Tom Malloy‘s Napa & Its Movies

malloy picsm

by Lauren Coodley

Thomas C. Malloy Jr. was born in town in 1911. He never forgot his mother’s death in 1917 from appendicitis when he was only six years old. After his mother died, he moved to his grandmother’s farm, east of the river at the end of Big Ranch Road. He described this area, the Duffy ranch, to me,  as “a paradise of open space, orchards, and a few settled homes.” Due to fear of the 1918–1920 influenza epidemics, he and his brother were kept out of school and tutored at the farm until the fourth grade, when they entered Salvador School. In 1921, Malloy’s father remarried and moved the two boys back into town. They graduated from St. John’s Catholic School in 1924, and from Napa High in 1928.

Most towns had at least one movie house. “One of my first memories of going to a movie was of my father taking me there, as I recall, at my insistence to see one of Jack Dempsey’s early Championship Fight films.” Malloy’s first job was in 1930 at the new 500-seat, State Theatre on 834 Main Street, between Second and Third (now part of Veteran’s Park). He would work in the motion picture business for the rest of his life. Mr. Malloy remembered sitting in Dr. C. H. Farman’s dental office on the southwest corner of First and Randolph in 1920, watching the construction of the Hippodrome, which became the Fox Theatre.  It seated 1,500 people and boasted an orchestra pit with a massive pipe organ. Mr. Malloy described hearing organist Eugene Brown, play during silent movies: “I thought he almost made the organ talk.” By 1935 he became the manager of the Fox, which showed major films and, sometimes, live presentations.

In a grand fashion, the Uptown Theatre opened in August, 1937, complete with searchlights, banners and movie stars. The first film to be shown was Ever Since Eve, starring Robert Montgomery and Marion Davies. The theatre had 1,200 seats, and Thomas Malloy became its manager. It featured a central ceiling of angels painted by muralist Dick Echeles. Malloy describes the “well-trained team of young ladies in matching uniforms” who served as usherettes. When the house was full, Malloy assigned an usher to every exit and was considered a “safety guy.”  The Napa Daily Journal of August 12, 1937 notes: “a staff of 14, trained, theater people have been engaged to serve patrons of the magnificent, new Uptown Theatre.” These included Norman Wyatt, assistant Manager, and head usherette, Eleanor Rose (who handled the staff of five other women). “Frances Gerth will occupy the position of the doorman with his assistant, Ray Nasuti.” The projectionists were Howard Brown and D.W. Aiken. “The intricate lighting system of the theatre will be maintained by JT Roberson, a veteran, electrical technician.”

Matinees attracted children like Ruth Bickford’s son, Bob, who recalls that, on Saturday afternoon, “every child’s bike was parked, unlocked, at either the Fox or the Uptown.” Beautician, Chris Aultman, especially remembers the mezzanine at the Fox: “I liked going up both sides, it reminded you of something really elegant. Napa was a country town, so this was something really special.” The companies would mail in a two hour film that included a comic and a newsreel. Mr. Malloy explained that British films were not popular in Napa.

To survive during the Depression, theatre owners devised gimmicks to persuade the public to pay the 35¢ admission price. The most popular promotion was Bank Night, which offered a cash jackpot. A cashier named Dolly handled bank night registration. Mr. Malloy remembered, “She was so good at it. I think I fell in love with Dolly from admiration.”  In 1940, they were married and they bought a house at the corner of Yajome and K Streets for $2,000, with Liberty Head Nickels saved by both of them.

By 1942, Air raid rules and blackout procedures were developed for the town. Malloy recalls: “After Pearl Harbor was bombed it was a wild time here. The manning of Monticello Road as a look-out, and the presence of Mare Island, made Napans uneasy about being a potential, enemy target. It was a trying time, and people were looking for an outlet, to get away from things. So, they went to the movies.” Because one-fifth of the 25,000 workers at Mare Island lived in Napa, special, morning matinees were scheduled for swing-shift Mare Island and Basalt workers.

Lawrence Borg was the Uptown’s original owner, until he sold it to the Blumenfeld theatre chain in 1945. Between 1947-1957, 90% of Americans bought television sets. No one realized that supplying screens for home use, signaled the beginning of the end for most movie theaters. After the advent of television, Mr. Malloy explained, “the majestic Fox was converted into a bowling alley. After a fire ravaged the structure, it was demolished in 1962.” That would’ve been 2 years into John Kennedy’s administration; Thomas and Dolly Malloy loved the Kennedy family.

In 1949, Mr. Malloy moved his family to Spruce Street, a block east of  South Jefferson Street.  Tom and Dolly were blessed with 4 children: Thomas, Phillip, Kathleen, and Patricia. Between 1950-1976, he commuted to San Francisco in his new role of General Manager for the Lawrence Borg, and his various real estate properties located in both Northern and Southern California, while continuing to manage Borg’s two other remaining Northern California theatres in San Jose and Salinas. Mr. Borg stipulated  that when he died (he died in 1954), all properties in his estate be sold unless Tom Malloy would stay on to manage them. Mr. Malloy did manage Borg’s Trust until 1999.

By 1973, the Uptown Theatre was remodeled. Stephanie Farrell Grohs recalls: “It was 1976. I was searching for a job, and was just starting at the JC and living at home. Mr. McKnight interviewed me and liked the idea of hiring a college student.  I began by stocking the candy counter: popcorn, hotdogs, and candy. I worked my way up to being the head cashier. I sold tickets and balanced the books at the end of the night. Everyone coming to an opening went by me; I knew who was out on a date. I wore a polyester, blue, zip-up jacket, not unlike the uniforms of nursing-home, care attendants, with closed-toed shoes. The cashier before me transferred to Berkeley and I followed her the next year.”

In 1977 the first VCR in America went on sale. Blockbuster movie-rental stores opened in 1985. It began to be possible to watch movies at home. In 1986, the theatre was again divided, this time into four spaces. That must have been when I watched The Journey of Natty Gann with my daughter. The Uptown changed hands several times throughout the 90’s, and I remember watching Cinema Paradiso with my son. Dolly Malloy died in 1992.

In 1998, the theatre again re-opened, featuring
independent/art, house films. My colleague, Professor Doug Dibble, and I filled the theatre with students to watch The Ballad of Little Jo. That same year, online video-rental began. One more blow to the viability of movie theatres and, eventually, to video stores. The theatre was shuttered until 2000, when George Altamura and partners took ownership of the Uptown, and began a massive renovation project to turn the old movie theatre into a live-music venue. Mr. Malloy was invited by George Altamura to consult on the restoration of the Uptown Project, right down to the last detail.

He proudly attended the press conference for the reopening.

