“Goodbye? Oh no please. Can’t we go back to page one and do it all over again?”
-Winne the Pooh
On the last day (sniff) of our whirlwind culinary tour through the Napa Valley, we woke up early Sunday morning and crept out to the front porch of our sweet little bungalow near downtown Napa. We sat in our PJs on adirondack chairs, aware that our vacation time clock was ticking, discussing a few final locations in which to eat our last meals of the trip, as we had only a half day left to indulge before heading back home. While weighing our options, we got suddenly startled upon noticing hot air balloons sky-cruising through the neighborhood, a phenomenon that made us wonder if we might still be under the continued influence of the tequila from the day before, and also reminded us that we hadn’t woken up in just any California suburban neighborhood. With so little time to spare, we quickly abandoned our balloon watching perch on the porch and decided to stick only to restaurant options that were easily accessible by foot.
Somehow ready to eat yet again, we slipped on jeans and tennis shoes and took a short walk over to the Alexis Baking Company and Cafe on Third Street for breakfast.
Operating since 1985, ABC has been a favorite of Napa locals for decades, and seems to only get better and better at offering delicious meals and yummy baked goods to either eat onsite or take home. Don’t let the initials fool you however, as the thick menu at ABC covers almost everything you can think of through XYZ too. Although the restaurant was expectedly quite busy, we did not wait overly long to place our orders at the counter and then find a table for two to settle into for breakfast. The sweet smell of warm baked goods and hot coffee kept us company while we absorbed the casual atmosphere.
We ate: Huevos Rancheros and Eggs Benedict. While sounding elementary enough, these dishes were hardly simple. The delicious Huevos Rancheros arrived over pinto beans and were topped with salsa, sour cream and parsley. The combination of flavors combined with the ample side of house potatoes was quite tasty. Also, our Eggs Benedict were perfectly poached on muffins expertly toasted; the house made hollandaise sauce was creamily savory.
We drank: a Café Mocha. The surprising star of the whole show, not only did it look more like a french dessert than a cup of coffee, it went down like chocolatey-coffee heaven on earth. The huge dollop of house made whip cream dusted with cocoa powder pushed this beverage practically into the category of breakfast meal in itself. Sorry Starbucks, and sorry Peet’s -it was hands down the best Mocha I have ever had the pleasure of drinking.
I wasn’t the only guest who was impressed. As I slowly sipped out of the oversized coffee cup, a woman dining at the table next to us admiringly asked what was in my cup. We then promptly struck up a lively conversation with the friendly lady and her husband, who were immensely enjoying their visit to the wine country from Colorado. You gotta love a drink or dish so appealing that it inspires questions from the diners next to you as it gets served 🙂
After a superb breakfast, we pretended to argue over whose eggs tasted best while high- tailing it back over to the bungalow bedroom to pack up our bags. Not only did we want to hit the road for home directly after lunch, we needed to start working up an appetite for our final dishes of the road trip.
I did not look forward to leaving our comfy wine country home away from home, as it was a warm and inviting retreat during our near constant travels up and down the beaten, well worn wine country path . It belongs to a close friend who is currently overseeing the construction of a brand new bed and breakfast behind it (the B&B will open in early 2018; stay tuned to Off My List for more details on this lovely gem later). I imagine the B&B interiors will look pleasingly similar those of the bungalow- a beautifully well blended combination of modern yet rustic, creamy light tones balanced by darker accents and framing.
We locked up the bungalow and turned in the key, packed our bags into the trunk, and embarked on a stroll back downtown, past the mostly closed shops and other sites of downtown interest. As lunchtime approached, we pointed ourselves toward our final restaurant destination. My travel companion had heard only great things about our next stop, and demanded that we make sure to eat there, based on her knowledge of my own personal favorite foods and flavors.
Still pretty full from a big breakfast, we soon found ourselves walking directly into the unnamed exterior doors of Miminashi, Napa’s newest izakaya (sort of a a Japanese term for gastropub) style restaurant anyway. A huge fan of Japanese food in general and of our local izakaya superstar Ippuku restaurant in Berkeley specifically, as my foodie cohort predicted I was most excited about dining at Miminashi out of all the places we’d visited so far.
Named for a Japanese parable about overcoming life’s adversities and open now for about a year, Miminashi is the brainchild of not a revered Itamae from Japan, but of American chef Curtis di Fede, a New Mexico native with Napa roots who became obsessed with Japanese food and culture after traveling to Japan, later returning to immerse himself in the culture and izakaya concept. We couldn’t wait to sample the umai results of his research and newfound expertise.
We were seated at a table near the front window and admiringly took in the bright clean lines of the mostly wooden dining room. Realizing that our old weekend standby beverage (tequila) would not properly pair with the dishes we were about to enjoy (plus it was only lunchtime after all), we ordered cold, crisp, draft Asahi beers to enjoy while we mulled over our order.
We ate: Bacon Fried Rice, a killer combination of flavorful sticky rice, Shishito peppers, pole beans, kimchi, ginger, egg, mizuna and you guessed it- bacon. It was so rich and palate pleasing that in my mind it can stand alone as an entree dish. And with it, the Snake River Farms Beef Gyoza , which includes touches of ginger, shiso and yuzu kosho. I personally am not a big fan of the popular pork Gyoza dishes, and usually am happy to find shrimp as an alternative. The beef Gyoza here was unexpected and together with the Bacon Fried Rice, filled us up enough that we thought better of ordering more food. At the rate we were going over the last 2 days, we guessed we were easily on our way to gaining between 3 – 5 lbs. by Monday!
We chatted with the Maitre’D about the extensive wine and sake menu before heading out the door for home. When I professed my love of sake and how I only drink mine cold, he authoritatively told me that Miminashi only serves cold sake, and operates under the belief that warm sake is inauthentic and not worth offering. Delighted to hear this, I laughed and assured him that I would be back for a proper sake and dinner on our next trip up to the wine country. We definitely did not devote enough time and attention to this particular road stop, and made a mental note to make sure it tops the list for next time.
Like all good things, our weekend in the wine country came to a wistful end as we drove away from downtown Napa and onto Highway 29 South. If not before, we will definitely be returning to toast the opening of our friend’s downtown bed & breakfast after the year end holidays. It will surely be a new favorite destination to share and I’m already imagining the fabulousness of this future experience along with the joy I’ll feel when recounting all the lovely details.
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