Monday, December 23, 2013

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas...let your heart be light...

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and very blessed New Year!

See you in 2014!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Lovely Gluten Free Inn...

Tucked away on charming Randolph Street is the #1 Rated Inn in Napa, CA out of 84 inns...and believe it or not, it's entirely gluten free! I had the pleasure of staying at the Inn on Randolph a few weeks ago, during what was a perfect fall weekend in the valley. I'd learned of the Inn earlier in the year while working our booth for The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center at the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in San Francisco this past February and since, had been dying to stay at the Inn and try it out, given that it's so close to home... yet just far enough away to feel like a mini vacation!

I'd done my research about the Inn on Randolph learning that it's owned by Karen and Dan Lynch, Bay Area natives who purchased the historic Inn two years ago and transformed this property into a dreamy escape. As a guest with celiac disease, I can say that staying at the Inn was an amazing experience and such a relief given that this B & B is entirely gluten free, alleviating any and all concerns of cross contamination from the Inn’s beautiful kitchen.

Karen has been gluten free herself for 7 years. After purchasing the Inn in 2011, (they closed it for 10 months to restore), gutting it down to the studs, and transforming this historic 19th century home into a stunning and peaceful modern retreat, she decided that she wanted the Inn on Randolph to be a completely gluten free B & B. At first she was cautious to advertise the Inn as completely gluten free, not wanting to cause non-GF guests to feel unwelcome or with the feeling that the Inn's quality of dining was not top-notch (which it is) given the reputation of some gluten free foods. However, as time has passed and the Inn's ratings have skyrocketed. It's become apparent that the word is out in both gluten free and non-GF communities that the Inn on Randolph is truly the place to go for rest, restoration and delicious food!

That accommodations at the Inn are even better than the food...we were fortunate enough to stay in the "Franklin" guest cottage just across the beautifully designed garden outside the main house. This gorgeous abode offers a romantic fireplace, plush linens (which they sell!) and a super cozy atmosphere. The cottage also has a private patio with a bistro set - the perfect setting for a lazy morning of reading and enjoying an organic cup of tea...along with a delicious gluten free chocolate chip cookie! The Inn consists of five large guest rooms in the main, historic house, along with five guest cottages neatly tucked inside the Inn's nearly half-acre property line. Each room and cottage share a similar design theme of warm, inviting colors, crisp linens and traditional furnishings, yet each room is also purposely designed to encompass its own unique, decorative attributes.

Owners Karen and Dan were kind enough to sit down with me for a an interview that included a complimentary, delicious glass of chardonnay from a favorite winery just "up-valley." Karen, the consummate host, is always checking in on guests who are lounging on the patio or in the beautiful library by the fireplace offering snacks or a glass of wine and great conversation. Both Karen and Dan, along with their staff, were extremely accommodating and genuine making the stay even more special and comfortable. They offered great wine tasting tips to boot, and even booked a tasting for us at one of their favorite wineries in the Valley, Frog's Leap

One of the more interesting things I learned from my interview with Karen and Dan was about the length of time they researched, contemplated and dreamed of finding just the right property to transform and create into their own to share with guests from all over the state and world. Or as Karen's intention stated, "let's build a place that we'd like to hang out in." They definitely got that right.

I particularly enjoyed spending time in their 100% gluten free kitchen discussing how Karen and her staff ensure that all guests with celiac disease or gluten intolerance are treated to delicious, SAFE, gluten free food choices. One of the other treats I discovered in the room was organic, gluten free bath products, (other than the body lotion) by EO, a Marin-based company specializing in natural and organic based body care products. 

The Inn also offers weekend-long, terrific gluten free cooking and baking classes taught by San Francisco allergen free baker, Jeffery Larsen. So after the first weekend of staying at the Inn, I was kindly invited back to attend the holiday baking class the following weekend. I attended one full day of baking, but I would strongly recommend signing up for an entire weekend of baking and wonderful comradery that forms between all of the guests sharing their stories and bonding over good food and creativity. 

The next class offering is the pasta making class, taking place in January 2014 - it's a MUST ATTEND for anyone who is gluten free and wants to learn the art of making pasta at home!!

Be sure to book WAY in advance so you don't miss a chance to stay at this historic, beautiful Inn in the heart of downtown Napa and just a short distance from the famous foodie-haven, the Oxbow Public Market. This great marketplace houses several gluten-free restaurants and a bakery including C-Casa and Cate & Co. And definitely do yourself a favor by not leaving the Inn until you've had their wonderful gluten free breakfast and bowl of their delicious, homemade granola!

Between the lovely accommodations, the wonderful setting and close proximity to some of the world’s best restaurants and wineries, this is a weekend getaway that can’t be missed.   I know I’ll be heading back as soon as I can get a reservation!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, Napa Style!!