This past Spring I had the opportunity of a lifetime and actually dined at not one, but two, 3-star Michelin Napa Valley restaurants in the same weekend. More specifically, this was within a 24-hour period! I enjoyed a tasting menu and wine pairing for dinner at one and a 10-course lunch at the other.

Both events were courtesy of a long-time client of mine. This was the ultimate going-away present! I could not think of a better gift or a better way to spend a girl’s weekend getaway than at these two Napa Valley restaurants.

As I write this blog, I am now living in Bangkok, Thailand for an extended period while my husband works at a nearby U.S. manufacturing site. Yes, I am definitely a world away from Napa Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area, my home for the last 30 years.

Truly, the weekend was such a memorable experience. I can still taste every bite since I took a photo of every single course!

Before I jump into the Napa Valley restaurants we visited, I wanted to take a moment to explain the Michelin Star rating system. Three stars are the best!

One star – Very good cooking in its category
Two stars – Excellent cooking, worth a detour
Three stars – Exceptional cuisine, worthy of a special journey

Stop 1: The Restaurant at Meadowood Resort in Napa Valley, CA

This spectacular dining experience can be found on the property of the Meadowood Resort in the town of Saint Helena, CA off the Silverado Trail. This is not a restaurant you just happen to see off the highway. It is set back more than a mile, deep in the woods of a richly landscaped resort. It definitely feels like you’ve been transported to another world – one where you’ve gone back in time to a kinder, gentler era. Think of an exclusive resort in the Deep South or on the East Coast and you get mental picture.

The staff had my full attention from the first moment we entered the dining room. Everything was richly decorated in a style that let you know you were in the Napa Wine country, with its simple elegance and a promise of good things to come. I definitely give them high praise for not only the exquisite food that was to come, but also the inviting atmosphere and welcoming staff.

We were first greeted at the bar where we enjoyed a very nice glass of champagne to start off the evening. Word to the wise: they have an extensive selection of wines and champagnes; anything can be yours – for a price. At first inspection, there were no prices listed on the wine list I was given, so before you order, make sure you know what you’re buying, or you could very well end up purchasing a $700 bottle of champagne! Thank goodness, I had the forethought to ask for the pricing information before I made my final selection.

My champagne selection turned out to be a great choice, indeed:

Napa Restaurant 2

The feeling of dining area is very exclusive and very intimate with only 16 tables. I loved the granite tabletops most of all. It was not as busy as I might have thought for a Friday night, but that may very well be due the cost. From my point of view, this is a restaurant that I might enjoy an anniversary, birthday celebration or a high-end client dinner. Of course, if money is no object and you like great food and great wine, maybe this is just the place for you to share regular meals, or just maybe, a small wedding reception? There is a small dinning room available for just such larger parties. In any event, I’m very happy that this was on my wish list and can now be officially checked off.

We opted to try the Chef’s tasting menu as well as the Chef’s wine selection for each course. A good way to go, I think. You could also choose to have a 4-course dinner, but really, how would you choose?

Napa Valley Menu

The Executive Chef is quite an artist, when it comes the food presentation. All of the courses were whimsical and well styled. I should warn you so you know up-front: all of the courses are literally 1 or 2 bites and not enough to share. However, by the end of the menu, you will definitely leave full and satisfied beyond measure.

Napa Restaurant 1

I’m sure the next question is: is this one meal worth the price? If you’re into cars, is a Lamborghini or a Porsche worth that much more than a Subaru? If you’re into fashion, is the designer dress or suit you purchased at Neiman Marcus that much better or valued than the one you could purchase at JC Penney? To some, most definitely! And to some, this quest for excellence can extend to an expertly prepared meal, where the food artistry, atmosphere and overall experience come together in one magical moment. Actually, make that a four-hour moment!

My last thoughts:

  • Best course of the evening: I’d have to say the duck
  • Second best memorable course: Abalone gelee (the picture does not do the course justice!)
  • Least understood: the cheese & bread course. When the plate of micro greens first arrived with only or 8 or 10 pieces on the plate, our whole table was wondering about the thought process here. Then, the house-made bread came along with the most delightful, decadent cheese and it became clear: add the micro greens to your open-face sandwich, of sorts, and then we got it!
  • My recommendation: Go with friends who would really appreciate the experience.
  • Attire: Unless this is something you already do often, get dressed up for a change – wear your best dress or suit.
  • And of course, savor every mouthful!

Stay tuned for my next post, which will share another one of Napa Valley’s restaurants: The French Laundry in Yountville, CA.

Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.