If you’ve ever been to Argentina (first off, lucky you), then you’re familiar with resisting the urge to stockpile one of their most famous desserts. Yes, alfajores. This Argentian delicacy pronounced “alpha jor” in its singular format is an embodiment of the perfect dessert. They are, according to the Huffington Post, “the best cookie you’ve never heard of,” and they are enormously popular around the world.

Is it a cake? A massive cookie? Does it matter? You’ll simply relish putting it in your mouth. An alfajor can combine chocolate, dulce de leche, meringue, icing, jam, and even mousse. In the deft hands of El Porteño, you can trust the fillings strike the right note of sweetness.

As any armchair linguist knows, Spanish words beginning with “al” have Arabic roots, and this favorite sweet Argentinian food is no exception. The name may be derived from an old Arabic word, al-fakhor, which means luxurious or excellent. Many sources believe it may have come from al-hasu, meaning “filled” or alfahua, meaning “honeycomb.”

No matter what the origin, the cookies came to be known as “alaju” by the time, the Moors made their way to Spain. The word got transliterated to “alfajor” there. By the time the Spanish began exploring South America, we had the treat “alfajores” that we know and love today. 

Alfajores, or the ancestors of them, started showing up in Spanish cuisine in the 1600s. This was at the height of the Spanish colonization, so it wasn’t long before the cookies made their way to the Americas. Historians believe a Spanish friar brought the dish with him to Peru in 1668.

As they spread throughout the Americas is really when alfajores began to change when bakers of different regions began experimenting with filling options that were made from regional abundances. Alfajores can still be found all over the world, from Spain, where they still resemble the flat pie-like pastries of the 17th century, to much of South America. But they found their home in Argentina, where El Porteño owner, Joseph, continues to visit to garner new ideas for his offerings.

As food writer, Julie R. Thomson describes in the Huffington Post, “Cornstarch isn’t an ingredient that many bakers get excited about, but it has a magical effect on the alfajor. With almost equal parts Cornstarch to butter, sugar, and flour, the easy-to-work dough creates a cookie that’s crumbly and tender. On its own, the cookie might not be much to write home about, but when filled with dulce de leche they are elevated to a whole new realm. “

The shortbread cookie – a desired accompaniment in so many situations- can have a hard time supporting dulce de leche. Whether it’s from crumbling underweight or just becoming too sweet as a pairing. But cornstarch-based shortbread cookies – known as Alfajores de Maizena — are light when the dulce is dense and flake beautifully with the stickiness of the dulce de leche. Truly the perfect dessert. 

The Argentinians eat alfajores at any time of the day, whether that be as a breakfast pastry, a snack with coffee, or an evening treat. With the opening of the El Porteño in early September do like the Argentinians do – order your alfajores for a treat any time of day. 

In the land of all things delicious, anticipating a new restaurant opening becomes par for the course. When the flavors of Argentina arrive in wine country, you quickly take inventory of your lunch and dinner go-to’s, knowing that you’ll soon be adding a new locale to the mix. When those flavors are coming from SF’s famous El Porteño, you’re now a ready and willing supplicant to all things empanadas.

Argentina and Napa have many shared qualities, the fertile land, the wine, the farming history, strong traditions in food, all of which are mouthwateringly represented in El Porteño’s empanadas. It was an easy decision for owner Joseph Ahearne to choose our slice of paradise to bring a second location of his successful business. But why Napa?

“It’s a beautiful town that’s aware of what it brings to the world and knows how it to deliver it. There are few places, if any, in the world that celebrates the union between agriculture, nature, and food better than the Napa Valley.”

 

According to Ahearne, in addition to Oxbow’s amazing vendors and fantastic reputation, he believes Napa residents and visitors will recognize and appreciate the unique connection and traditional taste of Argentina. It also helps that Joseph is intimately familiar with Napa Valley. Growing up in Napa as part of a family with a strong bond to the area’s food and restaurant scene, returning to his roots feels natural.

His mother, originally from Argentina, owned Maria’s Restaurant in St. Helena while they lived on a farm raising Black Angus cattle and Red Duroc Hogs to serve their customers. The love of sharing food and wine didn’t end with the Ahearne matriarch; all of Joseph’s brothers and sisters have worked in some capacity in Napa’s hospitality industry. This deep history creates an intimate understanding between the local desires and the visitor curiosity.

