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Thursday, January 15, 2009

I ♥ Napa Valley ~ 酒鄉之旅

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I want to share with you the wonderful Napa Valley trips I took back during the week of New Year with some lovely people. It is truly a beautiful place to spend a relaxing weekend especially during early summer. I’ve been to the wine county several times but have never written about the places that I visited. Although it should be included on your Napa’s things-to-do, there is more to do than just wine tasting. Take a look at this site for the Musts when you’re there.

My original plan for the week was to head down to LA to hunt for fabrics for a project and to visit a friend who moved there recently but it got cancelled last minute. I didn’t want to spend my vacation sitting at home so I rallied up cousins and friends and headed to Napa.

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First stop was Thomas Keller’s charming Bouchon Bakery in Yountville (outposts in Las Vegas & NYC too), which is right next door to his Bouchon Bistro. A trip to the bakery has been planted in my mind since I bought this beautiful book - Indulge by Claire Clark (Head Pastry Chef at Bouchon’s brother restaurant – The French Laundry), which I am still yet to try all those yummy recipes in the book!

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There were 3 of us so together we ordered a couple pastries to share and my favorite was the butter croissant; it was just delish! My brother and cousin loved the chocolate croissant, the pear tartlette, and the lemon meringue tartlet =) If you don’t live locally or won’t be visiting anytime soon, you can have a taste of their yummy treat - Chocolate Bouchon Mix, which they sell exclusively at Williams-Sonoma’s.

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Next stop was the Dean & Deluca gourmet market in St. Helena, which by the way is only 15 minutes drive from the bakery and right across the street from the V. Sattui Winery. After discovering this store from my trip to NYC last winter, I have fallen madly deeply in love with this place!! Everywhere the eye could see, there was food -- fresh seasonal produce, a cheese counter, fresh bread, a meat counter, a chocolate and confectionary case, olives, foie gras, black truffles, Mariages Frères tea, Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract, edible gold/silver, a wine store, and a lot of imported foods and spices; this was a gourmand's dream store! There also was a gadget wall, a bakeware shelf, a deli, a small café, and a wine store stretched out on the other side of the store that offers wine tasting and housed many large format bottles and unique or rare wines.

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We spent an hour in the store, wandering around, adding goodies into my basket left and right and by the time I was at the cashier – it was overflowing! I know from now on this is a place I will return often to restock hard-to-find ingredients.

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We stopped at Buster’s Southern Barbeque in Calistoga for our late lunch. I have been dreaming of their Tri-Tip sirloin steak since my brother brought some home on his last Napa trip - so tender and juicy – just to die for! We killed a whole sirloin steak within 20 minutes^^

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We stopped by the downtown area near St. Helena because it was lined with beautiful stores and restaurants. However, we didn’t realize they were closing the door early for the holiday so I only get to do window shopping! I suppose I can stop by next time. We called a day at about 4pm because I have to make it home to join friends for the count down for New Year, which we did so over wine and this yummy treat that I whipped up =)

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Fast forward a couple days - I was up in Napa again but this time with a group of friends. They wanted to visit wineries and to stock up wines for the upcoming Lunar New Year and of course, house parties. Since many are fans of the V. Sattui Winery, we stopped there first. While they were wine tasting, I was out snapping pictures and sneaking out to the Dean & Deluca store right across the street to buy the fruit purees that I forgot to pick up.

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We enjoyed a light picnic of bread, artichoke cheese dip, chicken salad and sips of Gamay Rouge - 1 of the 3 winning rosé wine that is bursting with ripe strawberry flavors - at the winery. It was great time spent with lovely people. We then moved onto Robert Mondavi Winery.

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Founded in 1966, the winery's beautiful architecture reflects the missions of early California history. Out in the back of the building, there is a sitting area over looking the vineyard and a beautiful, small but bountiful garden where organic veggies were grown. It sort of reminded me of Jamie Oliver’s garden. It was just a lovely sight! We went to another winery afterward, which I didn’t catch the name. It was closed for the holiday so I didn’t get to explore! Oh well, there is always next time =)

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The sun was already setting when we left Napa to go back home, good time always fly without one ever know it ;)

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19 comments:

  1. thanks for sharing, your photos are always so amazing!!! I wish I could travel there, land of all gourmet!!!!!

