Food

Zuzu Tapas Restaurant, Napa, CA

We only went out to eat once while in Napa, preferring to cook at home. But our one meal out was definitely a home run. Zuzu in Napa, CA is a tapas restaurant that has a full wine and beer list, serves tapas in the traditional Spanish small plate style and also has authentic sangria and paella on hand to satisfy any customer. I got to have dinner with two of my oldest friends (and bridesmaids), Ermentrude and Phryne. As well as my friend, Kimbrough, from Richmond, VA whose heart is as golden as her hair.

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I know small plates are a bit of a fad right now but tapas have been around for much longer than they have been hip in the restaurant scene. There are a couple of different origin stories but my favorite is that King Alfonso X of Spain had some mysterious illness that prevented him from eating large portions. So instead he ate only small meals with wine. This trickled down to the common people and became so popular that to this day wine must be served with food and so small plates are an integral of Spanish food culture. In fact when I visit my family in Spain we stop at this small restaurant in downtown Malaga and eat their entire tapas menu (except the sweet meats). The picture below is circa August, 2014. We are full of food and wine and all smiles!

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But back to Napa, 2018. When I was looking for restaurants I actually found two different tapas restaurants blocks from each other on Main St. After some research I decided we should try Zuzu and I am so glad we did. They don’t take reservations but after a short wait at the bar we were seated and able to cheers to an auspicious start to our Napa travels! They have a great wine collection and we enjoyed a lovely Tempranillo with dinner. But what’s better than Spanish wine with Spanish tapas?

The most difficult thing about tapas is trying to decide what to order. We decide to each pick 2 things and then threw in about three honorable mentions based on the staff’s recommendations. The staff was brilliant and knew exactly what order to brings things out in. They started with the cold items and slowly built up to the heavier offerings. It was the perfect meal and in true Spanish fashion took us over an hour to get through. Some of my favorite dishes were the seared rockfish, roasted beets, arugula and shaved truffle salad and calamari ceviche pictured below. I also loved the flat-iron steak and fried Manchego but by the time we got to the heavier dishes I had put my camera away so I could just enjoy the food and company.

Zuzu is a smallish two story restaurant and we were nestled under the stairs. It was perfectly cozy and intimate this way. And since I’m short I wasn’t even at risk of banging my head! I didn’t try the other tapas restaurant to give a fair comparison but the vibe we felt when walking past to get to Zuzu was definitely not as homey. I think we made the right choice. Although speaking of choices we couldn’t decide what to get for dessert so we just got one of each!

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Clockwise from the top we have a chocolate cream de pot, a caramelized apple empanada, a basque cake and a piece of heavenly tres leches cake. Despite the 12 small plates prior to this all four dessert plates were completely cleared. I can’t say enough how much I loved this meal. If you ever find yourself hungry in Napa and unsure where to eat I think you must go to Zuzu!

Travel

Napa, CA

Admission time: I’ve been planning my bachelorette party since I was a little girl. Probably for as long, if not longer than I have been planning my wedding. Like the imagined wedding of my youth it has gone through many revisions. But one thing was for sure, it would be filled with friends, food, drinks and very little sleep. In recent years I have developed a deep love affair with wine and wine related vacations. When I discovered the Napa Valley Wine Train I know that was the ideal destination for the festivities I had in mind. Luckily Lloyd proposed shortly thereafter and following many months of planning and anticipation Napa Girls’ Trip 2018 is in the books. And it was indeed filled with friends, food, wine and almost no sleep.

We rented the cutest little cottage/bungalow house just down a ways from Main Street, Napa. There were many homes on offer in the Napa Valley through AirBnB and VRBO. But we were a large group looking to stay more central since our main event was the Wine Train and this cozy space met our needs perfectly. We actually rented through HomeAway and the property itself can be found here. It was painted a rustic green that made me think of grapes and vines and was well appointed with plenty of sitting space (inside and out) as well as rather snugly beds. It had an easy to use and well maintained gas grill as well as an hot tub. Both of which we very much enjoyed. And the kitchen had everything we needed to put together a lovely meal. We even used some of the fresh lavender that was growing next to the house to make simple syrup, as well as some Meyer lemons from Ermentrude’s backyard.

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As wonderful as the kitchen and garden were the best part of this home was the gorgeous backyard with the aforementioned grill and hot tub. We spent one evening grilling meat and enjoying an homemade Mexican fajita bar and the next night in the hot tub drinking our bodyweight in Cava, Rose’ and West Coast Chardonnay.

The house had some really cute touches that I really enjoyed. The TV stand had a bowl of wine corks that people had signed and there was an adorable little fireplace in one corner. I really appreciated that they had plenty of pillows on the bed. When Lloyd and I sleep apart I make a Lloyd shaped pillow pile on my right side and pretend like it’s him. It’s not nearly hot, sweaty or snoring enough, but it does the trick!

If you ever have an evening free to spend with your girlfriends might I suggest a fajita bar? Make a couple of different dips and salsas, caramelize some peppers and onions, grill up your favorite meat and open many, many bottles of wine. Some people might ask why I skipped out on the classic margarita and to those people I say… tequila is a bad decision juice, that’s why. Even with sticking to wine I managed to forget to take pictures of the vast majority of the food we made that night including a tomato salsa, guacamole, a corn and black bean dip, caramelized red/orange peppers and onions, grilled chicken, steak and tortillas. Not mention a multitude of nibbly bits like almonds, cheese and crackers. And wine. Did I mention wine? So much wine.

My lovely ladies and most spectacular Maid of Honor, Olivia, really outdid themselves when it came to the decorating. There was glitter, bridal paraphernalia and male genitalia all over the place. I’ll keep the pictures of the naughty stuff off of here. But there were inflatables and straws and a world of other risqué items that had me blushing all night long!

Olivia even had shirts made for all my girls. Which was simply the best thing. She did a great job picking out shirts for people she had only ever heard me talk about. She is thoughtful and introspective that way. Also, etsy for the win! It was really fantastic having all these women I know from different walks of life under one roof. Having moved a lot for school and work I have a lot of close friends that live all over the country and the world (Australia, in particular). So I rarely get to see some of my nearest and dearest and most of them have never even met each other. It was a really special weekend for me watching all my best friends get to know each other!

I’ve been hemming and hawing trying to avoid crying while I write this. But I have to mention a special gift that Claire curated for me. In addition to being an excellent doctor and oenophile she is also a gifted scrapbooker. She got in touch with all the girls I invited to my bachelorette and asked them all to send in pictures of us together and fill out a little questionnaire she had put together. I read all the letters out loud and cried through all of them. It was one of the sweetest and most touching gifts I’ve ever gotten. Made more so by the inclusion of those friends who couldn’t make it. I couldn’t believe all the time and effort people so obviously put into answering Claire’s questions about our friendships. Their words and love touched the very cockles of my heart. And the whole thing proved exactly how much I need waterproof, air brushed, shellacked makeup for my wedding cause I can’t even type this paragraph without tearing up.

Every picture and page and letter included in this scrapbook makes me eyes well. This weekend taught me how important it is to cherish your friends and cultivate your friendships. All of these amazing women were in my life before Lloyd and helped me become the person he loves and wants to marry. They watched me stumble, grow, change and strive to become the woman I am today. They are my roots.