Thursday, July 24, 2008
I had a very nice birthday. Mom and I left at a decent hour for Napa. Surprisingly, traffic in Napa actually isn't that bad in the summer on a Wednesday, and we got to drive around and look at things in relative peace. We made Bouchon Bistro right on time (a little early) and had lunch....I'll post in detail about that later.
We also made a lovely stopover at the new Oxbow Market, which is sort of like a foodie's vision of an ultimate, surpassing food court. It's a collection of many of Northern California's best and most well known artisan food producers, and a really excellent boon for food nerds: one stop shopping for the real deal. Everything from produce to coffee to seafood to tacos is on offer.
I was particularly taken with the Fatted Calf, where I talked food nerd shop with the affable lady behind the counter and sampled various protein-ridden delights. They had just taken a giant, fatty, decadent meatloaf out of the oven and I had a bite....absolutely delicious. I fully intend to return soon to buy some meat to take home and cook. I considered purchasing a duck and bullying my dad into smoking it, but it would have become vile in the car ride home. We should have brought the cooler.
The other shops at Oxbow are also excellent - I particularly enjoyed browsing the racks at the WholeSpice outlet, which carries an impressive selection of weird and esoteric fresh-ground spices from around the world. They even had my elusive curry leaves.. The owner is a rather strange Israeli guy and he teased me gently to my mother as I happily snatched up aforementioned curry leaves, harissa, and zhoug - "She's a bit weird, isn't she?"
I remain unembarrassed. He even was kind enough to mix me up a spicy Israeli spice mix which I intend to muck about with in the near future.
Ritual Coffee Roasters also supplies good stuff, though admittedly I do not know enough about coffee to properly evaluate it. I do know that the barista was 1. cute and 2. had a couple of 25,000 dollar Clover coffee machines, the last ones sold tot he public before Starbucks snapped up the rights. This is probably terribly important to coffee addicts so I will relate it here.
The rest of the market has such delifghts as a roti chicken joint, a speciality tea seller, a fishmonger, fine chocolates, and a lovely wine and cheese area with drop-dead gorgeous charcuterie platters. I considered buying a very very stinky Epoisses but no one wants their car to stank like that.
Oxbow is a really nice place to hang out: the people who work there are all friendly and passionate about food, and it's easy to get into discussions with interesting people over delicious, unique comestibles. We need more places like this.
We proceeded from there to Ubuntu, which was just incredible and I cannot say enough nice things. A review will of course be forthcoming. I will state for now that my meal at Ubuntu was the only time in my life where I have licked a rock of my own free will.
In short: an ideal birthday for me, which mostly involved eating a lot. I'm angling for the French Laundry for my 21st. Better start calling for reservations now.
Posted by Faine at 11:23 PM