Plymouth Hotel – Plymouth

“The greatest dishes are very simple dishes.”

Auguste Escoffier


Plymouth Hotel

I often rely on people to tell me about interesting places to eat, places that I might not find myself. One of those is hidden away in the city of Plymouth, the first place you come to in Amador county when you go south from here on Highway 49. Called the Plymouth Hotel, it is located at 9356 Main Street in downtown Plymouth. A right (west) turn on Main street will get you to it, a left turn will take you to Fiddletown or the Shenandoah Valley and its many great wineries.

The Plymouth Hotel was built in 1882 and still looks much like it did then. Outside, the building hasn’t changed, while inside, the bar area looks as much like a 19th century bar as I have ever seen, from the original back bar and bar, to the upright piano and pictures of John Wayne on the wall.

Diane Walton, who purchased the hotel in 1995, is refurbishing the place, to bring the upstairs hotel rooms up to today’s standards without losing the old atmosphere. “People don’t seem to like the small rooms with the bathroom down the hall,” said Walton. “And, even though I didn’t want to, I made other changes in the building like putting  a new floor in the bar area. It was made of fir and on day a leg of one of the bar stools went through a thin spot, surprising the person sitting on it.”

Also on the main floor is the lobby for the hotel and what must have been a parlor, being converted into a Victorian era billiard room, complete with overhead lampshades hand made by Walton.

The walls throughout the hotel are covered with as eclectic a collection of of paintings that I have ever seen, many of them original works. “Most of my paintings are for sale,” added Walton. “One day a man came in an wanted to buy cigarettes. I told him he would have to go to the store down the street to get them. On his way out he met a customer smoking and asked for a cigarette. While he was smoking he leaned in and asked if a certain painting was for sale. I said, ‘Yes.’ He then asked how much and went back to smoking. Then he asked about another painting and the price. He finished his cigarette, bought both of them and left.”

I could go on an on about the building and the interesting owner, but I better get to the food.

Walton was a caterer with a café and a bakery in the Bay Area during the 70s and 80s. She also likes to travel and has spent a lot of time in Italy. She calls her menu “American with an Italian twist.”

It starts off with Paninis: Italian grilled sandwiches. These are not the familiar small buns often seen at restaurants, she makes them like you would find in Italy, on special rolls baked for her that are a few inches wide, just about an inch high and over a foot long. You can order a ham, salami, pastrami or Chipotle beef (I tried that and loved it. Lots of meat and delicious bread) Panini, with your choice of cheese. And there is a very special “Panini Martini Lunch Combo,” any Panini with a gin or vodka martini for a special price. I was tempted, but…

The menu also includes “Other Yummy Stuff” like tri-tip hot on a roll, a meatball sandwich, the Hotel Club, a chicken breast sandwich on a roll or bagel, an egg salad sandwich, a tuna melt, grilled cheese, hot link on a bun or a foot-long hot dog. There is also a chicken salad with light curry, apples and celery topped with cashews, homemade potato and pasta salad, garlic and rosemary soft breadsticks and, for dessert apple or cherry pie (ala mode if you wish) and cheesecake with fresh strawberries. She makes most everything and everything I tried was great.

There is seating at the bar, at several tables or outside in the beautiful courtyard you really have to see.

The Plymouth Hotel is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 until 7 and ond Friday and Saturday from 11 until 9. Live acoustic music on Fridays from 6 until 8.

For more information call (209) 245-4544.

By the way, the Amador County Fair, will be held on July 28-31 this year, just down the street from the hotel. And, if you can’t make the fair, Plymouth is just a neat place to visi

BJ’s Brewhouse – Folsom

“Mother Nature clearly intended us to get out food from the ‘patty’ group, which includes hamburgers, fish sticks and McNuggets….”

Dave Barry



BJ’s Brewhouse

A friend of mine was in town on business last week. He had ridden the bus to Placerville, so afterwards I offered to drive him back to Folsom, where he lives. He offered to buy lunch and recommended BJ’s Brewhouse, which is located at 2730 E. Bidwell Street, kind of across the street from Home Depot.

When we published “Folsom Life,” a few years ago, I had written about BJ’s, but it wasn’t open at the time and this was my first chance to try it out.

It was about 11 a.m., and they had just opened , so they were still a bit empty. Thus we had our choice of places to sit and chose a table near the bar. The restaurant is very attractive, clean and pleasant inside and the help turned out to be very courteous and also pleasant.

BJ’s Brewhouse makes their own beers, but being that it was still morning and both of us had important things to do the rest of the day, we ordered ice tea.

