It isn’t about prestige, or Michelin Guide – it’s about creating a truly unique Napa dining experience with local vegetables, organic meats and original French techniques.
The French Laundry
Does The French Laundry need much introduction? Probably not; including Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley flagship restaurant in Napa’s best list is vital to dining here. The French Laundry put a spotlight on Napa, long after its vineyards have brought attention to the land, and helped propel his relationship with French cuisine in America. Keller’s name precedes both his Napa restaurants – Yountville’s The French Laundry and Ad Hoc – and his many accolades (James Beard Award winner, Michelin three star rating and the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award). Inspired by classic California living with blatant throwbacks to his time spent in France, fresh, local ingredients and great wine pairings make this reputable restaurant gleam despite its rustic location in a 1900 saloon/ steam laundry.
Solage Calistoga’s hotel restaurant Solbar isn’t just another hotel restaurant. From the culinary expertise of Executive Chef Brandon Sharp, the menu denotes Northern California’s finest and freshest produce with modern French techniques. That “non-intimidating” approach to classic California cuisine is probably what earned Solbar attention from Michelin Guide, though that recognition has hardly stopped the furor of creation (after all, it originated as a bistro with burgers and pizza). “The cooking has French technique and a French backbone to it, but the [entrees] aren’t classical French compositions so they aren’t screaming for Napa Valley Cabs and Chardonnay,” says Sharp. Wine goes hand in hand with any restaurant in the Napa Valley, but sommelier Bradley Wasserman doesn’t feel the need to be bound by local wineries. “It’s a fun juggling act,” says Wasserman about mixing local wineries with those from around the globe.
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Just as laid back as its founding vintner, Press is Leslie Rudd’s vision for truly eclectic Napa Valley dining. The Rudd Estates purveyor created this St. Helena restaurant as a way to redefine Napa dining by combining wine with steak. Press’ farm to table- meets - steakhouse menu is centered around the custom wood grill and rotisserie, which has mesmerized local wineries and haughty diners who accept a la carte meat dishes, like the signature dry-aged beef and grass fed Sonoma lamb, and family style sides. It isn’t just fresh organics that ignite a shock value, it’s the simplicity. “We’re different from other steakhouses because there is a bit of creativity involved, and there is a lot of paying attention to the season and products that we’re using,” says Steven Rogers, Press’ chef. Seasonal vegetables are harvested daily by the local gardener for sides like brussel sprouts with Nueske bacon or truffle mac & cheese.
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen
Sometimes all you need is a stiff drink – at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, a voluptuous cocktail and the great view can hit the spot. But who would really turn down some of Cindy Pawlycyn’s signature dishes, like the Chinatown Duck Burger or Backstreet Fry & Oysters Pablo? It’s a neighborhood eatery, yes, but Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen still has the flare of Cindy Pawlcyn’s signature farm to table cooking. Unlike its over-commercialized brother Mustard’s, you’ll find locals at this classic hangout where the food is still a Napa focal point. Staying true to the best ingredients possible, while making it all accessible, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen is a home away from home. Plus, Cindy’s weekly Supper Club invites residents to join in on an international culinary experience traipsing through some of the world’s most unique cuisines, helping to make this a Napa Valley surprise.
Classic and authentic French countryside cuisine can only come from one place in Napa: Bistro Jeanty. Inspired by the Champagne region and Philippe Jeanty’s French roots, this international escape combines the fresh familiarities of Napa dining with truly traditional French food. “It’s as close to France as you’re going to get, without buying a plane ticket,” says Chef Philippe Jeanty, who opened his classic French bistro in the ‘90s. Patrons find that time and time again Yountville’s Bistro Jeanty serves up dishes as traditional as French cuisine can get –pig’s feet, steak tartar, cassoulet and coq au vin are just a preview. It helps that the wine industry typical of Napa Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon) screams for heartier entrees that are fairly typical of Jeanty’s cuisine.
Bottega isn’t quite established like the other more well known Napa Valley restaurants, but it’s Chef – Michael Chiarello – needs no introduction to the region. The Tra Vigne partner and NapaStyle creator has been educated on Napa Valley’s vineyards since birth, and still managed to surprise us with his latest endeavor. While remaining seeped in “Rutherford Dust”, the roots of Bottega lie deep within Chiarello and his Italian immigrant mother; fine Italian cuisine comes with the territory at any of Michael’s restaurants. When asked why he got back into the restaurant biz after nearly a decade, he simply says: “It’s an addiction.” Addicted to complimentary Italian and California cuisine, you’ll never question the organic house cured prosciutto, pasta fritta and zuppa di melone or the house made egg pappardelle veal, pork and porcini mushroom Bolognese.