Yountville – A Foodie’s Paradise Friday, Jul 29 2011 

When visiting the Napa Valley, there’s really only one place you can stay where you can eat and drink yourself from one end of town to the other without having to go more than a couple miles on foot.

Yountville is literally Foodie Paradise. Restaurants by famous chefs like Thomas Keller,  Michael Chiarello and Richard Reddington surround you. I can pretty much say that I haven’t eaten so well, nor so much in such a short amount of time, as I did in the week we were in Yountville.

So lets just start with this, shall we?

Each morning the Napa Valley Lodge, our place of lodging, provides Champagne Brunch poolside!  I realize the champagne is missing from my breakfast here, as is the pool, but as you can see this is more than your typical “continental breakfast” offered by most hotels.  We are poolside here, though sitting by the fire waiting for that chilly San Francisco fog to burn off. And the reason for lack of champagne, well I am all for mimosa’s but champagne at 8 am invites one hell of a headache for me, so I’ll stick to my coffee and OJ.

REDD

Owned by Chef Richard Reddington, as far as I’m concerned the best restaurant in the Napa Valley for both food and service.

REDD: First Course – Chilled sweet corn soup, succotash, basil oil

REDD: Second Course – Twelve vegetable ragoût, gnocchi, herb butter

REDD: Third Course – Dessert – Chocolate · peanut butter beignets, bitter caramel ice cream, bananas

Oh but wait, your beignets blew up so they took too long so for your wait we want to give you both what you ordered (above) and an extra dessert. All for Free! We were sick!

Butterscotch pudding, vanilla anglaise, pinenut rosemary cookies

Before we left town, we went back for a second meal at Redd since it’s our favorite spot.

This time we sat in the bar and had salads. No main course and no dessert.

I had this fabulous Burrata cheese concoction.  If you haven’t tried this cheese – you need to! It’s what they skim off the top of fresh mozzarella and then add heavy cream and do something fabulous to it.  YUMMY!

Mom had the stone fruit salad with ricotta salata.

BOUCHON

Owned by Chef Thomas Keller, best known for The French Laundry.

Bouchon had great food but they were a bit of a let down in that they had one reservation available left for the week, a 9 pm reservation.  So I booked it a week in advance and when we got there, they sat us as a tiny table in the bar.  It wasn’t the ideal experience and I let them know it, however I will say the food was excellent and I would go back.

First, amazing fresh baked bread with some kind of white bean spread that was to die for.

Salade d’Arugula et Fruit Frais d’Été

Marinated stone fruit, wild arugula,
Marcona almond praline, fromage blanc
& peach vinaigrette


Gnocchi à la Parisienne

sauteed gnocchi with a fricassee of garden vegetables & brown butter sauce

By the way, we didn’t even have dessert at Bouchon because by the time we were done it was after 10 and we were stuffed.

***

THE coveted FRENCH LAUNDRY…

The world famous restaurant where the menu is 9 courses that are fixed and change daily.  Choose from either the Chef’s Tasting Menu (for the meat eaters) or the Tasting of Vegetables (for us vegetarians).  Each menu is a series of smaller focused meals, where no ingredient repeats itself twice throughout the meal.  There are no choices in what you are served and but you can be darn sure it’s all going to be good.  Why? Well, because it’s Thomas Keller and because it’s $270 not including your wine and reservations book up 2 months in advance.  I heard from a local that it’s a 4+ hour meal from beginning to end. Now, that is a meal.

We didn’t eat at The French Laundry because I wasn’t up for spending that kind of money on one dinner at this point.  Someday I will go and eat there, maybe next year when I take Brent to the Napa Valley.  But for now I look at The French Laundry cookbook that I’ve had for about 3 years now and dream.

You’d never know by the outside of the place, what magic is taking place inside!

And across the street, they’ve got their own farm! You can find the staff foraging with their list of needed ingredients, picking vegetables.

***

BOUCHON BAKERY

Pastry chefs work all night making some of the best goodies ever!

Mom and I took a bottle of wine and stopped by the bakery for a couple of goodies before dinner.

Smores in a cup…

The biggest and best macaroon you’ve ever had. This particular flavor was hazelnut. I had caramel, espresso, hazelnut, and then another hazelnut and another caramel and then came home with an entire box of pastry for Brent!

Bastille Day was July 14 and we were lucky enough to be in town for the festivities. Though we didn’t do much more than walk through and check out the sites (and crowd) it was fun to be a part of it. The afternoon when mom and I stopped by for our goodies (above) I noticed what looked like a fondant cake in the back window off the courtyard. Sure enough, they were busy putting together quite a cake and many other tasty treats for the celebration.

BOTTEGA

Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega.  Great service, good food. The waiter said Michael was working that nigh, but we never saw him.

More Burrata cheese for me! Topped with some mixture of peas, pesto and arugula.

And you guessed it, more gnocchi.  Apparently, besides salad, the vegetarian’s option for dinner in Yountville!

Delicious every time!

