5 eating experiences in the Napa Valley you must try

The Napa Valley is an absolutely stunning area – and it is food and wine heaven! I have been obsessed with California Chardonnays since leaving there – and before I went, I thought that I didn’t like Californian wine! These days Napa Valley food receives as much attention as their amazing wineries.

A few tips to begin:

Carefully research which part of the valley you should stay in: The Napa Valley is actually quite a big area and your ease of visiting Napa Valley restaurants will be influenced by where you stay. I stayed in lovely Calistoga but that is actually the furthest away you can be from the other key eating areas of the town of Napa and Yountville.

Download the key taxi apps: Uber does work in the area but there are fewer cars around Calistoga and at peak times. Consider also downloading Lyft which is similar to Uber and tended to have more vehicles in the area.

Book ahead: When it comes to Napa Valley restaurants book as far in advance as you can. The easiest way to do this is to use the website Open Table – you will find that most of these restaurants use Open Table for bookings on their own site. I booked about a month out and managed to get into those listed below.However, we could not get into the French Laundry. Their site does have a wait list that you can sign up for. I signed up for the wait list for every night we were in Napa but alas we didn’t get lucky!

Dinner at Bouchon Bistro Yountville

I had heard of the French Laundry before planning a trip to the Napa Valley. However I was not aware of the sensation that was Thomas Keller! His Bouchon brand is now in several places in the US – indeed I had brunch at his Bouchon restaurant in Las Vegas on the same trip.  When I was doing my pre trip research the Bouchon bistro in Yountville came up as one of his best – and the place where chef’s go which is always a good sign!

Bouchon Bistro is located literally down the road from the French Laundry in Yountville. It is a gorgeous red brick building and inside it is classic French bistro. We went on a Friday night and to say it was bustling would be a massive understatement! The atmosphere was fantastic – busy, fun, foodie, enjoyable. There is an outdoor seating area where you can have a pre dinner glass of wine – and we also enjoyed some of their amazing deviled eggs or Mimosa eggs.

Unsurprisingly it is a fantastic wine list and we enjoyed some sensational wines from the area. But it was all about the food. The basic bread and fully salted butter could have been enjoyed as a starter in their own right – but I was determined to have some French Onion Soup which was outstanding. Mounds of perfectly caramelized onions and then covered in comte cheese.

Next up was the steak frites.  A pan seared flat iron steak with caramelized shallots and butter served with a very generous helping of French fries. It was possibly the best steak frites I have ever had.

The biggest surprise of the evening was how reasonable the prices were! The steak frites was US$38 and it was a very generous serving. This is one of the most expensive items on the menu. No wonder this place gets absolutely packed out!

Dinner at Solbar at Solage Calistoga

I stayed at Solage and it was absolutely delightful. The highlight of this lovely stay was the amazing Solbar restaurant which has a well deserved Michelin star. The food here is absolutely delicious. So fresh and so light – you can taste the quality of the ingredients. The restaurant itself is beautiful inside but I would highly recommend you ask for an outdoor table. The outdoor area sparkles with tiny lights and makes for a magical dining experience.

The dinner menu has an option for 4 courses for only USD$80 and I would highly recommend you try this option. I started with some amazing oysters, then moved onto seared tuna followed by the prettiest lamb dish I have ever had the pleasure of eating. And then onto dessert the butterscotch pudding – wow!

The wine list is of course fabulous. We started off with our favourite Napa Valley initiative the wine flight and chose to have the learn your ABCs flight – all about chardonnay. They also offer wine flights where you can leave napa or enjoy bubbles.

The Napa Valley Wine Train

To be frank this was not the best meal of the restaurants I am recommending. The Napa Valley wine train is much more about the total experience. The Wine train offers a multitude of options – full day, evening, lunch, more wineries to vist etc etc.

We went with the lunch option and also visited the Grgich winery. The Sonoma greens were a fresh and delightful starter. This was followed with the Lemon Thyme Roasted Chicken with summer beans, sweet peppers and red creamer potatoes. Dessert was served after our winery visit and was a delicious white chocolate crème brulee.

The 11 course food and wine menu at Single Thread

Single Thread is a relatively new player in Napa Valley. It is located in Healdsburg in Sonoma County . It cannot be long until Michelin is singing its praises – this is food as art. We went with the 11 course menu and matching wines. Each course was more beautiful and unique than the next.

Visually the highlight was the opening appetizer – although to call it an appetizer seems quite wrong as it did resemble a delicious artwork that had come to life. Each dish was a thing of beauty. The majority of the wines were from California but they did have a Japanese and a German selection.

