Poor Red’s – El Dorado

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la mΛme chose.” [The more things change, the more they stay the same]

French proverb



Poor Red’s 

A couple of weeks ago I stopped by Poor Reds, a landmark in the town of El Dorado, to pick up a couple of t-shirts for my son and one of his friends. It had been a while since I had been there, and a few years since I had written something about the place. I knew they had added to the menu, but, as a friend of mine would say, Wow!

My failing mind recalls that a few decades ago, their lunch menu had only their famous pork dip, a hamburger (“You want cheese on it, you bring it!” they would yell at you), a ham sandwich and a steak sandwich, which wasn’t really a sandwich, but a large steak with a couple of pieces of bread. Lunches came with a small, green salad (they fancied it up with a slice of pickled beet at dinner) and some great fries that still had the skins on them.

For dinner you had a choice of their famous ribs, chicken, a couple of steaks and I think ham, accompanied by a baked potato and the fancied salad.

It was that way when I first visited the place in the mid-1960s, and stayed that way until not too long ago. Now, you can still get those those items, and a lot more.

Added to today’s lunch menu are thing like a prime rib dip, cheese burger, bacon cheese burger, cowboy burger, 8 oz. ribeye, chicken strips and a chef salad. According to second generation bartender, Mike Speegle (Jr.), the pork dip and prime rib dip are the favorites of the lunch crowd. My favorite was always the pork dip, which was better late in the week for some reason.

The new dinner menu has added to it baby back ribs (by far the new favorite over their famous pork ribs), a cheeseburger, chef salad, steak and Bleu salad, an 8 oz. filet, along with a 12 and 16 oz. ribeye.

On Thursday and Sunday, they add a 12 and 16 oz. cuts of  prime rib to the menu and on Friday and Saturday, a lobster dinner, along with combinations of the lobster and any of the three steaks.

The have also added to the menu appetizers, something you used to have to bring with you if you wanted them (lots of purses had cans of nuts in them when they arrived). You can choose from potato skins, chicken strips, buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers, onion rings (you can also get a sampler plate with those last three), fries, garlic fries, cheese fries and Bleu cheese fries.

I understand from Speegle, that Casey Moore, a talented local chef, came up with a number of the new items in the few years he has been working there. I had talked with Moore a few days before, and he too was excited about the new menu.

The bar opens daily at 10 a.m. and stays open until late. Lunch starts at 11:30 (noon on Sunday) and continues until 4:30. Dinner is served from the start of lunch hours until closing, which is normally 9, and 10 on Friday and Saturday. You get fries with dinner until after 5 p.m, when baked potatoes are available.

For more information, drop by one of El Dorado County’s most famous landmarks or give them a call at (530) 622-2901.

Oh, remember that for years they only had Bud on tap? Now they have a much greater selection of beers.

Sierra Nevada House Summer Menu

“What you eat standing up doesn’t count.”

Beth Barnes




Sierra Nevada House summer menu

Three of us had the opportunity last week to try several items from the Sierra Nevada House summer menu, along with a couple of specials they were serving that day.

As far as I am concerned, since owner Howard Penn hired Diana Greer as his Executive Chef a couple of years ago, the food has gotten better and better.

Leaving the menu of small portions up to Greer and the selection of small pours of wine to Greer, bar manager Samie Campbell and our delightful server, Andrea Dodson, we started.

Our first course was seared Ahi, served with lime cilantro rice, sprouts, pickled ginger and wasabi. They chose a Perry Creek viognier that had a hint of honey in the nose and taste that went very well with it. The Ahi was perfect and melted in your mouth. The rice, sprouts, pickled ginger and wasabi added wonderful and different tastes and textures.

Our next course was a grilled prawn cocktail, served “up”in a classic martini glass with chipotle aioli. With it they served us a David Girard Roussane, a delightfully “clean and fresh” wine that was perfect for this dish and the next. There were six prawns, which we divided and found to be perfectly tender with a delicious slight crust, hinting of balsamic vinegar. The fight was over the wonderful aioli, which was over lettuce in the glass. I have always loved the flavor of chipotle (smoked jalapeno pepper) and Greer blended it perfectly for the prawns.

That was followed by their white truffle “mac and cheese,” made using Cheddar and Gruyere and white truffle oil and topped with onion strings. This dish gets better as you reach the cheese in the bottom, so stir it or serve everyone else first if you are sharing it. It too went well with the roussane.

Our next dish was a combination of a chili rubbed pork chop with papaya honey butter and another new dish, chimichurri pork chop, a flame grilled chop topped with chimichurri sauce. With these we were served a Lava Cap Sangiovese, made from grapes grown in the Matagrano Vineyard in nearby Lotus. I don’t know which of the pork dishes I liked better (maybe the first one), but the wine, which was full of flavors, really complemented both of them.

