Don Perico Reopens in Dwight Murray Plaza Following the Quake

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By Craig Smith

Marco and Berenice Castaneda, owners of Don Perico Mexican restaurant, now in Dwight Murray Plaza at 1116 First Street, are long-time Napa residents. Like most people in Napa, they were jolted awake at 3:20 a.m., August 24, 2014, when the earthquake shook Napa to its core. “It was scary,” said Marco Castaneda. “We looked around the house to make sure everything was safe, then went to the restaurant.”

Castaneda knew things were bad as soon as he got downtown. The streets were strewn with broken glass and, in some cases, large sections of buildings that had collapsed during the shaking. Water leaks from burst pipes, some of it gushing, was evident everywhere. Shell-shocked, but busy, merchants were already helping each other make sense of it all and restore order. Castaneda opened the front door of Don Perico, and used a flashlight to look around. “It was pretty bad,” he said. Large areas of the ceiling had collapsed, and rubble was everywhere. It was obvious that, had the quake hit during dinner the night before, people would have been seriously injured, or worse. Castaneda wound his way through the mess, turned off the gas, and looked around. He realized there wasn’t much else he could do right then. Still, it never occurred to him that the restaurant was doomed at that location. “I knew the damage was bad, but figured we’d be open again in a couple of months.”

Shortly after moving from Mexico,  Castaneda started his restaurant career as a busboy in a Mexican restaurant in Bakersfield..  He worked hard, paid attention to everything about the business, and was promoted repeatedly over the next ten years. His boss wanted to open a restaurant in Napa and invited Cataneda to be his partner. At the time, Castaneda had no savings, but saw this as an opportunity to make a better life for his wife and family. He borrowed from relatives and made the plunge. Don Perico opened in Napa in January of ’94. As the years passed, Castaneda bought out his partner until he was eventually sole owner. The restaurant has been a local favorite, almost since opening. The year of the earthquake was also their twentieth anniversary.

“When we knew we couldn’t return to our original location, I started looking for a new place.” Finding a spot wasn’t easy, and Castaneda and his wife took part- time jobs in a wine-storage facility in American Canyon. One day, he was commiserating with the owner of the restaurant across the street from Don Perico.  After talking awhile, Castaneda offered to buy out the owner’s  lease. The two men agreed, and struck a deal. That turned out to be the easy part.

At the time, the building, which is also home to Kohl’s, was not locally owned. The parent company, based in Arizona, put Castaneda through the same hoops they would with a new, prospective tenant. His quick handshake with the now-former restaurant owner turned into five months of negotiations with the building’s owners.

Don Perico re-opened May 15th this year. The restaurant was scheduled to open at 5:00 p.m., but people were waiting by 4:30, so the Castanedas opened the doors early. For the first month after they reopened there was a wait to get a table for dinner almost every night.  The Castanedas are gracious, unassuming people, who are very grateful for everyone who dines with them. The support from the community has been humbling. Castaneda was recently given the American Dream Award by the Napa County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Don Perico is warm and inviting, offering good, honest, Mexican food. Take the family, and enjoy a relaxed night out.

Alexis Baking Company – Restaurant Review Jan. 2013

Alexis Baking Company

Where the community comes together for breakfast and lunch.

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By John & Dorothy Salmon

John and I have been regulars at ABC (Alexis Baking Company) for over 20 years. If you want to know what’s going on in Napa, who is making things happen and which great community project is going to blossom soon, hang out at ABC. You will likely see and hear what’s moving and shaking while folks drink their lattes and ice tea. Alexis Handelman has been the genius behind ABC for 28 years, and is the smiling face that greets locals and visitors alike when they dine at her incredible establishment.

Alexis began her adventure as a wholesale baker, supplying restaurants and specialty food purveyors. Over the years, ABC has been the imagination place to hang out as the neighborhood around it became the “West End.” Alexis Handelman pioneered a trend that now encompasses a destination outside of the traditional Main Street mercantile area, with new restaurants, the refurbished, vintage Uptown Theater, cool hotels, funky and pristine Victorian homes, and interesting retail shops.

