A ten-minute walk from The Inn On First, a luxury lodging property in Napa, is the restaurant called Torc. It opened a few months ago and I wanted to give it awhile before tempting fate with such an eclectic menu. We shared the evening with our friends, Don and Kathy, so that meant more bites to enjoy.
Beginning with the artichoke soup with mint and lemon, I was in love with the velvety finish. The portions are not large (we had read about this beforehand) and yet when I saw what was put in front of me I appreciated that they seemed just perfect for dining on multiple courses. The Kampachi Crudo was incredible, a white fish with a citrus sauce and avocado, as was the Roasted Beets with Burrata and a Sherry-Maple glaze. Growing up on canned beets I thought I would never try them again. Since trying roasted fresh beets my heart has been changed, and Torc delivered it with gusto.
We also tried the Deviled Eggs, and the Pakora, as well as the Jamon Iberica, all great small starter appetizers for the meal. Jamie had read about the Coconut Rice and the flavor on that dish was subtle and fun to eat. We also enjoyed the Pork with the Cheddar Grits and a Buccatini Pasta with a Lamb Bolognese. We enjoyed all of it. Prices for apps and sides run $5 to $15, and the entrees are from $14 to $29.
Torc is willing to accommodate changes to dishes to present Vegans, Vegetarians, and Gluten-Free guests. That is something not every restaurant in Napa offers. The menu changes seasonally so I am looking forward to some really great meals in the future.
Only a 10-minute walk from The Inn On First, a provider of romantic lodging in Napa, is a restaurant called Fish Story. They opened two years ago and chose to follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium lists for sustainable fish that are good for dining. It was good but I could make almost everything on the menu at home; and when I want to eat out I generally look for chefs that will teach me, or tantalize my palate, or offer me things I would never do at home.
When the new chef came one month ago we were intrigued by the new menu. Celebrating our 20th anniversary of our first date we decided to give the restaurant a try. I texted a friend immediately after dinner: “Just go!” Everything we had was delicious.
Jamie started with the tuna tartare with sourdough crisps and balsamic vinegar glee with a violet mustard. Every bite was incredibly wonderful with little bursts of the gelee that would shine through the tartare. I was tempted by the cold green garlic soup that was light, refreshing, and creamy goodness in a bowl. For a main course Jamie ordered the Lobster “pot au feu”, a fish stew with a large lobster tail in the center, mussels, clams, and a luscious sauce to be sopped up with the hot bread they bring to table. I ordered the sturgeon and it was perfectly cooked, a bit meaty and every bite tender, with this bed of leeks underneath that was a great complement to the fish as well as wild escargot bites that were incredibly tender. I didn’t want my meal to end.
For dessert we enjoyed the soft vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and it was a perfect ending to a delightful meal. The wine list for March was 1/2 off (their version of March Madness) so we splurged on a Storybook Zinfandel that was perfect with our meal. First courses run $9 to $15, and entrees $17 to $38. If you’re looking for some incredible flavors to go with fish, this is a great place to dine.
One last note: on the menu they state that “many items can be prepared in a vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free fashion.” That really impressed me as so many of our guests are looking for alternative cuisines due to dietary restrictions.
Now The Inn On First, a romantic bed and breakfast inn in Napa, may be 60 miles from the Oakland airport, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get out there to try new and exciting cuisine that guests might be able to enjoy to or from the airport. High, high, high on my list is Duende, a spanish restaurant that specializes in tapas and paella. Located in Oakland, right off the freeway, the atmosphere is fun and exciting, casual and engaging. Specialty cocktails abound, but I always like to try some Spanish wine I haven’t had before, this time a Temperanillo that was bold, smooth, and just perfect with the rabbit paella. Now this isn’t just any paella. This is very traditional paella, the kind you have to wait 30 minutes for while you enjoy a salad or other tapas. The kind of paella whose rice is al dente, and that has those delicious brown bits on the bottom of the pan that you can’t wait to scrape off and onto your plate. It is a paella you will not soon forget. Although they are only open for dinner (5:30 pm to 11 pm), I highly recommend it as your dining spot if your schedule allows.