Centro – Placerville

“In Seattle you haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it’s running.”
— Jeff Bezos

Last week I came home to find a message on my answering machine from Greg Phelps, the owner of Centro, the “more than just a coffee shop” at 385 Main S, right on the corner across from the Belltower in Placerville.

In mid-December Centro added small plates to the menu, generous servings of gourmet treats, beautifully presented, that are served during “happy hours,” from 5 until 8 p.m., on Thursday through Sunday evenings. To accompany them a wine bar serving 14 premium local wines was also added.

“There was nothing on Main Street like this,” said Phelps, “so I got some recipes, made them up and taste tested them, augmenting them as I saw fit. I use the finest ingredients in my dishes. I think they are all fun and perfect for sharing.”

The menu includes seven different small plates, along with the soup of the day and three desserts that serve two: the dolce Centro, a shot of espresso over vanilla bean ice cream; a lemon tart, wonderful lemon filling in a flaky, all butter shortbread crust, and Lana Lane’s cheese cake, an all butter graham cracker crust with a cream cheese filling.

The first small plate I tried was the dolmas, which had a nice flavor and a nice vinegary bite. Like two of the other items, they came with, what my editor would call “the cutest gourmet crackers ever.” Next I tried some of the “Sierra Blend” of Kalamata and feta cheese stuffed cured olives. I don’t know where they come from, but they were really, really good. My third treat was a large serving of duck cognac pate, which came with fresh baked little toasts of La Brea bread. It was smooth and flavorful, a perfect accompaniment for the glass of Oakstone pinot grigio I was sipping.

Next I tried the four different kinds of crostini that are served on fresh baked little toasts, eight of them to a serving. Each one of them was a cavalcade of flavors to savor, as you will see by the list of ingredients and I loved them. They were far above any I have tasted before.

The cannellini bean crostini is made with white cannellini beans, arugula, rosemary olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar; the artichoke crostini has fresh ricotta cheese and artichoke hearts topped with pine nut-currant relish; the eggplant crostini is made of grilled eggplant, red bell pepper, garlic, balsamic vinegar and a thin slice of Pecorino Romano cheese, and the prosciutto crostini consists of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, arugula and black olive tapenade.

I topped everything off with just a few bites of Lana Lane’s cheese cake: smooth, delicious and decadent. Lana Lane, by the way, is Phelps’ sister, who just happened to be there that evening to appreciate to my accolades.

Centro is, as I mentioned, more than a coffee house. In addition to the list of Jeremiah’s Pick organic coffees, coffee drinks and chai tea (the favorite) that are served, along with the fresh baked pastries and more, it is open for lunch with four gourmet sandwiches on the menu. These include roasted turkey breast with Swiss cheese, lettuce, onions and whole grain mustard on a rustic roll; tuna with marinated artichoke hearts, caper-olive tapenade sauce and arugula, on a rustic roll; Soppressata salame with pesto and Havarti cheese on a demi baguette and Black Forest ham with brie and Dijon mustard on a demi baguette.

In addition to the coffee drinks, they have quite a selection of common and uncommon sodas, juices and other drinks, along with a number of beers and, of course, the wine bar.

I complemented Phelps on the place being spotlessly clean, warm and that from the inside and outside (weather permitting) seating Centro has the best view of Placerville around.

Including “happy hours,” business hours are Monday through Wednesday, from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday, 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., and 7:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information call 530-626-5500.

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