Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Quails Roosting in Wine Country, Part 1

Three days into our trip to the Napa Valley. Our trip is three days old, and we haven't visited a single vineyard. Can you believe that? Never fear, we'll get there, but until then we'll just have to tough it out with things like this:

Carnitas and Carne Asada from La Taqueria

Maybe it's hard to tell from the photos, but these were amazing tacos. All you Californians who complain on the east coast about the dearth of Mexican food? All is forgiven. I understand now.
Of course, Mrs. Quail has known for years, having migrated from Southern California herself long ago. Once we landed in San Francisco, she insisted that we go straight to La Taqueria on Mission Street. Done. Wow. We sampled the carnitas, carne asada, and chorizo tacos, and found all to be exceptional. Slightly crunchy carnitas, meltingly juicy carne asada, and rich chorizo. I think the carne asada was the winner for me. The touch that put these over the top is that they put cheese underneath the meat, so the heat is able to melt the cheese. And it goes without saying that these were terrific tortillas, definitely rivaling the ones I bought recently at Nixtamalito in Manhattan.

Okay, I lied about us going directly to La Taqueria. First we ate some pork dumplings in the airport, because hey, there were dumplings. Pretty tasty dumplings, actually.

But then it was off across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to wine country. Oddly, I was on a mission not for wine, but for beer. (Surprised? No? I didn't think so.) There are three major breweries in wine country: Bear Republic, Lagunitas, and Russian River Brewing. Of those, only Russian River is not available in New York, and it is the most famous of the three for its innovative styles. The most famous of them are the double and triple IPAs, Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. I was on a mission to try the Elder.

Russian River Brewing Pliny the Elder India Pale Ale IPA Vinnie Cilurzo Natalie Cilurzo
Very hoppy, but not overly bitter. Like a jovial bunny.

Well, Vinnie from Russian River apparently knows what he's doing, because Pliny the Elder is pretty easily the best IPA I've ever had. I dragged Mrs. Quail along with me to their brewpub to try the other notable brews, because they're also known for crazy experiments like barrel-aging and adding bacteria. We tried a Belgian-style sampler, shown below. The three on the left were sours that Mrs. Quail absolutely hated, but I thought were pretty good, particularly the last one, Consecration, which is like Rodenbach Grand Cru in flavor but packs a bigger alcohol punch. Our favorite was Salvation, the strong dark ale, which is more like a trappist ale, rich, smooth, and subtly sweet.

Russian River Brewing Company Vinnie Cilurzo Natalie Cilurzo Belgian Beer Sampler Brett Brettanomyces Dark Strong Ale Saison Biere de Sonoma biere de garde golden strong ale blonde ale
Consecration, Supplication, Sanctification, Erudition, Salvation, Damnation, Perdition, Redemption. Great names, but they honestly make it nearly impossible to remember what's what. We didn't get to try the easier ones, Defenestration and Parking Violation.

Also, as dorky fans of the Fable video game series, we appreciated this sign:
Russian River Brewing Fable Albion Brewery

But we're not just on the west coast to imbibe, not in the land of great produce! Having rented a cottage, we hit up the local farm stands, markets, and groceries. We found great stuff in Santa Rosa, particularly at Santa Rosa Seafood (we bought salmon and trout, and the nice fellow threw in a smoked salmon mousse, a tuna marinated in sesame oil, some tiny little shrimp, and homemade cioppino, all FOR FREE. That was impressive. And just for good measure, he sent us to the outstanding asian market next door.)
banh mi phnom penh grocery
Delicious banh mi from the Phnom Penh grocery, where we also found dragonfruit, durian, and a slew of great produce. That head cheese sticking out the bottom means it's the real thing, folks (not shown are the pickled daikon and carrots we added later.)
Redwood Hill Farm California Crottin goat cheese
An excellent local offering from Redwood Hill Farm purchased at CalMart in Calistoga

And more, so much more! In the next! And grilling! And diners! And bacon! And grilled bacon! We've been having a blast in Northern California. I wonder what the cats are doing back home in Manhattan? I'm sure they're sullenly pining away for us, barely having the energy to lift their little heads...

1 comment:

hld6 said...

Love it. Can't wait to see part II!