Monthly Archives: March 2012

Community Profiles – Camino

Camino Cable system - Carol Mathis

Camino Cable system – Carol Mathis

Development of the Camino area began in the 1860s and involved two Scottish brothers whose names remain famous in the local timber industry, James and John Blair. They are credited with being the first to start a lumber company in the area which, for many years, bore their name. For a while they also maintained the Sportsman’s Hall, that now historical spot which both the drivers of freight wagons to the famous Virginia City mines and the Pony Express used as a stopping place.

The town proper, which is located just a few miles east of Placerville on the ridge between the South Fork of the American River and Weber Creek, did not really develop until sometime around 1895 when the American River Land and Lumber Co. bought out the Blairs. They had timberland and lumbering operations in the Georgetown Divide area, on the other (northern) side of the South Fork of the American River, including an area that would be called Pino Grande. They had nine and a half miles of railway and equipment to transport the logs from the forest to the American River. From there they floated the logs down the river to the first electric driven sawmill in the United States, next to the Folsom Powerhouse. However, the river almost dried up in the summer and because of that and the rocky nature of the canyon, many logs ended up stuck and never made it to the mill.

Their land holdings and the mill were later acquired by T.H. McEwan who organized the El Dorado Lumber Co., moved the mill from Folsom to Pino Grande and established a drying yard in Camino.

It was McEwan who built the famous cable tramway across the canyon of the South Fork of the American River, transporting the lumber from the Pino Grande mill to the end of what is now Cable Road in Camino.

The cable system it was installed in 1901 and operated for nearly half a century, carrying the lumber around a half mile from one side to the other. A narrow gauge railroad took the rough cut lumber from the mill to a tower on the north side where the carriage was loaded, moved across the gorge and unloaded in a tower on the opposite side onto the narrow gauge railroad which took it to the mill in Camino.

During its history the cable tramway also hauled supplies to Pino Grande and sometimes even people. Because of its unique character, it was also used as a location in a few movies, including one featuring an early movie dog named “Strongheart,” after whom a dog food was named.

Old Town Grill – Placerville

Photo Credit: Dee on UrbanSpoon

“Only in America do we buy hot dogs in packages of 10 and buns in packages of eight.”

— Claimed by several people

Old Town Grill
As I mentioned before, my daughter brought the grandkids up for the Christmas Parade last year. The kids wanted French fries for lunch (hey, it is a parade day), so she went into Old Town Grill, 444 Main St. in Placerville, to get them. When she came out she said to me with a smile, “Those people are all so friendly. What a pleasure that was.”

I mentioned that and the fact that they have a unique round hot dog to my foodie friend, Russ Salazar, and he e-mailed back, “Let’s go.”

I showed up early and chatted with both John Sanders and his wife Debbi, who own the business: John standing at the grill in his white chef’s coat and Debbi taking orders. Along with their other duties both of them were greeting arriving customers and thanking departing customers, always with a smile.

After Russ arrived we looked over the menu posted above the counter and the list of delicious looking specials and decided to order an Old Town Dog, a cheese burger and an order of Thompson’s Snowshoes seasoned crisscross fries that come with bleu cheese dressing, spicy garlic oil and more crumbled bleu cheese.

For our drinks we both ordered soda, but we could have had iced tea, water, a milkshake, a malt or a root beer float (yes, real ice cream, which is also available by the scoop).

The “Old Town Dog” is a quarter pound dog that has been cut every quarter inch or so on one side, so it curls into a circle when it is grilled (as it should be) and put on a hamburger bun with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and Old Town spread. The cheeseburger comes with jack and cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, dill pickle, red onion and Old Town spread.

We both really liked the hot dog. Grilling it with those cuts in it really brings out the flavor, and the lettuce, tomato and sauce actually worked, whereas mustard, etc., might have overpowered the dog. The grilled onions also added a lot to the flavor and fit very nice inside the dog. Russ thought the bun could be a bit larger, but not as large as the cheeseburger bun, since the dog kept slipping out. I somewhat agreed, but don’t like to have too much bread on my dogs and burgers.

The cheeseburger brought equal praise from both of us. The hamburger is fresh ground from grass fed, hormone free beef, which really makes a difference, and the cheese combination enhanced the flavor.

The Thompson’s Snowshoes — you can’t help but love them, but not more than now and then. They are very rich.

There are a number of other things on the menu, such as the bacon cheeseburger, mushroom cheeseburger, bleu (Gorgonzola) cheese burger, their own “Earthburger” and even a “Soul Burger,” that is made with grilled Louisiana hot link coins. There are also three chicken sandwiches: Dijon, pesto and teriyaki, along with “John Studebaker’s Wheel,” a polish sausage served in a wheel like the hot dog and “Gold Miner’s Hand” — chicken breast fingers breaded with Panko crumbs.

There are also a large number of specials listed each day that deserve checking out. Most are very unique and often made with exotic meats, such as buffalo and elk.

Old Town Grill has just started staying open until 8 p.m. for dinner, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, serving its regular menu along with different specials. “Our customers talk to us and tell us what they want as specials,” said John, “it pays to listen them.”

About half way through our meal, John and Debbi’s daughter, Genevieve, who is also known as “Genny the Genie” when she performs magic, arrived and greeted us. Russ has a lady friend who is also a magician and a family friend of the Sanders, so they had quite a conversation. Genny likes magic, but said, “I think the restaurant business is my future.”

