Category Archives: napa valley

Post-Earthquake Information from The Inn On First

Calvin
Calvin

First and foremost we are doing very well.  We want to say “thank you” to all  our guests, family, and friends who reached out to us with emails, phone calls, and texts of concern, love, and support.  It means very much to us and and reminds us of how much love there is in the world around us.

Hugo & Maxwell
Hugo & Maxwell

We, Jamie and Jim, were in Santa Cruz at the time of the earthquake for a niece’s wedding.  A friend called at 4 am Sunday and said we needed to come home right immediately.  All guests were accounted for and uninjured.  We learned Calvin hid underneath a night stand.  Maxwell jumped up on the bed, barking (naturally).  Hugo stood up and watched the whole thing happen.  No injuries, just scared little dogs needing some love and attention.

Staff Workers
Staff Workers and Clean Up

Our interim innkeeper, Cindy B., out-did herself keeping things calm and cool in the aftermath of our 6.0 earthquake.  We lost a lot of “things” and any damage to the historic mansion is cosmetic (cracked plaster, paint chipped off).  We called the staff and told them to take care of their families, and if they had time to join us later for clean-up.  Cindy B. rallied the troops around us and we began the process.

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Kitchen in Disarray

We closed the inn for two days to clean up the mess.  Lots of broken glass, lost dishes (a 100-year old hand painted china set- ugh!), two armoires that fell over and broke apart , and the picture window in the living room overlooking First Street.

However, as you can see in this next picture we had cleaned up by Sunday evening,Kitchen Post Clean Up and  most things  were back in order.  We only lost six bottles of wine in the basement/cellar and although everything fell over or off its perch in the attic, very little was lost.  All Christmas decorations managed to survive!

We were told to repair the cracked stucco on the chimney and the living room window won’t be repaired for awhile what with all the other businesses and homes in town in the same post-quake boat.

When you visit you are apt to see the plaster cracks in the living room and foyer even though we are structurally sound.  Again, the damage is cosmetic.  Cracked Plaster We are currently ordering new items for the rooms that need it, so please forgive the mismatch of lamps, etc., until we are able to restock our inventory.  Apart from some of the visual clues around the house, you would be hard pressed to imagine we experienced an earthquake at all.

What about the aftershocks or tremors?  We felt two this morning but thought it was the dogs jumping onto the bed.  That was the extent of movement we experienced- very short, very small.  As seasoned Californians we know these come and go and we find them more amusing as there is no damage to the house or belongings.   Our guests from Georgia slept through the first one and she thought the second one was her husband shaking the bed to wake her up.  They are with us for another night.  Others, though, for their own reasons  canceled and while we were sad to see them go we understand their comfort level is different in regard to this event and they didn’t want to visit Napa, or even California at this time.

OxBow InteriorAs with all things Californian recovery comes quickly and the community moves Oxbow Markettoward full recovery.  The Oxbow Market, our local Napa gathering spot with shops, stores, and restaurants, is already booming with activity.  I walked around today purchasing produce, spices, and meat as I wanted to support local vendors in their loss of inventory over the weekend.  It was nice to see so many other people doing the same.  They reopened Main Street today and they are currently looking to reopen First Street this weekend.  There are parts of outer Napa (away from downtown where we are located) where water is still an issue with broken water mains.  The majority of downtown restaurants are open, some with “limited menus” until inventory is restocked, and wine tasting rooms are still open for business.  The wineries are open after their own clean up, and the local grocery stores are looking to be reopened by Friday (the clean up there is pretty significant).

Living Room Post Clean UpHow can you help?  Come visit.  Taste wine.  Go out to lunch and dinner.  Support the local community.  Let Napa know that we can and should carry on with the great gift of hospitality that is offered to all.

 

Was on Silent Retreat in Montecito…so what?

Garden Pond 2015I usually blog about the restaurants (you’ll see more soon) or wineries (always more to share), but today I wanted to share something a bit more personal and compelling for me as Chef and Co-owner of The Inn On First, a luxury bed and breakfast inn in Napa.

