Napa Valley: Nature’s Beauty and Bounty

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And now we are on to my favorite part of our California trip : Napa Valley.

Napa Valley is one of my favorite cities in California. That being said, this was (only) my second time to visit. Aside from its close proximity to San Francisco, it is a place known for its beautiful scenery, good weather all year round and amazing food and wine scene. The region’s excellent soil and weather conditions, give them such fertile ground, making it a perfect place to grow olives, nuts, fruits and yes, wine.

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We arrived the night before and so the next day we were up and running (excitedly) to the first restaurant on our list : Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery.

Thomas Keller is known to be one of the first “celebrity chefs”. Multi-awarded and named several times as the Best Chef in America, he is well renowned in the culinary scene for his Michelin-starred restaurants. He is the only American chef given 3 Michelin stars for two restaurants : French Laundry in Napa Valley (watch out for it in my next post!) and Per Se in New York.

Then of course, he has this more casual laid-back dining place, Bouchon Bistro, given a 1 Michelin star rating.

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And so our first meal in Napa Valley was in Bouchon Bistro.

The moment we sat down, we were greeted with artisanal baguettes and fresh butter strewn across our table.

Collage 1We ordered their Salad of Heirloom Tomatoes and Ricotta Cheese with Basil Vinaigrette, French Onion Soup and Salmon Tartare, served with hardboiled eggs, red onions, capers and creme fraiche.

Collage 2We were also able to try their Creamy Chicken and Corn Ravioli  (which the kiddos enjoyed), Croque Madame, made on housemade brioche and topped with Mornay sauce, Maine bouchot mussels, steamed with white wine, Dijon mustard & saffron and Poulet Roti or roasted chicken with corn, braised Swiss chard, oyster mushrooms and chicken jus.

The dishes on the menu were traditional French-bistro fare. It is French comfort food, but done with the Thomas Keller flair.

Bouchon Collage 1For dessert, instead of getting from his restaurant’s menu (some of the choices were profiteroles, tart au citron, pot de creme, etc), I decided to go next door instead to his Bouchon Bakery . It was really just my excuse so I can finally try Thomas Keller’s famous macarons. In fact, his Bouchon Bakery turned out to be more packed than his restaurant!

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So what was my favorite among all his macarons? The Salted Caramel. And it was the perfect pairing for my hot cup of Cafe Latte at the end of the meal. It had the right combination of sweet caramel and sea salt that I’m declaring it as probably one of the best Salted Caramel macarons I have ever had!

Collage 3 copyAfter having a full meal, it was time for us to go walking! As mentioned earlier, Napa Valley is renowned for its vast wineries and vineyards that produce some of the world’s best wines. It is a wine lover’s haven.

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The most enjoyable part is actually walking inside the wineries and learning more about the wine’s history and culture, the process of wine making and of course, the art of wine tasting.

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The wineries, vineyards and cellars are always a sight to behold!

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We visited a couple of wineries on our list. But this one at Silver Oak was one of our favorites. Look at that huge bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon the lady placed in front of us for wine tasting!

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Napa Valley is also known for its beautiful accommodations. This place has a lot of cozy motels and inns, chic bed and breakfasts, luxurious hotels and resorts to fit every budget and lifestyle.

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One memorable and gorgeous place here is : Carneros Inn.  It has an expansive outdoor pool surrounded with greens and a sweeping view of the mountains and the countryside!

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This one shows The Farm, which is one of the restaurants in the property and the Market, which is their lifestyle store where you can stock up on your picnic essentials, buy a bottle of wine or take home some wine country gifts.

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The burst of orange mixed with muted grey all over the resort is also a nice, refreshing touch. Definitely, not your typical color scheme for a resort hotel.

I surely fell in love with the design and architecture of Carneros Inn . It has such a lovely balance of rustic charm and modern luxury in a country setting.

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It was indeed a few wonderful days to have been surrounded by nature’s beauty and bounty. We were blessed with good food, great weather, lots of sunshine, warm embraces of family and endless laughs with friends. It was a nice and sweet getaway.

Grateful for this beautiful experience.

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