Steppin’ Out – California Kitchen for Breakfast

As I said last time, for a couple of months Russ Salazar was after me to go out to breakfast and write about it. “A lot of people go out for breakfast and I am sure they would like to know about new places or old places with new dishes,” he told me several times.

As you noticed with Los Pinos, I agreed to give it a try.

My problem is that if I eat a large breakfast I still seem to want lunch and dinner later. So I told him I would do it, but only if we had breakfast in the late morning so my stomach would think it was lunch.

He organizes a number of events for the SIRS (Sons In Retirement) group in Pollock Pines and wanted to check out the banquet room at California Kitchen, which is located at 251 Main Street in Placerville.

California Kitchen is a restaurant on Main Street that serves Traditional American and Mexican style breakfast and lunch. The menu is amazing.

I met Russ there around 11 a.m. one of our few sunny days last month and, after finding a table, we went over the menu.

I had downloaded a copy of their Breakfast/Lunch menu and looked it over the night before. Not only do they feature pancakes, waffles, different Benedicts, omelets, scrambles, house specialities and “Old California Breakfasts,” you can also order salads and sandwiches. In fact, one of my neighbors told me, “Get the steak sandwich for breakfast, it is wonderful and a really good deal.”

I was considering ordering from the interesting list of “Old California Breakfasts,” which includes Huevos Rancheros, Carnitas Uruapan, Mole Ranchero con Huevos, Chorizo Estilo Toluca, and an interesting dish simply called Santa Fe and Huevos Estilo Tepatitian. However, Russ beat me to it and selected the Chorizo Estilo Toluca – chorizo sausage prepared Toluca style, Toluca being a city in Mexico.

It is a combination of sauteed chorizo sausage, onions, jalapeños and potatoes scrambled in eggs and queso fresco, served with refried beans and garnished with avocado, sour cream and pico de gallo.

My choice was something more “New California,” the Country Benedict, which is two eggs on a biscuit with a crispy chicken fried steak, all smothered in country gravy and served with home style potatoes. There were three other Benedicts to choose from, but this just sounded interesting.

When our breakfasts arrived, they were beautifully presented and looked delicious. As you know, a good presentation makes a meal even better.

Russ was especially delighted with the texture and taste of the chorizo in his eggs, which he said is sometimes mushy. He also liked the homemade refried beans.

I tasted the egg mixture and the beans and agreed. They were really good.

I really liked my Country Benedict, the eggs, the biscuits and especially, the country fried steak and gravy. I grew up with a lot of pepper in country gravy, so I added a few shakes, along with a few shots of Tabasco, which conveniently they have on each table. Eggs need Tabasco.

Russ tried my Benedict, appeared neutral about it and seemed to be much more interested in what he had ordered.

Better than for me to try and describe their Breakfast/Lunch menu, since it is several pages long, check it out yourself on their webpage at www.californiakitchenplacerville.com. Ignore the Dinner menu as they sadly no longer serve dinner.

It is family friendly, so there is also a large kid’s menu.

Overall, clean and friendly, with great food and excellent service.

Breakfast and lunch are served daily from 7 until 3. For more information give them a call at (530) 622-7500.

Steppin’ Out – Los Pinos for Breakfast, Cameron Park

About a month ago Los Pinos Restaurant and Bar in Cameron Park started serving breakfast.

Los Pinos is the restaurant at 3420 Palmer Drive which I recall used to be, in reverse order, Hemalayas Indian Restaurant, Blackwell’s and the club house for the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy.

My friend Russ Salazar and I had been talking about trying breakfasts along with our usual lunches for some time, so when I saw a sign announcing that Los Pinos was serving breakfast, I called him.

We stopped by about 10 a.m. on a rainy Friday and were graciously greeted by hostess and server, Rosana, who, with her husband Luis, are joint general managers. She surprised me by immediately commenting that the cook, Teresa, knew me and then guided us to the dining room and seated us at a nice booth.

Being that it was between breakfast and lunch, the restaurant was fairly empty, but during the time we were there, it became quite busy with diners, including a large group.

As we were looking over the menu, Teresa came out of the kitchen to say hello and give me a hug. I recalled her and her friendliness from when she worked at Fresh Mex Express near K-Mart, and would soon realize that she is also a great cook.

We ordered two breakfasts to share. Russ ordered the Breakfast Skillet, a combination of chorizo and bacon, with fresh zucchini, onions, mushrooms, potatoes and bell peppers. topped with scrambled eggs and served with a side of tortillas, sour cream, guacamole and Pico de Gallo.

I went for the Machaca Plate, a savory blend of shredded pork, eggs, onions, bell peppers, jalapeños and red sauce, served with beans or breakfast potatoes. I opted for both potatoes and frijoles since we always have to try the frijoles. I thought they were good, Russ thought they could use a bit more flavor.

The meals came and they were generous portions and beautiful, so beautiful I even took a picture of them. And they were as delicious as they looked.

We started by both taking some of Russ’ plate. What a great combination of delicious flavors from the mixture, which also was quite colorful. Russ asked if some of the meat was longanisa, another Mexican sausage similar to chorizo. He liked it and it turned out they mix the two for additional flavor.

My breakfast, although not quite as colorful, was equal in great taste. The shredded pork mixed with eggs, onions and peppers was delicious. And, the sliced jalapeños added an occasional, slight bite.

Rosana asked me if I would like some salsa or hot sauce, so I got some of their salsa to try with my meal. You know it was even better with a bit of that.

While we were trying to figure out how we were going to finish all the food, Teresa showed up at our table with a plate of their Steak and Eggs. Although the menu simply says carne asada, it was a ribeye steak, cooked perfectly.

