First family vacation recap – Day 2 “Braised Lamb Cheeks”

11 Aug

This summer is passing by so quickly (classes start in just 2 weeks – yikes!) that I realized that if I don’t set aside a regular time to write, it will be a long time before I post any follow up pieces about our vacation…maybe so long that I won’t remember much details. So I’m going to try to blog on Sunday nights – seems like it would be a good way to wrap up the week.

Anyway, so tonight I’m going to start with recapping our recent vacation. I plan hope go on more in the future and this summary should help with the preparation.

I decided to jump straight into second day of our 48 hour mini vacation (we headed out on Tuesday afternoon and got back on Thursday afternoon) because it was the longest and only full day of our trip and therefor the most packed with good eats. If I keep up with this Sunday night blogging exercise, eventually I will cover Days 1 and 3 and even the Pre-trip planning and packing.

But first, here’s our overall schedule for the three days:

Day 1 – Waters Edge Hotel (Tiburon), complimentary wine & cheese reception, dinner (Cottage Eatery) and dessert (Paradise Deli)

Day 2 – Breakfast (complimentary), lunch (Bistro Jeanty), dessert (Bouchon Bakery), COPIA, Oxbow Public Market, snack (Ritual Coffee, Model Bakery), Napa Premium Outlet, dinner (Pizzeria Picco)

Day 3 – Breakfast (complimentary plus Fatted Calf, Model Bakery, Bouchon Bakery), Ark Row, lunch (Fish), Heath Ceremics.

*******************************************

Even though Noah had adjusted to traveling better than we had expected and slept through the night, he didn’t, unfortunately, sleep in like we had hoped that he would. He was awake and ready to play at 6:30 AM *cry*

Luckily, we had the foresight that he would be up so early and ordered breakfast for 7:30 AM. So after nursing him we had our own breakfast, which consisted of mainly cold items. But for a complimentary continental breakfast that was delivered to the room, it was a pretty good deal. I was especially happy to have the hard boiled egg (they even provided mini salt & pepper shakers), fresh fruit and hot coffee (kept hot in a thermos pot).

After breakfast we decided to take a walk around the water front to wear Noah out so that he would take a morning nap (in case he doesn’t nap the rest of the day) but it ended up being too cold so we walked away from the waters and stopped at the supermarket to buy Noah a banana for the day.

After the walk Noah and I both took naps while Charlie read his morning news.

Then we headed out to Yountville where we had an 11:30 lunch reservation at Bistro Jeanty. Ever since we first (and last) visited the restauarnt 4 years ago on our honeymoon (the same trip where we also dined at the French Laundry), Charlie has been dreaming about their lamb cheeks. So it was a very happy surprise (we called on Sunday) to learn that they have outdoor seating (where Noah could be noisy, if he wanted to) and an open table.  What was even better was that “Braised Lamb Cheeks” was listed on the special menu*!

*Apparently our glee at finding the lamb cheeks was pretty funny because when I read the dish name off the “Today’s Menu” board posted at the door, a man sitting nearby who overheard us chuckled.

And as if lamb dish wasn’t rich and fattening enough, we also ordered the bone marrow (forgot the official name), the house special tomato soup in puff pastry (Creme De Tomate en Croute), and beef stew (Daube De Boeuf).

Needless to say, we felt very full (and heavier) after the meal but everything was delicious, especially the Braised Lamb Cheeks, which Charlie has been dreaming about for the last couple of years. This time he was able to taste and identify more of the various spices that went into the sauce so someday he MIGHT attempt this at home (that is, if we figure out where to get lamb cheeks). But until then, Bistro Jeanty is where you will find us!

Prior to the trip I was concerned about how Noah would do in a nicer restaurant and worried that Bistro Jeanty would be a bad place to find out. Fortunately, the setting (in their outdoor patio) and service (our waitress – forgot her name – was very attentive and accommodating) were perfect for our meal. Still, after about an hour, Noah wanted to get out of his seat. So we quickly paid the bill and headed to our next destination down the street – Bouchon Bakery.

Since we were too full to eat anything substantial, I decided to buy only 1 – 2 small pastries to try and 1 to save for later.  It was hard to choose but in the end, I picked their Coffee Eclair, Chocolate Bouchon, and Cherry Cheese Danish. And to wash everythng down, a cup of Americano.

Charlie and I can’t remember the last time we’ve had an eclair so we don’t know how to make comparisons but the Coffee Eclair was too sweet and nothing special. The Chocolate Bouchon, on the other hand, was truly amazing – dense, moist, and very chocolaty without being sweet. It kind of reminds me of the Flourless Chocolate Torte we had once at the Zuni Cafe. I can see why people buy several of these though a dozen might be too many. The Cherry Cheese Danish we saved until the next morning and it was also very tasty – striking a good balance between sweet (Cherry filling) and tart (the cream cheese filling). Bouchon Bakery had a nice outdoor seating area that was pretty empty on a weekday afternoon so we enjoyed our dessert at a leisurely pace until it got too hot to be outside.

