Delicious low carb chicken meatballs in a buttery lemon caper sauce. This keto chicken piccata recipe will please the whole family! Also check out my travels to Napa Valley.
I am absolutely terrible at coming up with ideas for my husband’s birthday. In my defence, his birthday is 5 days after Christmas and with three young kids, we tend to be a little celebration-weary by that time. He always down-plays it and tells me not to worry but I do. Because I don’t want him to feel unappreciated. He shoulders much of the burden for this nutty family of ours and he deserves to be fêted accordingly. So this year I was very pleased with my little secret plan to whisk him on a kid-free getaway to Napa Valley. We’d always talked about going and now that we live on the West Coast, it’s so much more accessible.
We didn’t do it right around his actual birthday, because that time of year is a little too hectic. Instead we went at the end of February. Perhaps that seems like a strange time to go to Napa, when the grapevines are dormant and the weather could be iffy. But I maintain that the off-season is often the best time to travel. Things are less expensive, there are fewer people, and you tend to get much more individual attention from your hosts, guides, and servers. My husband and I are rather crowd-averse so being in popular places when they are quieter really suits us.
I’d done extensive research and I had targeted our locale and our accommodations extensively. We only had one full day, and two nights there, as friends were looking after the kids, but we managed to really pack things into our short stay. We stayed in Yountville, at the lovely Maison Fleurie, as I knew I wanted a small boutique inn for a more romantic feel. For atmosphere, you really couldn’t beat it. Our room was tucked away on the top floor, with a lovely large bed and the cutest little window seat area. And breakfast in the mornings did have a low carb/gluten-free option such as a crust-free quiche (but oh, the baked goods smelled divine…I managed to not succumb to temptation).
Although we love wine, we know very little about it so we let our inn hosts help guide us as to where to do wine tastings. Within the tiny town of Yountville (and it really is tiny!), there are so many tasting rooms, you really don’t know where to go first. And then there’s Napa itself and St. Helena, and Sonoma, all with hundreds of wineries and tasting rooms. So how on earth does one pick? But I’d been there in the fall for a press trip and had heard of a lovely winery up on a hill that looked back toward San Francisco. Since it was such a gorgeous day, we decided that would suit us just fine, and we made the trip back into the city of Napa to spend the morning at Artesa. The wine was wonderful, the views were glorious, and we sat soaking up a little sun in the patio area. We were desperate for that Vitamin D, coming from cold rainy Portland. We enjoyed ourselves so much, we ended up signing up for their wine club.
After lunch in Napa, we headed back to Yountville (only about 25 minutes away…if you do Napa Valley, I highly recommend renting a car) and walked up to Jessup Cellars for a wine and cheese tasting. Being the off-season, we got a two-for-one deal so it was only $30 for the two of us. I am always amazed at how different wine can taste based on what you put in your mouth just before or just after. The pairings were delicious and I even found myself liking the chardonnay, which is usually my least favourite wine. Our guide was a dear woman with such enthusiasm for all things wine and Napa that it was truly infectious. Before I knew it, my husband was signing us up for a second wine club! Jessup is also part art gallery so it’s lovely to sip at your wine and wander through.
Now let’s discuss the food, because this blog isn’t called All Day I Dream About Wine after all. And Napa Valley is known as much for its food as it is for the beautiful white and red liquids that flow so copiously. Yountville is home to one of the most famous restaurants in the world: The French Laundry. But truth be told, I had no intention of sitting down to a $300 prix fixe meal; that’s really just not my style. I considered eating at one of Thomas Keller’s other restaurants, such as Bouchon, but based on the menus, my husband and I made reservations for Brix instead. Sadly, I think we made the wrong decision there. The atmosphere at Brix was wonderful but the food was disappointing for such a high-priced restaurant. My duck breast had little flavour and my husband’s steak, while delicious, was something I could easily have cooked at home. The best thing we had was the grilled artichoke appetizer. It would not be a place I would recommend to anyone heading to the area.
I think sometimes impromptu decisions end up being the best. We had another set of reservations for our second night but based on recommendations from our wine guide at Jessup, we cancelled those and walked over to Bottega to sit at the bar and eat appetizers. We’d had our fill of wine so we ordered cocktails instead – mine was a light refreshing cucumber thing and they made it without any sugar at my request. I was able to stay mostly gluten-free although my “crispy soft-boiled egg” had some breading on it. My husband’s short rib meatballs had capers in the sauce, which suddenly inspired me to do a low carb piccata meatball recipe. It’s always funny how and when recipe inspiration strikes!
Honestly, the best food we had in Napa wasn’t at the expensive and renowned restaurants but at a burger joint called Gott’s Roadside in Napa itself. After our morning wine tasting at Artesa, we were hungry and in need of something hearty to offset the alcohol. I ordered a Texas Avocado burger, and they offered lettuce wraps instead of buns (I love it when places do that!). They also had a special that day of fried brussels sprouts. With hunger as an extra seasoning, that might have been the best meal I’d had in a long time and I absolutely devoured it. It was perfectly keto and it really satisfied.
We also had a great brunch on our way out the next day, again in Napa itself. We simply stopped at the Oxbow Market, where I grabbed an open faced chorizo omelet and some really good bacon (really good!) at Five Dot Ranch. Then it was back into San Francisco to catch our flight home, back to the rain and to the kids. Really, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The sun was shining, the mornings were cool and brisk (perfect running weather), the days were warm, the wine was delightful, the people were friendly, and the food was delicious. It was a perfect 45th birthday present for my husband and I think we will look back fondly on our little winter getaway in Napa Valley.
And we have many bottles of wine in our basement to show for it!