Tour de Food 2011 (Compliments of Instagram)

Last August, I took a trip to Napa Valley with four of my best friends – Natalie, Tim and Matt. The thing about these friends of mine is that they love food. (If you know Tim, ask him to make you his goat cheese and honey appetizer. And insist he use his Mexican honey. And insist you get to eat it with his American honey – she’s delightful.)

Anyway, years ago, we were all out to dinner and began talking about our shared love for all things calorie-laden. We talked about all the places we’d like to visit and the food we’d eat once we got there. The conversation evolved and we began planning.

Four years later, we embarked on our First Annual (yeah right) Food Tour. This year’s destination? Napa Valley. The purpose? To eat our way through the area one restaurant at a time, no matter the cost to our waistlines.

Here’s our trip:

We met at Natalie’s parents house on Thursday night. We wore our official Food Tour shirs. Then Natalie fell on the floor and we all laughed. In Natalie’s defense, the fall wasn’t her fault. Her mom did the pull-the-tablecloth-out-from-under-the-food trick, except the table cloth was Natalie’s chair and the food was Natalie.

On Friday morning, we went to breakfast, said goodbye to Levi (he’ll say it back one day) and headed to Wine Country. But first, we stopped at the Russian River Brewing Company for … pizza.

When we got to Wine Country, we headed over to our bungalow in Chalk Hill. We loved it.

And Tim stood in the tree.

Once we unpacked, we headed out to our first winery. The people here were SO nice. As was the blushing merlot.

After Wilson, we headed to Mazzocco. They have tasty zins. If you’re into that sort of thing.

They also have nice grapes.

After the wineries, we headed to Healdsburg Square for dinner.

On the menu that night: Scopa. Not to be confused with the barber shop. It’s just exclusive like that. We ordered five appetizers (spicy meatballs, grilled calamari, grilled peaches, saffron risotto balls annnd … help me out, guys) and three main courses to share (tomato-braised chicken and two orders of pasta). Guilty. And after that, since we really hadn’t had enough to eat, we went or a walk and ended up at another restaurant or dessert: bread pudding and a lemon pot de creme.

We woke up ravenous, so we headed out to Downtown Bakery & Creamery for breakast. Poached eggs, croque madame, and …


After that, we headed over to Oakville Grocery and a local Farmer’s Market to stock up on cheese, meat, jam, bread, more cheese, olive oil and fruit for a picnic.

Then, picnic in tow, we headed out to a couple wineries. This one had a beautiful name, although I’m not quite sure how it’s pronounced.

It also had a beautiful dog.

After Porter Hill, we visited Moshin Vineyards (which we loved) and ate our picnic outside (which we also loved).


Full and happy, we went to Lambert Bridge. It was beautiful.

Then we went home, changed and headed out or dinner at Cyrus. It was amazing. We ordered trout, short rib and two orders of truffled risotto and finished off with a raspberry tart with cream cheese ice cream and a Thai iced coffee dessert. I didn’t get photos due to the vibey lighting, but I did see this awesome spoon chandelier after we’d crashed a wedding reception and were on the way back to the car.

The next morning, I stayed in while Tim, Natalie and Matt grabbed breakfast and stopped by an antique show. Then they picked me up and we headed out for Napa. This is a self-serve flower shop we passed near our house. Good, old-fashioned honesty. I like it.

On the way to Napa, we stopped at Chateau Montelena, the winery that famously won a prestigious blind wine tasting in France in 1976. Ever seen the movie Bottle Shock? This is Tim and Natalie.

This is me and Natalie.

After Chateau Montelena, we headed for lunch at REDD. It. Was. Amazing.

Natalie ordered scallops and I ordered duck confit. We shared.

Tim ordered hamachi and Matt ordered lamb bolognese. They shared.

Then we strolled through the town and took a look at the French Laundry’s organic gardens. Oh to be a rabbit in this yard.

Oh to be a diner in the French Laundry.

Me and Natalie scratching at the door of the French Laundry. No dice.

Then we hung out at a fancy resort or an hour or so.

And then, in need of MORE food, we drove over to Gotts (loved it) or a snack and a few rounds of Aggravation. It was, needless to say, aggravating. Tim is SUCH a sore winner. Just kidding, Tim. Well played.

I pull ahead. Tim gets nervous.

Tim, no longer nervous, pulls ahead. Natalie grimaces.

Matt stays safely in fourth place.

After Aggravation, it was time for dinner at ad hoc, the family-style alternative to the French Laundry. We had summer vegetable salad, grilled beef short ribs, fish & chips, goat cheese, nuts and honey, and banana’s foster.

Then we posed for this sufficiently awkward photo and made the long drive back to Sonoma County, along with our fine friends The Counting Crows.

On Monday morning, our last day in Napa, we had breakfast at our go-to place and headed back to our favorite wineries to pick up a few bottles to bring home. First stop was Wilson to visit one of our favorite wine pourers who let us sip our favorites on their beautiful deck. The rest of the day was spent driving through Sonoma and enjoying the views.

Hi, puppy.

We left wine country in the early afternoon and drove back down to San Jose so Matt and I could catch out flights home. On the way, we made our last stop on the tour: Le Garage in San Francisco. Natalie and I both ordered salads (mine came with delicious lobster and nectarines). I “forgot to share” mine.

Tim ordered mussles (and said they were the best he’d had).

And Matt ordered an heirloom tomato salad. And that was the end of the tour.



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