Thomas C. Malloy Jr. died at the age of 96 on February 9, 2008. He wrote a memoir when he was 88 years old about the “many gifts that I had been given in my lifetime.” Among them, he lists, “the values and examples of my parents and grandparents, and the civility that distinguished the decades of my generation.” Spruce Street is “where I now live alone imbued with the memories of my late wife, Dolly, and family life with our four children,” and where I visited him and took these photographs. Patti, his youngest daughter, is now living in the family home, carefully guarding the Malloy legacy on Spruce Street. She writes:

Anytime and every time we went out to dinner in Napa (to one of the 4 restaurants existing at the time), someone would approach our table to tell my Dad that he had given them their first job at the Uptown Theatre, and that he was the best boss they ever had.  He always remembered their names.

In 2003, Mr. Malloy handed me a lemon off his tree, one of those quiet moments in the life of a local historian
that lingers in memory, both tart and sweet.

Big Fun at the Napa Town and Country Fair – July 16-20th

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By Kristin Ranuio

The Napa Town and Country Fair this year will be held earlier than usual, running from July 16-20. The sooner the better!

In past years the Fair has been in August. The move to July offers many benefits to fairgoers. Holding the fair sooner means more vendor options, no more conflict with our friends at the Sonoma County Fair, and that families with kids no longer have a conflict with the dates of the Fair in getting ready to go back to school.

There are also new features at the fair, including a new midway run by Helms and Sons Amusements. Highly regarded as one of the top in the industry, Helms and Sons Amusements offer a wide variety of exciting, new rides, as well as old favorites. Their spectacular rides represent some of the best in the world, with an absolute commitment to safety. Their selection of rides includes some that are unique and rarely seen in midways, such as the Giant Wheel that rises 110 feet in the air, and some that are fun for all ages, such as the Grand Carousel, one of the largest models built.

Those rides will be in, not one, but two carnival sections this year. Cub Country, for the little ones, will feature rides for the littlest fairgoers, with plenty of shaded seating for the grown-ups. The Family Ride carnival section will feature fun and rides for the entire family, including thrill rides; the whirling Wave Swinger, and the classic Tilt-A-Whirl and Merry-Go-Round.

The Napa Town and Country Fair also offers a great music lineup on the main stage this year, including Loverboy, Three Dog Night, Mark Chestnutt, and more. The small stage has been moved to offer more seating, and will feature heavy metal and mariachi-infused Metalachi, The Spazmatics, The 60’s British Invasion, Nathan Owens Motown, Soul Review, and others.

The entertainment doesn’t stop there. The Napa Town and Country Talent Show, produced in association with Lucky Penny Productions, returns this year with prizes in three categories, youth, teen, and adults. There is also a roaming game-show, Kids Celebration, which will be turning up all over the fair, giving you the chance to be a part of the game right on the spot.

Mindworks! Interactive Exhibit will be over 40,000 square feet of interactive fun. Think life-size Operation games and more in the gaming area.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is bringing us “Walk on the Wild Side,” with exotic animals, wildlife education. There will also be the traditional livestock shows, the ever-popular Destruction Derby, and Bull-Ya! Bull Riding Event.

None of the fun and features at the fair this year come with a cost increase. Adult tickets are $13, youth (6-12) and seniors (60+) are $10, and children under five are free.

The Napa Town and Country Fair has been refreshed with new rides, new vendors, and new dates, with a lot of the familiar fun we remember from years past.

Come out and get your Firemen’s corn on the cob, Browns Valley Hamburgers, and corn dogs. Kick your feet up and enjoy some cotton candy in the shade, or listen to great music under the stars. Watch the little ones squeal with delight as the young and young at heart try their hand at carnival games. Ride the rides you already love and maybe find a new one to thrill you. This year, the Napa Town and Country Fair is Big Fun, and the sooner the better. This year the fair is sooner, and it is going to be better than ever!
See you there!

Porchfest 2014 “Out of the Garage & Onto the Porch”

By Louisa Hufstader

Napa Porchfest Returns  for 4th Year

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They say there’s a book in all of us – stories about entrepreneurial achievements, autobiographies, historical novels, or maybe even epic sport contests.

On the last Sunday of every July, Napa  comes alive with music as scores of local bands and solo performers showcase their sounds
for thousands of listeners in the city’s historic neighborhoods.

Napa Porchfest — coming up July 27, 2014 from 1 to 6 p.m. — puts performers on porches for an afternoon of free, live entertainment that covers the musical map from classical and folk to rock, jazz, electronica and, occasionally, genre-defying, performance art.

“Out of the garage and onto the porch” is the unofficial motto of this all-volunteer festival, which has been a hit with locals since its inception in 2011. Last year’s Porchfest presented 84 Napa acts on 42 porches, and drew more than 4,000 people to neighborhood streets where they strolled, biked, skateboarded and Segwayed from house to house, often posting their adventures on social media:

“Awesome community event!! Bringing neighbors and generations together. Well done.” (Facebook comment)

“We sipped cool refreshments, visited with friends new and old while we listened to some really awesome music. What a great way to spend the day!! Thank you to everyone for making this day extra special.” (Facebook comment)

“Biking around the neighborhoods for this event was especially nice this year because I was with a guest from Missouri who had never been to Napa and was smiling all the way.” (napavalleyregister.com comment)

“Porchfest is our homegrown, hometown, most favorite event!” (Festival co-founder Juliana Inman in a Facebook review)

Street closure in the works

“The 2014 festival will retain some of the most popular Porchfest elements from 2013, including food trucks and T-shirt sales at the Napa County Library,” said co-founder and music coordinator, Thea Witsil.

A similar downtown hub is expected to pop up behind City Winery at the Napa Valley Opera House. “They’re going to build a porch behind the Opera House” for performers, and there will be room for food trucks there as well,” she said.

Along with refreshments, shade and seating for the weary, these public Porchfest hosts also provide bathroom facilities not available in most neighborhood areas.

For the first time, Porchfest organizers and the city of Napa are working to close a city street during the festival. It likely will be Oak Street, where traffic-clogging crowds have gathered during each previous year.

“The deadline for musicians to sign up is March 31, and by Valentine’s Day 48 groups had already claimed spots on the Porchfest roster,” Witsil said.

“It’s basically first come, first served,” she explained. “You want to play, you get to play.”

Performers wishing to take part in the 2014 festival should email her at theaporchfest@gmail.com, although the sign-up process is slated to be automated soon: Thanks to profits from Napa Porchfest T-shirts, sold last year for the first time, “we can actually pay somebody to do our website” (napaporchfest.org), Witsil said. Once redesigned, the website will have a signup form for musicians.

Sponsored in its first year by Witsil’s First Street boutique and Napa County Landmarks, with a budget of less than $100, Napa Porchfest gained DoNapa.com as an additional sponsor after its 2011 debut earned rave reviews from visitors as well as locals.

Porchfest can also claim bragging rights for having inspired the much larger, admission-charging, BottleRock Festival, which made its debut in 2013 and returned this May 30 through June 1, under new management.

Witsil books the Napa talent for BottleRock’s, Barracuda Wildcat Stage at Chardonnay Hall. And, while she makes it clear that it’s not a “Porchfest stage,” some of her Porchfest favorites will be
appearing, she said.

