120 breakfast recipes to choose from

I know.  We’ve read about it for years: breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day.  So here at The Inn On First, a luxury Napa bed and breakfast inn, we take it seriously.  Today we have over 120 recipes that we utilize over the course of one year.  We keep track of when you visit, what you eat for breakfast, and ensure you don’t get served the same dish again.  It is our way of keeping you excited for what is about to be presented to you each morning, no matter how often you visit us.

Corndog Omelet-103   Birds Nest-113

It is also a way for Chef Jim Gunther not to get bored or complacent. His goal is to develop a minimum of 250 recipes before he retires.  He’s hoping for another ten years to work at it and thinks he can achieve that goal.  For Jim, it is a very Zen-like experience- you eat, you enjoy, you let it go. Something new is coming your way the next time.  “Knowing you get to eat this breakfast but once helps the guest to savor what is present to them today,” Jim stated.  “And in case you didn’t really enjoy that particular breakfast,” he added playfully, “you’ll never see it again.”

Sushi Om-170 Hot Dog Omelet-154 Cheese Consomme-135-1



So what are some of the more recent creations that have come out of The Inn On First’s kitchen?  Cheese Consomme with Roasted Potatoes and Poached Egg, Corndog omelets, Argentinian Arepas with Eggs in Chipotle Cream Sauce, Macaroni and Cheese, and S’mores French Toast are a few of the items you can expect to enjoy this year.  The key to the inn’s success?  Everything is made from scratch: from macaroni noodles, to the graham cracker bread Jim created for French Toast.  Using fresh, organic, and locally grown ingredients, the focus is on cooking seasonally and creating recipes that have “comfort food” in mind.


Brix Restaurants: when you want a lovely garden to sit in for lunch

Only a fifteen minute drive from The Inn On First, a romantic Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, is Brix Restaurant.  As my friend Donna Kaz was in town from NYC I wanted her to experience the beauty that the Brix Gardens enjoys while dining on incredible food.

Asparagus Salad Brix Butter Lettuce Salad Brix Brix Garden View





As it was a bit later in the afternoon when we arrived (2 pm) we were practically alone on the patio for lunch.  With spring blossoms everywhere in sight, as well as bud break beginning to show on the vines all around, the place could not have been more welcoming.  We ordered the cold beet soup with a vegan base and a beautiful floral design of creme fraiche on top.  It was a perfect accompaniment to a warm spring day.  I ordered the asparagus salad, with a variety of white and green asparagus, and a light lemony dressing with petite brioche croutons.  So far the meal was perfect.

Donna enjoyed the house salad with butter lettuce, english peas, and a garlic-yogurt dressing, although we were both sorely tempted by the tempura fried green beans and the steak tartare.  The dungeness crab salad was tempting, but we tried to keep it light.  We decided to split the lamb sandwich on housemade focaccia bread with the most lovely crisp french fries (okay, so maybe we tried to keep it partially light!).  The bacon pizza looked delicious as we saw it delivered near us, as did the lamb bolognese.

Prices range from $8 to $18, for soups, appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and main entrees.  If you are here during the busier summer months I would suggest making a reservation and tell them you want to sit on the garden patio.  If you ate my breakfast  that morning you probably won’t be hungry again until 2 pm, which is a great time to sit and enjoy an afternoon break from wine tasting.

French Blue: if you’re in St. Helena and want to enjoy a nice lunch.

Just 15 miles north of The Inn On First, a luxury Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, is the town of St. Helena, and right on main street (Hwy 29) lies a small restaurant called French Blue.  All white with blue trim.  (CLOSED TUE).  We had the option of eating a late breakfast or ordering off the standard lunch menu.

Jamie chose the soup, a puree of celery root with a drizzle of creme fraiche and we both enjoyed sharing that dish.  To begin I ordered the lunch salad of roasted beets with candied hazelnuts.  It was delicious.  For his main course Jamie chose eggs in tomatillo sauce on corn tortillas and thought the tomatillo sauce was a perfect accompaniment to the eggs.  I wanted the breakfast special with a flatbread with prosciutto and eggs (I love when other people cook me breakfast!), but I could see other plates coming out from the kitchen and wondered if I should have been more adventurous: rabbit rillettes terrine, chicken paillard, lamb tenderloin, and shrimp with harissa butter.

As a lunch stop I think this could be a wonderful afternoon pitstop to enjoy some great food in a fun ambience while you are in between wineries in northern Napa Valley.  Reservations are a must, unless you want to wait for 45 minutes or more for a table.  Prices range from $8 to $12 for starters and $9 to $25 for entrees.  Visit  http://www.frenchbluenapa.com for more information.

O’Brien Estate Winery: “Isn’t it romantic….”

Just a 5-minute drive from The Inn On First in Napa, a romantic Bed and Breakfast Inn, is a small, family-owned winery called O’Brien Estate Winery.  A small and intimate setting that sets the background for some really delicious wines.  Gathering in the O’Brien’s back yard, overlooking the vineyards all around, they pour you a glass of Sauvignon Blanc called “Fascination”.  As you sip on this aromatic, lightly acidic wine with subtle fruit flavor, they explain the naming convention for the wine: “Fascination represents the first moment of a relationship, when you just catch a glimpse of the person your are destined to marry. That glimpse can change your life.”  You soon come to understand that Bart and Barb O’Brien are expressing their own notion of romance through the labeling on each bottle, with a bit of poetry on the back written by them.

You’ll move from Fascination to Attraction (Chardonnay that is some oak but well balanced) to Flirtation (Merlot Rose) to Romance Of The Heart (Merlot Bordeaux Blend) on through Seduction (Cabernet Bordeaux Blend) and Devotion (Cabernet Franc/Merlot Blend).  There are a total of 8 wines in the “Romantic Portfolio Series” as well as others they produce.  A walk through the barrel room and finally ending back in the tasting room that is really where the production takes place, and you’ll feel right at home with the O’Briens and their tasting room staff.

Tasting fees are $15 per person, and wines range from $40 to $70, with a couple of the estate reserve cabernets at $125 or more.  For those who want to bring home a memory of romance and poetry, this is a great spot to find that perfect bottle that best represents your relationship as it is today.

Barnett Winery: great wine, great views, really nice people.

About 40 minutes from The Inn On First, a luxury bed and breakfast inn in Napa, is Barnett Vineyards Winery.  Snuggled up on the hillside we call Spring Mountain, and at the end of a narrow, winding road lies the beautiful estate of Barnett.   Fiona and Hal Barnett created this vineyard and winery in 1983 with the intent of producing small amounts of hand crafted Cabernet Sauvignon wines from their estate.

The vineyards are located at the top of Spring Mountain, at elevation 2,000ft, planted on steep terraces that follow the contour of the land. The vines struggle to reach nutrients and water in the soil and, as a result, yield only one to two tons per acre (versus four to five tons per acre on the Valley floor). Grapes are harvested by hand; vineyard row by row, as optimum ripeness and maturity is reached. Fermentation is done in small batches.  Producing no more than 6,000 cases per year this is a very small operation.

Don’t be fooled, though, in thinking that small is not great.  Just the opposite is true.  We were pleasantly surprised to taste two different Pinot Noir releases, one with grapes from the Anderson Valley and another with grapes from the Russian River Valley.  Both were big on the nose and I expected them to be big on the palate but I was wrong.  They surprised me by their lightness, good fruit flavor, what I would call a great jazzy wine (playful on the palate).  The Savoy Chardonnay had great butter on the nose, but was evenly balanced with oak on the palate, a nice balance for Jamie (who loves butter) and me (who loves acidity and/or oak).

After tasting these three wines in the barrel room our hostess, Nicole, took us to the caves and the brand new tasting area in the nook of the mountain.  She brought along 2 cabernets for us to try, the Spring Mountain Cab (estate grown) and the Cyrus Ryan Cab (grapes from Valley floor),  Personally I found the Spring Mountain grapes had brighter fruit flavor, while the Cyrus Ryan Vineyard grapes held strong earthy notes, especially cinnamon which I loved.  As Nicole gave us the history of the vineyards, the Barnett family, and an overview of their flagship wine, Rattlesnake Cab, she walked us through the caves to a most stellar view of the Napa Valley floor.  With tables and chairs to sit and enjoy our wine and each other’s company, we stayed awhile soaking up the ambience.

The bulk of their wines range from $30 to $70, with a couple of their single vineyard cabs going for as much as $140.  These are wines you will sit on for 7, 10, or 15 years to allow the aging process to bring out the best of the fruit and to reduce the tannins.  Overall, a lovely experience and well worth the drive.  Although it is not mandatory, Jamie and I place a high expectation upon our guests to purchase when you visit.  This is true of most small, family-owned vineyards, and especially those up in the hillsides.  Tasting fees for Barnett run $40 per person and is worth it considering the great wines you get to try.

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.

Jamie Cherry is awarded a Champion of the Industry Award!

Jamie Cherry, one of the innkeepers of Napa Valley’s bed and breakfast, The Inn on First, was recently awarded the Champion of the Bed and Breakfast Industry Award from the Professional Association of International Innkeepers (PAII). Cherry received the award in recognition of his efforts to promote the innkeeping industry. The award will be formally conferred on Jan. 26 at the 2012 Innkeeping Show Awards Luncheon at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, Ark., from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m.

“Language is a powerful tool, and it is the basis in forming culture and ideology, even in the world of the travel business. In working with an organization that is responsible for promoting Napa Valley as a tourist destination, I am committed to changing the language used by this and all local and county organizations that promote travel to the Napa Valley – that the word ‘hotel’ is not appropriate when discussing lodging properties in the area, which includes dozens of bed and breakfast inns,” Cherry said in his acceptance speech. “We are not hoteliers, we are innkeepers, and there is a world of difference between the two. Our terminology should be more inclusive in order to continue to invite people to a broader understanding of the diversity of lodging options available to them.”

The Champion Awards are given to anyone who has helped advance the trade of innkeepers and innkeeping locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. Such actions may include legislative or regulatory successes, or a public relations breakthrough that elevates the profile of the bed and breakfast industry. Nominations are presented to the PAII Board of Directors in the fall prior to the PAII annual conference. The Board of Directors may choose to award as many recipients as deserve it.

The Inn on First is a plush bed and breakfast inn that combines Napa Valley tradition with San Francisco modernity. Cherry, a customer service specialist with a vast background in high-profile financial services, and chef Jim Gunther, a California Culinary Academy graduate with experience cooking for Relais and Chåteaux establishments, have brought The Inn on First to the forefront of Napa’s innkeeping industry since 2007. The inn is known for its charming atmosphere, lovely rooms and gourmet meals, which is perfect for a romantic getaway. Guests may unwind with in-room massages, or taste the best foods and wine the valley offers.

For more information about any of The Inn on First’s products or services, call 707-253-1331, view the inn on the web at http://www.theinnonfirst.com or visit 1938 First St. in Napa.

About The Inn on First

Napa’s lodging inn, The Inn on First is a television-free and smoke-free environment. It is recognized by the Certified Green Lodging Association of California, the California Legislature, the United States Congress, and the Napa County Green Business Association.