Posts tagged ‘Napa Valley’
Cindy Pawlcyn has been a mainstay in Napa Valley for more than two decades, when she scored her first success with the still popular Mustards Grill. Her latest venture, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, is located in a charming house in St. Helena, CA. This quaint gem also has an adorable little courtyard for outdoor dining (which I’m sorry I didn’t snap a picture of for this post).
Backstreet Kitchen is just the antidote for too many fancy dinners in wine country. It’s a bit off the beaten bath, and not typically a place to see and be seen, though we did spot Kate Spade at the next table. And the menu screams casual, so you’ll find something to your liking whether you are craving a salad or a full meal. We ordered several small plates to start and passed them around the table–rabbit tostada, Vietnamese lettuce wraps, and quail salad. Dinner entrees ranged from mushroom tamales to tuna with soba noodles (the winner of the bunch). All the dishes were visually appealing and tasted just as good.
The Chinatown Duck Burger with house made mushroom ketchup is reputed to be incredible, but having made a stop earlier in the day at Gott’s Roadside Stand, a burger of any kind was not in the cards.
Pork chops, meatloaf, grilled cheese, pollo loco and fresh fish round out the creative menu.
This being wine country, Cindy’s Backstreet of course has a discerning wine list. Our very fine waiter steered us to a Charbono, a wine grown only in California. Its exclusivity tends to put it in a cult category of sorts, though without the hefty price tag.
This may not be the most sophisticated meal you have while in wine country, but don’t discount it. We all enjoyed our evening immensely and left feeling very relaxed and satisfied.
Ever heard of Taylor’s Automatic Refresher? It was the model for Rob Dalzell’s now shuttered Chef Burger, but it has drawn crowds in St. Helena and Napa for years. It recently changed hands and is now called Gott’s Roadside, but nothing else has changed.
This is no ordinary burger drive-in, though that’s exactly what it looks like. There is a long list of hamburgers, ranging from the Wisconsin Bacon Blue to the Texas burger. The ones we sampled were good, not great. But you can also order a cobb or Chinese chicken salad, chicken sandwiches in the style of the burgers, and even fish tacos. I had the ahi tuna burger, a thick tuna steak cooked rare and topped with Asian slaw and ginger wasabi mayo and served on the same egg bun as the other sandwiches. Sauces dripped down my arm as I sunk my teeth into this hefty two-hander–it was fabulous.
We sampled regular French fries, garlic fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings, none of which compared to Blanc Burger in Kansas City, but we managed to devour them anyway. The milkshakes, on the other hand, were winners. It’s probably best to judge a restaurant by how well they do a vanilla or chocolate shake, but we went for the mint chip and espresso bean shakes and they were outrageously delicious…and the perfect thickness. Not so thin that it’s like milk and not so thick that a straw is useless.
A good selection of beer and wine round out the menu, which is something you don’t often see at a roadside stand.
This is not a drive-in in terms of ordering. You walk up to a window, place your order and wait for your name to be called before hauling your tray to whatever free table you can find. There’s no indoor seating, though covered outdoor seating is an option in inclement weather. On a typical California day, the ideal place to sit is at one of the backyard picnic tables.
I have heard that the food is not as good at Gott’s as it was at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. Though I never had an opportunity to try the original roadside stand, based on our experience I would buy that assessment. However it’s a very fun place to go on a pretty afternoon. I would definitely go back for the atmosphere and the ahi tuna sandwich. Probably a salad, too, if my snooping around the tables is any indication.
The fact that I was on a long-awaited family vacation may have influenced my thinking. Or perhaps it was the relief of leaving behind Kansas City’s high humidity and temperatures. But a recent visit to Solbar restaurant in Napa Valley confirmed all the hype…this is a very special spot. We sat outside surrounded by palm trees, a fountain displaying water and fire, and a Beverly Hills-style pool, the combination of which set the stage for a very fun evening.
Recently awarded a Michelin star, Solbar is a trendy dining locale within Solage Calistoga hotel, showcasing the fresh produce of nearby farms in Northern California. Very capable servers steer diners through a creative menu and help pair selections from a stunning wine list.
The cuisine is quintessential Calfornia fare, beautifully presented–chile-rubbed pork cheek tacos, a stunning tuna carpaccio, summer bean and miso stew, scallops with a tomato-caper vierge, chicken with beet and avocado purees, and “lucky pig”. The latter dish is for two and requires some assembly to make lettuce wraps and taco-like sandwiches with sesame crepes.
We explored two wines side by side, including a bottle of Chateau Montelena Zinfandel, not the grape featured in the movie “Bottle Shock”, but another enjoyable varietal, and a Keenan Merlot, which was very food-friendly.
Dessert was the exclamation point to a fabulous meal, the “We All Scream” sundae. Ever heard of popcorn ice cream? Combine that with a scoop of peanut ice cream, cinammon peanuts, caramelized bananas and, of course, hot fudge sauce, and nothing more needs to be said.
My idea of a perfect evening.