Category Archives: Alila Napa Valley

A Hidden Sanctuary in St Helena Plus a Sip and Paint Class

A Hidden Sanctuary in St Helena Plus a Sip and Paint Class

Last month, we celebrated our oldest son Curtis’ birthday in Napa and St. Helena. It was a fun filled relaxing day and a day to remember. We had had an excursion like this one once before on Thanksgiving at the Sonoma Mission Inn a few years ago. It was so much fun, that I decided to plan another staycation for Curtis’ special day. If you are interested in how we celebrated Andrew’s birthday you can check it out here. Unfortunately, Curtis couldn’t join us that day.

My husband and I picked up our son’s Curtis and Andrew who happen to also live in Walnut Creek at 10:00AM. We stopped off at Stanley Lane Smokehouse for sandwiches to eat in the car on our way to the Alila Spa in St Helena. Stanley Lane Smokehouse Deli is family owned and is a fun place to visit in the Fall. They have a gorgeous flower garden as well as corn mazes, pumpkins and gourds for sale. They had a pig on the property also. How exciting! I was able to buy a bottle of white wine there (I only had red with me), so that we could save money on drinks during the day. We like to drink together, especially in the wine country so I always bring along a few bottles of wine from home.
Alila Spa in St Helena

Alila Napa Valley Spa was very accommodating. They were able to get all four of us into appointments at the same time, and I had only sent an email the evening before. It doesn’t hurt telling people you are a food and travel blogger either. I had been given a tour of the property after enjoying lunch at Acacia House Restaurant and Bar a few months before. It’s a great spot to have a day away from the stress of the Bay Area. 

The spa offered a few different treatments, and we enjoyed being pampered. There were apples, granola and lemon, lavender cookies as well as cucumber water and green tea to keep us hydrated. After showers, we asked if we could sip the wine we brought by the pool. I even remembered plastic glasses and brought sparkling apple cider for my husband Ken who doesn’t drink alcohol.
Here I am waiting for my spa treatment at Alila Spa in St Helena

Andrew and I were excited to be invited to a sip and paint event by the pool given by an artist named Andrea RJ Cazares. You can find her on Instagram under @AndrewCazaresArt or A few other guests joined us and we had a ball getting one on one instruction painting on canvas. The wine was yummy too. Curtis and Ken talked by the pool and kept themselves occupied until it was time to meet us for cocktails at Acacia House Restaurant also on the property. I learned about this place while scrolling on Instagram. Chef Chris Constentino gave free cooking lessons online during the pandemic and kept me entertained. He became famous when winning Top Chef Masters, and donated the $140,000 winnings to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. How cool is that?
Artist Andrea, me and my son Andrew showing off our creative canvases after our sip and paint experience at Alila Spa
Affogato and biscotti at IL Posto

IL Posto “The Place” Napa was where we decided to dine since we love Italian Food. I had been there once before after dropping my Dad off at the Veterans Home in Yountville. I’m up that way often and love stopping somewhere for an appetizer and a sip of something if I’m not driving. You can find the locals here because they know founder Justin Graffigna makes great food. We had a substantial amount of food and wine including affogatos (espresso and vanilla ice cream) for dessert. The bill was just under $300.00 and it included a $50.00 tip for our waiter. 

On the way home, Ken drove us to Stanley Ranch for one last cocktail. We didn’t want the night to end. I didn’t order anything else, but the boys imbibed. The Bear is the name of the Restaurant on the gorgeous Auberge Resorts Collection in Napa Valley. I like to sit at the bar and watch the bartender make drinks. It’s more fun and there is a certain vibe which you don’t get if you sit at a table. Try it. You’ll never go back.

