We have planned two trips to Napa in the last few years, and for both trips, we have centered our plans around a fancy dinner. For our first trip in 2017, we had dinner at The French Laundry; a bucket list dining destination in Yountville for any foodie. For our trip this year, our original plans were unfortunately disrupted by the California fires. As people who travel to eat, we felt lucky to steal a reservation at La Toque – a Michelin star restaurant located in the Westin Hotel in downtown Napa. La Toque, run by chef Ken Frank, has earned a Michelin star every single year that Michelin has awarded stars in wine country and from our experience, rightfully so.
Fine Dining During Covid: Before we dive into the details of our meal, we wanted to give a quick update for how dinner went during COVID. Some people might think that sitting down for a multi-course, three hour dinner is crazy during a pandemic, but we felt La Toque went above and beyond to ensure the safety of their staff and diners. We were asked to fill out a contact form and our temperatures were taken upon arrival. We were asked to wear masks until our orders had been placed, and after that we were free to enjoy our dinner! The staff was seamless in their efforts for safety and we were in great hands to celebrate our vacation together.
Making A Reservation: Reservations for La Toque can be made on Tock. At the time of making your reservation you can choose between the tasting menu or the a la carte menu. We opted for the 6 course tasting menu but did not choose to do the wine pairing. Due to our busy day of visiting local wineries we went for cocktails and glasses of wine. The restaurant has over 2000 bottles in their cellar and the extensive menu is presented via iPad. Out of all the fancy dinners we have been to, the wine list was very reasonably priced and there were plenty of options for people who weren’t looking to spend tons of money on alcohol.
We were offered two amuse bouches to start our meal. Our first bite was a brunoise of fresh garden vegetables and our second bite was a mussel with chorizo.
First Course – Puffed Rice Bowl with Dungeness Crab.
A few of us left dinner with this as our favorite dish. The beautifully served bowl felt like everything you wish a poke bowl could accomplish but never quite does. A perfect bite of soft crab paired with an Asian infused sauce atop the crunch of puffed rice.
Second Course – John Dory with Artichoke Puree.
An absolutely delectable bit of pan seared John Dory with a rich and unctuous artichoke puree. This is the preparation for fish that we always strive to create at home, but never quite achieve. This was the other favorite dish in our group.
Third Course – Fresh Spaghetti with Roasted Sunchoke and Fresh Burgundy Truffle.
The truffle dish of everyone’s dreams. Creamy, rich, homemade spaghetti topped with an embarrassing amount of freshly shaved truffles. This is the course that always makes us feel like we are at a really special dinner.
4th Course – Veal Variations.
Three preparations of veal; braised, roasted, and seared accompanied by a bean and carrot stew.
5th Course – Choice of Cheeses or Dessert.
We had a lot of fun with this course since we could pick and choose our own adventure. Calli and Jamie opted for the cheese course and the boys chose dessert. Our waiter helped us navigate the 8+ offered cheeses based on our preferences of texture and funk. Jamie was a bit more adventurous and went with two pungent options while Calli went for milder cheese, and were both very happy with our selections. The cheeses were presented on a personal cheese board with fresh bread, fruit, fig jam, and roasted almonds. The boys both chose the milk chocolate creme brulee and were very happy with their sweet selection.
6th Course – Six Textures of Chocolate. As we were getting full we thought “there’s no way we can eat more”, but as this final course came to the table we knew we were willing to make more room. A playful presentation of chocolates on a dish that was shaped like a painter’s palate. The palate included a traditional chocolate truffle, chocolate brittle, hazelnut biscotti, pate de fruit sweetened with cocoa sugar, a chocolate curry truffle, and last but not least, a miniature pumpkin white chocolate latte. The desserts were small and decadent; the most luxurious way to end a delicious dinner.
Overall Experience: Dining at La Toque was the perfect way to say “thank you” to Calli and Kidd for extending their home for almost four months. The food and service were great and the meal felt special. We highly recommend La Toque to anyone visiting Napa – it is a great way to experience multi-course fine dining without the heavy price tag that comes with eating at The French Laundry. The staff went out of their way to ensure a safe dining environment and we will be thinking about the food for a long time to come.