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?
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.
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: http://bit.ly/5IngredientItalianCookbook
Link to our hotel in Tuscany for our May tour. This is one of the top hotels in Florence: https://www.ortodeimedici.it/it
Contact Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures at:
Check out more details on their website at:
Check out their facebook page too! https://www.facebook.com/lazyitalian/
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 www.boonflycafe.com 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 – 500 Main Street, Napa 707-254-9690 www.celadonnapa.com 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!
Fume Bistro & Bar – 4050 Byway East, Napa 707-257-1999 www.fumebistro.com 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 www.gracestable.net 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 www.hopcreekpub.com 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!
Napa Valley Bistro – 975 Clinton Street, Napa 707-666-2383 www.napavalleybistro.com 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 www.ilpostonapa.com 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 www.taqueriamaria.com 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.
Hurley’s Restaurant – 6518 Washington Street, Yountville 707-944-2345 www.hurleysrestaurant.com 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 www.proteayv.com 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 www.brasswoood.com 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 Original Southern BBQ – 1207 Foothill Blvd, Calistoga 707-942-5605 www.busterssouthernBBQ.com 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.
“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!
The Acacia House at Las Alcobas
Chef Chris Cosentino, co-owner of San Francisco’s trendy Cockscomb restaurant welcomes his newest addition, the Acacia House, to his restaurant group along with business partner, Oliver Wharton. This inspired new dining establishment is located on the spectacular grounds of Napa Valley’s newest Luxury Collection Hotel Las Alcobas in Saint Helena embraced by lush vineyard views. In contrast to the stunning contemporary surrounds of this exquisite boutique hotel, the Acacia House is perched on a grand hill showcased majestically a stately Victorian Mansion. The “Acacia House” was the first given name of this historic Georgian inspired estate originally built in 1907.
Cosentino and Wharton’s restaurant group, Delicious MFG & CO also includes Jackrabbit in Portland, Oregon which also recently opened to much acclaim by Cosentino’s culinary following.
“We are thrilled to partner with the Las Alcobas brand where personalized service, discreetly modernized design and intimate ambiance are key ingredients of the experience. Our mutual styles bridge the classical decadence of the region and the progressive, diverse flavors diners crave from a restaurant that is as exacting as it is exciting.” As Cosentino and Wharton enthusiastically stated.
This dynamic restaurant duo devotes their energy to their restaurants with similar philosophies in branding Cosentino’s innovative style of cuisine offering familiar dishes with a refreshing twist of refinement. The Acacia House menu is directly influenced by the grape varietals of the Napa Valley’s original countries of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Germany infusing the unique flavors of their regions into the dishes created at the restaurant.
Acacia House Hamachi
The Acacia House also offers a selection of well-balanced cocktails as a complement to the restaurant’s dining offerings. You will find timeless classics like the Italian inspired Negroni or seasonally infused Bellinis or their own not-so traditional Bloody Mary, and a crowd-pleaser from the Las Alcobas flagship property in Mexico City, is the signature, Margarita.
Many of the wines off of their extensive wine list of Napa Valley varietals present entertaining historical vignettes on the vineyard proprietors of these showcased vintages. Here is one of them, Farella 2001 Coombsville, Merlot:
“Frank and Tom Farella panted the first Merlot of Coombsville in 1985. A unique horseshoe valley with close-proximity to the bay and the base of Mt. George creates this cooler microclimate. Coombsville is the newest recognized AVA in Napa Valley. The Merlot produced here is a graceful Bordeaux style.”
