Monthly Archives: July 2011

Sierra Nevada House Summer Menu

“What you eat standing up doesn’t count.”

Beth Barnes




Sierra Nevada House summer menu

Three of us had the opportunity last week to try several items from the Sierra Nevada House summer menu, along with a couple of specials they were serving that day.

As far as I am concerned, since owner Howard Penn hired Diana Greer as his Executive Chef a couple of years ago, the food has gotten better and better.

Leaving the menu of small portions up to Greer and the selection of small pours of wine to Greer, bar manager Samie Campbell and our delightful server, Andrea Dodson, we started.

Our first course was seared Ahi, served with lime cilantro rice, sprouts, pickled ginger and wasabi. They chose a Perry Creek viognier that had a hint of honey in the nose and taste that went very well with it. The Ahi was perfect and melted in your mouth. The rice, sprouts, pickled ginger and wasabi added wonderful and different tastes and textures.

Our next course was a grilled prawn cocktail, served “up”in a classic martini glass with chipotle aioli. With it they served us a David Girard Roussane, a delightfully “clean and fresh” wine that was perfect for this dish and the next. There were six prawns, which we divided and found to be perfectly tender with a delicious slight crust, hinting of balsamic vinegar. The fight was over the wonderful aioli, which was over lettuce in the glass. I have always loved the flavor of chipotle (smoked jalapeno pepper) and Greer blended it perfectly for the prawns.

That was followed by their white truffle “mac and cheese,” made using Cheddar and Gruyere and white truffle oil and topped with onion strings. This dish gets better as you reach the cheese in the bottom, so stir it or serve everyone else first if you are sharing it. It too went well with the roussane.

Our next dish was a combination of a chili rubbed pork chop with papaya honey butter and another new dish, chimichurri pork chop, a flame grilled chop topped with chimichurri sauce. With these we were served a Lava Cap Sangiovese, made from grapes grown in the Matagrano Vineyard in nearby Lotus. I don’t know which of the pork dishes I liked better (maybe the first one), but the wine, which was full of flavors, really complemented both of them.

The next to last entree was the best. It was their new baby back pork ribs with their own chipotle barbecue sauce. With it was served David Girard’s Rive d’Or, a Bordeaux style blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec.

One of my guests, after tasting the ribs and the wine, said the following over the next couple of minutes: wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, yummy and incredible. Five wows alone would have been enough to describe what were the most delicious ribs I have ever had, but the yummy and the incredible really added to the description. And the wine, five wows for it too. They were made for each other; a perfect food and wine combination. Thanks to the ladies for selecting it.

Our final entree sample was of a dish added to the menu by Greer to replace their very popular ratatouille, which is only served during the winter. It was Italian sausage and fennel pappardelle: spicy Italian sausage in an orange fennel sauce served over a bed of imported pappardelle egg noodles. To have with it we had saved a bit of the wonderful Rive d’Or.

We all agreed that it was excellent, but would have been better if served before the ribs. We also agreed that it would have been better if we had not spent so much time talking with Greer and her new Sous Chef, Eric Edstrom, while it cooled on our plates and the excellent noodles dried. I love the flavor of orange, fennel and spicy sausage, and this was an excellent combination of the them.

For dessert we shared blackberry pie ala mode, made with local blackberries. It was only warmed slightly so that the ice cream would not melt and the berry seeds, which can become very hot, would not burn your tongue.

At that point, Teal Triolo, who owns Sierra Rizing Bakery and Café in Lotus, and is a good friend of Penn, mentioned that she had baked boysenberry – rhubarb pie that day and wondered if we wanted a sample. I had forgotten how wonderful rhubarb is in pies. It was delicious.

The Sierra Nevada House restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday at 5 p.m., serving wonderful appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, small plates, pastas, steaks, chicken, seafood and more. They also have the outdoor River Café and a full bar. Call (530) 626-8096 or visit their web page at for more information.

Hay Chihuahua! – Cameron Park

“ Food doesn’t exist, but can only be invented. And reinvented.”

Joyce Carol Oates


Hay Chihuahua!

Last Friday I received a call from my friend Carolyn Kumpe, who owns Charlotte’s Bakery and Café in Diamond Springs. She called to tell me that the “communal” commercial kitchen she and others had been working on in Cameron Park, was open. And, on top of that, one of the people using the kitchen, Hilda Diaz, would be opening her restaurant, Hay Chihuahua!, there and selling her to-go Mexican food starting this week. So, I dropped by last Saturday to find out more and talked with both Diaz and Kumpe.

