×

France & Italy

Napa, California: Another day went by without a column from Yours Truly. So lazy. We exercised yesterday, did a little shopping, errands, and then I had a manicure and pedicure. No fine dining. No wine tasting. 

But we made up for yesterday's slothfulness with a lot of fun today - both involving food and wine.

Shocked?

Didn't think so.

We had a late start - DT had a 2+ hour conference call and we both ran - but for our planned endeavor it was actually best to be late: we were trying to get into Bouchon for lunch (on a sunny Friday afternoon) without a reservation.

We are getting experienced in our quest for fine dining on impulse. There are only a few rules to dining without a reservation: dress properly, be polite and smile. (There is another way, as Bruce Feiler explains in his infamous experiment for Gourmet Magazine in 2000. But, not for us.)

We arrived to Bouchon just after 2p. There were many people waiting and the dining room was packed. We asked for a table and a few moments later we were seated! A beautiful dining room, Bouchon probably has as many workers as patrons. Everything is perfect. Bread crumbs are whisked away. China sparkles. The menu is classic French bistro, with a fabulous selection of fine shellfish - oysters, lobster, mussels, clams - served on elaborate iced platters.

We ordered sparkling wine (from Domaine Chandon across the highway) and started with Rillettes aux Deux Saumons - fresh & smoked salmon rillettes served with toasted croutons - to share. I will translate: this dish is basically a pate made with poached salmon and smoked salmon. It was served in a small (very cute!) canning jar and "sealed" with a layer of (cold, hard) clarified butter. The "toasted croutons" were toasted slices of French baguette. It was delicious, as you can imagine. And you will have to imagine, because even I will not drag my camera out at Bouchon.

Sorry.

And even though we told each other that we were NOT going to order the Steak Frites - we both ordered the Steak Frites. It was good - what can be bad about steak and French fries - but, honestly, we thought the Steak Frites we had the other night at Bistro Jeanty (just down the street from Bouchon) were better and was actually less expensive.

So now, I can say: Bouchon? Yes, of course, I have eaten at Bouchon.

Okay, enough of France... how about a little swing through Italy?

In 2007, we visited Castello di Amorosa just a few days after the facility had opened and we have been wanting to go back to see the castle with complete landscaping, etc. As I wrote in 2007: Daryl Sattui, a man with a passion for medieval Italian architecture (doesn't everyone?) spent $35 million to build the 121,000 square foot Castello di Amoroso (Castle of Loving) in the California wine country. Castello di Amoroso looks exactly like a castle you would find in Tuscany. And it should - almost everything in the castle came from Italy, including the craftsmen who constructed the joint.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you - this castle is between Calistoga and St. Helena in California wine country. (Learn more about the castle here.)

Every man needs his castle.

Ours has 8 wheels.

We do not, however, have moat.

If you have a moat, you definitely are going to need a draw bridge.

Do you need a place to tie your horse at the Castello?

Because you never really know what marauding creatures may show up.

Because for just a few bucks anyone can enter the fortress.

If guests show-up, you are going to need a place to feed them.

Every castle should have a lovely courtyard...

and a chapel. Every doorway should be inviting.

If you have a large castle, it is going to require a lot of maintenance. You are going to need a huge maintenance crew.

Castello di Amorosa employs several groundskeepers. The lawn must be cut constantly.

The "groundskeepers" produce their own crew!

Pest control is also an important chore at a castle. (Side note: is this the most gorgeous bird you have ever seen? Does anyone know the breed? The feathers look like lace.)

If you think I am going to make a "bucket of chicken" joke here, you are wrong.

The castle is impressive. Marvelous even. A must-see. Castello di Amorosa is also the tasting room for the wines produced on the estate. Yes, we tasted, as a tasting is included in the admission price - we paid $16 each to wander around the facility and sample five wines. Castello di Amorosa produces only Italian-style wines - which we prefer - but we did not purchase any wine today.

We arrived back to the moat-less Magna Peregrinus well after 6p. We are tired. We do not require another meal. It was a lovely, lovely day.

Tomorrow we have a fun day planned. What would make us perfectly happy? Yep - you are right - we are going to Cal Berkeley to the Pac-10 Track & Field Championships. Shabbat Shalom. Until my next update, I remain, your GO DUCKS correspondent.

RV Park: 
 - Skyline Wilderness Park. This campground is operated by county. The 39 sites are cozy and on gravel. Some full hook-up 30/50-amp sites, but most sites are water and electric only. Bathhouse on-site, and a laundromat just a few blocks down the road. The park has miles of hiking and equestrian trails and actually has a path that leads one mile to the river where it joins the trails at Kennedy Park. Though very rural, this campground is just minutes to downtown Napa and would be a good choice if you are camping with kids. Dogs are allowed in the campground, but are not allowed on the trails. Strictly enforced!