Monthly Archives: September 2011

Burke Junction – Cameron Park

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.”

John Gunther


Burke Junction in Cameron Park

Last Saturday I was again invited to judge at the annual Mother Lode Rehabilitation Enterprises (MORE) Chili Cook-Off, which, this year, was held at Burke Junction in Cameron Park. This was a new venue for this outstanding event and 15 chili cooks showed up to prepare chili for the public, and 13 “celebrity” judges, to comment upon.

Since I hadn’t been to Burke Junction is some time, while I was there, I took the opportunity to walk around and look at the various eating and drinking places that are there.

The Snooty Frog , which moved to El Dorado Hills for a time, came back to its original home in Burke Junction a few years ago and is still well known for fine dining, excellent cocktails and local wines. They open for dinner and cocktails at 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information call (530) 677-9025.

Thai Basil has a name that explains the food: Thai. They are open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday and dinner only, starting at 4 p.m., on Saturday. For more information call (530) 677-5220.

Slingshots is a very popular bar that also serves food (I read a good comment about their pizza). Check them out for events and specials. They are open daily from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. For more information call (550) 676-9915.

Que Viva, is a great Mexican restaurant with inside and outside seating. Live music on the weekends and always lots of fun. Open from 11 until 8, Friday and Saturday until 9:30 and Sunday until 8:30. For more information call (530) 677-3300.

Kobe Sushi and Grill not only serves sushi, but also offers a Korean barbecue grill table, Sashimi quality fish market, sushi classes, and much more. Inside and outside seating. They are open from 11 until 9, Monday through Thursday, from 11 until 9:30 on Friday and from noon until  9 on Saturday. For more information call (530) 672-9210.

Mongolian BBQ is a unique restaurant where you gather in a bowl the meat, noodles, vegetables, sauces and they cook them for you. It is an opportunity to be as healthy as you want to be. Some of the sauces can be very hot and spicy. Open Monday through Friday from 11 until 2:30 and from 4:30 until 9. On Saturday the lunch hours are the same and the dinner hours from 4 until 9. For more information call (530) 677-3301.

Bricks Eats & Drinks – Placerville

“Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?”

Author unknown 




Bricks Eats & Drinks

A couple of weeks ago I had a lunch meeting in Placerville and, by chance, we ended up at Bricks Eats & Drinks, which is located at 482 Main Street in Placerville. Although it has been open for about six months, this was my first time there and I was delighted with the new decor, lighting and… well everything.

I ordered their pastrami Reuben, which came with slaw, smoked Gouda and 1000 island dressing on marbled rye. It was very good and, with the outstanding crispy fries that accompanied it and an order of sweet potato planks, with a buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, I ended up taking half of it home.

Their fries are just wonderful and are coated to make them crisp and stay that way. The sweet potato planks, which are variously sized, fried and served hot, were also very good and reheated nicely later that day to accompany the remaining half of my sandwich.

Last week I had an opportunity to stop by again, this time to talk with the General Manager, Laura Hartrick. She is a delightful lady with a lot of experience in the food business, 18 years of it off and on with this restaurant owner, Jose Rodriquez.

Hartrick had three dishes from the Starters and Small Eats portion of menu prepared for me to try: Ba Bas, spicy blackened lamb chops served on a bed of their very unique delicious slaw, with a sweet pepper relish; Hot & Spicy Shrimp, jumbo shrimp with butter, garlic and Cajun spices, accompanied by sliced sourdough for dipping and Fried Green Tomatoes, panko crusted on a bed of grits, topped with a tomatillo salsa and creme Fraîche.

The lamb chops were very spicy, but very flavorful and not over cooked. The sweet pepper relish was a great accompaniment and the slaw, which I took home, is a unique and delicious combination of sliced and chopped vegetables you will probably not find elsewhere. Together, the three worked wonderfully, and the slaw, even by itself, was crisp and delicious.

The shrimp were not overcooked (Hartrick asked me to notice) and nicely spiced. The bread dipped into the sauce became decadently buttery and garlicky, but I couldn’t stop doing it.

