Cook, St. Helena, CA

4forks

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1310 Main St
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-7088
www.cooksthelena.com

Neighborhood: Downtown St. Helena, CA
Cuisine: American (New), Italian, Breakfast & Brunch
Cost: $$ = $11-30
Four Forks = Defines excellence in local dining.  Worth the investment

Hours:
Monday through Saturday for lunch or dinner 11:30am-10pm
Sundays for brunch or dinner 10am-9pm.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Handicap accessible: Yes
Parking: Street
Vegetarian options: Yes
Kid friendly: No
Liquor served: Full bar
Wine List: Decent options, at average prices
Outdoor seating: No
Reservations: Yes, recommended

Unique:  They specialize in simple but elegant Northern Italian cuisine made from local and seasonal ingredients.  Chef/Owner Jude Wilmoth opened Cook in 2004 to show the locals and tourists alike, that food doesn’t need to be complicated to taste great!

Overall the environment is quaint and cozy, while the service was friendly and outgoing!  The menu is mostly Italian and includes some really excellent dish options.  You can see the care in the seasonal ingredients that are presented thoughtfully and tastefully and all of the locals love this place!  We’re told this is where the “chef’s” in town dine!  We’ve eaten here a couple of times and really wanted our friend Jen, who appreciates fine cuisine and was traveling with us to experience it as well.  We were really thrilled with our choice!  The menu changes with the seasons and we love that.  The reality is that the prices for the food are actually quite competitive for the quality cuisine.  Minus the adult beverages, the meals are priced fairly.

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Complementary: Bread with olive oil and balsamic dipping sauce.

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A fresh Focaccia bread that was moist and flavorful, with quality olive oil and balsamic that complimented it wonderfully!

Started off with: Caprese Salad, $15

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We decided we were going to share dishes.  This salad was a nice portion and the three of us each had a piece of mozzarella, which was good but not breath taking.  It says handmade on the menu so I assume it is made in house, but it was more firm than my preference.  I admit that I am a huge buratta fan but this cheese simply needed more salt.  The beautifully ripened heirloom tomatoes were awesome and the olive oil was good, but I prefer a tad bit more basil and golden balsamic.

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As traditional dinners go with Jen and I, we had san Aperitif of a “slightly dirty martini” ($12 each) while Bill enjoyed a glass of Rose’ ($10) before our dinner.

Entree: Gnocchi, $20

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The gnocchi was served in a basil cream, pesto sauce.  It is house made and had a great soft, fluffy texture.  The outside felt a bit like pasta, and the insides were creamy.  In the past I’ve had their gnocchi served with brown butter sage sauce and I almost prefer how they pan seared them in that preparation.  They were delicious none the less!

Fazzoletti Pasta with Bolognese, $18.00

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This freshly made Fazzoletti pasta served with bolognese and house made ricotta was awesome!  The pasta just melts in your mouth, while the sauce had a terrific balance of spices and textures and the ricotta was really refreshing!

Chicken, $21

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The menu read: roasted airline chicken “pestate”. panzanella salad. watercress. tomato. onion. focaccia croutons, which I thought was odd.  It was one rather small piece of chicken, which is the only thing I would compare to “airline” food, but it wasn’t really airline type of food at all.  It was cooked wonderfully!  I have no idea what they meant by “pestate”, and since their food is so good… why confuse the patron?  I recommend changing that description.  Anyways, we thought the dish was terrific.  It had just the right tartness of the vinaigrette and the chicken was tender and juicy.  The arugula added a peppery nuttiness that was perfect with the sweet, fresh heirloom tomatoes.  The crunchiness of the croutons made this a well-balanced dish.

Polenta, $7

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The three of us enjoyed the Polenta.  It was a soft, rich, creamy preparation that was loaded with fresh with Talliego and Parmesan cheese.  A delightful and delicious side!

Dessert:  Chocolate Cake, $9

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We were pretty full, but had no will power so we figured we would each have a bite or two of the flourless chocolate cake.  It was served with a rich and delicious caramel and whipped cream and then topped with grey salt.  Fantastic!

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While writing this blog, I realized that our server actually charged us for a gelato and/or sorbetto @ $7, which was not ordered or delivered to our table.  Susan, our server was great so we are hoping this was purely by accident!

Bill reports that the wine list is good with a nice variety of both Italian and California wines.  He chose a 2008 Barolo.  SERRALUNGA D’ALBA FONTANAFREDDA ($77)

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It paired beautifully with dinner.

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We recommend sharing like we did, if you enjoy a lot of flavors!  Cheers!

Bon appetit!
~Chris

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