It is a truth universally acknowledged that a wine-loving young woman in Napa on Saturday morning must be in want of a breakfast sandwich.
On this particular Saturday, she was in want of more than one. Kenji and I had gotten up far too early that morning to drive from San Francisco up to Napa (phase one of our Ford Escape road trip), and were in St. Helena by the time we got to our first eating destination. I was a few grateful sips into a 20-ounce coffee when the ever-helpful Aaron Ginsberg tweeted at us: "Have you had the homemade English muffins at Model Bakery?"
Homemade English muffins, you say? We were less than a 5 minute drive away, and a quick bit of Googling led me to a breakfast sandwich photo more beautiful than anything I'd ever seen in my life.
Somehow I'd never been to Model Bakery, despite growing up in Northern California and spending a decent amount of time in Napa. The place has been around since the 1920s, on Main Street in St. Helena, and while their breads are excellent (we were quite pleased with the sourdough boule you'll meet here), it's the English muffins they're famous for.
Have you ever seen one this tall, this puffy? They're actually made of an olive oil-laced focaccia dough that's punched out into thick rounds, laid on a cornmeal-lined tray, and then griddled in a crazy amount of clarified butter, turning each side a gorgeous golden brown. Each one is airy and spongy and crisp-edged in all the right ways.
On any other day, I probably would've just ordered two of these and enjoyed every crumb. But yes—this is a Hangover Helper, and while a killer English muffin was an excellent start, the fatty, salty mass in the middle matters even more. Here, we had a perfectly soft-set egg patty with ham, cheddar, and avocado, and it was every bit as satisfying as it looked. (On the side, freshly squeezed Meyer lemonade, because they can do that here.) Kenji was of the opinion that the avocado wasn't necessary, which is fair enough, but as a good Californian I'm of the opinion that avocado improves everything.
Here's the thing about breakfast sandwiches. Their pleasure-granting quotient is a factor of two things: how good they are, and how necessary they are. (Does one ever need any food like a breakfast sandwich?) This Model Bakery experience ranked supremely high on both axes. I've rarely liked one more, or needed one more. And it's comforting, in a region where you just might be drinking, to know where you'll drag yourself the next morning.
1357 Main Street, St. Helena CA 94574 (map)