CALIFORNIA DINNER #2 – COLE’S CHOP HOUSE (NAPA)

When planning for the trip I had left a couple of nights free for some spontaneous dinner plans. As the date for departure drew closer I figured that Gerry B. who had not yet made any specific choices would be craving a good steak on a s Sunday evening so I sort of steered him toward the best place for steaks in wine country. Cole’s Chop House is located in downtown Napa and is one of two restaurants (Celadon) owned by Chef Greg Cole. We drove over from Sonoma after a long day of driving. We had driven from San Francisco in the morning for breakfast in Tiburon and then after checking into our Sonoma hotel, continued up to Santa Rosa for the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Suffice to say, we were all hungry. Our dinner was delayed slightly when our GPS, which had been accurately guiding us into Napa announced “you are now arriving at destination on right”. We had forgotten to tell the geographical wizard machine that we wanted to EAT…..not SHOP! Fortunately, the Cole’s we were looking for was only a block away from this culinary imposter.

Cole’s Chop House was bustling on this Sunday evening as the hostess led us to a nice round table. We decided to start off with a round of  martinis as we studied the menu and although I can’t tell you what martini everyone had I can say they were all good and we enjoyed them immensely. I think we were all focused on the steaks as there would be little sense in choosing anything else in a place widely known for its top shelf meats.

We needed something big and bold for our wines and we chose the 2006 Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Filus Reserve Malbec, Mendoza Argentina. Ironically, we would be visiting Chateau Montelena the very next day. Both wines were big enough to do justice to our steaks.

We did have a little variety in our appetizers as a couple of us chose the classic Wedge of iceburg lettuce, cherry tomatoes and Maytag blue cheese dressing. This is a salad that is difficult to screw up and Cole’s didn’t screw it up. Carol B. had the Lobster and Shrimp Bisque in a Puff Pastry and she thought it was good while Joe B. selected the Heirloom Tomato Salad.

Our steak choices were either the 10 oz. filet on the left or the Bone-in Rib Eye on the right. We ordered some sides for the table including Creamed Spinach, Baked Potato and Mushroom Caps. Here is how my plate looked just prior to my devouring every morsel. The steaks were done to perfection and the side dishes just completed the meal. I think all of us really enjoyed the experience at Cole’s Chop House. One of the reasons the meal was so enjoyable was the service.

Our guy, Mike, was the consummate professional. He attended to our every need without being intrusive. As we were finishing our dessert we began asking him some questions about himself and he really opened up and was charming and entertaining. We even mentioned that learning some things about him added to our dining experience and he offered that “many diners don’t want to know anything or hear anything from me and it’s important I not offer anything but good service unless the customer indicates that preference”. Two weeks later, Joe B. is still bringing up Mike’s professionalism and comparing each new server we have with the standard set by Mike at Cole’s.

We concluded our feast with a couple of desserts. On the left, the Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee and on the right, the winner and still champion, the Warm Chocolate Brownie with Caramel Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce. Too bad the Friendly’s chain already coined the name “Happy Endings” for their desserts because these two were just that. Prices at Cole’s are pretty reasonable considering the quality and quantity of food and it was a great choice of eating place for our first night in Wine Country.

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