Their place is located at 4100 Cameron Park Drive, Suite 117, which puts it between China City Restaurant and the Alibi Sports Bar. When I arrived, Diaz was busy cooking food and Kumpe was giving out samples of her delicious baked goods.

Hay Chihuahua! has quite a menu of great looking food, including soups and antojitos, salads, tostadas, quesadillas, nachos, tortas and molletes, stews, fajitas, burritos, flautas, tamales (her speciality) and desserts. She also has a number of side dishes to accompany your meal. You can get the food to go, eat at one of their few tables, use the picnic tables out back or take your order next door to the Alibi sports bar and order something to go with it (yes, even a soda).

I tried a serving of flautas and Mexican rice and was impressed, especially with her green salsa. She was only serving those and tamales that day, but will have her full menu ready this week. The hours for Hay Chihuahua! are Tuesday through Sunday from 11 until 9. They also cater events and can be reached at (530) 409-3061.

Kumpe will be using the kitchen to bake up more things for her place in Diamond Springs and will also have food to sell there. That should be in a week. You can call her in Diamond Springs at (530) 642-1500 to find out more.

Also using the kitchen is Musarrat Afshan, who owns Pretty Sweet. Pretty Sweet creates custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies for all occasions. So if you are looking for delicious, artisan cakes, cupcakes and cookies for all of the special events in your life, this is the place. Exquisitely hand decorated and made from the finest quality ingredients, their treats are custom made and personalized to suit your wedding, party or corporate event.

Afshan was the assistant pastry chef at Masque in El Dorado Hills and can be reached at (916) 952-3043.

Finally (I told you it was a communal kitchen), also using the facilities is Art Gonzales, the owner of Art’s Hot Dogs. He has been selling dogs for 10 years, has two carts and says he has the best hot dogs around, and lots of different varieties. Soon he will be using Kumpe’s buns for his dogs, which he also has custom made for him. He guarantees his food. He even guarantees that if he does a kids birthday party for you, he will keep the kids happy. His speciality is a “Chicago Mexicali Dog.”

He said he will be in Diamond Springs on Sunday, when the flea market is happening, and can be reached at (916) 672-7276.

“Everyone will be helping each other out,” said Kumpe. “If one of us is not there, whoever is there will help you. We all needed this facility and together we did it. It is tough in today’s economy and we have to help each other to survive.”

Plymouth Hotel – Plymouth

“The greatest dishes are very simple dishes.”

Auguste Escoffier


Plymouth Hotel

I often rely on people to tell me about interesting places to eat, places that I might not find myself. One of those is hidden away in the city of Plymouth, the first place you come to in Amador county when you go south from here on Highway 49. Called the Plymouth Hotel, it is located at 9356 Main Street in downtown Plymouth. A right (west) turn on Main street will get you to it, a left turn will take you to Fiddletown or the Shenandoah Valley and its many great wineries.

The Plymouth Hotel was built in 1882 and still looks much like it did then. Outside, the building hasn’t changed, while inside, the bar area looks as much like a 19th century bar as I have ever seen, from the original back bar and bar, to the upright piano and pictures of John Wayne on the wall.

Diane Walton, who purchased the hotel in 1995, is refurbishing the place, to bring the upstairs hotel rooms up to today’s standards without losing the old atmosphere. “People don’t seem to like the small rooms with the bathroom down the hall,” said Walton. “And, even though I didn’t want to, I made other changes in the building like putting  a new floor in the bar area. It was made of fir and on day a leg of one of the bar stools went through a thin spot, surprising the person sitting on it.”

Also on the main floor is the lobby for the hotel and what must have been a parlor, being converted into a Victorian era billiard room, complete with overhead lampshades hand made by Walton.

The walls throughout the hotel are covered with as eclectic a collection of of paintings that I have ever seen, many of them original works. “Most of my paintings are for sale,” added Walton. “One day a man came in an wanted to buy cigarettes. I told him he would have to go to the store down the street to get them. On his way out he met a customer smoking and asked for a cigarette. While he was smoking he leaned in and asked if a certain painting was for sale. I said, ‘Yes.’ He then asked how much and went back to smoking. Then he asked about another painting and the price. He finished his cigarette, bought both of them and left.”

I could go on an on about the building and the interesting owner, but I better get to the food.

