Last Day in CA

Today was the last day in Napa and the last day of our vacation unless you include tomorrow which basically consists of traveling home.  I am frankly surprised that I have not put on 10 pounds over the course of these past 2 weeks.  Luckily we actually did exercise the first week hitting the slopes daily.  Another bonus is I have lost a bit of my tan from the first week.  I can wear 50 sunblock and still get tan like I am sitting in the Mediterranean on the beach.  I always look as if I have gone somewhere by myself and not with the family. 

Today we had a serious treat.  Through the school, I met a guy who is part owner in a vineyard.  His best buddy from camp (childhood buds) owns the place.  The vineyard is called Silver Oak Cellars.  David Duncan runs the place and his father started it.  The family was originally in the gas and oil business, his father had also started a ski resort in Colorado and eventually ended up in the wine business in Napa around 1972.  Must be a helluva guy.  David gave us the full on tour and it was fantastic.

First of all, David's passion for what he does comes across immediately.  It is always wonderful to hear someoneVats
talk about something they love with such bravado.  What is incredible about Silver Oak is that there was a fire a few years back and it gave them an opportunity to rebuild the place basically from scratch.  The attention to detail is stupendous.  Check out the wine cellar picture. From the vats to the way the barrels are stored to the music piped in through out the winery to the lab to the area where you can have a huge dinner party to the meeting rooms even to the bathrooms.  Truly over the top.  The wines are quite good too.  They basically make Cabernet's and 70% of their business is directly with restaurants.  An interesting niche and a smart 
one too.  Consistent wines that customers continue to order when they go out and they can always order them directly too.  Smart family.  It was the perfect way to spend the morning in Napa. 

Wine cellar
We then headed off to lunch.  Taylor's Automatic in Saint Helena.  Classic old school fast food with a twist.  Made me remember the old A & W drive-in we used to go to in Ann Arbor growing up.  The food ranges from burgers to chicken to salads, dogs, fries, milkshakes and of course beer and wine.  To me, at a place like this, you have to go with the burger.  And we all basically did with fries on the side.  Although Emily lamented a few times that the Shake Shack burger is clearly better by a long shot.  Regardless, it was great to sit out on the picnic benches waiting for our name to be called and enjoying a good lunch without having to be waited on.

The afternoon was basically relaxation by the pool.  This place, the Carneros Inn, is really unbelievable.  The cool air at night makes for great sleeping but the best is the outdoor shower.  Our bathroom shower (inside) has a door that opens up to the outdoor shower so you can go either way.  Brilliant.

Next and thankfully our last big meal.  We went to Ad Hoc.  Thomas Keller, I think, is probably the best Burger
chef in America.  First of all, his restaurants Per Se and French Laundry was foodie feasts.  French Laundry is a tad better just because of the location and whole vibe but both are fantastic.  The attention to detail, the creativity of each meal, and the flavors  Genius.  Then you go to Ad Hoc which is like eating a really excellent home cooked meal.  Each night the menu changes and what they are serving is what you get.  I really do like that concept and if you can get away with it and have success, it is financially smart.  Tonight, our meals consisted of four parts.  We began with a wedge of iceberg lettuce, shaved radishes, pancetta bits, sauteed red onions and olives with a green goddess avocado dressing.  Simple, light and tasty.  Next out was the main course.  Each course is in one container served in the homestyle fashion.  Tonight, in an All Clad bronze open faced pot was roasted baby potatoes next to roasted cauliflowers tossed with crusty breadcrumbs and sliced spicy flatiron steak over the top.  Good home cooking.  Next was a chunk of a Gloucester cheddar cheese, buttery slabs of toasted bread ( think French toast ) and a tiny container of a citrus marmalade.   Last out everyone got their own parfait glass with chocolate mousse with the bottom coated in a thick chocolate sauce and on the top pieces of brownie, walnuts and some caramel.  It was perfect and they give you just the right amount. 

Back to the rooms to sleep, breakfast at the hotel in the morning and off to the airport.  A really nice vacation.  I do love visiting California.  And as always, I will be back.

Comments (Archived):

  1. daryn

    I love Napa, and while I agree with Emily that the Shake Shack burger is far superior to Taylor’s, the setting is unbeatable.Ad Hoc sounds like the perfect meal: not challenging, just completely satisfying. For all the amazing places we’ve eaten in the world, the closest I’ve ever gotten to Thomas Keller are my cookbooks and Bouchon Bakery, neither of which I’d imagine even come close 🙂 That has to change!