Steppin’ Out – Crystal Basin Bistro

 A couple of weeks ago I headed up the hill to meet my food-loving friend, Russ Salazar, at Crystal Basin Bistro which is located at 3590 Carson Road, Suite B, not far from their other business, Crystal Basin Cellars winery.

I got there early and had an opportunity to talk with one of the owners, Mike Owen, who showed me around the building and patio, explaining how they got the barn wood and the eclectic decorations, and the great job one of my neighbors, Nick Miller, did on both the floor and the patio (Miller is a contractor who does roofs, floors and ceilings).

To get your food you go to the counter and place your order, grab utensils and water glasses and then find a table. It is simple, and keeps costs down. So, after sampling a few wines at their wine tasting bar, we grabbed what we needed and found a table while Owen picked out a few items for us to try.

Chef Lisa Scott has created a fantastic menu of tasty shareable plates which cost between $6 and $8 and they all have descriptive, interesting names like: The Tijuana – Carnitas Tacos (3) with Tomatillo Salsa; The Salinas – Stuffed Artichoke with Lemon-Caper Aioli, The Hong Kong – Ginger-Wasabi Shrimp atop Asian Slaw on Won Tons and The Washington D. C. – Mushroom Caps with a meat stuffing and a bit of créme sauce.

Owen picked the Washington D.C., a BLAT and some of Lisa’s version of Pasta Fagioli soup, all of which both of us agreed were excellent.

The soup, filled with pasta, garbanzos and flavor, was perfect for a rainy day, like the day we were there. The mushrooms were delicious and after we had finished them, we asked for more bread to sop up the sauce and what stuffing had slipped from the mushroom caps (the plate was very clean when we finished).

The BLAT, which was a large wrap filled with bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato (thus the name), had, in Salazar’s words, “All of the textures and tastes, along with the flavors.”

When he first looked at the BLAT he said, “It’s just a tortilla,” but after tasting it, couldn’t put it down. “I’m going to bring my bowling team here to have the mushrooms and the BLAT,” he said, “and then maybe try everything else on the menu.” Later Owen told me he did show up with his team the following Sunday. It is always exciting when you find something new that you really like.

The wine list is different from the wines you can taste and buy across the lawn at Crystal Basin Cellars. They have great names like: a sparkling Pomme, Bada Bing!, Bada Boom!, Suite Thang, Fuget about It, Kougar Coolaid, etc. And to help you, each menu item notes a wine that they believe will pair best with it.

Wine and beer are only $5 a glass ($4 during happy hour from 5 until 7) and they have quite a selection. Bottled wine costs the same if you want to buy it to drink there or to take with you.

Speaking of taking it with you, everything can be packaged to go and they have a whole lot of deli items to add to your meal, including cheese from Dedrick’s Cheese in Placerville, and even some goods you probably can’t find anywhere else, like lots of hot sauces and even canned white abalone (what!).

Crystal Basin Bistro is open from 11a.m. until 7p.m., Monday through Thursday and from 9a.m. until 7p.m., Friday through Sunday. (Breakfast burritos served until 11a.m. then the regular menu takes over).

For more information visit their webpage at or call 530-303-3749.

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