Culinary Adventures through the Vineyards of Italy’s Picturesque Countyside

Culinary Adventures through the Vineyards of Italy’s Picturesque Countyside

Your Host Francesca Montillo takes you on a Delicious Adventure to Dreamy Italian Destinations with Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures

You are a big fan of “Under the Tuscan Sun” and have watched it at least two dozen times. You have drooled over the food and every time you watch it you confess that you will be planning a trip there soon, fulfilling your lifelong dream of venturing off on a culinary tour through Tuscany. But wait, that movie came out 15 years ago, and you still have not gone. The wait is over, look no further, your wish is granted.

Everything you have been looking for is right here, and you don’t have to do a thing except contact Francesca’s Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures and everything you have dreamed about for the last 15 years is right here. She has beautifully customized a variety of tours throughout the year to a variety of stunning Italian Destinations. This year she has 3 different itineraries all ready for you to book to Tuscany, Puglia or Sicily with a small adventurous group, all anxious just like you to venture off to the rolling vineyards of Italy’s stunning countryside.

Or if those dates or destinations don’t fit your schedule, she also has “Italy by Design” where she customizes your own personalized adventure. If you are not into “group travel, they offer full service and customized vacation planning, leave the time to research to the experts to customize a trip created especially for you with all of the bells and whistles. Your vacation to Italy can be accompanied by a local driver/guide on your tour around the region or follow your customized tour and venture off on your own. As they say at the Lazy Italian tours, “This is your week, after all, not ours!”

Here are the highlights of the Tuscany tour which is May 1st to May 8th.
• Four Star accommodations in a centrally located hotel
• Two Private Culinary Classes with Meals Following
• Welcome Dinner
• Private English-Speaking City Tour Led by a Licensed Guide
• Private Wine Tastings and a day trip to Chianti with Lunch at the Winery and Plenty of Wine
• Private Culinary City Tour Visiting World Famous Shops
• Private Day Trip to Pisa and Lucca
• Private Day Trip to Sienna
• Visit Mercato Centrale
• Farewell Dinner
• Leisure time on Your Own


The week in Tuscany kicks off with check-in at our four-star accommodations. Centrally located, Hotel Orto de Medici will be our home for the week, so unpack and make yourself at home. Perhaps visit their famous gardens and take in some of the Tuscan air. During the week, we will experience the scenic views of Tuscany and sample wines in the wine regions of Chianti with a memorable lunch on the winery. The week will also take us to the world-famous cities of Pisa, Lucca, and Siena for what are sure to be plenty of photo opportunities. We will also take part in two private cooking lessons and pick up a few culinary tips from our native Tuscan instructors. Our walking city tour in Florence will allow us to get to know our host city while our culinary walking tour will give us the opportunity to sample some of Tuscany’s most traditional products.

What will our Experience be like during the week and where will we go?

Culinary Dinner

Arrival & Welcome Dinner
Arrive and settle in your four-star accommodations in the early afternoon. Our home for the week will be the highly regarded Hotel Orto de Medici. Unpack and make yourself at home knowing you will not need to repack until your departure. Enjoy the nearby sights of our home for the week, stretch your legs in the nearby shops or grab your first gelato.

In the evening, we will meet for our first group activity. We will enjoy a welcome dinner with our fellow travelers and get our first taste of the regional cuisine and wine that we will be enjoying throughout the week.

Day 2 – Private Cooking Class & Walking Tour
After breakfast at the hotel, we will head towards San Lorenzo Market where our cooking experience begins. Under the guidance of our chef instructor, we will select fresh and healthy ingredients needed for our cooking lesson. Following the market visit in the morning, we will proceed to the school where we will learn how to prepare typical Italian Tuscan dishes. Grab an apron and be prepared to cook up a delicious Tuscan lunch to be enjoyed by all in the group.

In the afternoon, we will walk off our lunch calories with a private city tour from our English speaking, certified city guide. Walk the streets of the Medici, Donatello, and Dante as well as the lesser known side streets of the city. We will visit major churches, such as the Santa Maria Novella and if the lines permit, enter the Duomo, among other high-profile attractions.

Spend the evening on your own at your leisure. Walk about the city, grab a gelato and people-watch the way locals do.

Day 3 – Day Trip to Chianti
After breakfast at the hotel, our private driver will pick us up, and we will make our way to Chianti where we will visit two highly praised wineries. We will visit the Southern part of Tuscany, undoubtedly the most beautiful countryside the region has to offer. Discover the wines of the area and learn the aging process. Enjoy the landscape, olive groves and of course, the many vineyards.
Lunch may include typical items such as antipasti Toscani, Ribollita, pasta with meat or mushroom sauce or lasagna.

Evening on your own to spend at your leisure.

Day 4 – Walking Foodie Tour & Cooking Lesson
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, but be sure to leave room for our many tastings from our culinary walking tour. We will enjoy local specialties at family-owned shops and savor Florence’s “street food” of cured meats, cheeses, olive oil, baked goods, custom made breads, chocolates, and artisan gelato.

Enjoy some time on your own in the afternoon, but don’t indulge, we’re in for a treat this evening!

In the evening, we will head back to our culinary studio for our second private dinner cooking lesson. Be prepared to work for your multi-course dinner tonight as we prepare antipasti, a first and second course and of course, dinner would not be incomplete without dessert. A truly memorable dining experience is expected tonight!

Day 5 – Day Trip to Lucca & Pisa
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before heading west of Tuscany today on our day trip to Lucca and Pisa. Lucca is a most beloved city in Tuscany and all of Italy, and we will have time to walk the streets filled with shops, cafes and old-school buildings. Known as the city of 100 churches, Lucca is filled with historical architecture, and a can’t miss city while in this region. Lunch will be in a trattoria in Lucca.

Get your camera ready for what will be a memorable afternoon. After lunch, we make our way to the world-famous city of Pisa and the famous Miracle Square. Admire the Leaning Tower, Baptistery and Cathedral. Pick up a few gifts to take back, snap lots of pictures and take it all in.

