Monthly Archives: April 2013

Steppin’ Out – ZacJack Bistro

logo-zac2-300x90“If you aren’t willing to grind your own meat, bake your own buns and use the freshest ingredients, you shouldn’t be serving burgers.”
Chef John Evans

I have eaten breakfast, lunch, dinner, wine paring dinners and more at ZacJack Bistro and never had a bad meal. In fact, I have never had less than a great meal.

John and Lynette Evans opened ZacJack Bistro, which is located at 1275 Coach Lane in Cameron Park, nearly two years ago to fill in the need for a restaurant that serves what they call “Everyday Gourmet Cuisine,” and are doing a great job at it.

I dropped in earlier this week to talk with Chef John and ordered one of their signature burgers, something I had never tried before. All of them are made with freshly ground American Kobe beef and served on a freshly baked bun. My choices were a French burger, a Bleu burger and a mushroom burger, along with their new El Dorado Burger.

I decided on the El Dorado Burger which is a half-pound of beef that is grilled and served on a freshly baked bun with garlic aioli, strips of cherry wood smoked bacon, melted Cheddar cheese, smoky Chipotle barbecue sauce and crispy fried onion rings. Along with it were served freshly cut, crispy fries.

It was cooked to my liking (go as rare and you can to get the great flavor of the beef) and delicious. Chef John has a great palate and can put together some interesting combinations of flavors.

The Chipotle barbeque sauce came on the side and what I didn’t put on my burger I used as a dip for the crispy, skin-on fries (Yum!). They also have house made catsup for dipping.

I wish I had more room to describe the food, because of the list of ingredients in each dish. But, to give you a basic rundown, in addition to the speciality burgers, the lunch menu includes small plates, like shrimp macaroni and cheese, a stuffed artichoke and a cheeseboard. Then there are the soups and salads (the two day, slow-cooked French onion soup is wonderful and also available in a half soup – half salad combination).

The Croques (French classic sandwiches) include short rib, mushroom ragout, shrimp remoulade and even a smoked salmon BLT. And, you can get a half sandwich and salad or soup if you wish.

They also have several kinds of fresh made pizza, all cooked in their brick oven, and they can substitute a gluten-free crust if you wish at no extra charge. And, on Monday through Friday there is a varying Golden Special at lunch for $6.99.

The dinner menu includes the burgers, soups, salads and pizzas, along with a large list of appetizers, including a wild mushroom croissant, an olive plate and escargot.

The plates, or entrees, include a filet mignon, traditional Al Cordon Bleu Chicken, Coconut shrimp, a grilled boneless double pork chop (one of my favorites), crispy sauteed salmon, trout almondine, boneless beef short rib (another favorite of mine), Calamari A La Luby Doo and a vegetable Wellington.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday they also serve brunch, starting at 8 a.m. That menu includes bockwurst and eggs, ham steak and eggs, bacon and eggs, salmon or trout and eggs and Mountain Joe’s biscuits and gravy, along with a three egg omelet.

In addition to those, they also serve banana-boysenberry pancakes, cinnamon swirl French toast, coconut-macadamia nut French Toast and a special Buenos Dias Burrito.

The dessert menu includes their famous Gateau Saint Honore, macaroons and ice cream, Belgian chocolate cake, carrot cake, Marquis du Chocolate (a dense, fudge-like, flourless chocolate cake) and a delicious lemon tart.

To accompany your meal are the normal coffee, tea and soda, along with quite a list of wines from El Dorado County and the world, by the glass or bottle, and domestic and imported beer.

Speaking of wine, on Thursday, April 25 at 6:30 p.m., ZacJack Bistro will be holding a dk Cellars wine dinner, followed on May 2, by an Auriga Cellars wine dinner, on June 6, by a Nello Olivo wine dinner and on July 11, by a Boeger wine dinner.

These are all local wineries and Chef John is a master at pairing wine and food. You should try and make it to at least one of them.

Tuesday is Ladies Night with live music and specials, Thursday no corkage on the wine you bring, and coming up in May, “3 B’s” on Wednesdays and Rock and Lobster, a six ounce lobster tail cooked your way and rock music on Friday.

