Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fish Story Opens in Downtown Napa

Photo Courtesy of John A. Benson

Fish Story opened a couple of weeks ago in the Napa Riverfront development and I finally had a chance to try it out this weekend with my husband and 2-year-old son (yes, I know, what are we doing brining our 2-year-old to dinner?!). My husband and I loved the food, our son loved the live lobster tank in the dining room. We were all happy!

The restaurant is owned by the Lark Creek Restaurant Group with Chef Stephen Barber at the helm. You may remember Chef Barber from his time at Napa's BarbersQ and he brings his Southern influence to Fish Story's menu as well. The menu features a large selection of raw and cooked fish, 100% sourced according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program. There is also a great selection of soups and salads and "other than fish" offerings. Fish Story is one of the many Napa restaurants who have taken over a plot in Copia's former gardens, where Barber is able to grow organic vegetables and herbs for his dishes.

We started our dinner with the Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Tartar. The tuna is mixed with K&J Orchards asian pear, serrano, citrus zest and hazelnut oil. On the side is a delicious avocado mousse. The tuna was fresh and delicious and the avocado mousse made for a unique addition to this increasingly popular dish.

After scraping off the last possible bite of the avocado mousse, we moved on to entrees, where we tried two of Fish Story's signature dishes - Grilled Idaho Trout with French beans, yellow finn tomatoes and a bacon vinaigrette and the Day Boat Scallops and Kurobuta Pork Belly with black-eyed peas and swiss chard. This second dish definitely had a little of Barber's Southern touch! Both dishes were well-prepared and deliciously fresh. My favorite was the scallops and pork belly. A unique combination and beautifully presented. As for my son, he enjoyed the many selections on the kids menu.

For dessert, we all shared the Lark Creek's famous Butterscotch pudding. Once again, we scraped the bowl clean.

The wine list features a great selection of local wines, focused on white wines that pair with the wide assortment of fish. The bar area is lively and fun with a large selection of both beer and wine on tap.

Fish Story is another great addition to downtown Napa's bustling restaurant scene. Morimoto, Fish Story and the soon-to-be-opened Tyler Florence Rotisserie and Wine Bar are sure to make the Riverfront a destination for foodies everywhere.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sun is Out...School is In

Can you believe we actually woke up to sunshine this morning? That annoying layer of fog finally lifted and revealed the fact that we are really in the middle of August. Of course it timed itself perfectly with the first day of school.

Speaking of back to school, we just heard about a special at C Casa in Oxbow Market. This week, they are offering a back to school special every day from 3-9pm. Pick up one whole Fulton Farm Rotisserie Chicken, one order of Black Beans with chorizo and goat cheese, one order of Shaved Broccoli Cabbage Salad with Apples, 6 white corn tortillas and salsa all for $20 plus tax. Sounds like the perfect way to feed a hungry family!

You can eat it on their great patio or take it home to enjoy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Whole Hog Sandwich & a Salad

I finally had a chance to visit The Fremont Diner in Sonoma this weekend. I wish it hadn't taken me so long! This is a great local spot serving up breakfast and lunch highlighting the freshest, local ingredients. The chalkboard menu, handled mason jars and turquoise colored tables all add lots of charm, but the food is what really shines.

The menu is very seasonal with some great diner favorites like fried chicken and waffles, mac and cheese and of course a big, juicy burger. But it also has some lighter dishes like the fresh peach salad with arugula, mozzarella and ham that I tried today. It went perfect with the Farmer's Toast I ordered - Ricotta and sun gold cherry tomatoes on toasted bread. Delicious! While I enjoyed my salad and Farmer's Toast, my husband had the Whole Hog Sandwich - a mouthwatering delicious pulled pork sandwich.

We topped it off with a fresh strawberry milkshake and sweet iced tea.

Next up? Breakfast! And of course the Caramel Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream.

The Fremont Diner is located on Highway 121.

Written by Linzi

Monday, August 2, 2010

Battle of the Barrels

Did you know that 1 in every 6 children in California are affected by hunger? You can do your part by joining in as Team Napa and Team Upvalley battle it out to collect the greatest number of non-perishable food donations for the Napa Valley Food Bank. The drive takes place this week - August 1st through 8th - with drop off locations in many spots throughout the valley.

