restaurants · Trips

Spring Break in California: Napa Valley

One of the many benefits to working in a school is the fact that I still get Spring Break as a 23 year old. Serendipitously, my mom had the same spring break at the college where she teaches so we planned a rendezvous in San Francisco for the week. Night one we stayed in Napa – the ideal foodie vacation destination, and ate at Celadon.

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I was blown away with the cocktails alone. I had an upscale salty dog: grapefruit infused vodka, grapefruit juice and some other mystery ingredient. Mom had an elderflower cocktail mixed with fresh kiwi.

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We split the macadamia crusted goat cheese with port-soaked figs and pear slices. It was as good as it sounds.

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I caved. I had to. I gave up eating farm animals for lent, and have stuck to it thus far. But when Sergio read off the special: a homemade pappardelle with slow roasted, pulled pork shoulder with tomatoes and mushrooms cooked in the meat’s own juices… I was done for. It was oh, so worth it.

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How can you say no to cinnamon raisin bread pudding with grand marnier crème anglaise? You shouldn’t, and we didn’t.

The mini-breakdown I had the next morning when I tried to button my pants was even worth it. To help our waistline, we walked to breakfast at Alexis Baking Company for oatmeal.

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From there, a day of wine tasting ensued…

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First stop was Peju Province Winery, based solely on the strange, skinny trees lining the entrance.

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The tasting room was more church than vineyard with a huge stained glass window. Odd. But not quite as odd as the ABSURD wine tasting attendant who was not a day younger than 70- he rapped, cussed, made inappropriate racial jokes and generally made the entire group of us wine tasters feel severe second-hand embarrassment. The wine was great, but that was way over-shadowed by the extreme discomfort of the tasting process.

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A little further up highway 29, we stopped in St. Helena for lunch. My Google search suggested we go to Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen.

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To start, more incredible crusty brown bread.

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We split the papaya, avocado, hazelnut salad with spicy cilantro dressing and the stuffed poblano peppers with avocado salsa. We’re still talking about that salad.

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Finally, we stopped in at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. In another life I will come back as a CIA student. The building is as cool on the inside as it is on the outside.

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We stopped in their bookstore which happened to be doing a wine and chocolate tasting. We carpe diem’ed on that and had a glass of their Cabernet with two amazing chocolates. One, a dark chocolate filled with a flowery caramel, the second was a white chocolate filled with bananas foster filling. I kid you not, it was like biting into a caramelized banana. The flavors were on point… not that I expected anything less from this place. 

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After all of this, plus another vineyard on the way back, I had reached my quota of wine, so we head to Lafayette, CA for the next leg of our trip.

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