Almost every city, big or small, boasts a market and Napa is no different. Shortly after arriving in town, I headed down to the Oxbow Public Market to check it out and grab some lunch at the bib gourmand rated C Casa. Oxbow is a mid-sized indoor market with a combination of shops and restaurants. You can get anything from charcuterie to ice cream.
My biggest target at Oxbow was C Casa, a bib gourmand rated joint featuring unique tacos and other fusion Mexican fare. I was giddy in line in preparation for my $9 fresh crab taco. Sadly, the crustacean was not in stock and I had to resort to other options so I settled with the pork carnita tostada with white beans, corn relish, poblanos, micro greens, romaine, lime crema and cotija cheese ($5.75) and the rotisserie duck taco with spinach, red onion, goat cheese, oranges, cumin vinaigrette, avacado crema and cilantro ($8.00). These were expensive tacos so I was happy to see them arrive with a heaping pile of fillings. The pork tostada was a mess as there was no graceful way to eat it. The beans were such a smart addition and the crema was equally intelligent. The thought of duck and citrus was a little frightful but it worked reasonably well. It was less like a taco and more like a spinach salad on a tortilla. There is a good variety of local pints as well. Beer and tacos are a beautiful couple.
After barely finishing the Mexican monstrosities, I strolled around the rest of the market in complete awe. It was like an angel met me in my sleep and asked me “If you could build a market, what would be in it?”. My answer would be an oyster house, a spice shop, a kitchen gadget place, a butcher, charcuterie, ice cream and a fancy place where I could get bitters and shrubs to tinker with my own cocktails at home. Voila! That’s Oxbow Market. In particular, let me focus on the last place. I have gotten a little more experimental with my homemade potent potables and my struggle has been the inability to find bitters outside of the standard angostura. Many of the Toronto bars brag about walnut, green tea, cherry bourbon and other fancy additions to their old fashioneds and it pisses me off. The Napa Valley distillery has the largest variety of bitters I have ever seen. I was a kid in a candy store as I wandered around aimlessly thinking of the adultery I could commit but combining a number of these flavours with a bottle of Bulleit bourbon. Ironically, it was the first time I realized a significant number of the bitters were produced by Dillon’s, the Niagara distillery a mere 160 km away from my house.
Oh ya…they have a bunch of organic crap at Oxbow too.
If you go to Napa you most definitely should drink wine but you have to come here!!!!!! I have to admit knew nothing of the Oxbow market prior to my Napa visit. Once there, however, I entered this nirvana which contained all my vices under one roof. Although I didn’t indulge in every one, I got to sip pints, eat tacos, taste bitters, smell spices, stare at striploins and sleep well afterwards. C Casa was probably deserving of bib gourmand status but did not serve the best taco I ever had (and they didn’t have crab). They were busy and overfilled but had good flavour. For any foodie, I highly recommend a dreamy wander through Oxbow Public Market. Although C Casa made me a little crabby, I’ll save my bitterness for Dillon’s on Tufford road in good old Beamsville, Ontario.