Travel Scenes: Calistoga, California {Napa Valley}

By Amanda Paa – Updated December 3, 2021

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.

Calistoga, California {part of Napa Valley}

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!

Calistoga Hot Springs & Mud BathsDr. Wilkinson’s Spa

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.

calistoga farmers market -- napa valleycalistoga farmers market -- napa valleycalistoga farmers market -- napa valley

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.

Sam's Social Club, CalistogaSam's Social Club, Calistoga

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.

blackbird mercantile {calistoga, ca} blackbird mercantile {calistoga, ca} blackbird mercantile {calistoga, ca}

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.

Culinary Institute of America {California}

And lastly, don’t forget to smell the roses. There’s a lot of beauty around you, and in within your soul. xoxo

Culinary Institute of America {California}

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.

Did you make this?

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February 5, 2016


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  1. Traci | Vanilla And Bean

    What an adventure for you Amanda! All the sights, sounds, smells, then the fun of learning and cooking at the CIA! I’d love to visit some day! I’ve not been to Calistoga. The closest I got was SanFran, but our plan is to go back and instead of heading South, head North! Beautiful photos… and those mushrooms!! xo

  2. Allison - Celebrating Sweets

    What a fabulous adventure! I love Napa and the CIA. I hope you enjoyed getting to cook there! What an amazing experience! ;)

    • amandapaa

      it was so fun cooking there. if only i had a kitchen that big!

  3. Shelley | Sevengrams

    Such lovely photos Amanda – sounds like a pretty spectacular trip! x

  4. Faith (An Edible Mosaic)

    What a beautiful trip! I’ve never been to Napa, but it’s been on my bucket list. Now I know a few must-visit places there! And that rainbow picture…love! xoxo

  5. Liz - Inspired by the Seasons

    What a wonderful post – I feel warmer already! Your photos are lovely Amanda.

    • amandapaa

      thank you Liz! i needed a little warmth….. february seems the hardest to get through!

  6. Hannah | The Swirling Spoon

    Such lovely scenes, Amanda! I feel the Culinary Institute of America is a place I need to visit some day. Oh, and Napa and snowy Minnesota, and, yeah, everywhere, basically.

  7. rebecca | DisplacedHousewife

    I love Calistoga! So beautiful. I can’t wait to see your recipe. I have some chickpea flour in my cupboard just sitting there…would love some inspiration!! xoxo

  8. Summer

    Loving your photos! They are gorgeous ♥

    • amandapaa

      oh, thank you Summer! xo

  9. Rae Blakeney

    Thanks, Amanda. I’m getting ready to move back to the U.S. after living 25years in France. I was interested in the mushrooms! Except for the color, they very much resemble the French girolle which grow wild here (the French ones are pale orange).

    • amandapaa

      how neat Rae! yes, the mushrooms were amazing. only wish i could have brought some along home to cook with. good luck on your move!

  10. Joan

    We were in Calistoga in December-definitely a cozy, homey town:)