Menu highlights include:
- Burrata: apricots, almond chili, and lemon verbena
- Lobster Submarine: pancetta, avocado, sundried tomato jam, arugula, lobster roe aioli, and torpedo roll
- Klingeman Farms Park Schnitzel: snap peas, caviar ranch dressing
- Lavender Cornish Game Hen: sugar squash, grilled squash blossoms, and lemon thyme vinaigrette
Acacia House Schnitzel
The Acacia House is open 7 days per week. Breakfast 7am to 10am; Lunch 11:30a to 3pm and Dinner 5-10p
1915 Main Street, St. Helena www.lasalcobasnapavalley.com
Unique Holiday Gift Ideas Created in the Napa Valley
Go Anywhere with GoVino
By Dynie Sanderson
Here are a few really special Holiday gift ideas to take away with you from the Wine Country. Whether it is a gift for under the tree or a gift for a special occasion or gift to yourself, these will surely put a smile on your face. As a matter of fact, these gifts will pair perfect with the wines you bought on your last trip to Napa Valley.
Wouldn’t it be fun to pack up that case of the wine you just bought in Napa and put it in a suitcase custom-made to take your most special vintages with you to your next travel destination or to have a glass when you get home and not wait for a shipment? Absolutely! It used to be that you could travel with a 6-pack carry on as a souvenir from your visit. Though that luxury is long gone, the good news is you can still take it with you!
FlyWithWine is the ultimate wine travel suitcase which was designed exclusively for safely transporting wine. Put your favorite vintages comfortably in this indestructible check-in bag and pick it up with confidence at baggage claim knowing your 2005 Estate Cab is safely intact. And fully loaded with a case of wine it still weighs less than 50 pounds. You can also customize your wine luggage too, as they have a variety of inserts for fit your various bottle sizes and even your special Riedel Wine Glasses.
Though if you want to use all of the space in your customized suitcase for wine, there is an option. Grab a box of your favorite GoVino shatter proof drinkware and put it in your backpack or carry-on and you will be ready-set-go to enjoy a glass or two of the one of your Napa Valley wines as soon as you land in your next destination. These innovative sommelier-approved wine glasses can go with you anywhere and were established in the Napa Valley in 2008 by Joseph T. Perulli.
Go Vino Picnic
The GoVino glasses have quickly been adopted by some of the world’s most renowned wine estates and it is the first shatterproof wine glass of its kind to be accepted by the industry. GoVino offers design driven glassware options for wine, beer, champagne and cocktails and they even have a decanter as well. These are perfect when proper stemware isn’t available or in settings where breakable glass in prohibited. May your Holidays be Smashing … Not Your Glassware! www.govinowine.com
You just packed your FlyWithWine suitcase with a selection of wines from Hestan Vineyards and while there, you had the opportunity to go to The Hestan Barn for an amazing cooking demonstration by Hestan Chef Philip Tessier. He was using an amazing line of cookware, the Nanobond. Hestan just debuted the Hestan Cue: A Connected, Smart Cooking System which redefines the home kitchen. What an amazing culinary innovation. Now that you have Chef Philip’s new book “Chasing Bocuse – America’s Journey to the Culinary World Stage”, The Hestan Cue is a must have in your kitchen.
Hestan Cue is a video-guided cooking system that automatically controls temperature and time, every step of the recipe. Their smart cookware, induction burner and recipe app all communicate with each other using Bluetooth technology and embedded sensors – automatically adjusting the cooking temperature and time as you proceed through each recipe. Cue doesn’t cook it for you – it helps you cook better food, more often. And the best part…you are learning to cook beautiful meals from chefs like Philip Tessier.
The Hestan Cue Team includes acclaimed chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants, pioneering software developers and meticulous designers dedicated to tirelessly reinventing the cooking experience.
You can find the Hestan Cue at William Sonoma and Amazon or at www.HestanCue.com
The Napa Valley renowned for its many acclaimed Robert Parker award-winning wines has also made an enormous impact over the years in the culinary arena with 6 acclaimed restaurants being the recipients of the coveted Michelin Star awards for 2018. Of the 55 star awardees in the Bay area, five superstar chefs and their teams have choreographed gastronomic sensations worthy of being presented with their own prestigious Michelin Stars!