Stanly Ranch is near the Stanley Lane Smokehouse where we bought our sandwiches earlier in the day, just down Stanley Lane. This place is a “must see” in the Napa Valley. Cyclists stop in for a Sightglass Coffee, freshly squeezed juice or a pastry made by Chef Harry at Gavel. They also sell unique gifts there. The property offers a Luxury Hotel, tours of the grange by farmer Nick Runkle which is where they grow the produce for the restaurant, Spa treatments, a wellness center where they offer classes, a wedding venue and more. I learned about their rare heirloom crimson flowered fava beans by farmer Nick who purchased them from Cottage Gardens of Petaluma. And if you are a gardener, you must make a trip there as well. It’s incredible.
My handsome husband Ken and son’s Curtis and Andrew at Alila Napa Valley in St Helena

Ken and I will often take a drive to Napa and enjoy lunch at Stanly Ranch, sometimes last minute. Solage in Calistoga, and Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley are also very special places to visit. Two weekends ago we brought our good friends the Cowies out for the day to enjoy the good food and wine. I will write about that adventure later.

Thanks for joining me on today’s latest blog. I’m very lucky to have my boys in the Bay Area still and love hanging out with them. It was a memorable day and I’m grateful for being able to afford these luxurious “staycations.”

Do you have a favorite restaurant or place you go to get away? Please share in the comments below.


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Cocktails at Brasswood, Margarita at Acacia House and Hiking in Napa Valley

Cocktails at Brasswood, Margarita at Acacia House and Hiking in Napa Valley

I’ve been trying to get motivated to write a new blog and it’s a struggle. I’m always inspired and excited after a fun day out experiencing the foodie experience, but too tired to get it on paper. When I’m home, I always find something else to do like work in my garden, cook, clean or bake. So here I am at the gym where I am not distracted from all of those duties.

Lise and me at Bothe Valley State Park last week

I will write about my day in Calistoga last Thursday with my friend Lise. She organized a hike at Bothe Napa Valley State Park with a bunch of our hiking friends. Many people had to cancel at the last minute because of Covid or other obligations, so it was just the two of us who went.

I loved this hike. Lise picked me up at 8:15AM because it has been extremely hot in the Bay Area lately. I usually am the driver, so it was a nice change to have someone else drive. We got to the park at 10AM and walked for 2.5 hours. It was relatively flat and easy to walk. There were many tiny frogs crossing the path as well as several varieties of butterflies everywhere. The birds were singing and the trail was along a rambling creek, so we heard the trickle of water while hiking. So refreshing, especially since we are in a continuous drought in California. We were hoping to swim in their pool, but it was only open on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There is a $10 fee to park.

This gorgeous place had beautiful red wild flowers called Indian Pink-Cardinal Catchfly- Silene laciniata and another spectacular green bush with bright pink flowers called Pink Fairies- Clark’s Pulchella Pirsh, neither of them I had ever seen before. After we hiked, we were hoping to visit Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, but it is only open on weekends. This place is a block or two from Bothe State Park and they are both sandwiched between Calistoga and St. Helena. 

Onward we went to Brasswood, which is a little south of the park where we hiked and it is on the way home, a huge plus. I have been to Brasswood once before with my boys Curtis, Andrew and Andrew’s girlfriend Shannon and my husband while wine tasting last year. It’s a lovely place and I was able to take time to explore the property more extensively this time. Lise and I walked into the restaurant and immediately sat at the bar. My friend wanted to finish the rest of her peanut butter, honey and tomato sandwich that she brought with her. I’m all about trying the latest and greatest each restaurant and bar has to offer. Lise agreed to order the beef carpaccio made with capers, watercress, sea salt, parmesan, lemon garlic aioli, evoo and crostini. It was delicious. We also ordered the focaccia served with squash blossom and fennel pollen butter. So yummy. I had a Fellini’s Muse cocktail that was made with Malfy Rosa grapefruit gin, fresh grapefruit, Fever Tree elderflower tonic, and an orchid ice cube. I can’t seem to get enough grapefruit lately. Lise had her first Arnold Palmer, which consists of iced tea and lemonade. She loved it! And last but not least, I had to order the Flying Goat Affogato for dessert. It was made with house-made vanilla ice cream and Flying Goat Coffee espresso. Incredible and the best way to end a meal. 

Not only does Brasswood have a restaurant, but it has a winery, gallery and bakery on the premises. They sell gifts like cocktail  cookbooks and glassware, a wooden chess set, clothing, coffee, colorful mugs, and special teas like herbal chai, Assam, Moroccan Mint, Earl Grey and Premium Green Tea from Napa Valley Tea Company. 

