Top 10 Mother’s Day Brunch Restaurants in Napa/Sonoma
Mom has fed you so many times, so this Mother’s Day, treat her to a special brunch. The whole family can enjoy everything from strawberry waffles with a cappuccino to a succulent plate of crabs’ legs paired with a Mimosa.
Angele Restaurant Review: This French restaurant, part of the restaurant revolution that has transformed downtown Napa, is set in a converted old boathouse and offers diners a lovely, romantic spot to enjoy an elegant meal. It’s a 150-plus seat establishment, but the outdoor patio gets half that action. Heat lamps, a view of the Napa River, and the camaraderie of others enjoying the outdoors encourage leisure. Dishes include old standbys such as salade Lyonnaise, onion soup and boeuf bourguignon with Gruyère macaroni gratin. Asian pear and Serrano ham salad, whole roasted bass with escarole and tangelos, braised lamb and butterbeans, and a well-conceived hamburger round out the selections. It’s definitely a place to relish bistro desserts like pot de crème and banana gratin. Another hook: an impressive California-French wine list and periodic pours by local winemakers.
Auberge du Soleil Restaurant Review: A noted location for romantic dining, Auberge du Soleil also enjoys a brisk lunch trade, despite its comparatively remote location. Nestled high in the eastern wall of Napa Valley, it boasts a deck affording views (on a clear day) all the way to the Mayacamas Range, the natural divide between Sonoma and Napa counties. It’s a perfect backdrop for an afternoon respite. Dinner openers may include poached Maine lobster with brown butter, orange, apple and hibiscus, or hiramasa crudo, slow-cooked egg, soba and Hong Kong vinaigrette. Main courses might range from Prime beef pavé with crispy polenta, wild mushrooms, Swiss chard and caramelized shallots to spiced local lamb with verjus poached quince, chestnuts and red wine coffee sauce. The affable waitstaff is attentive but not overbearing, always at the ready but respectful of diners’ privacy. Moreover, they are well-versed in both the cuisine from chef Robert Curry and the globetrotting wine list (local wines well-represented too, of course) and know how to pair these elements in ways that showcase both the foods and the wines at their finest. Their recommendations will not disappoint, nor will the evening ambience, which is bolstered by the western setting sun that bathes the valley in amber light.
Barndiva Restaurant Review: Tucked away just off the main square in Healdsburg is a surprising hamlet of exotic drinks and chic gardens. Low-slung seats surround the bar, the center-point of the long, narrow restaurant. Show-stealing cocktails include Brazilian caipirinha and artisan martinis with ingredients such as lemon grass syrup, cilantro and muddled ginger. The cuisine, billed as “modern country,” is just as enticing. It’s divvied up into three sections—light, spicy and comfort—though these classifications seem somewhat arbitrary and overlapping. It’s also tough to determine which dishes should be starters versus mains, so rely on staff advice. Regardless, consider wild mushroom spätzle with golden beets, rich short rib shepherd’s pie or crispy Liberty duck salad. The menu takes pride in promoting ingredients sourced from a cooperative of local farmers and purveyors. An impressive wine list carries local and international selections. Service can vary from extremely cordial and warm to slightly aloof, but the food and cocktails are enough to overlook this shortcoming.
The Boon Fly Cafe Restaurant Review: Veer off the highway to the jolly red barn that embodies The Carneros Inn’s “rustic moderne” design. Traces of the farm include a silo-like pizza oven sheathed in galvanized steel and a casual, kitchen-fronting wood-post bar. It’s all balanced by refinements such as moody tea candles and track lighting, banquette seating and nostalgic black and white photos. At sun-up, powerhouse breakfasts include corned beef hash, banana griddle cakes, and biscuits with house sausage gravy and eggs. Or, peer into the kitchen as hot, made-to-order donuts tube through a mini automated oil river until they flop over a cliff into a cinnamon sugar bin (for dessert, dip a half-dozen into a ramekin of bittersweet chocolate). Midday meanders into fancier territory with delicate, inspired flatbreads topped, perhaps, by roasted persimmons, goat cheese, crisp sage leaves and candied walnuts. At suppertime, chef Camille Jackson reverts to her Southern roots—come prepared for a belly-full. Choose a meaty pork ribs slab in sticky-smoky sauce with crisp sweet potato frites, juicy fried chicken in a thin crunchy batter, or ultra creamy macaroni given depth by Swiss cheese. A trim Napa-dominant wine list flags biodynamic-organic-sustainable bottlings.
Brix Restaurant Review: Driving past patchworks of orderly vineyards hemmed by hills along Napa Valley’s Highway 29, one might expect to come upon a restaurant just like Brix. It reigns as one of wine country’s loveliest outdoor dining spaces, with a back patio offering undisturbed vistas, and two acres of kitchen gardens and estate grapevines for post-meal strolls and photo ops. Inside, forgive the somewhat gauche wine and gift shop because the adjacent dining room feels properly genteel. It exudes a disarming softness from picture windows, warm woods, buttercup yellow accents, and a stone fireplace wall that transforms the bar area into an inviting lounge. “Brix" refers to the sugar level in grapes as they mature, and Brix restaurant’s evolution has also ripened. Call it California cuisine with substance — handsome without being over-stylized, in-season rather than trendy. Mains may include wood-grilled pork chop with wild mushroom bread pudding, rib-eye with bone marrow butter or seared sea bass with sweet onion purée and vanilla saffron cream. Accompaniments sparkle, including decadent truffled mac ‘n’ goat cheese, cauliflower gratin and asparagus with aged balsamic and garlic breadcrumbs. This is the “it” spot for a bounteous Sunday brunch buffet with everything from oysters and duck confit hash to “heaps of cookies.” The wine tome features global heavy-hitters and Cab from Brix’s own backyard.
