Angele Restaurant in Napa: a great place for romance and dinner

Just a 15-minute walk from The Inn On First, a bed and breakfast in Napa, is the restaurant Angele.  With friends in town we decided to return to the restaurant as it had been awhile since we enjoyed the cuisine.  With a new chef in the kitchen I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can now report we weren’t disappointed.

The marinated beet salad called to me and I was enthusiastic with every bite, especially with the addition of fromage blanc (I have to admit I have a weakness for cheese in all its forms).  I split that with Jamie as our friends split the heirloom tomato sald with figs and prosciutto (gladly they shared and we loved it).  The quail was my main course, as it sounded just too yummy to pass up with figs and pancetta-leek au jus.  Just delicious.  Jamie obviously enjoyed the braised rabbit with tomato confit which he reluctantly gave up a bite to me.

Thankfully our friend ordered the Duo de Bouef with a small filet and braised shortrib and the pork shoulder with quinoa.  To my disappointment no one ordered the sea bass, and when it was delivered to the table across the way I was sorry we couldn’t squeeze in one more dish.  Check out the full late summer menu on their website.

We still think Angele is one of the great romantic restaurants in Napa, right along the river, with great food, perfect ambience, and wonderful service.  A great value for your money.


Melka Wine Pairing Dinner at Carpe Diem Wine Bar and Restaurant

Only a 10-minute walk from The Inn On First, a luxury Bed and Breakfast in Napa, is Carpe Diem, one of our favorite wine bars and restaurants in downtown Napa.  Recently they provided two nights of a Winemaker’s Dinner where they pair the food with the wine from one particular winery.  They selected Melka Winery for this event, and paired their wines with 5 different courses of food created by Executive Chef Scott Kendall.

We began with a grilled peach and housemade burrata on a crispy wonton that was paired with their Barrel Sample Mekerra Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($not priced yet).  The appetizer was delicious on its own, but when paired with the wine, it went from great to “wow!”.  This was followed by a warm goat cheese medallion crusted with walnuts and chamomile, paired with Metisse Mekerra Vineyard (2008) ($125), equal parts cabernet franc and merlot.  Bold nose, heavy dark fruit flavors with deep spice.  A nice contrast with the goat cheese.

Our next course was housemade paparedelle with braised lamb, paired with CJ Cabernet Sauvignon (2009) ($52), with soft fruit flavors in the traditional Napa cabernet style.  We kept trying to not eat everything as there was so much food, but with each bite and sip you knew you needed to taste more.

Our main course was Grilled Uruguayan Filet Mignon with a crispy Camargue red rice cake, paired with Metisse Jumping Goat Vineyard (2009) ($155), a delicious Bordeaux Blend with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot.  What a perfect pairing with the beef, soft and luscious mouth feel against the savory beef flavor.

Dessert came and we finally did slow down…a little.  It was a black forest truffle with bing cherries, chantilly cream, and toffee brittle.  Paired with Metisse Le Chatelet Vineyard- Saint Emilion Grand Cru, with chocolate notes and black cherry, again enhancing the great combination of flavors in dessert.

Now some might think that $125/pp is steep for dinner here in Napa, but actually that is the norm, if not more, especially if you do wine pairing with your meal.  The added value of this meal is that they keep pouring you more wine if you want it, as well as the interaction with the winemakers, Phillipe and Cherie Melka.  Lastly, when you meet Stephanie and Scott Kendall, and Steve Distler, the owners of the restaurant, and encounter their fabulous staff, you will make Carpe Diem one of your favorite dining spots in Napa Valley.

Angele: another great meal in a romantic setting.

It looks like a small Parisian cafe with candlelight throughout the restaurant and outside the small windows can be seen the lights mirroring off the Napa River.  It is a small, intimate restaurant that has an inviting, romantic appeal.   We began with cocktails (it is only one of 3 or 4 restaurants in historic Napa that serve cocktails)and they brought a lovely white bean dip with crositini as an appetizer.  A nice touch to get the meal started.  I ordered the leek and potato soup and was not disappointed by the creamy and velvety texture, and I followed it up with the sweetbreads that came with a fragrant, rich sauce on the plate that coated every piece.  On my first bite I was a little overwhelmed by the sauce that I scooped up with my first piece, and quickly learned to leave more of the sauce on the plate and let the sweetbreads with a light drizzle of sauce inform my palate.  Afterward it left plenty of sauce on the plate to sop up with the bread they served with the meal.  Jamie ordered the mixed green salad and followed it up with the sea bass.  The fish was cooked perfectly and came with a light sauce and some veggies on the plate that gave it a nice balance.

Our friends ordered the french onion soup (always a treat at Angele with the stringy cheese pulling at the spoon as you lift that first slurp to your mouth), the winter salad with apples and pears and nuts drizzled with a light vinaigrette, the creme fraiche gnocchi (light and airy pillow puffs that melted in your mouth) and the blackened cod (a nice white fish served in a broth).  We paired everything with a Saintsbury Pinot that was delightful (Pinot seems to be the one wine that will go with just about everything).  My only regret was that we had to run out at the end to get to our show at Silo’s (night club) so we could not fully enjoy the ambience of sipping coffee over dessert at the end.  Alas, another time.

Bui Bistro: French Vietnamese cuisine that is fresh, fresh, fresh.

