Hidden Treasures

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TRUCKEE • DOWNTOWN NAPA • SUISUN CITY • OAKLAND • THE PRESIDIO 

Thanks to the recent arrival of a slew of new restaurants headed up by celebrity chefs, revamped hotels, boutiques, and a public food and gift emporium that is Napa’s version of the Ferry Building in San Francisco or Faneuil Hall in Boston, downtown Napa—not just the surrounding wineries in the valley—has become a must-see destination. But this isn’t exactly a random coincidence. The city has deliberately upped the wow factor and created a much-deserved buzz by leading a massive $600 million overhaul of the riverfront, set for completion in 2015. Now, downtown Napa is home to 26 shiny new retail stores, more than 20 wine tasting rooms, and more than 70 restaurants with culinary game changers including Ken Frank of La Toque and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto of Morimoto Napa. Here, we uncover a crop of the standouts placing the once overlooked city back on the map.

 

WHAT TO DO

Oxbow Public Market
Lined with organic cafes and bakeries, an on-site wine merchant, and charcuterie, seafood and cheeses culled from local farmers and purveyors, the well-edited 40,000-square-foot marketplace (610 & 644 First St., 707-226-6529, oxbowpublicmarket.com), is a one-stop shop for a one-of-a-kind hostess gift, or essentials for an impromptu picnic by the river or on the outdoor deck. At the newly opened Napa Valley Distillery, dubbed the area’s first distillery since Prohibition, try one of 200 flavors of handmade cocktail bitters and syrups, or peruse a collection of Ca’ Momi Enoteca and Pizzeria  at Oxbow Public Market.vintage barware and mixology-related tomes. In the center of the market, you’ll find Ca’ Momi Enoteca and Pizzeria serving thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas, pastries like the signature cream puffs in flavors like honey and hazelnut, and Italian wines like pinot grigio (the restaurant is an offshoot of Napa’s Ca’ Momi Winery). And don’t miss Poor House. Allow extra time to sift through the world traveler-inspired textiles and home wares curated by owners Melissa and Eric Schmitt (who also own a flagship location directly behind the market), including handblown glasses by Simon Pearce, ceramic platters by Laura Zindel and colorful, woodblock-printed linens by Couleur Nature.

Napa Valley Wine Train
Eat, drink and merrily roll along aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train.For an up-close look at the surrounding valley towns, including Yountville, Oakville, St. Helena and Rutherford, hop aboard the historic train (tracks date to the 1860s) for a three-hour journey. Sip a complimentary glass of wine while winding through 36 miles of Napa Valley and opt for a private tour at one of six wineries along the way, or sign up for a four-course lunch (think seasonal items from pan-seared scallops to roasted beef tenderloin) in a restored car such as a 1952 Pullman domed railcar ($99-$204; 1275 McKinstry St., 800-427-4124, winetrain.com).

 WHERE TO EAT

Oenotri
Opened in 2010 by chef-owners Tyler Rodde and Curtis Di Fede (who appeared on the Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods America in April), this Southern Italian-inspired restaurant has quickly become a local staple, and it’s easy to see why. Using veggies and herbs grown on the eatery’s nearby four-acre garden, the duo whips up offerings from 20 varieties of house-made salumi, seasonal mains (like June’s Paine Farm squab, which was paired with cherry panzanella, parsley and dandelion greens) and wood-fired pizzas made in an Acino oven procured from Naples (1425 First St., 707-252-1022, oenotri.com).

The exquisite hamachi tartare at Morimoto Napa.Morimoto Napa
Boasting an interior created by Schoos Design (of San Francisco’s Hotel Vertigo and The Penthouse restaurant in Santa Monica), Morimoto Napa is a definite don’t-miss spot (610 Main St., 707-252-1600, morimotonapa.com) in downtown Napa’s revitalized riverfront district. Owned by celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto (of Iron Chef and Nobu fame), the sleek and modern restaurant—think concrete floors and stacked reclaimed wood beams on walls—serves up impeccably plated dishes, from starters like hamachi tartare and tuna pizzas to dishes like 16-ounce rib-eye steaks and signature entrées such as Angry Chicken, a marinated organic half chicken with roasted peppers.

WHERE TO SLEEP

The Westin Verasa Napa
Located steps away from Oxbow Public Market along the riverfront, the rustic, modern 180-room resort ($149-$749; 1314 McKinstry St., 707-257-1800, westinnapa.com) is the Dance the cha-cha-cha at downtown Napa’s revamped riverfront district.ideal spot to unwind after a long day of exploring or wine tasting. The list of on-property perks runs long here, from to-die-for Heavenly beds and a complimentary house car for rides into town, to an outdoor, heated saltwater pool framed with chaise lounges and cabanas, and a running concierge on hand to help navigate nearby routes. Forgot workout clothes and sneakers? The Westin’s gear lending program offers guests a pair of New Balance shoes, shorts and a T-shirt for use during the stay for a mere $5.

Inn On Randolph
It might look as if it was plucked straight from the pages of a classic storybook, but this 10-room 1860s Victorian estate ($245-$400; 411 Randolph St., 707-257-2886, innonrandolph.com) set on nearly an acre of pristinely manicured grounds has been fully upgraded with all of the bells and whistles. Cottages are outfitted with LCD televisions, gas fireplaces and whirlpool tubs, while historic suites feature original antique glass windows and upholstered headboards. Just be sure to set your alarm. The daily home-cooked breakfast—which is served at 8:30 and 9:15 a.m. and boasts an all gluten-free menu of items like vanilla bean pancakes with fresh berries, smoked salmon hash with poached eggs, and corn cakes with house-made applesauce—is worth the early rise. —J.N.