We will return to Florence around 5:00PM, and you can enjoy the evening on your own.

Day 6 – Day Trip to Siena
Today we head to another major attraction and perhaps Italy’s loveliest city, Siena! Located on top of three hills, Siena can easily be called Italy’s ultimate hill town. Today, we will visit the Siena Cathedral, probably the most precious of Tuscan churches, the Campo Square, famous for the Palio, the annual historic horse-race, the Town Hall, Palazzo Salimbeni and San Domenico Church. Pedestrian friendly, as only residents and cabbies are permitted, Siena is sure to leave an impression. We can walk about the narrow streets, enjoy the adorned balconies and relax with a gelato along the way.

Day 7 – Farwell Dinner
Our time in Tuscany is sadly winding down. Today you can enjoy the day on your own to walk about the city with freedom. Visit a museum we didn’t get a chance to see, we highly recommend the Uffizi Gallery, return to a place where we’ve been that left an impression, pick up a few foodie gifts for your friends or simply enjoy Italy’s “Il Dolce Far Niente” – literally, the sweetness of doing nothing!!

A farewell dinner is planned for our last evening in Florence. Enjoy a delicious meal with wine, exchange stories, and e-mail addresses with your traveling companions and toast to our wonderful week.

Where Will You be Staying

Our home for the week will be the top rated and highly praised Hotel Orto de Medici. Located on Via San Gallo, one of the oldest streets in Florence, we will be in the city center, within a few minutes walking distance to the city’s main attractions, yet in a quiet location. Our rooms are ample in size by Italian standards at almost 200 square feet. Before we head out for the day, fuel up at their exquisite breakfast. Need something from the mini bar? No worries, we will cover it for you. Looking for some relaxing time after our excursions and day trips? Sit in their historic garden and be inspired. After all, it is in this exact location that Lorenzo De Medici met the young Michelangelo.

Some of the amenities of Orto de Medici include a large selection of breakfast options, Wi-Fi throughout, a historic terrace for relaxing, a bar to enjoy a spritz, 24hr reception, and the ideal location! Staying in this hotel is a vacation in itself.

Francesca Montillo

Your Host – Francesca Montillo
Your Host and Experienced Guide for the Week is Italian Cookbook Author of The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook: 101 Regional Classics Made Simple, native Italian, and culinary instructor, Francesca Montillo. She will amaze you as she guides you through Italy’s most beloved region. She is fluent in Italian, well-traveled and passionate about showing her guests around her native land.

What Francesca says about her tours and your experience:

The tours are culinary and wine in theme. When I started my business, I wanted it to focus on what I know best about Italy, which is its food. My dad was a greengrocer while I was growing up in Italy, so I grew up in a foodie family. My mom always prepared delicious meals, and I believe they left an impression on me, hence my wanting to start this business.

When I travel with a group to Italy, I want them to feel like they are coming to my home, because, in a way, they are. I like to ‘show-off’ Italy in the best way that I can. It means the world to me when my clients have a wonderful time. Many have said that my trips are “once in lifetime experiences” (I certainly hope not!) and that traveling with me is not like traveling with a tour leader, but a friend. These are the best compliments I can receive.

As a native, I think travelers are reassured that I can properly lead the way, there’s a certain level of added trust in going outside the country with a native. I am fluent in Italian, but that’s not so impressive, really, but I understand the culture, the people and their mentality. I work with collaborators all over Italy and only work with natives that I have fully vetted, and whenever possible, have met in person.

On the tours, we do a mix of activities, namely, we take cooking classes with the locals, we visit honey and cheese farms, we have lunch on wineries, we visit producers of Parmigiano, balsamic vinegar, or prosciutto. We go to olive oil mills, make fresh pasta and always do a walking foodie tour, stopping at all the local shops to try some local off our calories, for sure.

What former guests are saying about their experiences Francesca’s tours! 

I have just returned from a week-long cooking trip to Italy coordinated by Francesca Montillo. Francesca was responsible for our itinerary, transportation, visits to wineries, restaurants, and our accommodations, as well as providing the ingredients and tools for our cooking classes. All went smoothly and was worry free. She arranged for special requests from members of the group, such as no dairy, gluten-free, or vegetarian at the restaurants we visited with along and within the cooking classes themselves. Not only were our arrangements flawless, thanks to Francesca, but she is also very knowledgeable about Italy, Italian food and wine and is quite a good cook in her own right. She also speaks Italian fluently. She is pleasant and was always cheery, even early in the morning. I highly recommend Francesca if you want a wonderful experience of Italy’s food and wine. Jennifer Fisk

I met Francesca a few years ago and knew that when the time came to go to Italy, she would be our best contact. Being a native Italian, I trusted her to build a custom itinerary to Sardinia last year. She planned a wonderful week for myself and my husband. No stone left unturned on our trip from transportation, to beach excursions, to cooking classes and all arrangements were handled perfectly. We will be contacting her again in a few years. Melinda & John Williams.

What a wonderful trip! Everything so well planned for us and everything went off beautifully. Great congenial group and hoping to keep in touch with everyone. Thanks for all you did in the planning that went off without a hitch. There has not been a day that I haven’t thought about our wonderful trip. Thank you again for all you did. Rita Caputo, Emilia Romangna 2018

• Airfare / Flights
• Hotel incidentals such as phone calls, room service (minibar will be included!)
• Meals and wine not stated above
• Airport / Train transfers on first and last day of the tour
• Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is HIGHLY recommended in order to protect your investment.
• Hotel City Tax of 4.50 Euros per person / per night, to be paid directly to the hotel by the guest

Link to purchase Francesca’s cookbook on Amazon:

Link to our hotel in Tuscany for our May tour. This is one of the top hotels in Florence:

Contact Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures at:
[email protected]

Check out more details on their website at:

Check out their facebook page too!

