We had one week for a trip… kind of like a last hoorah before the craziness of school started. We wanted a destination the children had not been before, and we wanted the destination to be a short flight from Los Angeles. Napa Valley was the right spot for our family vacation.
We flew to San Francisco in the late afternoon, rented a car upon arrival, and made our way to Napa Valley. Fortunately, the traffic was minimal, and we were at our hotel after driving a little over an hour.
We decided to stay at the Westin Verasa Napa in a one-bedroom suite. The hotel has a nice pool, fitness center, and two restaurants. We loved the accessibility to the hotel. As native New Yorkers, being able walk to restaurants and shops is always appealing. Our first night, we wanted something simple (and, of course, delicious). We made a bee-line for Gott’s Roadside. It is Americana cooking at its best. I am particularly fond of their ahi tuna burger. A nice, full fillet with a teriyaki marinade. My son ordered the hot dog, which had a nice smokiness to it. It also had the much-required snap when you take a bite. Naturally, we got milkshakes to accompany our meals.
After a good night’s sleep, we explored. Since Napa is known for having great food, we decided to have breakfast down the street at Oxbow Public Market, which is an amazing group of many local purveyors. There are local coffee roasters, bakeries, olive oil producers, and a few sit-down restaurants. Hog Island Oyster Bar and Chef Todd Humphries’ Kitchen Door recently opened locations there. We chose to have freshly baked pastries from Model Bakery.
Since this was a family trip with two ten-year-olds, we needed to make it interesting for the children. We decided to drive to St. Helena and Mount Veeder. We loved the idea of seeing redwood trees. Our compact rental car was ill-equipped for the roads. The higher we went, the more unexpected curves in the road appeared. Getting stuck was definitely a concern! Between the redwoods and the views, however, my worries faded. The valley below was beautiful with all the vines stretching for acres.
We were famished after the drive and decided to go to V. Sattui. It is a beautiful winery with an Italian food gourmet market. They have picnic tables for you to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. In my opinion, food always tastes better al fresco.
After spending the majority of the day out and about, we went back to the hotel and relaxed by the pool. When traveling with children, I think it is always good to choose either the beginning of the day or a couple of hours after being out for some downtime. Let them relax or get rid of some energy. This will make sightseeing a lot easier and more pleasant.
We went to dinner at Farmstead. The atmosphere was comfortable and beautiful. The interior has an open kitchen into the dining room. It was rustic chic. My daughter wants to become a baker, so any chance to see a professional kitchen is a plus. The service was attentive and welcoming, and the food was superb. There, I had one of the best roast chickens of my life. The portions were decent, so we didn’t have much room for dessert, but we all seemed to find a section in our stomachs to indulge.
The Scharffen Berger chocolate cream pie with graham cracker and whipped cream was unbelievable. Perfectly rich, light, and airy. To have only one bite would be impossible. My children had the “Big Easy” beignets with bourbon caramel sauce. They were warm with dusted confection sugar, and the sauce was the perfect finish. Any possible need for beignets at New Orleans’ Café Du Monde was satisfied for at least the evening.
On our last day in Napa, I made sure to keep the activities minimal. The Culinary Institute of America has a campus specifically for novices with an opportunity to take classes. Called Copia, it is located next to the Oxbow Public Market. They have family classes on Sundays that last one hour, which we did as a surprise for my daughter. This class was on mac and cheese. It was interesting to sit in the theater and listen to the chef talk about different styles of cooking. The children learned about the four mother sauces (which are the basis for all French cooking) and the different styles of mac and cheese. At the end, they were able to taste some finished mac and cheese!
I certainly cannot wait to go back and explore some more in Napa. It was a delight for the whole family.