Alexis’ breakfasts are the best; her lunches are just as great and her holiday dinners are amazing. We have enjoyed many a Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day dinner at ABC with friends.
If you want to be there for a special holiday dinner, we suggest that you make your
reservations early!

ABC is a well-known fixture on Third Street and is packed most of the time. It’s busy every day because the food is so good. Good food makes for happy people who imagine, map-out and create big deals.  Fifteen years ago, the now, almost complete, Flood Control Project was hashed out by many of its volunteers and enthusiastically imagined at ABC over oatmeal in the morning.  We know many great projects that had their origins over breakfast or lunch at ABC. Maybe the vibe for great ideas spreads throughout the place from some magic spores in the walls.

For birthday parties, weddings and special occasions, the cakes at ABC can’t be beat. Our #1 Favorite is the incredible top-shelf Apricot Pistachio Cake. Our family has come to expect that for every birthday and there never seems to be any leftovers, even when everyone talks about “HOW BIG” the cake is! ABC’s version of the Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake (a nostalgic favorite made famous by a San Francisco restaurant) also made Bon Appetit’s Top Ten Cakes in America!

Everything at ABC is upbeat and attractive, along with being a little funky, whimsical and fun. The art on the walls is joyful, avant-garde and mostly local. The buzz around the Big Community Table next to the salad bar is always interesting as are the local folks who are usually sitting there.

ABC serves breakfast and lunch every day. For those of you who LOVE breakfast, there is good news. The famous Breakfast Sandwich with Scrambled Eggs, Ham and Melted Cheddar Cheese on ABC’s own Potato Bun, and the Mexican Breakfast Sandwich with Scrambled Eggs, Salsa, Jack Cheese and Ortega Chiles on a Cornmeal Bun are served all day.

John usually orders Huevos a la Mexicana; Fried Eggs on Soft Corn Tortillas, topped with Cheddar Cheese, Onions, Pasilla Peppers, Ricotta Salata, Pinto Beans and Tomatillo Sauce ($12.95). Dorothy’s favorite is the Smoked Salmon Sandwich, with Eggs, Cream Cheese, Red Onions and Capers on a Potato Bun ($10.95). Other specials for breakfast include:
Poached or Scrambled Eggs with Potatoes and your choice of Toast ($10.95); Huevos Rancheros with Eggs any Way, Black Beans, Salsa, Cheddar Cheese on Crispy Corn Tortillas ($12.95)
A Bowl of Oatmeal or Cream of Wheat or Cream of Rice with butter and brown sugar ($6.95).
Lunch at ABC is equally terrific. The favorite for many of our friends, who work for local nonprofit organizations, is the Chinese chicken salad with fresh roasted cashews and sesame seeds ($13.95); followed by the equally incredible ABC Burger, also on that delicious Potato Bun ($12.95). The Chicken Palooza Menu includes the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich, along with the ABC Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($12.95). A staple of the menu is the Focaccia “Sandwich of the day”, with your choice of the daily side salad ($8.95) or have it as a 1/2 sandwich with soup and salad ($10.95). If you like your Caesar Salad plain with house made croutons ($9.95), you can get it that way, or with Grilled Chicken ($11.95) or with Grilled Salmon ($14.95). ABC has wonderful soups, such as the creamy tomato soup ($4.50 or $6.50). You can top lunch off with a delectable Chocolate Chip Cookie, made with French chocolate chips ($2.25) or a tangy Lemon Bar ($2.50.