After lunch we walked around a few shops hoping to cool off and put Noah to sleep but after about 45 minutes and he showed no sign of sleeping we decided to just move on and head over to COPIA in downtown Napa.

I have been wanting to visit COPIA ever since it opened and having free admissions now makes it an even better time to check it out.

Sadly, you get what you paid for. I don’t know if it was because we went on a weekday but COPIA was a pretty empty and lifeless place on a Wednesday afternoon. A few wings of the museum was being renovated for new exhibits and closed to the public. There was only 1 food “demonstration” (I don’t know if I should even call it that since we didn’t get to see the food prep) and 2 food/wine samplings, both aimed to promote products sold at the museum store. The edible garden outside was very interesting (you can walk close up to most plants and read about the fruit or vegetable or herb) and we would have lingered longer had it not been so hot.  The display upstairs in the main hall which included a video exhibit (food in film) and history of some foods would have been educational but Noah got bored too quickly for us to take the time to read through everything.

In the first place, it’s difficult to put on an engaging display about food without involving our senses of touch, smell, and taste. One of the volunteers told us that they have more activities on the weekends so if anyone plans to visit, I highly recommend checking out their calendar of events first.

The only thing that looked interesting though we didn’t try were the “wine stations” that allow you to get a taste of a variety of wine from other regions. The wine we sampled at a nearby demonstration that day was from Lodi (didn’t even know they produce wine!); it’s good of COPIA to promote not just Napa Valley wines.

The cheapest option is around $2 but it’s not clear how much wine you get for a “taste.”

Luckily for us, downtown Napa had another attraction, the Oxbow Public Market. Charlie and I are big fans of the Ferry Building in San Francisco so we couldn’t wait to visit this one considering that they had a whole different group of artisan merchants. Like COPIA, it was largely empty that afternoon but the quietness was actually pleasant. We took our time strolling through the place, receiving attentive service at every stop. Unfortunately, as we weren’t returning home until the next day and didn’t have a refrigerator in our room, we could only purchase a few items that we could finish within the day.

Views of the Market from one of the entrances. Like the Ferry Building, Oxbow also has a produce stand though on Wednesday, no one was there to browse or shop. Maybe business picked up later in the evening before dinner time?

On the other hand, Oxbow’s in-door seating area is more spacious and it’s easy to assemble your own meal from various eateries.

The beautiful display at Whole Spice.

These “sniffing stations” really work! After smelling one of these we came home with some harissa, a North African spice mix that I later found out was recently featured by both 101Cookbooks and the Wednesday Chef.

We started out by visiting Fatted Calf and Model Bakery to pick up some pate, olives, bread, and cookie for breakfast and snack. Then we got caught up by the wonderful aromas at Whole Spice and did an olive oil tasting at The Olive Press before ending our visit with an amazing cup of Clover made coffee at Ritual Coffee Roasters. There was also a Wine & Cheese wing that we didn’t venture to but the selections there is suppose to be incredible as well.

This is the first time we’ve done olive oil tasting. Basically you go from light and more fruity to heavy and peppery. I stopped sampling after only 3 oils though Charlie went all the way to the end. All I can say is, the Italian stuff (the end of the spectrum) is STRONG! There was a “7 second delay” after tasting and then you cough cough cough! Needless to say, we came home with their lightest oil, which we’ve been enjoying with fresh tomatoes from my dad’s garden (they’re the best!). You can also buy some of their oils in bulk. But lucky for us, the oil we chose wasn’t available in bulk. Otherwise we might have ended spending a lot of $$!

Overall the place reminded me of the Ferry Buildilng when it was first opened, before too many people found out about it. However, the Ferry Building had a strong base to build off of with the long-time farmer’s market so it may take longer for Oxbow to become popular (but not so popular so that it gets too crowded…just enough to stay in business!)

At this point we were full and ready to take a break from food, so we headed out to the nearby outlet for some retail therapy. As always, Charlie found some great deals at Banana Republic (though he CLAIMS that he never finds good deals) while I loitered in the Coach store for close to an hour. Before we knew it, it was already 7:30 PM and that’s when Charlie remembered that Pizzeria Picco (Larkspur) closed at 9 PM. Since it takes an hour to get there, we hurried down the road.

After an hour of intense driving we reached the restaurant at 8:45 PM, just before it closed and grabbed their last outdoor table (the inside is counter-only dining). It took a while for all of us to be seated (Charlie had to find parking and unload all of Noah’s stuff) and the waitress to take our order (I think we finally talked to her around 9:15 PM) but just when we were congratulating ourselves for saving dinner, Noah started to get restless. After offering him everything we could think of and still not being able to pacify him, we finally decided to call it a day and asked to have our pizza and dessert packed “to go.” On the way back to the hotel, I wolfed down dessert (Straus Dairy Soft  Serve with Da Vero extra virgin olive oil and sea salt) while Noah wailed and Charlie drove with a quesy stomach. Had the setting been different, I might have enjoyed it more but as it was, dessert was just soft serve, with some sea salt and olive oil.

