Friday Favorites #44
September 6th, 2019

St Helena Edition

If life can remove someone you never dreamed of losing, it can replace them with someone you never dreamt of having. 
I’ve long had a love of small towns and all that comes with them: marching bands, ice cream shops, the kindness of neighbors…maybe because my mom grew up in Herington, Kansas, population 2,526. I listened to her talk about Herington, from the warmth of the community to the shared values that stayed with her throughout her life. This is how you know it was a small town: when sending my godmother a letter from Illinois, I simply wrote her name and “Herington, Kansas,” and the letter would find her. The town was so small that, as I remember the story, when she went to band tryouts and returned the next day to see who had been selected, she had been chosen as a majorette, simply by showing up to watch the tryouts! My mom loved the idea that in that small town, everyone had a chance to participate, not just the chosen few. 

I grew up in Deerfield, Illinois, although my dad worked 45 minutes away. It would have been easy enough to live closer to his office, but my mom loved the feeling of Deerfield, and although it wasn’t a tiny town like Herington, she liked its small-town feel. We were dear friends with our neighbors, enjoyed our block party every year, and a mother-daughter luncheon was even born on my street when I was 8, which is still happening annually. My mom both created and thrived in that small-town atmosphere. I’m so grateful she did. I loved the magic of knowing we were surrounded by friends. There was a sense of security in that small town feeling my mom created for us.

When I first visited St. Helena about 15 years ago, I fell in love with it. There’s something about this beautiful, peaceful little town, with its bakery, its pharmacy, its chocolatier, its movie theater--which is the oldest privately run cinema in the country--other than Chicago, it’s the only place that feels so much like home that I never want to leave. It’s everything I love about a small town, including a surprisingly fantastic grocery store called Sunshine Foods Market, that may not look fancy but has every ingredient I need. This issue of Friday Favorites shines a light on a few of my favorite places in St. Helena.  

Acres Home and Garden Shop

Acres Home and Garden is a uniquely wonderful mercantile shop owned by my friends, Cort and Jim. They have all the things you never knew you needed, but you cannot live without! The original Acres was in Minneapolis in the 1990s. It’s a garden-centric shop with specialty books (yes, they carry my cookbook!), unique bar items, and special home gardening supplies like tools from Holland and cast iron hardware. Their specialty brands are one of a kind, and I love spending time in this well curated shop. Like me, they celebrate the seasons. They’re too busy helping customers to sell their treasures on a website, so definitely get yourself to St. Helena and introduce yourself to the staff, Annie, Hallie, and Pam—be sure to tell them nocrumbsleft sent you!

Napa Valley Olive Oil Company

What a hidden treasure. Specialty products, sublime vinegars, olive oil, Italian imports, jars of their own house brand of magic elixirs like sun-dried tomato Parmesan, artichoke bruschetta, tagliatelle pasta, baskets of dried mushrooms…you can see why I love it! They carry some of the most amazing fresh cheeses and mortadella I’ve ever seen. The atmosphere feels like an old world garage with concrete floors, and it is run by the loveliest Italian family, where several generations work together. The walls are filled with thousands of business cards, because everyone who walks in puts one up. That tradition stays in keeping with the small town feeling.

Cook Restaurant

Imagine the best cook you know making dinner every night at a neighborhood restaurant. This is what Cook is like, and that is why it is my favorite restaurant in St. Helena. There is nothing owner Jude doesn’t do exceptionally well, including chopped salad, mussels, risotto, handmade pastas, and short ribs. If I didn’t love cooking and eating in my own kitchen, I would happily eat at Cook every night. It feels like homemade, and the staff treats you like family. 

Gott's Roadside

Gott’s Roadside is like an old fashioned drive-in diner, but with casual outdoor seating and dishes that are amazing updates of burgers, fish tacos, fries, salads, and sides like addictive brussels sprouts (no, really!). I love a place where everyone can agree on the food—it is always hot, fresh, and totally delicious. Don’t be afraid of the line; it is magically quick-moving, and I make new friends every time I stand in it!


A truly fantastic store with some of the most unique and amazing greeting cards ever. Beautiful pens, jewelry, unique little gifts, novelty books, and my favorite part: there’s a naughty card section in the back, and they will bring out the box by request.

Model Bakery 

This small-town bakery takes it to the next level. Not only do they offer world class bakery items, homemade breads, three choices for lunch, and sandwiches, but they also sell to many area restaurants. When I say they quite literally have the best English muffin of all time I’m not kidding—it’s possibly even one of the best delicious THINGS I’ve ever eaten. They are the best gifts ever, and I often send them to friends. Model Bakery also bakes some wonderful gluten-free choices, like the apricot muffin and the gluten-free chocolate chip cookie. One of the most worth-standing-in lines ever…but I always get there the minute they open, because I am an early morning kind of gal.
Andrea Potthoff for Hair

Every town needs a fabulous hairdresser, and in St. Helena that would be Andrea Potthoff. The way I discovered her was that every time I asked someone with a cute haircut who cuts, colors, or blow dries their hair, they always said Andrea. You know how I love a good blow dry. She nails it, every time. Plus, she’s my kind of foodie with so many great ideas of what to eat next.
If you are in town, you can call her: 

Amanda McCrossin

Amanda McCrossin is my favorite sommelier. She is the Wine Director at Press Restaurant in Napa Valley and is a millennial YouTuber. Her superpower is demystifying wine and making it enjoyable to learn about. She is wonderful to follow and a whole lot of fun to adventure with. I’m so delighted that she is in my favorite town. Cheers!

Cameo Movie Theater

The Cameo is the oldest independently owned cinema in the country. Owner Cathy Buck does an outstanding job programming and setting up events, finding all kinds of gems and their directors, who speak to the audience when the lights go up.

W.F. Giugni & Son Sandwich shop

W F Giugni & Son is an old school sandwich shop with a line around the corner because of its incredible heroes, subs, and the specialty of the house: Giugni Juice, which is a little bit like my Marinated Onion Oil. They do a gluten-free Italian sandwich that I absolutely adore—I get it with extra Giugni Juice. There are a few tables but most of us take food to go. The front of the shop is loaded with old school penny candy of every kind—what a treat!

This week's giveaway!

I purchased a wonderful tote at Acres that people ask me about all the time. I had it embroidered with “nocrumbsleft,” and the kind people at the store generously gave me an additional one to give away!  Click below to enter.

This week's nocrumbsleft Table Talks Podcast:

 Episode 32:  The French Connection
In this episode, I sit down with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Laurie Bell, for what might well be our thousandth heart-to-heart. Laurie remembers the “Teri dance,” as well as my hair and earrings…apparently, I jangled a lot when I walked into our college French class in the 1980s. We talk about behind the scenes moments of the book tour, our parents, our kids, how to maintain a lifelong friendship, our first trip to Paris, and the joy and fear of being between careers.

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