napa valley: food

Welcome to the second installment of our Napa trip: the food! In case you missed it, I shared our Napa winery experiences here.

To give you a little background before we jump into the restaurants, we started each day with a great brunch and ended most of them with a DIY charcuterie board dinner complete with bread from local bakeries, tasty cheeses from Oxbow Public Market, fresh fruit (everything grows in California!), and peppered salami. Breakfast is our family’s favorite meal of the day, and since we didn’t start wine tours and tastings until afternoon, we had plenty of time to relax and enjoy our leisurely brunch. It was a great way to start our days.

We got into San Francisco on Thursday morning at 10:00 am PST, which felt like 1:00 pm to us East Coast dwellers. Without a snack on the plane to hold us over, we were all famished and on the brink of hangry. Will quickly texted some friends who live in the area who responded back immediately with great brunch recommendations for us to grab in the city before heading over the Golden Gate Bridge to Napa. We ended up at Brenda’s French Soul Food and could not have had a better experience. Every single thing we got tasted incredible and the small bustling eating area with natural light streaming in made for great atmosphere for our first meal after a long flight across the country. The chocolate beignet filled with Ghirardelli ganache, the regular eggs benedict options, and the special eggs benedict of the day were our favorites. If I ever make it back here I would grab the beignet flight – they all looked amazing! We would absolutely recommend Brenda’s to anyone visiting San Francisco or on their way out of San Francisco going north from the airport.

On Friday, we started the day at Boon Fly Café, a cute modern farmhouse style restaurant near where we were staying in downtown Napa. If you go, don’t miss the delicious mini doughnuts! We enjoyed our breakfast here and Boon Fly has gotten great reviews, but it was hard to compare to the amazing food we had at both Brenda’s and Archetype. Boon Fly Café is on the Carneros Inn property. If you make it here for breakfast, take some time to walk around the property as well – it is gorgeous.

After winery #1, we stopped for lunch in St. Helena. St. Helena’s main street was filled with cute shops, and since we were in the mood for bread (gotta have something to keep you going between tastings ;)), part of the group stopped at Model Bakery for their famous English muffins, and the other part made their way to a cash-only local deli (W F Giugni & Son, just called Giugni’s by the locals in Model) and came back with amazing sandwiches loaded with a plethora of toppings. Both were great choices.

After our winery tours we came back to Napa and stopped by Oxbow Public Market to pick up some supplies for a cheese and charcuterie board dinner. Oxbow houses about two dozen food vendors, some with ready-to-eat food, some selling gourmet groceries, and some non-food merchants. We stopped by Model Bakery for bread, Oxbow Cheese and Wine Merchant for fancy cheese, and Gott’s Roadside for a milkshake pick-me-up ;) Other non-specialty items, like salami and vegetables we picked up at a local grocery store near our Airbnb.

On Saturday morning we made our way to Archetype in St. Helena. The moment we walked in we fell in love with this quaint restaurant, and were even more in love when we tasted the food. The inside of the restaurant looks like it could have been the set of a Nancy Meyers movie, with neutral tones, wicker, natural light, and plants galore. We started with mini doughnuts with butter pecan sauce and a cinnamon bun to share while we perused the menu for our brunch picks and immediately decided we needed another bun to split. It was the most amazing melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon bun, served in a miniature cast iron dish and topped with the perfect amount of delicious cream cheese frosting. If you make your way to Napa, do not miss this cinnamon bun. It was one of our favorite foods of the whole trip. We loved the food and experience so much at Archetype that we came back again on Sunday morning before heading out. In hindsight, we all agree that we should have tried a new place, but it was such an amazing experience that, at the time, we didn’t think anything could top it.

Our winery tours on Saturday were in Yountville and Rutherford, so between the two tastings and the two towns we stopped at Oakville Grocery to grab picnic supplies and sandwiches to split. Oakville Grocery was not your typical grocery store, but more of a gourmet food market and cute café. The walls are lined with nice jams, fun spices, and fancy crackers, and artisan drinks, while a sandwich making operation fills the center of the room. It was a great grab-and-go place to snag a freshly made sandwich

Our last tasting of the day was in Yountville, one of the most charming towns we explored in Napa valley. After the tasting, we walked down a paved path and came across the famous Bouchon Bakery and a few other cute shops. We got two different types of baguettes to try from Bouchon to go with our second charcuterie/cheese board dinner of the trip. Our wine tasting that afternoon included a cheese pairing, with cheese supplied by a local cheese monger down the street from Bouchon. There were a couple of cheeses we all loved during the pairing so we stopped in Atlier by JCB to get them. While the service wasn’t stellar, the shop itself was wonderful, filled to the brim with mustards, teas, honeys, and all sorts of other toppings, many of which we had seen in France but hadn’t been able to find in the US.

In addition to a broad selection of wineries, Napa also had a great food scene. All of our meals were delicious and the restaurants were all easy to get to from our Airbnb in Napa, and from the wineries along St. Helena Highway. A quick description and opinion of each of the eateries we visited is below. I hope this helps you on your next trip to California wine country!

Quick Version:
(restaurants listed in alphabetical order)

Archetype – This was one of our favorite restaurants both for the atmosphere and the food. We loved the brunch here so much that we came twice! Don’t miss the cinnamon buns (they are amazing)!

Boon Fly Café – Cute stop for brunch. If there is a wait, order your coffee or breakfast drink from the bar and enjoy it on the picturesque swings on the porch. Don’t miss the mini doughnuts!

Bouchon Bakery – This famous bakery is every bit as cute as it is delicious. We picked up a few baguettes (one sourdough and one epi baguette) for our cheese board and charcuterie dinner. With lots of amazing pastries, this one is worth visiting again.

Brenda’s French Soul Food – This one is in San Francisco, not Napa, but if you are flying into San Francisco any time in the morning, make a pit stop here for breakfast/brunch. Everything is AMAZING! A friend who lives in the area quickly recommended Brenda’s when we asked where to go for brunch in the city and it could not have been a better experience. The chocolate beignet filled with molten Ghirardelli chocolate, regular and special eggs benedict of the day were both delicious, but truly everything we ordered was so tasty.

Gott’s Roadside – Good burgers and sides. We didn’t have a great experience with the milkshakes (they were too thin), but other people seem to like them so we may have just gotten a bad batch.

Model Bakery –This local bakery is known for their homemade English muffins, and for good reason (get one toasted with butter), but we can attest that their pastries and bread are delicious as well!

Oakville Grocery – The oldest continually operating grocery store in California with good sandwiches, lots of artisan food items, and great treats. Fun place to stop for sandwiches and picnic supplies between wineries.

Oxbow Public Market – A collection of food vendors with some premade food and some gourmet groceries, including a great cheese selection.

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