The Oxbow Public Market in the town of Napa, California, is an attempt by some of the founders of the lauded and lovely Ferry Building Market in San Francisco to create a food hall in the Napa Valley for its artisanal purveyors, growers, retailers, and restaurateurs. The Market, which opened less than a year ago, is a work in progress and its contemporary lines and yuppie sensibility rub some the wrong way; but at maturity, it will be the perfect complement to a vibrant weekend farmers’ market down the road, alas.
Today the visitor is treated to satellite versions of some of Napa Valley’s favorite food destinations—Taylor’s Automatic Refresher’s great burgers and snacks (top left), Model Bakery’s sweets and savories, and Fatted Calf’s amazing charcuterie, and raw and prepared meats (an unctuous stuffed roast pork was being carved warm for sale during our visit). There is a large wine store/tasting room, a separate wine bar, and purveyor stands selling everything from Venezuelan arepas to Hog Island oysters. Oxbow is a worthy stop on your way in or out of the Valley.
One of the Valley’s newer restaurants and its only steakhouse of note is Press (bottom left), adjacent to Dean & Deluca in St. Helena. Housed in a striking high-ceilinged, purpose-built space, it is a pricey but unpretentious place for dinner, quickly legendary for its steak tartare (Alas, I gave up steak tartare after too many Michael Pollan essays.).
Much of what I tasted was delicious nonetheless, starting with a beautifully conceived breadbasket of crisp rosemary bread sticks, slightly sweet Parker House rolls, and savory biscuits.
A composed and stacked salad of Dungeness crab, tiny cubed pieces of melon, and crispy prosciutto was a pretty and light starter. An 8 oz. American Wagyu flatiron steak ($27) proved tasty but did nothing to diminish my conviction that American Wagyu is a gimmick designed to inflate restaurant tabs at the expense of nouveau riche, herd-mentality diners. More impressive were sides of crisp roast potato-and-garlic cake and a summer bean ragout of at least four types crowned with breadcrumbs.
Service is impressive, without a hint of hauteur; the local wine list is pricey but interesting; and the space is stunning—a striking mix of whites and rough-hewn warm woods under a white cathedral ceiling. There is not a bit of marble in evidence. Make Press a stop on your next trip up, even if just for a drink at the glass-walled bar.
Tomorrow: Napa classics—Thomas Keller with mustard