“When you walk in, you get that very Napa Valley feel!”
I just returned from a fantastic culinary adventure through the Napa Valley and back. And as always, it was much too short. Since our last visit, there were new places to try on top of the old standbys always high on the list of our Napa trip itineraries. The main attraction on our itinerary however was the new Las Alcobas Resort and it’s very favorably reviewed restaurant, Acacia House. In particular we wanted to experience Acacia House, as we heard the food was amazing and we were dying to see (and taste) for ourselves.
Who travels to Napa to visit just one place though, with all the valley has to offer? Not us, and we decided we would take full advantage of the opportunity to visit old favorites along with the new destinations we’ve heard about. Although nothing ever beats actually being there, I’ll attempt to take you with me along that delicious ride. Day 1, Part One of our story kicks off near downtown Napa.
First Stop: Oxbow Public Market (the tried and true)
Although the Oxbow Market has been open for ten years now, it is still a don’t miss destination on the list of Napa’s finest places to experience a rich sampling of everything the valley has to offer. A postmodern barn divided into 22 diverse eateries and boutiques, there is something inside for even the most discerning foodie.
On this particular morning of the road trip in need of coffee and breakfast, we beelined it to Oxbow for a cup of joe from Ritual Coffee Roasters. Although Ritual originated in San Francisco and boasts Bay Area six locations, we like Oxbow in particular for ordering rich espressos or cappuccinos to enjoy along with a yummy breakfast from the Five Dot Cookhouse.
Because eating family style is the best way to taste as many of their fantastic offerings as possible, we first ordered the Doughnut Bites. Topping the list of our desires, the Doughnut Bites are dusted with lavender sugar and when dipped in the side of caramel sauce (whoever thought of serving doughnuts alongside caramel sauce deserves a James Beard award) taste crazy good. We then paired them with sides of 5 Dot Ranch crispy bacon and the french fry-like breakfast potatoes. Finally as a dessert of sorts we topped it all off by sharing a Five Dot granola, creamy yogurt topped with sweet seasonal fruit.
Before heading out of the Oxbow Market to our next destination, we also browsed the epicurean delights at Napaståk.
Although there are all kinds of treasures and treats in this shop to choose from, pick up a bag of Napaståk Arugula Pasta plus a jar of Roasted Portobello Mushroom sauce and save it for later. We did just that and can’t wait to whip them up together for dinner at home one evening soon. Its a perfect way to continue to savor pieces of our wine country culinary adventure long after we’ve gone back home.
Second Stop: The Oat Mill Mine Trail (smell the flowers along the way)
Well caffeinated and nourished, we’re ready to work off some of that first meal of the day- especially since there is much more to come later. Nothing like a quick hike on the Oat Mill Mine Trail right off Highway 29 to get a picturesque view of valley vineyards… and make us hungry again for lunch. Although this trail follows 8.3 miles of an old stage couch route between Calistoga and the western end of Aetna Springs Road in Pope Valley, we decided to make it short and sweet by hiking about 2 miles in and then turning around to hike 2 miles back out to where our car was parked off the highway. It did the trick and we finished in time for lunch hour.
Third Stop: St Helena, Las Alcobas (the exciting and new)
There are so many great places to eat and drink in St. Helena alone, its hard to imagine running out of interesting options. I’m happy to report here that we definitely did not. We heard that the Las Alcobas Resort opened a new restaurant on everyone’s must-try list. The Head Chef at Acacia House, Chris Cosentino, is indeed a celebrity chef. Not only did he appear on the reality TV series Iron Chef, he was also the winner of Top Chef Masters in 2012. So we headed to Acacia House, eager to enjoy a gourmet lunch conceived by a certified Top Chef Master.
We were ushered to the one room dining room, which is a well lit space bathed in tones of grey with accents of white and silver, surrounded by glass windows inside and out. We took our places at one of the several tables, which along with the chairs are stylish yet simple. It was so hard to choose from the eclectic menu, but we finally settled on lunch. Now I’m no food critic, here’s an explanation of how much I enjoyed this meal (your patience is appreciated).
We drank: the House Margarita. In place of the traditional salt rim, the top of this drink is covered by a special sea salt foam decorated with lime zest slivers. It was light, smooth and like no other I have ever tasted.
We ate: Hamachi Crudo– paper thin slices of Hamachi on a plate laced with sumptuous olive oils and strawberries, topped with serrano pepper. A surprising and delicious combination of Japanese and Spanish style cuisines, I was impressed by its colorful presentation along with the way the dish’s accents enhanced the flavor of the fish.
Boccalone Artisanal Cured Meats with cornichos, olives, mustard and house made crackers. The seasoned crackers were tortilla-like and are a nice change from bread based charcuterie style noshing. Delicious.
Chicken Mole Torta: a wonderful combination of chicken, cabbage, jalapeno, avocado, queso fresco and black bean aioli on torta bread. The flavors of this dish complemented each other so well that I teared up upon taking the last bite.
We also indulged in dessert: a sumptuous Tres Leches Cake, with burnt white chocolate shards, caramel crumbles and a vanilla bean diplomat. I’m not a huge cake fan and it was definitely the best piece I have ever eaten, not too sweet and rich with complex flavors.
After lunch we got a quick tour of the hotel. Our guide took us past the pool area on our way to see one of the rooms. The pool is narrow yet inviting, and strategically placed alongside a scenic vineyard adjacent to the resort property.
We got a sneak peek at the Deluxe King Room with Deck on the ground floor. Modern but rustic, spacious and inviting. Featuring a great view off the aforementioned deck (love the fire pit in the middle of the comfortable seating) of the same vineyard pictured above:
Not that we’ll be staying here anytime soon, as the King Deluxe Room with Deck usually goes for about $1,200 per night (gasp).
Our day was far from done, as it was early and both Happy Hour and dinner were still on the Napa Valley horizon. Stay tuned for Day One, Part 2. Let’s just say there was even more off-the-charts food done by a well known 3 Michelin-starred chef. Plus a lot more tequila. I don’t want to miss a single detail, so excuse me while I get to work on fleshing out all the tasty details of what was to follow 😉
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