Local Wally dines at The French Laundry and answers all of your burning questions - Is it work it? How much does it cost? How to get reservations? With photos of every bite!Read More
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Culinary Institute of America (CIA): Lively Discussions (and awesome food) at Conversations at Copia
Conversations at Copia, foodie lecture series hosted by the Culinary Institute Arts (CIA), foodie photos and event schedule. Get tickets now!Read More
Visiting Napa Valley can be super expensive - but it doesn’t have to be. Let me show you how to sleep, eat, and dine for cheap in Napa wine country. This is Napa… on a budget, the tips the NY Times missed!Read More
At a Glance: FARM is a destination restaurant inside the luxurious Carneros Inn focused on delivering an elegant yet casual dining experience using the finest farm to table ingredients. Expect stellar service and stunningly beautiful plates.
Perfect for: Special occasion dining, romantic dining, impress your date dining.
Wally Says: Modern farmhouse, gourmet chefs, I never knew farmers were such foodies!
Napa is filled with lively, upbeat, bistro-vibe restaurants but where do you go when you want a more refined, more elegant dining experience? For that I go to FARM, the upper end restaurant inside the Carneros Inn that features foodie worthy dining in a relaxed and sophisticated setting. The design features a living room styled alfresco lounge, patio dining, cathedral ceilings and two fireplaces, white tablecloths, the works. Date, be impressed.
TIP: If you're driving in for dinner, come a bit early to walk the grounds of this unique resort. It's really unlike anything you've ever seen, a place to bookmark for your next visit.
One of my dining rules is to always start with a cocktail, especially when it's served at a trendy looking bar serving custom craft cocktails. Modern, hip, the bar at FARM is welcoming and friendly and the cocktails creative and sophisticated. And of course, the wine list at FARM is extensive, even featuring wineries within walking distance to the resort. For dinner corkage is $25, waived if you purchase one of their bottles as well.
Farm to Table Dining
Simply stunning plates, beautiful presentation, and flavors, oh yes, the flavors are fresh and vibrant. Make sure you get the Agnolotti, tiny ravioli's with fava beans, green almonds, fromage blanc, and lemon preserve. It's a starter so the portion is tiny but it's so good that you'll need to watch your table manners when the person next to you wants a bite. Um, no, get your own!
In fact, everything appears to be over the top delicious at FARM. Designed by Executive Chef Aaron Meneghelli, the farm-to-table menu showcases simple, elegant food based on the natural abundance of the surrounding region. FARM is refined in presentation and flavors and each dish includes at least one element from the on-site farm. And yes, vegetarians get more than the obligatory nod with plenty of options, all equally delicious.
Expect to spend around $60 per person before drinks for an appetizer and entree. Portions are sized appropriately for the rich ingredients though some might want to add a salad or dessert to round it out. A $115 tasting menu features a 5 course dinner, a great option for a special occasion. Service is polite and professional and the noise level low enough for an actual conversation. Wow, what a concept!
So Napa has plenty of good - great - restaurants, so many that it's hard to choose. That said, FARM should make your short list if you're looking for beautiful plates of exceptional ingredients deliciously prepared.
TIP: Doing a day trip to Sonoma? Make FARM your dinner stop on the way back to Napa.
Now Open for Brunch!
For the first time ever, FARM at The Carneros Inn (4048 Sonoma Highway) is pleased to announce Sunday brunch. Previously only open for dinner, FARM invites guests to enjoy the summer brunch season on FARM’s newly-renovated outdoor patio and with a round of bocce. The family-style brunch will be offered from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. every Sunday, with the first brunch on July 3, 2016.
Designed by Executive Chef Aaron Meneghelli, this elevated family-style brunch will be a play on classic brunch items with Napa Valley nuances. Guests will choose four menu items as a table to be shared family-style for $45 per person. The menu will change weekly, depending on the best local seasonal produce, as well as what is being harvested in The Carneros Inn’s culinary garden. A sampling of Chef Aaron’s brunch dishes will include Smoked Fried Chicken and Waffle with pepper jelly; Beets and Berries with fresh ricotta, garden greens, pistachio, and saba; and Fresh Biscuits with Silverado Trail strawberries, foie gras mousse, and Marshall Farms honey, among others
Cheap Eats in Napa: Napa on a Budget
I'm not going to kid you, dining in Napa can get really expensive but if you follow my advice you can get that Napa dining experience without blowing your budget. And don't forget to check out picnics as a huge way to stretch your dining budget without sacrificing experience.