“There are certainly not a lot of venues” for Napa musicians, she said. “That’s why we create these things.”

The original Porchfest was founded in Ithaca, N.Y. in 2007, and has inspired similar festivals in many other communities. Napa’s is the first Porchfest to be established west of Cleveland.

Follow Napa Porchfest on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Napa-Porchfest/198470643510714

On Twitter: @NapaPorchfest

Online: napaporchfest.org

 

Bellissimo Gourmet Italian Delicatessen

Bellissimo-deli WP

By John & Dorothy Salmon

 Fabulous Deli Food on Napa’s Main Street

Napa’s exciting restaurant scene continues to add new places for all of us to dine and to be entertained. In addition to all of the other important benefits of this beautiful place where we live, it’s a great place to be hungry. It seems like every week we hear about a new place opening. In just the past few months we have enjoyed City Winery adding an exciting new restaurant to our beloved Napa Valley Opera House; LuLu’s Kitchen adding amazing food and wine to their menu; Lucero Olive Oil bringing expanded olive oil experiences to downtown Napa (including chocolate flavored olive oil); Napkins Bar and Grill buzzing with people having fun every night of the week and into the wee hours.  Coming soon, we look forward to an expanded Bounty Hunter, and the new Velo Pizzeria, Mango on Main, BurgerFi and many more additions to our burgeoning foodie scene. You can’t walk down many blocks in downtown Napa today and not smell, eat and enjoy a wonderful variety of food choices!

Among her other nonprofit endeavors, Dorothy is the President of the Board of The Pathway Home, which is a private nonprofit that provides comprehensive residential treatment for our Nation’s military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who are impacted by Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other post-combat, mental health challenges. The Pathway Home assists these warriors to successfully reintegrate into their families and the community at large. A few weeks ago, Dorothy held a luncheon meeting at Bellisimo with some of the Pathway Board members to talk about the Pathway program and to do the research for this Napa Valley Marketplace restaurant review. That’s Dorothy’s idea of multi-tasking!

Everyone thought the food was fabulous, well priced, and the atmosphere and friendly service was wonderful. Executive Chef, Glenn Haffner, and owner, Ali Ince, can be seen at the restaurant most days, greeting customers and making everyone happy. Originally from Turkey, Ali has 17 years of experience in the restaurant business. He began his career with a Five Star restaurant in Topkapa Palace in Istanbul, then with Celebrity Cruise Lines, and then with the same Bellissimo Deli concept in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey.

Bellissimo serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and stays open until 8:00 pm. If you are hankering for a sandwich, head for Bellissimo. You can order pre-prepared, lunch boxes and dinners to take home and enjoy ($8.95 to $12.00 for box lunches and $8.95 to $15.95 for dinners). You can’t beat that. If you have been looking for an authentic Italian Deli, try Bellissimo. The food and service is fabulous and it is becoming our new place to hang out for lunch, to meet friends for a quick breakfast, or to have a committee meeting in style. You can expect quick service, a friendly environment and great food at very reasonable prices.

The lunch menu will make you think you are in Italy, with Chef Haffner’s own family blend of ingredients, such as in-house–roasted, pork loin on a toasted Sassari sandwich, sliced thick and topped with fresh pear, frisee and rosemary aioli on a baguette ($7.95). Yountville Mayor and Pathway Board member, John Dunbar, ordered that and declared it to be incredible. All breads are freshly baked daily, according to Ali. So, early in the morning you can order fried egg with grilled eggplant, zucchini, onions and mozzarella on a fresh-baked bagel, croissant, or their own fabulous bread ($3.95). You could also start your morning with a three-egg omelet stuffed with rosemary flank steak, provolone, tomatoes and arugula ($5.95) or honey–pecan, sticky buns made with cardamom yeast dough ($1.95), or Belissimo’s now famous Napa Scramble of three eggs mixed with honey-maple ham, bacon, spinach, peppers, onions, mozzarella and parmesan, served with rosemary home fries ($6.95). Their mixed-berry tart, with pastry cream and fresh berries ($3.50) are to die for, as are their fruit Crostata made with fresh, seasonal fruit and marzipan ($3.50). You can imagine you are in New Orleans if

you order their Apple Beignet’s ($3.50) with a cup of Peets Coffee or Peet’s teas. Why would you want to cook breakfast when you can head to Bellissimo where they can do it better and less expensively? If you are watching your gluten, you can order their gluten-free Sonoma, risotto salad, with rice, oranges, almonds and bell peppers in citrus-mint dressing ($7.95 per lb.).

At the Pathway lunch meeting, Dorothy ordered the Torino sandwich, made with brie, frisee, pears and fig tapenade ($7.95) and it was delicious. Board members, Jeannine Yeomans and Kate Berquist, each enjoyed the Catania sandwich, made with grilled vegetables, roasted peppers, basil, caper aioli, provolone and secret ingredients, on a baguette ($6.95).

Bellissimo carries 90 different, local and international wines, with new wines by the glass featured every week for $6.00 to $7.00 per glass with your
lunch or dinner. The 30 beers that they feature cost from $3.00 per glass if you drink it in the restaurant, to $7.95 to $9.95 if you are taking it home with you. There are plenty of soft drinks, Peet’s coffee and teas to choose from for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Meats and cheeses are sold by the pound, with such tasty options as prosciutto ($22.95); whole milk mozzarella ($11.95); pepper jack ($9.95); Horseradish cheddar ($11.95); Havarti with dill ($11.95); and Bianco D’Oro Italian Dry Salami ($9.95); Lemon-pepper chicken ($11.95); London Broil roast beef ($14.95); Cracked-pepper turkey breast ($11.95)  and rosemary, sun–dried tomato ham ($12.95) just  to name a few. The meat department rivals those  seen in New York or Sicily. Their salads are unique  and wonderful and you can even order a make your own sandwich if you can’t find something on their menu that you like … which is pretty hard to imagine!

Are you having a party and want fabulous food but you don’t want to cook yourself? Their catering department can help. Your guests will love the jumbo lump-crab cakes, stuffed with black and white sesame seeds, sweet corn, bell pepper and panko ($5.99); or poached calamari and shrimp salad with cannellini beans, brandy mayonnaise and American caviar ($55.00
for a half tray).

Give Bellissimo a try for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You won’t be disappointed!  Just prior to writing this review we brought our 4 and 7 year old grandchildren to Bellissimo.  They report that the gluten free canollis are amazing and they gave the chocolate muffins and chocolate chip cookies a standing ovation.  Kids know what’s good!

1000 Main Street, Ste. 100 | Napa, CA | (707) 266-1085

Daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  |  http://www.bellissimogourmet.com

Give Yourself a Pay Raise – Ride the Bus to Work

Buses at Transit Center IV cropped

A recent Auto Club study reported that the average cost to own and operate a car is between $8,000 and $11,000 a year.  Most people spend several hundred dollars a month on gasoline alone. Taking the bus to work several days a week can save you thousands of dollars a year in fuel and car maintenance – the equivalent of a healthy pay raise.