Check out the Battle of the Barrels Faceboook page at to learn more and to find drop-off locations near you.

A few drop-off locations we scouted out on their Facebook page include Discoveryland Preschool,

Sunshine Foods and the Trancas Safeway. There will also be barrels at the Napa Chef's Market and this week's Cheers! St. Helena events.

Learn more about the Napa Valley Food Bank.

May the best team win!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Squash Month

Mid-summer always brings about the conversation of what to do with all the squash that's seemingly taking over your summer garden and the stalls at your local farmer's market. Squash grows in abundance and although it's great sauteed in a little olive oil and served with some fresh herbs (especially mint!), it can get a bit tiring.
We're declaring August "squash month" here at Local Pairings and we are going to be sharing our favorite recipes. We'd love to hear yours too...we are always looking for inspiring ideas!

To kick things off, we thought we'd start with squash blossoms. These delicate flowers of the squash plant have a trumpet shape, making them a perfect vessel for filling with all kinds of wonderful cheeses, herbs and other tasty concoctions. They have a slight zucchini flavor and can brighten up any summer meal. In this recipe, there is no stuffing involved. These are simple, flavorful and great as a side dish.

Herb-Fried Squash Blossoms

6-10 squash blossoms (gently cleaned)

1 egg, beaten

4 tbsp bread crumbs, finely crushed

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 sprigs fresh thyme or oregano, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


Place oil in pan over medium heat. Remove stems from flowers and press the center of the flower to flatten. Dip the flower into the egg, followed by bread crumbs mixed with fresh herbs. Fry several flowers at a time until they are golden brown. Remove and place onto paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe by Karen

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

La Belle Cuisine

Tomorrow is Bastille Day and in the spirit of la belle cuisine and Clos du Val's recent declaration of Vindependence (have you joined the movement yet?), raise a toast to all things French and make a French-inspired recipe at home. This signature dish was created by Clos du Val and chef Patrick Kelly of Angele to pair with the Clos du Val Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.

And to really kick the celebration into full gear, sign Clos du Val's online declaration of Vindependence and they will give you 15% off all their wines in the tasting room and online. So tip your glass to the French and your own Vindependence.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer Sippers

Life has been keeping us busy this summer and while that has meant fewer blog posts, that doesn't mean we aren't enjoying lots of great food, wine and fun activities! With the warm weather (finally!), we have been enjoying some great new white wines that are perfect for summer meals or just relaxing by the pool. Here are a couple of our favorites.

Bonterra Riesling

Not only does Bonterra have a fresh, exciting new label. They have also added some great new varietals to their organic wine line-up. We tried the 2009 Riesling which has delicate aromas of pear, peach and honey and delicious classic riesling flavors. All of Bonterra's wines are farmed organically and they are some of the best organic wines for the price. You can find them online at Bonterra. Retails for about $12.

Three Pears Pinot Grigio
As if their Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc wasn't a great summer sipper itself, Randy and Megan Mason had to come up with another refreshing and pleasing wine called Three Pears Pinot Grigio. 2009 is the first release of this bright, fruity palate pleaser. Great aromas and flavors of peach, pear and apple...maybe that's where the three pears name comes from? Find online at Mason Cellars. This wine retails for about $10.

Written by Linzi

Monday, May 17, 2010

Napa's Newest Hot Spot

It seems every time you turn around, there's a new hot spot that's all the buzz in downtown Napa. And indeed, Oenotri (pronounced oh-no-tree) can definitely be described as a new hot spot. I've been a bit remiss in writing this blog post. My husband and I had a great dinner there almost two weeks ago. But I'm still talking about the dinner to all my friends so I'm excited to finally be telling all of you about it.

Oenotri is located on First Street in Napa, right next to the new Norman Rose Tavern. These two restaurants, along with the Avia hotel across the street, have definitely brought some new life to First Street. Oenotri is open until midnight Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a fun, friendly bar and a unique Italian wine list.