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  2. gorgeous pictures! the gourmet market looks incredible :D

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  3. I ♥ Napa Valley 嘅 Factory Outlet, All you can drink 嘅 Winery !!

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  4. u know how dangerous it is to let me know that u had alots of this kind of books,because i will probly went to your house and rob all those books,haha! lucky im far away from your home. nice pic!!!! clear and sharp.... u know how to read in japanese as well eii??

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  5. It seems like a nice trip, and what nice pictures!
    Boucheron bakery is quite inspiring for me...

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  6. Thank you so much for posting these photos. I love Napa Valley also. Have never been to Bouchon Bakery so really enjoyed seeing that. The Dean & DeLuca in St. Helena is my favorite (oh, except for the original in SoHo ;-) Makes me want to visit!

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  7. hi! i met your friend of yours a few weeks ago who directed me to your site. my husband and i are about to head to napa ourselves in 2 two weeks. can't wait to go! these pictures are amazing (as is the rest of your site)!

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  8. 你影既相好靓啊~~你住系美国边度啊?

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  9. Hi all,

    Napa is just gorgeous! I hope you all will pay it a visit someday =)


    breadpitt – yes, I am multilingual ^^ Thank god that I can read Japanese or else I would have missed out on some of the best books on dessert/crafts!

    Alice – Hi there! You’re one of the friends Dave met on his recent trip? I hope you and your husband will enjoy your stay in the Bay Area and Napa. Btw, you may want to look into dinning at the restaurant at The Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena and Bistro Don Giovanni for brunch (must try their BOSTINI TRIFLE dessert; it is to die for!!!)

    乜系你啊 – 謝謝你呀﹗我住o係西岸既舊金山灣區^^

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  10. Hi Vi,
    yes, same here. From time to time, I'd go to Napa and stop by at Yountville to visit/eat at Thomas keller restaurant. Most often when we have family visit from overseas, we take them there. They love it. Your photographs are beautiful. I enjoy visiting your blog.
    Cheers,
    Elra

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  11. im a multilingual too but japanese is not in the list lol..... haiz , im doubt now because im considering to learn japanese go french ...

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  12. Happy Lunar New Year!! Wish you all the best!!

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  13. Vi 呀,

    心想事成 + 很老土嘅恭喜發財 !!

    ^++++++++++++++++++^

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  14. 每一張相都看到你的愉快生活....
    好靚的相片總給人想去旅行的感覺..

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  15. Elra – It seems that all my out of town friends have put Napa on the top of their list too. I can only afford going to the Bakery and Bouchon but hoping someday French Laundry would be within reach^^

    breadpitt – I would suggest that you go with Japanese if you can read kanji (Chinese characters). Tackle the easier of the two first....

    豬小姐 + 萍水過客 – 祝你你新年快樂﹗恭喜發財﹗
    yy – 咁你幾時來灣區旅行呀?﹗我一定會盡地主之宜^^

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  16. Hi Venus-
    I'm also a friend of Dave's in Chicago. Just wanna drop a note and say I love your photography work... esp. pix of landscapes and still-life!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Bernie

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  17. Hi Bernie,

    Thank you for your kind notes! I didn’t know that Dave took on the job for being my publicist. I must take him out for yogurt now ;p

    Come by often!

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  18. Hi Venus,
    剛剛看完你大部份BLOG之文章及圖片,你的相片及甜點非常漂亮....
    我沒想到California有如此美麗的景色, even though i lived there for awhile. I think if I ever go to Cali. for traveling again, I'll go to Napa Valley and take the wine train also!
    甜點的話,我最欣賞你的PH MACAROON, 好正呀!
    請問你在哪裡買到Pierre Herme的cookbook? I've been finding on half.com or ebay.com, but couldn't find it at all. Pls kindly advise. Thanks much!
    Here is my email address: evatsang@yahoo.com
    Best wishes, Eva

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  19. Hi Eva,

    Thank you! Napa is a lovely place, especially in spring & autumn!

    I buy my PH books off amazon and half.com too. The macarons book is from amazon Japan. It is currently published in French and Japanese only.

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