Once upon a time in Napa Valley, people had to go up valley to Yountville or St. Helena for fine dining. Those days, thankfully, are long behind us.
One of the top restaurants in Napa Valley—indeed, in all the Bay Area—is La Toque, which is inside the Westin Verasa Hotel in downtown Napa, on the same street as the Oxbow Public Market. Known for its creative and oft-inspired pairings of wine and food, it is a Michelin one-star restaurant and has been for more than a decade.
Ken Frank in action. Photo courtesy of La Toque.
Late last year Jennifer Kaiser and I had an exemplary meal at La Toque and sat down beforehand for a talk with its executive chef and owner, Ken Frank, who noted that his favorite word appeared between “delicatessen” and “delight” in the dictionary.
“Delicious is my favorite word,” he said in our interview, which was published in the current issue of The Preiser Key magazine. “Food has to look good. It has to be interesting. And at the end of the day it needs to be flat-out delicious.” Continue reading
One of the unexpected pleasures of a visit to wine country is how much art there is to see, and these pleasures include the Grape Crusher Statue, a landmark monument at Vista Point in Napa Valley.
Since its erection in the 1980s millions of cars have driven by it and hundreds of thousands of people have stopped to see it. In this sense it is like the “Welcome to Napa Valley” signs on Highway 29—a place to meet up and shoot selfies and have pictures to show the folks back home that you were there, you really were in the land of wine.
At least one couple has gotten married at the Grape Crusher. And its creator, sculptor Gino Miles, jokes that one or two babies may have been made up there too. There is a small parking lot there, a perfect spot for having lunch, enjoying the views, and apparently doing other things as well.
“I’m not from around here,” a woman visitor told this writer as she was trying to find the right angle to take a picture of the Grape Crusher. “But I saw it driving by the other night when I was going to a concert, and I had to come back and see it.”
Those who do what she did—stop and get a closer look at the Grape Crusher—are rewarded by picturesque views of the surrounding hills, Napa River and the wetlands of San Francisco Bay. It is not called Vista Point for nothing. Continue reading
My vote for the best breakfast place in Napa goes to Alexis Baking Company and Café. And no less an eminence than actor and bon vivant Kyle MacLachlan shares this sentiment with me.
MacLachlan is best known for his role as Special Agent Dale Cooper in the long ago David Lynch TV series “Twin Peaks,” as well as such shows as “Portlandia, “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex and the City.” He also owns a winery in his native Washington, knows Napa Valley like a local, and on an episode of “The Getaway” on Esquire TV he has recommended the ABC Café for its hearty and satisfying breakfasts.