“This is our 11th year in business,” said John. “and we love it here. We had a restaurant in Sacramento years ago, but the Placerville people are the best. They are super people and it is a super place to have a business.”

I think everyone who was working that day came by our table, and everyone else’s table to make sure the food was satisfactory and to see if we needed a refill on our drinks. I don’t believe there is a friendlier or happier place in town. Russ was delighted with the food and the place overall and seriously asked me why we hadn’t come here earlier.

Old Town Grill is open weekdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Sunday it opens at noon and is closed on Tuesday. For more information call 530-622-2631.

Archer’s Butcher Block – Meat Market & Deli

“My favorite animal is steak.”

— Fran Libowitz

Archer’s Butcher Block
Archer’s Butcher Block, which is located at 5425 Mother Lode Drive, between Greenstone Road and the “Y,” where Mother Lode Drive meets Pleasant Valley Road, is really three businesses in one: a meat market, deli and a custom butchering shop.

I walked in on a rainy Tuesday just after noon and it was busy with a trio of young ladies serving customers, packaging meat and making sandwiches. The first thing I noticed was that everything, the counters, equipment, display cases and floors were clean; a lot cleaner than a number of similar places I have visited.

Gary and Georgia Grover own the business and I happened to catch Gary there, dressed for the rainy weather in chest-high waders and a black cowboy hat, just back from somebody’s ranch.

“We started in 1997 with the custom butchering and in late 1999 bought Max Archer’s butcher shop in Georgetown. Two years ago we moved the butcher shop here and about a year ago opened the deli,” he said.

“We carry U.S. Choice natural Black Angus beef from Kansas which we cut and “cryovac” (vacuum seal in plastic) for the convenience of the customer,” he continued. “We make our own hamburger from beef round and chuck, cure our own bacon and ham and brine our own corned beef. We also marinade tri-tip using seven different marinades and one dry rub. We sell all the marinades except one, that one is a secret. For some reason everyone around here wants tri-tip to barbecue, while in other places brisket is the favorite. I haven’t figured that one out yet.

“We also carry natural pork, turkey, lamb and chicken and, if you want something different, we also carry more exotic meats like buffalo, elk, venison, rabbit, pheasant and duck. They are all ranch raised. Right now we are trying to find alligator for one customer.”

As we walked by the meat case, he pointed out and talked about the roasts and steaks and then stopped at the deli case.

“We have a lot of different kinds of cheese, bacon, ham and smoked and cured meat we do in our own smokehouse,” he said while picking up a small package, pulling a knife from his pocket and slicing it open.

“Try this,” he said, handing me a round, slice of meat.“It’s elk salami that we make,” pausing to add, “it’s actually summer sausage because it is cooked.” It was good, very tasty and not as fatty as many commercial products. “It’s all meat,” he added with a satisfied smile.

“I used to work in construction,” Gary continued. “I would buy a sandwich for lunch and then open and say ‘I paid you what for this?’ You should get something for your money, so when we opened the deli we decided to make our sandwiches big. Our blockhead sandwich is the big seller, but you can order any kind you want. We do ribs on Thursday. You should come by then. Our customers love them and I am sure you would.”

I tried the blockhead, which is “A random combo of meats and cheeses served on a rustic roll with all the fix-ins.” It was delicious, moist and full of flavor. I was also very pleased that the young lady who made it thoroughly washed her hands before making it, after answering the phone and after finishing it. My kind of place.

“We are in the service business, serving the public and we always want to provide a good product,” continued Gary. I mentioned how clean the place was and he simply said, “I like it that way.”

Stop by and see what they have. It is an old fashioned meat market and deli with great service and friendly people. Not only do they sell single packages of meat, they also have a number of different family value packages that include beef, chicken pork and more.

Archer’s Butcher Block is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and closed on Sunday and Monday. For more information call 530-626-MEAT (6328).

Wanderings: Long John Silvers, Bones and FreshMex Mexican Grill

“Fat gives things flavor.”

— Julia Child

Out wandering again

Trip one: I did a bit of house-sitting in Carmichael for my daughter in late February while the family went to Disneyland. I had a list of things to do (eat), which included my usual pastrami and Swiss from a favorite sandwich shop there, the Sub Depot on Fair Oaks Boulevard, along with sampling the new “thick cut” cod at Long John Silver’s and the new “premium cod fillet” sandwich at Wendy’s.

Well, I got the pastrami and Swiss and really enjoyed it. The shop is about one mile away, so I justified the fatty treat by walking both ways, and stopping at a thrift store along the way.

The following day I drove to the Long John Silver’s on Auburn Boulevard to try the fish. It was disappointing.

The “thick cut” cod pieces are about three-quarters of an inch thick and about the size of a silver dollar or 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You get two pieces, a couple of hush puppies and a side in the basket ($5.99). I ordered the two piece basket and cole slaw, rather than the usual fries. The fish was old (brown) and the batter was tough, so I sent them back. They were kind enough to give me three, freshly cooked and very nice pieces to replace them. However, and this is a complaint I have with them and a few other fast food places, the fish was very oily from being deep fried. I don’t know why they aren’t drained for a few seconds, it would make a world of difference. I contacted the company and they sent me a letter good for two meals, but I am not sure if I am going back.

After that “bad fish” experience I decided to forgo the trip to Wendy’s until next time.