When asked what he is most excited about when opening El Porteño, Napa Ahearne was quick to answer, “Being surrounded by the amazingly talented vendors not just at Oxbow, but all over the Valley and looking to learn from them. We’re also hoping to establish key partnerships with other similar businesses to help each other get through this crisis that has nearly decimated our industry. We’re Napa Strong”

In addition to their famous empanadas and alfajores at the market, you can expect traditional salads and a Mate Bar, including a line of house-made terrere (a traditional Argentine cold tea made with Yerba Mate). They also plan to have delivery service and some picnic packages to enjoy Argentina amongst the beauty of Napa Valley.

El Porteño arrives at Oxbow Public Market, September 2020!

Gott’s Roadside

Gott’s Roadside never fails to knock our tastebuds off when it comes to their seasonal specials.

Their late summer line-up is begging to be ordered:

Heirloom Tomato “A” BLT
Thick slices of organic heirloom tomatoes topped with 6 pieces of crisp Zoe’s bacon, romaine lettuce, Haas avocado & house-made lemon mayo on toasted sourdough bread.

Strawberry Lemonade
House-made lemonade with strawberry puree.

Mexican Street Corn
Grilled sweet California grown corn with mayonnaise, Cotija cheese, Asado seasoning & lime.

Their Oxbow Market location is open 11a – 8p for outside dining, curbside pick-up and delivery at www.gotts.com!

Hog Island Oysters

New hours! Get your oyster fill 6 days a week at Hog Island Oyster Co.! Now open Thursday through Tuesday (closed Wednesdays) for outdoor dining and take-out. The bar is open Monday, Tuesday + Thursday 11 – 4 and Friday, Saturday, Sunday 11 – 5. Come for the oysters and local seafood specials and stay for the summer weather and patio dining!

Keep up to date with all of Hog Island’s happenings here!

Fieldwork Brewing

No outdoor adventure is complete without a 32oz Crowler of your favorite Fieldwork beer! Fieldwork Brewing Company is offering Curbside Pickup of all 32oz Crowlers as well as select 4-packs of 16oz cans from their Taproom in the Oxbow Market every day! From light to Belgian, to sour, hoppy, and dark, Fieldwork Brewing Co. offers a wide variety of constantly rotating brews for your adventures to-go…

Order freshly poured cans and crowlers for pick-up at www.fieldworkbrewing.com.

C Casa

NEW! Vegan Menu at C CASA

C CASA  is delighted to now be offering a dedicated Vegan Menu featuring Share Plates (including nachos!), Tacos and Salads (including the infamous Taco Salad!) all made from fresh ingredients in their Reimagined Mexican Food style. All of the salsas, vegan cremas and aioli are made in-house without preservatives–so simple yet so delicious. Non-GMO white corn tortillas are made-to-order for tacos, and the entire menu (both vegan and non-vegan) happens to be deliciously gluten-free!

 

Order online or enjoy at their outdoor cantina at www.myccasa.com.

The Model Bakery

The sweltering dog days of August deserve the ultimate icy treat – Stumptown cold brew here we come! Stop by The Model Bakery and sip some coffee-coolness on these warm summer mornings, or anytime you need a chilled, refreshing pick me up. Those who’ve had Stumptown coffee know just how good it is…discover it for yourself, you can thank us later!

Online ordering now available for quick pick-up at www.themodelbakery.com!

Bar Lucia

We’ve heard it described as summer in a glass, a grown-up slushie, and pure happiness. If you haven’t tried frozé yet, it’s time to head to Bar Lucia! Pair your favorite pink drink blended to perfection with an assortment of seasonal salads, sandwiches and small bites.

Take a peek at Bar Lucia’s NEW menu and join us for the ultimate summer sips on the patio or to-go!

Kara’s Cupcakes

A great day is just a cupcake away! Kara’s Cupcakes is serving up summer sweetness, including Strawberry Cream, Meyer Lemon, and Fleur de Sel alongside your year-round flavor favorites.

Order now for curbside, pick-up, or delivery!