The Single Thread Farm is also located in Healdsburg California about 5km from the restaurant and supplies most of the restaurant’s ingredients. I believe the menu changes almost daily depending on the availability of ingredients so you can look forward to a fresh and original menu when you visit!

Brunch at Solbar at Solage Calistoga

Yes it is the Solage again but quite frankly its brunch deserves its own separate mention! You can order from any end of the health continuum as the choice is extensive.

However the highlight for me was Morning in California – fresh blue crab and avocado on english muffins. Wow. The ingredients are spectacular – everything tastes so fresh!

Finally try and convince whomever you are eating with to order the “What the Chef Would Eat” breakfast sandwich – this is a close second to Morning in California!

Amanda OBrien is Owner of The Boutique Adventurer.

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Comments (14)

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  1. Edward Bell says:

    Hey Amanda, you’re spot on about the wine train – what you get with them is an experience that’s different from the usual which I reckon is perfect for those touring the first time or those who want something different from their trip. All your dishes look phenomenal by the way. Not sure if you’re a white wine fan, but hope you got to try a typical Napa Sauvignon blanc with that bread, butter and cheese combo!
    Cheers,
    Edward

  2. Jack says:

    Thank your sharing Amanda. I have heard a lot about the wine in the Napa Valley but I have not got a chance going there. I wish I could go with my girlfriend. That will be an amazing experience!

  3. Ana O says:

    I ate at Solbar. Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like a Michelin star experience. The host didn’t acknowledge us because he was too busy with the menus, they made us wait even though we had a reservation (I can understand this happens, but it bothered us because of the way they treated us at the beginning) My dish was superb but some of my dining companions weren’t thrilled with theirs. We had dined at other Michelin star restaurants so, based on my experience, I wouldn’t recommend it.

    We went on the Napa Valley Wine Train as a wedding anniversary celebration. I’ll never forget the wonderful experience!

  4. amanda says:

    HI Ana. I am so sorry you had a bad experience at Solbar! What a disappointment! I am glad though you had a great experience on the wine train. Thanks for sharing your views.

  5. amanda says:

    Thanks Edward! I went heavy on the Chardonnays whilst there – I will definitely try some Napa Sauvignon Blanc – thanks for the tip!

  6. Rose says:

    11 courses at Single Thread – this looks like the meal of a lifetime. It almost seems a shame to eat food that has been crafted and arranged so beautifully, but it must be done! All of these photos are fantastic and show how important it is to pick food that is fresh and seasonal. The Napa Valley Wine Train looks like an exciting experience. All these restaurants look fantastic but I think for a celebration, the train would be my choice as it’s something very unique and an experience that’s not just about the food and drink.

  7. amanda says:

    Thanks Rose! Yes the wine train was definitely a highlight and something quite unique! Single Thread is fabulous as it has its own farm from where it sources most of its ingredients. The napa valley is so amazing for food as well as wine now!

  8. Wendy H says:

    That is a really good tip about using Open Table and booking well in advance. There is nothing worse than arranging to go somewhere with great restaurants and then not being able to get a table! The wine train sounds like a great experience, I would love to go.

  9. amanda says:

    Thanks Wendy H! I have now started using Open Table ahead of time for all of my trips! And the Wine Train is definitely a must do experience – I have written a dedicated post on this that you can find on the site.

  10. Paul Johnson says:

    Here’s the link to Amanda’s post about the Napa Valley wine train:

    http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/07/16/5-must-dos-on-the-napa-valley-wine-train/ :)

    Paul

  11. Emma says:

    Anywhere that is described as ‘food and wine’ heaven I need to go to! All of the food looks so indulgent, they really seem to value quality out there, the presentation is lovely, especially the edible flower plate. The Solbar really looks lovely, there’s nothing better than eating good food outdoors and watching people go by. Although, I’m a bit hesitant to eat underneath a canopy of trees – always bugs dropping in the food!

  12. amanda says:

    Ha Ha Emma – I think Solage make sure there are no bugs around! The wonderful thing in Napa is the amazing quality of the ingredients. The food isn’t fussy – just fabulous ingredients providing fabulous flavours. The wine matching adds an extra wonderful layer. I will definitely be going back!

  13. Laura says:

    I’m very impressed with the food selection! Food and wine heaven sounds like somewhere I need to go. The 11 course food and wine menu at Single Thread sounds like an experience I need to try. So many amazing food options, if I go I’ll be sure to book in advance.

  14. amanda says:

    Thanks Laura. Did you know that Single Thread was awarded 2 Michelin starts this week? I think that means you’ll have to book immediately!! It is an amazing experience

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