Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From the Napa Valley; Part I

We've been back in the Napa Valley for our annual week away with Louie.

We tend to do a lot of the same things each time we come here for an extended a sense, after all these years, it's become a bit like a home away from home. Of course, in addition to our old favorites, we make new discoveries and sometimes those discoveries are that a favorite place is no longer there. One such example of not being there is that Vanderbilt & Co. in St. Helena, our special place for tabletop and home decor items for ourselves and for gifts, closed its doors on June 30. I did know they had closed because I had called Charles, the owner, in June to check on a project we were planning and at that time learned that he just could not keep his lovely store afloat any longer. Yesterday I walked by Vanderbilt and it is mostly empty and dismally shut up tight.

So, on our way to the Valley, we made our usual early morning stop at Sweetie Pies. It wasn't quite early enough, though, because they were already out of Morning Buns, my favorite of their breakfast pastries. Undaunted, I expanded my horizons with a Breakfast Stick pastry, while Jim had his usual Pecan Sticky Bun.

From Sweetie Pies, we walked along the Riverwalk, along the Napa River, and, then, through downtown Napa.

Napa has become something of a restaurant town and we checked out some of the places we've been hearing a lot of buzz about. Morimoto has recently opened with popular Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto at its helm. The restaurant has a formal dining room, casual dining in its bar, and a retail shop and market.

We passed the historic Opera House which was restored in recent years and which now features a full schedule of live performances.

From Napa, we headed to Yountville to our hotel. Wanting just a light lunch, we headed to the Ranch Market's Yountville Deli for a made to order sandwich, which we shared.

We had considered stopping at the more upscale Bouchon Bakery for a sandwich but there was a line there out the door and absolutely no place to sit in their courtyard. So we headed instead for the Yountville Deli, a local favorite, as is the Market, and, for half the price we would have paid at Bouchon, we had a place to sit and a very good, just-what-we-wanted lunch.

Both the towns of Napa and Yountville are emphasizing their public art with Art Walks. In Napa, I snapped a picture of a very large fish sculpture along the Riverwalk.

In Yountville, it was this work that caught my attention.

For dinner on our first night in the Valley, we joined our friends Jerilee and Jim, who have a vacation home up here, for dinner at Grace's Table in downtown Napa.

We had not known of Grace's Table and were happy to have Jerilee and Jim introduce us to it. The cuisine is global, so there is something on the menu for just about any taste and appetite. Grace's is a modest-looking place that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Jim D and Jerilee both had the Halibut,

the other Jim had the Cassoulet,

and I had one of the evening's specials: Roasted Albacore. For dessert we shared a slice of rich Chocolate Cake between the four of us.

What a lovely first night!

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