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Cafe 29 - St. Helena (report)

Jennie Sheeks | May 5, 200408:16 PM

I’d noticed in the last month or so that this little restaurant had opened near my office, and it’s location away from town got my attention, as did the sign proclaiming that they had crepes. Today was a bad day at the office, but I did discover that I had a little more money in the old account than expected so I decided to skip the brown bag lunch and give myself a little bad day/late birthday lunch. Café 29 shares the building with a wine tasting collective, and the small dining room looked nice but I opted for the deck that looks out towards trees and the eastern side of the valley.

They serve breakfast all day, and lunch from 11AM on. I was tempted by the Oakville grilled cheese with pugliese bread, the grilled petite salmon with sour cream mashed potatoes, spinach and smoked tomato sauce, and even the fresh crab cake sandwich, but decided I needed to check out the crepes. They offer several crepes named after wine grapes, and also the option to create your own crepe. I chose the Merlot crepe. The crepe was generously stuffed with steamed spinach, chopped tomatoes, mushrooms and a few red onions, but there was no sign of the cheese the menu had promised. It was drizzled with a very tasty Mornay sauce, and came with two perfect strips of Applewood bacon. I would have liked it better if the Mornay sauce, bacon and cheese had been inside the crepe to bind the filling and jazz up the flavors. I had a choice of home fries, hash browns or fries on the side. I chose the former, which were nicely seasoned, but lacked that crispy crustiness that I love, and were oddly sprinkled with blue cheese. I guess they characterize the crepes as breakfast type food thus the potato sides, but a little green salad on the side would have been a smart option. Overall it was a generous, if bland plate of food at $8.50.

I washed it down with a glass of Rutherford Ranch 2000 Zinfandel, and it was one of the best glasses of wine I’ve had in this Valley for $6.50 in a long time. A pleasant balance of raspberry, dusty cocoa, oak and a bit of briar without too much alcohol.

I decided to go the distance and have a dessert crepe. Strawberries, sautéed in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon stuffed the crepe, a generous handful of sliced fresh strawberries and a big dollop of loosely whipped cream garnished the crepe. The berries could have been riper, but it was an enjoyable, rich dessert at $6.50 that was really big enough for two.

Once upon a time I frequented a restaurant who’s chef made excellent cooked to order crepes, at least I remember them as excellent but then again I did have a crush on the chef so that my have clouded my judgment. But these crepes today didn’t strike me the same way. I won’t be running back, nor would I order crepes again but all in all I like the location, the deck, and the look of some of the other items on the menu too much to entirely disregard this place.

Café 29
3000 Hwy 29 North at Lodi Lane (1 mile north of St. Helena)
(707) 963-9919
Daily 7:00-3:00

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