Calistoga’s Lincoln Avenue Downtown Eateries

Calistoga’s Lincoln Avenue Downtown Eateries

Photo Courtesy of Visit Calistoga – Downtown Calistoga’s Historic Lincoln Avenue

It’s natural to think of the Napa Valley as one ‘place.’ But the 30 north to south miles that comprise this verdant valley feature distinct towns, each with individual personalities. There’s Yountville with its chic tasting rooms and Michelin-starred cuisine, Rutherford with its concentration of Cabernet producers, and St. Helena with its quaint downtown shopping district. And to the north, Calistoga encourages its guests to slow down a bit and unwind. The small town’s official motto is ‘Relax, you’re in Calistoga,’ a directive easily followed, thanks to its famous mud baths, gracious inns and resorts, and variety of restaurants that promote a laidback vibe.

During the late 1700’s, the sole inhabitants of the area of Calistoga were populated by a large group of indigenous people called the Wappo Tribe during the Spanish colonial era. They were part of the now extinct Yukian language group who were the earlier settlers of this region. The Napa Valley name was actually derived from the word Napa meaning “plenty” in their native language.

California’s first Millionaire, Sam Brannan purchased 2000 acres in the Calistoga area in 1885 with plans to create a spa resort for the rich and famous, similar to the health and hot spring inspired retreats in Saratoga Springs, New York.

The main street in Calistoga premiered Brannan’s Hot Spring Resort which opened in 1862 and is now the current location of the Indian Springs Resort along Lincoln Avenue. In 1876 the Magnolia Hotel building burnt down and was later rebuilt as the Calistoga Hotel in 1902. In 1907, the Europa Hotel was built and then sold to Johnny Ghisolfo in 1912 which later became the Mount View Hotel. The Lincoln Avenue boom was followed by the opening of the Calistoga Inn, constructed originally in 1920 about the time when Lincoln Avenue was first paved, and more power lines were added to illuminate the bustling downtown. Brannan’s inspiration paved of the way for the growth of Calistoga to its popularity and charm today.

Many of the original buildings along historic Lincoln Avenue are now home to many of these popular downtown eateries along Calistoga’s food row.

All Season Restaurant

All Seasons

For the past 35 years, this favorite up valley restaurant has been offering creative seasonal dishes to their new and dedicated patrons both local and visitor alike. This charming bistro serves inspired food and wine, classic to contemporary. Their relaxed atmosphere, excellent service, and outstanding cuisine have made this iconic restaurant a mainstay to dine along Lincoln Avenue. Must try menu items: Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, Mary’s Organic Chicken Breast, Angus Rib Eye Steak, Seared Duck Breast.

Tuna Carpaccio

Butternut Squash Soup

1400 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-9111 Open for lunch and dinner daily except Tuesdays.

Boskos Trattoria

Boskos Dining

Bosko’s Trattoria

Calistoga’s longest running restaurant for 36 years, continues to serve quality made fresh daily authentic Italian Cuisine offering house-made Pasta and wood-fired pizzas. Step into the old country of Italy with cuisine that brings you home-style Italian foods along with a generous selection of moderately priced California and Italian wines. Their sumptuous pastas are made from scratch daily offering you a wide variety to choose from. They also offer Antipasti, soups, and salads. Don’t miss out on their happy hour every day from 4:40 to 6:30 where all wines listed are $8 and all appetizers are half off.

Boskos Pizza

1364 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-9088 Open 11:30am to 9:30pm

Busters Barbecue

Busters Original Southern BBQ

Busters, showcased in National Geographic, has been referred to as the “Best BBQ West of the Mississippi” and voted “Best Barbeque” by the Bohemian year after year. Busters patio is the perfect stop for authentic Southern BBQ dishes with recipes from the heart of Louisiana with pork ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork, tri-tip, BBQ chicken, savory baked beans and corn of the cob. Be sure to stop in for great jazz and blues on Sunday afternoons,

Busters BBQ

1207 Foothill Blvd., Calistoga 707-942-6505 Dine in or take out. Open for Lunch or dinner 7 days a week.

Cafe Sarafornia

Café Sarafornia

The name of this restaurant was named after California’s first Millionaire Sam Brannan who claimed he was going to make the town the Calistoga of Sarafornia when he meant to say the Saratoga of California, hence the name of the town and the name of the diner. The owners, the Dierkhising family, have been in Napa Valley since 1976 and have owned the restaurant for nearly that long. This is a wonderful place for breakfast to start your day, offering dishes like their famed braised pork tostada, the Brannan Benedict, and the best in the valley – Huevos Rancheros. Lunch is impressive as well with classic burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Their popularity it tremendous, they serve over 91,000 people per year, that’s 250 per day. The line is worth the wait!

Cafe Sarafornia

1413 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-0555 Open Daily from 7am – 2:30pm

Calistoga Inn, Restaurant and Brewery

Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery

It’s a brewery, hotel, and restaurant on this stately historic property in the middle of downtown Calistoga. The restaurant has been one of the most popular outdoor dining venues in the Napa Valley with its patio stretching along the Napa River, and in the adjacent historic water tower, you will find their award winning micro-brewery, The Napa Valley Brewing company. It has become a popular place for sports enthusiasts as it boasts 5 large flat screen TV’s making it also the sports bar to hang out at in Calistoga during big sporting events. The weekend Brunch on their spacious patio is a must. Two lunch favorites are the Shrimp Louie Salad, the Heirloom Tomato, and Fig Salad and their Best Burger. Dinner highlights are the Country Paella or choose from one of their prime cut steaks.

Calistoga Inn Patio

Calistoga Inn

1250 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-4101 Open 11:30am to 9:30pm


Checkers Interiors

Checkers Restaurant

This simple, understated café has been serving Italian classics and pizzas to Calistogan’s for several decades as an unpretentious neighborhood meeting place for a quick lunch, family dinner or a festive happy hour. The cuisine is Mediterranean inspired which includes a variety of pastas, pizzas, calzones as well as Chicken Marsala, Pan Seared Salmon and Braised Lamb Shank on their extensive menu. Don’t miss the House-Made Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce for dessert.