Michelin has a 3-star point scale in which they judge and award by. Three Stars in Michelin vernacular means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special trip.” Two Stars indicates “excellent cooking; worth a detour” and One Star signifies “a very good restaurant in its own category”.
It all started at the turn of the century, when the Michelin brothers André and Edouard, decided to start a guide for car owners in France, to help promote their Michelin Tire company by sharing names and locations of petrol stations, garage and tire mechanics as well as hotels and restaurants. The first published edition of the guide produced 35,000 copies and was distributed free. As a result of the guide’s popularity, they launched internationally, first in Belgium in 1904 and in Britain in 1911.
Michelin’s notoriety grew expeditiously, and by 1920 their dining section was so popular, they began to appoint anonymous inspectors to visit hotels and restaurants to grade them. The star system was introduced in 1926, and the blue cover of the guides was changed to their symbolic deep red as it is with today’s distinguished Michelin Guides. Even today the inspectors remain duty bound and maintain the secrecy of their identity.
In 1955 Michelin guides added a second category called the “Bib Gourmand” which are also designated by Michelin’s food inspectors annually. To be included in this list, restaurants are required to serve quality cuisine with two courses and provide wine or dessert for a maximum price of $40. Bib Gourmand recipients include only restaurants offering “excellent food at a reasonable price.”
Of the 67 Bay Area “Bib Gourmand” awardees, 6 Napa Valley restaurants earned a Michelin nod of approval! Cook St. Helena, Two Birds/One Stone, Farmstead, Grace’s Table, Oenotri, and Redd Wood.
Auberge du Soleil – Michelin Rating: One Star
Chef – Robert Curry – Chef Curry has been executive chef at Auberge du Soleil since 2005 and has been instrumental in bringing them a dozen stars over the years 2006-2018. Curry has a passion and an inherent talent for his wine country cuisine creations on his stunning ever-changing menus with ingredients harvested daily from the restaurants organic garden. Before joining Auberge du Soleil, Curry was executive chef at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. He began his career in Los Angeles at Wolfgang Puck’s cooking school, Ma Cuisine. He has also worked with Michel Richard and Alain Giraud of Citrus and Alain Ducasse at his 3-star Louis XV at Hotel de Paris.
View From Restaurant Auberge du Soleil
What’s it all about: Restaurateur and Culinary Legacy Claude Rouas’ restaurant was founded 35 years ago as Napa Valley’s first fine dining restaurant offering Mediterranean inspired cuisines. The restaurant and hotel “Inn of the Sun” are nestled within the 33-acre olive grove that showcases the property. The views and dining experience from their hillside perch in Rutherford overlooking the majestic Napa Valley is beyond extraordinary. The restaurants inspired cuisine created by Chef Curry has been awarded 12 consecutive Michelin Stars.
Chef Robert Curry Auberge du Soleil
What the Michelin Inspectors say: “This is one of the first restaurants to elevate the Napa Valley to greatness. For the past decade, Chef Robert Curry has been ensuring its legacy with cooking that is the very definition of California cuisine: global flavors expressed through local, seasonal, and fresh ingredients. The kitchen’s work is as impressive as the setting. Everything seems just a bit more beautiful from this extraordinary perch, overlooking the vineyards, mountains, and gardens.”
The French Laundry – Michelin Rating: Three Stars
Chef – Thomas Keller – Chef Keller is one of most renowned Michelin star chefs and is the first and only American born chefs to hold multiple Michelin 3 Star ratings for a total of 7 Stars – Three at Per Se in New York, Three at The French Laundry and one at Bouchon. In the past decade, Keller has received countless culinary accolades and awards including the James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Chef” and “Outstanding Restaurateur” and the Culinary Institute of America’s “Chef of the Year.”
