Bleaux Magnolia: still charming my palate.

We haven’t been to Bleaux Magnolia in awhile and returned for a visit when some family came into town to visit.  As with any restaurant you wonder if the consistency is still there, the service, the quality, etc.  We were not disappointed.  The Oysters Magnolia still delight me with their creamy sauce and the chorizo sausage, baked to perfection.  Then I went really decadent and ordered the macaroni and cheese with tasso ham- oh boy!  Thank God I’m not looking at that on my menu every day as I would want to eat it daily.  We also tried the tater tots made with alligator tail, and that was just as tasty as everything else.  How does ‘gator taste?  How else?….like chicken!  They still don’t charge a corkage fee which makes it a great opportunity to bring in some really great wine and not have to worry about additional costs.  The scoop for this summer is that they are putting in a beer garden with outdoor movies and a roasting pig for diners to dig into…can’t wait!

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Vintner’s Collective Tasting Room: incredible wines without the drive.

Tasting rooms are in abundance in the city of Napa.  Each of them unique- some are individual wineries, others are representing larger wineries throughout the Napa Valley, and still others showcase the wines of small winemakers who neither have tasting rooms and lease equipment from larger wineries.  Vintner’s Collective is part of the latter- these winemakers don’t make more than 10,000 cases per year.  At Vintner’s Collective the winemakers are typically making wine for other wineries in the valley and then have their own grapes to make their own.  For example, Rolando Herrera, who has made wines for Stag’s Leap and Baldacci Vineyards, has his own line of wines under the label of “Mi Sueno” (My Dream).  We were invited for an event to enjoy the wines they offer and I fell in love with Destino Winery (he is also the owner of Bouchaine).  First I tried his Cabernet Sauvignon blend called “Mask” (delicious! and only $30) and then was introduced to his single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) and drank nothing else for the rest of the evening.  I was afraid to move away from something I enjoyed so much.  Last year I fell in love with Rolando Herrera’s Chardonnay (rich, buttery, creamy); this year Destino was to capture my palate.  There are easily ten or more wineries represented at Vintner’s Collective so there is much more to taste.  Because this tasting room is within walking distance of the inn (along with 11 others), you never have to get into your car and don’t have to worry about any crazy drivers weaving down highway 29 in the late afternoon.  The other advantage of tasting rooms over the wineries?  They usually stay open to 6 or 7 p.m. on the weekends while the wineries close between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m.  As a side note, the Taste of Napa cards we sell (currently $35 per couple) give you the opportunity over the course of one year to visit each of the 11 represented tasting rooms on the cards and to receive a single pour from each (although most usually give you the full tasting of wines available).

Bounty Hunter: Fire up the grill and smoker!

If you like grilled fish or smoked ribs or even roasted chicken, then the Bounty Hunter may be the place for you.  The casual environment with bar tables and high stools throughout the restaurant, as well as the extensive wine list, first gives you the impression that this is a bar.  When the menu arrives, though, you are pleasantly surprised to find a nice selection of meats, fish, and vegetables to choose from.  On my last visit I was invited to join a couple who was staying at the Inn who knew that Jamie was out of town (thank you Larry & Janet!) and I enjoyed a beautiful filet of salmon, perfectly grilled, with a lovely zucchini “spaghetti” with a light mustard sauce (hmm- gives me an idea for breakfast you might one day see on MY menu).  It was paired with Bounty Hunter’s house wine, Pursuit Pinot Noir Carneros 2007, which was absolutely yummy.  I laughed as I saw the beer can chicken delivered to another table and they realized they needed to carve it; I almost volunteered to help them but they were having too much fun dissecting the chicken themselves.  I shared some of Jamie’s the last time we visited and it was great.  As always, I recommend the ribs as they are smoked deliciously and come with a number of sauces for you to try with each bite.

UVA: Revisiting an old-time locals favorite restaurant.

I was unimpressed the first time I went to Uva Trattoria.  Enough guests, though, had told us that they loved the food and we should try it again, and so we did.  I ordered pizza with vegetables and caramelized onions with fresh mozzarella, while Jamie enjoyed the seafood stew with tomato sauce that came with a hefty portion of lobster tail and claws, as well as mussels and clams.  The pizza was thin crust with a lively crunch that I enjoyed.  Jamie’s sauce in the stew was tasty and worth dipping the bread into when the seafood was gone.  For starters we enjoyed the chicken and vegetable soup (I was recovering from a cold/flu and wanted something “homey” and it didn’t disappoint!) and the caesar’s salad (a good solid starter).  Everything we ate we enjoyed and as I looked around at the restaurant I realized what Uva was for locals: Italian comfort food.  The ambience, the large portions, and even the music provided at nights on weekends, provided locals a place to hang for awhile and enjoy a warm meal and live entertainment.  Although not the best Italian in the Valley, it is definitely a place for anyone who is looking for some good, local flavor with some local charm.  I will return…I saw a lamb bolognese on the menu I would like to try…I’m a sucker for good bolognese!