A few weeks ago, life took me to the humble, cozy town of Calistoga, snuggled into the hills of Napa Valley — wine heaven. Instead of tasting my way through all the vineyards, I was there to learn and celebrate the International Year of Pulses! Pulses are more commonly known in the United States as dry bean & peas, lentils, and chickpeas, and they are one of the most sustainable crops a farmer can grow. They’re super high in fiber, protein, and naturally gluten-free. I’m so excited to share more about what I learned, and a recipe for this Buttery Gluten-Free Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze in the coming weeks.
But today I wanted to share a little about Calistoga, because its charm has me yearning to plan a trip back. Even though I only had half a day to explore the town, I stumbled upon plenty of gems, and a lucky rainbow as I took a morning walk along the hills. *pinching myself*
Tucked into the base of Mount Saint Helena at the top of Napa, it feels a little cool and calm 1970ish, right on the cusp of a hip revival, with new restaurants opening and a few swank boutique hotels. There’s a tiny grocery store, a farmer’s market year-round, and just one stoplight in the whole city. A coffee joint where everybody knows the next person who walks in…. Shops owned by local folk who are passionate about their niche, and perhaps what Calistoga is known most for – the hot springs and spas of mineral-rich volcanic waters for those seeking rejuvenation. And kitschy mud emporiums (cue a scene from a movie), an experience I must try next time, which I imagine is quite relaxing as well as a little weird!
Something I love doing when traveling is visiting the farmer’s market (no surprise there). I enjoy seeing the foods that are native to the area, and talking to the folks who grow them. You can tell you a lot about the culture this way, digging deeper into the history and the general nature of the people. I spoke with the lovely couple below, Jim & Kathy of Meadowmont Farm who are beekeepers and ironically there daughter is moving to Minnesota. They let me try their bee pollen, which was one of the purest things I have ever tasted. And the man next to them had beautiful organic mushrooms, over 10 varieties, many of which I had never seen.
Then I made my way to brunch, finally settling on Sam’s Social Club. Warm and cozy inside, I sat in the lounge/bar area, with the Wall Street Journal to read, and a fabulous carafe of coffee. The food was terrific, and at this point I learned that egg yolks are the best kind of natural hollandaise you could ever want, especially when the potatoes are as crisp as these were.
Want a good cup of coffee at a neighborhood joint? Calistoga Roastery is the place.
Looking for a farm to table dinner, unpretentious atmosphere, and good drinks? Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery was a favorite (very accommodating to food allergies as well).
Blackbird is a small mercantile shop that stole my heart. Full of unique home goods, jewelry, things for the kitchen, and the owner is a sweet as a button. You can tell how much she cares about supporting creative makers. In the world of food styling, it was prop heaven.
Definitely spend a morning at the Culinary Institute of America. It’s as beautiful in all its castle glory as it is fascinating. We were lucky enough to cook in the kitchens there for two days, but for regular folk they give tours, and the gift shop is a culinary dream. The grounds are manicured to a tee, and the citrus trees flourish. Enough to make a Minnesota girl reeeeeal jealous.
And lastly, don’t forget to smell the roses. There’s a lot of beauty around you, and in within your soul. xoxo
My airfare and lodging to Calistoga, California was covered by USA Pulses, but I was not compensated to write this post. Opinions are my own.