The food in Napa Valley is really good--simply put! Here are a few places that we especially enjoyed:
ZuZu (Tapas): Located in the historic Old Town district of Napa, ZuZu's takes a fresh approach to traditional Mediterranean recipes. Try the Queso Frito (Manchego cheese with roasted poblanos and Guajillo salsa), Morccan barbecued lamb chops, or clams and chickpeas in a white wine sauce to waken the tastebuds.
I love tapas because you can eat as little or as much as you want--perfect for a light lunch, afternoon snack, or casual dinner after a busy day of sightseeing. At ZuZu's, you will enjoy the easy-going atmosphere as much as the food. Be sure to say "hello" to the owner, Mick, who is sure to be one of your servers.
Bottega (Italian): This is no spaghetti and meatballs trattoria! Chef Michael Chiarello creates dishes reminiscent of meals served in some of the best restaurants in Italy. The polenta with carmelized mushrooms and balsamic game sauce is truly heaven in a jar!; and the Bistecca alla Fiorentina is one of the best I've eaten (and I've had my fair share!).
Don't be surprised should celebrity Chef Chiarello step out of the kitchen, serve plates to patrons, and enthusiastically share his trade secrets. Chiarello is simply being true to his Italian roots!
Mustard's (American Grill): When I think of "American Grill" my mind automatically conjures up diner fare--burgers and fries. You can order burgers and fries at Mustard's, but you are seriously missing out on some fantastic alternatives if you do! For starters, the sweet corn tamales with wild mushrooms and tomatillo-avocado salsa is nothing short of lip-smacking good. A daily special, the Truckstop Deluxe, promises meat (always), potatoes (usually), and vegetables (rarely). I tried the Truckstop Deluxe and was served a flat-iron steak that nearly melted in my mouth, roasted potatoes and perfectly prepared broccolini.
Chef Cindy Pawleyn obviously knows her way around the culinary scene with two additional Napa Valley restaurants: Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen and Go Fish. Because of Mustard's popularity, you will need a reservation--even for lunch. If, like me, you forget, squeeze in at the bar while waiting for a table--Mo (Maurine), the bartender, will entertain you with local folklore and history!
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen (Californian Home Cooking): Piquillo peppers stuffed with cumin braised beef and charred tomato sauce; slow-cooked duck, chicken, and chorizo cassoulet ... need I say more? Did I tell you this is another Cindy Pawleyn restaurant? Mmm-mm good!
Ad Hoc (American Family Style): A unique concept that I found refreshing and utterly delicious: a prix fixe, 4-course chalkboard menu that changes daily, served family style. Chef Thomas Keller, more known for Napa Valley's upscale French Laundry restaurant, sought to create a more casual neighborhood establishment. As a result, Ad Hoc has become wildly popular with locals and visitors.
The recipes are akin to those found at French Laundry, the prices are not (a French Laundry 9-course prix fixe menu runs $240). The menu features old favorites with a new creative spin. It was here that I fell in love with sunchokes!