A ten minute walk from The Inn On First, a romantic Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, is a restaurant called Bui Bistro, a blend of French and Vietnamese cuisines.  There was a distinct “freshness” to every bite.  You could just taste it in every dish, something I cannot say for every restaurant in town.  They have traditional noodle dishes, stews served in large bowls with fresh fish, vegetables, and noodles (lunch only), as well as spring rolls, salads, and soups.

I highly recommend the green papaya salad with its little kick of pepper at the back of your throat, and the sauteed pea shoots that were just wonderful.  We also enjoyed the spring rolls, both Imperial (deep fried) and fresh.  The French side comes out with the duck confit or beef carpaccio, but with an Asian flair that nuances the flavors; or in dessert such as the Kaffir Lime creme brulee.  You’ll find sea bass in tamarind coconut sauce, and if they offer anything in the clay pot, take it; it is always delicious.  The seating is casual and the prices are reasonable ($9 to $12 for appetizers and $12 to $22 for entrees).

ALEX- upscale Italian comes to Rutherford

A 30 minute drive from The Inn On First, a luxury Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa, is a lovely restaurant named ALEX.  It is small, intimate, with a very comfortable elegant decor followed up with excellent service and superior food.  We usually don’t go up valley often for dinner unless a particular restaurant is calling for attention.  Alex, a new restaurant in Rutherford, connected to the Rancho Caymus Inn, is worth noting for those who want something more upscale and less crowded (read that quieter) than Bottega (don’t get me wrong, I love Bottega).  I’ll sum it up in one sentence: I enjoyed absolutely every bite!

From the fried vegetable platter with aioli, to the beet and potato gnocchi with gorgonzola cream.  I also was able to snag a spoonful of really delicious broccoli soup, a bite of the housemade burrata with speck, and the farro stew.  Oh my!, and that was just the starters.  We ordered the Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the side for the bread (worth the order) with its fruity flavor.  Then came the roasted rabbit with housemade fettucine (as are all the pastas), the veal and beef ragu with cavatelli, and the grilled octopus salad (love, love, love it), and grilled pork cheeks (yummy!).   The fireplace, the comfortable chairs, the overall setting, and the service, also set this place apart from so many others in the valley.  Quiet, quaint, romantic.

For wine we ordered the Pahlmayer Jayson Chardonnay to start and finished with a lovely Italian red, Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria.  We finished the meal with a semifreddo di torrone, a light frozen whipped cream dessert with coffee.  It was perfect.

Prices range from $12 to $15 for starters and $15 to $30 for main courses.  If you don’t mind the drive and want something really nice and romantic, I would recommend this restaurant.  It’s worth the drive.

Named in Top 10 Romantic Inns for Wine Country

What an exciting time for us!  We are so happy that we were recently named in the Top 10 Romantic Inns in Wine Country.

The Inn on First, Napa— Jamie Cherry and Jim Gunther run this beautiful inn within walking distance of downtown Napa, and the reviews are rave, whether we’re hearing about Gunther’s fabulous truffles or Cherry’s hospitality. The inn’s 12 rooms invite intimacy, with fireplaces, spa tubs and no televisions. Each room is different, with rich-colored walls that will remind you of wine—especially in First Crush, Heritage Estate and Meritage. Everything is luxurious, from the plush towels and billowing comforters to the plump pillows and exquisite furnishings. Nightly rates start at $190 and include a full breakfast—something scrumptious dreamed up by Gunther, such as egg roll omelets, a roasted-tomato tart, a breakfast BLT with pancetta and basil oil or sweet potato Dutch pancakes topped with fresh mixed berries. This is not your typical B&B fare. These two guys know wine and food better than just about anyone and will help you plan your trip to the Napa Valley wine country—check out their blog on the website or, once you make your reservation, ask Cherry to help you custom-design an itinerary for your perfect trip to Napa. 1938 First St., Napa; (707) 253-1331;

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Tarla Mediterranean Grill

Only a few short blocks from The Inn On First, the best bed and breakfast in Napa, is a new restaurant called Tarla.  The cuisine is Turkish-Mediterranean, and the ambience is casual and comfortable.  Modern elements in design dominate, and yet tableware reflects a traditional element, for example in the Turkish water cups on the tables.

There are plenty of traditional Mediterranean first plates, such as dolmas (creamier than any I’ve had elsewhere) and spanikopita with spinach and feta and tziki sauce, but also items new to me, such as the flaming cheese covered in champagne syrup (delicious!).  As a salad Jamie and I split the pomegranate salad (a don’t miss dish) with barley and pomegranate seeds.  We also ordered the Turkish meatballs that were a nicely browned with a perfect spicy richness in both the meat and the sauce.

For main course I enjoyed the Tiger Prawns/Scallops on parsnip puree while Jamie ordered the Lamb Kebabs that came with a rich and creamy red pepper sauce.  Our friends ordered the chicken kebabs and the pistachio crusted halibut (yummy).  Finally, for dessert we enjoyed the mascarpone stuffed Turkish apricots and a Turkish version of mascarpone that was utterly not sweet (unusual for me as I expected sweetness, but not a bad dessert at all for those cutting back on sugar), that carried a little bit of rich toffee in its presentation.

As a wine pairing for all of us we chose the Brown Estate Zinfandel that was smooth, rich, with a really nice finish.  All in all it was a really nice meal.  Don’t expect anything grandiose here.  This is simple cuisine in a casual environment, with no reservations taken except for parties of 6 or more.  The service was good and the food was definitely tasty.  Prices range from $8-$10 for appetizers/salads, and $15-$22 for main courses.