The Napa Valley’s Best Pizza: My Top 12

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Pizzas on Parade (clockwise, from upper left): Oenotri, Solbar, Redd, Pizzeria Azzurro, Auberge du Soleil, Uva, Cantinara Piero, Ca’ Momi, Boon Fly Cafe, Pizzeria Tra Vigne, Papa Joe’s, Bistro Don Giovanni.

If there’s one food that can achieve total global supremacy, pizza seems like the natural front-runner. You don’t ever have to sell anybody on pizza. It just seems to endear itself to everybody, like a wealthy uncle, or a gregarious bartender. Although pizza has only become popular here in America since World War II, different schools of thought regarding pizza have already emerged: Individual preferences towards pizza remain highly subjective, and plenty of effort has already been spent hashing out the pizza-related differences between Chicago, New York, and the rest of the country. However, I chose not to acknowledge any of those debates concerning thin crusts or deep dishes. For this segment, I set out to answer [… read more …]

Project Food Blog 2010, Round 6: A Picnic @ Behrens Family Winery, Spring Mountain

S'more Pots du Creme: Scharfenberger Chocolate Custard, Graham Crackers, and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff.

Last Tuesday felt like the last warm day of 2010. Whether or not that proves to be true, tomorrow can only tell. It’s very possible that November or December might offer an odd sunny day here or there — that happens fairly frequently here in Northern California — but as far as planning a picnic was concerned, Tuesday just seemed like the last sure-shot bet of the season. Instinctively, and with the last vestiges of summer quickly fading into fall, I felt like I needed to plan just one last visit up to Spring Mountain. Among the many wines of Napa Valley, I love Spring Mountain Cabernet in particular, and if I had to name a handful of my personal favorites, I’d list Pride Mountain, Behrens Family, Terra Valentine and Paloma (although the [… read more …]

Napa Rumor Mill: Martini House Closing, to Be Purchased by Flemings Steakhouse

[UPDATE: The rumor below has since been confirmed, although chef Todd Humphries will not be going to the CIA, nor Jeanty at Jack’s, as he mentions in the comments.]

Folks, the stories don’t get much more wild than this one, but I’m going to roll with it anyway, since that’s part of what I do: I’ve just heard that the Martini House in St. Helena will be sold to Flemings Steakhouse. I’ve been mulling this one over all morning, thinking about the possibility of this rumor being true, and what it could all mean to the Napa Valley. What I do know is that the Martini House has struggled over the last couple years, due to the economic downturn: Along the way, the St. Helena restaurant has lost its Michelin star (I had speculated that the “family meal” program had been part of that); the Kobe burger, which was [… read more …]

Tasting Notes: Pinot Noir @ Failla Wines, St. Helena

Despite its spike in popularity over the last several years, Pinot Noir remains rather uncommon here in the Napa Valley. With the exception of the Carneros District — which is the coolest and southern-most region in the Napa Valley — Pinot Noir proves ill-suited for our warm Mediterranean climate. But even if this fickle Burgundian varietal could somehow become more adaptable to Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon has long staked its claim here in the valley, and no other varietal can ever muster a challenge for the crown. Since capturing the world’s attention with the Judgment of Paris in 1976, not only is Cabernet the main event here in the Napa Valley, it’s practically become the only show in town. Searching for Pinot Noir in Napa remains a fool’s errand, no questsion. That is, unless the discussion involves Failla Wines in St. Helena.

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The hook here is quite [… read more …]

Fish and Chips @ The Silverado Brewing Company, St. Helena

Golden brown, and then some.

The fish and chips at Silverado Brewing Company remains one of my favorite comfort foods here in the Napa Valley, although this dish succeeds more on its execution than its authenticity: The fish itself is a Vietnamese catfish called basa — definitely not traditional within the dish — but on the other hand, the crispy beer batter and the house-made tartar sauce are always pitch-perfect. And that’s what really counts.

