with our pastries. It was tea and a Morning Bun for me and coffee and a toasted Bagel with Cream Cheese for Jim. Louie ate scraps from our pastries and sipped water from the communal dog bowl on the deck.

My personal tradition at the Vanderbilt Sale is to be the first one in the store when the doors open. Curiously, this is an extremely civil sale where loyal customers like me do not storm the doors and have fights over merchandise...nothing like one Saks after Christmas Sale where I witnessed well-dressed women fighting on the floor for possession of marked-down purses!

So what's so wonderful about Vanderbilt's Sale? the way this is the 24th Annual one. Vanderbilt and Company sells the most beautiful of table top items and other home furnishings such as linens, towels, soaps, and lots of gift items. They have one of the largest selections of Vietri ceramics from Italy that I know of in the Bay Area. The store is friendly and attractive. AND, for the sale, which goes on for a few weeks, lots of items are marked down 50%...remainders, discontinueds, odd pieces...and everything else, including special orders, is 20% off. Of course Louie is welcome here too which means that Jim is not left standing out in the cold. We spent over an hour here and came away with two bags of "stuff," including a marvelous wedding present for some special friends, new cloth napkins and placemats for me, a glass serving plate, and miscellaneous towels and other gift items.

After that, we walked up and down the main street in St. Helena, checking out other favorite shops.

By now it was just about time for lunch and we headed to Yountville for lunch on the patio at Bouchon, one of Chef Thomas Keller's several restaurants in Yountville. Bouchon is Keller's French Brasserie..yes this is the Thomas Keller of French Laundry just up the street.

At noon the temperature was in the 50s and it was delightful sitting outdoors.

Louie had his own bowl of water and also snatched things off our table.

We shared a salad of red and white endive, Roquefort, walnuts, and apples...very tasty, but they forgot the apples.

We both decided on the day's open faced sandwich with Fries. Today's Tartine was braised pork..sort of pulled pork...with pickled onions and pickles. Our server advised us that the serving of Fries is very large and suggested we choose another side dish for one of us. We chose the sautéed Butternut Squash with currants.

We passed on dessert but lingered over coffee, enjoying the beautiful Napa Valley day and chatting with others who were dining on the patio.

For one final stop, we went into the Bouchon Bakery next door to buy a loaf of bread to take home to a neighbor. He's happily enjoying Olive Herb Bread as I write this.

It's a day like this that makes everyone want to live where we do.

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