Oenotri: oh my goodness!

I am in love with the new Italian restaurant down the street called OH-no-tree, but spelled Oenotri.  Southern Italian/Sicilian cuisine that presents new flavors each week to satisfy your Italian urge.  First, the pizza:  We chose the margherita pizza again to look for consistency and it was just perfect.  Crusty, a nice blend of tomatoes and oregano and just a touch of cheese make this pizza a perfect appetizer to begin the meal.  I ordered the roasted artichoke salad (I know they’ll be out of season soon!), served with potatoes and tuna confit and Jamie ordered the field greens with vinaigrette.  Nothing wrong with his salad; it was just that mine sparkled with every bite and he agreed.  I’ll warn you now: trying to limit what you order can be difficult considering that they make their own pastas and salumi.

Jamie ordered the pasta with lamb, with a rich, earthy sauce that you wanted to sop up with bread.  (A note on bread: they’ll serve it if you ask for it; it isn’t just offered, and it comes with olive oil)  I chose the house-made pastrami dinner with arugula (not my favorite green but it worked perfectly with the pastrami) and long-cooked fava beans in the skin, all of which was delicious.  The beans pleasantly surprised me: I usually boil my fava beans briefly and then remove the outer skin before using; but the longevity of the cooking process at Oenotri softened the skin and gave the bean a silkier texture than I imagined.  As for wine we brought our own: a $15 corkage fee for the first bottle, and $20 for every bottle after that.  Reservations here are a must, and at least 1 to 2 weeks in advance for a decent dinner time.

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Thursday “Chef’s Market”: A Farmer’s Market, Napa-style!

Thursday is a great night to spend a night at The Inn On First.  Every Thursday, from June through mid-September, the Napa Downtown Merchant’s Association presents “Chef’s Market”.  You can find a farmer’s market anywhere. But only in Napa can you buy your produce, watch a world class chef’s demonstration, enjoy live music at four stages including one just for kids – while enjoying a glass of Napa Valley wine. The sixteenth annual Thursday night Napa Chef’s Market summer season kicked-off on Thursday, May 20, and will continue through the summer from 5 to 9 PM on First Street in Downtown Napa.  Free and open to the public, this outdoor food, wine and entertainment extravaganza is like no other – it  features food and wine tastings from Napa Valley restaurants and wineries, cooking demonstrations by Napa’s acclaimed chefs, dozens of food vendors, produce from 25 of the region’s top farmers, three musical stages, and a block of children’s entertainment. Chefs Market has been voted “Best Family Outing” by local radio stations listeners for years.  Even casual foodies will enjoy the two nightly cooking demonstrations at 6:30 and 7:30 each night, which are hosted by Anne Baker, former pastry chef for Mustards Grill. Baker lines up two chefs each night, and both pair their offerings with wine from a downtown tasting room.  Samples of food and wine are free to all watching.

This is a great way to spend a Thursday evening like a local Napan: walk the streets, enjoy some beer and wine, listen to the music, and enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of downtown Napa on a balmy summer evening.

Tuesday is “Local’s Night” at Oxbow Market.

If you want some great, easy eats at very affordable prices, then Oxbow Market on Tuesday nights is the place to be.  Gott’s Burgers and Fries, $4.00 for a cheeseburger and fries, and a house salad at 50% off.  Hog Island Oyster company has oysters for $1, and Pica-Pica has $1 ceviche shots.  These are just a few of the treats waiting for those who are staying at The Inn On First on Tuesday nights.  Entertainment will also be provided in the main market area between the hours of 5 to 9 pm.  And don’t forget all the great tasting rooms in the area that are staying open later for the summer, some until 9 pm for those who want to continue to experience of wine tasting later into the night.  You can also walk over to the Verasa and eat at the Bank Bar where they serve 3 tapas for $5.  Stay on Tuesday, be a local.

Carneros: a beautiful place for bicycling near The Inn On First

Get out of the car and onto the bike.  It is a lovely way to see the Napa Valley, and all within reach of The Inn On First.  Napa Valley Adventure Tours rents bicycles out of the Oxbow Market, a 15-20 minute walk from the inn.  While at the Oxbow Market you can pick up sandwiches from The Fatted Calf (love the pulled pork), or go next door to The Model Bakery for a loaf of bread (a huge selection) and head up to the Cheese Merchant in the main building for some olives, cheeses, or other snacks.  While there, visit the wine shop where you can pick up half-bottles of wine for lunch, or walk through the open market and purchase fresh fruit, vegetables, or go to Pica-Pica for some gluten-free items.  Then go to the bike shop, pick up your bike and head right back down First Street, past the inn, over Highway 29 until First Street becomes Browns Valley Road.  Stay on that street until you see the animal farm on the left (about 1/4 mile from Highway 29) and turn left on Thompson Road.  Follow Thompson Avenue to Congress Valley Road (right) and continue to Buhman Road (left) which takes you into the heart of the Carneros Region.  Best place to lunch and wine taste will be Folio Winemaker’s Studio, where you can sit at the picnic table out near the vineyards, or go onto the back porch and enjoy your lunch overlooking the vineyards.  This is the 6-mile marker from the inn.  If you are feeling hearty, head up the hill toward Artesa Winery for a great view (7-mile marker) and then make a decision: more cycling, more wine tasting, or return to the inn.  If you are ready to return, head for Old Sonoma Road, turn left, and follow the directions below for Getting Home.

If you are ready to keep going then head back down the hill away from Artesa Winery toward Domain Carneros Winery (9-mile marker), where you can spend some time enjoying a purchase of their cheese plate with a glass of sparkling wine on their terrace.  Want to go further?  Follow Duhig Road toward Acacia Winery (11.5 mile marker), and then to Cuttings Wharf Road/Carneros Ave to Saintsbury winery (16-mile marker) and then back toward Madonna Estate and Old Sonoma Road (17-mile marker).

Getting Home: Stay on Old Sonoma Road until it crosses back over Highway 29 and you come to Jefferson Avenue.  Turn left on Jefferson and ride down to First Street and turn left. At this point you will have completed a 22-mile loop.  You want a bigger ride than that?  I’ll have to save that info for another blog: think Lake Hennessey and Chiles Valley.

Don’t worry about directions: we’ll have maps for you as well as the bike shop.  There are only a few slight inclines, except for the climb up to Artesa; it is generally a really flat ride with great views of the wineries, vineyard, and the Carneros Region.  And except for a very short (maybe 50 yards) ride along the highway, you are on side streets that keep you away from the hustle and bustle of traffic.

For those who want to see my map, copy and paste the link to a new window:  http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=118210235070811742809.0004863229d0d1cb14f19&z=13&lci=bike