Friday, May 28, 2010

Oenotri: Italian, with a twist

Folks often ask us what it's like to live at a Napa Bed & Breakfast.

"Do you ever eat at home, or do you just keep trying all the new restaurants?"

We do both. We love to cook and develop new recipes for our Napa B&B.

But one of the greatest pleasures of living in the Napa Valley is going out to eat, and experiencing all the wonderfulness of a great Napa Valley restaurant.

We've watched the progress of Oenotri and were very excited about another restaurant opening in Napa.

Walking in, it feels both welcoming and bright/open. Rough plank wood tables set a rustic mood, while the rest of the decor is simple and sophisticated. A great combination.

Overall sound level is a bit loud-- think more "bistro" than "quiet reflective spot". It's an atmosphere that feels at once exciting, and at the same time, relaxed. Kind of like a party at a friend's house. Lots of smiling faces.

The menu changes daily, and is posted online around 4 or 5 pm. Why so late? Because the chefs talk to their purveyors daily, and base their menu each night around what is fresh and in season. The dishes themselves are literally not finalized until mid-afternoon.

We sampled a mostaciolli made with Willis Farm pork ragu. It brought to mind some of our favorite Italian food: A simple combination of flavors and textures, perfectly matched. Spices came through subtly, but were never overbearing. The presentation was simple, in a round demi bowl with the pasta in the middle. No fancy garnishes, foam, or drizzles-- just food.

That pretty much sums up the whole place: It's all about the food.

As foodies, we're all over that.

We also had a pizza from their wood-fired ovens. It was topped with roasted cauliflower, salumi macinato, and torpedo onions. Incredibly yummy. Again, a wonderful blend of flavors, none taking center stage-- all working together to provide blissful bites.

We were amazed at the Salumi taster's menu. Salumi are Italian cured meats (charcuterie). While the word may look/sound like "salami", salami is just one kind of Salumi-- the term covers everything from Mortadella to Prosciutto di Parma to bresaola. Oenotri takes this very seriously-- they literally produce all of their charcuterie in house.

We were so impressed by the Salumi menu that we made a date to come back and just spend an evening sampling some of the nearly 20 different varieties, with "extra bites" like mozzarella di bufala, rabiola trelatti, and roasted almonds.

Desserts were another big hit. We tried the Valrhona chocolate cake w/pistachio gelato (as decadent as you could imagine, a perfect pairing with the Ritual Roasters coffee they served). We also nibbled on the bread pudding with roasted cherries-- delicately spiced, not overly saucy, and, in a word, wonderful.

But our favorite was the Bluebery crostata with Meyer Lemon Cream. Think about the most amazingly intense lemon meringue filling you've ever tasted (Cindy Pawlcyn's Mile High Lemon Pie comes to mind). Imagine the lemon filling as a thick liquid, garnished with fresh blueberries and a wedge of flaky Italian pastry. Now add just a hint of whipped cream, and you have one incredible way to finish a meal.

Service was exceptional-- they were so busy-- Every table was full, and everyone was ordering at once, thanks to a freak rain shower that forced attendees of the Napa Chef's Market to run for cover. Our food arrived within 15-20 minutes, and our server and host checked in on us regularly to see what we needed.

We left happy, full, and with big smiles on our faces.

And we'll be back. :)

- The Innkeepers
Napa Old World Inn

UPDATE: Went back a week later to try out the "Salumi" platter-- AMAZING. Truly. The chefs provided several different types of cured meats: 2 salami, a prosciutto that literally *melted* on your tongue (!), 2 different kinds of fresh cheese (one a yummy bufala mozzarella), a rustic liver pate that was the best we'd ever had (beautiful finish), a rillette that was also incredible, a "lardo" (yep, just what is sound like: cured fat), and a cotto salami that was divine. Easily the best assemblage of charcuterie we've ever had-- and this includes eating this way most every night when we were in Europe.

Had another pizza, similar to last weeks (house smoked bufala mozzarella, salumi macinato and baby torpedo onions). Boy, do these guys know how to do pizza!

Passed up the desserts, in part because we'd just picked up some organic locally grown strawberries, raspberries, and peaches from the Chefs' Market, and couldn't wait to get back to our favorite Napa Bed and Breakfast to have some fun with them in the kitchen!

