One thing I noticed in San Francisco was that people were willing to line up for good food. Each time we lined up for a food experience, whether it was Blue Bottle, Delfina, or Flour + Water, we were not disappointed. So I feel fairly confident that if you were to randomly find a queue of people outside of a food establishment, you should take a chance and join that line. More than likely you will not be disappointed. I discovered that lining up for good food was also common in Napa.
B and I made a fairly early trip into Yountville the morning after our trip to The French Laundry yet we already found a fairly hefty line of people outside of Bouchon Bakery. When we joined the small queue, I remember thinking “This isn’t so bad”. But we were the lucky ones. By the time we had reached the front door, the queue had grown behind us quite substantially. By the time we had collected our baked goods and eaten them, the line had grown ridiculously long. I had to laugh that it was mostly women in the line-up – I suppose men don’t see the value in lining up for baked goods.
Bouchon Bakery is yet another Thomas Keller establishment and, as the name suggests, it sells baked goods (that should have been obvious). Loaves of freshly baked bread, scones, cupcakes, macarons, cookies, tarts, and pastries line the walls and fill the baskets of the small bakery. Everything, from the bakery decor to the baked goods, is well-presented.
Whilst the food was fabulous, I’m disappointed to say that the service was not on par. I think they were just far too busy. I had ordered a number of items but didn’t get charged for one of them so they had to ring me through twice and then when I checked on one of the sandwiches that was meant to be warming, they hadn’t put it under the grill, which meant even more waiting. The coffee was ok but not at the same quality as the food.
The raspberry macaron was, without a doubt, the best macaron that I’ve ever had. They were much bigger than the ones that I’ve seen anywhere else (they were cookie sized), which weirded me out at first as I think of them as being petite treats, but it didn’t take me long to get over that. I also tried their bacon and cheddar scone which was really good and had a sweet finish.
They were very generous with the chocolate in the pain au chocolate that I ordered, which I appreciate, but I found it just too much. I guess that comes down to personal taste.
In hindsight, I would like to have gone to Bouchon Bakery with my sister so that I could have ordered waaay more than what I really needed (I do have some self-restraint around B…some). All of the food looked tempting but items that particularly caught my eye are the oreo-type cookies that are meant to be Keller’s favourite, the chocolate bouchon (a brownie-like treat), the pain au raisin, and the chocolate tart. Damn. I am kicking myself now, especially after looking back on photos. Next time, GG, next time.
Here are some tips for when you visit Bouchon Bakery:
1/ Get there first thing in the morning or be prepared to wait and,
2/ Take a bigger budget and a looser belt than you think you’ll need.
We had limited time in Napa so we only spent an afternoon exploring the wineries. We dropped into Rubicon Estates as I had remembered that we had enjoyed a drop from there at the Big Guns Dinner at Araxi back in November.
As luck would have it they had paid tastings of the Rubicon 2008 available for $15 for 2oz or $30 for 4oz, which I admit is pretty pricey for a small glass of wine but I decided to treat myself and ordered the small. It was just as lovely as I remembered. I wanted to splurge and buy a bottle but at $175 a bottle, I couldn’t do it. The estate itself is worth a visit as it is quite beautiful.
Next stop was Peju, a winery that we popped into on a whim. We did a tasting and enjoyed the wines that we tried, so much so that B bought a bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Reserve. We will save that for a special occasion. Their Fifty/Fifty was also quite nice.
Napa Valley was a little disappointing scenery-wise for me, but I have lived in South Australia for about 3 years where there are some spectacular wine-producing areas (the Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Barossa and the Coonawarra, to name only a few) so that’s probably not fair to compare. When I return to Napa (which I hope to do), I will try to stay in Yountville itself. That town is just so damn cute that I’d love to spend a few days there. I highly recommend Napa as a romantic getaway.