Getting around by bus is easy. The new VINE provides great connections around town and throughout the Bay area, including El Cerrito Del Norte BART, Vallejo Ferry, Amtrak, and Solano and Sonoma Counties.

According to Tom Roberts, Manager of Public Transit at the VINE, recent improvements in the bus service were made with commuters in mind. “We knew people wanted a system where buses would come frequently and get them to their destination quickly. Now, most routes run every 30 minutes and the average travel time to most Napa neighborhood destinations is under 15 minutes.”

People going to work or school represent over half of the VINE’s growing ridership base. Amy Garcia is one of those commuters.  She lives in Fairfield and rides the VINE’s Route 21 Express to her job in Napa. Amy explains, “I save money on gas, I don’t put as many miles on my car, and I am also compensated by my employer for using public transportation.”  Amy avoids the frustration and agony of commuting because her express bus has reclining seats, Wi-Fi, and limited stops so she can relax and enjoy the ride.

Chelsea Ford is a Napa resident who works downtown and has also discovered the convenience of taking the VINE to work. “It’s four miles from where I live to where I work,” says Chelsea. “It’s easy and it’s quick and it’s the best type of transportation for me.”

If you take the bus, the VINE can also guarantee you have a way to get home in an emergency. The VINE partners with Solano/Napa Commute Information, the “Emergency Ride Home” program which provides vouchers for taxis or rental cars if there is an emergency and you need to get home during the day, or if extenuating circumstances require that you stay late
at work.

The VINE also helps employers meet the requirements under Senate Bill 1339, the Regional Commuter Benefit Legislation. SB 1339 requires that employers with more than 50 employees offer commuter alternatives to their employees; paying for transit fares and passes, or providing a pre-tax program that deducts the cost of a transit pass before taxes are withheld. Either qualifies to meet the SB 1339 requirements.

Whether you are commuting out of town or within Napa, want to save money or help save the planet, the VINE’s new bus system has convenient and economical options.

Bus Facts

• The majority of VINE riders are commuters.

• Most VINE routes run every 30 minutes.

• It takes under 15 minutes by bus to most Napa neighborhood destinations.

• The VINE has exceptional on-time performance.

• Express buses have limited stops and Wi-Fi.

• You can buy your bus pass on-line.

If you have a bonafide emergency and have to leave work, the  guaranteed ride home program will cover your costs for a rental car or taxi.

The VINE provides bus service in every city in Napa County as well as express service with limited stops to Fairfield, Suisun, Sonoma, the Vallejo Ferry, and BART in the East Bay.

For more information, go to www.Ridethevine.com or call 707-251-2800

Conversations with a Small Dog

dog lady

By ML Hilton

I consider myself a practical woman. I’m efficient, methodical, and logical. I believe that most things are explainable and I have a little bit of a “show me” attitude. A lot of that comes from my upbringing in the deep South.

A time and place, for example, where children were seen and not heard, hard work was hard currency, and “yoga” and “metaphysical” may have actually never been uttered. Everyone had laying hens in the yard and FRESH fried chicken for dinner.  Animals had their place — they were part of the family’s ecosystem — but the pets were definitely not considered on par with the children.  Even my spirituality is light on blind faith, and heavy on “do-unto-others.”

But no matter how practical and straightforward I’ve become, I suspect there is more to the natural world that can be easily defined. Things flit across the fabric of life that show a deeper, more ethereal connection. Like the time I moved a state away from my dearest friend. I called her a week later to tell her of a dream I had were we enjoyed the best adventure in a little blue Chevette. She listened in stunned silence, and when I finished my tale, she told me that she had purchased a new car the day before: a little blue Chevette.

And, that’s not the only story I have like that. So, I save my knee-jerk, deep doubts for national politicians and aging Lotharios. All others I will happily invite a listen, even if the “B S” meter starts twitching.

In late January, I had the opportunity to take my little Chihuahua, Bananas, to an Animal Intuitive. Animal intuitives, or “communicators,” as it was explained to me, is someone who has something like a telepathic conversation, heavily weighted with an intuitive sense and an open mind.  Bananas and I visited with Barbara Martin who offers her sessions in Napa, through The Spa at Napa River Inn.

Barbara calls herself the “animal communicator of the common man.”  She isn’t particularly gypsy-looking, or airy-fairy. In fact, she comes across as rather average, leaning heavily on the gentle and nice side of average. While Barbara is naturally sensitive, she studied many years under well-known, national Animal Communicators in order to learn her craft.

Typically, Barbara helps owners understand their animal’s health and behavior issues, fears, thoughts and feelings. She can sometimes help people stay “in touch” with animals after they go to the great backyard in
the sky.

My little dog easily took to her and climbed on her lap. The only questions she asked of me to start were how many other animals and people were in the house, and our names. Barbara gave me a pad to take notes while she conversed with my dog. And, I must confess, that I busied myself with the activity of note taking, in hopes of not giving off too many “clues.”

In the course of the conversation with my dog, she covered a lot of topics with Bananas, sometimes asking questions and sometimes listening. She checked in with me a few times, to clarify, but I didn’t feel like I was tuned into the conversation.

Let’s get to the best part. Was the reading accurate? There were a number of things that Barbara said that were hands-down true.

Barbara asked Bananas if she like to go to work with me (since we were at work that day). Banana’s answered “yes,” but that she used to go to work with me all the time, which was true. When I got Bananas from the pound 8 years ago, she went with me everywhere, including daily to my job.

Barbara asked Bananas how old she was. The answer? “She thinks she is 10.”  True.

When asked about her health, Bananas said, “I’m healthy, but my teeth are going to cost a fortune.” One of her last visits to vet, they suggested a dental cleaning that was estimated to cost more than $1,000. Could you guess that? Yes, Bananas has bad breath, but it still was right on.

We recently lost our old beagle, Milo, who died right before Christmas. Barbara asked Bananas about Milo and she said that she knew he had died, but she “was not there” when it happened. Also true. Milo died in our arms at the vet, when we ended his suffering. Bananas did say that Milo was still at the house, in spirit. We have not seen him, of course, but still feel his presence in our hearts daily.

When asked about her time at the animal shelter, Barbara asked Bananas if she “was a runaway, got lost, or if her people had died.” Banana’s said no. “She was so destructive,” they got tired of her and dropped her off.  I have no idea if Bananas was destructive; she certainly isn’t at our house. But, true, Bananas was surrendered.

Bananas also told Barbara that she (Bananas) is famous. And that she “has accessories.” Yes, we do put little bows on our dog. She did, however, answer that she had no clothes. Which is not true. There is a little sweater that she hates and rubs off in the dirt as fast as she can — like Houdini removing a straight jacket.

