Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Napa Part One: The Train!

The husband and I started off our long Napa weekend in style by kickin' it aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. Having been to Napa countless times, we were well aware of the train, but had pretty much dismissed it as too touristy for our tastes. However, when a friend told us what a good time she recently had on board, I check it out online and was intrigued. Cool old train with refurbished interiors? Check. Good views of the valley and surrounding towns? Check. And, the kicker: Vegan-friendly, local, and sustainable food? Check and double check. I booked tickets for lunch on the spot.

The mustard was in full bloom this weekend, covering the whole valley in huge swaths of yellow, and watching it all go by from our table was so lovely. We reserved seats in the Vista Dome which is mostly glass and allows for great views, but this car also has the best (and, yes, most expensive) menu of all the cars. Immediately upon boarding we were served complimentary glasses of sparkling wine and the "good life" mentality continued on from there.

To begin, I got this vegan appetizer. Really it was just amusing. I mean, they were on top of their shit and knew I was vegan from the start and had already mapped out in detail my salad and entree before telling me "... and the chef will make you a special vegan appetizer". Ooh, special! Well apparently special means whatever the hell they have lying around in the produce cooler. Because nothing goes with olives and peperoncini like grapes and blueberries, right? Of course I ate it all.

Moving on to more traditional fare, the salad was up next. A yummy vinaigrette and walnuts candied without the use of butter (huzzah!) really stole the show, and I was happy to get some greens in me in such a tasty fashion. I should also mention that by this point I was also good and drunk and things just taste better in that state. Things like....

Butternut squash risotto! This was definitely the highlight with its super fresh veggies and earthy mushrooms. Plus, all that rice soaked up some of the alcohol (the bread they serve on the train is, sadly, not vegan) so I was able to wander around the train afterward without being a threat to myself and others. In between entree and dessert service, people are encouraged to check out the kitchen, the lounges and the deck, or just stick their heads out the windows and breathe in the wonder of the Napa Valley, so of course we did just that.

After an hour or so of wandering, dessert is served, which in my case meant cool and refreshing sorbet. My favorite was the tart pink grapefruit.

All in all, this is definitely something every visitor to Napa should check off their list. Now that I've done it, I don't feel any pressing desire to do it again, but it was a great way to spend an afternoon. The food was decent, the wine was great, and everyone was very friendly and welcoming, even to vegans like me!

Next up: Our dinner of love at Ubuntu. Hope you all had a great VDay!


Gregory said...

Thanks for riding with us. Your comments are appreciated and I will pass them on to chef. The menu changes seasonally so we can provide the freshest offerings. During the winter our Vegan selection is limited since we try to source locally for produce. If you are in Napa you might try one of our wine tours. They are completely different than the Dome Car experience. Additionally we have a car free connection to San Francisco (leave the driving to us) if that is convenient.

Greg McManus
Napa Valley Wine Train

Sky said...

Thanks Greg! You guys are nothing if not on top of your customer service, and I have a feeling we'll be back on the train at some point in the future. It'd be a great thing to do with out of town folks when they come visit. Thanks for a wonderful afternoon!