The ribeye is my favorite cut, although I don’t eat it very often. Theirs was the tenderest steak I have eaten in a long time. We both savored it.

At this point we had spent the best part of an hour and a half eating and just all that was left were a few potatoes. Teresa came out of the kitchen again to bring me a sample of her chile verde, which Rosana had said I had to try. It was excellent with lots of tender pieces of pork in a light, but tangy, green sauce.

Then Teresa asked if we wanted to try a Breakfast Burrito. We wanted to, but, “Sorry,” we said, “No room.”

Let me comment on their breakfast potatoes. They are large pieces cooked, as Russ put it, “al dente.” At first I thought they were slightly undercooked, but then decided they were much, much better than the overcooked or hard as rock ones I am usually served.

In addition to what we had, the breakfast menu at Los Pinos includes a Breakfast Burrito, Breakfast Tacos, Huevos Rancheros, a Mexican Omelette, Chiaquiles (two eggs with onion, cheese, red sauce and tortilla strips), a Vegetarian Omelette, Pancake Breakfast and a Kids Pancake Breakfast.

All their menus: Breakfast (7:00-11:00), Lunch (11:00 -3:00) and Dinner are posted on their webpage at www.lospinoscp.com if you want more details.

They have the normal beverages to accompany your meal, along with a full bar. There is a lot of comfortable indoor and patio seating (weather permitting) and even a banquet room upstairs that is available for parties, meetings and such..

Again, a great atmosphere, great food and very friendly people.

They are open daily from 7 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and at 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday nights. For more information call them at (530) 672-1403 or, again, visit their webpage at www.lospinoscp.com.

A couple of years ago we had lunch there and loved it. This was so good, I guess we are going to have to go back again for lunch or dinner.

Steppin’ Out – Z-PIE, Gourmet Pot Pies

It has been some time since I enjoyed a pot pie from Z-PIE, which is located at 3182 Center Street in Placerville (across from City Hall).

I was supposed to meet Russ Salazar for lunch there a few weeks ago, but he thought I was going to arrive at noon and I thought he would be there at 1 p.m. He left about ten minutes before I arrived. Last week we synchronized our watches and both arrived at the same time.

Z-PIE has been around for a number of years, in fact, so long that it took me some time to find one of the early stories I wrote about them. The earliest one I found was in April of 2003 when they won the “Best of El Dorado” competition and they had been open for four and a half years then.

People still ask me, “What is a Z-Pie?”

Let me give you a little history on this unique dish.

“Single serving meat and vegetable pot pies are as common in Australia and New Zealand as are burgers are here,” the owners of Z-PIE told me a number of years ago.

People enjoy them on their trips there, but it wasn’t until the Coots families opened their original restaurant in 1988 that they were introduced to Placerville.

Originally there were only a couple of varieties of pies, but now many more, with those on the menu changing periodically.

There were about half a dozen on the menu the day Russ and I were there and we decided to order a couple and split them. Russ went for one of the standards, and the best seller, the Steak Cabernet pie, while I chose an interesting sounding Tomatillo Stew pie. Russ also ordered a small salad.

I thought about trying their bacon and potato soup, but decided to limit myself to the pie. I don’t know why. At lunch you can get a pie and soup or salad for only $10.

Russ’ nice looking mixed greens salad came first (we ended up splitting it) and then the pies arrived. They looked and smelled really good.
They used to have a tart bottom crust and a puff pastry top crust and, for a while were purchased elsewhere. Now they are again made on site (yes, you can watch) and both the top and bottom crusts are puff pastry.

If you are eating in, after baking they are removed from their pie pan and placed in a ceramic bowl that exactly fits them, which makes them easy to eat.

We split them (that was a bit difficult for two klutzes) and sampled both. The one I had tried before, the Steak Cabernet, had the same delicious aroma and taste I remembered. Russ commented, “You can smell that unique cabernet wine flavor,” and he is right.

I loved the Tomatillo Stew pie. It had a nice bite and a great flavor. Russ liked it, but thought it had a bit too much cumin in it. I could taste it, but I love that flavor. It is the interesting flavor found in all good chili.

We discovered both when we cut the pies to share and when we ate them that the crust appeared to be slightly tough. That would be expected in a pie designed to be taken home, as many people do. However, when a piece of the crust reached your mouth, it was heavenly. Russ commented that it just melted in your mouth.

We both really enjoyed the meal. It was a delicious nice break from the usual food we eat.

They have a number of pies, some seasonal, so here is a list of some of the pies they are serving right now: Steak Cabernet, Rosemary Lamb, Very Vegetable V, Tomatillo Stew, Chicken Mushroom and Southwest Chicken. They also have two dessert pies, The Berry and The Apple.

There are also several salads on the menu. Large salads include: Asian Shrimp Noodle, Thai Steak, Chicken Mango, California, Sesame Asian Pear and Spinach Garlic. Their smaller salads include: Organic House, Organic Spinach and Gorgonzola.

Oh yes, they also have soup by the cup or bowl. Ask your server about the soup of the day.

Z-PIE is so proud of their pies and salads that they list all of the ingredients on their menu. I really like that.

They also have some really great bottled soda, along with local beers and wine to enjoy with your meal.

Z-PIE is open daily from 11 until 9 (last seating at 8:30). For more information call (530) 621-2626. You can eat in or get pies to go, either heated or frozen for later use.

Oh, get a seat in the window by the street and count the cars that actually stop at the stop sign. I found the number was less than half. Therefore, be very careful when you cross the street.