Bananas picked her name. We had trouble settling on the right one. She came from the shelter as Cream (which never seemed right to us or, apparently, Bananas). We tried Trixie for a while, but my daughter started calling her Bananas when she would dance madly around the house. That stuck, according to Barbara, because Bananas was communicating that was what she was to be called.

There were some aspects of the conversation that could have easily just been suggestions from someone very good with animals. I felt like the comments were constructive, however, and even gave me some good insight into our lovely little dog.

There were also parts of the conversation that were personal in nature, about the vibe of our home and comments on our emotional health.  Bananas is a fairly chatty little dog.

Barbara says that is not unusual. “Animals really want this to happen,” she said. “So, they help.” According to Barbara, what she does is just information. “Clear-eyed seeing beyond your eyes. It’s not hocus-pocus; it’s just being in tune.”

Interestingly enough, I felt a lot closer to my little dog than I had before. Maybe we should have these chats more often.

(ML Hilton is a long-time Napa resident. If you have comments on this story, or would like to suggest other story topics, please email her at: stetgrrl@gmail.com)

Something for Everyone at the Napa Truffle Festival

small truffle for WP

By Stephen Ferry

Have you ever been curious about truffles?  Novices and experienced connoisseurs alike will find plenty to inform their minds and entertain their palates at the fourth annual, Napa Truffle Festival, which will run January 17-20 this year.

Events will include winery, truffle lunches at Nickel & Nickel and Hall Wines, seminars covering truffle cultivation, business and cooking at the Westin Verasa, an elaborate Truffles & Wine Dinner at La Toque, where four Michelin-star chefs will work together to prepare one big, glorious, multi-course meal, and a Festival Marketplace at Oxbow Public Market that is free to
the public.

The Napa Truffle Festival is presented by the American Truffle Company, which was founded five years ago by ATC Managing Director, Robert Chang, and his partner, London-based, mycologist (fungi expert) and Chief Scientist, Dr. Paul Thomas.

Thomas has developed a method to cultivate black, European truffles, which are indigenous to Europe, but not to North America.  Thomas works with partners around the globe to develop truffle orchards, and Chang is his partner for North America.

ATC has partnered with both the Napa County and Sonoma County Farm Bureaus to present a series of truffle cultivation seminars.  All twelve seminars staged over the past couple of years have filled up.

Four years ago the, first truffle orchard in Napa was planted by Robert Sinskey in cooperation with ATC, and it serves as a demonstration truffle orchard for the Napa area, where anyone can make an appointment and view the progress of the planting.

A lot of truffle orchards have been planted across the US, but none are yet yielding fruit, as it usually takes at least five or six years for a truffle orchard to begin to bear fruit.  Orchards started in other countries some years earlier under Thomas’s guidance have already started bearing fruit.  Once established, a truffle orchard will require much less annual maintenance than a comparably sized winegrape planting, and the potential for profits is high.  No chemicals are used in the propagation of ATC’s truffle orchards.

There are literally hundreds of species of truffles, but only a select few species of European, black truffle are really high-end.  The most prized species is the Périgord truffle (Tuber melanosporum, aka ‘black diamonds’), which sells for big bucks – $800-$1,200 per pound.  The Burgundy truffle (Tuber aestivum/uncinatum) fetches a slightly lower price, but yields more prodigiously.  Either way, truffle orchards can be quite profitable.

In addition to reaching out to growers to generate interest in establishing truffle orchards, Chang’s American Truffle Company presents the Napa Truffle Festival each year as a way to reach out to the public and educate the consumer about the culinary aspects of truffles, particularly spotlighting the black, winter Périgord truffle.  Chang first visited festivals in Oregon, North Carolina, Australia, and Europe, and then took what he saw as the best elements from each to create the Napa Truffle Festival.

The four Michelin-star chefs will converge from around the world.  The host chef is Ken Frank of La Toque, who has been involved since the first Festival in 2010 and, this year, will be joined by: Alessandro Boglione, Executive Chef and Owner of Ristorante al Castello, Castello di Grinzane di Cavour, Italy; Carrie Nahabedian, Executive Chef and Owner of NAHA, Chicago, Illinois; and Jarad Gallagher, Executive Chef of Chez TJ in Mountain View, California.

On Monday, January 20 (Martin Luther King Day), all of the merchants of Oxbow Public Market will be offering their own truffle menu items for the Festival Marketplace between 10am to 2pm.  Menu items will be sold à la carte, so that anyone can come and get a taste.  The Marketplace is free to the public for browsing and purchasing truffle fare à la carte. Proceeds benefit the Napa Valley Food Bank/CAN-V.

There will also be free cooking demos, wine tastings, book signings, and other activities as well, including a chance to win a Marketplace Basket or a real black truffle.  This is the perfect time for someone who has wondered about truffles, but maybe not actually tasted them, to come down and see what the buzz is all about.

Information about all of the Festival events and tickets are available on the Festival website:   http://www.napatrufflefestival.com

Check out some of these offerings that will be available Monday, January 20th at the Oxbow Public Market:

Anette’s Chocolates  Rustic, rolled, dark chocolate truffles with roasted almonds 

Ca’ Momi Enoteca  Pizza al tartufo, paired with 2012 Ca’Momi Pinot Noir, and a cooking demo at 12:30pm

C CASA   Wild mushroom and goat cheese truffle enchilada, paired with Blue Plate Chenin Blanc

Cate & Company  Bite-size truffled potato and  zucchini quiche   

The Fatted Calf  Truffled pork crepinette, with Comte, caramelized onions, arugula and truffled aioli 

Five Dot Ranch Beef ribeye carpaccio, with black truffle and celery root mousse 

Gott’s Roadside French fries tossed in truffle butter, paired with Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut    

Hog Island Oyster Bar   Grilled truffled oyster

Kara’s Cupcakes   Truffle festival, cookies and cream cupcakes, decorated with little pink pigs  

Kitchen Door  Cream of mushroom soup, with fresh, grated truffle AND Egg pappardelle with winter mushroom bolognese and fresh, grated truffle with poached egg, along with a cooking demo at 10:30am 

Marshall’s Farm Hone Organic, gourmet honeys from the mountains, valleys, seacoasts,  and backyards of the San Francisco Bay Area

The Model Bakery Wild mushroom-truffle, savory, bread pudding 

Napa Valley Distillery Truffle-infused martini cocktail:  Napa Valley Vintage Reserve Vodka, served with olives and cheese (includes a signature Napa Valley Distillery cocktail glass)  

The Olive Press Fig, balsamic, caramel truffles AND Blood–orange, olive oil truffles 

Oxbow Wine and Cheese Merchant House–truffled, Mt. Tam cheese

Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen Truffled yucca fries

Three Twins Ice Cream  Organic, caramel-truffle-swirl ice cream, plus a special discount on all shakes

Whole Spice Truffled popcorn and fleur de sel 

Smoakville…Amazing BBQ food, great prices and a funky, down-home atmosphere

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By John & Dorothy Salmon

We took our good friend from Santa Cruz, Bob Edmund, to Smoakville. Bob is a talented home-chef who wanted some “smoakin” BBQ in a funky place. Smoakville is located in an industrial park just south of Trancas and east of California Boulevard. It seems as if you can smell it from your car as you pull into the cul-de-sac at the end of the street.

