Musings: FLAVOR! Napa Valley

8:47 AM

Sometimes you know, sometimes you have NO clue!
Thank goodness, my friend (she happens to be a co-worker too) K, knows what's up! We are always discussing food and sending pics to each other, quizzing knowledge about new places, and trying out new places together -- but she schooled me! Flavor Napa. What the hell? I really missed the boat on this one!

Thanks to her, I didn't really miss out. In the spirit of Birthday Month, K set up a Napa Flavor adventure with another co-worker and J was our DD, who also got to partake in the adventure too.

Chris Cosentino?!?

Yeah, I don't recognize that name either. Probably because we haven't had cable for over a year, but apparently he's well recognized by those that watch the Food Network. I didn't know who he was, but I did get the idea that he knew what he was doing when it came to the kitchen. It may have taken some persuasion to come along, but I'm pretty much always IN for a Napa adventure.

Napa Flavor started on Wednesday, March 22nd and ended on Sunday, March 27th culminating with Sunday Brunch. They offer a handful of events, which come at the prime Napa price per event. I pretty much drooled over all the different wine drinking and all the food, but I was equally excited for our specific event, Chef Demo with CC.
K, being really type A (takes one to know one) drafted an entire itinerary for us. I won't share her neuroses with you, but it was awesome and I loved it! 

We met at our house at 8:30AM, since J was our DD. Once everyone parked where they wouldn't get a parking ticket, we were off. We stopped at Starbucks to grab something to eat and some caffeine goodness, which is always a good idea when heading to Napa. You need a good base. Someone may or may not have been slightly hungover...lookin' at you K!

10AM and wine go well together, I don't care what anyone says. Free wine tasting in Napa is basically not a thing. Even though we asked friends prior to coming, we didn't really do our due diligence in finding a spot. Instead, lastly we relied on Yelp. We found Hagafen Cellars, which offered a BOGO on tastings....EXCEPT for on Saturdays (didn't learn until we read the tasting menu)! Whomp, whomp! So instead of each paying $25/tasting, we asked to sample a few reds before we purchased one. We ended up going with their Don Ernesto's Clarinet, which was a nice, smooth red for 10AM drinking. We grabbed our bottle, glasses, and selves and went to explore outside. They have the most eclectic metal work on their property, plenty of outdoor games, and a chicken coop (right next to a compost pile). 
A bottle is way better than tasting, when split between three gals! We won on this round!

How random is this bathroom find?
Again, we had an itinerary, but we weren't really sticking to it. We had planned to go get bubbly at Domaine Chandon, but decided to just find something along the way. As we drove down the Silverado Trail, we were mostly lost in convo. But we drove past a winery that was set high above the trail with a gorgeous patio. As J drove past it, I made the executive decision to turn around and head back there as our second location. It turned out to be Robert Sinskey Vineyard. Holy Napa, $40 tasting fee!

Again, we decided to buy a bottle and then enjoy their 'free' patio! After one tasting employee was a jerk, a really nice one helped us out. We told him we were looking for a red and he let us taste the few we were interested in. We ended up with the Los Carneros 2013 Pinot Noir.
The patio seriously is why you should come here. The wine was tasty, but relaxing with this view was spectacular. It was still fairly early in the day, but that didn't stop us from bottle #2 of the day!
I almost forgot to mention, I was hanging out with three half sets of twins all day. It was here at our round table, that we realized this. That's so random, but such a silly tidbit I thought I'd share!
We had a lunch reservation at noon, so we didn't finish our bottle as planned. We packed up and sadly left this comfy spot and headed to Cook St. Helena. Our other good friend and co-worker recommended this place and she was NOT wrong. I didn't doubt her, since Napa was her stomping grounds for a handful of years. 

This food was soooo good. And that wasn't the wine talking. Every single thing was good. This tiny little establishment seriously knows what they are doing. We all ordered something different, so we could taste each others.

