Sometimes all you need is an overnight jaunt to wine country to shake off any fog-induced seasonal affective disorder and enjoy some beautiful scenery—and do some quality eating and drinking, of course. I headed up for a 24-hour stint this past weekend, and here are a few newer spots I checked out.
This was my second visit to Richard Reddington’s most recent project (and casual offshoot) in Yountville. While it has a chic look and bar scene that’s fun in the evening, I’m a fan of the patio for an alfresco lunch (the all-day service is handy). The salads are particularly good (like the shaved summer vegetables with Green Goddess dressing and little gems), while heartier appetites should dig into the meatballs, a wood-fired pizza, or the housemade pastas. The wine list is mostly Italian, or you can revive with the Italian Greyhound (vodka, Campari, grapefruit juice, lime wheel).
Tucked away in the V Marketplace in Yountville is this artisan chocolate maker that is just a year old—you can watch the husband (Chris Kollar) make his exquisite chocolates behind a glass window while his sweet Swiss wife rings you up. Be sure to try the fennel pollen.
Goose & Gander
Open in the former (and fabled) Martini House space, the restaurant now brings a tavern-y vibe to St. Helena. While the food isn’t exactly destination worthy, if you’re in the mood for a casual or approachable meal, you’ll find it here. The well-priced menu has a variety of appetizer-sized plates, like the excellent smoked corn croquettes (a must) and seasonal dishes like San Marzano tomato soup. Of course there’s also a hearty burger. Downstairs is where you’ll find the ever-popular bar, helmed by the incomparable Scott Beattie (the Mellivoa Capensis, AKA the honey badger, is a delicious place to start).
After a filling dinner at Goose & Gander, we took an amble over to French Blue for a nightcap. There’s a fireplace on the comfortable patio, while the interior feels like a cross between Nantucket (wicker chairs) and Miami (at night, the lighting has a cool, grey tone to it). Love the zinc bar that overlooks the kitchen. While Goose & Gander’s bar definitely wins out for a nighttime scene, I’d like to return to French Blue for lunch.
I’m definitely saving the best for last here. This brand-new Napa project from AvroKO (the New York design and concept firm) is in the former Fagiani’s space, which has been dormant since 1974 after a tragic (and still unsolved) murder occurred. The firm has paid proper homage to the wonderful 100-year-old property, full of so many clever design details. The building has multiple levels, with a retro bar downstairs, a dining room one floor up, and then on the top floor is a fantastic terrace that looks out on the Napa River. Yes, this is where you want to have your brunch (well, it’s where I did). Stars on the brunch menu included the corn pancake, the black pudding with maple-glazed apples (seriously, do it), and the much-discussed and massive BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato)—and you have to get the custardy fried egg on it. Cocktails still need a little tuning, but otherwise this place has all the makings of a hit. Am already plotting my return.
Marcia Gagliardi is the contributing food editor for 7x7 and author of the weekly Tablehopper e-column and book The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and read more at tablehopper.com.