Thursday, January 26, 2006


I drove up valley to explore Calistoga today, which, at about 27 miles north of the town of Napa, is the uppermost substantial town in the Napa Valley wine region. It's known for its waters -- not only Calistoga Water, but also for its hot springs and mud baths. It also has lava deposits. The influence of tourists is reflected by the side-by-side folksiness and hipness of the town, and its cottage industry of inns. I've been told that it's the place to go to party (this means that it has more than bar and they are regularly open past 10pm).

If I were visiting the region, I would love to stay in Calistoga. It's such a beautiful town with lots to explore on foot, accommodating all ranges of budgets and tastes. It's a little secluded (and probably at least an 1 hr 45 mins from the Oakland airport), but at least it doesn't have the autobahn of Napa--Hwy 29--running in the middle of it like most other towns.

The shops and restaurants are mostly along Lincoln Ave, the main artery of the town.

It's really hard to take a good picture of a downtown street...

This could be you.

I would be have been proud to come up with this name.
Who knew?A restaurant named Stomp.

A couple of trains were converted into an arcade.
A laundromat with a view.
I had just about walked past this little cafe when I saw that they have Killer Brownies. I immediately turned around.
From the moment I saw it, I had my doubts. It was a little too light brown on the bottom and all those air bubbles compromised its density. It tasted like corn syrup with a little bit of cocoa. Not nearly rich or delicious enough to kill. I guess their Dreyer's ice cream could do that instead.

Then I came across the Calistoga Creamery and Bakery.
At 2:00, they were closing down, but I was able to slip my way in for some treats in the name of Napa culinary research.
Now this is a brownie you can spend some time with. Rich chocolate flavor and fudgy-but-firm texture. I'd drive 27 miles again for it, and that means a lot because I hate driving and I'm picky about brownies.

If the brownie was a classic done right, this little gem was a novel surprise. If you pull up the latch-like piece of dough on the top, it reveals a ribbon of dough that spirals through pastry and ends in a latch on the bottom. Cinnamon-sugar is grainy on the outside and melted soft in the inside. The dough was somewhere between a cinnamon roll and croissant.
And finally, a sort of pecan brittle cookie. Soft on the inside where it's not packed with pecans. Pleasantly pungent flavor, bolstered by brown sugar.
Anyway, Calistoga seems like a town that I'm going to enjoy exploring more, even if I felt a bit Rachael Ray-ish today. There are, of course, wineries up there, too....

And here is the tasting aftermath:


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