Steppin’ Out – Cork & Fork for St. Patrick’s Day, Cool, CA

cork and forkOnce a year, on St. Patrick’s Day, the Cork & Fork, which is located at 3006 Highway 49 in Cool (intersection of Highways 49 and 193), holds their annual “St. Patrick’s Day Joke Off.” This year it was held on Thursday, and, again, I got to be a participant and judge.

When Russ Salazar heard where I was going and I could bring a guest, he immediately signed up, especially when he found out that the owner and Executive Chef, Dennis Edwards, had some new dishes to taste like Salmon in Dill/Caper Sauce and Molasses Marinated Tri-Tip Steak.

Dennis, a real Southern Gentleman, greeted us as we entered and we found seats at the wine bar, perfect for observing the joke tellers.

While we were pondering over the menu, Dennis had one of his friendly servers pour us some wine while he went into the kitchen to prepare us a plate of appetizers. They turned out to be their Asian Panko Batter Fried Shrimp and Fried Pickles (Crispy Dills in an “Ol’South Batter).

The pickles, which I have tried before, were outstanding, but I have never had shrimp like that. The batter was lacy and melted in your mouth and the Sweet Chili dipping sauce was perfect as an accompaniment. Dennis told us how the batter was made, but I am sworn to secrecy (unless I get a good offer).

The menu has a large number of delicious looking dishes, but we decided to split the salmon and tri-tip dishes, but also asked to try a couple of meatballs with sauce from one of the pasta dishes. I’m glad we did.

The meatballs were tender and delicious and the sauce tasted like fresh tomatoes, even though Dennis told us they weren’t. He works magic in the kitchen.

The tri-tip, which came with chunky mashed potatoes, was delicious (who ever thought of using molasses as a marinade) and the salmon, well, Russ is not a fish eater, but I think this dish reformed him. It was tender and tasted fantastic. The dill/caper sauce they made really complemented it. It came on a bed of California five grain rice (I didn’t know we grew five different rices) which added more flavor and texture to the entire dish.

For dessert we had a cookie made with roasted coconut, macadamia nuts, chocolate chunks and more, over which they put caramel sauce and French vanilla ice cream. I forget what Dennis called it, but I just called it magnificent and memorable. Fortunately Russ is still on Weight Watchers, so I got most of it.

Well, back to the jokes, the reason we were invited.

Since it was a Thursday, the crowd was slightly smaller than it would be on a weekend, but after a number of opening jokes by Dennis and his lovely wife Ann, several customers got up and told some really good ones. Even Russ and I joined in, but since we were judging, we didn’t get any of the great prizes like, shirts, dinners and such.

The Cork & Fork has a very large menu of salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, lots of sides and “Original Ol’ South Bar-B-Q” dishes (Dennis is a barbecue competition winner from Memphis and a chili winner locally). That part of the menu includes the regulars like pulled pork and baby back ribs, along with their own Philly Cheese and a number of different tacos, including great looking fish tacos (tacos on a barbecue menu…why not? We’re in California).

They also have their “Indulge” dinner menu that changes monthly and often new dishes that Dennis or his chefs Michael and Mike come up with. You could eat there twice a day for a month and probably still have new dishes to try.

Coming up at Cork & Fork next month (April) is Southern Cooking, with catfish, fried chicken , okra and fried green tomatoes. Starting in May: Party on the Patio, music and appetizers on special every Thursday through September and a car show every third Thursday.

On top of all this, they have a second operation, Cork & Fork’s Express Pizza, where you can pick up pizza baked or to bake at home, along with Calzones, Tuesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. until closing.

Dennis also has Xpressions Catering, that provides their great food for your special events. As Dennis say, “We cater to you.”

Stop by to find out everything that is going on or follow them online at www.coolfork.com or, you can like them on Facebook at The Cork and Fork. That way you can keep up on what’s new in food, entertainment and everything else.

The Cork & Fork is open Tuesday from 4 until 8:30 and Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. For more information check online or call (530) 889-1195.

A FEW NOTES:
Pastrami is back at Wienerschnitzel for a limited time. I heard that for a while it got too pricy for them to serve. You really should try the sandwich (it also comes on fries and a hot dog). The sandwich is on rye bread with Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, just the way it should be.

I was actually impressed with the Double Jack burger at Jack in the Box. Right now they are running a $4.99 combo special on it (ended). Nice bun, nice flavor in the burger and just the right amount of sauce. Now, if they could just get the sauce in the middle of the bun.

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