1414 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-9300 11:30am to 9:30pm



Evangeline Patio Dining

This now locally owned French Bistro with Creole Soul invites you to join them for dinner at Evangeline.  This popular eatery in Calistoga offers you fun versions of French bistro favorites such as Coq au Vin, Croque Madame Beef Tartare and Shrimp Etouffee. Their intimate polished interior and inviting patio dining on their charming covered terrace delivers a memorable dining experience. This Solbar spinoff offers an impressive menu of New Orleans style dishes to the table along with inventive cocktails, craft beers, and an extensive wine list. They are primarily an outdoor restaurant with limited indoor seating. Reservations are not available for inside seating.

1226 Washington Street, Calistoga 707-341-3131 Dinner Daily from 5:30pm to 10pm Brunch on Saturday and Sunday 9am – 2pm

Hydro Bar and Grill

Hydro Bar & Grill

Located in downtown Calistoga, the restaurant’s building dates back to 1906, just after the 1901 fire which destroyed most of the original town of Calistoga. This historic building, originally a carriage house and stable, has been home to Hydro at this location since 1996. Their sister business, All Season’s Bistro has been a Calistoga favorite since 1983. Alex and Gayle and their two dining establishments have been serving quality food, inspired drinks, and great local hospitality for almost 40 years. It is the spot as they often refer to pop in grab a bite, share a drink and have a little HYDROTHERAPY!

Hydro Bar and Grill

1403 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-9777 8:30am – 11pm Open Every day except Thursday morning until noon for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Chef James of Johnny’s

Johnny’s in Calistoga

Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar

Johnny’s initially opened in the Mount View Hotel in 1933 by Johnny Ghisolfo who served on the Calistoga city council and later became known as “Mr. Calistoga.” The original Johnny’s closed in 1984 and then in 2016 reopened in honor of former owner John Ghisolfo. This resurrected pub and bistro offers the perfect place to enjoy good times with friends and family whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner or happy hour (which they claim to be one of the best in town.) Their house Mud City Brews are worth stopping in for a bit of Cheers.

For breakfast try the Huevos Montelenos, for Lunch the local Fish and Chips and for Dinner Oysters on the half shell and the Jagerschnitzel. Sunday special is always a hit with their Slow Roasted Prime Rib.

Johnny’s Egg Benedict

Johnny’s Cobb Salad

1457 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-5938 Brunch Daily 7:30a to 2pm; Dinner opens up at 4pm; Happy Hour 4pm to 6:30pm

Sam’s Social Club at Indian Springs

Sam’s Social Club

Sam’s named after famed resort founder Sam Brannan at the Indian Springs Resort offers a vibrant and inviting atmosphere. This new American Eatery & Bar is the place to meet for food that is seasonal, creative and thoughtfully prepared. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails at their stylish bar a spacious dining areas with both inside and outdoor seating. Sam’s has become a significant hangout in Calistoga offering innovative, delicious menus that are reasonably priced. Their unpretentious vibe extends to the plates such as grilled octopus endowed with a peppy Romesco sauce or a pan-seared duck. Their burgers on the homemade buns are a must try. Kids love it too, especially the mac & cheese!

Sam’s Social Club

Sam’s Social Club Specialty Drinks

1712 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-4969 7:30am – 9pm

Veraison in Calistoga


A relatively new addition to the Calistoga dining scene in late 2016, Veraison delivers French-inspired farm to table cuisine at this intimate dining establishment. As a recent recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2018, you can be assured that this is one to put on your list when visiting the Napa Valley. Owner Dan Kaiser and Executive Chef James Richmond took Calistoga by storm with the opening of Johnny’s in March 2016 and later transitioned Johnny’s Tableside to its own entity as Veraison. Both of Kaiser’s restaurants are a huge success.

Oysters at Veraison

Veraison Charcutterie

Must try menu items: Oysters from their Raw Bar, House-made Charcuterie & Artisan Cheeses, Chef’s Tasting Menu which changes daily with all freshly sourced ingredients.

French, Small Plates, Upscale, Cozy 1457 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga  707-942-5938 Opens 5pm Every Day




Brasswood Bar + Kitchen

Brasswood Bar + Kitchen

A Polished Gem in the Heart of the Napa Valley

Brasswood Bar + Kitchen – Amazing dining in the Napa Valley. With all of the amazing restaurants that are scattered throughout the Napa Valley and new ones popping up every day, it can sometimes be compelling selecting a dining spot for a special lunch or dinner out. This one is a spot to definitely put on your culinary radar. Brasswood Bar + Kitchen, though only opened two years ago in 2016, has already proven to be a refreshing renaissance serving many familiar flavors at this Napa Valley dining establishment.  A bevy of loyal patrons frequent the tables and have followed this loyal culinary entourage since their days at Tra Vigne. In fact, 85% of the current Brasswood team migrated over after the closing of Bill Harlan’s iconic St. Helena dining landmark Tra Vigne which served their well-known Italian dishes to dedicated valley patrons and visitors for many years in the historic Saint Helena old stone edifice.

Brasswood Chef David Nuno

At Brasswood, it is not uncommon at any time during the day to see signature Napa Valley winemakers and winery owners sitting at their favorite table breaking bread and sipping their favorite varietals over casual conversation. On the table to the right you may see KR of Rombauer, or over to the left Chuck Wagner of Caymus enjoying their favorite dishes, or Elias from Shafter and many more. They love to frequent Brasswood Bar + Kitchen for the distinct and familiar flavors of Chef David’s diverse menu in this relaxing, casual setting where they will always find a friendly face visiting their table. It is truly a “Vintners Village” again.

It was Stacia Dowdell, the proprietor and winemaker for Brasswood who approached Marcus Marquez, who is now the Vineyard Winery Estate General Manager, to spearhead the growth and development of the Brasswood Estate and is co-creator along with Stacia on it’s growing success and popular following. The timing for the creation of Brasswood Bar + Kitchen could not have been synergized more perfectly. Marcus met with the former Tra Vigne general manager Jennifer Bohr and Chef David Nuno to entice them to transition over to Brasswood’s upcoming restaurant. The segue was seamless, and they did not miss a beat, bringing along their dedicated team of restaurant professionals to complete the initial foundation of the troupe who have not only have they worked in tandem for many years, they are some of the very best in the industry.

