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Restaurants & Bars 2

Sonoma – Part Deuce & $2.39 Vallejo gas

rworange | Oct 15, 200501:54 AM

Driving up to Sonoma through Vallejo, the gas station on Sonoma Blvd across from Nation’s Hamburgers was selling regular gas at $2.39. Yowza. A nice start to a mostly pleasant day. So if you are driving up to Napa/Sonoma via that route, there’s that little bonus. Don’t know how long it will last.

I enjoyed the food at Deuce in Sonoma. The entrée made me sit up and pay attention. However, Deuce has a country club feel and if you are not one of the members it isn’t quite as pleasant.

Notes about the service and ambiance are at the end. However, the tip was 15 % and it has been so long since I’ve tipped that low that I can’t remember the last time.

The “Deuce express lunch/Three Courses Served all at Once” listed on the sample menu on their website is no longer available. A primary reason I chose to dine there.

The grilled chicken breast with corn, potato ravioli and wild mushroom sauce was very enjoyable. Despite being served in a mildly spicy red sauce the chicken had a crispy skin and was perfectly cooked. But that sauce should have been mentioned since nothing in the menu description prepares you for an almost stew like sauce with a bit of heat. It was generously studded with fresh yellow corn. The wild mushrooms were chanterelles, their flavor not bold enough to stand up to the red sauce. The mushrooms were more about texture. However the sauce was really delicious and I used the bread from Basque Bakery to sop up every bit.

The chicken was on top of large ravioli which had a nice filling but the pasta was a bit too al dente. It still was very enjoyable.

With the exception of the express special, the website menus are representative, adjusted for seasonality and a few specials. Based on the chicken, the pulled pork sandwich might be a good selection. It is smoked for 10 hours. The chicken had a Southwestern taste to it.

Dessert was apple cranberry cobbler with a scoop of Café Classico pumpkin gelato. It was a mildly pumpkin flavored milky gelato. The cobbler had a lot of streusel, was studded with nuts and assertively flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar. The tart apples and cranberries were a nice contrast to the sweet streusel.

The rest of this is just complaints about service and can be skipped.

The service while pleasant was not professional. I don’t blame the server, but rather the restaurant for failing to provide adequate training. Also the details were careless. The butter was beyond room temperature and too soft. The wine was so dead cold it was almost icy. Water was never refilled.

At the last minute I had an opportunity to take the afternoon off and go play in Sonoma. I left in a hurry before something might get in the way. While I wasn’t exactly looking like a bag lady, I was casually dressed … that is no designer clothes labeled or not. It mattered at Deuce.

The locals, regular customers and tastefully dressed were fawned over. The rest of us tourist riff raff were tolerated. That’s how it felt. The owners were in the room, smoozing with a group and discussing the New York dining scene. The phone rang for reservations and there was a different tone when the name was recognized.

After playing in Sonoma, I had dinner at The General’s Daughter where the atmosphere was very different (and the food much better). The owner, Betty Hall, introduced herself, shook my hand and chatted a bit. Only Chapeau in San Francisco matches her graciousness. It was the polar opposite of the frosty demeanor of the owners at Deuce.

When I entered General’s Daughter, the staff was having a pre-dinner conference and being trained about the menu. My server at Deuce was beyond clueless … pleasant … but clueless. The menu doesn’t change that much and is not extensive. At the very least, servers should be given a list of wines to pair to dishes. Failing that there should be some training to ask the chef or someone for a wine recommendation.

When I asked for a recommendation for a wine to go with the chicken, the server suggested the house Glen Ellen white … white what I don’t know. And being in the heart of wine country, they could do better than Glen Ellen. Did I look like the best I could appreciate was Glen Ellen? Calm down. Deep breaths.

Another suggestion was a sweet white that was inappropriate with the dish. When told it didn’t go well with the dish, the server said” Well, I guess you can consider the wine your appetizer”. WHAT?

Not willing to risk another inappropriate recommendation, I went with a Benzinger chardonnay which I knew was inappropriate, but I never tried Benzinger before and wanted to. The server never said a word until AFTER. Asked if the Benzinger was better, and told no but I didn’t expect it to match the dish, the server said :”I was thinking when you ordered that it should have been a light red”. That got her an immediate 15 % tip. Only her otherwise pleasantness got her that high a tip.

Oh, oh … a jaw dropping story … when asking the server which she would recommend – the house smoked chicken salad or the roasted chicken – she thought a while and asked “Today?” Uh ...

There are a lot of pictures of Deuce on the website. The interior is the slightest bit worn and not in a good way. It has the least attractive outdoor patio of any Sonoma restaurant I’ve visited with tables with plastic chairs. There’s a slight carelessness in this restaurant that carries over to all aspects of the restaurant.

Would I recommend Deuce? Yes, but only if everywhere else was full. I can’t fault the food at Deuce. However it is an insiders club that tolerates visitors to the valley ... barely.

Part One about the vastly superior General’s Daughter to follow soon.

Gelato Classico website


Link: http://www.dine-at-deuce.com/index.html

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