Oxbow Public Market

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When I first learned about Oxbow Public Market last summer, I imagined it to be something like San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace: Unique to its locale, full of vendors selling seasonal foods and bustling with visitors.

I visited on a Saturday afternoon, and Oxbow was mostly empty, a far cry from the city’s Ferry Building. I guess that’s partly because there aren’t nearly as many vendors at Oxbow as there are at the Ferry Building, but I probably shouldn’t compare. Napa is not San Francisco.

While walking down its aisles, I could tell that Oxbow is being marketed to tourists, but it’s not quite there yet. A Hog Island Oyster Company outpost was being advertised as coming soon when I visited (and is now open) and the Oxbow Wine Merchant and Wine Bar seemed to be attracting customers. But the Ritual Coffee Roasters outpost was without a queue (unthinkable in San Francisco’s Valencia Street location) and the Fatted Calf had all of two people lined up to order.

I was craving something Latin American, so I had lunch at the market’s Pica Pica Maize Kitchen. I started with the bululu salad.

Bululu salad

The salad was fresh tasting and although I usually don’t like fruity salad dressings, this one packed a punch, and was almost oniony.

Next I had a pelu’a arepa, which was tasty and filling, without being too greasy.

Pelu'a arepa

I finished off with some yucca fries with tamarindo salsa, which was not what I was expecting.

Yucca fries

The fries didn’t have a fry-like texture, and while I absolutely love tamarinds, the tamarind salsa was syrupy sweet instead of tart and sour.

Oxbow Public Market is still relatively new, and things are still changing. I’m hopeful that in time, it will get the traffic it deserves, and in turn, encourage more vendors to move in. Until then, I’ll be at the Ferry Building.

Mumm Napa

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Growing up in Wine Country, I’ve visited my fair share of vineyards. But they’ve all been primarily in Sonoma County, and to be honest, I’ve only visited a handful of wineries in Napa Valley. As part of my efforts to rectify that, I made quick trip to Napa Valley a few months ago to dine and wine for a weekend.

The wine part mostly took place at Mumm Napa in Rutherford, where I spent an afternoon in one of the most inviting tasting rooms I’ve ever visited. Now maybe that had to do something with the ten or so glasses of cuvee I tried, but the service was warm and the view was incredible.

Sparkling wine tasting at Mumm Napa

Mumm Napa wines are made in the Carneros region of Napa using the same process that is used in Champagne, France, the m├ęthode traditionelle. The result is a wine with high acidity. My guide encouraged me to identify the flavors in the sparkling wines we tasted, and we did pretty well. I tried the DVX (my favorite), the Brut Prestige, the Rose, and the Blanc de Blanc, and uh, I sort of lost track after that.

Even if you opt out of a wine tasting at Mumm Napa, the view is spectacular and well worth the drive. The winery also boasts a fine art photography gallery, though it can be easy to miss if you don’t get past the wine tasting terrace. If you can stand the Napa Valley heat in the summertime, now is a wonderful time to go.

Bouchon Bakery

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I’ve never had much of a reason to visit Yountville. It’s a long drive and not centrally located to a whole lot, except for oh, you know, Thomas Keller. Even though its a sparsely populated, sleepy town, it’s the holy grail of Keller’s food empire, home to not only The French Laundry, but also Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery and Ad Hoc. I knew I’d have to make it to Yountville for these reasons alone.

I had read online that Bouchon Bakery serves pesto-filled croissants that are to die for. While waiting in line at the bakery, I imagined how warm, buttery and oozing with basil-y goodness my croissant would be. I was a little disappointed that it turns out the Yountville branch of the bakery does not serve these pesto-filled goodies. I ordered a plain croissant instead, along with espresso macarons, a pecan sticky bun and the best iced coffee I’ve ever tasted.

Croissant

The croissant was good: flaky and baked fresh that morning. Still, I couldn’t help but miss the imaginary pesto that they don’t even serve.

Espresso macarons

The macarons were tasty, but very sweet. But these babies sold out quickly, so it could be just me. I don’t have much a sweet tooth after all.

Pecan sticky bun

The sticky bun was just as its name suggests: a very sticky bun. It went perfectly with my drink: one bite of nutty gooeyness, one sip of strong coffee.

I ate my breakfast outside at the tables lining the bakery. The vibe was slow-paced, with diners taking their sweet time finishing their breakfasts (they had lap dogs and newspapers to tend to while they ate, after all).

As much as I love the city, I wouldn’t mind a weekend or two like this every once in a while. Yountville is worth the drive, after all.