Chef David Nuno has been creating and preparing his signature dishes in the Napa Valley for over 30 years and is known to many for his inspired cuisine. Though many of his popular dishes have transitioned over to Brasswood, they have taken on a new twist giving them their own new presence with a slightly different and renewed presentation. Chef David professes to only use the best and the freshest of Napa Valley ingredients.

Included in the extensive resume of Chef David’s epicurean experience in the Napa Valley are his many years at the helm at Tra Vigne as well as being mentored as a young chef by Philippe Jeanty for 17 years. However, his inspiration on his quest to create was instilled and inspired by the aromas and flavors of his mother’s food and ultimately led him to his path with cooking.

Signature Mozzarella Dish “Mozza”

One of the signature dishes which David Nuno brought along with him to the Brasswood tables is his notable mozzarella dish, nicknamed “Mozza.” Though you won’t see it in print on the daily menu, it is always available. Be sure to ask for it. Many have it has a side dish and or see it as their “go-to lunch” along with a simple salad at the bar, and it is definitely a local’s favorite. A few of the other dishes that are signature to David’s creations that are found on the Brasswood menu are Kale Salad; Sweet White Corn Soup; Crispy Arancini; Four Cheese Risotto and Confit of Sonoma Duck Leg; and the Dry Aged Porter House (for two). The menu does vary seasonally to coincide with the freshest of ingredients available, though his signature creations are a constant anchor on the Brasswood menu.

A few of the notable dishes that we had the delicious opportunity to taste are the Roasted Beet Salad with roasted beets, mandarins, radish, shaved ricotta salata, fennel, pistachios with orange vinaigrette dressing. (See recipe attached)

The Warm Brussel Sprout Salad proved a seasonal treat and is like breakfast for dinner. Prepared with shaved Brussels, smoked bacon, caramelized onion, salt pepper, olive oil, lemon juice topped with a sunny-side up egg and sprinkled Parmesan. The Herb Infused Pappardelle & Short Rib Sugo along with braised radicchio, aged balsamic, thyme and arugula paired with the Brasswood “Top Brass” Cab 2012 made it a memorable winner. Another brainchild of Chef David is the Pan Seared Halibut with homemade gnocchi, spring caponata, basil aioli, and fish brodo and is a not to miss dish.

When in season, be sure to ask for the Padron Peppers which he is well known for.

And the topper, of course, is their desserts, a perfect way to finish a perfect meal. They have just added to their top-notch team their first pastry chef, Mia Nguyen, formerly of Morimoto and Bouchon.

If a quick stop for an afternoon beverage is on your agenda, their inviting bar offers up an opportunity to catch up with friends over one of their signature House Cocktails, created by Assistant General Manager and Innovative Mixologist, Luke Christian. He creates all of the delightful concoctions offered at the Brasswood Bar. Several of these infused libations poured for your enjoyment is the “Herbs on Fire” – a blend of tru lemon vodka, fresh citrus, pomegranate, basil, rosemary, mint, llanllyr source fiery ginger beer or the “Sweet and Caliente” – Cimarron tequila, giffard cassis, lime, grapefruit, cilantro and jalapeno.

The Brasswood Bar + Kitchen’s atmosphere is warm and inviting in a barn-like intimate setting with big cozy booths and long tables under gleaming brass light fixtures for larger parties. The restaurants interior is accessorized with reclaimed wood and brass fixtures throughout, thus the inspiration for the name. Marcus wanted a name that brought you to a place that was a fantasy of food, wine, and relaxation. Their inviting covered outdoor seating is spread across a lovely deck overlooking the wineries beautifully landscaped courtyard. Many special events are hosted at the Brasswood Estate.

The common thread with the energy and philosophy of the Brasswood team is they always pride themselves on making it a personal experience. It is a dining and congregating experience not to be missed!

Brasswood Bar + Kitchen: 3111 St. Helena Hwy. N., St. Helena, CA 94574



Join Me for Two Delicious Days Across the Stunning Canadian Rockies Aboard Rocky Mountaineer!

Join Me for Two Delicious Days Across the Stunning Canadian Rockies Aboard Rocky Mountaineer!

Join Me for Two Delicious Days Across the Stunning Canadian Rockies Aboard Rocky Mountaineer

Food Glorious Food Aboard the Rocky Mountaineer

Traveling across the Canadian Rockies from Vancouver to Banff is a breathtaking site to behold with brilliant terrain changes and blanketed snowcapped rocky peaks all along the way, and of course an expansive variety wildlife viewing along the way. The drive there is certainly spectacular, however, imagine if you left the driving to the train conductor and food preparation to a skilled French chef and his team, and you could just sit back in comfy recliner seats with a clear dome above your head to view the majesty of the Canadian Rockies every minute of the journey – What a journey it would be and what a memorable journey it truly is. And for foodies, it makes it all the more special!!

This past year, I had the opportunity to join in on this renowned train excursion aboard Rocky Mountaineer’s “First Passage to the West” route, one of four routes which starts from the Rocky Mountaineer exclusive state-of-the-art train station just outside Vancouver. We were welcomed by the entire crew to piano music and an introduction to our rail journey by the conductor and the team, followed by an inviting Bagpipe serenade. Upon boarding these beautifully appointed train cars we were immediately immersed into two full days of luxury rail travel through Canada’s West and on through the impressive Canadian Rockies with an evening stay in Kamloops, ending up after our 2nd day of the sojourn in breathtaking Banff and Lake Louise.

Our voyage aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, which is the only passenger rail service on this historic route passes through lush Fraser Valley, spiraling tunnels, seven mountain ranges and a pass by Craigellachie, which is the spot where the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven. From the outdoor viewing platform and the unparalleled panoramic views from out seats, we all had the opportunity to our set eyes on a large grizzly bear fishing for dinner along the river right next to the train tracks and the grand Eagle’s nest perched high upon one of the train towers passing by. A true highlight!

