Napa with French Laundry's Chef de Cuisine
My earliest travel memory is of visiting my grandma in Palm Springs with my brothers and sisters when I was 8 years old. We loved going to Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood so much that we did that same trip each year until I was 14! When I travel now, I always want to experience the local cuisine, and I seek out what the area is famed for. I would spend a perfect day in Yountville in Napa Valley because it has so much to offer – great food and wine, art, shopping…all within walking distance of each other. The downtown area is quiet and beautiful as well, which gives you a feeling of relaxation as you walk through town. I'd recommend staying at Calistoga Ranch.
My favorite wineries
1. Chappellet Winery: One of Napa’s oldest family-run wineries, with great Cabernets.
2. Franciscan Estate: With a friendly and well-versed staff, they offer interactive explorations of the winery.
3. Robert Mondavi Winery: Enjoy their famed Fume Blanc and a stroll through To Kalon - one of the most stunning landscapes in all of Napa. A beautiful combo indeed.
4. Ma(i)sonry: Go for a glass of wine and enjoy the art and antiques. This tasting room has an amazing back patio area where you can sit and enjoy music while sipping on some of the best wine the Valley has to offer.
Make sure you don't miss
1. The French Laundry Garden: You can just walk in and see all of the produce that is growing which will eventually be served in all of the restaurants in town. Or ask one of our gardeners for a quick tour. There is also a new addition of a chicken coop, which is fun to stop and see.
2. Ballooning: Napa Valley is beautiful from all angles, so make sure to see it from above.
3. Oxbow Market: There are several restaurants and vendors inside, including Ritual Coffee where you can get amazing freshly brewed coffee. Also check out Kara’s Cupcakes and Hog Island Oysters.
4. Biking: If you are in the mood to get outside and stretch your legs, taking a bike ride or a hike through the Valley is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
My favorite places to eat
1. Thomas Keller Properties: Stop by Bouchon Bakery for baked goods and coffee for breakfast, Bouchon is perfect for a long lunch, and enjoy dinner at The French Laundry or, if obtaining a reservation is a bit elusive, try ad hoc down the street.
2. Fremont Diner: It has a wonderful 50's diner feel, with authentic southern flare. I love the biscuit and ham sandwiches. They have a great brunch, too -- the french toast is absolutely fantastic.
3. Redd and Redd Wood: I love going in for the food and the slightly more urban feel. Both restaurants always have a great bar crowd with a good mix of visitors. Plus, the bartenders make wonderful cocktails.
4. Auberge du Soleil: Right at dusk, as the sun is setting, I like to drive up (about 20 minutes by car) and sit on the patio or at the bar and order champagne with a few bites from the kitchen. The view is absolutely unparalleled and is a great way to end a busy day or begin an evening.
My hidden gems
1. The Uptown Theatre in downtown Napa has some great shows come through, as does the Opera House. If there is a show that evening, it is definitely worth stopping by.
2. Carpe Diem Wine Bar in Napa. They have great wine and food, great staff.
3. If you can get a reservation at Screaming Eagle, it’s definitely worth it.
The place I’m most excited to go to next is Blackberry Farms in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee.