Napa is a little slice of heaven, for the wine and food lover, or really, for the person who enjoys a good pampering every now and again. With its close proximity to the Bay Area, it makes for an awesome weekend getaway; the perfect antidote to city life. I try to get up there at least once a year for an overnight, which kind of seems to me, now that I put it in writing, that I’m underutilizing it. I think part of the problem is the drive (are we seeing a theme here?) which on paper, looks like an amazing idea, a short little jaunt to the northeast, but in reality, can seriously suck. We’re talking one lane highway, chock full of wine drunk tourists. I avoid high season the best I can, so that also excludes a big chunk of the year. This time around, the plan was to spend an October Sunday and Monday in wine country, and let me tell you, that was one brilliant choice; our drive was traffic free, and, we had the run of the place for twenty four hours.
My pamper palace of choice is Indian Springs in Calistoga. It’s a beautiful property that doesn’t overdo it with the Vegas like touches. The grounds almost feel like being on a ranch in the southern California dessert. https://www.indianspringscalistoga.com/
I had never stayed the night at Indian Springs prior to this trip, but this time, we had booked one of their cottages for our stay
The cottages aren’t cheap, $500/nt in the off season, though that’s not too terribly painful if you are splitting with three friends, and on this occasion we were utilizing a Christmas gift so we were all being treated. What was terribly painful is that they took said $500 out of my bank account when I booked the room in August, without warning, then gave me the crazy run around about returning it, then took something like two weeks to actually return it, and, my email to the hotel manager went unanswered. That was all a really piss poor management situation there, it’s a bummer, and I hope to never have another with them again. For now I see it as a one off kinda deal, but really? a hotel manager who doesn’t bother to answer an unhappy customer email or address it in any way? Not cool.
The cottages are arranged around the periphery of the grounds, atop grass that’s dotted with hammocks and lounge chairs and I’m sure, horseshoe games and the like.
Our cottage, the “Palm Row,” came complete with a kitchenette and a sitting room, a queen bed master with all the fans my heart could handle, (ceiling, standing and A/C unit) flat screen TV, and alarm clock radio loaded with sleep sound CD, which we played late night, to mock it, and then unexpectedly fell asleep as a result. The second room was similarly appointed save the beds, which were twins.It wasn’t overly rustic, nor was it overly pretentious, it was just a nice place to hang out and lay our heads at night.
Enough about that. It was noon, and we were all getting a little hangry. We headed to Solbar, a restaurant located within the Solage resort on Silverado Trail, a very short hop from Indian Springs.
Solage is very white, and crisp, and just so very Napa. Walking in, you are greeted by a row of fountains spraying into a trough, next to which is a bocce ball court, to the right is the spa, and straight on is the restaurant. They have a large outdoor seating area, with the natural addition of another fountain on top of which fire floats
and of course, the indoor dining room. We chose to sit inside, a lovely space, a mix of modern and warm.
Being in Napa means, for the most part, that the wine list is going to rock, the service will be impeccable, the food local (like grown on the rooftop) clean, and on par with current trends. We started with a delicious bubbly rose, I believe the rosé of mourvedre-carignan lorenza, a perfect noon accompaniment to a sassy Napa meal.
First up, the beet salad with frisee, watercress, grapefruit, avocado, and green goddess. The dressing was served in large dollops on the side of the plate, which to me, is the best of both worlds, wherein I could either do the dip my fork in the dressing then eat method, or toss for myself, with the amount I want. We tossed. The beet chips added a really nice depth of flavor, the salad light, delicate, and refreshing.
For savory and hearty, we went with these crispy petrale sole tacos with sweet and sour cabbage and spicy aioli. These guys were way up everyone’s alley. They had just the right amount of bad and fattening mixed with the just the right amount light and healthy.
Because I am a fat ass, I insisted that we order fried chicken as opposed to some lighter, more sensible dish that was in consideration. Nobody was sorry. Fairly certain some corn flake esque ingredient was in play here. This chicken was really crisp, not at all greasy, and full of juicy meat.
Solbar is definitely one of the best options Calistoga has to offer. I’m definitely going to end up back there on a future trip.
