People compare Napa Valley in California to Toscana Valley in Italy. I think the only similarity between the two is that both have hundreds of vineyards and wineries. Toscana Valley has a more beautiful nature with its mountains, hills, trees, greenery and fog that seeps through the cracks. But the most important difference is Toscana is pure history and Napa is nothing but vineyards that have been created to make good wine! Setting aside a historical monument such as Florence, villages that make up Toscana are like bibelots that rise from the fog. These villages are like living history with the Middle Age castle, the church with a high tower, narrow streets and the village square with a fountain surrounded with restaurants and cafes. Or you can call it a live postcard. There are no historical structures or settlements in Napa and Sonoma valleys. Ironically, there is the Castello di Amoroso (the name is also Italian) in Calistoga that resembles 13th century Toscana chateaus but it was built in 1994 for touristic and commercial purposes but it’s nothing more than a commercial facility that opened to the public in 2007. I don’t want to underestimate it just because it’s an imitation because the lack of history isn’t a fatal flaw. So if a commercial enterprise is set up just to make money and it reaches that goal, all is fine. If you compare the total of commercial activities, the fake Castello of Calistoga could be making more money than the real ones in Toscana. Besides this historical decor, there are a few old and elegant buildings in the area. One of them is Chateau Beringer, which you can see in the picture. Another one, famous for its gardens, is Chateau Ferrari-Carano. It rivals the gardens of Villa Ephrussi Rothschild in Cap Ferrat with its grandiose yards . (If you don’t take into account the amazing view that overlooks the bays of the Mediterranean, of course) !
A 3-4 storey stone buildings immediately grabs your attention in Napa. This is the Greystone Building. It hosts The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). CIA is a culinary arts school. It describes itself as ‘the best in the world’. It has various academic programs regarding food and beverage. It also offers various programs and workshops on everything from cooking techniques to wine pairing. It has a restaurant that features dishes made by students (The Restaurant at CİA Copia) and a famous bakery : The Bakery Café. The restaurant was closed on the Sunday afternoon we were there so we had a snack at the cafe. When all students are present between Tuesday and Saturday, the place offers a full menu. This menu features fresh bread, soup of the day, pizzas, salads, sandwiches and cakes made by the students. All that was left for us were a few cakes, cookies and Illy coffee. To tell you the truth, there was nothing impressive about the cakes besides the decorations on them. And the coffee was Illy, a brand we know all too well!..
Of course my impression of the Bakery is not enough to judge an institution that calls itself ‘the best culinary arts school in the world’. I also need to sample to food at its main restaurant.