We've gotten lots of great feedback from these restaurant reviews, so we'll start blogging our restaurant experiences more often.

Until next time . . . :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

How much soap do you need at a Napa B&B?

When we were first learning how to become innkeepers, the following story was passed on to us by another innkeeper.

We hope you never have this problem at our Napa Valley Bed and Breakfast- but do let us know if you find more than 50 bars of soap in your room!!!

- The Innkeepers



(according to legend, this actually happened at a hotel in England:)

Dear Maid,

Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another three in the shower soap dish. They are in my way.

Thank you,

Major Ector

Dear Room 635,

I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the 3 bars I left today which my instructions from the management is to leave 3 soaps daily. I hope this is satisfactory.

Kathy, Relief Maid

Dear Maid,

I hope you are my regular maid. Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Dial so I won't need those 6 little Camays which are on the shelf. They are in my way when shaving, brushing teeth, etc. Please remove them.

Major Ector

Dear Major,

My day off was last Wed. so the relief maid left 3 hotel soaps which we are instructed by the management. I took the 6 soaps which were in your way on the shelf and put them in the soap dish where your Dial was. I put the Dial in the medicine cabinet for your convenience. I didn't remove the 3 complimentary soaps which are always placed inside the medicine cabinet for all new check-ins and which you did not object to when you checked in last Monday. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Your regular maid,


Dear Major,

The assistant manager, Mr. Kensedder, informed me this A.M. that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any future complaints please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM.

Thank you.

Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Miss Carmen,

It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 745 AM and don't get back before 530 or 6PM. That's the reason I called Mr. Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr. Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bath-room shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me?

Major Ector

Dear Major Ector,

Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps. If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM.

Thank you,

Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Mr. Kensedder,

My bath-size Dial is missing. Every bar of soap was taken from my room including my own bath-size Dial. I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets.

Major Ector

Dear Major Ector,

I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.

Martin L. Kensedder, Assistant Manager

Dear Mrs. Carmen,

Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don't want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Dial. Do you realize I have 54 bars of soap in here. All I want is my bath size Dial. Please give me back my bath-size Dial.

Major Ector

Dear Major Ector,

You complained of too much soap in your room so I had them removed. Then you complained to Mr. Kensedder that all your soap was missing so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily (sic). I don't know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays. I don't know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Dial. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory which I left in your room.

Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Mrs. Carmen,

Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my latest soap inventory.

As of today I possess:

  • On shelf under medicine cabinet - 18 Camay in 4 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
  • On Kleenex dispenser - 11 Camay in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3.
  • On bedroom dresser - 1 stack of 3 Bouquet, 1 stack of 4hotel-size Ivory, and 8 Camay in 2 stacks of 4.
  • Inside medicine cabinet - 14 Camay in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
  • In shower soap dish - 6 Camay, very moist.
  • On northeast corner of tub - 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.
  • On northwest corner of tub - 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3.

Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries.

One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-sized Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings.

Major Ector

The above exchange of letters was copied/adapted from something that has been floating around the internet for several years now.

It may have originally appeared in The Times of London.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Run away . . . to a Napa Bed and Breakfast!

When was the last time you took a break? Celebrated life?

Too often we get caught up in our day to day craziness.

Run here, run there . . . try to squeeze everything in . . .

And each night, you drop into your favorite chair, exhausted. Whew!

* * * * * * * *

How about a change?

A bit of a getaway?

Close your eyes and imagine walking to dinner in Napa . . . having an amazing meal . . . coming back to your Inn where some decadent chocolate desserts await.

Make your way up to your room . . . draw a bath (wow, they even gave us bath salts-- look!).

Sink into the warm water and feel your muscles just turn to jello . . .

Afterwards, feeling light as a feather, you hop into the middle of a great big bed, feeling the soft embrace of it all around you as you sink in . . .

Does that sound like fun?

Give us a call . . . our Napa Bed and Breakfast may be just the thing to help you relax!

-The Innkeepers
Napa Old World Inn

PS If you want to keep imagining, wake up the next morning to an amazing home-cooked breakfast . . . then go out wine tasting-- discover some new Napa wineries you've never been to before!