There isn’t a moment you aren’t in complete awe of the ever-changing vistas constantly emerging all along this spectacular historic route. Sit back relax, indulge and let yourself be ultimately pampered in first-class style by the top-notch team aboard Rocky Mountaineer whose sole mission is to do nothing more than to provide you with the best experience and service possible. Our group traveling was seated in Gold Leaf Service, one of two classes of services offered, though you can’t go wrong with either as both are exquisite. As they say – you choose from “Perfect” & “More Perfect”.

The Rocky Mountaineer experience is like taking the National Geographic Channel and melding it with the Food Channel giving you a delicious blend of spectacular photographic nature vistas along with amazing Five-Star Dining spiced with a flare of the luxury of the Orient Express. It doesn’t get much better than this.

As a part of our daily journey, we started the day’s excursion with a refreshing “Welcome Aboard” toast along with introductions of the crew and beautiful descriptions of our upcoming experiences for the day. In addition, to add to the exhilarations of the exploration, we were enticed by the food offerings for the day’s journey. We knew right then, we would certainly not go hungry or thirsty either.

For dining, there were two seating’s each day for breakfast and lunch. We had the first seating on day one in the beautifully appointed plush dining car booths along the along the expansive picture windows overlooking the beauty of Western Canada as we cruised along, noshed and talked about the amazing day to come. When we were seated in the second seating the next day, we certainly didn’t get peckish, as we nibbled on freshly baked scones with fresh berries, hot out of the trains’ on-board ovens to keep us going to our breakfast seating.

The Rocky Mountaineer Welcome to Breakfast: Welcome to the GoldLeaf Service dining room! From the Coastal Waters of BC to the wide pastures of the prairies, the breakfast you are about to enjoy is a culinary tour of Canada. As you enjoy your meal, please look up and take in the beauty of your First Passage to the West journey. We promise, no one will take your plate away. Cheers, RM

The Rocky Mountaineer cuisine is orchestrated under the helm of their award-winning Executive Chef Jean Pierre Guerin and his talented culinary team in the galley aboard the train. There are several galleys on board for both the Gold Leaf and Silver Leaf services. Jean Pierre is absolutely charming and is not shy about spending time chatting it up with the guests on board, except when he is hands on at the helm of orchestrating the daily culinary presentations. He has been with the Rocky Mountaineer for over ten years and is known for his talents creating mouthwatering fusion cuisine. During his impressive career as a well-known chef, he has created meals for Princess Diana, Meryl Streep and former President Clinton.

Chef Guerin explained, “Cooking on board is not difficult, however we have to take everything, including the kitchen sink. We don’t have the luxury of stopping for anything. We have to take 2-3 days of supplies. And when I say supplies that’s not just the food but the expertise – the chefs have to travel with us. Everything has to be super well organized aboard the train. You have to know where everything is. Each season we do a brand-new menu depending on fresh seasonal offerings.”

Breakfast always begins with coffee, juice and Chef’s seasonal fruit creation with a freshly baked treat. The delightful menu includes their ever popular and absolutely delicious Eggs Benedict with two poached eggs and Montreal style smoked beef on a toasted English Muffin, topped with tarragon hollandaise. I’d go back just for that!!

Another breakfast treat was the Spinach, Feta and Egg Soufflé with roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, and smoked farmers sausages. The Blueberry Pancakes were out of this world with traditional Canadian Maple syrup. Then of course there is the Smoked Salmon Scramble – a scene stealer with roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes, crème fraiche, smoked salmon and a crispy tortilla. So many lovely choices. And that is just to name a few of the delicious delights on the morning menu. Be sure to save room for lunch…

There is always a mid-morning munch in between breakfast and lunch along with a selection of hot and cold beverages, perhaps a mimosa is on your agenda or try out one of their “Caesars” – a traditional Canadian version of the Bloody Mary.

For lunch, we headed back down from our domed vista car to the dining room where it was beautifully set in white linen adorned with decorative flower arrangements. The aromas floating out of the galley kitchen sent a mouthwatering invitation to yet another amazing meal created by Chef Jean Pierre Guerin.

Being a Napa Valley Foodie and Wine Lover, the luncheon presentation yet again did not disappoint! Their wine selections offered varietals from the Okanagan wine region in British Columbia and were delightfully paired to perfection with the afternoons luncheon selections. Any Napa Valley wine enthusiast would certainly concur. They were pouring two varietals from Sumac Ridge Estate from their Vineyard Collection, an unoaked Chardonnay and a Merlot. Also from Jackson-Triggs Reserve Selection, we were offered a lovely Sauvignon Blanc and a luscious Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lunch began with a Forest-Fresh Mushroom soup, followed by a Baked Cherry Tomato Salad. The “Alberta Short Ribs” is a popular favorite on the lunch menu. The Smokey Mushroom Burger made with AAA Alberta beef on the pretzel roll is another popular item on the menu. There are 6 delightful entrees to choose from each day. And lunch is always followed up with a delightful dessert. The Decadent Dark Chocolate Pistachio Brownie is absolutely heavenly.

For 2018, there is something new on the Rocky Mountaineer travel menu which is a 10-day package for foodies, The First Passage to the West Culinary Exploration. You will feast on wine-paired gourmet meals everyday while touring Rocky Mountain Peaks. There is even a Panoramic Helicopter Flightseeing excursion.


Rocky Mountaineers Famous Short Ribs

Rocky Mountaineer offers something for everyone from 2 days to 10 days. Check them out at


Local Dining Gems in Napa Valley, Slightly off the Beaten Path….

Local Dining Gems in Napa Valley, Slightly off the Beaten Path….

Local’s Dining Gems In the Napa Valley, Slightly off the Beaten Path….

By Dynie Sanderson “NapaFoodGal”

Dining in the Napa Valley offers one of the most amazing culinary experiences you can imagine to ever indulge in with so many Michelin Starred restaurants and Celebrity Chefs. Getting in to some of those notable dining establishments can sometimes be a challenge and somewhat daunting. Yes indeed, it is most definitely a memorable experience to have added a dining extravaganza at one of the more exclusive establishments to your culinary bucket list. However, there is more to the Napa Valley dining scene to discover slightly off the beaten path!