ZacJack Bistro is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Thursday from 11 until 8:30; on Friday and Saturday for brunch, lunch and dinner from 8 until 9:30 and on Sunday for brunch, lunch and dinner from 8 until 8. Closed on Monday. For more information call 530-676-2969.

In order to served the best food with the freshest ingredients, the menus are seasonal and do change periodically, so I recommend if you have something special in mind, call first.

A lot of people have asked me what happened to Zachary Jacques Restaurant on Pleasant Valley Road east of Diamond Springs. It is now a fantastic store called ZJ’s Speciality Food Market, with lots of unique food items, beer, wine and more. It is open every day but Monday and in the process of expanding to meet the needs and desires of the community. For more information call 530-626-8045.

Steppin’ Out – C & T’s Restaurant

323653941-300x268“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.”
Franz Kafka

Earlier this week I stopped by C & T’s Restaurant in Pollock Pines, CA, which is located at 6454 Pony Express Trail at the far end of the buildings in front of CVS Pharmacy. I was there to meet with Twila Grasmick who with her husband Chuck, owns the place. I don’t think I have had so much fun at breakfast in a long time, just talking and laughing.

I complemented the young lady who seated and served me on the cleanliness of the place and she smiled and said, “We do our best,” while getting me a cup of coffee. Then Twila, with a big smile, sat down on a chair across from me and said, “So what do you want from me?”

Caught a bit off guard, I said, “So, what are the big favorites on the menu?”

Opening the menu and pointing at the list of breakfast items, she answered with a smile, “Our country fried steak, chorizo and corned beef hash. We bread and season the steak ourselves, we make the chorizo ourselves and the corned beef hash is homemade. What would you like to try?”

“Well, can I get a sample of a few things?” I replied. “Sure,” she said and walked over to talk with the chef.

While waiting for my surprise meal, we chatted about lots of things, including how they got started in this business.

“I have been a waitress since I was 22, so I am not new at this. Chuck is retired from the Forest Service and for nine years he and I ran the Waffle Shop in Placerville. Then seven years ago we opened this place. For a year and a half we actually ran both places.

“Chuck is into cars, so we decorated the place with car pictures. See all the small cars on the shelves by the cash register? Those were all brought in by our customers.”

My breakfast arrive and it consisted of a country fried steak with sausage gravy, a small serving of chorizo and eggs and a portion of their corned beef hash.

I started with a taste of the corned beef hash which had a much better flavor than many I have tasted and wasn’t salty, since they cook a real corned beef and cut it up for the hash. I know that because before it arrived I had asked if they used the much more convenient canned corned beef, as some restaurants do. After a few moments of just staring at me Twila smiled and then responded, “No, we cook real corned beef for it.” I have to watch out what I ask.

The chorizo and eggs was very good. Chorizo can be a bit fatty, but not theirs. It had a very nice flavor and the plate was clean when I finished it. “We buy the pork sausage already ground and use it to make the chorizo,” Chuck would later tell me. “Sometimes it is actually too lean, so we have to watch out for that.”

The country fried steak with the sausage gravy was really, really good. It was thin, nicely breaded and seasoned and, even though it came with a steak knife, it was not needed. It was not only delicious, but completely fork tender and the gravy, not too thick, not too thin – perfect. “We get good meat,” said Twila, “and fork tender is the way it should be.”

All three samples I tasted might be a bit under-seasoned for some people, which is something I like in a restaurant. You can add salt, pepper, hot sauce or, perish the thought, ketchup if you want, but you can’t take it away if the chef overdoes it. That is the sign of a good restaurant.

C & T’s serves both breakfast and lunch. The menu starts with a list of egg dishes (egg beaters can be substituted), which, like their many omelets, come with hash browns or O’Brien potatoes and toast or biscuit and gravy (go for the biscuit and gravy – yum!). Those are followed by pancakes and more, waffles and their house specialties, which includes the chorizo, corned beef hash, eggs benedict and even a breakfast burrito.

Finally, there is a list of a number of sides and you can also get smaller servings of many of the breakfast items, no matter how old or young you are.

