Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wine Country – Part 2


Back with Part 2 of my Wine Country weekend with my daughter!

After we left the HGTV Dreamhouse (I’m STILL waiting for them to show up on my doorstep with the keys!) we headed down Napa Road from Sonoma to Napa, where we were staying at the Westin Verasa.


It was comical trying to catch the “Napa Road” sign as I couldn’t slow down enough and was catching all the green lights (this is the view out the side window).



More vineyards and beautiful wineries all along the road to Napa.


Heading into the town of Napa.


I didn’t find Napa to have the charm of Sonoma, but it looks like they are trying to “pull together” their town.  Lots of new construction going on.


Some of the new construction.  Looks like a mixed-use building, with retail on the bottom level.


Same building group as above.  I like the architecture of the building.


I thought this was interesting.  It was a retail area with a church smack in the middle of it.  It’s a beautiful church though with it’s steeple and gothic characteristics.  An old theater is on the right.


A sad note… My friend told me about this place called COPIA, which is an upscale food, wine and art center in the heart of Napa.  According to an article in the Press they are looking for cash to continue operations.  It was an incredible place.  Read the article at the Press Democrat link above to learn more.

The huge parking lot was sadly barren.  It seems the recession has affected us all.


Finally to our hotel, the Westin Verasa. 

A view to the front desk, complete with wine bottle storage all across the back wall.  Very Napa!  They were all empty though.  Do you think the employees drank them?   They did look very happy!


The lighting fixtures MADE the reception area.  View to the back patio and pool area.  Of course, the first thing my daughter wanted to do was go swimming!  This was outside in February in Northern California mind you!   I acquiesced, but sequestered myself to the hot tub!


A view from a side hallway into the back part of the reception area.  The lighted niches in the wall were very dramatic and beautiful.


Another view of those fabulous light fixtures.

 Hotel Exterior

The bar area.  There was no sitting at the bar for us on this trip (my daughter is only 11), but I loved the ambience. 

The hotel also features Chef Ken Frank and his award-winning restaurant La Toque, which was named one of the “Best Restaurants in America” by The Wine Spectator. 

Hotel Exterior

The rooms were very nice.  Ours was like this, with the mini-kitchen.  Complete with cookware and a microwave  if you want to heat up your leftovers!  My daughter loved the room!


Finally, before heading out to dinner and waiting on our driver (compliments of the hotel in a Mercedes GL550 - gorgeous!), we waited outback by the pool and this very cool water /fireplace feature.  That’s Rachel trying to stay warm!

Onto dinner!  We ate at a fabulous restaurant called Elements Restaurant and Enoteca at 1400 Second Street, Napa.  The menu is just that… little elements….small plates, pretty much appetizer and salad portions. 

Charles Weber, executive chef of Elements.

This restaurant was incredible.  And, not only are they environmentally friendly, but socially responsible too.  Here’s a sampling of what they do…

Instead of offering bottled water and creating all that glass or plastic waste, it offers house-filtered water in reusable flasks.  Its menus are printed on acid-free, recycled paper.  All kitchen waste is composted.  All glass, plastic and paper waste is recycled.  It participates in Recork America, a program that collects used corks and turns them into flooring tiles, building insulation, gaskets, craft materials, sports equipment, and soil conditioner.

It also sends any surplus food to local nonprofits. Its appliances have Energy Star ratings and its restroom fixtures are all low-flow.   The chairs and barstools are made from 98 percent recycled aluminum.

The exterior of Elements Restaurant & Enoteca in Napa. (Craig Lee / The Chronicle)

Elements Restaurant and Enoteca

Their sidewalk wall opens up fully on warm nights for a great dining experience.

Makes you want to eat there already, huh?

We started our meal with an incredible lobster ceviche, that included shards of Thai coconut, a tiny dice of Thai chile and the  flavor of galangal, or Thai ginger.  My daughter actually loved it.  We’ve taken the kids to a lot of ethnic restaurants and they’ve been to Japan, so they are used to trying whatever we put in front of them (within reason!).

With that we had the Pepino Salad, which was a beautiful mix of cucumber, bell peppers, red onion, apples, mint, oregano and feta.  I loved this dish and might try to emulate it at home.

Pepino salad. (Craig Lee / The Chronicle)

Elements Pepino Salad.  Delicious!

Then we tried the sweetbreads, with the chicories, wild honey and grain mustard, some roasted fingerlings with pimenton vinaigrette, broccoli rabe with anchovy and roasted garlic, and finally some market pasta.  We ordered WAY too much food.  I thought a sampling of everything would be good, but it turned out to be too much and we couldn’t finish.

I wish I could remember the red wine that I had.  I believe it was a cabernet from the Williamette Valley in Oregon.  It was fabulous!

We were too full for desert, but in researching Elements, I came across an article that showcased one of Elements desserts…

Elements' Olive Oil and Lemon Cake ($7 ) is a stunning combination of lusciously moist lemon cake, surrounded by strawberries in syrup, and topped with Meyer lemon mascarpone.

All in all, it was a wonderful dining experience and I would definitely go back and try some of the menu items that I didn’t get a chance to try.

We went back to our beautiful suite at the Westin Verasa happy and full and passed out watching some chick-flick!  Ah!  Now what shall we do NEXT weekend?  :)

That wraps up our Sonoma/Napa trip!  Hope you enjoyed sharing!


MyLittleHappyPlace said...

I can't believe it took me two days to finally getting around to reading your Part II of the Napa trip - I'm so in love, now, oh, and hungry, too!

LaurenFaythe said...

It sounds like you had a great trip! I've never been to Sonoma, but I do love the Napa Valley. I hope you were able to visit some of the other towns nearby. I love the photo you have showing the Mustard Season. (I just did a post on Mustard season myself!)