If you are visiting Napa for more than a few days or live in Napa full time, a more casual less intimidating experience is a must as Napa Valley’s epicurean expose offers an extensive plethora of incredible dining options a little more off the radar. With Napa Valley’s culinary centric growth, adding to the many popular local’s favorite haunts are new and innovative bistros, cafes, brewpubs and trattorias popping up throughout the Napa Valley. Always a delicious day in our Wine Country! Here are a few selections to give a tasty try!

Boon Fly Cafe

Boon Fly Café – 4048 Sonoma Hwy, Napa 707-299-4870 This charming café is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa adjacent to the Carneros Resort. This contemporary roadhouse serves modern rustic cuisine with dishes like their Akaushi Kobe Beef Burger or their famous Baby Back Ribs. Don’t miss their Boon Fly Café donuts with the chocolate dipping sauce any time of the day. Weekend Brunch is a must try with the Boon Fly Benedict or the Breakfast Tacos. Dinner is the best time to avoid the crowds, but you can also make a reservation.

Celadon Scallops

Celadon – 500 Main Street, Napa 707-254-9690 A true hidden gem in downtown Napa. You won’t find this delicious eatery from the road as it is tucked away in a charming courtyard right along the downtown Napa Riverfront. It is easy to find though, located in the Historic Napa Mill Building and well worth the visit. Celadon has been a popular favorite for over 20 years, serving inspired global comfort food along with an award-winning wine list with selections from all around the world. Their flavors offer creative dishes with Mediterranean, Asian and American influences. They are open for Brunch, Lunch, Dinner and of course Happy Hours! Their Pan-Roasted Mussels are a must try!

Graces Table

Fume Bistro & Bar – 4050 Byway East, Napa 707-257-1999 It is not uncommon to run into a familiar face at this popular local eatery whether you are in for lunch, dinner or just a happy hour beverage, it is one of Napa’s favorite neighborhood spots. They have just launched “Sunday Supper Night” – every week they will have a set menu of 3 courses of your favorite comfort foods for $28. A popular staple on their menu is their wood fired pizzas. And of course, if it is an amazing brunch you are looking for, on Saturdays and Sunday’s this is the place to be. They even have a pet-friendly patio for dining as well. So, after your walk at Alston Park, be sure and come on by and bring Fido too!

Fume Bistro Heuvos






Graces Table – 1400 2nd Street, Napa 707-226-6200 A Global Kitchen Focusing on France, Italy and The Americas. Michelin Guide refers to Grace’s Table as “Around the World in Four Courses without leaving Wine Country”. This popular downtown bistro has been delighting locals and visitors alike for almost ten years. Chef Mauro Pando and his team serve up 3 meal periods seven days a week, as you can imagine, their kitchen is bustling creating high quality eclectic cuisine. They have received the Michelin Bib Gourmand award for the past five years with high quality yet affordable cuisine. The Argentinian Empanada is one of my favorites on the menu. Their Kurobuta Pork Osso Bucco Risotto is a shining star and their burgers are a must have. There is something for everyone on their innovative menus. Full Bar with Happy Hour Specials too!

Hop Creek Gastro Pub and Nano Brewery – 3252 Browns Valley Road, Napa 707-257-7708 It’s not just a locals’ favorite local pub, it is a brewery too!  In addition to their food menu they have an extensive beer menu with craft beers on tap. This casual and friendly dining destination, located in the Brown’s Valley Shopping Center, provides loyal locals and visitors to Napa with a homey and welcoming experience. Their burgers are outstanding and their flatbreads are a must try. If it is Happy Hour time, be sure and stop by, they offer a yummy selectin of “Opening Acts”. Their pretzel bites are a must try and go perfectly with a beer and the ballgame. Breakfast is served on the weekends along with a Mimosa by the Carafe or their Creekside Green Chili Bloody Mary! Dog Friendly too!

Hop Creek

 Napa Valley Bistro – 975 Clinton Street, Napa 707-666-2383 Opened in 2013, Napa Valley Bistro quickly became a locals favorite dining spot and power lunch stop for busy downtown executives. Chef’s Bernardo Ayala and co-owner Ernesto Martinez had a vision to create a restaurant nurturing the community supporting local farmers using locally sourced sustainable organic food from the Napa Valley. They have staked their claim in downtown Napa’s expanding culinary scene and have an abundance of loyal patrons who frequent this bistro offering down home fare and fine dining. Building a sense of community is important for Napa Valley Bistro. Timeless favorites on the menu are the Lamb Burger and the St. Louis Ribs. They also offer Vegetarian options as well.

Napa Valley Bistro Beet Salad

Il Posto – 4211 Solano Avenue, Napa 707-251-8600 Owner Justin Graffigna had visions of bringing an old school Italian restaurant to the Napa Valley and he did just that when he opened Il Posto off Solano Avenue off the beaten path from the plethora of downtown Napa dining. This Italian bistro offers a homey welcoming atmosphere where the tantalizing aromas from the kitchen welcome you from the moment you step through the door. The recipes are family inspired offering an extensive variety of housemade pastas such as Orecchiette, Tagliarini, Cannelloni, as well as pizzas, antipasti and Secondi dishes – Veal Parmigiana Eggplant Parmigiana to name a few. There is even a Bambini menu for the kids. Be sure to make a reservation, the word has gotten out! Bravo!

Il Posto Sausage Pizza

Taqueria Maria – 640 3rd Street, Napa 707-257-6925 One of my favorite local spots for authentic Mexican cuisine, located across from the Napa Valley Fairgrounds is Taqueria Maria. It is considered the “go-to” restaurant for the best Mexican food in town. They serve daily starting with breakfast at 8am. In addition to their extensive menu they offer beer and wine as well as other beverages from Mexico. If you are one of those that like really hot sauces be sure to ask for it, as their Habanero sauce will truly heat things up!  They have become so popular that I can be a little bit of a wait to get a table, though well worth the wait. One of our favorites is their Carnitas!!! Though you won’t go wrong with anything on their delicious menu.