The tomatoes were my favorite. The tender green tomato slices, the crispiness of the Panko and the sweet and slightly acid flavor of the tomatillo sauce and the creme Fraîche, just went together wonderfully. I took the leftovers home and didn’t even warm them. They were still wonderful.

The menu at Bricks is quite large with more starters, a number of delicious looking soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches and Big Eats, liked Bricks meatloaf, top sirloin, center cut ribeye and New York steaks, Normandy (pork) chops, chipotle barbecued baby back ribs, chicken saltimbocca and piccata, sesame seed and peppercorn crusted ahi, fresh Atlantic salmon, shrimp scampi and one of the two favorite dishes, along with the burgers, fish and chips.

I asked Hartrick about their menu and she said it is designed to not compete with their sister restaurant, Cascada, down the street. I liked the lamb chops and told me Cascada has a rack of lamb, so they don’t. And, like Cascada, they have a unique “reservation” system.

They call their’s “Fast Pass,” which gives you priority seating, rather than them holding a table for you. You call ahead and when you arrive, they put you at the front of the line. It seems to be working quite well, especially during the busy 6 until 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday evening hours.

Bricks has a full bar and lots of local wines. The bartender was serving a watermelon cocktail with “poprocks” on the rim and said they also have a “Courthouse” cocktail which, if you have more than, two, will probably get your there. They also have eight very drinkable beers on tap.

The kitchen hours are 11 through 8:30, Sunday through Thursday, and until 9:30 on Friday and Saturday. “If it is a happening night,” said Hartrick, we will stay open later.

For Monday night football, they will have “happy hour” with food and drink specials from 3 until closing.

For more information, call (530) 303-3480, and to see the whole menu and more, visit

Oh, I commented on the outstanding photographs of Placerville on the wall and Hartrick told me they were done by a Shingle Springs business, Studio B, owned by Scott and Sharon Benton. Copies are available and they can be reached at (530) 677-5369 or on the internet at

Wanderings: Tulelake

“A nickel’s worth of goulash beats a five dollar can of vitamins.

Martin H. Fischer 



In early July I and a group of the family camped for a few days at Lava Beds National Monument, near Tulelake, CA. It is high desert, over 4700 feet, and the weather is very changeable. We picked the perfect time. The weather was fantastic: pleasantly warm during the day and cool, with an occasional little mist of rain at night.

My grandchildren, who are four and seven, like their mother when she was around that age, had a really great time wandering  around in the lava tubes and looking at the two major volcanic craters, one of which is empty (Mammoth Crater) and the other full (Medicine Lake).

The Monument gets its name from the fact that it is full of lava tubes, which are long tunnels created when the molten lava cooled on the top and bottom and the still liquid middle ran out 30,000 plus years ago. Inside the park they have been improved with paths and ladders (some are even lit). The 22 developed tubes are rated easy, moderate and “If you are over 40, don’t even think about it.” (I added that one)

It is also the site of the Modoc war that took place in the 1870s between the U.S. Army and a group of the Modoc tribe led by “Captain Jack.” You can tour the battlefield where 60 Modocs held off 600 soldiers for five months. It is well marked and full of history.

Adjacent to it is the Tulelake Wildlife Preserve, which is on the western flyway for migratory birds. In the spring and fall it is full of birds and a wonderful place to visit. In February it is visited by some 400 Bald Eagles, a sight that is well worth viewing (Klamath Falls, OR is not too far away and has motels, restaurants, etc., and the nearby town of Tulelake has some conveniences), including a restaurant known as Captain Jack’s Stronghold.

I have been going there since 1966 and the people at the Monument are always friendly and helpful. They even have special programs during the summer months that include lectures, demonstrations, and tours of various lava tubes, the Modoc battlefield and more.

The campground has running water and real toilets and is clean. It also has a forever view in all directions. Call (530) 667-8113 for more information, including RV facilities and size limits.

Best of all, this year I got a senior pass to federally owned lands that got us in free (saved $10) and half price on camping (saved $15). The best $10 I ever spent.

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.