The next to last entree was the best. It was their new baby back pork ribs with their own chipotle barbecue sauce. With it was served David Girard’s Rive d’Or, a Bordeaux style blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec.

One of my guests, after tasting the ribs and the wine, said the following over the next couple of minutes: wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, yummy and incredible. Five wows alone would have been enough to describe what were the most delicious ribs I have ever had, but the yummy and the incredible really added to the description. And the wine, five wows for it too. They were made for each other; a perfect food and wine combination. Thanks to the ladies for selecting it.

Our final entree sample was of a dish added to the menu by Greer to replace their very popular ratatouille, which is only served during the winter. It was Italian sausage and fennel pappardelle: spicy Italian sausage in an orange fennel sauce served over a bed of imported pappardelle egg noodles. To have with it we had saved a bit of the wonderful Rive d’Or.

We all agreed that it was excellent, but would have been better if served before the ribs. We also agreed that it would have been better if we had not spent so much time talking with Greer and her new Sous Chef, Eric Edstrom, while it cooled on our plates and the excellent noodles dried. I love the flavor of orange, fennel and spicy sausage, and this was an excellent combination of the them.

For dessert we shared blackberry pie ala mode, made with local blackberries. It was only warmed slightly so that the ice cream would not melt and the berry seeds, which can become very hot, would not burn your tongue.

At that point, Teal Triolo, who owns Sierra Rizing Bakery and Café in Lotus, and is a good friend of Penn, mentioned that she had baked boysenberry – rhubarb pie that day and wondered if we wanted a sample. I had forgotten how wonderful rhubarb is in pies. It was delicious.

The Sierra Nevada House restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday at 5 p.m., serving wonderful appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, small plates, pastas, steaks, chicken, seafood and more. They also have the outdoor River Café and a full bar. Call (530) 626-8096 or visit their web page at www.sierranevadahouse.com for more information.

Hay Chihuahua! – Cameron Park

“ Food doesn’t exist, but can only be invented. And reinvented.”

Joyce Carol Oates


Hay Chihuahua!

Last Friday I received a call from my friend Carolyn Kumpe, who owns Charlotte’s Bakery and Café in Diamond Springs. She called to tell me that the “communal” commercial kitchen she and others had been working on in Cameron Park, was open. And, on top of that, one of the people using the kitchen, Hilda Diaz, would be opening her restaurant, Hay Chihuahua!, there and selling her to-go Mexican food starting this week. So, I dropped by last Saturday to find out more and talked with both Diaz and Kumpe.

Their place is located at 4100 Cameron Park Drive, Suite 117, which puts it between China City Restaurant and the Alibi Sports Bar. When I arrived, Diaz was busy cooking food and Kumpe was giving out samples of her delicious baked goods.

Hay Chihuahua! has quite a menu of great looking food, including soups and antojitos, salads, tostadas, quesadillas, nachos, tortas and molletes, stews, fajitas, burritos, flautas, tamales (her speciality) and desserts. She also has a number of side dishes to accompany your meal. You can get the food to go, eat at one of their few tables, use the picnic tables out back or take your order next door to the Alibi sports bar and order something to go with it (yes, even a soda).

I tried a serving of flautas and Mexican rice and was impressed, especially with her green salsa. She was only serving those and tamales that day, but will have her full menu ready this week. The hours for Hay Chihuahua! are Tuesday through Sunday from 11 until 9. They also cater events and can be reached at (530) 409-3061.

Kumpe will be using the kitchen to bake up more things for her place in Diamond Springs and will also have food to sell there. That should be in a week. You can call her in Diamond Springs at (530) 642-1500 to find out more.

Also using the kitchen is Musarrat Afshan, who owns Pretty Sweet. Pretty Sweet creates custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies for all occasions. So if you are looking for delicious, artisan cakes, cupcakes and cookies for all of the special events in your life, this is the place. Exquisitely hand decorated and made from the finest quality ingredients, their treats are custom made and personalized to suit your wedding, party or corporate event.

Afshan was the assistant pastry chef at Masque in El Dorado Hills and can be reached at (916) 952-3043.

Finally (I told you it was a communal kitchen), also using the facilities is Art Gonzales, the owner of Art’s Hot Dogs. He has been selling dogs for 10 years, has two carts and says he has the best hot dogs around, and lots of different varieties. Soon he will be using Kumpe’s buns for his dogs, which he also has custom made for him. He guarantees his food. He even guarantees that if he does a kids birthday party for you, he will keep the kids happy. His speciality is a “Chicago Mexicali Dog.”

He said he will be in Diamond Springs on Sunday, when the flea market is happening, and can be reached at (916) 672-7276.

“Everyone will be helping each other out,” said Kumpe. “If one of us is not there, whoever is there will help you. We all needed this facility and together we did it. It is tough in today’s economy and we have to help each other to survive.”