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Readers' wine country picks: Bloody Joe Sunday, awesome ribs, The Pear

Downtown Joe's Bloody Joe Sunday.
Downtown Joe's Bloody Joe Sunday.
Courtesy of Greg Olberg

Who knows better where to eat and drink in wine country than the people who actually do it? Here are some dining tips we’ve received in the past month from readers:

Greg Olberg and Teri Passanisi celebrated his birthday at Downtown Joe's in Napa with an espresso martini (hers) and a Bloody Joe Sunday (his); the latter is offered only on Sundays and comes with bacon, celery, onion, olive and a shot of stout on the side. For $10, that’s a meal in itself.

Jeff Brinkhaus steered us right about the pleasures of Sonoma’s Chateau St. Jean, so attention must be paid to his recommendation of another winery worth visiting, Buena Vista. While we’re in Sonoma, I had a knockout seafood paella ($30) with sterling appetizers such as ahi tuna tartare ($15) at the El Dorado Kitchen.

For casual elegance, says Greg Schmitz, try the Hudson House—available for private reserved dining—at Beringer in St. Helena. Greg also swears by the Southern-style BBQ ribs at Buster’s in Calistoga. Eileen Fahy goes for the lamb sandwich at Checkers, also in Calistoga, and the prime rib sandwich at Rutherford Grill. Eileen’s friend Don Zampa says you cannot go wrong with the pork chop ($26) at Mustards.

For burgers and shakes Cheryl Carmo likes the original Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena. Napa has a Gott’s too; it’s part of the Oxbow Public Market, the site of nifty food and drink places including Ca’ Momi. Elizabeth Jack raves about its bigne (“little cream puff things,” as she describes it) and the coppa mascarpone (“a chocolate and mascarpone layered thing in a little jar”). “I would drive all the way there just for those,” she says. “To die for!”

Elizabeth and Linda Conneen Veon have never met but they share at least one thing in common: They both love the New Orleans-style cuisine at The Pear on Napa’s Riverfront. Stephanie Rutledge likes the ports and wine at Prager Winery & Port Works in St. Helena. The Model Bakery, also in St. Helena, is famous for its English muffins and we’ve heard from two people recently that they are indeed worthy of their renown.

Like us, Cynthia Calmenson is a fan of Napa Valley Olive Oil and is intrigued by the “table to farm” dinners and tours being conducted by Metes & Bounds. Jennifer Kaiser, her sister (and my traveling companion in wine country and life), is looking forward to sampling the wood-fired fare at the Crossroad Chicken food truck.

So many tasty bites, so little time! Keep those recommendations coming, folks. Meanwhile, make mine a Bloody Joe Sunday.

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