So, yes it’s kind of embarrassing that I documented almost my entire food experience in Napa Valley.  All those that know me will understand. I hope that you enjoyed this and I’m guessing your mouth is watering for something about now.

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Chelan, Washington, Hood River, Oregon, and Everywhere in Between Tuesday, Jul 26 2011 

After the novelty of the Leavenworth Drive wore off, we found our way to Lake Chelan, Washington.  A beautiful place with some amazing wineries.

Though I had several wineries marked on the map to visit in the few hours we had in Chelan, we only made it to two before we got hungry and needed to get on the road to Hood River.

Our first stop was Tildio Winery.  Tildo is a small winery that makes a perfect Malbec.  In fact, this is the winery that I visited back in 2007 which introduced me to Malbec and started a love affair with that wine.

This says it all…

The second and last vineyard we visited was Benson.  A beautiful Tuscan style winery that offers FREE flights of 5 wines. Yes, folks FREE. I neglected to get any decent photos of the building itself, but as you can see below the rolling hills of grape vines seem to flow off the hillside and right into the lake.

***

And we’re off….bye bye Chelan, hello long road to Hood River where we’ll stay for the night.

First item of note is the Fred Redmon Memorial Bridge. Only one word can describe this massive bridge and the area where the “historical marker” rests – WIND TUNNEL!

Between getting the car across the bridge while fighting the wind, to getting out of the car and feeling like you were going to be blown right over the edge, it was pretty scary.

And of course, the windmills.  Massively monstrous pillars with long, and what look to be sharp blades, standing in formation like soldiers across the wide open spaces that are “middle” Washington State.

The mighty Columbia River at dusk.  A view from the Stonehenge Memorial on the Washington side of the river.

STONEHENGE!

The fields of lavender in Hood River should be in full bloom in June, however thanks to this year’s cold and wet spring they were a little behind.  That’s Mt. Hood in the background, still covered in plenty of snow.

And on the drive home we decided to go around the mountain for a more entertaining drive than I84.  It was a beautiful day.

We Made It! Friday, Jul 8 2011 

1000 cars and probably close to 4000 people descend on Leavenworth at once!  There was really no easy way to get a photo of this but it was pretty insane. It wasn’t long before the town got real rowdy!

Here we are parked in front of the hotel with fellow enthusiasts.

More drivers, cruising the “strip”

Someone else taking photos, but wow…I see an accident in his future. I know there would be one in mind if I were on roller-blades with a nice camera!

We managed to check out the Accordion festival and got schooled on the ins and outs of accordions.  Very interesting.  Lots of vintage models.

Check out these two, wearing their lederhosen. What country are we in?

 

 

Leavenworth Drive Continued – Hitting the Open Road! Friday, Jul 8 2011 

Lets just say that when we first hit the road, it was WET!  This first picture is a really great example of the visibility we had leaving the Seattle area.

And then about half way there, heading over the mountains….I do believe it’s snowing.

Getting closer to Leavenworth, it’s dry now and starting to warm up.  I would bet that the Honda CRV or whatever it us up there wonders what the hell is going on.

 

About 20 miles outside of Leavenworth it completely cleared up and was about 80!  Beautiful weather and the drive was really a lot of fun!

 

The Leavenworth Drive – Bellevue Saturday, Jul 2 2011 

Just to get us started, here are some shots of the “car show” as I think we can call it, stage of the Leavenworth Drive on June 18, 2011.  A record number of over 100o European cars convened at Bellevue Community College to raise money for charity (this year Children’s Hospital).  Mainly VW and Audi with some Porsche, BMW, Mini with a few other random cars then all leave at once, hitting the Washington freeways and heading to descend on Leavenworth.

The Leavenworth Drive has been around for a few years now but this was our first year of participation.  In spite of the Bellevue rain, it was a lot of fun to see all the cars. Once we made it out of the parking lot (at least an hour process) hitting the traffic on the freeway was just slightly stressful!  We saw at least one fellow driver wreck it but managed to weave ourselves in and out of traffic, staying close to the rest of the pack until we got out of town and to the open road. Surrounded by VWs and so on, everyone with their cameras, video cameras, and V’s flying out their windows – we were on our way!

Over the course of the event we captured several hundred photos.  It’s taking me longer than expected to clean them up, play with them and just organize the dang things.  This should give you an idea to start with and I’ll post more ASAP.  Enjoy!

One by one they file in, having paid their $10 entrance fee, while we wait under a big fir tree trying to keep the camera dry!


I believe the cars took up 4 parking lots at this community college!

A VW Taxi!

(must add that this is not the best photo shop job in the world, but I’m working on it)

Hello, SWEET car!

But wait, an hour later they are still filing in!

Interesting Audi wagon.  The entire outside of the car was painted as if to see through the metal to the insides.  Pretty cool.

This says it all.

Here we are upon arriving to the hotel in Bellevue on Friday night before the drive.  We’re at the far left.

Many VWs in the hotel parking lot that night.

Stay tuned for more!