Coffee- create your own blend here in Napa!

Yes, there are plenty of wine-blending opportunities in the Valley, but only one place where you create your own blend of coffee, and can reorder at anytime in the future.  Imagine a honeymoon or anniversary blend, or a special birthday blend, or a “just because I can do it” blend.  Our local coffee roaster offers local businesses the opportunity to create their own blend to offer to customers and guests.  We attended one of these sessions and when it was over we asked if he would be willing to offer something exclusive to the guests of The Inn On First.  After a discussion on how to make it happen, he said yes!

We sat down with Charlie (the owner) and Ryan (the manager) for about 1 hour, we tasted the various stages of beans  (from green, to lightly roasted, to dark black), learned about the nuances of roasting and the flavors that are imparted.  We were given 3 coffee slurries that were meant to be tasted and not consumed.  These were 3 different beans from around the world, each with a unique flavor and nuance.  There was one from Mexico, from Costa Rica, and from Africa.  One had a hint of chocolate and minerality, another a bit of caramel and cinnamon, and another held a hint of smoke and earthiness.  As we were educated on how to smell and taste the pure bean flavor, we found our palates opening up to the nuances of coffee.  Until then, I have to admit, my palate knew only 3 kinds of coffee: Starbuck’s, anything French Dark Roast, and Espresso.  Suddenly the heavens opened as I realized that there are as many varieties of coffee as there are grapes.  The soil content and weather all play a part in the magic of the bean, and then the coffee professionals put their own nuances on the flavor by roasting and then mixing the ground beans.  Based upon our reactions and responses to the 3 very different bean slurries, Charlie and Ryan then presented us with 3 different blends.  What surprised us both was that there was one clear winner- this wonderful, earthy tone with a hint of caramel: The Inn On First blend.

For those who want to do something unique and fun that is not wine-related, we offer you this opportunity for 90 minutes of tasting, education, and blending of coffee.  Working with a Coffee Educator, you will see what happens to the beans at different stages of roasting, taste the “characteristics and flavors” of different beans from around the world identifying which ones you enjoy, learn how to brew a perfect cup of coffee with a coffee press, and then create your own personal blend of coffee.  At the end of your session you will go home with a bag of your custom blend, a french coffee press, and the opportunity at any time in the future to call and reorder your very special blend.  And, of course, to drink all the coffee you want while you are there.  We need at least 3 days notice to make sure your Coffee Educator has the time to roast all the coffee beans used in your session.  You can either do this locally here in Napa (walking distance from the inn) or you can go to the original coffee roastery in St. Helena and tour the equipment as part of your education.  $150/couple.

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Jim hits the 100 marker for breakfast recipes!

Yes, four years later I can hardly believe it’s true.  100 different breakfast options to choose from here at The Inn On First.  The S’more French Toast sealed the deal, as well as the introduction of Sushi Omelets, Chocolate Pasta with Tofu-Walnut Sauce and poached eggs, and Eggs in Pipian (Roasted Pumpkin Seed) Sauce.  These are just a few of the breakfast adventures available here.  Now, not every breakfast is as adventurous as these.  I will admit that I have six pancake recipes: Hawaiian (grilled pineapple and toasted coconut), Chocolate Truffle, Raspberry with Chocolate-Ricotta, Apple Pie, Roasted Peach Crumble, and Bananas Foster- but each brings a unique flavor and presentation.  I suppose if you compared my breakfasts to rides at Disneyland, some would be as crazy as the Mad Hatter, others as fun as the Matterhorn, still others surprising like The Haunted Mansion, and some a simple ride on the People Mover.  I’m really grateful to all of our guests who have been willing to take the adventure with us, your willingness to embrace new ideas, your input on how to improve dishes in terms of flavor or presentation, and your smiles when I peek my head out of the door when a new breakfast is served.  Yes, I’m finalizing the cookbook, moving recipes from my workbook to the computer, but even that is difficult as I am constantly updating and changing the recipes!

As you know we keep track of your food- dates you visited, what you ate, and we work hard not to repeat your breakfast.  We want every visit to offer a unique and satisfying experience.  To date, Fred and Ozzie hold the record for breakfasts enjoyed- 24!  I’m still developing new Gluten-free options, Dairy-free options, and have gotten a wee bit better on figuring out what to do for people who don’t eat eggs!  Am I finished?  Not at all.  My goal is 250, but I’ve given myself 10 years to get there!  So, what’s next?  I don’t know.  Come and see.  Be a part of the magic, become a member of the First Family, and maybe you, too, will find your way into the history of breakfast “firsts” here at The Inn On First.

A big Napa Cabernet Sauvignon- a trip to Baldacci Vineyards

We love Baldacci vineyards.  Just got to say it.  They always welcome us and our guests with such enthusiasm and joy.  Debbie Cali, the GM, and her tasting room staff are ready to help you explore some of the great flavors of the Napa Valley.  A small winery in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa Valley, they produce a nice Chardonnay, two Pinots, and a wide selection of Cabernets.  This visit was to find a big Napa cabernet sauvignon for Josie, our visiting friend.  We started with the IV Sons Cabernet, an estate blend named after the four Baldacci sons.  Such a nice nose, great presence of fruit, and really pleasant to drink.  We moved onto the Black Label, the same vineyard, but now 100% Cabernet.  A little bit softer in every respect, and very drinkable.  We loved both of them.  Debi was kind enough to permit us to tasted two of the reserve Cabernets.  These are set aside for a special 2:30 pm tasting they do each day in the casita, a separate house where you sit down and taste only reserves.  The Diamond Mountain Cabernet was first, and immediately Josie said that this was it- that big Napa Cab she was looking for.  It really is delicious and fun and as you smell it over time it just keeps changing and inviting you in for a further tasting.  Finally, Ruppert, their high end Cab, was presented and we both sighed.  This was pure Napa Valley. Lush, rich, deep and dark fruit, great finish.  It was a “wow” wine and it only made choosing more difficult!  After much sipping, smelling, and discussing the nuances of pairing with food, we finally settled on the Diamond Mountain.  Why?  We wanted something big, bold, and delicious to go with the food at the event, but not so luscious as it would be lost on most people.  Ruppert was a sit-down wine, a wine to open with a really great dinner, to invite your closest friends to share in something special.  With over 200 people expected at this event, we knew that Diamond Mountain could accomplish two things: pair well with the food and make a great impression on the guests.  Josie and I had done a lot of tasting that day, but we both sat out on the patio, overlooking the vineyards, watching the sun glisten off the vineyards.  Reluctantly I let her finish the Ruppert; but not a complaint was heard as I enjoyed every last drop of the Diamond Mountain Cabernet.