Annette’s Chocolates

SUNDAE,SUNDAE, SUNDAE! Whether it’s #SundaeSunday or any old day, Anette’s Chocolates sundae experience can now be enjoyed at home! Their curate kit is simply the best of the best from their menu — Anette’s Hazelnut brittle pieces, mini choco chips, crunchy marshmallows, Salted Caramel, and Belgian Chocolate Sauce. BYOIC (bring your own ice cream) and you’re ready to dig in.

Order now or pick-up at their Oxbow location:

  • Tuesday – Thursday: 11 am – 3 pm
  • Friday – Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm

 

If you’ve had El Porteño’s food – you’d remember. Whether it’s the melt in your mouth savoriness of their superstar empanadas or the decently sweet alfajores, guests have been lining up around the SF Ferry Building for years to dig into Joseph Ahearne’s traditionally modern take on this famous Argentinian fare. Now you don’t have to choose between catching your ferry and digging into your favorites as El Porteño arrives to Napa next month!

For Joseph, it was a foregone conclusion he’d get into food. He was born into it, growing up in his mom’s St. Helena restaurant. There was no escaping it. Argentina is abundant in beautiful food traditions, of all things the choices, how did a young man from Napa Valley decide to put his life’s work into empanadas?

My mom being from Buenos Aires, I grew up with them, they were part of our lives. It wasn’t until after my wife, Teresa, and I returned from a trip to Buenos Aires that we realized they were not represented in the bay area at all (in 2008 anyway). That and a desperate longing for Buenos Aires made Teresa and I, with two toddlers in tow, decide that giving up our financial security during a recession while so many other restaurants were closing around us, was a good idea.”

Starting a business in a recession environment surprisingly turned out to be a good thing. It opened the doors to a lot of innovation in the food industry. It gave rise to the street food movement that allowed micro-businesses to vend almost anywhere. The Burlingame Farmer’s Market was where El Porteño first debuted, giving the Bay Area a taste of what Ahearne had in store. 

“Simple and sophisticated at the same time.” is the best way Joseph describes his offerings. The empanadas are a flaky handheld pastry pie filled with savory and sweet fillings. They only partner with high-quality local producers (grass-fed certified humane beef from Keller’s Crafted Meats, Mushrooms from Far West Fungi, and local farms for the vegetables), which they believe sets their empanadas apart. Alfajores, a decadent crumbly cookie filled with house-made fruit pastes and dulce de leche, create the perfect (after your savory ‘pie’) dessert. 

Joseph and Teresa search out different fillings while in Buenos Aires that are deliciously memorable and recreate them in their kitchen while building on old family recipes. It’s as if flavor knows where to find them. On their last trip to Buenos Aires, they met a butcher in the Mercado Progresso, (a really old market in BA), where he kindly shared some of his secrets for the perfect empanada filling. Those innovations are paired with a special dough recipe developed by Joseph’s sister, who trained as a pastry chef in Biarritz and at La Varenn in France. 

Are you ready to order yet?

In addition to their traditional empanadas, they plan on introducing some new flavors through the new year. As well as alfajores, a traditional shortbread sandwich cookie with various fillings such as dulce de leche, mebrillo (quince paste), a Yerba Mate bar, and salads.

When wondering what the perfect El Porteno order would be, there is no better answer than from the creator:

• For traditionality, you have to try the Carne, we use Keller Crafted meats that do a great job of matching Argentine beef. It’s a simple and very traditional filling. It has a balance of spice from the cayenne pepper coupled with the sweetness of the raisins and cinnamon that can’t be beaten. 

• The Jamon y Queso is more than the name suggests, using prosciutto and Fontina cheese really highlights the European influence in Argentine food. 

• The Fugazzeta is a must. We don’t do pizza but felt we owed it to the US to try to bring this mouth-watering Argentine pizza here. Thinly sliced white onions drowned in melted aged white cheddar with a dash of oregano does a worthy representation. 

• For your sweet tooth, there’s the banana y dulce de leche, banana with dulce de leche, what more needs to be said. 

We didn’t get far when asked to share secret ingredients or a family recipe. But Joseph indulged us with his favorite drink recipe with a few caveats.

“My favorite recipe is a simple one, 1 part Fernet to 2 parts Coke, but it has to be served while watching 8 or 9 different types of meat grilling outdoors at my uncle’s house and watching soccer.”

We’ll stick with his housemade empanadas and a glass of wine on the north Oxbow deck.