Savnik’s Food – Catering & Consulting – Pollock Pines

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”

Lewis Grizzard


Savnik’s Food – Catering & Consulting

I first ran into Charley Savnik at an event in Pollock Pines where he was cooking prime rib for a Christmas party. I had a friend with me who only ate meat that was well done. Prime rib is usually served a bit rare, the way I like it, but they also had one that was well done. She loved it so I tried it and it was delicious and moist. Savnik was cooking that evening and I congratulated him on the prime rib.

I have run into Savnik many times since then and every time the food he prepared was excellent, and often different. Not only does he cook what we would call regular food, but he also specializes in “Old World Traditional Dishes.”

Right now Savnik is cooking at the Rusty Nail in Pollock Pines on Sunday afternoons, but shortly he will be extending his hours and adding to the menu things like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and more.

Last Sunday I just happened to catch him at the benefit dinner for the Pollock Pines Library at the Pollock Pines – Camino Community Center where he was donating his time, something he does a lot. The menu for this event included: tri-tip, oven roasted lemon-garlic chicken, hot potato salad, salad, garlic-bread and fresh made apple-strudel for dessert.

Between cooking and serving, Savnik told me how he had come to American from his native Croatia in 1969, gone back and then come back the next year. “From 1971-73 I drove a taxi in New York and then got a job at the Waldorf Astoria, cooking breakfast,” said Savnik. “I have been cooking since I was a young child and had no trouble doing that job. The only problem was the commute, so in 1976 I moved to California where I went to work at D. O. Mills, starting in inventory management and ending up in their kitchen. In 1994 I moved to Pollock Pines.

I worked in Pleasant Valley for a while and in 1998 just happened to ask the Pollock Pines – Camino Community Center if they needed a cook, and they did.

“I can cook most anything,” he added, “but I love to cook traditional European dishes, like goulash, stuffed beets, stews, soups, sausages and more. In those dishes the meats are cured differently and different spices are used. Once you learn how to do it and where to get supplies you need, you can cook dishes from all over the world.”

I took the opportunity to try what he was cooking for the event and as he was slicing the tri-tip he gave me a piece. “I put my own rub on it, sear it on the grill and then steam it,” he said. It was excellent, and very moist, something that a lot of grilled tri-tip isn’t. I then sampled the hot potato salad. I like it with a bit more vinegar, but was then told that when you serve it to people who may never have tried it before, you tone it down. The best dish, as far as I am concerned, was the chicken.

“If you want to taste chicken,” my friend Henry says, “go for the dark meat.” So I tried a drumstick. It was delicious and moist – fall-off-the-bone good. That was the best chicken I have had in a while – quite a while. Finally I tried the apple strudel that I had watched him make. I thought it might be better with a bit of cream on it, but it was still good, and much better than store bought.

Charley Savnik, as his business card says, does catering and consulting, besides working at restaurants around Pollock Pines. If I was looking for a unique food with an European flair for a dinner or celebration, I would sure give him a call. His phone/fax number is (530) 647-0327 and his email is [email protected] By the way, among others he speaks the five languages and six dialects of the region where he was born and reads Cyrillic.

Poor Red’s Revisited – El Dorado

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

Luciano Pavarotti



Poor Reds revisited

A few days after I wrote about the additions to the menu at Poor Reds Bar-B-Q, the eating landmark in the town of El Dorado, I received a call from Mike Adams, the owner. He was inviting me to test a few of the menu items I had not previously tried, along with some of the regular ones.

I met he and his wife, Bree, there on a Tuesday, at about 1:30 in the afternoon. We talked about the different things they are doing to improve Poor Reds with a larger menu and special events and then moved into the dining room and sat at a table which soon became covered in food, all prepared by Chef Casey Moore.

The first dish, quite to my delight, was one of their Australian lobster tails (served only on Friday and Saturday), beautifully served fine dining style, on top of its shell. It was tender and delicious, and more than I could eat, especially with what was coming.

Next I was given a plate with one of their new lunch items, the Prime Rib Sandwich, along with my old favorite, the Pork Dip. The Prime Rib sandwich was very tender and full of flavor. I can see why it has become one of the two most ordered items on the menu. The Pork Dip, which I have been eating since I first visited a long time ago, was delicious and had the dipping sauce that you don’t tell your doctor you eat. It was very lean, maybe a bit too lean (I like a bit of fat in it, not to eat, but to add flavor). However, it was a trip down memory lane and tasted like it should.

Being that it was “Taco Tuesday,” they brought me a couple of their tacos to try. They appeared to be deep fried before adding the garnishes, but not as greasy as some fast-food ones. They sat for a bit on my plate, but were still very good. They come in corn or flour tortillas, are a good size and inexpensive.

