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Napa report: Oxbow, Redd and Ad Hoc with 3 kids and two non-foodie parents - and Chocolatier Blue, Mariposa Bakehouse, Tara's Ice Cream on the way

jsaimd | Aug 24, 2009 08:37 PM

My parents came to Napa and my husband and I were completely excited about the food! My parents enjoy good food, but they are not real foodies. Also have one parent that is diabetic, and not always that great at controlling himself around temptations, so we needed to keep that in mind. I also had my 3 kids (5, 7 and baby) who are very into food as well. None of us drink so wineries were not a draw.

Given that my parents didn't want to drop a lot of money, and we couldn't treat to super fancy meals every night, we gave up Ubuntu and just went to Oxbow market. I was sad when I drove past ubuntu on the way back to the hotel, as were my 2 chowpups. anyway, we did Pica Pica my kids request. I tried to get my parents to go somewhere better (Rostasario (sp?) or Hog Island), but in the end my Mom left enamored with PicaPica. She loved that it was different than anything she had ever had (they are from a not so food driven state). I tried all 3 styles - the cachapa which I liked last time was a bit too sweet and oily this time, the maizewich was a pleasant suprise - good sweetness and texture, and the arepa a bit chewy but still fine. The shredded beef a bit mushy, but flavorful. Black beans and plantains very good. The spicey black beans with tomatoes were good, but the guac not so great. Grilled chicken suprisingly decent flavor. Salad fine, but I didn't care for the passion fruit dressing - not acidic enough for me, but I like dressing on the acidic side. Mom liked her avocado chicken salad. For 3 sandwiches" and a salad it was $26. Son also got a cupcake at Kara's. He reported it tastey, but he says that about everything. I am allergic to wheat so couldn't try. Tried a couple of chocolates at Annettes - caramel marshmallow (meh, sweet no depth), peanut crisp I think it was called (meh, peanut buttery), and the tart dried cherry (the best of the bunch - good dried cherry flavor). I wouldn't rush back to Annette's. Sampled Three Twins Ice Cream - it was fine but nothing special. Not enough to buy any, but the lady offered samples as we walked by. Tried a piece of Fatted Calf's jerkey, and wasn't too impressed, but I am not a jerkey person. I like their other offerings. Also, son got a bag of day old pastries (1 pain amande, 2 muffins and a bun of some sort) for $2. Great for him, and husband said they weren't too stale. The almond filling the the croissant looked good and plentiful.

Next day we did lunch at Redd. We didn't reserve the patio and really wish we had. The inside is pretty - I like modern design, but it was a bit sterile feeling. The service felt a bit aloof, but I think that had more to do with the really loud party right next to us. The server said he couldn't even hear himself talk. Then again, didn't have to worry about noisy baby : ). I had the scallops with cauliflower and shared my son's sole with chorizo, rice and saffron clams. Both were very good - good depth of flavor. They are small dishes though, and I should have ordered more. husband got the tartine which was served with very very good onion rings and an arugula salad. It was big for the price, and he said it was very good. Other son had the prosciutto and arugula pizza, which he liked and husband said he enjoyed the light crispy crust. Would I go back, yes, but I wasn't so floored that I would go back over trying something new. A nice lunch though.

Ad Hoc. We had been before and it was a fantastic meal. This time it was solid but not as super good as last time. I felt like we could have made the meal we had this time easily at home, but it was well executed and I kind of feel like that is the point of Ad Hoc anyway. Home style food. We had a bibb lettuce salad with roasted tomato vinaigrette, olives, pickled onions and avocados, They were a bit skimpy on the avocados. Second course was Porterhouse steak - well seasoned, well cooked (seemed sous vide to me), served with a very good mixture of chickpeas and potatoes. I didn't think the sofrito butter had much oomph to it. The green beans were perfectly young, cooked tender and flavorful - asked for seconds of those. Cheese course was Truffle Tremor which we had had at home and enjoyed. The pairing with some slightly underripe plums was not great, and they served the gluten-free folks a 'fennel compote' which was too acidic and didn't pair at all with the cheese. The dessert was standard pavlova - good. They dealt with kids well, and let us decide this time how many adult meals to order and the kids shared with us. (last time they charged us full price for one and $20 for the other).

On the way up we stopped by Chocolatier Blue again. Alas, Chris Blue wasn't there as he is so engaging, but we picked up a bunch. the only one I didn't like was the cherry. I really like his nut chocoaltes, because they aren't too sweet and taste like pure fresh roasted nuts.

Mariposa Bakehouse came highly touted for gluten-free goodies. I rarely buy commercial stuff, because I prefer to bake my own. However, i had to try to see what the fuss was about. The bagels were fine - tasted more like toast and had a soft rather than chewy texture, but much better than most I have had. Disappointed with the lemon poppy seed muffin I had heard so much about - strange powdery dry texture. Coffee cake was good, nothing mind blowing but good. Challah was a good texture - soft, even the next day. I thought it had a strange aftertaste. Cupcake (red velvet) was a letdown, dry and rice-y texture. Coconut lemon bar edges were tastey enough. I won't be breaking down the door to go back, but if my son wants too it is one of the few GF bakeries I will get things from. I do like their biscotti and brownies, but brownies are so easy to just make at home.

Tara's. I am obsessed with ice cream right now. Current favorite is Humphrey Slocombe. I did like Tara's and they were super nice to let me sample just about every flavor. Very light ice cream with strong flavors, but without the fat, the flavors don't linger. I really enjoyed the style. Loved lemon verbena and the herbal flavors in general (I can't recall all I sampled). Sorbet was OK, but there are better ones out there (Scream). liked the scoop of black sesame, although I love Alice Medrich's recipe which uses tahini even more. the big flop was hazelnut which had no hazelnut flavor to it. Next up is Lush.

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