Appetizers
January 8, 2008
Napa's Newest Culinary Gem

mikeIMGP2428_edited.jpgEn route to Cloverdale this afternoon for the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, I stopped in Napa Valley for a taste of...tea.

With casual ceremony, David Campbell, shown here, steeped a sample of the Chinese tea "da hong pao" (scarlet robe) in his newly opened shop, TillermanTea, one of the first tenants of Oxbow Public Market, a massive collection of specialty food shops next to Copia: The American Center for Food, Wine & The Arts on the edge of downtown Napa.

Steve Carlin, who for 20 years ran the successful Oakville Grocery group of markets before he put together the popular Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, is the driving force behind the $11-million Oxbow Public Market. He also was on the premises today, showing off the tenants who have been moving in since the building opened in mid-December.

In addition to TillermanTea, the first Oxbow businesses include Anette's Chocolates (where else you going to find "chardonnay brittle"?); Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, a Venezuelan fast-food concept that includes corn in virtually every dish; Whole Spice, with about 250 herbs and spices imported and often ground by owners Shuli and Ronit Madmone; Five Dot Ranch of Susanville, purveyors of naturally produced beef; photographer Steven Rothfeld's Kitchen Library, devoted in large part to food books (he did the photos for Biba Caggiano's "Biba's Italy," as well as for books by Frances Mayes and Patricia Wells); Heritage, specializing in culinary antiques; Fete (entertaining accessories); The Olive Press (olive oils); Three Twins Ice Cream from San Rafael, where the offbeat flavors include "dad's cardamom" and "lemon cookie;" and Michael Mondavi's Folio Enoteca & Winery, a combination wine shop, cafe and working winery, which at 80 square feet is believed to be the nation's smallest bonded winemaking facility.

And there's more to come, including a massive branch of San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, an offshoot of the Santa Barbara seafood supplier Kanaloa; an expansive version of the modern diner Taylor's Automatic Refresher; the butcher shop Fatted Calf; and a south-valley wing of St. Helena's enduring Model Bakery. Starting this spring, regional farmers will occupy 10 outside bays to sell whatever they've grown.

Wait, there's more: Carlin is talking with the developers of Sacramento's railyard project to put an even larger version of the public market there. Nothing's been committed to paper, but he's one assured guy who has pulled off a long string of successful projects in unlikely settings. "I'm very confident we'll work it out," he says of his prospects for a similar public market in Sacramento.

In the meantime, he has his hands full with finishing Oxbow Public Market, open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily until Feb. 1, when the hours will be 9 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. It's at 610 First St., Napa.

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