Monthly Archives: October 2014

Steppin’ Out – Los Pinos

los pinosI first wrote about Los Pinos in Cameron park a little over two years ago. If you are not familiar with it, it is, the restaurant at 3420 Palmer, the same place that some time ago was, in order, Hemalayas Indian Restaurant, Blackwell’s and the club house for the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy.

My friend Russ Salazar and I dropped in for lunch a couple of weeks ago. It was a little before noon, and the place was already about one-third full.
We were pleasantly seated in a booth by a window and spent a couple of minutes looking over the menu when the complementary chips with two salsas and beans arrived.

One salsa was a mild, the other had fire roasted chiles (yum) and the frijoles were smooth and delicious.

A few minutes later we were greeted by the new owner, Dan Neher.

Dan told us that he was going to have the kitchen send out small portions of several dishes and really wanted our opinions on them.
While we were waiting, he added that he wanted everyone to know that this is not a drastic change in ownership and that they have kept the same recipes and even retained the manager, Bruce Taitague, a gentleman whom I have known for several years. What they have done is up the quality of the ingredients.

Our first sample dish was Camerones A La Crema, shrimp sauteed with a mild chipotle cream sauce. The sauce was wonderful, AS WERE ALL OF THE REST OF THE SAUCES! The shrimp were a bit overcooked, something I do at home.

That was the only even slightly negative comment either of us has about the entire dining experience. In other words, the day was full of smiles.

Our second sample was a pork tamale with a nice red sauce and cheese on top. Russ’ first comment was, “It isn’t just enchilada sauce, it’s really good.” Russ and I both love pork tamales and this one was top notch all the way. It was followed by a Basa Taco, grilled basa fish with red cabbage, onions and avocado. It came with an great spicy chili sauce and was excellent. I have always loved fish tacos made with grilled fish.

Steppin’ Out – Gold Vine Grill

gold vine grillMy first story about this wonderful restaurant in the quaint town of Somerset was written about 10 years ago when they were celebrating their second anniversary. I was impressed by their food then and have been ever since. In fact, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who didn’t have a good meal there.

Mary and Greg Kemp are the owners and operators of Gold Vine Grill. They met while working on a cruise ship and opened Gold Vine Grill in 2003.

Greg, who is the talented chef, not only worked in the kitchen on cruise ships, but was also a sous chef at the highly rated restaurant at Chateau Souverain. He is an artist and perfectionist in the blending of flavors and balance of everything goes on the plate. His soups and sauces are really outstanding and nothing leaves Greg’s kitchen that isn’t pleasing to the eye.

Mary, who also has excellent cooking skills and an great background in the restaurant and hotel business, runs the front of the restaurant. Previously she and Greg ran a catering business and she was the Culinary Arts instructor for the Central Sierra Regional Occupation Program at El Dorado High School.

Their talent shows in their food, service and wine knowledge.

You will find that the restaurant is warm and casual, but classy. When you enter you are always greeted with a smile, and, in fact, everyone in the restaurant is smiling. It has a happy atmosphere like an old-fashioned diner.

I had eaten dinner there several times, so Russ Salazar and I dropped in on a Friday for lunch. We were greeted by our friendly server, Jordan, who seated us at a table by a window and handed us luncheon menus.

I wanted to try one of their famous burgers and, from the list selected the Grizzly Burger, made with seasoned all beef patty topped with fire-roasted jalapeños, bacon, grilled onions and Provolone cheese. I asked Salazar what looked good to him and he said, “I want to try the crab cakes from the appetizer menu. They sound really good.” (Smiling, he told Jordan he really wanted the Pastrami Panini, only because they took it off the menu).

We gave Jordan our order, asking for a mix of regular and sweet potato fries with the burger. Salazar added a cup of clam chowder with two spoons, something else I didn’t expect. I have to tell you, I was quite surprised with Salazar’s choice of the crab cakes instead of a sandwich, but also delighted. I could write a whole story just about them.

