The city of Napa, Calif., has long been known for its food scene, but has taken it up a notch with the late 2016 opening of The CIA at Copia, a branch of the Culinary Institute of America. Offering classes, tastings and a full-service restaurant, the CIA at Copia leads a growing list of places to cook, dine and drink downtown—all within a short distance of Hotel Indigo.
The CIA at Copia
As the public-facing operation of the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, the CIA at Copia occupies an expansive, 80,000-square-foot with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Napa River.
You can make a quick stop here for some retail therapy at its shop, which stocks adorable handmade linens, pottery created by local artisans and myriad culinary tools and books. Or you can make a day of it, by signing up for a culinary and wine-tasting classes and pairing them with lunch or dinner at the restaurant.
Taught by CIA instructors, classes in the facility’s 72-seat demonstration theater range from how to make cheese in your home kitchen and the best batters for brunch to a primer on canning fruits and veggies and an hour-long exploration into the history of chocolate—with instruction on what to buy and how to use the ingredient in sweet and savory dishes. Starting in summer 2017, the center will offer hands-on cooking and baking classes for smaller groups.
As you might expect, wine-tasting classes at CIA are plentiful, including sessions on the basics of pairing food and wine; everything you might need to know about Chardonnay; and the history of the Napa Valley region.
If you just want to experience the output of the school’s future star chefs, the Restaurant at CIA Copia is at your service with a unique experience: Chefs bring their locally sourced creations right to your table and then you have the option of choosing the dish that best suits your palette. The menu changes with the seasons, but some crowd favorites include the roasted Chelsea gem oysters; rainbow trout with pistachio, Brussels sprouts and sage brown butter; and the whole roasted chicken.
Napa’s Hot Food, Drink Scene
Nearby, you can find almost all things local and artisanal at the Oxbow Public Market, a must-stop with several dozen merchants, outdoor seating and seasonal farmer’s markets. Don’t leave the market without trying the house-made tortilla chips with goat cheese from C CASA, a steak sandwich from Five Dot Ranch and a tasting of olive oil from The Olive Press. A recent addition is the Fieldwork Brewing Company‘s taproom, which offers beer flights and take-home growlers.
Another buzz-worthy new spot in Napa is Kenzo, an authentic Japanese restaurant that features fish flown in from Tokyo’s landmark Tsukiji Fish Market and wines from the Kenzo Estate in Napa. (The smoked Bluefin tuna and Wagyu beef Kuwayaki are just a few crowd favorites).
Meanwhile, Stags’ Leap Winery, a Napa’s vineyardsthat helped put the region on the map half a century ago, in late 2016 has unveiled a renovation of its historic manor house. The building now serves as a tasting space (make sure to order a flight of red wines—the spot is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon). You can also opt for a tour of the property, followed by a seated tasting.
Still to come later in 2017 is Charlie Palmer Steak,the latest outpost of the high-end steakhouse concept owned by the James Beard Award-winning chef.
For all these reasons, be sure to allow time to explore Napa’s downtown—and to bring your appetite.