There’s magic on the drive to – The French Laundry


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We took a drive the other day to the Napa Valley.

 

It isn’t primetime  for SPRING in NAPA, that’s a good month away, but nevertheless, it was getting spectacular!

 

Our final destination was St. Helena, which is  – “The surprise GEM of the WINE country.”

 

 

 

For years, my career gave me the unique opportunity to spend an inordinate amount of time driving to Napa and Sonoma,
heading from school to school.  The glorious views of the wine country outside my car window as I sped along, are fixated in my memory.  Almost every month, they pull me back north.  Back to where you find peace and infinite beauty everywhere, you look.

But – don’t take my word for it about the level of gorgeousness, there’s plenty of people that agree

 

From the Tulips blooming to the Poppies afield, the Wine Country landscape never fails to reward those who head north. There’s a freshness to the air in the Spring, and you’ll avoid the endless crowds of Fall and Summer.

Hotel rooms are easier to get in the Spring, but there’s no shortage of things to see and do.


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My friend, Sally and I, ended up having lunch at one of my favorite stops – the old TAYLOR’S Refresher, now known as Gott’s Roadside.  It’s a landmark in the town of St. Helena and almost always busy.  Back in the day, there was quite a controversy when the name changed. Interestingly, it still has both Taylor’s and Gott’s signage on the property.

For more on that controversy read more here – Taylor’s family is furious over eatery new name-

Gotts Roadhouse is as familiar as the places we stopped at in the Midwest as a kid.

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Picnic benches, juicy burgers, and the best milkshakes ever!

The first time you purchase one of these shakes get ready, as they are not cheap, but trust me, go for the big chocolate shake – you’ll never look back!

Gotts or Taylor’s Refresher is a roadside place with all the right fixings.  From beer, wine, salads, fish tacos, sweet potatoes fries and the best onion rings ever!

Get there before 1 pm, as the lines on any given day can get lengthy. Although, to give you an odometer on how great those shakes are – the line NEVER deters us for a second!

Although, to give you a clue as to how great the milkshakes are, the line NEVER deters us.

They have plenty of friendly help, and incidentally, dogs are welcomed.

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Back to what’s to enjoy in the Napa Valley and how this story ended up at THE FRENCH LAUNDRY.

To this day, it has not been my pleasure to eat at THE FRENCH LAUNDRY in Yountville.

But, as we drove North through town, on our way back to Marin, we couldn’t help, but for the first time, stop to see their garden.

The walk around the beds was intoxicating with the new growth, chickens playing and the greenhouse.

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Not a surprise this restaurant is world renowned.

But, whenever something is set up on a pedestal, such as a restaurant like this, that takes months and months to get a reservation into, there’s a tendency to ask yourself – is THE FRENCH LAUNDRY – OVERRATED?   Is it too good to true?  Hmmm…I don’t think so.

Read this – Thomas Keller on “Vanity Fair, Criticism, Iconic Restaurants and what’s Next for THE FRENCH LAUNDRY.

After viewing their gardens, we were convinced it must be everything we’d heard.

The photos listed on their website and the prices they get for their entrees are lavish.  But at approx. A $?/person for dinner, (again – I haven’t dined there) it’s probably a good idea to book a year in advance!  Yes, I’ve seen their online menu, but that’s not always a valid indicator of how much the final cost will be.

That being said, I’d LOVE to go, though.  For more info on this historic place, I’d imagine for culinary excellence – The FRENCH LAUNDRY

We didn’t care about time or any worries, as we gingerly strolled through their delightful gardens. What a treat and feast for the eyes, and senses for that matter.

Here’s another fascinating read about a former employee and the 15 lessons learned while working at this premier exclusive restaurant for twenty + years:   15 Lessons from 20 years of the French Laundry from Food & Wine 

It’s interesting to read about someone, like Thomas Keller.  He must be a real creative genius and challenging to please. But then again, he expects a level of excellence beyond the almost all other.

 

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Thomas Keller

 

 

 

Check this article out on this incredibly talented chef:

History of Chef – Thomas Keller of the French Laundry

Coincidentally, the FRENCH LAUNDRY’S temporary KITCHEN is for SALE and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Edible Schoolyard NYC.

 

 

 

But, if going to THE FRENCH LAUNDRY isn’t an option, you can try 15 of the top restaurants that Thomas Keller recommends, starting here:  Thomas Keller’s top 15 Napa Restaurants.

Or better yet – here’s a taste of what he likes to cook –Recipes from Thomas Keller

 

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From what I’ve read, Thomas Keller prides himself on the training he provides and the overall impact he has on his chefs.

That’s wonderful!

The grounds of their gardens we found to be meditatively soothing.

 

 

 

 

Here’s a story about his new Chef de Cuisine to be and how he came to rise to his esteemed position at the restaurant.  Several of Keller’s former chefs have gone on to open well-respected restaurants around the world.

Here, check ’em out –  Nine notable restaurants started by Nine French Laundry Alumni

 

 

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The North Bay area has a plethora of exciting things to do.  The ocean, the city, the mountains nearby, the theater, it’s a mecca for everything.

 

 

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But without a doubt, for you flower lovers, eager wine tasters, architecture buffs and nature enthusiasts, you just can’t beat the wine country!

From the spectacular roses at the end of the each row of vines, to the mustards in the Springtime, it’s breathtaking.

Fall is a whole crayon box full of colors and smells.  A drive in the Fall in Napa is an explosion of oranges, reds, purple and mint white grapes and curvy vines.   From the older vineyards to the brand new, it’s all a feast, an eyeful.

 

 

San Francisco has so much to see and do; many tourists let their days run out before taking the time to venture up to this destination.  Don’t let it be you!

 

Here’re five links to help you find a place to lay your head down, should you venture North to this haven of fun and pleasure:

  1. Trip Advisor – Best Places to Stay in Napa Valley
  2. Travel U.S. News-Best Hotels in Napa Valley
  3. Travel & Leisure-Napa Valley Find Hotels
  4. The Best Napa Valley Lodging for 2016
  5. The 15 Best Luxury Hotels in the Napa Valley

If you’re on a budget, look at these examples to book a place to stay:

  1. VRBO.com/Napa
  2. Airbnb.com/Napa

And if you’re lucky enough to live in the bay area, walk, drive, or better yet RUN up to the NAPA VALLEY!  

Till next time – Happy SPRING!

Easter bunny in vineyard