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Category Archives: Bistro don Giovanni

Biking in Napa for Calamari and Hazelnut Dacquoise

Biking in Napa for Calamari and Hazelnut Dacquoise

Spent the day in Yountville and Napa with my friend Ana bike riding and eating at some of my favorite restaurants. The rain in Northern California has been non stop, but we had a break in the weather that day and biked until our hearts were content. We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at Bistro don Giovanni, dessert and beverages at Auberge du Soleil, then a quick stop at the Cia Copia and OxBow Public Market to complete the perfect day.

 

Ana and I were originally going to ride bikes to Danville for lunch at SideBoard a neighborhood cafe. When I heard they closed, I shifted our bike ride to the Napa Valley so I could check out Farmstead Restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena.

 

We set out North on our bikes after parking in the town of Yountville. We brought our own bikes even though you can easily rent them. I stopped to ask for directions at a bed and breakfast in town and the clerk Googled and even printed me a map towards our destination.

Unfortunately, after several attempts and ending up off the beaten path on to rocky surfaces, we decided to ride South towards Napa instead on the designated Napa Valley Vine Trail. It was refreshing to finally be on a flat safe surface in a clear direction.

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We had been riding for over an hour and a half and we needed food in our bellies. Luckily, Bistro Don Giovanni was nearby, so we rode our bikes there. Well, not directly there, since I thought we could sneak in through a vineyard. That wasn’t going to happen since there were barbed wires surrounding the property. Through the mud we rode, until we finally found a newer property that had a paved road. Phew! Boy were we glad to see that.

 

Eventually we drove through a quaint older Napa neighborhood and onto Hwy 29 for a block to get to the restaurant. Ana and I were fortunate that they still had an available table to seat us. The food was exceptional as usual. We shared their short rib, cipollini onion, asparagus pappardelle special and fried calamari with green beans, fennel and onions. So tasty. Ana had a merlot from Whitehall to drink and I ordered a cabernet from Frank Vineyards. Food always tastes better after a long bike ride and Ana had never had fresh pasta from California before.

 

Obviously, we took a shortcut back to the bike path on the way back to Yountville, but had a good laugh about our earlier excursion through the vineyards.

 

Next was a quick ride through the small town since we weren’t quite ready to abandon the bikes. We saw the brand spanking new Villagio Hotel  conference/wedding venue which is spacious and gorgeous. Atelier Fine Foods was catering a Yountville Chamber of Commerce networking mixer at JCB Salon Prive’ with focaccia and a huge platter of cheese, olives, charcuterie and of course wine. We didn’t stick around long enough to embibe.

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Outstanding cheese and charcuterie platter on its way to a Yountville Chamber of Commerce Mixer. I want to be a member !

 

Back to the car with the bikes we went, and headed for our Farmstead Restaurant. The only problem I have with taking friends to Napa is getting side tracked by all of the other phenomenal choices to experience. This time I stopped at Auberge du Soleil off the Silverado trail which is a part of Relais & Chateaux. This property sits high on a hill and looks over the Napa Valley. The view is spectacular and the restaurant is Michelin rated.

 

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Anna and me standing in the entry way to Auburge du Soleil

Since we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on food, we took a seat at the bar. They have a wide selection of fancy cocktails, beer on tap, and wines of course, but we ordered the non-alcoholic Ipanema: A refreshing drink consisting of ginger ale, fresh muddled lime and sugar. Since we weren’t hungry, we settled on their famous Auberge Torte au Chocolat : A hazelnut dacquoise (a fancy name for a almond hazelnut and meringue cake), gianduja mousse and vanilla gelato. I’m pretty sure it was the BEST dessert I’ve ever had. The good news is they sell them and will ship this chocolatey decadence all over the world. And one piece cost $17.00 which we shared, but it was worth every penny. Pastry chef Paul Lemieux has a lot to be proud of and I will happily follow him on Instagram.

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The mouthwatering chocolate hazelnut cake at Auberge du Soleil

 

Feeling generous, Ana bought 9 of their freshly made cookies so we could bring my Mother and Step Father some goodies. I have to say, the oatmeal cherry were my favorite, but the peanut butter and chocolate chip ones were delicious too. Yes, we ate most of them before we got to the car!

Losing our appetite for Farmstead, we headed home. Again I took a detour and stopped at the Culinary Institute of America Napa. I took Ana upstairs to the cooking school where there was a class that was assembling dumplings.We also walked through the fascinating Chuck Williams Culinary Art Exhibit featuring over 4000 artifacts of specialty cookware used by great chefs in Europe.

