Home News A new cookbook from Napa Valley’s oldest market offers abundant picnic inspiration

A new cookbook from Napa Valley’s oldest market offers abundant picnic inspiration

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Since it opened in 1881, Oakville Grocery has been not just one of California’s oldest grocery stores but a beloved institution — the place to stock up for wine country picnics and other adventures.

“It’s really become the heart of the heart of Napa Valley,” says general manager Barry Dinsmore.

Much of the town of Oakville burned down in 1893, but the store was rebuilt and transformed from a mercantile into a grocery store that became more gourmet as its customer base did. At one point in the 1980s, the market offered more than 40 kinds of mustard, Dinsmore says.

Today, the market is owned by vintner Jean-Charles Boisset and still known as not just a pit stop but a Napa Valley destination for gourmet provisions, offering a wide selection of picnic-friendly fare, from grab-and-go items to sandwiches, salads and pizzas that can be ordered ahead.

In December, the market released a cookbook — “Oakville Grocery, The Cookbook” (Weldon Owen, $35) — that offers foodies the chance to make their own versions of the shop’s seasonal dishes, from a summery Watermelon, Heirloom Tomato and Feta Salad to Pesto Pasta with preserved Meyer lemon, Smoked Salmon Sandwiches with fresh goat cheese, triple chocolate brownies and more.

A salad featuring watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, feta and mint is one of the many recipes shared in the
A salad featuring watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, feta and mint is one of the many recipes shared in the “Oakville Grocery, The Cookbook.” Many of the featured dishes are also seasonally available at the Napa Valley grocery store. (Courtesy Erin Scott) 

Over the last 20 years or so, Dinsmore says, the market’s customer base, both locals and visitors, has become increasingly knowledgeable about food and culinary culture, and the market staff have responded accordingly. For instance, the market now offers different cheese plates for pairing with red wine versus white, something that no one much cared about a decade ago, let alone 20, he says.

The recipe for pesto pasta salad in the
The recipe for pesto pasta salad in the “Oakville Grocery, The Cookbook” features preserved Meyer lemon, mozzarella, pesto, pasta and Parmesan cheese. (Courtesy Erin Scott) 

In the last few years, he’s also seen customer demand shift toward gluten-free and plant-based options, and plant-based milk for espresso drinks has become much more popular. The latest trend? Mushroom-based products.

“If you’re not staying up with what’s happening out there, then you’re not as relevant, so we make sure we’ve got a great selection,” he says.

The recipe for this smoked salmon sandwich with fresh goat cheese can be found in the pages of the
The recipe for this smoked salmon sandwich with fresh goat cheese can be found in the pages of the “Oakville Grocery, The Cookbook.” (Courtesy Erin Scott) 

If you’re picnicking in wine country, sandwiches, salads and cheese are always good options. But make sure you choose items that last well, he says, even if they’re in the sun. Oakville shoppers are partial to hard cheeses like Gouda, Barely Buzzed, a cheddar rubbed with lavender and espresso, or Prairie Breeze, an aged cheese that tastes like a blend of Parmesan and white cheddar.

Details: “Oakville Grocery, The Cookbook,” (Weldon Owen, $35) is available at several Napa Valley stores including, of course, Oakville Grocery. The market is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at 7856 St. Helena Highway in Oakville; https://oakvillegrocery.com/,



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