Annually Jamie gives me one week to go away so that I can spend a lot of time in silence and reflection with my BFF from southern California (Linda, whose husband is also generous in letting her go for one week).  We rent a cottage on a 25-acre retreat property, are self-sufficient for the day in terms of breakfast and lunch, and then gather at dinner to cook and share our thoughts about the day.  Each day we independently choose our theme for the day: what’s on our minds or hearts that is calling for attention?  It could be work, relationship, self, family, friends.  It doesn’t matter.  There is no formula.  You spend the day however you choose (reading a book of reflection, walking at the beach, going for a hike, sitting in your room, sitting by the river, enjoying the views, swimming in the pool, drawing pictures) and trust your heart, mind, and body to lead you through the silence.

My overall theme this year was Joy.  It always seems to elude me.  I feel love and peace so often, so why not joy?  I also know that sometimes I have to work at love:  that some days love really is a decision even though I don’t “feel” it.  That I have to work at peace: taking time to sit for five or ten minutes in quiet and solitude, a moment set aside for my heart to settle down for a bit.  So, where is joy in all of this?  And how do I go about working at it?

Over the week of reflection I realized that I have defined joy as effervescence, a giddiness or happiness that bubbles from within.  How wrong I have been!  I realized that joy is the simple action of appreciation, a moment when I am awed by nature, or touched by a friend’s concern, the deep abiding breath you take when you are simply awed by a view from the mountain top.  I came to understand that it is an “ah” (or “aha”) moment when you are not necessarily effervescent but simply in appreciation for what you have before you.  Thanks and gratitude.  Not overflowing, but simply in appreciation and simplicity.

Garden2015I returned home to The Inn On First from retreat and sat in the garden.  I saw the hummingbird feeding from the salvia flowers in the yard, watched the fish swim excitedly in the pond just before I threw in their food, and enjoyed watching a couple sit at a table, conversing and sharing a glass of wine.  I thought about all the ah-some moments I have had here at the inn over the past seven years and I took a deep sigh in gratitude.  Of course, this is my joy.  People, food, wine, nature, Napa.  All of it put before me.  Not in giddiness.  Not effervescent.  Simply grateful and appreciative for what was right in front of me.

The work of joy for me, then, is to take the time throughout my busy and not always joy-filled day to “look” for those ah-some moments: in the laughter of guests at the breakfast table, in the tenderness of a couple sitting quietly hand in hand in the yard, in the joviality of a couple playing chess over a glass of port, in the sound of a guest playing the piano in the living room, in my surprise at the guests who enjoy throwing the ball for my dogs as much as I do, in the delight of guests who share their appreciation with the morning’s selection for breakfast, in the clink of the glass cookie plate cover (meaning someone else has returned to the jar once more for some chocolate love) multiple times over the course of an evening.  All of this brings joy to me.

So don’t be surprised if you find me glancing your way with a smile as you sit in the yard sipping wine, or see me sitting in the yard with a cup of coffee enjoying a moment of quiet gratitude as you return from your day of wine-tasting, or walking by your breakfast table with an appreciative nod as you eat my food with delight.  It’s just me, working at joy, finding it in every ah-some moment put before me here at the inn, hoping that, maybe, you’ll find some too.

 

Addendum is open for the season! Get your picnic baskets ready for lunch….

Per Paul Franson, our Napa “in the know” columnist and writer has informed us that Thomas Keller’s Addendum is open for the season, only a fifteen minute drive from your favorite luxury Napa bed and breakfast inn, The Inn On First.

Addendum behind Ad Hoc in Yountville serves take-out lunches Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. They also have some tables you can use for a picnic.

While fried chicken remains on the menu (our favorite item on the menu),  chef Thomas Keller and the Ad Hoc team have decide to take BBQ more seriously with the recent purchase of a new Rolltisserie Smoker, which is one of 40 in the country.