We started with two appetizers -- buratta and their special of ricotta and strawberry. They also served free plated bread with oil and balsamic vinegar too. K ordered a half bottle and the gals shared that, while J indulged in a beer.
For lunch we took the the menu and went for it: fazzoletti bolognese // gnocchi // burger // pappardelle & braised short rib! Literally, every dish was AMAZING. I don't even generally like gnocchi, but their little pillow pockets were so light and fluffy, they changed my mind! I can't even go into detail of how impressed I was by this little restaurant, squeezed in between a bunch of other shops. They had a full crab dish, but I didn't want to spend $60 on lunch... but an entire table of rich people all ordered it (12 people) and I ogled their plates.
As if we weren't full, we still ordered dessert -- their "mundae" and the affogato. Their espresso is crack, I literally ate the entire affogato by myself and didn't share much with K. The "mundae" was bougie good -- vanilla & chocolate gelato, evvo, reduced balsamic vinegar, whipped cream, & grey salt. They were so sweet to celebrate me with a candle and the crew even sang to me. Sometimes I wonder how or what I did to deserve such kind people in my life?!
After we rolled ourselves out of there, we had to make our way to the CIA - Greystone to eat MORE! This is where a lot of the events were happening and its the perfect venue. I've only ever driven past this beautiful place, but was happy that I finally got to check it out. We sauntered around the front of the building, the front room, then the store -- we had some time to kill before the demo. Then we went to the entrance of the classroom and waited. We didn't wait long, but somehow snaked our way to the front ;)
Since this is a culinary school, it was set up just as one would imagine. A full cooking station facing the stadium seating. There were two large TV's to also show you exactly what was happening in the demo area. This is where we saw CC and his team roaming about getting ready for the demo.
We snagged front row! Holler! We were eager little beavers trying to get front and center for the class!
CC was so down to earth and really comfortable addressing a large group. It wasn't too large or distracting of a group, but big enough. He spoke about his new Bed and Breakfast opening up down the street and how he was crafting the menu -- the courses in the restaurant and 24 hour room service. It sounded amazing, but also too expensive for our bones ;) He also spoke about his craft and how he thinks too many chefs hide flavors or try to correct them by adding more. He believes in focusing on the natural flavor of ingredients and making them work, not over-complicating it. I hope I didn't mess up his message there.
Pork schnitzel with caviar, crème fraiche, and snap peas.
He was really easy to watch and felt relatable. He made me feel like I could make this dish, even though we all know that probably isn't true. He was fun, engaging, and passionate -- which are three key factors to a great demonstration. Bonus was that his Mom was in attendance and sitting right next to us.

After the demo and after stuffing our faces with this delicious concoction that seems odd, but tasted delicious, we asked questions. Lots of them -- all three of us asked him questions. Kristen and I asked more personal, lifestyle questions and A asked about a certain technique. He answered them all genuinely and was so enthusiastic. Although he was there promoting his almost ready new book and his new B&B, I didn't feel like it was a sales pitch. 

The girls bought his cookbook and then we hung out to have him sign it. One of his assistants was writing the names on post-its, so he could easily write their names in the book. I thought this was genius, so I complimented him on it. Come to find out, he's also dyslexic. After his last book tour and having to re-buy customers books, after messing up names, they came up with this system. I thought it was efficient and a good idea, little did I know I may have brought up a sore subject. He was totally cool about it, but I felt kinda bad. Anywho, we learned more about him on accident. He was super laid back and joked with us in line.
We were literally all super stuffed. To the brim. Our itinerary had us going to the Oxbow Market, but no one could stomach anything else. Home it was. We set off for the drive back to Sac and let our stomach settle

Funny thing is we decided to stop in Vacaville to grab ice cream at Fenton's and hit up the Nike outlet, which turned into also a few more stores while were were there. J was the only one who walked away empty handed and he was the one who wanted to stop and look. 

Having friends open your eyes to knew experiences (and treat you too) is such a blessing. I had no idea about this event and I probably would have never really known about it. This was seriously such a fun day, everything we did was relaxed and fun. We had an itinerary, but didn't live by it and just enjoyed the company and the adventure. Everything we ate and drank was delicious, that was an added bonus. The company was awesome and we kept the 'work talk' to a very minimum. I appreciate J DDing for us and I'm glad he still had a great time.

I'm so used to being the one introducing someone to a new experience, it's fun when the tables are turned! Literally everything we did and where we went was new to all four of us, that was cool. No expectations, just to have a fun time!

Say yes to adventures, cheesy, but so damn true! 

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