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 its own right.

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The Cream Cheese Danish @ Bouchon Bakery, Yountville

It’s no secret that I’m tepid on Ad Hoc (even their fried chicken dinner) and that I’m also somewhat ambivalent about Bouchon. I have long-standing reasons for both opinions, but at the same time, I certainly don’t blame anyone who might choose to dine at either restaurant. Both places can definitely have their moments — especially Bouchon — but I just don’t find myself making regular visits to either restaurant these days (and just to set the record straight, these humble opinions aren’t meant as any sort of Thomas Keller “backlash” — I acknowledge that TK is the greatest chef in American history, as well as at the present moment). For me, it’s just one of those things: With limited time and limited resources, some places are bound to be passed over in lieu of other favorites. But before I come across as a complete Negative Nancy, I’ll gladly go on record that Bouchon Bakery rates as the very best bakery in the Napa Valley, hands down. Among the many wonderful selections at Bouchon, my favorite is probably the cream cheese Danish pictured above, while my friend Marissa swears by the chocolate-almond croissant pictured below. Despite their apparent differences, both pastries fit safely and squarely within the “buttery-flaky” category, and either one could double as a dessert. Who doesn’t want to eat dessert for breakfast?

The Chocolate-Almond Croissant @ Bouchon Bakery, Yountville

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One Order of Donuts @ The Boonfly Cafe, Napa Carneros

It’s important to point out that the Boonfly donuts pictured above are quite close to actual size (they’re akin to a Hostess “Donette,” just for another comparison). As a result, most people could easily eat a Boonfly donut in one single bite, and I suspect that many people do, myself included. Other than their dainty proportions, there’s really no need to discuss much: The Boonfly donuts are fried to order and dusted with cinnamon and sugar — a simple approach, to be sure, but one that also trades on its a la minute freshness.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin @ The Fremont Diner, Sonoma Carneros

Established late last year, the Fremont Diner has quickly proven a strong addition to Napa wine country, and I’ve included it here, even though it’s technically located in Sonoma County (but within minutes of the Boonfly Cafe, for what it’s worth). The lemon poppy seed muffin pictured above features the consistency and crumb of a top-quality cake donut. It’s honest, and if you enjoy lemon poppy seed muffins, it’s also delicious.

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English Muffin @ The Model Bakery, St. Helena

For most people from the United States, the thought of an English muffin might recall something similar to a Thomas’ English muffin. However, this notion is way off-base, especially if you have ever been across the Atlantic. In terms of its design, the English muffin from the Model Bakery is relatively unassuming, except that it is twice the height as a Thomas’ muffin, and probably twice as buttery, to boot. The packets of preserves are somewhat small for the task, so I recommend ordering two.

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Cinnamon Roll @ 7-Eleven, Napa

I’m definitely not recommending a trip to 7-Eleven in lieu of something more local, especially for those people who might be visiting the Napa Valley. I present the 7-Eleven cinnamon roll only as a late night option, since I used to sometimes stop there for cinnamon rolls on my way home from Auberge du Soleil. I can tell you from experience that the pastry vendor delivers the goods at about 11pm each night, so when I was rolling through 7-Eleven around midnight after a night of cooking on the line, these cinnamon rolls were usually still warm from the bakery. Even average pastries, when consumed so quickly after baking, can be transcendent. Timing is everything.

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Señoritra Bread @ Starbread Bakery, Vallejo

Again, some gerrymandering of Napa County lines for the sake of discussion: Vallejo is actually located in Solano County. However, anyone who journeys to Napa Valley from the Bay Area has the option of a quick trip to Starbread Bakery (take the 29 exit right after the Carquinez Bridge). I’ve mentioned Starbread here before — I think I called their señorita bread the love-child of a freshly-baked croissant and a Hawaiian dinner roll. I continue to stand behind that remark. What more do you need to know?

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3 comments to There Will Be Pastries: Scouting Napa Valley’s Breakfast Options

  • I love this post!
    I’m a fan of the eclaire at Bouchon. It’s not cakey like most (poorly made) eclaires are, and the chocolate glaze tastes like it is made with dark Vahlrona. Divine.

  • I’m about to have breakfast, and this puts me in the mood for some dougnuts :)

  • You missed the pink and white local favorite Butter Cream Bakery and it opens at 5:30am. I love they still have the stools with the “B” on the back.

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