Monthly Archives: February 2012

Fountain Grill and Catering – Placerville

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

— Martin H. Fischer

Fountain Grill and Catering
When I was talking with Alma Zildzo at Crepe Town Café, she mentioned that a friend of hers had recently opened Fountain Grill and Catering at Creekside Place, the quaint center at 451 Main St. in Placerville.

I stopped there late one morning, hoping to beat the lunch rush, but they were already busy making salads and sandwiches for a number of customers and several call-ins.

“We like phone orders,” said Tom Rosa, who with chef Monika Geczy opened Fountain Grill. “They are much easier for us and our customers since they don’t have to stand in line at the door waiting to order.”

Geczy is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Sacramento and has worked for individuals, families and corporations as a personal chef, catered parties up to 200 people and worked for various catering companies around the Bay Area. She grew up in Europe and her passion for cooking is inspired by fresh ingredients and the creative process of making new recipes. Nothing satisfies her more than cooking delicious healthy food and sharing it with others.

Rosa is a retired sheet metal worker who used his working knowledge to redesign the restaurant to make it better for both Geczy and the customers. When asked if he did any of the cooking, he replied with a smile, “My area is outside of the kitchen. I take in the money and wash the dishes.”

Geczy and Rosa were looking around for a place for their catering business when they found this space for sale. “I have a lot of confidence in Monika,” said Rosa, “and this was the opportunity we were looking for.”

“We are open from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.,” said Rosa. “We had planned on being open earlier for breakfast, but when we got here early in the morning, we found the street was vacant, so we changed our hours.”

The menu is small, but full of delicious looking dishes. “Our soups are home made,” said Geczy. “I try to have one for each day of the week, so people who loved one of our soups know which day it is available.” The two salads, fresh spinach, with seasonal fruits, feta cheese, toasted walnuts and a champagne vinaigrette dressing, and mixed green with Panko-almond crusted goat cheese, tomato, grapes and apples with a balsamic vinaigrette, are both very popular, especially with added chicken.”

The large gourmet burritos each come folded with rice, guacamole, bean puree and salsa. The beef burrito has grilled steak and chimichurri sauce, the chicken burrito has grilled chicken breast and a red pepper aioli. “I like to add a bit of an European taste to my dishes,” said Geczy.

I should mention here that around noon of the day I was talking with them, four young men in shirt and tie showed up for lunch. One of them said, “Have the burritos, I had one last week and it was great.” They each did.

The sandwiches all sound outstanding and include Tuscan style turkey, grilled chicken, corned beef Reuben, grilled flank steak and grilled portabella. The first two are served on focaccia bread, the last two on ciabatta bread. The Ruben, which is filled with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, is uniquely served on marbled rye bread with her own Russian dressing. To speed up your sandwich order they have printed forms you can fill out in advance.

For dessert Geczy makes several kinds of sweet French crepes, including: walnut cream filling with rum chocolate sauce, farmer’s cheese with lemon sauce, hazelnut banana and apple.

As I mentioned at the start, catering is their main business and they can provide catering needs for parties, events, intimate dinners, corporate lunches and more. Ask for a list of the many items they can prepare to make your event one to remember.

Fountain Grill and Catering is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and closed on Monday. For more information call 530-626-7966.

Madroña Vineyards – Camino “New World Port”

Paring Port and Food

Paring wine and food, if done well, enhances the culinary experience.

Normally this is done at a wine dinner or special event where several wines are paired with several different dishes. However, Paul Bush, co-owner and winemaker at Madroña Vineyards, has come up with a different idea: celebrate a specific wine for a month, feature it in the tasting room of the winery and work with the local restaurants to pair it with a dish they create.

For the month of February a dessert wine, Madroña’s New World Port, is the featured wine and it will be followed by zinfandel in May, riesling in August and cabernet franc in November.

“The basic idea is to try and educate people about wine,” said Bush. “It is also an attempt to get people to not only try our local restaurants but to linger longer and enjoy their meals; it is the difference between eating and dining.

“I was surprised and very delighted with the response from the restaurants. They had a choice of both our 2002 and 2008 vintages. They are paring a dessert dish with one or the other or, in some cases both.”

Port (also known as Vinho do Porto and Porto) is a sweet, fortified dessert wine made from specific native Portugese grape varieties harvested from the steep mountain cliffs of the Duoro River Valley in northern Portugal.

It received its name from the seaport city of Oporto (also called Porto) at the mouth of the Douro River, where much of the product is brought to market or for export to other countries in Europe.

