When you’re in Napa Valley, sipping wine from late morning until late afternoon, you’ll want to find the best places for lunch to break up the day – and the alcohol. Much depends on where you happen to be and where you plan to head next on your Napa Valley wine tour. Maybe you’re based in Napa but find yourself in Yountville after a tasting at Domaine Chandon. Or you want lunch in St. Helena before an afternoon tour at Castello di Amorosa. Maybe you find yourself closer to the town of Napa. Because the Napa Valley is an agricultural area with only a sprinkling of towns, you need to plan, especially since many restaurants require reservations even for lunch.
Finding the best restaurants in the Finger Lakes region requires both less and more research than I’m used to. Less, because the options are limited. More, because we found it difficult to find the truly good among them. In keeping with the rural and outdoor nature of the Finger Lakes, even the fine-dining restaurants listed below retain a relaxed, semi-casual vibe.
Best romantic restaurant: Pleasant Valley Inn
Best Menu: Ports Café
Restaurant With the Best View: Ginny Lee Café
Most Relaxing Restaurant: Blue Pointe Grille
Because of covid-19 restrictions, we selected restaurants that either served outside or, by law, at well-spaced tables inside. Reservations are either required or strongly recommended since seating can be limited, particularly on the weekends. Note: Since pandemic restrictions can change, check out the current status before reserving.
Curbside pickup from White Orchids, one of our local Thai restaurants, brought the spicy flavors we love to our date night during life in the time of coronavirus. We’ve tried to spread our support of local businesses over several of our favorite restaurants. Although we hadn’t eaten at White Orchids in several months, the time seemed right to do curbside pickup. I pulled an actual white orchid off my planters’ rack, and my husband looked up music from Thailand on his phone. We were ready to satisfy our “spice teeth.”
(In case you haven’t been following my Life in the Time of Coronavirus series, check out my first installment to see how to make takeout into a special occasion.)
Curbside Pickup Restaurant: White Orchids
Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA
Pickup Hours: Daily, 11:30 am-7:30 pm
Recommended music: Thai classical music from YouTube
Our recent curbside pickup from Torre, our local higher-end Mexican restaurant, served two purposes: supporting a small business and giving me a night off from cooking. It gave us a break from the now-normal routine of life in the time of coronavirus. As I wrote in an earlier blog, you can create a special date night out of curbside pickup. In this case, we chose another ambience. Different food, different mood.
If you don’t live near Center Valley, PA, find your own local restaurant to support. They will appreciate it.
Curbside Pickup Restaurant: Torre
Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA
Pickup Hours: Wed. – Sat. 4:30-7:30 pm; Sun. 3:30-6:30 pm
Recommended music: Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra (Joaquin Rodrigo, composer)
Most of us are at home, adapting to life in the time of coronavirus, struggling with losing a job or being kept from loved ones or wanting to scream at the walls closing us in. World Oyster, usually devoted to travel and fine dining, will temporarily shift its focus to dealing with the isolation and to supporting the local community. Life in the time of coronavirus means that we all have to be creative.
Because several nearby restaurants offer curbside pick-up, my husband and I decided to support them while treating ourselves to a special evening. After all, we still have to tend to ourselves. We started with curbside pick-up from Cascade at Durham Springs and found ways to create an intimate, elegant dinner in our own home.
To set the stage for the evening, you will have to do some pre-planning. After you’ve decided which restaurant you’ll support, consider how to enhance your upcoming meal with ambience. Think dining, not eating. Take it as far as you’d like.
Curbside Pickup Restaurant: Cascade at Durham Springs
Location: 5065 Lehnenberg Rd. Kintnersville, PA
Pick-up hours: 4 pm-7 pm, Tuesday through Sunday
Wine recommendation: The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon
Recommended music for pop music fans: It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense by Ingrid Michaelson
Recommended music for classical lovers: One of the late Mozart Piano Concertos.
After my fifth or sixth visit, I decided it was time for World Oyster’s review of the Sergeantsville Inn. The restaurant, located on the corner of a quaint New Jersey town, occupies an old stone building with sections built in the 1700s. In the winter, you can sit next to a blazing fire in one of the original fireplaces. The Colonial American structure combines upscale dining with a business casual atmosphere. If you want a more casual menu, you can opt to eat in the tavern. Even better for my extended family, the chef includes three vegetarian entrées, two of which can be made vegan.
Ambience: Cozy American Colonial
Dress: Business casual for the dining room; casual for the Tavern
Best entrées: Waygu steak, soy duckling, wild-caught salmon (menu changes)
Best Appetizers: Any salad, including specials
Vegetarian/vegan options? : Yes
The Sergeantsville Inn specializes in pasture-raised meat, wild-caught seafood, local produce, and other sustainable ingredients. Because of this emphasis, you can find some unusual meats such as wild boar, pheasant, buffalo, and venison. For the less adventurous, more common meats and fish round out the menu: short ribs, Icelandic cod, beef steak, veal chops, and shrimp.
My husband and I recently ate brunch at The Marshal in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York. One thing I can say for sure: The Marshal is fearless in the face of cholesterol. Most items come with cheese or bacon, and often both. The restaurant serves duck bacon, pork bacon, and sausage. For an extra charge, even the butter can come with bacon. As for cheeses, you can find dishes with Swiss, burrata, blue, mozzarella, cheddar, ricotta, and “farm’esan.” Because the chef embraces local products, many of the above come from New York state.
Ambience: Local casual
Alcoholic beverages: Yes
Best Non-Egg Dishes: biscuits, mac and cheese
Most popular based on other tables: Short rib hash with poached eggs; stuffed French toast; deviled eggs
When deciding where to eat in Venice, my husband and I first defaulted to the idea that we’ve never had a bad meal in Italy. Then, on our first day, we encountered a mediocre lunch at a pizzeria. Although we sat outside on a glorious day, the pizza might as well been made in the United States. We vowed to be more discriminating for the rest of our trip. As a result, we found some wonderful places to eat.
World Oyster’s Top Restaurants 2019 lists the best restaurants I’ve eaten at this year. These fabulous six stood out among many other excellent ones, and they span continents.
I’ve chosen these restaurants for exceptional food, of course, but also because of service, ambience, presentation, and general memorability. The best restaurants should provide the culinary equivalent of a masterpiece painting. These do.
#1 The Grove (Auckland, NZ)
On a recent trip to this Catalonian city, I tracked down where to eat tapas in Barcelona. Although we usually seek out some upscale restaurants in a given city, this time we opted for more casual dinners of tapas. Of course, we often added a bottle of cava or a carafe of sangria or a glass of Priorat or Rioja. Life was good in Barcelona!