 

Next to the Cia Copia is OxBow Public Market where there is practically every kind of food and drink available to consume. We walked around Whole Spice Company, Napa Valley Distillery, Fieldwork Brewery, Anette’s Chocolates and many more foodie destinations. At least Ana will know where to go when she entertains her out of town guests in a few weeks.

 

Let’s just say, Napa Valley has captured my heart. I’m never disappointed by the hospitality and generosity they offer their tourists and people like me. Sometimes the wine country is calling me and I have to escape the Bay Area. Is it calling you? You will come back feeling rejuvenated from all of the good food, great wine and clean country like charm it offers. Can’t wait to go back. Maybe next time I will actually make it to Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch.

 

If you enjoyed my blog, please share on Facebook, Twitter or email a friend. Maybe they will be ready for a change of pace and join you for a special day in the Napa Valley Wine Country.

 

 

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Farm to Fork in Napa, St. Helena and Yountville and Asian Salad Dressing Recipe

Farm to Fork in Napa, St. Helena and Yountville and Asian Salad Dressing Recipe

My husband and I had the pleasure of hosting our Florida friends last week. Sherri and I went on the very first Avon three day walk together almost twenty years ago and have been close ever since. Today’s blog will be about our day in Napa and Yountville with our two son’s Danny and Andrew. We explored Ashes and Diamonds Winery, V Sattui, Napa Valley Olive oil Company, and Rutherford Grill Restaurant for lunch. Then we circled back and took on Lucy Bar in Yountville for drinks and shopping in the Marketplace. It was marvelous day showing them around Northern California wine country.

 

 

Having no idea where to begin, we drove for an hour along Hwy 29 and stumbled upon Ashes and Diamonds Winery which is the newest winery in the Napa Valley and is directly behind Don Giovanni Restaurant. I remembered I was given a free tasting the last time I ate there with my friend Cathy. Here’s my blog on that magnificent day.
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This place is exquisitely decorated and the wine was robust and full bodied. Sherri and Andrew had tastings (since I was driving), and we all sat and listened to their jazz music. The vibe was fun and exciting. Of course I’m always energized when I get to try a new place. They also served a delicious poppy seed and sesame seed focaccia which hit the spot in our bellies.

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Next we stopped in to V Sattui where we sampled their vinegars and cheeses. It’s a bustling place with people from all over the world buying deli sandwiches, extraordinary cheeses and refreshing wine for their romantic picnic lunches under the ancient oak trees. If you haven’t experienced this delightful place, it’s a must see for sure.

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Danny Sherri, Andrew and me at V. Sattui Winery

After hopping back into the car, we found Napa Olive Oil Manufacturing Company in St Helena which I have always wanted to tour. This place has been around since 1931 and has all sorts of items a foodie like me would like to enjoy. I purchased a gallon of their olive oil and blackberry ginger vinegar to take home. Sherri, Andrew and Danny loved tasting their offerings also.

Rutherford Grill was our next stop where we splurged on their French dip sandwiches, smoked salmon, ribs, roasted chicken and more. It was familiar to my guests since they had been to a similar restaurant called Houston’s in Dallas Texas. I highly recommend getting a reservation since it is always a local favorite while in St. Helena.

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It didn’t take long to decide where to take them next since we were short on  time. After all, we had dinner guests (Heidi, Sharon, Lisa, Elyse, and Bill) coming at 6:30PM that evening to welcome Sherri and Danny back. They had lived in our neighborhood twenty years ago, before moving to Florida and had made friends while here. So on to Yountville we went.

Lucy Restaurant and Bar at Hotel Bardessono is a relaxing place to sit and relax while enjoying an artisanal cocktail or “field to fork” fare from their innovative, garden inspired cuisine. Since danny was driving, we sat outside on their comfy patio couches. I had a glass of kahlua and Sherri had a ginger ale while Andrew took a nap on their hammock and Danny made a phone call. We walked to their nearby gardens where we found a loaded O’ Henry peach tree that had many peaches on the ground. Four ended up in my bag because I can’t stand to let anything go to waste, and they were enjoyed (after cutting off the bruises) with our dinner the following evening.  It was a fun way to end the foodie farm to table experience.  

The potluck dinner chicken wings, hummus and fried pita chips, baba ganoush, fruit salad, taquitos with guacamole, and wine with our friends was delightful. Everyone was thrilled to see Sherri again and Danny loved meeting them since he was only 4 when they left the Bay Area. More blogging adventures are sure to be coming in the near future since we had day trips to San Francisco, Berkeley, Sausalito, downtown Walnut Creek.

I feel fortunate to have the time and resources to share my foodie road trips with others. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means the world to me. If you would like to hear more from my excursions, and get fun recipes subscribe to my blog. I will be sure to keep you posted on all the latest and greatest in regards to the food and wine culture in the US.

