Charlotte’s Bakery and Café – Diamond Springs

“I like the philosophy of the sandwich, as it were.  It typifies my attitude to life, really.  It’s all there, it’s fun, it looks good, and you don’t have to wash up afterwards.”

Molly Parkin




Charlotte’s Bakery and Café

Talking with Carolyn Kumpe, the owner of Charlotte’s Bakery and Café at 493 Pleasant Valley Road in Diamond Springs, is always a delight, and you better keep good notes. As she tells you about her business and hands you samples to taste she tosses in bits and pieces of cooking and baking knowledge that you really want to write down and remember. I could probably write ten pages about her, but I will try to summarize in the space I have.

I first met her when she opened Charlotte’s Bake Shoppe in the town of El Dorado ten years ago. As we talked about her 20 (now 30) plus years of culinary experience, she would break off a piece of something fresh from the oven and hand it to me to taste while telling me about the ingredients she used and what she did to make it better.

Where did she get her experience? In summary, she lived in several regions of France, worked in San Francisco for many years and after selling the first Charlotte’s, was a culinary instructor for three years before opening this restaurant. Unlike most of us, she seems to have remembered everything she learned.

Kumpe has a simple philosophy that gets longer every time she tells it to me. Basically it is: “Use simple recipes and great ingredients, keep it fresh and support local businesses.” She also tries to use as many organically grown ingredients as she can and even has to-go cups and utensils that are biodegradable. And many of the local ingredients she uses she also sells, including Mad Dog Mesa olive oil.
Charlotte’s has two menus, one for breakfast and one for lunch, that are really checklists for you to fill out. For breakfast you can have a baguette with Nutella, cinnamon toast, toast with jam and butter, a bagel with cream cheese, Greek yogurt with seasonal fruit, cherry almond granola with yogurt or a steamed granola bowl, using low fat or non fat milk, soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk. The granola is made there and it is wheat free. You can also create your own breakfast sandwich, choosing the bread, meat, cheese if you want, spreads and fresh vegetables. Until she gets into her new kitchen going, her breads arrive daily from the Village Bakery in Davis and they are really good.

For lunch you can have a half sandwich with fresh made soup or salad, quiche with soup or salad or just the sandwich, soup, salad or quiche. And you get to choose what you want on your sandwich from a long list of breads, spreads and dressings (including fresh made mayo), cheeses if you want, meats and vegetables. You can also get Paninis when the weather is cold.

The coffee and coffee drinks are made with Equator coffee, which is organic, fair traded and delicious. There are also a large variety of Equator organic and other teas and Kumpe blends her own chai spices for Charlotte’s Masai Chai and makes her own vanilla syrup for the drinks.

Of course, Charlotte’s has the wonderful baked goods that it is known for like a variety of pastries not found anywhere else, along with cookies, brownies, scones, muffins and the famous cheese sticks. Try one of their great smoothies to accompany them.

I sampled a number of wonderful things, including a savory quiche made with blue cheese and a grilled chicken sandwich made with brie, house jam and baby spinach. Both were outstanding and I specifically mention them because she has three kinds of quiche available: vegetarian, gluten free and meat lovers and if you let her help select the ingredients for your sandwich, it will be fantastic.

Kumpe takes Charlotte’s goodies to many of our local farmer’s markets and will soon have an additional place in Cameron Park, behind Safeway where she will be doing a lot of her baking.

So, that is all I have room for. You will have to stop by and find out everything else. Charlotte’s Bakery and Café is open from 6:30 until 5, weekdays and from 7 until 3 on Saturday. Presently it is closed on Sunday. For more information call (530) 642-1500.

High Sierra BBQ & Sausage Co. – Diamond Springs

“There’s a thousand little things that go into making a great-tasting sausage, … It’s just attention to detail, every darn one.”

Ralph Stayer


High Sierra BBQ & Sausage Co.

Recently when I drove through Diamond Springs, in front of Diamond Mart I noticed a large red trailer with a big meat smoker attached, and a sign saying, “High Sierra BBQ & Sausage Co.”

I stopped by and found out the business is owned by an old friend of mine named Jodi Hall, who used to work for my friend Rick Quarry, who passed away a couple of years ago.

“I have been in the catering business ever since my mother and grandmother put an apron on me when I was 12,” said Hall. When I moved here from southern California I went to work for Rick, helping with his catering business and helping make sausage at his butcher shop. I thought I would like to make sausage myself, and more varieties. Mel, one of the butchers who worked for Rick told me to not let go of my dream and sent me to Lockford Sausage Company to look at what they made. I was impressed.

