Ahhh....Napa. What comes to mind when you hear that word? To me, it conjures up a vision of paradise. I can see symmetrical rows of gorgeous vines in my minds eye. I can almost smell the wood burning ovens and the nose of a big napa cabernet. Wine saturates the air and I dream of masseuses ready to swirl me into a relaxation coma. Rest and relaxation have been on my dome as of late. And what better place to escape than to local wine country? This trip could not have come at a better time. I was close to dropping E off with a pack of wolves before The Husband whisked me away for our 7 year wedding anniversary. My bestie Megan, hooked us up and we had some epic, much-needed relaxation away from the kids. A couples holiday takes on a whole new meaning after you have children. There was no juice to be gotten, grub to cook, dishes to scrub, toys to trip on or pick up, fights to break up, superheros to rescue from jail, or diapers to change. It was just my love and me reconnecting at the amazing Meadowood resort.
Saturday was, in a word, heaven. Sleeping in, enjoying the best room service breakfast, a crackling morning fire, our favorite chill tunes, and lounging in my robe with a glass of wine...no where to go, nothing to do. We did manage to grab a fantastic bite at Solbar and make our way poolside. Tough living, I know!
Sunday was the yin to Saturday's yang and equally enjoyable. One of my favorite parts of our R&R weekend was on Sunday. Without a plan of action, Sunday became a day to stop at some of Napa's finest organic/natural spots.
Since we skipped out on our fancy anniversary dinner at The Press the night before and went to a pizza parlor instead, we decided to do it up a bit for lunch on Sunday. We landed at a relatively new spot called Farmstead.
Ever heard of it? It is now my most favorite place in the whole entire universe! This place was the cherry to my sundae, the seasoned salt to my French fry... the kisses to my kiddos. It was pure happiness.
Farmstead is right off of Main Street in St. Helena. It's gardens surround the restaurant . "Excellence through responsible farming" is what they stand by. They feature an authentic farm-to-table menu highlighting local, sustainable and organic ingredients at their peak freshness. They use only stellar ingredients that are sourced from local purveyors, featuring Long Meadow Ranch's all-natural grass-fed beef, vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, and honey.
On top of that, there is no corkage fee at Farmstead; instead a $2 per bottle fee is collected as a donation to a featured local community-building not-for-profit organization each month. Before my first bite, I was already pretty impressed...I mean, a responsible farming restaurant that only uses the best organic ingredients, plus no corkage fee and donations to local communities to boot? Can it get better than this?
The restaurant and grounds was my idea of exquisite beauty. It was upscale country at it's finest. There were no available tables outside, but that turned out to be quite alright. When The Husband and I were seated, I began to fantasize about what it would be like to live in the restaurant and make it a loft. The interior was that good. I was already in la-la land.
The waiters and waitress all wore plaid shirts and Michael, our waiter, was great. It was clear from the beginning that he was passionate about the food and confident that he worked at the best restaurant in the whole entire universe :). He confirmed that our selections were among their best and most popular dishes and helped guide us to the perfect lunch. No rush, no hurry. The Husband ordered a bottle of ZD chard (one of our faves) and I made a fool of my self strolling around taking pictures. I'm sure I looked obnoxious but I wanted to remember this place forever.
After much thought and some soul-searching, we finally agreed what we would eat and share. We started with grass-fed beef chili with rancho gordo pinquito beans and vella cheddar. I know it's not chili season, but this chili works for any season. It was not overwhelmed with too many ingredients. It was just pure, simple, and dare I say light. Perfect anywhere, anytime. The flavors were rich without being heavy. It was so yummy. The Husband ate most of it, but that was okay because I wanted to order and taste the other 19.5 items on the menu.
For the next course, I couldn't decide between the salad of lacinato kale with chile pequin, lemon and toasted grana or the carmelized beets with goat cheese crema and greens. I went with the beets and I have never been more pleased.
This salad was perfect. I melted with each and every bite. It took maybe 20 minutes for me to eat this salad because I couldn't bare to see the bottom of the cute little white bowl. It was a wonderful mixture of warm caramelized beets, smooth creamy goat cheese, and peppery arugula. I didn't even reach for the salt once during this lunch.
Next up was the cheeseburger on a potato bun with california cheddar and arugula for The Husband, and for me "brick cooked" chicken with savoy spinach, cannellini beans and pistou. I usually wouldn't go for the chicken at a restaurant, I mean, when has chicken ever been anything but...chicken. Michael, highly recommended it and I want to kiss him for doing so. Now I know in this post, everything is the very best...blah, blah, blah, etc.,etc.....but really, this chicken was magical. I have no idea how they made this chicken taste so damn good. It was savory, juicy, rich, succulent, smoky and slightly charred. This may just be my last meal choice, should such an unfortunate fate ever befall me. Kuddos to chef Stephen Barber for some straight up culinary mastery.
