Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Taste of Napa: Gourmet Living at The Inn on First - Napa, CA

This is the first post in my Taste of Napa series.

When I returned from my trip to Napa and started organizing all of my notes, I couldn't believe the amount of information I had gathered about some of the lodging, dining, and entertainment options in the City of Napa. (I also couldn't believe I had taken over 600 photos over the span of three days.) As you can imagine, it took some time for me to wrap my head around it all, but I'm ready to share the first post in my Taste of Napa series with you.

Go on and continue reading to learn more about my assigned lodging for the trip -- The Inn on First.

Since I had to travel across the country, I arranged to fly into California the night before the official festivities began. By the time I arrived at The Inn on First, it was late and the proprietors, Jamie Cherry and husband Jim Gunther, had already retired for the evening. Thankfully, they have a system in place for guests who are unable to check-in during the appointed hours (between 3:30 PM and 6:30 PM).

Mumm Sparkling Wine at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Mumm Sparkling Wine

Cheers! - Photo by Taste As You Go
Mumm Sparkling Wine

I retrieved my keys from the main building, referred affectionately as The Mansion, and made my way back to the Garden Suites. My suite, the middle suite on the lower level, was the Incantment Suite ($200-$385 per night based on double occupancy) and was decorated in rich blues and crisp whites.

I was instantly at ease thanks to the jazz that was playing on the iPod when I entered the room. (All ten rooms -- five mansion rooms and five garden suites -- are equipped with a CD player/radio with alam and iPod connection.) Plus, the complimentary split of Mumm Napa Sparkling Wine waiting for me in the small in-room refrigerator didn't hurt either!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Chocolate Chunk Cookies

And, I can't begin to tell you how grateful I was to find the generous supply of Jim's legendary Chocolate Chunk Cookies on the sideboard in the dining room as I was making my way through the mansion to the back of the property. Two of those cookies and the sparkling wine made for a decadent late-night dinner after a soak in my Jacuzzi bathtub.

Why not, right?

After my bath, I snuggled under the covers of my king bed and just enjoyed the serenity of the moment. The rooms at The Inn on First don't have televisions, so I took advantage of the quiet and reread the incredibly detailed email I received from Jamie and Jim prior to my arrival. The email listed my reservation details, as well as add-on package options, spa services, and restaurant and winery recommendations.

Sparkling Wine and Chocolate Chunk Cookies at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Sparkling Wine and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I found the list of restaurants especially helpful, as it specified the "foodie restaurants" and offered a short description of the cuisine one would find at each of the establishments. Had my trip not been planned out, I would have referred to that email religiously.

(By the way, televisions were removed from the rooms about a year after Jamie and Jim purchased the property because it was felt that they'd impede romance rather than encourage it. However, you're not completely cut off from the modern world during your stay at The Inn on First. Guests are provided with complimentary secure wireless internet access.)

Breakfast on the Sideboard at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Breakfast on the Sideboard

Due to the time difference, I awoke earlier than intended. Thankfully, my suite had a small coffee pot and a basket of ground gourmet organic coffee. I was able to brew enough coffee to hold me over until I showered and dressed for the day. When I felt ready to interact with other human beings, I made my way up to the mansion and joined the rest of the guests for breakfast at the gorgeous custom-built communal table in the dining room.

Date-Nut Roll at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Date-Nut Roll

Homemade Granola at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Homemade Granola

At The Inn on First, breakfast begins with a selection of cold items, including homemade granola, homemade pastry, fresh fruit salad, and yogurt along with coffee, tea, and fresh orange juice. I was absolutely obsessed with the Date-Nut Rolls and tried not to make a fool of myself as I ate one after another after another. And the granola was simple but fantastic, perfumed with a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

The real show-stopper of the meal, however, was what came out next.

Homemade Macaroni Noodles with Spinach and Cheese topped with a Fried Egg at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Homemade Macaroni Noodles with Spinach and Cheese topped with a Fried Egg

Have you ever had macaroni and cheese for breakfast before? Until I stayed at The Inn on First, I hadn't either.

Jim, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, prides himself in creating "whimsical breakfast fare with a professional edge". With over 110 recipes in his arsenal, he's committed to providing each of the B&B's guests with a different meal each time they visit. That means he keeps accurate records to make sure he doesn't serve you something you've eaten before.

I mean, WOW.

Homemade Macaroni Noodles with Spinach and Cheese topped with a Fried Egg at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Homemade Macaroni Noodles with Spinach and Cheese topped with a Fried Egg

Double WOW.

The Homemade Macaroni Noodles with Spinach and Cheese was topped with the most gorgeously fried egg I've ever seen. I was expecting a rich sauce, but it wasn't. This sauce, which was made from a combination of smoked Gouda, cojita, and sharp cheddar, was silky and creamy without the heaviness. Having a small side salad, tossed lightly with a slightly sweet vinaigrette, really helped to balance everything out.

Garden at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Garden

Garden at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Garden

The next morning, the guests were invited to eat breakfast out in the garden. Since I was in eager anticipation of what Jim was going to cook up this time, I skipped the cold items altogether and went straight for the coffee and the hot entree du jour.

Homemade Egg Noodles with Fried Breadcrumbs, Mixed Vegetables, and Poached Eggs at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Homemade Egg Noodles with Fried Breadcrumbs, Mixed Vegetables, and Poached Eggs

Homemade Egg Noodles with Fried Breadcrumbs, Mixed Vegetables, and Poached Eggs at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Homemade Egg Noodles with Fried Breadcrumbs, Mixed Vegetables, and Poached Eggs

This time, I was served Homemade Egg Noodles with Fried Breadcrumbs, Mixed Vegetables, and Poached Eggs. While the dish was delicious and, technically, different that the dish I had the morning before, I would've liked to have tried something from Jim's repertoire that didn't involve pasta and an egg.

I should say here that they use fresh, organic ingredients at The Inn on First whenever possible, and they're able to accommodate most dietary needs, including vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free, wheat-free, and dairy-free, if they've given advance notice. In fact, when you receive the email confirming your reservation, you'll also get an email asking for information regarding allergies or dietary restrictions.

Going to these efforts to ensure each guest has an enjoyable experience makes The Inn on First a truly special place.

Calvin, Oscar, and Hugo - Miniature Schnauzers at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Calvin, Oscar, and Hugo

And so does the fact that it's a dog-friendly establishment. While the mansion is a pet-free zone, three of the Garden Suites are pet-friendly and the garden is open to all.

Other items of note:

  • All rooms feature a whirlpool tub and a gas fireplace;
  • The Inn on First is one of the only green-certified B&B inns in California, and they provide stainless steel water bottles for guests to use rather than plastic bottles as well as shampoo, conditioner, and body wash dispensers in the showers;
  • Picnic backpacks are provided in each room for guests to use during the day.


Jamie Cherry and Jim Gunther and their Three Miniature Schnauzers at The Inn on First in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Jamie Cherry and Jim Gunther

I had a fabulous time at The Inn on First and wish I could have stayed longer. Thank you so much to Jamie and Jim for their hospitality -- until next time!

PS. You're in luck. Jim has granted me special permission to share some of his recipes with all of you, so stay tuned for those!

The Inn on First
1938 First Street
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 253-1331 | Map

Taste As You Go Disclaimer: I was provided with the opportunity to travel to Napa on this press trip at no cost to me. I did not accept monetary compensation for writing about the trip or about my experiences while in Napa. All opinions expressed are my own.

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