Introducing Napanista #1; a blog for all that is unique, edgy and exciting in Napa...
This is my first attempt to share my Napa with you...it might be a little all over the place, and I will touch upon topics that I hope are of interest to locals and visitors alike. My goal is that anyone who skims it, gets one (or more) useful tip or takeaway!
Bye-bye austerity in January, hello luscious February...
January, for so many, means no carbs, no vino, and more exercise! I do feel sorry for my good friend, here in Napa, with a January birthday. She complains that when her big day comes around, everyone is on a diet or challenge! So, yes, January in Napa can be slow. Even the vines seem like they are in deprivation mode (although they are just having a nice long nap!).
Surviving on The Whole Life Challenge in the Food and Wine Capital of America
Since I like to join every trend, my husband and I are also on a six week Whole Life Challenge. Its not our first rodeo, we have done this challenge quite frequently to shake the excesses of living in this town. I believe we have it down pat and we both feel amazing! Annoyingly my husband has lost weight much faster than I have! So yeah, for now it means denying myself some of my favorite Model Bakery muffins, Bouchon cookies, and turning down offers of spectacular wine. It is truly hard to live in Napa and say "no" to all that.
While on the challenge, I have found the handful of restaurants and offerings that have made being on the challenge tolerable, even enjoyable. I am also collecting a list of all the temptations I plan to indulge in once the challenge is done! I'm not positive, but perhaps first on my list will be to stop by Brewed, the new coffee shop at the Napa Premium Outlets (right next to the Sunglasses Hut), that offers about 10 different flavors of cookie dough! On a recent shopping excursion I watched in awe, (and disgust?) as my 'tween daughter devoured
a scoop of the sugar cookie dough combined with chocolate chip cookie dough. Please note: I was a good girl and sipped my unsweetened almond milk cappuccino. To her credit she couldn't finish the entire thing...there's only so much cookie dough that one can consume, I guess, even if you have the metabolism of a middle schooler. They use pasteurized eggs and a heat treated flour, so apparently its not as bad for you as raw cookie dough at home - but definitely not on the Whole Life Challenge compliant list!
Healthy/ Paleo/ Primal Lunch Options in Napa
The hardest part for me when I am on the challenge, is finding compliant and healthy quick lunch options...but it is not impossible.
I have become rather dependent on the Personal Fit Meals created by Chef Aaron, which I keep stocked in the fridge.
Another "Must Have" which I keep stocked in my freezer are the soups, bowls and smoothies delivered in my monthly Daily Harvest box (these are a serious game changer, you can't beat 30 second smoothies!)
I really LOVE to be out and about in town, and I really love a well composed salad, so here are a few healthy lunch options that I have discovered in Napa.
Small World- the mixed lamb and chicken shaved over a Greek style salad. Its been around for years, but this little spot in downtown Napa, tucked away on a side street is something I tend to forget about, maybe because of its tucked away location. It is a favorite amongst the staff at the courthouse and other locals working in the area - and they do a fabulous catering job!
La Taquiza-Another little know spot over on the Whole Foods side of town (in the Vallerga's parking lot). They are famous for their fish tacos and ceviches, but I love the mixed salad with pepitas and raisins and a protein. I usually go for the carne asida (grilled steak) but the grilled shrimp and carnitas are great choices too. Their salsa bar is fantastic, including pickled red onions (sorry to my husband). I ladel various salsas over the salad instead of dressings.
Fatted Calf- their lunch options are hearty, but when on the challenge I choose the razor thin shaved roast beef with arugula and glazed balsamic. There is a huge pile of meat on this, so I would try to share this with a friend. I wouldn't actually call this a salad, to be honest...I would probably ask for double the arugula next time.
C Casa-I love the fresh crab salad with a citrus dressing. Its a large salad, but I manage! I think it would be good to ask for extra avocados if you love them as I do.
Napa Valley Bistro - Their chopped salad is perfectly balanced, and its truly chopped (I do hate it when a menu proclaims it to be chopped and it comes out in big leafy pieces). I have to hold the cheese when I am on the challenge.
Date Nights and Night Life (while on the Whole Life Challenge!)
Admittedly it is hard to combine a night on the town with the Whole Life Challenge rules, but there are options! Last week we had friends visit, and with a pescatarian in the group, and our own limitations while on the challenge, we reserved dinner at the Kitchen Collective, allowing us the option to decide and then cook our own menu. We prepared our meal under the careful observation of the chef, picking up a few tips as we chopped and tossed.
After our hard and sweaty work in the kitchen, we sat down to a lovely dinner of winter kale salad with roasted pumpkin, and garlic shrimp and zucchini noodles (regular spaghetti for our guests). For dessert there was a paleo apple crisp, which the KC staff had prepared ahead. I found it to be a little too sweet, with too much honey. The entire meal was good, but a little basic, and the timing was a tad off, with the salad arriving after our main meal. I do blame myself a little for choosing the menu, but I feel like I could have almost done better if I had cooked at home. The best part of the evening was the great company, not having to do any dishes ourselves, and the amazing bottle of wine that our friend, James, shared with us. (There is no corkage, at KC, which is a big deal in this town, where we all have wine cellars that grow like viruses, and I do mean that in a good way).
This Talisman Red Dog pinot noir (2010) was a real find...I tend to be a Cab girl, but I feel like I had a tiny epiphany that evening. I find many pinots to be too light and a little flat, whereas this pinot had a velvet complexity that was a pleasant surprise. I might now be on an eternal quest, in search of a pinot that can live up to this one. At least he left us a second bottle as a thank you, that I have hidden away in the wine fridge. I do think I need to try more of what this little winery produces and maybe need to trek over to Glen Ellen to their tasting room.
My husband and I gave up our country club membership to join the KC and we are still trying to "figure it out". We certainly feel that we are underutilizing our membership there and need to make more of an effort to go, but sometimes it seems like too much work. After a long day, I don't really want to stand in a kitchen (even a gorgeous one) and cook. Still, I love the concept of the Urban Kitchen, and so I am not giving up yet.
Valentine's Day in restaurants is a bit of a scam. (I had always suspected this, but then it was confirmed to me a few years ago when speaking to a highly reputed chef friend of mine, here in Napa Valley). Instead of going out on that over-hyped up day, I plan to cook my husband and daughter a nice Valentine's Day meal at home. We did have a little pre- V Day date night at Charlie Palmer. I love getting dressed up, and a steak house offers me that option! We have been to the new Archer Hotel's restaurant a few times and had great meals, but I was worried by the reviews of some restauranteur friends who went recently and did not love it. I am happy to report that we had an excellent meal and that the lobby bar and restaurant were full with an eclectic mix of locals and tourists. The only hiccup was that my husband's steak was cooked too rare to his liking, so as I was digging into my salmon and all the sides we ordered (assorted wild mushrooms with caramelized onions and the fried brussels sprouts), while he had to wait for his steak to come back. We shared a half bottle of Schafer Cabernet Sauvignon that paired perfectly with the meal. It was nice to see downtown Napa buzzing with many people out and about in the mild weather.
Crossfit Corner; Bar Muscle Ups
Of course I have to work all the indulgences off with a daily workout! The Crossfit Open 2018 is only a week away, and we know there will be muscle ups in at least one workout! A coach at Wine Country Crossfit showed me this, so I tried it out in my garage gym. It is kind of a cool way to practice keeping the arms to straight and to focus on pulling the hips to the bar.
Until the next edition...
Thanks for reading this inaugural post...I am on the road a lot over the next few weeks, so I will be posting musings from Ojai, Aspen, and Buenos Aires!
If you want to share anything fun, awesome, or unique in the Napa Valley, please let me know!