When the owner of Hudson Ranch recommended that the three of us, Matt, Autumn and myself, spend our one lunch in Napa Valley at a diner, we were flummoxed. This was the land of upscale wineries and 5-Star restaurants and we wanted to live up our 24 hours there…. a diner, really? Yes, Lee Hudson affirmed in his commanding voice and well-worn cowboy boots. We had just watched him slaughter one of his piglets for us with a single knife jab and then completely gut it so we were not about to argue with the guy.
Off we went to somewhere in between Napa and Sonoma just off a lonely highway where we found ourselves at Fremont Diner, and at first sight we fully anticipated James Dean to exit and barrel into the old pick-up parked out front leaving us to kick up dust and watch him go. This did not happen, but we were beginning to feel a little dreamy at this point and it felt like it could have. Once inside, vintage decor and smells of homey food all made from scratch surrounded us as a couple locals called out for the waitress by name, sweetly asking for a coffee refill. The graphic menu even listed “Local Purveyors and Friends” where the kitchen sourced their dairy and produce and meats from.We proceeded to order everything.
Oh there were light and flakey buttermilk biscuits with sausage and gravy, and there were crispy oysters and pickles and cornbread with honey butter, yes and a fried green tomato sandwich with bacon on sourdough and a too die for tortilla soup and brisket sandwich…. oh my! Oh! My! The deep-fried apple hand pie with house churned ice cream ransacked each of our polite demeanors as we all scampered for the last bite. This was the kind of place that made their own bread seven days a week, nothing fancy, nothing precious, just comforting and tremendously good. It made us feel like we were visiting our southern Grandmother who knew how to cook and loved every minute of it.
|Photos: Autumn de Wilde|
With all due respect, don’t cry (like we initially did), if you can’t get a reservation at The French Laundry on the fly when taking a trip to Wine Country. Freemont Diner, with it’s perfectly humble cooking, merits being on your destination dining radar. Our only regret is that we didn’t get to go back for their brunch which we heard was even more memorable than the lunch we experienced. We’re just going to have to make a trip back.