Weekend in Wine Country: 2 Days in Napa + Sonoma via St. Francis Winery, Redd, Mustards Grill + More

Welcome to Napa sign blogWhen you tell your foodie friends you’re spending a weekend in California’s Wine Country, you’re going to get countless suggestions for wining and dining your way around the area – and with good reason. There are almost 200 restaurants alone in the area on OpenTable and more than 400 wineries. Unless you’re a local, there’s no way to tackle them all even in a year (or 10!), let alone a couple of days. But, the good news is that it’s really hard to take a wrong turn. This was my stealthy and delicious agenda in Napa and Sonoma earlier this month.



1PM: Cakebread Cellars
One of our very helpful Uber drivers cautioned us that the Napa winery scene was becoming quite corporate, with many requiring appointments. Having gone the non-appointment route several years back, I preferred the intimacy of scheduled tastings, particularly at Cakebread Cellars. For $40 per person, we opted for the Reserve tasting, which included a private tour of the winery’s operations and a very gently paced, thoughtful tasting in a grand room overlooking the vineyard, where we sipped wines that we’d never sampled, despite being longtime Cakebread fans.

Gott's3PM: Gott’s Roadside (FKA Taylor’s Refresher)
My last visit to Gott’s was a bust as the Saturday lines were obscenely long, but this time out, the weekday timing played to our favor. At this local classic, we were eating juicy cheeseburgers and sharing crispy fries with each other (and a few brave birds) within a few minutes of parking. Bonus for my fellow gluten-free diners: You can get any burger animal-style, wrapped in lettuce, and it’s still supremely satisfying.

Redd blog9PM: Redd
Chef Richard Reddington’s Redd remains as fresh as when its doors first opened in 2005. The restaurant is warm and elegant all at once, as is the food. The little gem salad was the best my husband ever had (which is quite a statement, as he’s not a salad lover). Other standouts include the generously portioned foie gras trio, caramelized diver scallops, skate wing, and petrale sole. The wine list is deep yet accessible, and, despite being surrounded by California Chardonnay, we opted for a French Bourgogne. Tip: Be sure to arrive early and grab a signature craft cocktail at the stylish bar.


St Frances Duck1PM: St. Francis Winery & Vineyard
The food and wine pairing experience at St. Francis is apparently the best kept secret in Sonoma, shocking considering that it has the distinction of being an OpenTable Top 100 Restaurant in America for two years running, earning the #1 spot in 2013 and the #5 spot in 2014. At $60 for five seasonal courses and generous pours of carefully paired wines, plus a cheese selection, I understood why one reviewer called it “The French Laundry for $60.” And, yet, many folks we encountered in our travels weren’t aware of it. So, here it is; I’m blowing the lid off: the pairings are a sublime steal.Continue Reading

Dining with the Stars: Will Arnett Gets ‘Mansome’ at 121 Fulton; Vince Vaughn Goes Redd; Sofia Vergara Adjusts Her Appetite + Lipstick at Sant Ambroeus

After enjoying a meal with Michelle Williams, Jason Segel demonstrates the importance of good oral hygiene to his roommate.

Recent celebrity sightings at OpenTable restaurants…

* Will Arnett joined Morgan Spurlock at the release party of Mansome at 121 Fulton in Lower Manhattan. [Us Weekly]

* It couple du jour Jason Segel and Michelle Williams celebrated the release of her latest film at Abe & Arthur’s in New York City. [People]

* Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton had dinner with her husband at Alison Eighteen in New York City. [NY Post]

* New York Jet QB (for now, anyway) Mark Sanchez lunched at Bella Blu with teammates in his hometown. [NY Post]

* Mariah Carey enjoys breakfasting at perennially popular Cafeteria in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. [People]

* Angela Chase’s ex Jared Leto started his day at Fifth Floor in the Bay Area. [Tablehopper]

Continue Reading

James Beard Foundation Awards Nominees 2010: Congratulations!