The cute outdoor table at Pizzeria Picco (Larkspur). The weather was perfect for sitting outside too! But it was bed time for Noah who had had a full day and desparately wanted to go to sleep.

By the time we put Noah to bed (an hour past his usual bed time, poor kid – mommy and daddy are stupid!) and finally had a chance to have dinner, it was already 10:30 PM.  Still, we tried to make the best of it and set up a picnic spread on the bathroom floor with towels and chilled mineral water provided by the hotel. Even though the salad pizza (we ordered the Ibis Pizza with the Rocket Man salad on top) was cold and the setting a little odd, dinner turned out surprisingly pleasant because of the shared moment.

Although the last few hours of the day were tense, most of the day was actually relaxing and the food excellent. So we will gladly do this again sometime in the near future, except that next time we will dutifully retire for the evening by 9 PM so Noah can get his beauty rest!

More photos from our day:

Sampling a cup of coffee made by the Clover at Ritual Coffee Roasters

After you select the beans (which determines the price of the cup, ranging from $2.75 – $4+) the barista grinds them and performs the magic on the Clover.

After the brewing process, the grounds come out as a “puck.” Our tasty (down to the last drop) cup of coffee paired nicely with the Almond Cookie from Model Bakery located next door.

The selection of meats from Fatted Calf. Too bad we weren’t going home right away!

We got a tiny tiny portion (3 oz) of the house pate and some mixed olives for breakfast. Despite the small purchase, the store clerk was very attentive and packed everything (in double bags) in ice as requested. Sorry I don’t know your name but thanks for the excellent service!

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I had intended to include links for all the places I mentioned but it’s already taken me 3+ hours to write this post so I’ll just leave you to look them up yourself. Thanks!

Okay for those of you who can’t get enough food porn or are just nosy enough to want to see more photos, check out the rest of them at flickr.

4 Responses to “First family vacation recap – Day 2 “Braised Lamb Cheeks””

  1. Crystal August 17, 2008 at 8:22 pm #

    The Clover? Some new coffee thing that I don’t know about? What is it?

  2. jenjapan August 21, 2008 at 11:16 pm #

    Crystal,

    The clover is a machine that makes coffee pretty much the same way as a vacuum, syphon pot except fancier with more controls (at least that’s how Charlie explained it.)

    http://cloverequipment.com/whyclover/why_clover.aspx

    It’s produced by a small start-up but they were recently bought out by Starbucks so who knows what will happen to it.

    Here’s an article about the Clover and other new coffee toys.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/dining/23coff.html

    At home, we just use our syphon/siphon pot powered by an alcohol burner….the coffee taste decent enough to us. We’ll have to make it for you next time you visit.

  3. Min August 27, 2008 at 6:17 pm #

    Dear JanJapan,

    真是詳實的報導,
    寫旅文真是相當費事累人的差事,
    這也是為什麼我內心總有一點小抗拒,
    在時間寶貴的狀況下,
    很容易就被我放棄了.

    看妳這麼一寫,
    我又蠢動著想到napa看看了.
    相當佩服妳的行程,
    我在想我若去應該會下榻Napa附近.
    當然還是以Vacation Rental為主,
    我已經食髓知味了.呵呵!

    Chocolate Bouchon是該店招牌,
    聽來果真不是浪得虛名.
    我似乎看過報導指出,
    Bistro Jeanty的菜單數十年如一日,
    看來好像是真的啊!
    妳去了Fish和Heath了嗎?
    那兩個店是我每去該地必訪之處.
    不知Fish有沒漲價,
    己經不便宜了哩,
    最近真是一片漲價風啊!

    圖片拍得很有感覺,
    期待後續報導.

  4. jenjapan August 30, 2008 at 4:31 am #

    Dear Min,

    I am pretty lazy but seeing how trip summaries on other people’s blogs help preserve special memories, I’m motivated to write up at least one or two trips. So I started with the longest day; hopefully this will make writing about the other two days easier =)

    Ordinarily we would love to stay at vacation rentals but not knowing what to expect on our first overnight trip I wanted to make sure that there would be someone to help us if we needed something in the middle of the night. Also, now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, I cook (and clean up after) 2 – 3 meals a day so it’s nice to have a break when we’re on vacation.

    If you do head out to Napa, Lynmar Estate hosts a “Pizza and Pinot Friday” event that might be of interest to you.

    http://www.lynmarwinery.com/visitus.html
    http://www.lynmarwinery.com/pdf/Lynmar%20Estate%20Pizza%20and%20Pinot.pdf

    I’m not sure if Fish raised its prices but we had the Fish & Chips and it was about $22 – 23, a bit pricey but we shared one dish so the total cost wasn’t too bad. Our friends went the following week after us and the two of them had a tab of about $50 (including drinks). But we were all warned about the prices ahead of time so it wasn’t too bad of a sticker shock.

    Hopefully I’ll have some time over the long weekend to warp up my trip. I am waiting to read about the rest of your Oregon trip too =)

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