Eat Where the Locals Do
You don't really think that locals are taking up all the spots at The French Laundry, do you? Nope, they're eating Napa-Style at these budget friendly restaurants:
Eight Noodle: $14.99 lunch special with chicken, egg, pork bun, and rice - drink included.
Gott's Roadside: $10 burger and beer on Tuesday
UVA: $10 burger and beer on Tuesday
Kitchen Door: $1 wings on Wednesday
Hog Island Oysters: Happy Hour deals will make you very happy.
Bounty Hunter: $10 BBQ plate during happy hour
Redd Wood: Craving a steak? Get a ribeye big enough to split, add a pizza and a beer and you barely break $100 for two.
La Luna Market: Nothing upscale here, just solid Mexican food to go that will make your next picnic unforgettable.
Red Rock Cafe and Back Door BBQ: Take out or dine in, this might be Napa's best BBQ. Full dinners for under $20.
Clement's Italian Takeout at Vals: Take out Italian fare in the back of a liquor store. Seriously! To go food has never been so good!
Filippi's Pizza Grotto: This is old school Italian, nothing gourmet, nothing fancy, but if you want huge portions of spaghetti and meatballs or giant pizzas oozing with cheese, this is it.
The Kitchen Door: The "nice" restaurant inside the Oxbow Market with everything from Asian noodles to pizzas, all under $20.
Go Big (But Still Go Budget)
If you have your heart set on dining at the big name Napa restaurants, don't let your wallet boss you around. Instead order smart and enjoy the experience!
Rutherford Grill: Can get pricey but no corkage fee keeps the final tab in check. Sit at the bar, order a grilled artichoke and split an entree and you get all of the experience at a fraction of the price.
Bouchon: Leave the American Express card at home. Just order the Croque Madame, a fancy ham and cheese sandwich with Keller's famous fries - under $20. House wines perfectly acceptable here.
Bistro Jeanty: Lovely French restaurant, get the Coq a Vin (chicken, mushrooms, red wine sauce) for a mere $23.
Don't do Lunch, Do a Picnic
Picnics and Napa go hand in hand even if you're not trying to save money. I like to start early in the morning at Oxbow Market, gathering cheese and meats and bread before my first tasting. (Tip: bring some ice from the hotel to keep things cool and that extra blanket in the closet). Then I like to aim a tasting at one of the wineries that allow picnics and combine some wine tasting with my lunch.
Remember, not all wineries allow picnics and of those who do some are significantly better than others. Here is the complete Napa Picnic list but below are my favorites.
Rombauer: Way off the beaten track, picnic tables under the redwoods, nice and secluded.
Napa Cellars: Terrific picnic spot with wines by the glass.
Clos Pegase: Picnic next to the vineyard in the shade, drink wine, fall asleep :-)
1 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574| (707) 967-4695
AT A GLANCE: High quality farm to table dining at the Harvest Inn's Charlie Palmer restaurant. Hidden gem, food will not disappoint.
With five culinary gardens on site, Harvest Table prides it self on serving local seasonal dishes that highlight the Napa Valley’s agricultural prowess. Even the honey comes from the garden bees used to pollinate the crops. Needless to say the dishes are inspired and constructed with a familiarity of farmers market style cooking. These guys take farm to table seriously!
The two open patios blend seamlessly with the inner dinning room and present a connection with the forested grounds of the Harvest Inn. The restaurant setting is detailed but not elaborate and is a place where comfortable conversations thrive.
The menus are split between lighter and more robust options with equal weight given to both. The roasted Carrots with Granola were a great introduction into the Harvest Table’s mantra of fresh/local. And as the Chef Levi Mezick hails from the south, the Shrimp and Grits have an unmistakable authenticity and passion. The octopus salad, with octopus slow cooked for 4 1/2 hours and then finished on the grill, was an excellent companion for the Domain Caneros Brut (2010) and spring heat. The Pork Chop—paired with Polenta and morels with fresh pea greens reminding the garden beds are a stones throw from the table—was cooked perfectly. We finished with a mentionable Chocolate peanut butter bar and a Rhubarb Shortbread; both nothing less than delicious.
If you're wine tasting in St. Helena and getting a bit hungry, take a detour and stop in for a bite at the bar. Oysters, Pommes Dauphine (fancy Tater tots), Crispy Pork Head, a Burger, and homemade ice cream sandwiches, can all be found on the bar menu. I'll be on the patio :-)
GUEST BLOG AUTHOR BRIAN LARSEN