Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In Napa Valley's Yountville: star restaurants (and a hot tip)

Okay, here's a quiz: in which California town have restaurants been awarded more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else on the planet? Sophisticated San Francisco? Nope. Chi-chi LA? Nah. Try tiny Yountville, pop. 3290, in the heart of the Napa Valley.

I remember visiting Yountville years ago (as a kid); it was a sleepy little burg where the best meal available was at a diner. Thank goodness those days are gone. Yountville is still a pretty quiet, laid-back place, but now they're calling it an "epicurean enclave". And why not: the dining scene is something foodies travel from across the globe to experience.

That's because highly-prized Michelin stars have just been announced for the French Laundry (3 stars), Bouchon (1), Bistro Jeanty (1) and Redd (1). The famous French Laundry books up so far ahead, it's practically an impossible dream unless your name is Brad or Angelina. One insider's secret: book a room 2 or more months ahead at Napa's Meadowood Resort, and at booking time, ask their concierge to reserve your table at French Laundry; you'll likely get one of the toughest tables in town—and you'll surely enjoy staying at the comfy-chic Meadowood. 

The other 'starred' restaurants on this list are no longer secrets and can also be pretty tough to get in to. Your best shot: reserve a midweek night in winter—like right now—or try lunch. 

However, if your name isn't Brangelina and you're locked out of those hotspots, fear not. You'll soon have more Yountville dining choices than ever, with five new (or revamped) restaurants. Just last month saw the opening of Bottega, serving farm-to-table style Italian cuisine in the historic Groezinger Winery and helmed by the Food Network's Michael Chiarello. 

In February, Bardessono is slated to debut with Sean O'Toole of the Mina Group set to be executive chef in the 62-room inn, spa, and restaurant complex. Said to be "environmentally inspired", the restaurant will include a teaching/display kitchen and wine concierge parlor. Oh, and a fire fountain (as Paris Hilton would say, it sounds hot).

Set for fall openings: Hotel Luca, a 20-room luxury hotel and 90-seat restaurant, backed by the folks who are behind Auberge Carmel and the Cantinetta Luca in Carmel. Another eatery set to open in fall is Vita, with a southern Italian food. And Gordon's Wine Bar and Cafe is under renovation, set to debut later this year.

For more information and travel inquiries, contact the Yountville Chamber of Commerce at 707.944.0904 or www.yountville.com. 

1 comment:

pamela hunter said...

Chef Sean O'Toole left the Mina group to join the Bardessono in Yountville where he says he will specialize in custom cuisine, mainly local and mostly organic.

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