Photos: Three Lunch Options from Wine Country and Elsewhere…

As I’ve mentioned here before, my goal in life is to only eat well, whether that means cooking at home or dining out. With that basic principle in mind, I definitely try to document everything delicious along the way, although sometimes certain meals get lost in the shuffle. And sometimes I may repeat myself, especially when I have certain favorites that I’ll revisit when I have the chance. I’ve actually mentioned all three of these lunches in previous posts, but never presented a photo alongside the article (I only upgraded my camera last May). Eventually, I’ll insert these photos into my past entries, but I wanted to give them a little shine on the front page as well.

The Chinatown Duck Burger @ Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena

For the duck burger at Cindy’s, the real draw for me isn’t so much the fact that the burger is [… read more …]

Breakfast & Lunch: Photos from Napa Valley Wine Country

Cachapas Pernil, Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, Oxbow Market, Napa

Though I had been to Pica Pica Maize Kitchen before, I hadn’t actually tasted the cachapas pernil (#7) until I attended the Napa Valley Chefs’ Market a few weeks ago. The yellow corn pancake is just sturdy enough to provide the exterior, with a flavor profile that’s slightly sweet. The cachapas pabellon (#3), which is shredded skirt steak with plantains, is also a tasty alternative.

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Market Burger, Market Restaurant, St. Helena

As far as cheeseburgers are concerned, the Market Burger is an adequate choice, although the shredded Fiscalini cheese in the photo above reminds me of McDonald’s diced onions. This shredded cheese aesthetic has never really appealed to me, especially since a well-melted slice of cheese features so much more panache.

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Chicken and Waffles, Fremont [… read more …]

There Will Be Pastries: Scouting Napa Valley's Breakfast Options

As I’ve continued to explore the culture of breakfast and lunch here in the Napa Valley, I felt that it was certainly worthwhile to mention a few of the better pastry options out there. After all, even if you’ve enjoyed a large breakfast in the morning, pastries remain a great take-away item, especially if you plan to spend the day wine tasting, when lunch can often get pushed back, or pushed aside altogether. Without a proper lunch, that same cheese danish that may seem gluttonous in the early morning can actually become your salvation in the early afternoon (and maybe help prevent you from drooling at the dinner table, as well). I speak only from personal experience: Don’t fear indulgence. Embrace it. So with that caveat in mind, I have seven pastries to consider below — many hailing from very different walks of life — but each noteworthy in [… read more …]

Wine Tasting Notes: Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Napa Valley

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I’ve covered so much about food lately that I haven’t been keeping up with my wine tasting notes. The best wines that I’ve tasted recently were some older vintages of Chappellet Cab, but I’ll try to address those in the future. For the sake of staying a little more relevant to the here and the now, I do have a few notes from my recent tasting at Joseph Phelps Vineyards. I’ll cut to the chase and discuss the 2006 Insignia ($200) the winery’s flagship bottling, and a wine that has developed a loyal following over the years. Recent buzz is that Robert Parker has already anointed the 2007 Insignia with a score of 97-100 (based upon a barrel sample). We’ll see. The 2007 Insignia goes retail later this summer. As for the 2006 Insignia, I found it as underwhelming as I found the 2005 before it. Perhaps it’s just [… read more …]

Breakfast & Lunch: The Muffaletta @ Farmstead, St. Helena

Almost famous.

Only in New Orleans could a sandwich as glorious as the muffaletta take a backseat to the po-boy. In just about any other city in the United States, the muffaletta would certainly rank as a culinary claim-to-fame, earning a mention alongside the cheesesteaks of Philly or the towering deli pastramis of New York City. But even in the shadow of the more famous po-boy, the muffaletta of New Orleans boasts a loyal legion of followers (after all, one cannot exist on po-boys alone). With its roots at the Central Grocery in the French Quarter, the classic muffaletta features a round sesame roll, olive spread, a slice of provolone cheese and an assortment of Italian cured meats. It’s thought that the original muffaletta dates back about 100 years, and traditionally, these unusually large sandwiches were sold either as halves or quarter-slices.

At Farmstead, the muffaletta is [… read more …]