Cheers to "New in Napa"
There is a lot of "new" in Napa! New openings, re-openings, and retail launches...the town is in a frenzy over them, and I love it. Napanistas get excited about these beginnings, and even the rumors of new bars, eateries and shops get us talking. We really geek out on this stuff. When we lived in Kailua, Oahu, there was almost never anything new, and when something did finally open, nobody cared! In Napa, I have noticed the following cycle: rumors of a new place (new chef, new owner, new concept), a mad dash to be the first to try it, making it nearly impossible to get a table, and then inevitable reviews of, " meh, its ok". We are truly a very jaded and spoiled lot. Why or how a newcomer on the scene actually "makes it" (Miminashi), or doesn't (The Corner, Fagiani) is often a mystery to me! Speaking of rumors, does anyone have any idea what the old Adobe Hut is going to be? It is driving me crazy! If you do, please let me know!
New on the food scene...
Friday was a perfect day to try the two latest additions that have caused so much buzz recently. We started at the just opened, Archer Rooftop. I have been so looking forward to their unveiling and they were fortunate to have spectacular Spring weather for opening weekend. When the elevators open to the 6th floor, I felt like I had stepped out onto a rooftop bar in Los Angeles or even, Playa Del Carmen. This is what Napanistas live for! This new destination offers a covered dining area, intimate seating circles with comfy chairs, some with fire pits, artisanal cocktails in the RIGHT glasses, and of course beautiful people, both locals and tourists in their trendiest duds! On the other side of the expansive rooftop is the private pool and spa area, which could be a fun place in the summer to lounge around (although I heard a rumor that the pool isn't an actual swimming pool?) The view is the real draw, as the entire rooftop is has incredible views of the Napa hills and pretty downtown. If Ojai Valley has the "pink moment" (when the Ojai mountains are blanketed with the most amazing peach color at sunset), then I think Napa Valley should start to market the "Rosé Moment", because our sunsets are pretty amazing. I could really get used to making the Archer rooftop a regular spot, with a flute of Schramsberg Rosé or perhaps a Cosmo to toast Napa Valley's very own "rosé moment". Who's with me? We returned late night to grab a nightcap, but they had closed early...such a waste of a gorgeous space on a lovely spring evening. I do hope they will be extending their hours; we desperately need an alternative to Eiko's and Napkins as our late night options!
Although the bar food at Archer Rooftop was tempting, we had secured a much-coveted reservation at the other new and anticipated hotspot, Gran Electrica. A Michelin Guide noted, hip Mexican joint, well established in Brooklyn, chose Napa as its second location! Hmmm, wonder what the back story is on that? Why Napa? They have taken over the real estate once occupied by 1313 Main and have completely transformed that space for the better. The former iteration of 1313 was stuffy, sparsely decorated and eerily quiet. With its open front, a back terrace, two bars, one at the front and one towards the back, this place is geared for parties, and the louder the better!
The margaritas and homemade Dorito style chips are a sure ticket to getting people to drink more, even if the food isn't all that we had hoped for. I like to cut a new restaurant some slack for growing pains, especially when they have some good things going for them, so I reserve final judgement. Despite being jam packed, our table was ready for us with just a few minutes wait. The menu is primarily tacos, tostadas, and ceviche, with a few main "platos" and sides a la cart. Sadly they were already out of carnitas. Our server was sweet if overwhelmed, and somehow the order for our sides never got put in, and the wait for our food seemed interminable.
The drinks, most importantly, were all on time and delicious, so our group was happy! At that point we had probably eaten a few too many chips and didn't notice the food. Overall, I am excited about this place, as it fills the niche of a modern upscale Mexican, that just doesn't exist in Napa. Unless the menu changes, it will remain a great option for good cocktails and nibbles, but not a major player on the cuisine scene.
New on the Shopping Scene...
People are pretty excited about the future of First Street, now that two well known shops have opened. All of a sudden, it seems, we might actually have a thriving downtown! Tommy Bahama is not the most exciting of shops, but it will hopefully draw some tourists. TB is a great place for a quick hostess gift; candles, home wares, and they even have a Napa exclusive white linen shirt for men, that I picked up as a birthday gift for my husband. I love their bikinis too!
Around the corner from the wine bar, Compline (future blog, for sure!), is the eagerly awaited, Lush. Also not super exciting, (chain store=meh), it is a known quantity and the younger crowd is pretty thrilled! It is the perfect spot for tourists to deposit their teenagers while they explore other shops that will hopefully be opening soon, or the perfect bribe for my own young teenager. It sure does smell yummy in there, and already has drawn throngs to teenagers...um, not only teenagers. At those prices though, I better try to limit my daughter's visits, if possible!
When the Napa Farmers Market moved to the cinema parking lot, two years ago, I was disappointed. I loved the Oxbow location; it felt just right for a downtown Farmer's Market in Napa, and it was close to my center of activity. A movie theater parking lot isn't quite as charming, but does offer better parking. When the market first moved, I tried to support it, but I found it severely lacking and felt like we could do so much better. There are so many reasons that Napa should have one of the best Farmer's Markets in the nation. We have amazing chefs, creative artists, and incredible bounty! I am still hopeful that our Farmers Market can achieve that. On my most recent visit, I was heartened to see the market buzzing with locals, families, new vendors, and new food tents. When I arrived around 12:00, some of the vendors had already sold out of their specialty food items, which means they too were surprised by the crowds, or maybe just thrown off by the expanded hours. As we get closer to summer, the market will continue to expand (there were several empty spots with cones promising future vendors). If we want Farmers Market to succeed, it needs our help. I encourage all locals to go and buy to support our local artists, farmers, and fellow Napanistas! (Insiders tip: go to the back side of Forge where they have the door propped open to go directly into their restrooms, avoiding the outhouses that are NOT nice!)