The Husband's cheeseburger wasn't too bad either. He is a cheeseburger snob. His long time fav is probably at Houston's. Meat and potato guy likes his burger basically plain so of course, he ordered everything on the side. I will note that The Husband hates ketchup with a passion. However, Michael mentioned that they made all of their condiments from scratch and so I had a little taste-o-roo. The ketchup was so original and amazing that I forced fed him a little taste. He loved it! The guy literally loaded his burger up with this magic sauce. They don't even keep this sauce a secret. You can find it right here, on their website. I know the Husband will want to check out the Jack Daniel BBQ sauce when he sees this. Overall, The Husband was beyond impressed with his grass-fed burger and it has taken over his old fav from Houston's. Yummers!
Next up, was dessert. Any normal person would probably have stopped eating with the amount of food we just consumed, but we love our food :). So we had to try their dessert. I can't tell you exactly what we had but it was yummy. It was some kind of chocolate cake. Now, I do not adore sweets that much but this cake, with its salty caramel tasting graham cracker crust with light fluffy chocolate and cool whip cream was pure happiness. We threw in a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and split a glass of the LMR cabernet (wine made by the owner's of Farmstead). It was the perfect way to end our lunch.
After dessert, we needed to walk around the gardens. This is such a pretty property, the pictures just don't do justice.
I truly wish each and every one of you will experience Farmstead. If you are in the Napa region, or anywhere near it (I am talking about you Sacramento peeps) you have to go. Make the drive, even if it's just for the food. It is worth it. It is my new date night spot ;)
In the Napa Valley, you are surrounded by endless vineyards, gorgeous architecture, and upscale country charm. I love visiting different wineries and seeing how they "do" Napa. Some are ultra modern (Artesa), while others are down home country charm (St. Suprey). I personally like something in between. Enter Frog's Leap.
If I could move into a winery it would be this one. Not because of the seemingly endless supply of wine on property, although that doesn't hurt, but because it is open, clean, unpretentious, "green", and surrounded by organic natural gardens. The big red barn seen from the entrances isn't too shabby to glance at as well.
Next to the big red barn you will see, the vineyard house with a beautiful wrap around porch.
Gorgeous vineyards, gardens where almost 70 different vegetable and fruit crops are grown and sold at local restaurants and farmers markets.
Pastures where sheep and chickens roam.
A sweet secret garden where heirloom peaches, apples, and pears soak up the sun, and the red barn.
The red barn is a ghost winery that was built-in 1884 and is the oldest board and batten building in the Napa Valley. In 1994 they took great care to restore the building to its original splendor and it stands today as a winemaking and fermentation facility.
Owner/Winemaker John Williams says it best:
The way we make wine at Frog's Leap is fundamentally linked to the way we grow our grapes. We believe that a grapevine should be grown in healthy soil that supports all the nutrient needs of the plant and so we started farming organically over 20 years ago. We also believe that most of the great and historic wines of the world have been made from non-irrigated grapevines which is why we dry-farm all 250 acres of our vineyards. We accept the premise that the first responsibility of a wine is to reflect its unique soil, climate and circumstance-collectively referred to as terroir-and therefore it is the duty of the winemaker to be transparent and let the natural beauty of the grapes show through.
Our commitment is to endeavor to make wines of elegance and beauty that will offer immense pleasure in the short-term while holding out the possibility of great reward with proper aging. To us it is simple; wines made to impress rather than to satisfy will typically do neither.
You don't need an appointment at Frog's Leap but it does help. They have tours around the property and wine tasting. I wish we had more time to do a tour because the grounds were gorgeous. Next time we will make that happen.
The Husband and I did some wine tasting in a cozy spot outside.
We started with the 2009 Frog's Leap Chardonnay, then had the 2008 Frog's Leap Merlot. Next up was the 2007 Frog's Leap 'Rutherford', and we finished with the 2008 Frog's Leap Petite Sirah. The wines were really very nice. The chardonnay was clean and bright with flavors of apricot, wet stone, and a hint of vanilla. The Rutherford had layers of black fruit and a hint of black olive, powerful yet lively with a velvety texture. My favorite was the Merlot. It had flavors of plum, chocolate, and pepper and went down smooth and velvety. I also loved the chardonnay. Light, crisp and perfect for a warm beautiful day.
The Husband and I had a great time chillin' there. The weather was warm with a nice breeze. I was most comfortable in a cozy chair under an olive tree while watching The Husband dominate the bean bag toss game they set up in the grassy area.
Our friend, Megan, joined us and I could have stayed all afternoon. Which is what we did, we closed the place down. Megan and I tend to have that effect when we go out :)
Frog's Leap was the perfect ending to a perfect day. A perfect anniversary celebration.
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