Dry Creek Kitchen Restaurant Review: Dry Creek Kitchen has helped guide Healdsburg’s maturation into a restaurant destination. While it’s just one outpost in chef Charlie Palmer’s nationwide collection, it has a special mission—to celebrate Sonoma County’s wondrous culinary richness. Sure signs he’s seriously seduced: transplanting his family from NYC to the neighborhood, and a weighty wine list exclusively drawn from Sonoma’s appellations (plus corkage waived for county-designated BYOs). And then there’s the progressive American menu: it ebbs and flows with what’s at the farmers market behind the restaurant and stays as lovingly local as possible. Feather-light Sonoma foie gras tortellini is spooned with subtle, garlic-infused broth, and crisp-skinned duck breast is paired with mini caramelized apple tarte and confit. Other dishes include luscious carrot soup poured over a white poof of cardamom flan with candied ginger, and Pacific bass in sweet tarragon sauce with butter-glazed radishes. Occasional exceptions to the local rule are forgivable, such as with a duo of diver scallops seated atop picked cabbage and braised Midwest Kurobuta pork belly. A three-course “neighbors menu” woos local residents. In summertime, the sidewalk patio becomes the “it” place to dine, though tall glass doors fronting the entire room offer a spatial feel year round.
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch Restaurant Review: In a day when “farm-to-table” dining has become practically de rigueur, Farmstead ups the ante. Nearby Long Meadow Ranch supplies the restaurant with grass-fed beef, vegetables, honey, wine and olive oil, and the rustic-chic setting—a towering, beautifully renovated nursery barn from the 1870s—features many original materials in new roles: tree stumps as side tables, antique farm equipment as groovy chandeliers, the stone foundation repurposed as the outdoor lounge’s fireplace and booths upholstered with cattle hides. Expect rich comfort dishes and a meat-friendly menu, such as juicy burgers on shiny, egg-brushed potato buns with local cheddar, arugula and crisp-roasted rosemary potatoes, or the allspice-scented meatball trio that sizzles in a cast iron pan with tomato marmalade and caramelized mirepoix. Try soft gnocchi with chunky, charred, ultra-tender ragoût of beef; flank steak that’s a tribute to the grill with creamy potato purée with kale and Cabernet butter; chicory with farm egg; or buttermilk dumplings and chicken. Almost worth a visit on their own are the warm cheddar drop biscuits in a cast iron skillet, crunchy and served with apple jam. The wine list features an enormous choice of hardly-marked-up bottlings from Napa Valley and beyond. In warm weather, enjoy the tented patio facing venerable trees and a demonstration garden where your dinner ingredients may have originated.
The Restaurant at Madrona Manor Restaurant Review: Through the arch and up a narrow drive, Madrona Manor, queen of Victorian mansions, blushes in pale sunset pink as approaching visitors feel compelled to tuck their shirts back in and dab on lipstick. The inn can’t help but exude grace. After a spritzer on the veranda surrounding lush gardens, or inside amid the vases and chandeliers, you’ll swear you’re in a Southern, not Sonoma, dream. Anything but chef Jesse Mallgren’s refined cuisine wouldn’t do. He offers fluctuating, for-the-table tasting menus (for example, “spring has arrived” or “oceanic”) along with à la cartes. The fact that the gardener gets equal billing on the menu with the chef speaks to his estate-grown, farm-fresh philosophy. Begin with a study in texture and taste by puncturing the dome of a “63 degree egg” over warm asparagus and tarragon to create seductive butter-less béarnaise. Intense, crispy house-cured pancetta and in-season fiddlehead ferns dress up chicken breast. Or, take on a trio of pan-seared squid ink gnocchi accompanying plump halibut. No mere afterthought: dredging crème anglaise from the dark depths of the Valrhona chocolate soufflé. Conquer the imposing wine list or rely on customized pairings. Service is comfortable, not doting.
Solbar Restaurant Review: Solbar, part of Solage Calistoga, feels like the community hub in an upscale Arizona development. It may be the drought-friendly landscaping: grasses, olive trees, palms, lavender, oleander. Or maybe it’s the pool adjacent to the dining area, music wafting hypnotically over sun-tanners. Al fresco possibilities beckon, whether it’s a strawberry ginger mojito from a faux wicker couch, or apps at a marble table by a fountain that catches fire after dark. In cold weather, there’s a sophisticated dining room under solar panels. Of the menu’s two long columns, the right is the more sinful side, while the left side offers spa choices. Both sides satisfy. Refreshing carrot soup benefits from coconut milk rather than cream and pairs well with pesto bread. A duo of English muffin look-alikes come plump with 48-hour, cold-smoked pulled pork, chef Brandon Sharp’s North Carolina roots clearly showing. Spicy shrimp lettuce wraps make a worthy Asian-style starter. Mains might include yellowfin tasting of the wood grill with shelled English peas and house-cured bacon, or New York strip with a foam-encased beef short rib-morel lasagna that should be hoarded. Desserts are denial-proof, such as chocolate mousse with caramel corn and ice cream packed with halved amarena cherries, or sugared donut holes in a cardboard box with affogato for sipping and dipping. Service, particularly for drinks, may need prodding.
Tra Vigne Restaurant Review: Tra Vigne has been a stalwart favorite for more than 20 years, providing classically prepared Northern Italian dishes. The atmosphere is reminiscent of a stately Tuscan villa with its comfortable outdoor seating in a garden setting. Executive chef Nash Cognetti presents a menu featuring house-made pastas and dishes like smoked and braised shortribs with three cheese polenta and horseradish gremolata. The wine list includes a number of Italian specialties, and don’t discount the weekly showcased wine of hard-to-find Napa producers.
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