The menu is one of those menus where everything looks good and everything we had exceeded our expectations. The menu changes nightly and focuses on fresh, seasonal Italian cuisine. In addition to the main menu, there is a salumi menu featuring about 20 different salumi and small bite items. You won't go hungry here! We started with an asparagus salad with prosciutto. Delicious! Then moved on to a fava bean, ricotta and lemon olive oil pizza. Doubly delicious! We rounded it off with an amazing strozzapretti with Willis Farm pork ragu. Delicious, delicious, delicious!

The atmosphere is comfortable and inviting. The bar is friendly. The food is delicious. If you haven't already, go try it!

Written by Linzi

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Innovative Take on Tacos

Locals Night at Oxbox Market was in full swing tonight. Hungry diners were lined up at Hog Island, Pica Pica and the newly opened C Casa Taqueria. Owner Catherine Bergen and the Jacinto brothers, Erasto and Pablo, opened the doors tonight to this great taqueria that is sure to bring some new excitement to the Oxbow. The line was long but drinks were served while waiting and the tacos were well worth the wait. The menu features unique taco combinations, house made tortilla chips and salsa, rotisserie meats and interesting salads and small plates. The chicken taco is delicious and I can't wait to go back and try the Mahi Mahi taco. I guess I know where I'll be next Tuesday night!

Written by Linzi

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sweet Cherry Cheesecake

The St. Helena Farmer’s Market was bursting with ripe cherries this week. The first sign that summer produce is right around the corner. There are so many great ways to enjoy cherries. One of our favorite is as a tart topping for a sweet, creamy cheesecake. We used red wine in the topping which complements the sweetness of the cherries and the cheesecake.

For the Crust:

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

4 eggs

1/3 cup melted butter

1 8 oz. pkg. softened cream cheese

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cups flour

1 tbsp. vanilla

For the Topping:

½ cup red wine

½ cup sugar

4 tsp. water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

3 tsp. cornstarch

20 oz. pitted sweet cherries

In a bowl, combine sugar, butter and graham cracker crumbs. Press mixture firmly into a 9-inch pan. Beat the cream cheese until lightly whipped. Slowly beat in the sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add the flour, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Pour into pan and bake for about 1 hour until top is lightly browned. Chill in refrigerator.

To make the sauce, bring wine, sugar, and cherries to a boil. Cook until mixture is thick, or about 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine cornstarch, lemon juice and water and whisk together. Pour cornstarch mixture into pan with cherries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes until mixture is thick. Remove from heat cool before adding to cheesecake.

Pour sauce on top and around the side of the cheesecake. Garnish with confectioners sugar or whipped cream. Serves 6-8.

Recipe by Karen

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In Spring, Think Green

What's in season?
We used to keep a running list of seasonal produce on this blog. Somewhere along the way, the list disappeared. But we always get so many questions about eating seasonally and it's good to remind ourselves what fruits and veggies are at their peak. We don't want to miss the peak of artichoke season when the hearts of these delicious veggies are at their meatiest. Nor do we want to miss the sweet crunch of in-season asparagus. Eating seasonally is not only good for the's wonderful for the taste buds.

So what's at it's best this spring? Think green.

Artichokes & Asparagus are the first arrivals that truly say spring is here. The best artichokes come from Castroville where they host a great festival in May, all things artichoke.

Cherries are some of the first of the summer fruit to arrive on the scene. You can typically find Bing and Rainier cherries toward the end of May.

Mushroom gatherers are busy in the spring hunting for the elusive morel mushroom. These sponge-like mushrooms have a rich, nutty flavor that makes them extremely popular with mushroom lovers.

Peas make their appearance in the spring and continue to proliferate throughout the summer.

Radishes are at their crunchiest and tastiest in spring.

Written by Linzi

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Local Markets Get Back Into Full Swing

Summer is just around the corner and local Farmers’ Markets are gearing back up for a season of juicy tomatoes, sweet corn, delicious berries and so much more. There are plenty of markets to choose from throughout wine country. Here are a few of our favorites.