Steppin’ Out – Taste of Thai

taste of thai 2It has been two years since I visited Taste of Thai, the restaurant at 1160 Broadway, the corner of Mosquito Road and Broadway in Placerville. My friend Russ Salazar had that on his list of restaurants to visit, so he asked me if I wanted to go there for lunch one day.

A few days later we met at the restaurant and walked in. If you have never been there, you should at least stop by to look at the place and pick up a menu. We both agreed it is one of the most beautiful restaurants in El Dorado County.

The walls are nicely paneled and everywhere there are gorgeous decorations from Thailand lighting up spots in the restaurant. And, it is clean and quiet.

The last time I was there I spent a lot of time talking with the owner, “Minnie,” and trying samples of many of the dishes. This time she was in Folsom opening a new restaurant, so I didn’t get a chance to see how she and the business were doing.

Shortly after we sat down, our server, Phong, handed us their very large menus and we started deciding what we wanted to try. I had brought my story from two years previous, so I had some idea about the dishes, what they were made from and which ones I liked.

After we looked over the menu, Salazar looked me and said, “This menu is way too complicated since each dish has a number of unfamiliar ingredients, and it is difficult to read. That may be why,” he added, “that there are only a few customers here.”

I hadn’t thought about that, but it is probably true. There are nearly 100 different choices on the menu, most all with Thai names. But, if you have difficulty deciding, the servers will be very happy to help you choose a dish or dishes you will like. Be adventurous. I am sure you will be delighted with the food.

It is also important for you to know that if you have an allergy or intolerance to anything they will make the dish without it. Also, you can select how spicy most dishes are, from mild to “Thai Hot.”

I have eaten in a number of Thai restaurants, yet still I have difficulty choosing a dish. I dislike eating the same thing every time just to be safe. After all, I will eat anything at least once, since food is an adventure to me.

With a bit of help from our server, we finally decided to try two dishes from their Lunch Menu, which is available on weekdays, unless it is a holiday.

Although I had planned on trying something new, since we were sharing I had a dish I had enjoyed once before, Pad Thai, which consists of rice noodles with egg, chicken, shrimp, fried tofu, green onions and bean sprouts, topped with ground peanuts.

Salazar chose Pad Prik, with pork, chili, onions, bell peppers, water chestnuts and sweet basil leaves. It came served on white rice. He also asked for hot tea to enjoy with our meal.

With our lunch came either soup or salad. Unfortunately, they had no house soup that day, something quite common at restaurants during the summer.

Our salads were very nice, made with fresh, crisp lettuce and a good vinegary dressing, a nice start to the meal.

While we were waiting for our entrees, I shared with Salazar some of what Minnie had told about Thai food: Pad means stir fried, Prik means pepper, Gaeng means curry, Gai means chicken, Yum means salad, and so on.

You can also try these words: Chan Hew means I am hungry, Aroi means delicious and Chan Im means I am full. It is amazing what you can find on the Internet.

Our food was Aroi, delicious. All the vegetables were fresh and not overcooked, my noodles were wonderful and overall, it was a good eating experience for both of us.

Salazar is an expert with chop sticks. I, on the other hand, am terrible with them. I drop most of which I pick up. I was pretty good with them when they were thicker and made of bamboo and larger than the ones they have now, but not with the new, slim wooden ones.

The very large menu at Taste of Thai includes Appetizers, Chef’s Specials, Soups, Salads, Stir Fries, Curries, Noodles, Fish and Seafood and more. And, there is a special section of the menu listing what we selected from, a large number of weekday lunch specials. Beer and wine are available for your meal.

You will notice on the menu that there are a number of similarities between Thai and Indian food. They use a lot of the same spices, curries and other fresh ingredients. But they still are different.

Taste of Thai is open Monday through Thursday from 11 until 9 and on Friday through Sunday, until 9:30. They also have a special area for groups and can create a buffet for 20 or more.

For more information call 530-621-9559 or just drop in for some delightfully different food to eat in or take out.