Food, not location, makes Smoakville fabulous. We met Tom Fuller and Jonathan Bodnar at the front door of Smoakville. The entrance is unassuming and fun. The food is fresh, the BBQ is amazing and absolutely nothing is non-fattening. Having just finished the holidays, we are all tired of turkey. Our guess is that you are also tired of cooking. We all know that we should be exercising more, eating non-fattening food and throwing away those last few pieces of See’s Candy. But, we also know that can only last so long. So, we suggest that you head for Smoakville when you are looking for great BBQ that you don’t have to cook; that you can pick up and enjoy at home with friends and family.  Best of all, Smoakville’s prices are a bargain, so you can feel good about eating great food and not spending a whole lot of money.

You can call in and order your take-out dinner for two, or walk in the door after you tell the love of your life, “I am NOT cooking tonight.” You can also make everyone happy at work and bring in lunch from Smoakville.

Lunches include Rib Dog or Pit Bull (hot dogs) with slaw, BBQ sauce and pickles for $7; Snap Dogs, Coney Island style with chili, Smoakville mustard and onions ($6); Torta, smoked turkey, Smoakville to-die–for, thick bacon, and avocado $8; Pulled Pork Sandwich with Cole Slaw and BBQ sauce ($8); their famous Brisket Sandwich with BBQ sauce; and Smoakville’s incredible sloooooow roasted brisket ($10). The coleslaw or sweet potato salad are each only $2.50!

Smoakville’s combo dinners are the easy way to make an enjoyable dinner by your fire and TV.

You can get an order-for-two of St. Louis Ribs/Chicken for $35, or St. Louis Ribs/Pulled Pork at the same price, or St. Louis Ribs/Beef Brisket for $32.

Smoakville’s “Very Tall Chef”, Jonathan Bodnar, is passionate about his food, loves to talk to his customers and is a no-nonsense kind of guy, who you have likely seen at community fundraising events that serve killer BBQ. Chances are, that it is Jonathan’s food with Jonathan at the end of the serving line, making sure that everything is perfect. Smoakville is not only in the small-serving restaurant and take-out business; they are REALLY in the catering business. That’s good to know when you want a mouthwatering BBQ dinner for a party, at a price that won’t break the bank!

Jonathan took all of us on a tour of his “back kitchen.” It was a treat to see how the meats are smoked and sides prepared. Jonathan smokes the meats lovingly for hours and hours and hours in his special smoking ovens. You can taste the time and talent he puts into his recipes. The service area is small. The dining tables only seat a few folks, but in the warmer months, you can sit outside or do what most locals do, order your picnic lunch or dinner and head outdoors to enjoy the beautiful Napa Valley. Bring lots of wet wipes with you. Smoakville food sticks to your ribs and to your face and fingers!

Jonathan not only knows how to smoke meat, make killer beans, cole slaw and sweet potato salads. He is also known for his pickles and for having the best butcher–cut  bacon on the face of the earth. He makes a mean mac and cheese, a fabulous corn casserole, and southern braised collards like Grandma made, with ham hocks, vinegar and hot sauce. All sides are only $4.50. Grilled corn on the cob is also available seasonally, along with great, seasonal smoked vegetables.  Even though you hardly need anything after a rib, chicken, brisket or pulled pork dinner, his desserts are amazing.

If you have not had real, southern, sweet potato pie, or salty, chili spiced and medium rare brownies, or the most amazing chocolate pecan pie ever, you need to, at the very least, take a slice home for $5 and pretend you are not really going to eat it right away.

So, how did we learn about so many different foods? Jonathan lined up a counter full of samples of just about everything that he serves so that we could taste it all in one sitting … and that is exactly what we did! The St. Louis Ribs are rubbed with over 20 spices, mopped with a PBR and apple cider vinegar, and glazed with lots of bourbon BBQ sauce. The pulled pork is a Lexington-style shoulder, smoked all night and then shredded and mixed with sweet sauce and a vinegar mop. The ribs are AMAZING, according to Bob, Tom and John. The brisket “burnt ends” are rubbed with “needs salt” cabernet salt, smoked all night, and glazed with Jonathan’s special sauce.  The half Mary’s Chicken is brined in herbs and spices, then slow-smoked for hours and finished with a bourbon BBQ glaze. The brisket would make any Jewish Mother proud!

Our assessment was that all of the sides were wonderful. Even though most of us were not huge fans of collard greens, we have to admit that they were really good. The guys persevered through it all and saved room to taste the brownies and the pecan pie. We took the chocolate pecan pie home and finished that off the next day.

Smoakville is a good place to call for your next party, your next dinner with friends, or your night of NOT COOKING. Sign up for their weekly newsletter by going to their website.

You can even get a special “Chain Smoaker” card if you buy 10 dinners. You get the 11th one free. For pick up, remember to call ahead at (707) 363-3447 and order for two the easy way. For catering, contact Kim Hurd at (707) 363-3447 or send an email to catering@smoakville.com

We guarantee your next party will be a success, reasonably priced and you won’t have to do all the work.

Empire Napa…Cool, Hip, Nostalgic and a Tribute to Napa’s Bawdy Past

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By John & Dorothy Salmon

If you think Napa has no night life, then you have NOT been downtown in a few years. Most nights of the week, especially on weekends, downtown is bustling with lots of people. We recently spent a fun evening with our “kids” (a loose term for 40-somethings) at Empire Napa. We think of John and Michelle Truchard as our kids too, since our son Rob Lloyd and John Truchard make wine and magic together. Empire Napa opened in May of this year, and has become a hot spot for locals, visitors, hotel guests from Andaz and from the John Anthony Tasting Room next door.

Empire Napa is a tribute to the first commercial establishment in downtown Napa in 1842 … a saloon! Oh, how our history has been resplendent with hospitality, whisky, wine, food and, in the beginning, bad beer. According to our friend Don Winter, the original Empire Saloon was … partially erected in 1848.  It was the first commercial building in Napa County. It was built in the middle of hay and bean fields. But, the Gold Rush started and it ended up as an unfinished building, improperly situated in the middle of a street plot. When the miners returned to Napa, the building was picked up and moved to a proper lot, and a hotel was added. (Incidentally, the Empire Saloon was a polling station for the referendum for the California constitution).

The reincarnation of the Empire Saloon is 21st Century, with many periods of music playing, a well stocked bar with both original and well known drinks, modern, under–the-counter purse hangers, USB plugs and easy–access, electric plugs to charge our electronics. We all know what a horror it is to run out of juice on our cell phones. It won’t happen at Empire!

