“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.”
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.