Taqueria Maria

Hurley’s Restaurant – 6518 Washington Street, Yountville 707-944-2345 Chef Bob Hurley is no stranger to the restaurant scene in Yountville. He has created outstanding cuisine to his loyal following for over 20 years and I too am truly one of his dedicated followers. Bob is no stranger to the community, as he has been a community leader helping to put Yountville and the Napa Valley dining scene on the map as well as a regular participant in numerous charitable events. Hurley’s Restaurant located in the small culinary hamlet of Yountville offers a savory variety of seasonal wine country Mediterranean inspired dishes. Bob is also known for his special dinner events – Wild Game Week, Winemaker Dinners, Cuban Themed Cigar Dinner, Robert Burns Supper, Friday Night BBQ’s and more. On your next visit to Yountville, Hurley’s is a must stop! 

Protea – 6488 Washington Street, Yountville 707-415-5035 This Caribbean inspired global cuisine café offers you a delicious stop to delight in the creative dishes transforming everyday street food from around the globe into chef-driven palate pleasing masterpieces. Protea is a Caribbean cuisine fast casual restaurant with counter service and table side delivery where the menu changes daily to take advantage of the freshest of products available in the Napa Valley. Dine on the deck overlooking the town of Yountville with plates of Pickled Steak Tacos, Empanadas, Goat Barbacoa Sliders, the Cubano. For Brunch, the Eggs Benedict and the Huevos Rancheros are a must try. They also are able to accommodate Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-Free Requests. This is a tasty addition to the global cuisine offerings in the Napa Valley.


Brasswood Bar + Kitchen – 3111 St. Helena Hwy N, St. Helena 707-968-5434 Located just north of Saint Helena just off Hwy 29 is a wonderful retreat which is the Brasswood Winery where you can wine, dine, sip and shop. What makes their restaurant so special and so familiar is the Brasswood team is the original entourage from TraVigne in St. Helena spearheaded by chef David Nuno who brought with him many of his well-known recipes from the iconic St. Helena Italian restaurant. Not on the menu, but served daily is his signature mozzarella dish, “Mozza”. Be sure to ask for it when you are there. There isn’t a day that goes by that you will spot one of many of the notable winemakers in the valley breaking bread. It has remained a true “Vintners Village”. By the way, their burger is absolutely “Memorable”!


Busters BBQ





Busters Original Southern BBQ – 1207 Foothill Blvd, Calistoga 707-942-5605 Showcased in National Geographic, referred to Busters as the “Best BBQ West of the Mississippi” and voted “Best Barbeque” by The Bohemian year after year. When in Calistoga, after a day of wine tasting, Busters patio is the perfect stop for their Authentic Southern BBQ dishes with recipes from the heart of Louisiana with pork ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork, tri-tip, BBQ chicken, savory baked beans. It’s makes your mouth water just thinking of it. Open for lunch or dinner 7 days a week. Dine in or take out! And be sure and stop by for great jazz and blues on Sunday afternoons.







Napa Valley’s Michelin Starred Kenzo Restaurant

Napa Valley’s Michelin Starred Kenzo Restaurant

“Experience the True Essence of Excellence in Japanese Cuisine”

Kenzo Restaurant in downtown Napa in the old location of Pearl has been open for just over a year and after earning its first Michelin star has already gained major accolades in the culinary world and the Napa Valley dining scene.

Kenzo and Natsuko Tsujimoto, owners and creators of the spectacular Kenzo Estate, had a vision of creating an authentic, elegant Japanese dining experience in the Napa Valley. This charming power couple is not new to the restaurant world, as they have developed a dedicated following in their home country of Japan with four stunning Kenzo Estate Restaurants and tasting rooms. These successful Kenzo-centric establishments bring avid followers in for their stunning cuisine and Kenzo Estate wines. Upon opening their anticipated Napa location just over a year ago, they have created the ultimate dining experience with their prix fixe menu importing the finest of fresh seafood flown in daily from the most acclaimed fish market in Japan. It is their mission to transform the perception of Japanese cuisine.

Kenzo Restaurant’s intimate atmosphere, situated in a private Zen-like setting, offers a global experience of innovative and unique Japanese cuisine inspired by Michelin Star Chef Eiji Onoyama and Kenzo’s brilliant team of award-winning chefs out of Japan. Kenzo’s inventive seasonal menus fuse Japanese tradition with his innovative, creative techniques and stunning presentations. Each and every course paired with one of the Kenzo Estate wines and premium sakes whisks diners on a culinary journey through Japan.

The intimate 27-seat restaurant offers ten tables and a sushi bar each providing dining guests exquisite presentations in the sophisticated Kaiseki traditional multi-course Japanese dinner.   Sometimes compared to French haute cuisine, Kaiseki also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of the various courses in the meal and in some cases creating as many as 12 or more courses. Kenzo Restaurant has taken their “contemporary Kaiseki” to an elevated dining experience.

Having the opportunity to dine at the sushi bar offers a hands-on visual expose of the incredible preparations by the Kenzo master chefs at the helm. The sushi bar recreates the ambiance of a high-end sushi restaurant in Japan offering guests an expedition where they can visit a true Japan without a passport.

A sampling of their delightful dining offerings include:

  • Pacific Dungeness Crab Chawanmushishizouka wasabi
  • Rice Cracker Crusted Aomori Sawara Mackerel
  • Ehime Amberjack Sashimi
  • Straw Smoked Chiba Golden Eye SnapperOwan
  • Spotted Prawn and Hokkaido Salmon Roe
  • Satsuma Wagyu Tenderloin Kuwayaki with Kenzo Estate “Rindo” Reduction
  • Matcha green tea pudding and sweet adzuki beans
  • Warabimochi bracken starch dumpling with sweet soybean powder and brown sugar syrup

Kenzo owners – Kenzo and Natsuko Tsujimoto and their talented team of chefs have proudly introduced traditional Japanese cuisine “Kaiseki” to the Napa Valley! Congratulations on your Michelin Star honor in your first year!