Dorothy got to spend some time with Nick Rimedio, one of the owners of Empire Napa and its General Manager. Nick is originally from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and comes from a big Italian family with a grandmother who was a killer cook. Nick fell in love with fine food and hospitality at an early age and perfected his management skills at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and in Las Vegas. He moved farther west to become the director of food and beverage at Carmel Valley Ranch, where he met Rick Riess, a former, leading executive from Auberge du Soleil, who introduced him to Napa, a place that immediately felt like home.

Together with Arthur Prieston, and professional interiors assistance from Michael Brennan of San Francisco, they designed Empire Napa. Arthur is a principal of the Prieston Group, whose restaurant investments include High Tech Burrito, Wild Fox in Novato, Per Bacco and Bar in San Francisco. Behind the bar, there are large pipes that look like a pipe organ and are reminiscent of the player pianos in the old saloons in the late 1840’s. The red velvet curtains that enclose the iridescent gold curtains give the place the feel of a speakeasy saloon. Empire is full of antiques, red velvet ropes and a red carpet, so you immediately know you that are in not in a typical Napa restaurant.

Nick told Dorothy that they added a large dining table in the front room, known as the “Gallery” that will accommodate up to 12 guests, in addition to several other dining tables. There they will host special, private, Sunday Suppers for 20-30 people with a special menu paired with wine and cocktails, for a set price. Empire is closed to the public on Sunday’s. Think about it … you can go back in time and be the only people in this very cool saloon/speakeasy. Nick might just surprise everyone and host the best early December party of the year, with a tribute to December 5th, 1933, when Prohibition ended. Now that’s a party we won’t miss since they will be serving Napa’s own “Sacramental wines” from the 1930’s!

Empire Napa is also gearing up for holiday parties this season. Empire Napa holds 120 people and has, not only a great feel, lots of energy, but also, fabulous wine and great food. Jennifer Petrusky is Empire’s hot, new chef and director of culinary programs. Jennifer also worked at Charlie Trotter’s. She competed nationally as the only female apprentice in the 2008, Bocuse d’Or USA competition, under Chef Michael Rotondo, and they walked away with the Bronze Medal and Most Promising Chef Award. In 2010, she returned to Bocuse d’Or USA and, as the only female chef in the competition, won for Best Fish Platter,. She makes small plates of very original food that give diners an opportunity to try lots of different and unique items. We started our evening with Almonds, Rosemary, Cashews and Peanuts ($7); Haricots Verts and Young Potatoes, with Dill and Almonds ($12); Wild Mushrooms, with Crispy Sage Polenta and Spinach ($11); and Lamb Belly, Moroccan BBQ and Pickled Cabbage ($16). We can guarantee that the original Empire Saloon did NOT have that selection on their menu!  Empire Napa also has killer Mac and Cheese ($8); a fabulous cheese plate ($18); and scrumptious meatballs ($15). Finally, we enjoyed the Lemongrass Chicken, with Mango, Peanuts and Cilantro ($10), mostly because Dorothy loves Cilantro on almost anything.

According to Nick, Empire Napa’s most popular food choices are Cauliflower Fritters with Chili Powder and Hummus ($11); the Chilled Shrimp, with Avocado, Cilantro and Ginger ($12) and the Mac and Cheese ($8). We spent most of the evening drinking Lloyd Cellars Chardonnay and John Anthony Cabernet (both made by
Rob Lloyd). We sampled the Napa Bull with Blanco Tequila, Lemon and California Lager ($10) and the Emerald City, made with Brokers Gin, Lime and Simple Syrup ($12). Those might have been served in 1848, but probably not! Empire serves great beers and features local wines from partners John Anthony Vineyards, Ceja Vineyards, Peter Paul Wines, G Wine Cellars and Lloyd by Robert Lloyd. Unlike most restaurants in Napa, Empire Napa does not have a wine list. Their selection of wines changes often and includes wines from Austria, Argentina and Australia. Most wines are priced between $11 and
$14 a glass.

Their fresh-baked cookies are now famous for those folks wandering First Street in Napa around midnight. Other deserts are the Chocolate Cake with Banana and Medjool Dates ($7) and the Carrot Cake, with Peach Compote ($7). If you pop into Empire Napa to see what it is like early in the evening, you will find a cool bar to visit before dinner. If you stick around, it becomes a restaurant, and then a hopping place from around 10:00 p.m. to midnight or 2:00 a.m., if you can stay out that late. With more to come including art and fashion shows, one–of-a- kind fundraisers and themed soirees, Empire promises to be the
place to keep your eye on and always penciled in  your social calendar!

1400 First St.  |  NAPA  |  (707) 254-8888  |  http://www.empirenapa.com

Tues. & Thurs. 7PM-12AM • Fri. & Sat. 7PM-2AM • Sun. & Mon. Open for Private Events

 

Spicy Chilled Shrimp Salad
with Avocado, Cilantro and Plantain 

1 lb Shrimp, 16/20 ¼ cup Sombal
1 Avocado 4 sprigs, Cilantro

¼ Red Onion, sliced & rinsed 1 cup Bean Sprouts

 

Plantain Chips

1 Plantain 2 Tbls. Curry powder 1 tsp. confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. salt Grapeseed Oil for frying

 

Spicy Dressing

2 tsp. cornstarch (with water until wet sand consistency)

1 cup vegetable stock ½ cup rice wine vinegar

2 Tbls. Soy sauce 1 Tbls. Brown butter

2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 slice ginger, finely minced

1 Thai chili, seeds removed, minced

To make the spicy dressing, bring the vegetable stock up to a boil and add the cornstarch mixture. Stir until completely thickened. Add the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, brown butter and crushed garlic. Let infuse off the heat for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain the entire mixture and discard garlic. Add the chilies and the ginger to the strained mixture and chill.

Mix the shrimp and the sombal together and place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for at least a half an hour. Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator and grill until just cooked through. Place the cooked shrimp on a flat baking sheet and chill immediately so they will not overcook.

Heat a medium size saucepan over medium high heat with enough oil to fry in. For the plantain chips, remove the outer peel of the plantain and slice lengthwise on a mandolin. Soak in water to remove any of the excess starches. Meanwhile mix the curry powder, confectioners’ sugar and salt together and set aside. Remove the plantains from the water and pat dry on paper towel.

Very carefully place the plantains in the oil and fry until crisp. Remove from the oil and season with the curry sugar mixture.

Assembly: Mix the dressing with the grilled shrimp and vegetables; season to taste.  Place the salad into individual serving bowls and top with cilantro and plantain chips.

Napa Valley Bistro

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By John & Dorothy Salmon

Barbara Nemko and Dorothy are frequently together as board members of the local non-profit, NapaLearns, which is dedicated to transforming our schools in partnership with our County-wide teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards. We decided that it was time for the Nemkos and the Salmons to get together for a fun dinner at Napa Valley Bistro. We vowed NOT to talk about public education. Napa Valley Bistro is located on Clinton Street, between the New Tech Network of Schools and Azzurro Pizzeria, in the space formerly occupied by Neela’s Contemporary Indian Cuisine. Napa Valley Bistro has redecorated the space and it is lovely and upbeat. The great food is very reasonably priced, with main courses ranging from $12 to $27, and salads anywhere from $7 to $15. Having reasonable prices is a good place to start when you are not on First or Main Streets in downtown Napa.

