Wine was not the only reason we moved up to Napa (although, one will admit, we really didn’t need any more reasons). The abundance of great food was another key factor contributing to our migration. During our many visits over the years we had come to enjoy some of the great restaurants, headed by some inventive chefs. And eventually I’ll be writing about some of those wonderful venues. But one of the other things that excited us was the fact that this valley is the home to some great ingredients, like fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and the like. We were anxious to try the farmer’s markets and be able to select from this great bounty of food so that we could create our own wonderful meals at home. When we heard about the Chef’s Market, held on Thursday evenings from May-August in the downtown area, we couldn’t wait to go.
I’ll get the disappointment out of the way first. What I expected to find was a high-end farmer’s market where the chef”s shopped for their produce and such. Boy was I mistaken. There was actually only about a half-a-block area featuring a very limited selection of gorgeous fruits and vegetables, from growers all over the central valley. Apparently, the farmer’s markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays at the Oxbow Public Market is where the real selection is presented–and you can bet your recyclable produce bag you’ll find me there this weekend.
But what the Chef’s Market lacked in “market” it more than made up for in “Street Festival.” Picture your local town’s annual summer weekend Art and Wine Festival, with less art and more wine. And just imagine if the annual festival took place every week. Yes, that’s the Chef’s Market. Covering about a six block area downtown, the streets were lined with food stalls from local restaurants, beer and wine purveyors, some art and retail booths from local retailers as well as local craftsmen, a live stage for cooking demonstrations from two local chefs each week, and three stages with live entertainment.
There were also several food trucks, and it all looked incredibly delicious.
The beverage booths served locally-produced wines and some well-known beers and ales. The wine was $7 a serving, which included the clever plastic Riedel-inspired glass which was mine to keep. Best of all, if I bring the glass back on my next visit the wine is a dollar cheaper.
The street was mobbed with people, the wine and beer were flowing, some great music was going on, and the locals all seemed to be having a great time on a beautiful evening (finally!). As we returned to our car (with our bags of produce), we cut through a side street and came upon packs of mingling teenagers, who clearly see the Market as being a weekly social gathering spot. To describe the assembled masses as “colorful” would be an understatement; I never knew hair could be dyed so many colors.
If you are ever in the Napa Valley on a Thursday evening during the summer, I highly recommend you check out the Chef’s Market. Bring your appetite, your dancing shoes, and your recyclable grocery bags. Mangia!