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6476 Washington St.
Tel: 707-944-2487

Thomas Keller wanted a place to serve dishes inspired by the comfort food he ate growing up. It was to be a kind of pickup jazz combo to the symphony of the French Laundry and the string quartet of Bouchon (see both below). It was meant to be temporary and would serve five nights a week. Due to popular demand, the restaurant now serves a fixed menu five nights a week in a small room, with some seats available at the bar for walk-ins. Best to check the Web site or call before stopping by because a set four-course menu is served each evening. A recent menu included a salad of petite romaine hearts, buttermilk fried chicken, a cheese course and ice-cream sandwiches.

6510 Washington St.
Tel: 707-944-0103

Chef Philippe Jeanty came to California from France's Champagne region, bringing his exquisite blend of haute and home cooking. Jeanty installed a communal table here long before San Francisco's fashionable upscale restaurants did the same. The mix is half local, half visitors, but they’ve all heard about his famous cream-of-tomato soup (topped with puff pastry) and coq au vin with buttered noodles. Other deftly rendered traditional dishes include pieds de cochon, duck foie-gras pâté, escarole salad with a soft-boiled egg and bacon dressing and sole meunière with lemon and capers. This is the place to come when it's cold outside and you need to feel soothed or it's a pretty spring day and you're up for lingering on the outdoor patio.

6534 Washington St.
Tel: 707-944-8037

Tiny Yountville is Thomas Keller’s world, and we just eat in it. If you haven’t snagged a reservation at the chef-restaurateur's French Laundry (see below), saunter down the street to Bouchon. Take a seat at the zinc bar, order a glass of wine and the salmon rillete and make friends with the local winemaker to your left and the vacationing gals from New York to your right. The French bistro food is authentic (including onion soup and croque monsieur), the outdoor seating is just the ticket when it’s not too sunny, and the oysters are fresh. The nearby Bouchon Bakery sells take-out salads and sandwiches, croissants, pastries and foie-gras dog treats (we are not kidding).

1310 Main St.
St. Helena
Tel: 707-963-7088

When we canvassed workers at Wine Country resorts and restaurants about where they go for a relaxing informal meal, many said they to head to Cook. A small place, it seats only 40 people, but the minute you arrive you're treated like a regular. If you sit at the counter, you can see into what looks like a diner's short-order kitchen that produces simple but flavorful dishes with an Italian slant. The homemade mozzarella is wonderful, as are comfort foods like the gnocchi with Gorgonzola cream and the fettuccine Bolognese. Entrées include grilled fish and a burger; for lunch you can order a gourmet BLT made with applewood-smoked bacon and served on a ciabatta. The wine list is an even split between local favorites and Italian varieties, many available by the glass.

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