Walton was a caterer with a café and a bakery in the Bay Area during the 70s and 80s. She also likes to travel and has spent a lot of time in Italy. She calls her menu “American with an Italian twist.”

It starts off with Paninis: Italian grilled sandwiches. These are not the familiar small buns often seen at restaurants, she makes them like you would find in Italy, on special rolls baked for her that are a few inches wide, just about an inch high and over a foot long. You can order a ham, salami, pastrami or Chipotle beef (I tried that and loved it. Lots of meat and delicious bread) Panini, with your choice of cheese. And there is a very special “Panini Martini Lunch Combo,” any Panini with a gin or vodka martini for a special price. I was tempted, but…

The menu also includes “Other Yummy Stuff” like tri-tip hot on a roll, a meatball sandwich, the Hotel Club, a chicken breast sandwich on a roll or bagel, an egg salad sandwich, a tuna melt, grilled cheese, hot link on a bun or a foot-long hot dog. There is also a chicken salad with light curry, apples and celery topped with cashews, homemade potato and pasta salad, garlic and rosemary soft breadsticks and, for dessert apple or cherry pie (ala mode if you wish) and cheesecake with fresh strawberries. She makes most everything and everything I tried was great.

There is seating at the bar, at several tables or outside in the beautiful courtyard you really have to see.

The Plymouth Hotel is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 until 7 and ond Friday and Saturday from 11 until 9. Live acoustic music on Fridays from 6 until 8.

For more information call (209) 245-4544.

By the way, the Amador County Fair, will be held on July 28-31 this year, just down the street from the hotel. And, if you can’t make the fair, Plymouth is just a neat place to visi

BJ’s Brewhouse – Folsom

“Mother Nature clearly intended us to get out food from the ‘patty’ group, which includes hamburgers, fish sticks and McNuggets….”

Dave Barry



BJ’s Brewhouse

A friend of mine was in town on business last week. He had ridden the bus to Placerville, so afterwards I offered to drive him back to Folsom, where he lives. He offered to buy lunch and recommended BJ’s Brewhouse, which is located at 2730 E. Bidwell Street, kind of across the street from Home Depot.

When we published “Folsom Life,” a few years ago, I had written about BJ’s, but it wasn’t open at the time and this was my first chance to try it out.

It was about 11 a.m., and they had just opened , so they were still a bit empty. Thus we had our choice of places to sit and chose a table near the bar. The restaurant is very attractive, clean and pleasant inside and the help turned out to be very courteous and also pleasant.

BJ’s Brewhouse makes their own beers, but being that it was still morning and both of us had important things to do the rest of the day, we ordered ice tea.

Looking over the lunch specials on the menu I ordered a bowl of their Piranha Pale Ale Chili and a half roasted turkey Cobb sandwich, both of which sounded interesting and were. My friend ordered the same chili, which he had recommended to me, along with a salad.

They have quite a selection of delicious looking burgers, but again it was a bit early in the day to eat a large burger or something else heavy, and, besides, my sandwich came with their thin cut fries that I wanted to try.

The Piranha Pale Ale Chili, which is made with  pork and beef, pinto beans and their own Piranha Pale Ale, came hot with melting cheese and a dab of sour cream on it. The chile was a lot better than most restaurant chiles, although a bit hard to eat because the melting cheese kept stringing out from my spoon and trying to get on my shirt and beard. Fortunately, they provided me with a nice, large napkin.

The sandwich was made with roasted turkey breast, tomatoes, avocado, applewood smoked bacon, bleu cheese dressing, lettuce and Dijon mayonnaise and was served on a toasted garlic cheese French roll. I loved it. And just a half sandwich, to go with the chili, was perfect.

The thin fries were served very hot and were well cooked with that crispness I like. There were a lot of them and they stayed good and hot for quite a while. As I always say, fries, soup and chile; if they aren’t served hot, they shouldn’t be served at all.

BJ’s has a very large menu including: appetizers, snacks and small bites, deep dish pizza, garden and speciality salads, “enlightened” (low cal) entrees, gourmet burgers and sandwiches, pasta dishes, speciality entrees, culinary creations, desserts, kids menu items and even gluten-free dishes. They have curbside take-our and can even host your event.

The Folsom BJ’s Brewhouse is open from 11 a.m. until midnight Monday through Thursday, until 1 a.m. on Friday; from 10 a.m. until 1 a.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until midnight on Sunday.

For more information call (916) 404-2000. You can get a lot more information on BJ’s by going to their web page at You will be delighted with the number of delicious looking items they serve.