Around the Bay: A Day in NAPA in Three Meals

Brunch basket of house breads at The Thomas
The Thomas’ BLAT

With work (happily) permeating every trip and journey, my most restful weekends tend to be close to home. When I’ve been countless times, I needn’t dig and explore, but just relax and breathe in my surroundings. In recent Napa weekends, there are, as ever, fresh discoveries to share with you.

Breakfast: The Thomas

813 Main Street at Third, Napa, 707-226-7821

French toast

Over the past months, downtown Napa’s The Thomas in the old Fagiani’s bar is my favorite new Napa go-to. I’ve been for lunch, dinner, drinks… plus brunch just after it launched (now running close to 3 months). The three-level, AvroKO-designed space is as fantastic then as it is any other time of day, particularly the rooftop.

Welcoming 2nd floor booth

A basket of house breads ($9) is almost the brunch highlight: during my visit, it was pumpkin seed pecan and scallion cheddar muffins, and a yuzu-glazed coconut carrot scone with spreads of passion fruit curd and Black Mission fig-berry jam. French toast ($13) stuffed with banana and house hazelnut Nutella, topped with bacon is an optimal wake-up. Ditto their “BLAT” ($12 – also on the lunch menu), a massive sandwich of bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato, even better topped with a fried organic egg ($2).

Black pudding

I appreciate unique brunch specials like a baked apple in Chinese black vinegar or one of my most beloved Irish/Scottish regional foods: black pudding (blood sausage to you), savory with sage, parsley, pork and duck fat.

Napa Valley Biscuits

1502 Main Street, Napa, CA 94559, 707-265-8209

Napa Valley Biscuits

Unassuming, humble and off the beaten path, my latest “cheap eats” go-to in downtown Napa is Napa Valley Biscuits. Biscuit sandwiches ($4-8) are cheap, filling, fun, and oh, so Southern. There’s catfish, Western Carolina style BBQ pulled pork, country ham, sausage and the like, exploding from flaky biscuits. Similar to Soul Groove in San Francisco, chicken and waffles appears as a sandwich: The Pappy ($8), accented by bacon, hot pepper jelly, and sides of butter and maple syrup.

Fried chicken biscuit

On the “fresher side”, watermelon salad ($6) is bright with Heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled peppers and crumbled queso fresco on top. To finish: housemade ice cream ($1.50 per scoop).

Lucy Restaurant & Bar

Bardessono Hotel, 6526 Yount Street, Yountville, 707-204-6030

Blini & caviar

From day one, Yountville’s eco-chic Bardessono hotel was home to a peaceful, modern hotel bar mixing better-than-typical Wine Country cocktails. The initial restaurant, however, was expensive and a bit staid. The hotel’s newer restaurant, Lucy, is still pricey but more approachable. Chef Victor Scargle and team deliver a garden-fresh beauty of a spread, some of it excellent, like perfect Russian blini topped with osetra caviar (in a 6 course, $95 tasting menu).

Carrot salad

Local ingredients are front and center, with dishes subtly changing over the seasons. On the a la carte side, mixed greens ($10) from their on-site garden become special with pomegranate seeds and pineapple guava in winter. Garden carrots ($11) are artfully displayed confit-style and as chips in curry shallot dressing accented by carrot fronds.

Dungeness crab salad

Warm Dungeness crab salad ($19) is layers of flavor from Thai curry coconut sauce, joi choi (a dark, leafy green), with a flaky rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) biscuit sitting atop the crab. Chef Scargle shines combining sweet and savory (my preferred combo), fruit and meat. Case in point: Iberico fresco pork ($39) over forbidden rice dotted with lychees and Burgundy okra in caramelized pear jus.

Lucy cocktails

Cocktails ($14) are pricey but well made, like a Tiki-spirited 3 Kings, infusing No. 3 Gin with cardamom, mixed with King’s Ginger Liquor, pineapple, vanilla, or Pop A Kappa, bright with Kappa pisco, lemon, egg white, bitters, with a hint of smoke from Del Maguey Minero mezcal.

Wine is a strong way to go at the recommend of Wine Director Brett Fallows. Crisp notes intensified when pairing a 2011 Signorello Estate Seta (Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc blend) with food (more oak apparent solo), while layered boldness is exemplified in 2010 Kunin ‘Pape Star’s blend of Grenache/Mourvedre/Syrah. Most appealing was Fallows selection of a fruity, creamy yet balanced Italian white from the Veneto, a 2009 Sartori Ferdi.