California dreamin’

Napa Sonoma’s Arnoldo Fletes knows his craft; he’s been making sandwiches for 12 years.

Napa Sonoma’s Arnoldo Fletes knows his craft; he’s been making sandwiches for 12 years.

Photo By David Robert

Beware of taking young children with greedy little eyes to Napa Sonoma Grocery Company. If my own mother were to have taken me to such a place between the ages of 4 and 10, I would have run up to her with at least a dozen items, begging, “Mommy, can we get this, please?” Tins full of teas, bags of brightly colored European candies and glass jars of big green olives are a few of the items that would have found their way into my guileless hands despite Mother’s rule of “Look. Don’t touch.”

The specialty goodies and wines are intended primarily for build-your-own gift baskets. The array of ornamentally packaged food creates an atmosphere that’s ideal for dining. As my sister, Amber, and I waited for lunch on a calm Tuesday afternoon, the sweet and salty fodder around us spurred our mouths to water.

Sitting at a cherrywood table with at least a hundred baskets overhead, Amber and I discussed the food we had ordered a few minutes earlier at the front counter.

“Mmm,” I said. “I can’t think of anything that sounds more tempting right now than onion soup.” I’m the kind of person who likes warm, soothing foods on hot, scorching days.

“I’m starving,” Amber said, shortly after getting off the 3-11:30 a.m. shift at work. “I was so in the mood for a hearty, hot sandwich. That chicken teriyaki sounded perfect.”

Napa Sonoma has a large offering of hot sandwiches. The cafe also offers cold sandwiches and fancy salads. The hot, catered lunches, which can only be ordered for take-out or delivery, include enchiladas, fajitas, fancy pasta dishes, beef burgundy, stuffed pork loin—the list goes on.

My soup was actually the accompaniment to a slice of spinach and feta quiche ($6.95 for both). It was very salty, which I loved, typical of onion soup. The saltiness of the satisfyingly smooth and creamy broth made the quiche seem a little plain, although the bites that were dense with feta cheese were intense and rich. The heady, fiery quality of the soup was a nice complement to the mild, earthy spinach flavor of the quiche.

Amber’s grilled chicken teriyaki sandwich ($8.50 with soup or salad, $7.50 without) impressed us both. I stole more bites than Amber approved of. The chicken breast was dense and moist, covered in Swiss cheese and a respectable amount of teriyaki sauce. The oil and sweet vinegar dressing on the salad enhanced the teriyaki flavor.

“A lot of the time, I don’t like to switch back and forth between my meal and the salad,” Amber said. “But these two go together really well.”

“Just like us,” I said, sarcastically sweet.

“Yeah, except that I hate you,” Amber said.

For dessert we shared a caramel-covered marshmallow ($1; if I were 6 years old, I wouldn’t have left the store until I had one), carrot cake ($1.75) with an ample layer of honeyed cream cheese frosting, and iced chai and blackberry sage tea. It was all sweet, original and very suited to two sisters who, as little girls, loved the quaintness of teatime.

“We should bring Mom here one day,” Amber said.

“Yeah. We could make her buy us lunch and then some French pastilles to take home.”