Thomas Keller’s Napa Picks

By Emmy Lee | Posted on October 1st, 2012

I have wanted to dine at French Laundry forever and have only managed to make it as close to Keller as Bouchon in Las Vegas, which was excellent. Napa is a lovely place, the drive there through yellow fields is idyllic and it’s filled with quaint shops full of useless and pretty things you don’t really need. It goes without saying the wine shops are excellent. With his long-standing destination restaurant French Laundry, which Anthony Bourdain has called “the best restaurant in the world, period”, Keller has reigned over Yountville for years and knows where to go for good food and drink. Here are some of his suggestions from Food and Wine, surely worth checking out if you’re in the area:

Asian-Inflected Fine-Dining: Redd
“In Yountville, Richard Reddington’s Redd, is a wonderful restaurant,” says Thomas Keller of the sleek New American spot designed by New York architecture firm Asfour Guzy. Reddington fuses his experience at Masa’s and Jardiniere in San Francisco with the region’s ingredient-driven principles for dishes like pork belly with soy caramel, and Sonoma duck with stone-fruit mostarda jus.

Best Italian: Oenotri
“Oenotri in downtown Napa is a great, simple restaurant that I like a lot,” says Keller. “Great pizzas and great salads.” Chefs Curtis Di Fede and Tyler Rodde change their menu almost every day, channeling southern Italy’s respect for pizza and vegetables. They often combine both, as in a pie topped with wood-oven–roasted cauliflower. Defying local tradition, former French Laundry sommelier Sur Lucero mostly focuses on Italian wines.

Dining in a Winery: Étoile
For something more formal, Keller likes Perry Hoffman’s Étoile, located in Yountville within Domaine Chandon. Hoffman’s specialty is globally influenced modern French cuisine that goes well with the winery’s sparklers, such as an oxtail aspic served with sweet white corn and paired with a 2007 Yountville Vintage Brut.

Affordable Lunch: Tacos Garcia
Fast and budget-friendly meals can be hard to come by in an area with such a high concentration of world-class restaurants. Keller has one favorite insider pick: “I like the Tacos Garcia truck in the parking lot outside Pancha’s. It’s just very simple, beef burritos,” he says. The truck also benefits from its ideal location: Pancha’s is a popular dive bar with billiards and beer.

New Addition: Alex Italian Restaurant
Chef Nick Ritchie worked for Michael Chiarello for five years before taking over this year-old Rutherford restaurant that Keller recommends. Ritchie creates traditional Ligurian dishes like creamy lasagnette with Genovese pesto and béchamel.

Wine Touring Tips
“It really depends on someone’s sophistication about wine, ” Keller says. “Going to Mondavi or Franciscan is a great way to begin, as opposed to trying to get into boutique wineries where you have to make an appointment beforehand. If you can make the time, Ann Colgin of Colgin Cellars in St. Helena produces beautiful Cabernet and Bordeaux-style blends that are exemplary of the terroir of Napa Valley.”


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