Next came a sample of their famous pork ribs and a grilled chicken breast and leg. They are using the original recipe rub for the ribs, which I find a bit salty. However, I have seen people add salt to them and love them. Over the years I have found the ribs varied from moist and delicious to more than a bit dry. These were very moist, meaty and good. The chicken, which I have never ordered, was really good. I ate the drumstick and saved the breast to share (I took home several leftover containers). Now I wish I had kept both of them.

My final dish was a serving of their Baby Back Ribs, which have become the number one seller at dinner. I can see why. The flavor, the tenderness and the sauce were all excellent (see if the chef will tell you what is in the sauce). Ribs should be cooked to pull off the bone, not fall off and these were that way. They gave me an additional half rack to share and everyone gave them raves.

Even though I had been drinking only water while tasting, Mike asked me to try their house Regal Amber beer, which they have made for them. They gave it that name because there is an old sign on the west side of the building that says “Regal Amber.” I like hoppy beers and it was nice, right in the middle between very hoppy and slightly hoppy. Oh, he also ordered some fries to taste at the same time. I love fries, they are my downfall. These were thin, shoestring style, crisp on the outside and tender inside. They kept their crispness for over five minutes, which is excellent.

Mike wanted to make sure I mentioned that there is no added MSG in the food and that he and the staff want to know about anything that you feel can be improved upon to make sure you enjoy your visit. If something is wrong and they don’t hear about it, they won’t know.

For more information give them a call at (530) 622-2901 or visit (and be sure to listen to the song “Poor Reds” by the Golden Cadillacs). They also have a Facebook page that lists events almost every day.  Oh, when you are there next, ask them about their “Hot Wheels” races

Firewater Grill – Coloma

“Every time I east Rice Krispies . . . . . .I listen.”

Merritt Malloy


Firewater Grill

Okay, you have never heard of the Firewater Grill. Neither had I until last week. It has only been open a couple of weeks and doesn’t have a sign yet, but you can easily find it because it is located on Highway 49 in the Ponderosa Store and Café at Ponderosa Resort, in the Lotus – Coloma area, just north of the bridge over the South Fork of the American River, across the river from the Sierra Nevada House.

Now that I have got you there, you really have to try their food. They specialize in burritos, tacos and burrito bowls that are more than a bit upscale in ingredients from what you would normally find, and still affordable.

In June Tym Armstrong, of Gold Rush Whitewater Rafting moved his office to this building and reopened the general store, which is presently being expanded. He always felt his rafting customers should have the best food used chefs for the meals. Because of that he thought it might be a good idea to open a small burrito café to serve the adjoining campground, tourists and the community. He contacted his friend chef Jason Story, who has 18 years in the fine dining business, including two years as Chef de Cuisine at Sequoia, and told him what he wanted. Story took it from there, hiring Sous Chef Matt Nicholls, who worked at Amerikan Sushi in Placerville, to help him.

Their menu is basic, but the selection of meats and other ingredients is unique. They build your order as you request, right in front of you, and even have a list of suggested combinations if you would like to try something they have found works well and is delicious.

The meat selections include: pork carnitas, spicy pineapple pork, guajillo chicken, beef barbacoa and citrus cilantro mahi. If you are a vegetarian, you can try sauteed onions and peppers, ginger soy tempeh and falafel. They have two kinds of beans: refried pinto (made with butter) and vegetarian black beans. There are also two kinds of rice: garlic cilantro rice and Mexican style rice, which is vegetarian. At that point you can have them add cheese, onions, cilantro, cabbage, guacamole, sour cream and anything else from the fresh vegetable bar. Now, with your burrito, taco or burrito bowl completed to your exact specifications, you probably want some sauce. How about chipotle BBQ, verde, enchilada, wasabi aioli, jalapeno aioli, tahini vinegarette or coconut curry. (mouth watering yet?)

I tried a taco made with the citrus cilantro Mahi and a burrito made with spicy pineapple pork and garlic cilantro rice. I asked Chef Story to make it them both as if he was going to eat them and they turned out to be absolutely delicious and moist enough that I didn’t have to or want to add more salsa.

A large burrito is usually all I can eat at one sitting, but I was able to eat both it and the taco, along with some chips, so that I could try the selection of salsas.

The salsa bar is quite large and includes mango salsa, marinated onions, marinated jalapenos and carrots, pico de gallo, tomatillo, guacamole vinegarette, roasted corn and a rojo, which is made with different kids of chiles and is hot. I sampled each of them and also the sauces that I hadn’t tasted in my food, like the coconut curry, which I loved.

There is a limited amount of seating inside and a nice patio to which they are adding a plants, a waterfall and a fire bar (Thus the name Firewater).

As I have said before, I guess I could add more to this, but why don’t you give Firewater Grill a try. They are open from 11 until 8 daily, and until 9 on Friday and Saturday. And, this weekend, like the last one, they are offering a BOGO, a buy one, get one free deal on their food.

For more information call (530) 295-8380.