It’s been quite a while since I tootled around the Napa Valley on the weekend. So on a fine, nay, balmy April Saturday, I was somewhat surprised to see the region was as jammed with sightseers as a holiday weekend. From Napa itself, to St Helena and Calistoga, the traffic was frequently backed up and all the good restaurants and stores were packed to the gills. If you’re hungry, and don’t have a reservation, then a good bet is the Oxbow Public Market just across the bridge from downtown Napa.
A few new eateries have opened since I last wandered around the Market, and I got to enjoy a couple of spots I hadn’t lingered at before, namely the Napa Valley Distillery. The Vintage Bar shop offers tastings for its craft-spirits, about a million bitters to sample and cocktail ingredients like the yummy rhubarb shrub I purchased. The gang there seems bent on fun, and rightly so, while they educate their customers about how to taste their gin, brandy and pastis.
Paul instructs me as I sample the Old Hollywood Ginn: “Do me a favor, and don’t swirl the glass. Once you’ve swallowed the gin, open your mouth and breathe out, you’ll experience the flavors over your tongue.” And boy, was he right. The floral essences really came to life as I followed his directions.
With Monkey in tow, I couldn’t prop up the bar for too long, so we continued our meandering. Check out Hog Island Oyster Co., if you’re in the mood, there’s sushi and fresh fish at Eiko’s (and using the knowledge we picked up in Thailand, we noted that the fish really was fresh, with a clear eye and stored the way it swims in the ocean).
If caffeine is what you need, then you’ll be pleased to hear that Ritual Coffee Roasters is expanding its presence here. And what’s more classic than espresso and ice cream, if it’s the Italian way you’re after? Head on over to Three Twins for a tasty ice cream cone. If burgers and fries are more your thang, then of course, there’s always Gott’s Roadside.
And if you’d rather put a picnic together, step outside of the main building and head on over to the Model Bakery for some crusty fresh bread, before popping next door to the Fatted Calf for all your charcuterie and butchery needs. We picked up some bresaola and sauerkraut, and Monkey grabbed a bacon batard which he ate right out of the bag, ripping off massive hunks like some wild child.
And then off we pottered to sneak into the pool at Auberge du Soleil to meet an old school friend of mine. Shhh. Don’t tell…
You can find the Oxbow Public Market at 610 1st Street, Napa, CA 94559