The Bakery has a large lunch menu offering several salads, sandwiches, pizza and house made potato chips. These are the rage these days. Top Brass Wines are $12.00 and sold by the can. One can equals two glasses of wine. Rose from Russian River Valley or a Charbono from Napa Valley that tastes like plum and black cherry. Or you can buy a 4 pack for $48.00. Also offered were wines by the bottle for between $48 up to $125.00 each. They provide cheese platters, charcuterie boards or lunch boxes available for pre-order for those who plan ahead of time. I also spotted homemade Sauces: marinara made with organic tomato, olive oil, garlic confit, oregano and black pepper; the arrabiata made with organic tomato, basil, garlic and Calibrian peppers; and a short rib sugo made with organic tomato, onion, sage, thyme, cremini and portobello mushroom and Brasswood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Extensive beer menu at Brasswood Bakery and Cafe

Fresh berry tarts, cheesecake, and panna cotta were just a few of the deserts being offered, as well as many cheeses, cinnamon rolls, cookies and croissants. Believe it or not they sell popular beer and cocktails as well.  Manhattans, Martinis, a St Germain one and plenty of tequila drinks were just a few.

Don’t worry if you forgot to have breakfast. Brasswood has you covered. Chilaquiles, bagels with salmon, breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos will fill you up on an empty stomach. I swear. I’ve never seen so many food and drink options in one location.
Flowers from Tesoro Florist at Acacia House

As if we needed anything more, we had to stop off at the Acacia House in St Helena. This place pulled out all of their magic tricks for us to make it an exceptional experience. Of course I tell everyone I’m a food and travel blogger and they turn up the volume on our visit. The bar was closing within 45 minutes, but they graciously took us in. I didn’t even need another drink, but here we were in Napa Valley. Right? Can you blame me? Josh the bartender hooked me up with their famous margarita. It was a $30.00 margarita, but totally worth it. They make a special foamy concoction to dress it up with called “salt air” and it’s fabulous. They wouldn’t give me exact amounts but it has versa whip, xantham gum, lime juice and water in it. Also adorned by fresh lime zest which is something you don’t see every day. Acacia House has the most amazing flower arrangements by Tesoro Florist. Lise had their Zero Proof Non Alcoholic Grapefruit Rosemary Spritz. This is made with Ritual Zero Proof Gin, grapefruit, rosemary simple syrup and sparkling water. Very special. We met a nice man at the bar named Efrain with Efrain Interiors. He is trying to set up a flower and champagne business in the area called Bubbles and Bloom. Fabulous!

Josh surprised us with a dish of their chips and dip. It is served with whipped labneh (strained yogurt), salmon roe and chervil. We weren’t even hungry, but of course we had to eat it. I’ve been to this special place twice. One time I came for my birthday with my husband last year and one time I brought my older sister Susan. Each visit was extraordinary. 

Whipped Lebneh and salmon row with potato chips at Acacia House

Have I told you this unique wine country property/resort has a luxury hotel attached? Alila Napa Valley has a gorgeous spa and lodging. In fact, Sean showed us the presidential suite and took us on a personal tour of the property. This review will give you a better look at the accommodations. Fun fact: In 1907 this Acacia House was a physicians house. He treated people with Tuberculosis.

I splurged and bought myself and Lise a face serum called Be Here a Summer Solstice Serum at their Spa. It is made from a local farm in Saint Helena with antioxidant oxidant rich biodynamic olive oil, calendula, St John’s Wort, tulsi, German chamomile, Roman chamomile and wild yellow dock. I grow many of these herbs. Wouldn’t that be something to be able to make potions like this someday at Smyth Family Farm?

Fun art display in the Spa at Alila

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you how much I loved the great day hiking and enjoying the food and drinks of the Napa Valley. Thank you Lise for organizing the great hike. We even made it back in time to watch the Warrior play offs.If you are in need of respite and a fun day trip, head North and just see what you might find. Napa County in Northern California is a destination for everyone to enjoy. Thanks for following me and reading my blog. It’s pure joy sharing stories and recipes with you.


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