One of the many stories about the creation of port wines starts in the late 1600s when because of difficulties between England and most of the wine producing areas of Europe — usually France and Spain — they started purchasing wines from Portugal.

However, they did not travel well and often showed up at their destination spoiled. To overcome this problem, the Portugese winemakers started fortifying the wines with distilled grape spirits which stabilized the wine and solved the problem.

Another version of the story says that in the late 1600s an English wine importer sent two of his sons to the Douro Valley to look for wine. They happened upon a sweet, fortified wine being made at a monastery. They liked it and had it exported through Oporto to England.

Whichever version, if either, is correct, it doesn’t really matter, because the result was a wonderful wine.

Port wines are now intentionally fortified early in the fermentation process when they are young and strong, and still have sugars that have not been converted to alcohol. The process kills the yeast, completely stopping fermentation and raising the alcohol content to around 20 percent.

In America and other countries, wines labeled port have been made for years — in California since the Gold Rush — from any number of different grapes, some Portugese and some not. It actually became quite confusing to the consumer and did not make the port producers in Portugal happy.

In March of 2006, the United States signed the “Agreement between the United States and the European Community on Trade in Wine.” One of the provisions of this agreement covered the use of the port designation on wine produced outside of the Portugal. The law change disallows the use of the port designation on any new labels. Only those that are grand fathered may continue to use this designation on the labels.

There are more than 100 different grape varieties sanctioned for port production by the Port and Douro Wines Institute, although only five are widely cultivated and used.

There are a number of different kinds of port, but the ones usually found in the marketplace are called “normal ports,” tawny, barrel aged for over six years; ruby, barrel aged less than six years, and white port.

The Madroña New World Port is a ruby style port, made from different Portugese grape varieties, all of which are grown in the Madroña vineyards.

The 2008 vintage, for example, is made of seven of these varieties: Alvarahao, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao, Sousao, Bastardo, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Amarella. It has a alcohol content of just over 18 percent, residual sugar at 9.4 percent and a cellaring potential of 10 plus years.

El Dorado County restaurants featuring Madroña New World Port this February include:

Annabelle’s Chocolate Lounge (El Dorado) — Medley of specialty chocolates with both the 2002 and 2008 vintages.

Bricks (Placerville) — Bricklayer’s chocolate cake with the 2002 vintage.

Café Luna (Placerville) — Chocolate port puddle cake, chocolate crême brulée or chocolate truffles with both vintages.

Heyday Café (Placerville) — Chocolate decadence cake with macerated berries with both vintages.

Independent (Placerville) — Rhubard berry crisp with both vintages.

Joanie’s (Shingle Springs) — Triple layer chocolate decadence cake with the 2002 vintage.

Powell’s Steamer Company and Pub (Placerville) — Chocolate raspberry decadence cake or fromage chauffe with both vintages.

Sierra Nevada House (Coloma) — Death by chocolate with both vintages.

Snooty Frog (Cameron Park) — Chocolate mousse with the 2002 vintage.

Each day in February the Madroña Winery tasting room will be pouring one vintage of the New World Port, components of the 2011 vintage or a vertical tasting of several vintages with cheese and chocolate.

There will also be a special vertical tasting of the 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008 vintages of New World Port at Annabelle’s Chocolate Lounge in the town of El Dorado on Thursday, Feb. 9, from 5:30 until 6:30 p.m. Winemaker Paul Bush will take you through a tasting of these four vintages, with accompanying chocolates, so that you can discover the fruitness, the complexities, and ageworthiness of Port. Tickets are available at both the winery and Annabelle’s.

The 2008 vintage of Madroña’s New World port will be poured at the upcoming “A Chocolate Affair” at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 6 until 9:30 p.m. Tickets for this event, sponsored by Soroptimist International of Cameron Park/El Dorado Hills and Placerville, are available at 530-344-1476.

Madroña Vineyards is located at 2560 High Hill Road in Camino. The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

For more information about the restaurants, pairings and port facts call 530-644-5948 or visit

Shoestring – Garden Valley

Well, Russ Salazar and I went out to the Shoestring in Garden Valley to try the hot dogs. This place is owned by Tamara Bergman, the niece of Debbie Harding, who has the Shoestring on Broadway. Tamara’s father, Rick Siegel, opened it originally when he sold the Placerville business to his sister.

We ordered a chili-cheese dog, a caliente dog and a half order of chili-cheese fries to share. If you have never heard of one, the caliente dog has relish, mustard and a mix of sliced green and black olives, jalapeno peppers and more. It is yummy.

