Sunday, May 23, 2010

Napa, Sans Wine

What do you do in Napa when you don't drink? A lot! We took a trip with some friends recently and began at Round Pond in Rutherford with an olive oil tasting. It was actually a lot more than that - arrayed before us was an impressive spread of cheese, fruit, baby tomatoes, organic mixed greens, and lots of freshly baked bread.

These goods were sampled in a variety of pairings along with the estate-made extra virgin olive oils (Italian, Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange varieties); vinegars (two different red wine versions); and syrups (again, lemon and orange).

The sugar cubes are used to test the vinegars, which you suck out from the cube and thereby taste the fruitiness without as much of the sourness. The three blue glasses contain the olive oil (they don't want you to see the color because the color does not affect the taste one way or the other).

Here is how to properly taste an olive oil: Take a small sip and let the oil coat your mouth. Next, aerate by sucking in a few breaths of air. Finally, swallow. You will taste a wide range of flavor qualities depending on the type of olives, the age of the olives, etc., from fruity to herbal or grassy to peppery.

Here is our tour guide Linda explaining about the method of tasting the oils, which are to be used in finishing dishes, not in high-heat cooking, as heat destroys the flavor and nutrients of the oil.

My husband and I in front of the estate.
Beautiful vineyards surrounding the estate.

After Round Pond, we drove to Yountville where we had lunch at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery. I bought a loaf of Herb Palladin to take home. For lunch, we had a ham/cheese baguette and a sandwich Provencal, along with a tarte au citron (lemon tart) and two of Keller's trademark bouchons (a moist chocolate "bite", somewhere in between a cake and a brownie).

We spent the afternoon exploring the shops at Yountville, mingling with the rich visitors and me jealously eying their small lap dogs. Closer to Napa, we found antique shops, an excellent kitchen store named Shackford's, and an impressive garden nursery that may help explain why most of the yards in this area are so well-kept and manicured.

For dinner, we ate at a casual local favorite called Pearl, where meatloaf and steak sandwiches are popular dinner entrees. Paul got the steak sandwich, and I got a special, the soft-shell crab sandwich.

Here's what we ended up buying: a balsamic and a red wine (Cabernet) vinegar, along with a fruit, smooth extra virgin olive oil. I can't wait to make my first salad!

Also note-worthy: The Oxbow Market, where we found Kara's Cupcakes, along with Three Twins Ice Cream which sells the most expensive ice cream sundae in the world! (One is $3,300, served with syrup made from 3 vintage dessert wines. Call a day a head of time and they'll arrange for a cello player to serenade you while you dig in.)

1 comment:

  1. This sounds amazingly fun! I seriously have always wanted to go but felt awkward not drinking. You've definitely inspired me to go. Lovely!


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