Ad Hoc’s chef de cuisine Katie Hagan-Whelchel and TKRG chef de cuisine Devin Knell have spent weeks perfecting their “mop ‘n smoke” technique and BBQ recipes that will be available at Addendum throughout the year.

All meat is smoked with hickory and Napa Valley grape vines cuttings.  We provide you with the picnic basket and ice packs; you fill it with your favorite BBQ items and we’ll send you to one of our great picnic spots in the valley.

Torc: restaurants come and go…I hope this one stays.

A ten-minute walk from The Inn On First, a luxury lodging property in Napa, is the restaurant called Torc.  It opened a few months ago and I wanted to give it awhile before tempting fate with such an eclectic menu.  We shared the evening with our friends, Don and Kathy, so that meant more bites to enjoy.

Beginning with the artichoke soup with mint and lemon, I was in love with the velvety finish.  The portions are not large (we had read about this beforehand) and yet when I saw what was put in front of me I appreciated that they seemed just perfect for dining on multiple courses.  The Kampachi Crudo was incredible, a white fish with a citrus sauce and avocado, as was the Roasted Beets with Burrata and a Sherry-Maple glaze.  Growing up on canned beets I thought I would never try them again.  Since trying roasted fresh beets my heart has been changed, and Torc delivered it with gusto.

We also tried the Deviled Eggs, and the Pakora, as well as the Jamon Iberica, all great small starter appetizers for the meal.  Jamie had read about the Coconut Rice and the flavor on that dish was subtle and fun to eat.  We also enjoyed the Pork with the Cheddar Grits and a Buccatini Pasta with a Lamb Bolognese.  We enjoyed all of it.  Prices for apps and sides run $5 to $15, and the entrees are from $14 to $29.

Torc is willing to accommodate changes to dishes to present Vegans, Vegetarians, and Gluten-Free guests.  That is something not every restaurant in Napa offers.  The menu changes seasonally so I am looking forward to some really great meals in the future.

Fly Fishing Guide and Lessons now available!

The Inn On First, your luxury Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa, is proud to be the first to offer Fly Fishing Lessons to our guests.  This is a unique experience that can enhance your stay here in the Napa Valley.

You begin your day at 7 a.m. in the parking lot of the inn where you will meet your guide, Richard Loft, who will offer you an early morning continental breakfast.

Fly FishingYou will sign all the necessary paperwork, he will hand you a map, and you will follow him for 45 minutes up into the hills beyond the Napa Valley.  When you arrive he will suit you up in your waders and boots, and explain the basics of fly fishing.  After a few lessons of casting and reeling, the real fun begins!  Wading out into the river you begin the process of catch and release.  Plan on a minimum of two to three hours in the water.  Snacks and water available as you fish.   When you are finished you can sit down to enjoy your sandwich lunch soaking up the beauty of Napa County Wilderness.  Generally you can plan on returning to the inn no later than 1 p.m. which still leaves time for wine tasting in the afternoon.  (Disclaimer: As with all fishing excursions, expect to have fun but catching of fish is not guaranteed).   $525/couple, or $325 for one person.  (50% deposit required, and there is a 72-hour cancel policy)

Fishing in the State of California requires a license which can be procured from the California website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ols/, or you can make a visit to Sweeney’s in Napa (1537 Imola Ave West., Phone: 707 255-5544, Store Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00 – 6:00, Sat 8:00 – 6:00 Sun 9:00 – 5:00).

Spelletich Family Wines: it may look corporate, but really it’s just the family.

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Only a ten minute drive from your romantic Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, The Inn On First, lies a corporate park of which there are many tasting rooms and even a wine country hotel.  We were invited to come and try out the Spelletich Family Wines, SpellWine.com, by daughter and tasting room hostess, Kristen, and her co-host, Miguel. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the wonderful greeting from Molly, the house dog.

