“You can’t get a bad meal in Napa” and my favorite Napa wine blog

Above: The burger and fries at Grace’s Table in downtown Napa. The thing that took it over the top was the superb quality of the bun.

“You can’t get a bad meal in Napa these days,” said the waiter at Grace’s Table downtown as she insisted that I taste the baguette that the restaurant sources from a bakery down the street.

I hadn’t been to Napa for three years or so: there’s been an explosion of restaurants in the town and while competition is high, I was told, there’s plenty of high-quality materia prima to go around. Say what you will about the Napa style of wine, but there’s nowhere in the U.S. that can beat the quality of the produce that the farms here deliver. And the culture that once corralled the best restaurants in the villages to the north has now graciously populated its namesake township. Gauging from a stroll in the town center, there are many affordable options for dining: my “Hand Formed Burger, Meyers Ranch Chuck, House Made Pickles, Chili d’Espellette-Parmesan Fries” was just $12.

Above: Artichoke fritters at Grace’s were delicious.

After Giovanni and I finished an early repast in town, we headed back up north to Yountville to meet the author of my favorite Napa wine blog, Vinsanity, Vinogirl.

She was pouring wine at an exclusive private event but she managed to sneak Giovanni and me through the back of the venue so that we could taste her wine and chat with her and husband Vinomaker.

Above: In Yountville, Giovanni and I were impressed by this “transgenic” sage plant, as he called it. Note the size of the plant’s leaves.

On her excellent blog, Vinogirl chronicles the vegetative cycle of Napa with wonderful photographs and occasional scouser humor (she Liverpudlian). Her posts are peppered with viticultural knowledge and insights into what’s happening “on the ground,” including the recent cooling trend that has vexed growers here.

Above: “Did you know,” writes Vinogirl on her blog today, “that there’s no Italian word for ‘bromance’?” She snapped this photo of Giovanni and me, four days into the California leg of his visit to the U.S.

Why were Giovanni and I in Napa? You’ll be surprised to know the reason and I’ll explain all next week… stay tuned…

In the meantime… Thanks again, Vinogirl, for the photo! It was so great to finally meet you!

Virginia crabs and scrapple

Tracie B and I flew into Baltimore late last night from Austin and stayed at an airport hotel. The hotel was full of soldiers and sailors who had literally just arrived back in the States from their tours of duty in Iraq. We shared a beer with some of them in the hotel bar. Man, were they happy to be home. It was at once moving and joyful to share a drink with them. They were all very sweet to us and seemed eager to chat.

Here are some scenes from our drive down to Richmond, Virginia today, where my cousin Lizzie is getting married in a few hours.


Charlies Crab House
633 White Oak Rd
Fredericksburg, VA
(540) 371-9988


Take out only…


Crab cakes at 2400 Diner in Fredericksburg. Made with sage. I don’t know if that’s the typical herb used to make crab cakes but they were good.


Eggs over easy, grits, and scrapple (believed by some to be an American original) at the 2400 Diner. I’d never heard of scrapple before. From Wikipedia:

    Scrapple is typically made of hog offal, such as the head, heart, liver, and other scraps, which are boiled with any bones attached (often the entire head), to make a broth. Fans of scrapple sometimes boast that scrapple contains everything from a pig except the “oink.” Once cooked, bones and fat are discarded, the meat is reserved, and (dry) cornmeal is boiled in the broth to make a mush. The meat, finely minced, is returned, and seasonings, typically sage, thyme, savory, black pepper and others are added. The mush is formed into loaves and allowed to cool thoroughly until set. The proportions and seasoning are very much a matter of the region and the cook’s taste.

Tracie B warned me not to eat it (she knows all about my delicate “Jewish boy” stomach) but I just couldn’t resist. It was delicious…