 

Asian Sesame Cilantro Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

½ C Seasoned Rice Vinegar

1 Bunch fresh cilantro stems and leaves washed (can substitute fresh parsley if you dislike cilantro, but will taste different)

2 cloves garlic (sauteed whole in 1 T canola for 2 minutes)

3 T fresh chopped ginger

¼ C apricot jam

6 green onions chopped

1 fresh squeezed lime, orange or lemon

½ C plus 1 T canola oil

½ C peanut oil

2 T sesame oil

⅔ C soy sauce

½ t black pepper

½ t chili oil

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender until combined. Refrigerate. Will keep for 2 weeks.

I use this dressing to marinate skirt steak, or chicken. It is best served along with roasted chicken, white fish or in a salad. Make a green salad with mandarin oranges, almonds, maruchan noodles, chicken or steak. It’s delicious!

 

 

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It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere in Yountville, [but go early for a foodie day]

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere in Yountville,  [but go early for a foodie day]

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Enjoyed a getaway vacation last week with my girlfriend Cathy. I decided it was time to show her around the Napa Valley. Today’s blog will be all about our adventures wine tasting and eating our way through the vineyards. It truly is my “happy place.”
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What a day it was. Cathy and I started out touring her own vegetable garden in Alamo. I was impressed by her ability to make every space a pleasure to look at. Cathy is an interior decorator by trade. She had her own successful business for many years in the Bay Area. Her and her husband raised their kids in Alamo and we met while our boys were in Junior High at Stone Valley Middle School. And she is a chef and foodie like me, so it is awesome that we’ve stayed in touch over the years.

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Back to the adventure…First we stumbled upon Saintsbury located in the Carneros Valley. We learned that the tasting fee was $35.00 each and would take an hour. We had big plans for the day and couldn’t spare the time, so onward we went.

Around the corner was Etude Winery. They are also a bit on the snobby side trying to charge us for the one person tasting fee even though Cathy was purchasing two bottles of their 2016 Chardonnay. After I explained that I was a food blogger, our pourer graciously took off the $25.00 fee. It was a beautiful day and we were very surprised to see a huge spread of salads, various cheeses, bread, and an enormous meat platter for very hungry Backroads bicyclists. These people come from all over the world to experience what the wine country has to offer. Great fun!


After tasting at Etude (I had a couple of sips cause I was the designated driver), and seeing their glorious wild poppy garden and listening to the swallows nesting in their mud houses, we stopped off at Bistro Don Giovnanni. There we imbibed in glasses of pinot grigio from luna vineyards in Napa, and their Fritto Misto w calamari, rock shrimp, fennel, onions green beans w a spicy aioli. We had a big day planned, so we opted to save our appetite for later. Cathy had never been to this restaurant and she was delighted by our Italian server and their generous hospitality. They even offered us coupons for tastings at the new winery nextdoor!


After our luxurious break, we went on ahead to the cute town of Yountville. After parking in the shade, we walked along the main street where we talked to the women at the information center. They had lots of ideas for us of wineries to drive to, but I was content to show Cathy what Yountville had to offer. First we checked out The Spa at the Estate Villagio Inn where we were offered a tour of the spa. It was fun smelling their lotions and seeing what spa packages they had to offer. We learned they are currently under renovations to upgrade their accommodations.

Next we stepped into the extraordinary JCB Tasting Salon . Jean-Charles Boisset’s tasting experience was over the top. They offered us a Gala Brut Champagne and the No 50 Brut Blanc de Blanc, Burgundy and a $200 bottle of wine tasting since it was already open. Fabulous! We were spoiled rotten by Daniela who also took us on a private tour of the luxury JCB Salon Prive’ located next door. It has an opulence about it that the decorator in Cathy adored.

Onward to Bardessono Hotel and Lucy Restaurant . It’s normally a $50.00 charge to open a bottle of wine from home, but our generous waiter erased that fee and allowed me to bring in a picnic. The wine, cheese, nuts and fruit were just what we needed to relax in the outdoor patio. Cathy was ready for their cosmopolitan cocktail to make a splash and bring on the warm Yountville evening. She liked it so much, she ordered a second!

A walk through the gardens at The French Laundry was our last stop. Here we spotted a few butterflies, artichoke plants, strawberry plants and rows and rows of glorious organic greens. I would love to enjoy a meal there someday since Thomas Keller the owner and Executive chef of tfl is my idol.

 

It was a day to remember for sure, and I can’t wait to experience Napa and St Helena again soon. You should too. Is there a secret get away place you want to tell me about? I want to hear all about it in the comments below. Sign up for my blog by including your email, and I promise to never leave you out of my upcoming food and travel blogs. Here’s my latest on Carmel California.

 

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