For lunch there is quite a list of burgers and sandwiches. The favorites are the Philly cheese steak and the grilled Reuben (I have to go back and try that one). Many of the sandwiches are also available as a half sandwich.

In addition to their Soup du Jour (seasonal) you can have a dinner, chef, taco or tuna salad if you aren’t in the mood for a sandwich.

There are daily breakfast and lunch specials which may or not be menu items and, in addition, as both Twila and Chuck said to me, “ If you want something special, we have the ingredients and we aren’t too busy, we will make it for you.”

C & T’s Restaurant is open from 5 a.m. until 2 p.m., seven days a week. Breakfast and lunch is served all day. And, they even have a generator that they can hook up to keep them open if it appears the power is going to be out for a while, which makes them especially popular during winter storms. Now that is thinking ahead!

If I had to sum this restaurant up in just a few words I would call it a clean friendly place, serving comfort food in a very mellow atmosphere. It just has a nice feeling.

For more information give them a call at 530-644-0105.

Steppin’ Out – Diamond Springs Hotel

Diamond-Springs-Hotel-sm-300x239“Macaroni and cheese. Sunday pot roast and vegetables. Southern Fried Chicken. Ooey-gooey grilled cheese. Spaghetti and meatballs. These are all the things that make your pants too tight and your self-esteem plummet. But it’s totally worth it!”
Unknown Author

As I have said several times before, when people ask me about my favorite place to eat, the Diamond Springs Hotel almost always comes up somewhere in the conversation. Then the person asking takes over and tells me how much he or she likes the place. It happens almost every time.

The reason for these complements is that the Diamond Springs Hotels serves real food, what many call comfort food. If you look that up in a dictionary, you might find them listed there. All kidding aside, that is what they serve, that is what they are known for and they do a great job of it. Let me give you an example.

A few weeks ago my daughter and her family came up to visit me. It was lt was around lunch time and we decided to go to the Diamond Springs Hotel. Once there we were graciously greeted and seated at a table for five. In just a few minutes, everyone easily found something they liked on the menu.

Daughter Erika ordered a Monte Cristo, a turkey, ham and Swiss cheese sandwich that is often deep fried, but instead they grill it before dusting it with powdered sugar. She really likes that sandwich, but cannot find it many places.

Son-in-law Roy ordered the country-fried steak and eggs with potatoes, gravy and everything else. Stella, who is eight, ordered a child’s hamburger and Harris, who is five, ordered a grilled cheese sandwich.

I had my usual, the breakfast of two eggs, sausage and an English muffin. I pick that because my waist doesn’t need the potatoes and they have the best orange marmalade around and it goes great on an English muffin.

In a short plates brimming with food arrived and it was a real feast. Nothing was left and like with most families, several of us were invited to take bites from other’s plates.

Community Profiles – Placerville, Part 1 (The Beginning)

Placer Hotel (Jackass Saloon) with Hangman’s Tree behind it   (circa 1850)

Placer Hotel (Jackass Saloon) with Hangman’s Tree behind it (circa 1850)

Placerville: the Ravine City; Old Dry Diggings; Old Hangtown – under many names its history goes back almost to the very start of the California Gold Rush. The place that we now know as the City of Placerville started out in controversy and, some say, continues to remain there.

The honor of “discovering” Placerville is usually given to three ranchers who resided east of Sacramento along the Cosumnes River, William Daylor, Jared Sheldon and Perry McCoon.

In the summer of 1848, brothers-in-law Daylor and Sheldon, along with their friend McCoon are said to have stopped in a ravine along the banks of the North Fork of Weber Creek (now known as Hangtown Creek) several hundred yards below the crossing of what is now Highway 49. There they found gold in good quantities.

One day, an Indian in their employ, while searching upstream, located gold laden dirt on the hillside above the creek and reported his find back to them. After investigating the site, the three decided their present workings were as good, if not better.

When other prospectors came along they were immediately directed to the new location, which shortly became known as “Old Dry Diggings”. This name only lasted until January of 1849 when the town became known throughout the Mother Lode as “Old Hangtown” or just “Hangtown”

There are many accounts relating to why the name of this fair town was changed to Hangtown – all true, we’re told.