“About seven years ago I started making sausage, and then a year ago I bought the trailer and smoker. Now I make sausage and smoke meat, and sell both from the trailer. I entered some barbecue competitions and the first time got ribbons for everything I entered. I think I have found my dream.”

Hall has quite a menu of sandwiches (sausage, tri-tip, brisket, pulled pork, chicken), beef and pork ribs by the rack or half-rack, wings, tri-tip and more which she sells, along with lots of side dishes. She also can provide special cuts of meat and even a whole hog, if you want. Hall makes and sells more than 40 varieties of sausage she sells fresh or frozen, including three kinds of Italian, pepperoni, apple, chicken apple, kielbasa, bratwurst, linguica, chorizo Creole, Andouille, English bangers, Bockwurst, Greek, Chinese, basil, pesto and more. She also makes by hand several kinds of salami, snack sticks and jerky, which she calls “Tree Trunks,” “Tree Branches” and “Tree Bark. You need to pick up one of her menus to fully appreciate the number of and kind of things she makes.

I tried a couple of her pork ribs which I took home with some of her great barbecue sauce and reheated. Normally re-heated ribs are a bit “iffy,” but these were still moist and pull-off-the-bone delicious. And, no heartburn from the sauce.

I also took home a couple of Andouille sausage, which I cooked, sliced and snacked on. It was a bit different from the Andouille I am used to, but very good.

Her barbecue trailer is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until she runs out of food (4-6 usually). If she will not be there because she has an upcoming catering job or is at a fair or event, she posts that on the side of the trailer the week before. For more information or to make sure she has an ample supply of what you want, call (530) 391-9488.

Taqueria El Carnaval – Placerville

“Salsa has now passed ketchup as America’s favorite condiment. Isn’t that amazing? You know it’s bad when even our vegetables are starting to lose their jobs to Mexico.”

Jay Leno, the “Tonight Show”




Taqueria El Carnaval

Taqueria Carnaval, which is located at 4340-C Golden Center Drive (off Missouri Flat, near McDonald’s and across from Wal-Mart) has recently changed owners and name. And, in celebration of this, on May 5, Cinco de Mayo, they will be holding their grand opening with live music and food specials, an event you really won’t want to miss.

The new owners are three brothers, Jesus, Julio and Manolo Abarca, and the restaurant’s new name is Taqueria El Carnaval. Jesus, who is the chef, and his brother Julio both work in the kitchen at El Carnaval, while Manolo is in charge of the front of the house, as it is called. It is a real family owned restaurant.

I had a chance last week to spend some time talking with Jesus, who everyone seems to call “Chuy.” He has been working in the restaurant business for 20 years, as far away as Chicago, but mostly in northern California.

For the past five years, they were partners with others at La Fiesta Taqueria on East Bidwell in Folsom, where he and his brother Julio worked their magic in the kitchen. La Fiesta, according to everything I have read, is a very highly rated restaurant.

The sign outside Taqueria El Carnaval  says, “New Owners, New Food, New Taste” and the new menu reflects that. The Abarca brothers have expanded the menu to include a greater choice of meats and a greater variety of items. There are not a large number of Mexican restaurants in the area where, in addition to the regular chicken, pork, and beef choices, you can also get tripa (tripe), lengua (tongue), buche (pork stomach) and chorizo (Mexican sausage) on your taco or in your burrito. And, how about a seafood tostada that comes with both camarón (shrimp) and pulpo (octopus). That is just a sample of new things on the menu. There are a lot more.

The three page menu includes quite a list of tacos, taco salads, enchiladas, nachos, tortas, quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, mariscos (complete plates), special plates, combo plates, seafood tostadas, seafood appetizer and soups, including the seven mares and three mares seafood soups, and more. Yes there is also a kids menu and on both Saturday and Sunday they have menudo and pozole.

Drinks include fountain sodas, traditional fresh Mexican drinks, Mexican bottle sodas, fresh squeezed orange and carrot juices and both imported and domestic beers.

The salsa bar has not only several salsas of different spiciness, but also some interesting marinated onions, cactus and peppers, along with jalapenos and radishes. Chips and salsa are complementary with your meal.

If you are looking for something different, they also serve quite a list of Mexican inspired breakfast dishes all day, every day.

Taqueria El Carnaval is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., daily. They not only have a clean, well tended dining room, but a large patio dining area.

Although you order at the counter and then find your table, the servers, who bring your food to you, also constantly come by to make sure everything is good with you. Our fantastic server, Roberto Castillo, is a graduate of El Dorado High School and was working at the Folsom restaurant before they opened here. Even though the restaurant was rapidly filling up as the noon hour approached, he and the rest of the staff made sure everyone was happy and enjoying their meal.

For more information or to make telephone orders, call (530) 344-7246