French Laundry Renovation
What’s it all about: Thomas Keller’s flagship restaurant has been the fine dining Napa Valley go-to for over two decades. In 1992, he discovered the old French steam laundry in Yountville taking almost 2 years converting it and finally opened its doors in 1994 to instant acclaim. The French Laundry recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014, which is something that few restaurants can be applauded for. Chef Keller began his culinary career at a very young age when he worked at the Palm Beach restaurant which his mother managed. It has been a non-stop success story ever since. His impact in the culinary world has placed him as one of the most influential and decorated chefs in the world.
What the Michelin Inspectors say: “Chef Keller continues to pair incredibly classic French techniques with wildly fresh ingredients in a setting that is a perfect storm of restaurant greatness—we should all be so lucky to score a reservation here in our lifetime. Choose from two seasonal tasting menus, including a vegetarian option. Both feature products from boutique purveyors. Dinners may highlight signature oysters paired with white sturgeon caviar in a warm sabayon studded with tapioca pearls or golden striped bass with deconstructed deviled eggs.”
The Restaurant at Meadowood – Michelin Rating: Three Stars
Chef Christopher Kostow
Chef – Christopher Kostow – Chef Kostow, one of the youngest Michelin Star Chefs, received his first honors before the age of 30. He began cooking at the Restaurant at Meadowood in 2008 and in his second year at the helm, they were awarded Two Michelin Stars. Only one year later he took the honors to the next echelon bringing the restaurant highest honor of 3 stars, making Kostow one of the youngest chefs to achieve the award. He is the second American born chef and the third youngest chef ever to receive three Michelin Stars. He has retained the accolade since.
The Restaurant at Meadowood
What’s it all about: Chef Kostow’s modern American restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena has proven a positive culinary impact in Napa Valley’s epicurean mecca. This luxurious retreat presents this acclaimed inviting modern American restaurant to great applause. “We strive for seriousness, and for permanence in our cooking. Our food is what we give of ourselves. It is at once our daily efforts and their culmination.” The dining room is adorned in sophisticated barnlike rustic luxury which allures you with their subtle elegance. Kostow’s presentations are works of culinary art and are certainly worthy of their coveted Michelin 3 Stars.
Meadowood Chef Christopher Kostow
What the Michelin Inspectors say: “Everything here exudes California-style wealth and comfort, from those cottages dotting the Napa hills to the front lounge’s stone fireplace and shelves lined with Chef Kostow’s debut cookbook. Beyond this, the dining room is a sophisticated barn of sorts, decked in polished stone tables, wood columns, and rural splendor. This all makes for an elegant backdrop for romantic evenings or family celebrations, as long as everyone is willing to splurge. Servers are impeccable, professional, and know how to keep their guests happy and at ease. The cooking never ceases to better itself through innovation and purity.”
Bouchon – Michelin rating: One Star
French Laundry Thomas Keller
Chef – Thomas Keller – Bouchon is one of 3 restaurants that Keller operates in the Napa Valley. A fourth will be opening in Yountville in late summer early fall and will be high-end Mexican style cuisine right at the fork in the center of town. Keller has undoubtedly put his stake in the ground in Yountville and his stake in the international culinary arena. There are now many outposts of Bouchon, including in New York, Las Vegas, Beverly Hills and Miami opening this summer.
What’s it all about: Keller’s, second Yountville restaurant Bouchon, debuted in 1998 and then 5 years later followed with the opening of the adjacent ever popular Bouchon Bakery. Thomas Keller’s more relaxed French bistro features a seasonal menu, a raw bar, and bakery next door. Just steps down the street from his acclaimed French Laundry, Keller’s lively French Bistro is the mirror of a Parisian bistro. The crowd is always lively in this vibrant, festive atmosphere and the bar is always full. The menu is full of the classics of timeless French food and is about as close to France as you will get in Napa. There are so many options on the menu that you will want to try it all. Oysters, Fois Gras, French Onion Soup, Steak Frites. Don’t miss out on the desserts though. The Chocolate Bouchon and Crème Brulee are worth the visit alone.