MIguelMolly

On entering the tasting room you immediately sense how much work they put into the detail of the tasting room, providing a seating area with big, comfy chairs and a coffee table, as well as a large table with bar stools.  The colors, the layout, the wine display, have all been carefully crafted together to give you a homey and yet elegant feel to the room.  With nuts and crackers on the table we were escorted to our tasting chairs and presented with a menu of wines we were to enjoy for the day.  From a crisp and yet creamy Chardonnay, to a lovely, toasty Pinot Noir, and even a taste of their soon to be gone Zinfandel Port.

Barb and Tim Spelletich are the creators of these wines, and surprised us with a French Bordeaux they make.  Yes, I said French, not Napa Bordeaux-style.  They import the juice from France and make a Bordeaux of their own with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Wonderful berry notes with a bit of tobacco bring pleasure to the palate as you taste.  Then we were given the 3Spells Cabernet Sauvignon, a seductive wine that is soft, with a lot of fruit and very soft on the finish.

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We liked everything they poured and, even better, their price point is phenomenal: $10 Chardonnay, $35 Pinot, $22 Bordeaux, and $30 Cabernet.  You can’t beat that for these lovely, very enjoyable and drinkable wines.  Tasting fees range from $15 to $40 depending on how many and which wines you want to try.  I know we all think of vineyards and large wineries with spectacular views as part of the Napa experience, but finding great value and flavor in wine is part of that experience too.  The whole winery operation is there, it’s just not surrounded by vineyards.  Especially for those who have been to Napa before, or are looking for something new, different, and unusual, I would encourage you to seek out Spelletich Family Wine Company as part of your stay in Napa.

What color and flavor is Napa in Fall?

All around The Inn On First, a romantic Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa, are streets filled with Fall Foliage.

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In June, Napa’s color is green when the leaves first break on the vines.  In July the grapes change color and reds and purples are dominant.  Once crush begins, purple and inky black colors flow in the juices being pressed.  When it is all over, though, Fall descends upon Napa, upon the vineyards, upon the streets, and city becomes a vibrant host to a rainbow of colors.

 

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This year has been intensely colorful and as I walked around the neighborhood with the dogs I was surprised by so many opportunities to enjoy what Fall has to offer in Napa.  This is what we call “Cabernet Season”.  When the weather becomes cooler and the focus of food is on stews, roasts, and slow cooked meats, Cabernet Sauvignon comes to mind as the wine of choice.  Of course, with so much to choose from here in Napa Valley it can be difficult to decide what to drink.  Like the colors on the trees, each winery provides a different approach to wine making and finding your palate can be daunting.

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As I turn the corner from The Inn On First to walk toward Jefferson Park I see bright orange colors, which remind me of bright Cabernet fruit being grown on Spring Mountain.  Pride Mountain Vineyards, Spring Mountain Winery, Terra Valentine, Barnett, and so many others.

 

Getting closer to Fuller Park I can see the subtlety of color in different trees, and I remember how different Rutherford District Cabernets are from Stag’s Leap Cabernets as are Coombsville Cabernets.  Oh we love the usual suspects: Far Niente, Cakebread, Stag’s Leap, Nickel and Nickel, Caymus, and the like.  We have also come to discover the diversity found in smaller wineries such as Baldacci, Sinskey, Regusci, Trefethen, Miner, Porter, Whiterock, and Crane Family.  Our general guideline is that if you can find the wine at home, try and find something new, different, and exciting.  With over 400 wineries to choose from, that leaves so many great options to try.

Leave time, too, to walk around the neighborhood.  The Historic District of Downtown Napa where we are located is filled with Victorians homes, Craftsman bungalows, and many other styles of architecture.  Fuller Park provides a 1/2-mile loop around the park for those looking for a short walk or run.

Lastly, as you drive through the Napa Valley, don’t forget to enjoy the great Fall colors on the vines.  Pull over, take a few pictures, and soak up all the beauty that is here for you to enjoy.

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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.