Sunday, October 14, 2007

Daytrip to Napa

Torrential downpours dominated Friday, but the clouds parted to reveal blue skies and warm weather on Saturday. What a blessing- this day took New Husband and I to Napa Valley for the day.

It's been a year since our last visit, which was an anniversary trip for just the two of us. That day we visited 4 wineries and had a very romantic dinner at Julia's Kitchen at the Copia in downtown Napa.
This time we met another couple, A (my chef partner!) and J. We hit 5 wineries:
Artesa Winery- beautiful modern facility built right into the hills.
Domaine Chandon- sparkling wines galore
V. Sattui Winery- busy winery with an Italian deli. The tasting was free!
Heitz Cellars- small winery with a much older crowd
Louis D. Martini Winery- good wine but even more memorable breadsticks at the tasting bar

We had lunch on the patio at Domaine Chandon. The four of us split a cheese board and a salmon plate, and A and J split a salad too. The three cheeses- a buttery triple-cream, a veined goat cheese, and a hard sharp aged cheese- were all delicious and came with a chutney jam and plenty of bread. The creme fraiche and greens that accompanied the salmon were also excellent. Domaine Chandon also offers sandwiches in the tasting salon, an option that wasn't available on our last trip.

Dinner was a treat at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena. We sat outdoors beneath a fig tree; the air was brisk but comfortable, possibly our last chance to eat outside this year. My passionfruit bellini was a nice end to a day with lots of drinking. I abstained from the bread we were given, but it had a wonderful fresh-baked aroma. All four of us enjoyed our entrees- J went for the meatloaf with horseradish barbecue sauce and garlic mashed potatoes; A chose the fish special- halibut with potatoes in a delicious sauce. NH had wood oven duck with potato croquettes and an asian-citrus glaze. My mushroom tamales- with creamy grits, swiss chard, and Yucatean salsa- were delicious and satisfying.
Dessert really put our meal over the top- what a treat! I indulged, and NH and I each ordered our own and shared. Oh man! My Campfire Pie will remain one of the top desserts I have ever had at a restaurant- Toasted marshmallow, fudgy dark chocolate, and almond brittle in a cookie crust. The thick slice of pie was slightly warm and melty from the oven. Every bite was heaven. NH's apple crisp a la mode was deliciously spicy and warm. It had a crunchy crisp crust and soft apples underneath- the scents of ginger and cinnamon were pronounced. There's something delectable about the way a scoop of ice cream melts into a crisp- I alternated bites between the two and was sad to see it gone. I'll return to Cindy's just to eat these desserts! Altogether it was a deeply satisfying dinner, one where all the dishes were perfectly chosen.

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