St. Helena Farmers’ Market

You’ll find a great selection of local farmers, artisan food makers and crafts at the St. Helena Farmers’ Market. Check out their web site for chef’s demos featuring some of the Napa Valley’s finest chefs.

Opening day is Friday, May 7th.

Fridays, 7:30-Noon, Crane Park

Oxbow Farmers’ Market

Farmer’s Market is back in downtown Napa in the Oxbow Market parking lot. Grab a cup of Ritual Coffee inside the market before heading outside to shop for your local fruits and veggies. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning. Opening day is Saturday, May 1st.

Saturdays, Oxbow Public Market

Healdsburg Farmers’ Market

Most of the vendors at the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market come from farms within a 10-mile radius of Healdsburg Plaza. Don’t miss the cooking demonstrations hosted by Relish Culinary Adventures on the second Saturday of every month.

Opening day is Saturday, May 1st.

Saturdays, 9am-Noon, Healdsburg Plaza

Sonoma Plaza Farmers’ Market

Enjoy local food, crafts, non-profit booths and seasonal flowers at this lively evening market. Most evenings you will also be able to enjoy live music.

Tuesdays, 5:30pm-dusk, Sonoma Plaza

Opens in April

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Out and About in Wine Country

This weekend brought the season’s first real sunshine (and heat!) to Northern California, giving us a taste of what’s to come. It’s been a long winter and if you’re like us, you are probably ready to step out from that winter slumber and get active. If you’re lucky enough to live in Wine Country, or maybe just planning a summer visit, there are plenty of great events coming up to keep you active well through summer.

Women for WineSense Grand Event
Don’t miss this stellar lineup of wine and food seminars, winery tours, tastings and more, featuring some of the best women winemakers in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. There are several great events throughout the weekend, but the highlight is the amazing seminars and luncheon at the Culinary Institute of America on Saturday.
April 30th – May 2nd
Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena

Cheers! St. Helena
The 2010 Cheers! St. Helena season officially gets under way Friday, May 7th. Enjoy wine, restaurants, entertainment and shopping as St. Helena merchants open their doors to neighbors and visitors. Over 100 wineries pour in St. Helena’s downtown shops the first Friday of every month from May to October.
May 7th – October 1st
Downtown St. Helena

Passport to Sonoma Valley
Tour Sonoma Valley as over 50 wineries pour their wines with delicious food pairings and other entertainment. Many wineries have special offers and wine discounts during this festive weekend.
May 15th- 16th

Sonoma Jazz + Festival
This 4-day event takes place over Memorial Day weekend in downtown Sonoma and includes performances by world-class jazz musicians and a food and wine extravaganza.
May 21st – 23rd
Downtown Sonoma

Wine, Women & Shoes
It’s the perfect combination - sip Napa Valley wines and enjoy hors d’oeuvres from Napa Valley’s finest restaurants, all while shopping for the perfect pair of stilettos! Proceeds from the event support Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo.
Sunday, June 27th

Festival del Sole, Napa Valley
Enjoy concerts by some of the world’s most celebrated musical artists at Napa Valley’s Festival del Sole. This ten-day event live music, five-star cuisine, wine tasting and great entertainment. Events are held throughout the Napa Valley.
Friday, July 16 – Sunday, July 25

Written by Linzi

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chinese Chicken Salad

Here’s a great spring salad that makes a perfect main dish or side. This refreshing salad loads up the cilantro, ginger and crispy snow peas for a fresh and refreshing flavor. Pairs best with a white wine – try Riesling or maybe even a Viognier.


3 teaspoons sesame oil

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped

1/4 head red cabbage, shredded

1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded

½ head Napa Cabbage

2 carrots, shredded

1 cup snow peas, lightly chopped

1 small bunch cilantro leaves, chopped

1/4 cup chopped green onions

2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts

1 cup fried crispy wontons

Salt and pepper to taste


In a small bowl, mix vinegar, ginger, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and oil together, and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss together shredded lettuce, cabbage, lettuce, cilantro, carrots, snow peas and onion in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad and serve. Serves 6-8.

Recipe by Karen Grimes