Steppin’ Out – Sierra Rizing

sierrarizinglogo3When I first met Teal Triolo, the owner and founder of Sierra Rizing some 13 years ago, she had just opened a bakery…not just a bakery, a great bakery. Now it is a bakery, café, coffee house, catering business and more, and because of her determination, doing very well.

Triolo’s background includes training as a pastry chef under the auspices of Wolfgang Puck at Postrio, Joyce Goldstein at Square One and Jeremiah Tower at Stars -famed chefs and restaurants of San Francisco. There she gained the hands-on knowledge she applies in the creation of a wide variety of fine foods and baked goods.

A couple of weeks ago I drove to Sierra Rizing, which is located at 7310 Highway 49 in Lotus, just over the Highway 49 bridge from Coloma .

I was greeted at the counter by one of the lovely ladies working there and asked what she would recommend. “We have a lot of dishes on the menu board, but I would recommend the Lotus Scramble,” I was told with a smile. “Sounds good to me,” I replied.

“What would you like to drink,” were her next words. “If you like chai, I can make you a chai tea latte.” That sounded good, so I filled a cup with water and went looking for a place to sit.

Tables? They have tables inside and outside! There are high tables, low tables, large tables, small tables, community tables and counters from which to choose. I like the tall tables so I found one inside with a view of the counter so I could watch the passing crowd.

Soon my meal arrived. The Lotus Scramble includes sauteed veggies (mushrooms, tomato, red peppers, zucchini and onion) fresh spinach and cheese. You have a choice of cheese, so I chose feta, which I really like on food. With it came home fried potatoes and thick-cut whole wheat berry toast. They also brought my chai tea latte to enjoy with it (yummy).

Just as my food arrived, owner Triolo came out of the kitchen and joined me at my table and, as I enjoyed my food, she filled me in on everything.

“Along with the Lotus Scramble, our other top breakfast seller is our Caramelized Banana Waffle,” said Triolo. “I told them to make you one. You don’t have to eat it all.”
It was beautiful and decadently delicious. I took half of it home for later.

“Do you like scones?” she asked. I told her I did, so she got me a mixed berry one, along with a lemon bar to take home.

The scone was great and later, at home, I found out the lemon bar was fantastic. I actually cut it into three pieces so I could enjoy it twice again.

“We strive to create meals around wholesome seasonal ingredients keeping our menu alive and fresh,” she told me. “Right now we don’t serve lunch, but I should have the menu for that in a couple of months. Our regular and vegetarian chili are both well known in the area and, with fall approaching, having them back on the menu will be appreciated.

“Catering is a big business for us,” she added. “We do a lot of it for weddings, parties, events, meetings and more.”

On their flier it notes that they can provide full service catering for either casual or discerning events, crafted to fit the needs of the customer. Unique menus are available and, of course, their speciality cakes. “Tell everyone that we would be pleased to meet with them for a personal consultation,” Triolo added.

In addition to what I enjoyed for breakfast that day, the menu includes two other scrambles, the Colorado Scramble made with ham, bell pepper, onions and cheese, and the River Scramble which you create yourself.It continues with other items, including an egg and cheese sandwich, more buttermilk waffles, the classic egg custard quiche, American River frittata, a gluten free South Fork Frittata and Sierra Rizing’s own granola.

To the above you can add sides such as pork or turkey sausage, thick cut bacon, cinnamon sugar toast, and more.

In the bakery they have all kinds of pastries, muffins, breads, pies and cakes (the flourless chocolate cake is outstanding). You can also get tamales, wraps, sandwiches on bread or croissants and slices of cake if you are looking for a picnic lunch.

I’m sure I left something out, but find out yourself by stopping by Sierra Rizing for breakfast (and soon lunch), locally roasted coffee and espresso drinks, fresh baked goods, European breads, and fine desserts. You won’t be disappointed.

Sierra Rizing is open daily, year-around, from 5:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information call (530) 642-9250 or visit their webpage at www.sierrarizing.com. Yes, they have Wi-Fi.