Nothing puts a spring in my step like the words: “Wine Country wedding weekend.” Woo-hoo!!! I just returned from my friend’s gorgeous wedding in Calistoga, California, where the harvest is in full swing. At night, the heady scent of wine lingers over the Valley as the “crush” gets underway.
The tasting rooms and restaurants are abuzz with locals and visitors eager to toast to the harvest and the weather is delightfully mild.
It’s the perfect backdrop for a memorable wedding weekend filled with love, laughter and fantastic food & wine. Today, I’m sharing some photos and inspiration from my travels — including a culinary taste sensation that you have to try at home and some easily adaptable fall decorating ideas. A traditionalist at heart, I’ll be sticking with the format of “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue!” Here goes…
A few years ago I met Thomas Keller at a book signing for his Ad Hoc cookbook.
He was super nice and friendly and we chatted for awhile about cooking and Northern California. The conversation moved to Wine Country restaurants and I asked him where he likes to eat out when he has a night off (his own restaurants were off limits — you may have heard of some his boîtes: The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bouchon…). One of the places he gamely mentioned was The Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch.
This is a special spot, serving up delicious food with a wonderful, relaxed California feel and a lively bar scene after sunset.
We have been there several times (following TK’s recommendation, natch!) and we enjoyed a fabulous lunch there on this visit with some friends from Greenwich — no less! The other spot that Mr. Keller recommended is Cook in Saint Helena.
With a rather unassuming curb view and intimate interiors, this is a little gem in the Napa Valley dining scene.
We returned to Cook for their memorable take on Italian classics and for one of the craziest, most unusual desserts that I have ever come to love. I normally draw the line at food photos in restaurants, but I had to take a picture of my “Mundae” – as they call it – to share with you.
This is Cook’s quirky take on the classic “Sundae” and it consists of an excellent scoop of chocolate gelato, alongside a pristine scoop of vanilla ice cream, with a dollop of whipped cream. As for the toppings…the chocolate ice cream receives a generous drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar and the vanilla receives….wait for it…a healthy drizzle of your finest Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Dust lightly with really good, grey sea salt and you have yourself a “Mundae.” I’ll stop there. You have to try it. It’s insane!
I have stayed in a number of hotels in Napa Valley over the years and -on this occasion- I was lucky enough to try the relatively new and refreshing Solage in Calistoga.
The resort has the ethos of a hip, luxe summer camp.
Loved the bespoke Electra cruisers at reception and parked in front of each casita.
The property is anchored by an excellent restaurant.
Features clean, uncomplicated architecture:
Plenty of peaceful areas to enjoy the gorgeous California climate at any hour of the day or night…
And, offers a top notch spa with signature mud treatments and a heavenly mineral pool.
Definitely a spot to be revisited and a perfect venue for my friend’s effortlessly chic wedding.
This brings me to something borrowed…which includes a few pictures of the wedding ceremony and reception. I admit, I was having such a good time taking in the scene and catching up with old friends that I fell down on the job! I should also say that the precious few photos that I am sharing tell only half of the story. You should know that there was a beautiful bride who wore two spectacular dresses, a dashing groom, a dramatic dove release, a flawless meal paired with a vertical wine tasting, emotional toasts, adoring friends & family, and unabashed revelry. Here, the scene:
The ceremony setting:
Candy colored parasols to shield us from the late afternoon sun:
Flowers at the cocktail hour — love the little glass bottles holding single blooms mixed in with larger arrangements. (I have since resurrected my own version of these containers and have been filling them with early autumn flowers and berries).
The view over the lawn and to the mountains in the distance.
The flowers at night…I love the burlap “ribbon” tied on the chunky votive holders. Such a nice touch for fall dinner parties with gobs of gourds.
Guests were also treated to delicious strawberry shortcake and Solage’s sublime fire pits played host to an epic “S’mores bar.” What a sweet ending!
Finally, one of my favorite new discoveries on this trip has to be French Blue in Saint Helena.
This is a relatively new restaurant toward the end of the shopping district on Main Street where Solage’s former chef has recently taken the helm. The restaurant is a breath of fresh air, with a dreamy front porch…
And an airy dining room that has the feel of a perfectly appointed vacation home.
Love the open kitchen!
We went for breakfast and swooned over the lemon ricotta pancakes (try one of my favorite recipes for them here), homemade sage sausage and the breakfast flautas. We will be back for sure!
Last but not least, because nothing wraps up a beautiful ceremony like a memorable getaway, I have to share my favorite detail from the wedding: Parked in prime position were two of Solage’s signature cruisers for the newly minted Mr. and Mrs.
And, of course, the license plates read…
Adorbs! Cheers to the happy couple!
Photos: CT, Friends, The French Laundry, Farmstead, Cook.
|LA DOLCE VITA!||MCQUEEN HALLOWEEN|
|LA DOLCE VITA!|