Monthly Archives: June 2013

Steppin’ Out – El Tamalero

About two weeks ago I was invited to visit and try the excellent tamales that are made locally by the Silva family. This is a serious family business, and they make the tamales at Manzanita Kitchen and Events, the new commercial kitchen/event center behind the post office in Diamond Springs.

A few weeks before I had tasted them at the grand opening of the facility and was looking forward to seeing them make them and, most of all, to taste them again.

“My dad (David Silva) starts making them about 6 a.m., and starts delivering them around 11,” his daughter Carmen told me on the phone, “so it would be best to get here about 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.”

I arrived and was graciously greeted by the eldest of the three sisters, Mechelle. She introduced me to the rest of the family, father David (The Tamale Man), mother Wanda and sisters Vonadale and Carmen, the one I had talked to on the phone and who does their PR. There are also two brothers, David and Fernando and, like everyone else, they too are involved in the business.

While I was watching everyone happily doing their part to make the tamales, David Silva told me the story about how they got started.

“We came here in 1964,” he said. “I worked for the Nielsen-Ferrari lumber mill, which, like most mills, was a seasonal business with slow winters. To help support the family, we took over a restaurant called Alice’s Coffee Pot in the town of El Dorado and changed the name to Silmart Café, after myself and my partner, a man named Martin.

“A couple of years later we opened a restaurant called Los Panchos on Mother Lode Drive. We had that place until 1973.

After that we made tamales off and on for several years and had lots of customers, like the employees at Blue Shield, when it was on Broadway, and Marshall Hospital. We also made them for fund raisers at church and schools.

“About 12 years ago we took a trip back to my home town, Coatzacoalcos, a port city in the Mexican State of Veracruz. That area is well known for tamales, so we visited local villages to see how the people made them. Then we came back and decided to make our tamales the old fashioned way.

“In Mexico they use a coarser corn meal to make tamales. It goes back to the days when it was stone-ground at home,” continued David. “What you find in the store is ground too fine, so we get ours from a nearby commercial mill.”

“Business was good, and after delivering tamales to my customers, I would end my route at Shenandoah High School,” continued David. “which is next to Union Mine High School.

“They had an R.O.P. (Regional Occupational Program) instructor named Jane Harris who we knew because we used her family’s commercial kitchen.

“I would see students just sitting around during their lunch hour and would offer them tamales. If they could pay something then or later, that was okay. If they couldn’t, that was also okay.

“I didn’t look for anything in return and then one day they presented me with the logo they designed for us and t-shirts for everyone, including all the kids and grandkids (13 total). It was a wonderful honor I didn’t expect.”

El Tamalero makes five kinds of tamales all year, and starting around Thanksgiving, sweet ones for the holidays.

Their tamales include: vegetarian, chicken, chile and cheese, beef and “hot and spicy” beef. They use only the freshest vegetables, chicken breasts, good cuts of quality beef and no lard. I tried them all and they were very, very good, especially when hot from the steamer.

They packed two of each kind for me to take home, along with some of their excellent green sauce. I froze them (they freeze quite well) and took them to my daughter’s house a couple of days later. She steamed them and everyone, including the grandkids, loved them. Our overall favorite was the chile and cheese, although my son-in-law really liked the “hot and spicy” one.

They make tamales on Wednesdays and Fridays and, in addition to delivering them those two days, they are available at the Wednesday evening farmer’s market in Placerville.

To order these excellent tamales to eat now, serve at a party or freeze for later, call (530) 417-5641 or visit www.eltamalero.com.

They can also be shipped and they have customers as far away as Montana, Tennessee and even Canada.

Steppin’ Out – Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen

Generally I try to buy food at the El Dorado County Fair from the local non-profits, like the 4H, granges, 20-30 Club and other local organizations. But now and then I wander off to see what new vendors we have, and I was delighted with what I discovered..

If you were at our fair last week, you may have noticed the brightly painted food truck that said, Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen. If you were lucky, you took the time to read their menu and order something, an act that I and a number of my friends did more than once during our great four day fair.

As you may know, food trucks have recently become very popular all over the country, including in the greater Sacramento area. So, two years ago Andrew Blaskovich leapt in and started Drewski’s by buying and outfitting one truck. Since then his business has grown exponentially. And, they have won “best of” from Sacramento News and Review, KCRA and more.

Blaskovich now has two trucks (located “On a street corner near you,” he says) and in the next few weeks should have cafés open in both Folsom and McClellan, in addition to the existing Republic Bar & Grill, a popular eating and drinking establishment on 15th Street in Sacramento, where he runs the kitchen.

I had quite a chat with the very personable Doug Otter, the truck manager, while they were at the fair. He said the secret to their success is selling food that people like, made from good quality ingredients and sold at a reasonable price.

The menu at the fair was their standard truck menu, which includes the following grilled cheese sandwich creations: Hemi: slow roasted Carolina pulled pork, Mac ’n Cheese, grilled onions and Cheddar cheese, grilled on sliced French bread, Mustang: Korean braised beef, house-made kimchi, shredded daikon, Sriracha (the Asian looking “Rooster Sauce” made in California)-Wasabi aioli and aged Havarti and Swiss cheeses grilled on sliced French bread, Prius: sliced and grilled Granny Smith apples, wild flower honey, Smokehouse almonds, and double creme Brie cheese, grilled on 9 grain sliced wheat, Tricycle: “Your Not So Standard Grilled Cheese,” with Cheddar, Swiss and Havarti cheese, grilled on sliced French bread, Drewski Dog: an all beef (Hebrew National) dog, bacon wrapped and topped with Cheddar cheese, grilled onions, Sriracha-Wasabi Aioli and grilled on a sweet French Hoagie roll.

Sides include Drewski’s Famous Tots, tossed with fresh rosemary and garlic; Sweet Potato Fries, also tossed with fresh rosemary and garlic and Drewski’s Deep Fried Mac ‘N’ Cheese Balls, with smoked bacon and black truffle, along with the S’moreski, made with whipped marshmallow, Nutella and graham crackers grilled on sweet French bread.

I tried the Drewski Dog, along with some tots, with which they gave me some Sriracha-Wasabi aioli for dipping (spicy and delicious, but not too hot). The sandwich was spectacularly wonderful and the tots dipped in the aioli, outstanding. I couldn’t eat all the tots, so I shared a half-dozen of them with some friends, who actually fought over the last one.

The next day my friend Russ Salazar, his lady friend, Lynn, and I shared a Drewski Dog and a couple of orders of tots, which was enough food for three normal people (Lynn is the only normal one it turns out).

Unexpectedly, we were joined at a table in the shade by two of my favorite and always delightful people, County Assessor Karl Weiland and his wife Heidi.

Heidi graciously shared her Prius sandwich with us and it too was very, very good, even to meat eaters like Salazar and me. She also had an order of Drewski’s Famous Tots, so we shared our dipping sauce with her. She must have really liked it as the small containers were wiped clean when she was done.

The Folsom café will be located off Iron Point Road in a business park, while the McClellan café is slated for 5504 Dudley Avenue.

In addition to everything else, Drewski’s does a lot of catering. For more information call (916) 502-0474 or visit www.drewski.com.

“So Doug,” you might ask, “why a food truck and cafes that aren’t even in our county?” Well, a lot of our people shop in Folsom at Costco and Sam’s Club, so they might be interested in something different. And, they received a number of inquiries at the fair about bringing their truck to the Placerville area once a week, one being from a city official. They are looking into that.

Finally, if you are wondering why the business is called Drewski’s, that is what his friends called him when he was young. Andrew Blaskovich simply became Drewski.