I’m settling back into reality after a wonderful mini-vacation in Napa valley, where I could easily live if there were enough tech job opportunities or I could afford a career switch to viticulture. Until then, living a 2 hour drive away will just have to do. Labor Day weekend is a fabulous time to go to Napa – the crowds were minimal, the weather was perfect and the crops were lush and green, loaded with grades waiting for an upcoming harvest.
This trip was an impulse thing, I booked the hotel two days before we left when I confirmed hubby could get a couple of extra days off, we really needed to have a change of scenery for a few days after a few weeks of stress. On vacation, hubby and I tend to be on different schedules, he sleeps in and relaxes and I tend to be the get up early and go type hitting the gym first thing in the morning and coming back starved. So I packed some quick, post-workout breakfasts to tide me over until lunch. My dad was always the early bird type on vacation too, getting up early to work out and start planning the day. That always seemed so crazy to me, and now I’m rocking it. Funny how things change.
We got a great room at the AVIA Napa, not cheap, but worth it for a mini-getaway and this amazing room!
Love this saying on the TV divider wall, so Napa.
The room looked out on this beautiful terrace complete with swinging benches, an awesome fire pit and beautiful greenery.
I scampered across it early every morning on my way to the gym and it was packed with empty bottles of wine, plates, cigars and corks from serious partying the night before! Poor hotel staff having to clean that up every day.
Hotel lounge area with wine-themed art and a rustic feel. Not a fan of the leather couches, but I like the natural wood details.
The main dinning area and wine bar with more unique, mis-matched rustic decor.
Creepiest chair ever! Looks like something from Disney’s haunted mansion.
The street outside the hotel is packed with wine bars, shops, historic buildings and too many great restaurants to choose from.
Another historic building that looked creepy-cool at night lined with lights.
The patio to Cole’s Chop House restaurant where we wanted to eat, but they literally had nothing for vegans or even vegetarians. Everything on the menu was pricey meat.
A cute dog boutique with fresh made dog treats and goodies. Fun stuff, but my chihuahua refuses to wear anything besides a harness and won’t play with toys.
One theme I love about Napa and wine country in general is the use of edible shrubs and landscaping like these beautiful fig trees lining a dining patio. Good food is beautiful art and why not landscape with it too?
One of the main reasons for the destination of this trip – Ubuntu. I had originally read about it in an Oprah Magazine article a year or so ago and have wanted to go since. My sister generously gave me a gift card for my birthday that we finally got a chance to use. Ubuntu is a true California restaurant to me for it’s laid-back style, beautiful presentation of vegan and vegetarian cuisine and appreciation for all things natural, fresh, local and sustainable. What they can do with plant-based foods is sure to impress anyone, even my hubby had to admit it was some of the most amazing flavors he’s had.
There’s a staircase in the main dining area that leads to yoga studio where we could see classes going on through the frosted glass walls, pretty wild and added to the atmosphere.
The menu changes frequently with seasonal fresh fare and each item is clearly marked for vegans, vegan versions available and dishes that are share friendly.
Being in Napa and possessing a large gift certificate, we had to start out with a nice bottle of wine. I’m not a huge drinker and drink even less wine now, but it’s something I will never give up and planned to partake in on this trip.
Our meal was also started with an on-the-house taster of cold-pressed melon bites marinated in lime – very interesting, cool and fresh.
For our fist course, we tried the cantaloupe and sage gazpacho which we were unsure of when it was brought out. There was initially no liquid in the bowl, just the melon, seasonings, avocado drizzled with green oil. The waitress poured chilled water over it at the table to create the masterpiece above. But how good could it be with just water? Amazing. It was a wild, bright flavor combo of sage, citrus and melon that was unexpected and refreshing. Hubby was especially blown away by this unique creation.
The next course was yellow eye bean strew with rosemary bread cubes, chili seasonings and red kale and another smash hit for me since I’m a fan of any bean soup, minestrone, etc. The rosemary seasonings in the bread were a wonderful add to the flavors along with a nice spice kick that wasn’t over-powering.
I’m not a huge pasta eater, but this dish just looked too good to pass up – fennel and squash pasta with a strong lemony basil sauce and miso radishes. Fennel is huge in the northern California area because it grows as weeds everywhere … very tasty weeds. I remember chewing on sprigs as a kid in Cupertino while hiking and playing outside. It has a nice, licorice flavor that can be so wonderful in recipes and I’ve only just begun to appreciate fennel seed as a spice. Anyway, the contrasting colored petals were added eye-pleasing garnish. I am a fan of anything heavy on basil, so this was great with just the perfect amount of in-house pasta infused with basil-lemon flavors and a perfect portion size.
Hubby got the inside out grits, a dish with a lot of southern charm – smooth and creamy grits, topped with pan-fried potatoes, fried green and red tomatoes, more fennel and kicked up with cilantro, another winner dish he enjoyed.
By the time the dessert menu arrived, we were pretty relaxed, but made sure to save room for it.
Hubby got espresso to go with it and I loved the crazy seashell shot glass-style cup it was served in.
I tried the blueberry sorbet that came in this cute glass with a layer of lime tapioca at the bottom, blueberry sorbet in the center and fresh blueberries and ice on the top drizzled with more lime. It was a refreshing blast of flavors, the lime paired nicely with the blueberries and the tapioca added a fun texture experience to it.
Hubby got the smooth fudge and figs with fig leaf ice cream, another amazing and unique creation and so appropriate since fig season seems to be bursting here currently.
After the amazing dinner, we walked back to the hotel to enjoy the terrace fire pit in the brisk night air which was refreshing compared to the heat we left at home. It was a great first day full of amazing sights and eats already before we even began to get into wine tasting and vineyard visiting.