Back at Indian Springs, we were in post lunch relaxation/food coma/swimming/imbibing mode. We bought a really reasonably priced bottle of rose from the lobby ($18 I think?) which they gave to us in an ice bucket, chilled and ready to go, and we meandered over the pool,
which is actually a giant 82-102 degree mineral pool, supplied by the onsite geyser that blows a constant stream of mineral rich steam into the air in the background. Also, they took our freaking wine from us when we got there. Don’t sell the chicks in pool robes a bottle of wine and put it in an ice bucket for us and then take it away. Talk about setting expectations. I understand not allowing glass, but, there is no plastic option, and well, bummer, that.
There are cabana type areas surrounding the pool, books available for the lounger, and a steam room, that if memory serves correct, is SEARING, and it’s all quite nice and relaxing.
The Giants were in the world series then, and, I got paranoid that we would not be able to get a seat at a bar in that tiny town, so we got out of the pool early to ensure game viewing success (turns out, nobody gives a shit about baseball in Calistoga or, they were all at actual cool bars that I am not aware of). Our walk back to the cabin revealed some sweet (or contrived, depending on your mood and/or level of sobriety) touches, like this life sized checkers board
And this tree upon which tags are hung, in the theme of “I am happiest…” fill in the blank. I could do some snarky damage on that tree, as others have before me, I’m sure.
We scurried off to Brannans, you know, to secure that coveted bar seat for the Giants game. Just saying, I was really surprised by the lack of Giants enthusiasm up there. I didn’t see one “Go Giants!” sign, nothing in orange and black, and not a soul at the bar who showed up to watch the game. It’s just a little weird. http://www.brannansgrill.com/
Brannans. Meh. It’s not great. They just have a nice big bar, booze, and some little snacky share plates. We went Vietnamese pork meatballs
and Kalua pig butter lettuce cups with hoisin. it was all fine. But that’s it.
When the time came, we moved on to Saint Helena to make our dinner reservation at the Farmer and the Fox, a newly opened (June 2014) English pub style restaurant located inside the Caridean estate, a St. Helena winery that also boasts a tasting room and a deli/bakery.
Upon walking into the restaurant we were greeted with warm pub style décor; leather booths, bronze bar, black and white tiled floors, with some cute little touches such as country style plateware mounted on the walls. They have a large bar with TV’s, where we opted to sit and watch the game (again, nobody else doing the same) and enjoy our dinner.
Of course, the Farmer and the Fox also has a great wine list, where we were thrilled to find a bottle of Robert Biale Black Chicken, the stuff wine dreams are made of. Read any article about the F&F and you’ll know, no visit is complete without an order of scotch eggs or Yorkshire pudding, so we kicked things off with one order of each.
A perfectly light amuse arrived from the kitchen; sweet, ripe tomatoes with a mound of soft, seasoned, goat cheese.
I suppose the scotch egg trend is getting a little tired, and, had I not read they were a must try we probably wouldn’t have ordered them, but, I’m so glad we did. That is some zesty, tasty sausage wrapped around that perfectly cooked egg. Also, this version had such a nice green flavor thanks to the micorgreens and the puree.
The Yorkshire pudding was hands down the best version of that dish any of us have ever had. It did not even hint at greasiness, the texture totally firm on the outside, hot and soft on the inside. Not your typically floppy bun.
My least favorite dish of the night was the lamb tartare, simply because I am not a huge fan of tartare, but this version was more complex than most, with curry, mint, and a mound of fried shallot (always a good thing) along with the curry brioche.
I was particularly fond of the pommes anna, which not only had the most delicious elements involved, Iberico ham, portabello mushrooms and parsley compound butter, but it was also beautifully crafted, arriving in a elegantly tall, multi layered, oval mold.
Our last savory dish was this perfectly adorable little game pie
rich and decadent, wrapped in the most deliciously buttery crust. SO. GOOD.
And then, to wrap it all up, one order of the Butterscotch mouse cake with blackberry compote and coconut ice cream.
755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, California 94515
707 226 0850
Breakfast: Monday – Sunday 7:00am – 11:30am
Lunch: Monday – Saturday 11:45am – 3:00pm
Sunday Brunch: 11:45am – 3:00pm
Dinner: Sunday – Thursday 5:30pm – 9:00pm; Friday – Saturday 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Lounge Service featuring Grill Menu Daily: 11:00am – 9:00pm
1374 Lincoln St, Calistoga, CA
Sunday Brunch 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.
Lunch 11:30 A.M.
Dinner 4:30 P.M.
Happy Hour 3-6 P.M. Daily
The Farmer and the Fox
3111 St. Helena Hwy North, St. Helena, CA 94574
Open Daily 5:00-10:00PM