The list of James Beard Foundation Awards nominees for 2010 has been released. Congratulations to everyone whose hard work and great talents have been recognized by the industry’s most prestigious organization. The winners will be announced on May 3, 2010, but there aren’t any losers in this round-up. Nominees include:

James-Beard-Awards-2010-nomineesBEST NEW RESTAURANT
* Bibou, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Chefs/Owners: Pierre and Charlotte Calmels

* Flour + Water, San Francisco, California
Chef/Partner: Thomas McNaughton
Partners: David White and David Steele

* Frances, San Francisco, California
Chef/Owner: Melissa Perello

* Marea, New York, New York
Chef/Partner: Michael White
Partner: Chris Cannon

* RN74, San Francisco, California
Chef: Jason Berthold
Owners: Michael Mina and Rajat Parr

* José Andrés, The Bazaar by José Andrés and Zaytinya
* Tom Colicchio, Craft and Colicchio & Sons
* Charles Phan, The Slanted Door

* Amanda Cook, CityZen at Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C.
* Nicole Plue, Redd, Yountville, California

* Boulevard, San Francisco, California
Chef/Owner: Nancy Oakes
Owner: Pat Kuleto

* Daniel, New York, New York
Chef/Owner: Daniel Boulud
Owner: Joel Smilow

* Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
Chef/Owner: Frank Stitt
Owner: Pardis Stitt

* Spiaggia, Chicago, Illinois
Chef/Partner: Tony Mantuano

* Tom Douglas. Restaurants include Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s, and Lola.

* Pat Kuleto, Pat Kuleto Restaurant Development & Management Co., San Francisco, California. Restaurants include Boulevard, Epic, Martini House, Waterbar.

* Richard Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Chicago, Illinois. Restaurants include Big Bowl, Hub 51, Osteria Via Stato, Tru, and Wildfire.

* Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurant Organization, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Restaurants include Alma De Cuba, Buddakan, Morimoto, and Parc.

* La Grenouille, New York, New York
Owners: Charles Masson and Gisèle Masson

* Michael Mina, San Francisco, California
Chef/Owner: Michael Mina

* Vetri, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Chefs/Owners: Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin

* Paul Grieco, Hearth, New York, New York

* A16, San Francisco, California
Wine Director: Shelley Lindgren

* Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado
Wine Director: Bobby Stuckey

* Jean Georges, New York, New York
Wine Director: Bernard Sun

* Timothy Hollingsworth, The French Laundry, Yountville, California
* Grégory Pugin, Veritas, New York, New York

Best Chef: Great Lakes
*Bruce Sherman, North Pond, Chicago, Illinois
* Alex Young, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
* Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Virginia
* Jeff Michaud, Osteria, Philadelphia, Pennsyvlania
* Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
* Bryan Voltaggio, VOLT, Frederick, Maryland

Best Chef: Midwest
* Colby Garrelts, Bluestem, Kansas City, Missouri
* Alexander Roberts, Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis, Minnesota
* Lenny Russo, Heartland, St. Paul, Minnesota

Best Chef: New York City
* Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern
* Wylie Dufresne, wd-50
* Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park
* Michael White, Marea

Best Chef: Northeast
* Michael Leviton, Lumière, West Newton, Massachusetts
* Tony Maws, Craigie on Main, Cambridge, Massachusetts
* Marc Orfaly, Pigalle, Boston, Massachusetts

Best Chef: Northwest
* Ethan Stowell, Union, Seattle, Washington
* Jason Wilson, Crush, Seattle, Washington

Best Chef: Pacific
* Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles, California
* Jeremy Fox, Ubuntu, Napa, California
* David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, California
* Matt Molina, Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles, California
* Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco, California

Best Chef: South
* Zach Bell, Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court, Palm Beach, Florida
* Scott Boswell, Stella!, New Orleans, Louisiana
* John Harris, Lilette, New Orleans, Louisiana
* Michael Schwartz, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami, Florida

Best Chef: Southeast
* Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, South Carolina
* Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta, Georgia

Best Chef: Southwest
* Bryan Caswell, Reef, Houston, Texas
* Ryan Hardy, Montagna at The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado
* Rick Moonen, RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

Read more about the James Beard Foundation and the 2010 Awards, click here. Purchase tickets here. And, reserve your seat at the next James Beard House dinner in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village for a unique dining experience in the birthplace of modern American gastronomy.

Well-Reviewed: Baker and Banker; Beacon; Birch and Barley, and Other Restaurants That Don’t Start with a ‘B’

Recent restaurant reviews from the news…

  • Beacon in Los Angeles gets high marks for its fusion burgers from Damon Gambuto at A Hamburger Today. [Serious Eats]
  • Ezekiel J. Emanuel hates all of the 555 beers served at Washington, D.C.’s Birch and Barley (because he hates all beer), but he loves the food. [The Atlantic]
  • Victoria Pesce Elliott has an uplifting dining experience at South Beach’s Solea. [Miami Herald]