What the Michelin Inspectors say: “A theatrical crowd uplifts the space with conviviality, and every lavish banquette or stool at the bustling bar is full. Always. Thanks to the house bakery next door, the bread here is ace, so grab an extra hunk of the supremely fresh and crusty pain d’epi to slather with butter. The menu lists well-executed classics, including a rosy foie gras torchon with seasonal orange preserves and golden-brown toasted brioche. And thanks to the attentive staff, you may even get a second slice.”
La Toque – Michelin rating: One Star
Chef – Ken Frank – While he was a chef at La Guillotine Restaurant at the age of 21 he received his first of many national acclaims in 1977. Chef Ken opened the first La Toque at the age of 23 in 1979 along the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Nineteen years later with a calling to the Napa Valley, he opened the incarnated La Toque in Rutherford with great success before moving to his current location in Napa at the Westin Verasa in 2008. He likes to call himself a French Chef in a California body. La Toque received their first Michelin Star the very first year Michelin did a Bay Area Guide. Ken voiced that the Michelin Guide is the only book that counts in the restaurant business and the only one that is internationally known. “Getting a star is such a prestigious flag to fly.”
La Toque Restaurant
What’s it all about: The restaurant is a showcase for Chef Frank’s modern French cuisine and his passion for wine. La Toque has been awarded a Michelin Star every year they have been in wine country. In addition to that, they have also been bestowed one of Wine Spectators greatest honors – The Grand Award for their wine list and service excellence and is one of only 91 restaurants in the world to receive this award. Ken Frank takes a serious and thoughtful approach to all of his menu creations and when it comes to Fois Gras and Truffles, he a leader at the helm in that arena. One of the most impressive characteristics about Ken, he is entirely self-taught, and he began his culinary career as a dishwasher in France where his taste for a profession as a chef was ignited.
La Toque Fois Gras
What Michelin says: “You’ll want to tip your own toque in appreciation after a meal at this downtown fine-dining palace in the Westin Verasa Napa, which blends a serious approach to cuisine and service that has just enough cheek to keep things lively. La Toque may display an oversized inflatable chef’s hat hanging above its walkway, but the interior is the soul of modern sophistication, with leather-topped tables, a fireplace, and an extensive wine list—proffered on an iPad.”
Kenzo – Michelin rating: One Star
Kenzo Restaurant Chefs
Chefs – A team of superstars coming in from Japan – Their chefs are comprised of six extremely talented men and women from Japan, who have traveled to the US just to work at Kenzo Napa. These gifted chefs are carefully selected by owners Kenzo and Natsuko Tsujimoto. “Since establishing Kenzo Estate, Kenzo and I dreamt of sharing the unique beauty of Japanese food with visitors to the Napa Valley. To receive Michelin recognitions after just one year of operation was a testament to the amazing team who worked so hard to bring our vision to life, and to the guests from around the world who truly embraced our interpretation of authentic Japanese cuisine and tradition.”
Kenzo and Natsuko Tsujimoto
What’s it all about: Kenzo Estate owners Kenzo and Natsuko Tsujimoto’s elegant Japanese restaurant using ingredients flown in daily from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market along with rotating award-winning celebrity chefs from Japan.
What the Michelin Inspectors say: “Though Kenzo offers a handful of tables, the best seats are at the spacious counter, where diners can chat with the chefs and see their sushi made firsthand. Two menus are offered under the guidance of acclaimed chef Eiji Onoyama: one exclusively spotlights elegant kaiseki dishes like sea urchin chawanmushi and poached blue shrimp with asparagus, while the other also integrates a dozen pieces of nigiri, sourced directly from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Fish Market.”
There are 55 Restaurants with Michelin Stars in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you would like to learn more about these award-winning eateries or read more food-related articles from around the world visit guide.michelin.com/us/san-francisco
As seen in Napa Valley Life Magazine – 2018 Food and Wine Issue