Looking over the lunch specials on the menu I ordered a bowl of their Piranha Pale Ale Chili and a half roasted turkey Cobb sandwich, both of which sounded interesting and were. My friend ordered the same chili, which he had recommended to me, along with a salad.

They have quite a selection of delicious looking burgers, but again it was a bit early in the day to eat a large burger or something else heavy, and, besides, my sandwich came with their thin cut fries that I wanted to try.

The Piranha Pale Ale Chili, which is made with  pork and beef, pinto beans and their own Piranha Pale Ale, came hot with melting cheese and a dab of sour cream on it. The chile was a lot better than most restaurant chiles, although a bit hard to eat because the melting cheese kept stringing out from my spoon and trying to get on my shirt and beard. Fortunately, they provided me with a nice, large napkin.

The sandwich was made with roasted turkey breast, tomatoes, avocado, applewood smoked bacon, bleu cheese dressing, lettuce and Dijon mayonnaise and was served on a toasted garlic cheese French roll. I loved it. And just a half sandwich, to go with the chili, was perfect.

The thin fries were served very hot and were well cooked with that crispness I like. There were a lot of them and they stayed good and hot for quite a while. As I always say, fries, soup and chile; if they aren’t served hot, they shouldn’t be served at all.

BJ’s has a very large menu including: appetizers, snacks and small bites, deep dish pizza, garden and speciality salads, “enlightened” (low cal) entrees, gourmet burgers and sandwiches, pasta dishes, speciality entrees, culinary creations, desserts, kids menu items and even gluten-free dishes. They have curbside take-our and can even host your event.

The Folsom BJ’s Brewhouse is open from 11 a.m. until midnight Monday through Thursday, until 1 a.m. on Friday; from 10 a.m. until 1 a.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until midnight on Sunday.

For more information call (916) 404-2000. You can get a lot more information on BJ’s by going to their web page at You will be delighted with the number of delicious looking items they serve.

Windwalker Vineyards – Somerset

“This wine is too good for toast-drinking my dear. You don’t want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.”

Ernest Hemingway




Congratulations Windwalker Winery

I have been keeping a close eye on commercial wine competition around California for the past 20 or so years. During that time more and more El Dorado County wineries have earned higher and higher awards as their quality not only increased, but stayed at those high levels.

As far back as I have been keeping track, our wineries have often scored as many high awards at the California State Fair as Napa and Sonoma, and have received a number of “Best of California Awards” for a specific varietal, the most recent being the 2007 Sangiovese from Nello Olivo Vineyards last year.

At other competitions such as the highly respected Orange County Fair, El Dorado County wines have always done well. In 2009 of the nearly 3100 wines entered, only 26 received the top award, a “4 Star Gold Medal.” Of these, two were from El Dorado County, the 2006 Fair Play, Sierra Moon Vineyards, Reserve Petite Sirah from MV Winery and the  2006 Estate Grown, Fair Play Zinfandel from Granite Springs Winery. Two out of 26 out of 3100, not bad.

Unfortunately, El Dorado County wines don’t aways get the best press outside of the county. After all, when “Two Buck Chuck” chardonnay won a big award a few years ago, it made for a more interesting story than how our wines did in a competition.

This year an El Dorado County winery, Windwalker Vineyard and Winery, may have helped prove the case to the media that our wines are as good or even better that others in California when their 2008 Shady Lady Amador County Primitivo received the coveted Best of Show Award for Red Wines at the California State Fair, a competition where 2800 wines competed. It also received 98 out of 100 points from the judges, a double gold medal, Best of Region Sierra Foothills Appellation award, Best of California award and Best of Class Sierra Foothills Appellation award.

A few newspapers and TV stations picked up the news of the award and, because of some confusion in the scoring sheets, some decided the winery was named Shady Lady and was in Amador County. Wrong! The wine is 2008 Windwalker “Shady Lady” Amador County Primitivo. The grapes came from Amador County, but that wine was made at Windwalker Vineyards and Winery on Perry Creek Road in Fair Play.

If you are wondering, a winery making wine from grapes grown other than on their own land is a common practice in the winemaking trade. Not only do El Dorado County wineries do that, a number of wineries in other regions of California use grapes grown in El Dorado County and make wonderful, world class wines. Maybe there is a varietal that just grows better somewhere else or maybe the winemaker just likes those grapes.

Congratulations James and Alanna Taff, owners of Windwalker, and winemaker Dominic Mantei for a job well done.