USA Road Trip – Day 3 – Napa

Happy Birthday to J! One of the reasons we were travelling when we did was to celebrate J’s birthday and while we celebrated all throughout our road trip, today was the actual day.


Our first stop of the day was breakfast at the Fremont Diner. Located on the road between Sonoma and Napa, this old school diner specalises in Southen food.


We were there around 9am I think and could easily get a table. It was busier when we left and I would advise getting there early or opting to sit outside, where there is more seating.

The menu had an overwhelming range of options and it took quite a while for us to both make a decision.

Coffee for J.

OJ for me.

J had the breakfast beans (Good others beans, patch tomatoes, griddled bread, poached egg with eatwell chilli salt).

I wanted to try something different and after much indecision went with the Almost Famous Biscuits and Gravy (two buttermilk biscuits and house made gravy and house made sausage crumbles).


Let’s be honest here, I had no idea what I was ordering. I knew Americans call scones biscuits, but scones and gravy? Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Oh, and I also opted to include a fried egg on top.


This is what came out.

Personally I didn’t think it looked too appetising. Luckily it did taste better than it looked. The scones were flatter than I am used to, but had a decent texture. I have no idea what the gravy was but it was pretty good and I liked the sausage crumbles. I managed less than half of this dish before putting up the white flag.


Would I order something like this again? No. Am I glad I tried it? Yes.


After clogging the arteries at breakfast we headed back into Napa and to the Oxbow Public market. This 40,000 square foot indoor marketplace showcases local food vendors, artisan cafes and produce from local farms.


Next we went north. On the way we took a quick detour to Yountville to have a look at The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s famous, and very hard to get into, restaurant.

Directly across the road from the restaurant is the kitchen garden, a huge space which included a greenhouse and a chook pen.

Our next stop was at one of J’s clients. This particular winery is not open to the public but we were given a tour by the assistant winemaker, who also gave us a bottle of their very hard to come by and expensive wine.

Next it was into St Helena and a quick look around Dean & Deluca, a place where I could spend a lot of money…

We had planned to get a Gott’s burger for lunch but after a recommendation we went to Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen instead.


This is one of Cindy Pawlcyn’s restaurant. Not a familiar name to most Aussies, but she is a renowned chef in America and has four (I think) restaurants and has published four cookbooks.


It looked to be quite busy and another couple walked in ahead of us, and were told there was a wait for a table. The maitre de looked past them to me and when I said table for two, he asked if I had had a chance to call ahead. No, but we will sit at the bar.


Not a problem, come this way.


Another example of when sitting at the bar is better than a table. We were seated and had started on our burgers before the couple in front of us even had a table.

J had the duck burger which was made from duck mince, ginger, scallions, hoisin, and soy sauce. He loved it, and it seems to very popular.

I had the beef burger and it too was fantastic. I don’t know what it is about burgers in America but they just taste so good.

I would definitely go back to Cindy’s. It has a pretty frontage as well.

Lunch was followed by a quick stop at the CIA!

And by CIA, I mean the Culinary Institute of America. :-)


We had a look around the gift shop, but you can also have meals, prepared by the students, at the restaurant.


Our next destination was Chateau Montelena. If you have seen the movie Bottle Shock, you will be familiar with this winery. It, and some other American wineries, beat French wines in a blind tasting in 1976.

The winery is open to the pubic and has a nice tasting room. There are also private tasting rooms.

J does business with the guys from Chateau Montelana so we had a tour of the winery, including the very cool wine cave and then we did a vertical tasting of their Cabernet in the library room.

After a bit more of a look around, we headed back to Napa where we had approximately 30 minutes to get ready before a taxi picked us up to take us to dinner at Meadowood.

Fremont Diner on Urbanspoon
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen on Urbanspoon

2 Responses to “USA Road Trip – Day 3 – Napa”

  1. Catherine says:

    Love the photos! Too bad you didn’t a chance for a meal at French Laundry hehe I can imagine how amazing it would be! I’ve always wondered what that white gravy would taste like!

  2. Helen says:

    Em – what a fabulous post!!

    Good on you for trying the biscuits and gravy!! We were in Napa last year – and also went to Cindy’s backstreet kitchen and Monteluna!! Small world – loved it, loved it, loved it! Cindy’s had the best polenta chips – oh my goodness, my mouth is watering. Glad you had a great time there. It’s also wonderful that J has all the contacts – it costs a fortune to taste in Napa (like $15 per tasting)!

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