August 04, 2006

Napa's Friday Night Chef's Market

A bit of street fair. A touch of farmers' market. A pinch of art expo. Downtown Napa's Friday Night "Chef's Market" is an eclectic combination of events rolled into one. Oddly named however. Yes, we missed the 6:00 chef demo -- this week provided by Rachelle Boucher of Generation Chefs, an organization dedicated to educating and mentoring young chefs-to-be. But I guess we just expected more fine-food focus out of an event called a Chef's market...

The Crowd: We wandered the five block festival four times and discovered that it's the place to be in Napa on a Friday night. New parents pushing state-of-the-art strollers with (I'm not making this up) cup holders designed for wine glasses. Only in Napa. "DINKs" with blackberries and bluetooth accessories strapped to a variety of appendages. Teens and twenty-somethings with more piercings than I've seen anywhere but Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Kids, tweens and grandparents. Every generation represented.

The Food: an eclectic mix, if more mainstream (and more expensive) than we were expecting. Buckhorn Grill hawking $8.00 tri tip sandwiches. The barbecued oysters appealed -- until we got a look at the price tag. And the Creole/Cajun vendor would have done better if he hadn't displayed wilted versions of his offerings. Hard to spend $10 on a Po'Boy that looks like it's been out in the sun a week. And what exactly about seared ahi over mixed greens is cajun? In the end we opted for a foot-long grilled kielbasa from Christopher's Fine Foods. We were pleasantly surprised -- it was fresh, tasty and filling.

The Wine: for the most part, we didn't partake. But a bottle of "Rabid Red" (sporting the wine equivalent of Budweiser's Spuds MacKenzie piqued my curiosity. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Sirah, Syrah, Tempranillo, Grenache, Zinfandel and who knows what else, it turned out to be the Bud Light of red wine -- pleasant enough for a single glass with a gourmet hotdog when the proceeds go to charity, but I wouldn't drop $15 on a bottle for home.

The Market Food: This is the arena in which the chef's market delivered. We came home with quite a collection of condiments: a bottle of Atlas Peak's Arbequina olive oil extracted in Napa from Northern California olives, Humble Beginnings all-natural Champagne-Strawberry Jam from Fairfield, two specialty mustards and a carmelized red onion & fig spread from Napa Valley Harvest, and a wedge of Busseto Foods' Sopressata Calabrese Salami sausage.

We'd walked. We'd eaten. We'd shopped. We'd socialized. It was time to head home and get some sleep -- we've got a long weekend ahead of us.

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