Dorothy almost NEVER gets out of ABC without buying baked goods for our grandchildren, who have come to expect that Grandma will always show up with a bag of ABC goodies … and we all know that grandparents, regardless of what their parents may say, give grandkids as much sugar as we want! Here are just a few of the tempting treats behind the counter:

Muffins: Blueberry • Carrot Apple • Bran-Prune-Walnut • Pumpkin Spice • Sour Cream Coffeecake • Blackberry • Orange Buttermilk • Apple Cinnamon • Apricot Ginger (low fat) • Lemon Poppyseed. All ABC’s muffins can be pre-ordered in a MINI
format, perfect for catering. Scones and other Treats: If you are from the Northwest and grew up on scones, THIS is the place for you, with Currant Cream Scones • Cherry Oat Scones • Heart Shaped Shortcakes • Bear Claws • Brioche Morning Buns
• Pecan Sticky Buns.

Cakes: In addition to the Apricot Pistachio Cake and the Blum’s Coffee that you already know about, we suggest that you try ABC’s Lemon Crunch Cake and their signature Chocolate Caramel Cake. For a special party, pre-order your cake and choose from a 6” or 9” round, or even square or rectangular cakes!

We often run into a bride and her mother choosing a wedding cake. If you want your wedding guests to REALLY love the cake, get it from ABC. ABC works with several wedding coordinators, photographers and floral designers in the Napa Valley.  If you are in that mode, think about hanging out at ABC to get a great meal and pick out your wedding cake. This might just be one-stop shopping that takes the stress out of wedding planning!

Many nonprofits and businesses in town serve ABC’s wonderful box lunches. You can also have breakfast, lunch or dinner catered and, for a small fee, they will deliver it to you. ABC offers full service catering as well; everything from small, intimate dinners to weddings for 100+!

At ABC, January is a time to hunker down, snuggle up and make those New Year’s resolutions a reality. To ease that stress, Alexis concentrates on offering lots of comfort foods, such as their homemade soups- to-go with their luscious Grilled Cheese Sandwiches or other winter lunch selections, including Chicken Pot Pie, Beef Chili, or Eggplant Parmigianino and Garlic Bread!

One of ABC’s 2013 New Year’s Resolutions is to offer more live music and to continue their quest to broaden the audience for Live Jazz! In January, the delightful Max Bonick will be back, playing with his group The Jazz Delinquents. The first of these Pop Up Performances with be Friday, January 11, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. Come see which favorite local chefs show up for a Pop Up Appearance and serve up some brews, some wine, and some very tasty food to go along with this very talented set of musicians. It’s the perfect antidote to chilly weather, and the right note for taking care of your soul. Hang out at ABC for a Jumpin Jazzy January!

Alexis Baking Company is THE place to be any month of the year; to see and hear real Napans at work, creating community and magic year round.

 

RECIPE:

Beef Daube –

Yield:  Serves 6

3 1/2 lbs. of beef stew meat
1 1/2 cups red or white wine
1/4 cup brandy or gin
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Teaspoons salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme or sage
1 crumbled bay leaf
2 cloves smashed garlic
2 cups sliced onions
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
(the above are all the ingredients for the marinade)
1/2 pound bacon – uncooked
(cut the strips of bacon in pieces about 2 inches long)
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 1/2 cups chopped canned Marzano tomatoes

Place the beef pieces in a bowl with all the marinade ingredients and cover for at least 3 hours (we do this overnight)

In the morning take the beef out of the marinade and drain it (SAVE the marinade!)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a 5 to 6 quart fireproof casserole line the bottom with 3-4 strips of bacon. Strew a handful of the marinade vegetables, mushrooms and tomatoes over them. Piece by piece roll the beef in flour and shake off excess. Place closely together in a layer over the vegetables. Cover with a few strips of bacon, and continue with layers of vegetables, beef, and bacon. End with a layer of vegetables and two or three strips of bacon.

Pour the wine from the marinade and enough stock (beef stock or bouillon) almost to cover the contents of the casserole. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove, cover and set in the lower third of your oven. Let it simmer slowly in the oven for 3-4 hours until the meat is tender….when a fork pierces it easily it’s done!

You can prepare this ahead a day or so…which if you do, you can then skim the fat off before you reheat it to serve.

And, you can serve it with mashed potatoes or noodles or rice or whatever.