Owner and Chef, Bernardo Ayala, came by as soon as we sat down and told us his story. Bernardo has a long history in Napa, most recently as the executive chef of Silverado Brewing Company, before Jackson Wine Estates bought the lease and closed the restaurant.

For locals, you will probably immediately recognize Bernardo Ayala when you see him, since his experience in Napa includes creating great food at the California Cafe, Silverado Resort, Domaine Chandon, and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Bernardo’s partner, Eduardo Martinez, is also a familiar chef in the Napa Valley, having worked at Rutherford Grill and the Napa Valley Grille before becoming the Sous Chef at the Culinary Institute of America and the Executive Chef at Market. Together, these two remarkable chefs are bringing crowds into Napa Valley Bistro who are looking for great food, a very nice wine list, incredible desserts and reasonable prices. There is no corkage fee for the first bottle. Any bottle after that is $10, but they will waive that fee if there is a bottle purchased from their list.

The menu is a blending of good old American style and very eclectic Mexican food, some California Asian and, what Bernardo Ayala calls, Classic American with a twist.

We began our meal with a bottle of 2012, Lloyd Chardonnay, and a bottle of 2012, Gundlach Bundschu Tempranillo Rose’. Both wines were wonderful and made even more so with no corkage fee. Along with the wine and the funny conversations with Barbara and Marty, we were served Napa Valley Bistro’s homemade bread, which is rich, warm and really good. We decided to try some small plates to begin our evening. So, we ordered the Crispy Calamari with Red Bell Peppers, Onion, Fennel and Ancho Chile-Lime Aioli ($11) and Marty ordered the Dungeness Crab Cake ($13). We were told that the Blackened Chicken Empanadas with Avocado, Lime Crème Fraiche, Black Bean Puree and Queso Fresco ($13) was “to die for” and next time we will try that. The Small-Plate Menu is full of great options, such as Corn and Pasilla Pepper Relish, Tomatillo-Avocado Coulis with Organic Greens.  Also on the dinner menu are some terrific salads. You can choose from a Chopped Bistro Salad with Seasonal Vegetables, Goat Cheese, Egg, Bacon, Avocado, Garbanzo Beans and Mustard Vin, or the Chinese Chicken Salad, with Bell Peppers, Pickled Ginger, Almonds, Fried Wontons and Sesame-Soy Dressing. These is not your typical American Cuisine!

For our main course, Barbara chose the Rosie Organic Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Sautéed Spinach, Homemade Jalapeño Cornbread and Gravy ($18). The cornbread was fabulous and we all got an opportunity to sample it. Marty ordered the Local Fallon Hill Lamb Burger with Feta Cheese, Rosemary-Mint Aioli, Brioche Bun and Potato Chips ($15). He was raving about the Lamb Burger and passed a few bites around the table to share. John ordered the Niman Ranch, St. Louis Ribs with Smoky Molasses BBQ Sauce, Sweet Potato Fries and Coleslaw ($18) and said the ribs were as good as any he has ever had. Dorothy ordered the special that night, Rack of Lamb with Fingerling Potatoes, mixed with Shitake and Chanterelle mushrooms ($27). Also on the dinner main course menu is Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Asparagus, Garlic-Fries, Herb Butter and Bordelaise, and a Niman Ranch Grilled Pork Chop, with Potato Gratin, sautéed Spring Vegetables and Whole Grain Mustard Pork Jus. If you are vegetarian, there is the Vegetarian Lemon Thyme Risotto with Asparagus, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes, Watercress, Crispy Leeks and Basil Oil and, for big or little kids, the Bistro Mac n’ Cheese with Vella Dry Jack, White Cheddar, English Peas and Crispy Bacon ($13). This mac and cheese would be the way to get your kids to eat their peas!

Since this was a review, we had to try the desserts. So, we ordered the Warm Scharffenberger Chocolate Fudge Cake ($8), the Fresh Seasonal Fruit Crumble Mascarpone Ice Cream, Mix Berry Coulis ($8) and Bernardo insisted that we try his incredible Tres Leches & Vanilla Bean Natilla Mango & Guava Compote with Cinnamon Nutmeg Churros ($8). We all agreed that the Tres Leches and Vanilla Bean Natilla with Mango and Guava Compote served with two small handmade Cinnamon Nutmeg Churros was out of this world!

Napa Valley Bistro serves draft beers, bottled beers, wines by the glass, ginger ale, iced tea and some wonderful wines from Domaine Carneros Brut, Cliff Lede Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Hess Select North Coast Pinot Grigio, and some great local reds, rose’s and Pinots.

We think that Napa Valley Bistro is a great place to be anytime for lunch or dinner. They have also started serving Sunday brunch from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. There are an array of breakfast favorites along with a nice selection of lunch items so we can feed the appetites of many all in one meal. I have attached a copy of our brunch menu for you for reference. Give it a try!

Open 11:30 am until till 9 pm (10 pm on Fri. and Sat.) Sun. Brunch 10-2pm. Closed Monday

975 Clinton Street| NAPA | (707) 666-2383 | http://www.NapaValleyBistro.net

 

Fried Chicken 

Yield:  Makes 4 Servings

4 thighs (bone in and skin on)

4 drumsticks (bone in and skin on)

½ gallon buttermilk

¼ cup salt

½ bunch thyme

2 bay leaves

1 head of garlic, but in half

4 cups flour

4 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Cayenne Pepper to taste.

In a flat container place chicken thighs and legs, sprinkle salt, thyme, bay leaves and garlic. Cover with buttermilk. Allow to stay in this cure for 12 hours minimum (24 hours is ideal).

Sift together flour, salt, black and cayenne peppers.  Place a small amount in a shallow pan.

Pull chicken out of buttermilk mixture and allow excess to drain off. Do not completely dry chicken meat. Dredge each piece of chicken separately in flour mixture. If you develop lumps sift again. Make sure to completely coat each piece of chicken. After flouring each piece go through and reflour.

Immediately after flouring gently place legs and thighs in 200 degree deep fryer. The thighs will take approximately 30 minutes and legs approximately 20. They will rise to the top of the fryer when they are finished and the color should be a
pale golden.

Allow chicken to drain and cool.

When ready to serve reheat in 360 degree fryer for one to two minutes until chicken has a beautiful dark golden brown color and is crispy. As soon as it comes out of the fryer, season with salt. If you are not ready to serve, you may keep it in an oven (350 degrees) for a couple of minutes but it will burn of lose some crispness if it is kept too long.

Eduardo Martinez • chef@marketsthelena.com