12/19/2012 07:39 am ET Updated Feb 18, 2013

Charles Phan Loves Napa

Charles Phan is the Chef and Owner of The Slanted Door, an acclaimed restaurant in San Francisco specializing in Asian cuisine. He is also the author of the recently released book Vietnamese Home Cooking, which brings California-style ease to the complexities of Southeast Asian cooking.


Dear Napa,

It has been 15 years since I started visiting you once a week. It started when my family bought an unfinished house on a quiet, winding road just 15 minutes from your downtown. I cherished these visits even though the never seemed quite long enough. Given my druthers, I would have simply stayed.

Back then, the whole family would come to work on the house every weekend. We worked hard because we wanted access to this landscape and we knew our DIY home would be be our ticket. We worked through 102 degree summers and 32 degree winters. I came to enjoy all four seasons you thrust upon the locals, which is why I built an outdoor kitchen. I enjoy being outside regardless of whether that requires putting clothes on or taking them off.

Tranquil vineyards along highway 29 make driving to and from San Francisco relaxing. The vines slip by, lulling the driver to a sometimes dangerous extent.

When we need some city moments, we can easily drive into town for great restaurants, bookstores, hardware stores, groceries and clothing outlets. Oxbow market is a new addition to Napa for great foods, drinks, artisan products and farmers market.

We don't go for wine tastings, but our out-of-town guests certainly do. When you live in Napa, your guests are always a bit tipsy.

Napa, I am thrilled to have found you as a part of my "get away" routines. Every time I get away to visit, I become more convinced that I'm actually just returning to you.

With love,
Charles Phan