Rick Siegel just happened to be there so he and Salazar had a long, “remember when” conversation about living in the greater Los Angeles area and the best place to get food.

The hot dogs and the chili are a little different from the ones Harding uses, but I enjoy both of them. Salazar thought he liked the food there a bit better, but then commented that he always seems to get the best food when he is with me. Maybe I could start a new business, “Take Doug to dinner for the best food and service.”

Shoestring in Garden Valley is located at 4860 Black Oak Mine Road and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. (closed Sunday and Monday so Tamara and her husband Roger can spend time with their children). For more information call 530-333-2400.

Crepe Town Café – Cameron Park

No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odor to the nostrils.”

— Henry Ward Beecher

Crepe Town Café
I first heard about this place a couple of weeks ago when I was at a wine and food event. Two days later I received a call from Alma Zildzo, who with her husband, Edi, opened this new restaurant a few weeks ago. So, I drove to Burke Junction in Cameron Park, which is located at 3300 Coach Lane, to visit the restaurant. It is between Que Viva and Kobe Sushi.

I immediately found out it is a real family restaurant. The day I was there Alma’s lovely daughter Mirha was serving and on weekends a lot more of the family shows up to help.

The Zildzo family came to the United States from Croatia, by way of Germany. “We left everything when the fighting started,” said Alma. “I have a college degree, but I couldn’t find a suitable job in Germany, so I went to work in a café. Six years later we came to American and for a while had a small café in Mountain View.

“We decided to move to the Sacramento area to be near one daughter and her family. We saw Cameron Park and fell in love with it. We decided this was the place to open a small café for my daughter and grandkids. We wanted something unique, something European and this is it. We serve crepes, coffee, soups, salads, paninis and ice cream, but specialize in the crepes.

“It is European to take your time and enjoy your food. If you want to come in and have something to eat and read a book while you are sipping your coffee, that is fine with us. We decided on a simple menu and nice coffee so that people could relax and have a good time enjoying our delicious food and the pleasant surroundings. We don’t rush you,” Alma said.

Traditional crepes are delicately thin, European style pancakes cooked quickly then stuffed with delicious sweet or savory fillings and folded. Crepe Town Café’s are made the traditional way from scratch and prepared to order using the chef’s recipes, inspired by some of the world’s most celebrated dishes.

The chef is Steven Yates, a talented and experienced graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Ariz. “He understands what we are looking for and has come up with great recipes,” said Alma. From what I tried, I have to agree.

The menu, which may change a bit as they get to know their customers better, starts with crepes and eggs: six choices of wonderful combinations of eggs, cheese, ham and vegetables. Those are followed by eight savory crepes that vary from The California — sun dried tomato, avocado, spinach, red onion, artichokes, pesto, Swiss cheese and creme fraîche to the beef and Burgundy with short ribs, mushrooms and onions in a red wine sauce.

I sampled two and really liked the clean taste of The California, but my favorite was The Greek, with red onion, tomato, Kalamata olives, artichokes, pesto and feta cheese. It has a wonderful mix of tastes and textures with a delicious tang. Both the chef and Alma told me they could tell I liked it by the expression on my face while eating. The two samples came with the Crepe Town house salad, a combination of mixed greens, carrots, red onions, tomato, duck confit, candied walnuts, Parmesan and a roasted shallot vinegarette.

I also sampled two of the dozen sweet crepes they make: Nutella and Berry (Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread), with a mixed berry compote and whip cream, and the grannies apple, an apple cinnamon filling with caramel sauce, pie crumbs and streusel. The were both very nice, but I am not sure I could eat a whole one by myself. That is a lot of dessert. I should note here that Alma said that people can and do split crepe orders.

The menu also includes a Caesar salad, a “from scratch soup of the day” and two paninis: pastrami and Swiss and chicken and pesto.

In addition to the sweet crepes there are other desserts on the menu, a banana split, an ice cream sundae with fresh berry compote, cannolis, cakes and pastries.

The list of coffee and coffee drinks, hot chocolate and chai is quite lengthy and supplemented by other drinks such as orange juice, lemonade, sodas and bottled water. The café serves Vaneli coffee. “I like strong coffee,” said Alma, “and theirs is strong.”

The clean restaurant is decorated in an eclectic manner. “People told me it would be cheaper to use plastic, but I like real things,” said Alma. Each table has a different set of salt and pepper shakers and a vase with flowers. I buy things from second hand stores because they were once loved by someone and that love comes with them. I also use cloth on the tables and decorate with happy signs and pictures.”

Crepe Town Café is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., Sunday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and is closed on Monday.

For more information call 530-677-5993 or visit