Napa Valley

Interesting Find Outside of Wine

Once again, I find myself “lured” into Napa for a personal and business trip. Back to the Meritage! Not a bad venue at all to bask in the wine country. And just ‘round the corner from one of my favorite Bloody Mary combos: Spicy Bacon Bloody Mary and warm Cinnamon Donuts at Boon Fly Cafe. Alas, I will not make it over there this trip but the memories still serve me well.

My friends and I had to make our yearly visit to Gotts for Hamburgers, Ahi Sandwiches, Fish Tacos, Chili, Chili Fries, Sweet Potato Fries and Onion Rings. Yes, and throw in some Milkshakes. What? Don’t judge. It’s once a year and it is magical! (*To the Owners Of Gott’s: We were very dismayed and saddened to learn you no longer carry the Pistachio Milkshake because you changed Ice Cream carriers. For the love of all things Napa…BRING IT BACK!)

Now that is off my chest, I will now tell you about my great finds in Napa for my Bloody Mary quest. Or would you like to hear more about the culinary delights I consumed in Napa Valley? Believe me, you should. After we ate our weight at Gott’s we headed over to the Oxbow Market to explore the culinary delights that are offered there. Anything from hundreds of spices, balsamic vinegars, olive oils, sweet delights, cheeses and so much more. One of the new finds we stumbled across was an entire section of Bitters at Napa Valley Distillery

When I saw a whole section I mean HUNDREDS of different Bitters and Elixirs. If you are a budding mixologist this can be overwhelming and inspiring all at the same time. I will warn you that are some not for the faint of heart. Aphrodisiac inspired ones if you know what I mean and comically named to shock. (Ok, I will offer up one name: Boner Toner). We explored the entire section of all that was offered and was intrigued that so many were available. Here, I thought Angostura mad me sophisticated.

As we explored I stumbled upon a tower of Bloody Mary Mix jars. Yes, a tower and mixed in jars of Pickles. My friends immediately uttered “Uh, oh.” A smile crept across my face and there may have even been a little drool. Like a kid on Christmas, I love finding new mixes to try. The Real Dill Bloody Mary is from Colorado of all places.

Real Dill

Nothing against Colorado but I am surprised to see a local Denver mix here in Napa Valley at a Bitter’s Shop. I act as though I am in a tasting room and scoot up to the bar to try a sample of the Pickle Juice infused Bloody Mix. Pickle Juice is a natural partner of the Bloody Mary. Many joints across the country will toss in a Pickle as a garnish. That is ALWAYS a treat. Heck, I even saw a jar of McClure’s at Ralph’s Supermarket that was a jar of Pickles in Bloody Mary Mix. The dilly, cucumber, pickling spiced juice is a great accoutrement to any mix and these guys made it the star in the Mix. The level of spice is medium in nature. The juice base is not too thick nor is it thinned out by the Pickle Juice. Overall, the flavors are balanced. I’m in for a jar instead of buying Wine. Go figure. (Sarcasm). Then the Gentleman that is serving me offers his hidden secret to enhance a Bloody Mary. Off he goes to grab a bottle of unassuming Bitters. Memphis Mesquite BBQ Bitters from Bitter End Bitters.

(What in the world will they think of next?)

He demonstrated that a few little droplets will add a layer of flavor that will not overwhelm the overall drink. My fear was that it would taste like a piece of coal in my drink but it became a delightful addition and will quickly become a part of my own recipe. The only thing that was shocking about it was the price tag. You would think I had been drinking all day and made an impulse buy but I hadn’t a drop at all and quickly tossed over $25 for a bottle of Bitters. Yes, that is the most expensive ingredient I have ever bought for my mix but I am hopeful it will last a very long time. Next time you are in Napa you must go to the Oxbow Market and try Napa Valley Distillery.

As for the rest of the trip it was focused around the native drink of the Valley. Wine, wine and more wine. I did however make one more stop at a place called Napkins Napa in downtown Napa.

The reviews were pretty good and there was a Million Dollar Bloody Mary on their menu that I knew I had to try. This is probably a place that is better suited for Dinner as the Lunch hour was dead, quiet and candidly uninviting. I saddled up to the Bar and ordered the Bison Sliders. Surprisingly, they were greasy. Bison? Greasy? How did the Chef manage that? The Spicy Aioli was pretty tasty and Brioche Bun helped soak up some of the grease that was leaking out. I know, I am really selling you on ordering this. To accompany this mediocre delight was their Million Dollar Mary. You must be asking…What makes it a Million Dollar Mary? Hell if I know. It was a Bloody Mary that was made with Absolut Peppar (Oh yeah!-Sarcasm), the garnishes include a Gherkin, Pearl Onion, Olives, Celery and Green Bean. The spice is pretty mild and I would imagine is only coming from the Absolut Vodka. The one twist (which I believe is why they think it is a Million Dollar Mary) is the addition of White Truffle Salt along the rim. I have been dabbling in cooking with Truffle Salt as of late and never thought of using it for a Bloody Mary. If you thought that my Bitters purchase was expensive….wait ’til you read about my $31 purchase for Truffle Salt. Maybe I should just call this entry “My Expensive Trip to Napa without any Wine to Show for it!”

Million Dollar Mary

Napkins may not get my full recommendation to visit while in Napa but I will thank them for the idea of using Truffle Salt for my drink rim. All in all I will say it was worth stopping in and gaining a new idea!

Thank you, Napa! I always learn something new.


Breakfast of Champions…Belushi-esque at Boon Fly


When in the wine country you may think all things are grapes and vines and great food. Not so fast my friend. There is a lot more to offer in the Wine Country. Sure, we have amazing culinary experiences like French Laundry and we have fine wine like Opus One. Me, I like to find extraordinary places at prices that won’t make me feel like I was shook down by Jimmy in Good Fellas. Like Gotts or Juanita Juanita in Sonoma or Cafe Citti. Simple places with great flavors and great overall experience. And then find ourselves at Boon Fly.

We had an industry conference in Napa in January 2013 and one of my very best friends Carie had found this place and she knew it would be a hit for me. We headed over to Boon Fly Cafe. This is located at the Carneros Inn which is an especially stunning resort that is like no other as they were old trailer like cottages that had been renovated into something that looks like high end resort found in Travel and Leisure. That description really doesn’t give it justice. Check this link out.

Boon Fly serves up some amazing culinary delights (try the Eggs Benedict and have your mind blown) but for our purposes we focus on their spicy Bloody Mary with bacon and a side of soft warm sugary donuts that are served fresh in a metal pail. You cannot eat just one or sip on just one Bloody Mary. I always feel that savory and sweet is always a way to go in life. The spicy mix of the Mary, the salty fried bacon garnish and the sugary donut delights are exceptional (which reminded me of my childhood when we would go to the Apple Haus in Long Grove, IL). Hey, it may not be the best way to start your diet for the day but you are in Napa. It’s the exception to the rule.

The mix is well balanced. There are hints of jalapeno found in this Bloody Mary mix which is always a welcomed surprise. For the faint of heart the spice may be overwhelming but not for this spice thrill seeker. Goldie Locks found this one to be just right.

When you need a break from the vine and want something savory and sweet at a rustic foodie place…head to Boon Fly.