But when we weren't in cooking classes at the CIA, Chris and I had a little bit of time to explore Calistoga and the surrounding Napa Valley area on our own. The hotel we were staying at had a program with Mercedes which allowed the hotel guests to take out any of their three Mercedes convertibles at any time throughout their stay for a maximum of 6 hours at a time. No strings attached, no questions asked – just sign your name on the dotted line (in case of accident we won't sue blah, blah, blah), hand you the keys and you’re on your way!
We thought this was too good an offer to pass up so when we had an afternoon free on Sunday we took one of them out for an hour drive through wine country. It was so beautiful and so nice to drive around and take in all the sites – all while in a convertible!
We stopped at the Old Faithful Geyser of California. A much smaller scale of THE Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, but this was California’s own little Old Faithful. It was interesting to see and read the plaques about the natural geyser, which went off every 5 minutes, but I’m glad that it wasn’t more than $11 per person. Actually, It probably should have been more like $5.
They also had fainting goats on the property, but the goats are so used to being "scared" that they don't really faint anymore. Oh well, there are always youtube videos like this:
Sunday night we went to Tra Vigne in St. Helena for dinner, a restaurant that was recommended to me by my boss.
I ordered a virgin Raspberry Mojito, which was so light and refreshing! For our appetizers, we ordered their specialty: the Mozzarella Cheese ‘Al Minuto’ – hand made at the moment ordered, grilled bruschetta, Napa Valley olive oil. Hmmm, this cheese pretty much gave my homemade cheese a run for its money.
We also ordered the Arancini Alla Bolognese – crispy risotto balls filled with mozzarella and slow cooked pork sugo, spicy tomato sauce. Oh my heaven!
For dinner, Chris ordered the Rigatoni alla Carbonara, and I had the Spring Artichoke and Ricotta Ravioli.
Dessert was Gelato with Biscotti and Warm Molten Chocolate Cake with cappuccinos (decaf for me).
We loved this place and would definitely return to eat there again if we ever find ourselves back in Napa Valley. We ate on their enclosed outdoor patio (is that an oxymoron?) and the couple sitting behind us had just gotten engaged before coming out to eat. I couldn't help but eavesdrop on their conversation throughout our meal. Besides the girl starting every single sentence with "Oh my God, Babe...", it was very cute and it made me remember how happy and excited I was 4 years ago when Chris asked me to marry him. It's hard to believe how far we've come from our engagement 4 years ago, to a baby on the way today! Where does the time go?
|Outside the Restaurant|
After dinner we took advantage of the hotel hot tub for a little while before we went back to the room to pack up our things for our departure the next day.
Monday was sort of a weird day. Our flight wasn’t scheduled until 9:30pm that night so we had a lot of time to kill between the event ending at 12:30 and needing to leave for the airport around dinner. Unfortunately, it was a very rainy day so it sort of kept us confined to our rental car, and also – I wasn’t feeling up to visiting many wineries just to “taste” the wine and spit it right out in front of the winery staff. I’m sure they’re used to it and it’s not really frowned upon, I just didn’t feel like it.
We stopped at St. Helena Olive Oil Co. where they literally let you sample every single olive oil, vinegar, jam, honey, pasta sauce, and everything else in the entire store. I think I will be placing an online order for some of their products that I loved. Namely, the Raspberry INNA Jam, butternut squash pasta sauce, and of course, one of their Extra Virgin Olive Oils.
We also then stopped into Woodhouse Chocolate and purchased a sampling of their chocolate. Their toasted coconut chocolate, and dark chocolate macadamia nut bark was outta this world! Chris enjoyed his white chocolate, though I can't vouch for it myself since I HATE white chocolate...bleh!
Next we stopped for a second lunch (we’re hobbits, didn't you know?) at V. Sattui Winery, which was our favorite winery stop last year when we were in Napa for our anniversary. V. Sattui is great because it has a whole marketplace with fresh sandwiches, salads, and cheeses, etc.
It’s a great place to buy a bottle of wine and eat a picnic lunch. We wanted to eat outside but the rain put a damper on that, so picnickers were invited to eat in their wine cellar! They set up some tables and chairs in the back. It was kind of cool to eat lunch among the wine barrels, and the Meatball and Mozzarella Panini we shared was "Ah-mazeballs".
After that, we decided to just make our way to the Oakland airport, even though we already knew our flight had been delayed. We figured we could check-in early and continue watching The Walking Dead on the ipad while we waited. We arrived to the airport around 6:00pm, and didn’t leave on our flight until 7 hours later at 1:00am! It was quite a long day, but luckily, I fell asleep as soon as I sat down on the plane and for a good solid 5 hours of the flight home. We finally walked into our front door around 10:30am on Tuesday morning. It was a pretty harrowing trip home, but it was more than worth it due to the fantastic three days that preceded it!
This trip ended up being a fantastic "BabyMoon" for us, and such an incredible vacation. We can't thank Gina at Skinnytaste and Dole Salads enough for the opportunity to attend this once in a lifetime trip!