Chef Greg Johnson transfigures time-tested favorites into creative dishes at the award-winning Zinsvalley Restaurant. Diners can steal away for an exotic midday lunch of coconut yellow curry, which bathes baby bok choy, yams, shitake mushrooms, snow peas, and jasmine rice together in a bath of yellow coconut milk curry ($14), or field imaginary fly balls while noshing on the Wagyu beef hot dog with a piquant kick of jalapeño jam and pico de gallo ($11). At dinner, gourmands can sip local small-production vintages while elegantly slurping shrimp linguini ($16) or the chef's signature steak frittes, which pairs grilled Kobe Bavette with chili-rubbed fries and watercress ($24).
The oenophiles at Napa Valley Toffee Company satiate cravings for local flavors with tastings of Napa-produced wines and luscious homemade chocolates. Synchronized sippers can indulge in a hodgepodge of five red and white nectars, each harvested from Napa-grown grapes, bottled by local wineries, and approved by the California Raisins. Though wine flights vary by tasting, guests can expect to nourish their palates with gulps from small case lots and nibbles from local vendors, such as Napa Farmhouse 1885, and Verve Coffee of Santa Cruz. Before heading home to wash off purple handlebar mustaches, sippers can treat themselves to $20 worth of goodies from the shop, where bottles of 2009 sauvignon blanc ($20) and Rescue Red ($15) hobnob with eight-ounce boxes of house-made chocolates ($11) and Drink the Leaf loose-leaf tea.
Carpe Diem Wine Bar fastidiously finds the finest vintages of rare, unique wines from around the globe and serves them alongside a menu of small plates that encourage sharing and pairing. When assembling the extensive wine list, Carpe Diem's grape gurus give precedence to pours, such as the L'Objet pinot noir from the Russian River ($13 per glass), that possess interesting flavor profiles. Naturally fermented and aged in French oak, L'Objet exudes the coltish boisterousness of youth and pairs well with Kobe beef corn dogs ($9), which combine the innocence of a boardwalk treat with the futuristic menace of cows raised on classical music. Wines also enhance artisanal cheese and meat plates ($6–$26) or brick-oven grilled flatbreads ($11–$14) piled with toppings that include mushroom, tiger prawn, and pumpkin.
Now that eating on an ordinary table or atop a stack of Chinese acrobats seem horribly passé, adventurous foodies are seeking the next unconventional dining experience. Today's Groupon puts a little motion under your meal with two gourmet dinners on the Napa Valley Wine Train for $99 (a $198 value for dinner, $188 value for lunch). Treat yourself and a loved one to a three-hour ride through Napa Valley on an antique locomotive engine, accompanied by a delicious gourmet meal in lieu of the traditional mysterious murder.
Quiznos' toastmasters fix a fleet of submarine sandwiches using butcher-quality meats, fresh toppings, and an array of artisan breads, which they artfully assemble as you watch. Signature subs (up to a $6.49 value, though prices may vary by location) come straight from Chef Zach Calkins's gourmet cookbook. The protein-packed prime rib & peppercorn swims with sautéed onions and mozzarella, and each Baja chicken sandwich—like a bouquet of roses set on fire—fuses the sweet and the smoky. The turkey ranch & swiss arrives piled high with lettuce, tomatoes, and red onions, and a convivial quartet of cured meats bathes in red-wine vinaigrette upon the classic italian sub. Feel free to trap condiments between nine-grain wheat, rosemary parmesan, italian herb, or italian white breads, or avoid the bun concept entirely by either ordering one of five chopped salads, such as the classic cobb, or ordering your secretary to send bread's calls straight to voicemail.