Monthly Archives: July 2015

Steppin’ Out – Red Apple Cafe

Red Apple Cafe patioMy friend Russ Salazar thinks the Red Apple Café, on the south side of Highway 50 about half way between Placerville and Camino, is one of the best kept secrets around. Not only is it clean, neat and serves good food, it has a huge outside patio with a large shaded area and tables with umbrellas that give you a multi-mile view overlooking Newtown Road, the Placerville Airport and Weber Creek.

As we walked in a couple of weeks ago, we were immediately greeted by the owner, a smiling Sabrina Choe, who yelled to us, “Take a seat anywhere and I will be with you in a minute.”

We told her we first wanted to try the patio to see if it was too hot to eat outside, being it was in the high 90s. Although it was tempting, we decided to forego that and eat inside.

As we were heading back inside Russ looked back and then turned to me and said, “This is like some guy’s ideal patio.” I have to agree, it is beautiful. It would be a wonderful place for breakfast on a summer’s day and lunch, except on the very hottest days.

Back inside where the temperature was much cooler and delightful, we picked a table, sat down and started looking over the menu.

I have always loved the way the Red Apple Café is decorated inside. I am a collector of, among other things, odd kitchen utensils and the restaurant is decorated with a lot of them, giving it a very homey and quite friendly feeling.

In a couple of minutes Sabrina came by to take our order and chat. She is one of the most energetic people I know and what she has done with the restaurant since taking it over just a few years ago, is amazing. Usually she is wearing a Charles B. Mitchell Winery hat, but that day, she said it was “Just too hot.”

We, as usual, were taking way too long deciding what to eat, so we asked her for a recommendation. She replied that the Goldminer Burger was a good choice, and quite popular. She also mentioned that we could still get breakfast.

While still trying to make up our minds, we talked with her about menus and how others are sometimes confusing. She told us that you have to make them simple and tell people exactly what they are getting by listing the ingredients, something she does quite well.

We finally decided on the Goldminer Burger (avocado, bacon, Cheddar cheese and mushrooms) and the Teriyaki Aloha Chicken sandwich (pineapple, mushrooms, teriyaki sauce and cheese on a toasted bun). For sides we skipped the waffle fries and went for potato salad and Red Apple Café coleslaw.

Steppin’ Out – Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards, Bottle Your Own and Pizza Too

pizza-dough-1024x682Several times a year Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards, a well known winery in the quaint town of Fair Play, holds a Bottle Your Own wine event. The dates are Valentine’s Day Weekend, Veteran’s Day Weekend and one just around the corner, the 4th of July weekend (July 3-6), “A National Celebration with Wine” as they put it.

If you have never bottled your own wine, here is the way it works. You bring in your own, clean (important!) bottles (preferably in a wine box) or purchase them at the winery for only 75 cents each. You bottle your own wine and they provide the corks, capsules (the thing that covers the cork to keep varmints out), labels and all the equipment you will need to complete the process. You do all the work, but don’t worry, there are a lot of experienced people there to help you.

There are three outstanding wines to select from this year: a 2013 Baumann Vineyard Zinfandel, 2013 Thompson Vineyard Cabernet Franc and a 2013 Harde Vineyard Petite Sirah. You can fill your bottles with any of them or, as my friend Russ Salazar does, taste first, create a blend you like and fill the bottles with a mixture of two or more of them.

The cost, when purchased by the case, is a cheap $6.99 per bottle (that’s under $90 a case, plus tax). But wait, there’s a bonus! Buy a case of wine and be treated to free endless pizza from their smoke and fire belching imported, wood-fired pizza oven.

Gather together a group of friends, wine lovers or, best of all, friends who are wine lovers and make an adventure out of it, bottling wine, eating pizza and just having a great time.

Speaking of their pizza, every Friday evening from 5 p.m until 9 p.m. they hold Endless Pizza Night. You can enjoy a unique outdoor culinary experience with not only their wood-fired artisan pizza, but Maine lobster and Bocce Ball on their adjacent court.

The cost for pizza and salad is a cheap $15 per person, the Maine lobster is market price. It is best to call a day or two in advance, especially if you want lobster.

This is not just pizza, this is really good, thin crust pizza served hot from the oven. I’ve had it many times and end up eating much more than I should.

Another thing that is great about their pizza is that they will put together one that you like from their vast array of pizza toppings. (I once ordered sausage, sausage and sausage on a pizza. They made it and added pineapple to give it a sweet taste. Wonderful.)

Steppin’ Out – Golden Waffle Cafe, Placerville

Golden Waffle cafeLast week I met up with my compatriot, Russ Salazar, at the Golden Waffle Café, which is at 1449 Broadway in Placerville. He had just driven back from Los Angeles and had lots to say about that while we ate (gas prices over $1 more per gallon than here).

This restaurant was originally a Sambo’s (remember Tiger Butter?) and after passing through other hands was opened by Alba and Santos Ortiz about three years ago as Golden Waffle Café. They make sure it is very clean, that the food is well prepared and have put together a great menu.

After finding a sunny booth in this very clean restaurant, we opened the menu to see what they had to offer. Actually, we had to change booths because the first one we selected was a bit tight for us. Fortunately, our server was kind enough to direct us to one that had more space.

We don’t often sit in booths because of the space and the fact that I think the seats are too low as the tables always seems a bit high to me. There are tables in the other room, but I liked the sunlight streaming in.

While looking over the menu, Russ ordered iced tea and I asked for water, which, by the way, now comes only on request and then only in a small glass, by order of the powers that be.

I took my glass of water, which came with a straw, and put it to my right. Almost immediately I bumped the straw and flooded the table with the precious water. Fortunately is was the small glass and the water mostly stayed on the table, where it was wiped up by the still smiling serving staff. Fortunately they did not report me to the powers that be and simply replaced the water. I did not put the straw back into it.

After that very embarrassing moment in my life (I have many), we looked over the large menu and decided to have breakfast, even though it was after 1 p.m.

Russ decided to have their pecan and bacon waffle (pecans and bacon both in the batter and on top), while I ordered something I rarely order, but looked especially good on the menu, Eggs Benedict, along with their country potatoes.

Steppin’ Out – Forester Pub & Grill, Camino

Forester pub and grillIt had been several years since either Russ Salazar or I had been to the Forester, which is located at 4110 Carson Road, in downtown Camino. So, when were looking for a place in the Camino are to try, the Forester almost immediately came to mind.

Their menu is quite eclectic, with a little bit of everything, from German to English to Mexican food, and they pride themselves on serving large portions of high quality food at very reasonable prices. They use trans fat free rice oil for their deep fried food and grill in corn oil, which imparts no flavor.

It was a Thursday, around noon, when I arrived and there were a number of people enjoying lunch in their dining room. Russ showed up a few minutes later and joined me . It was actually warm enough to sit on their shady outdoor patio, but we decided to stay inside.

The last time I had dined at the Forester I had tried the buffalo burger, which is made with one-half pound of organically raised ground buffalo. However, I had my eye on fish and chips and Russ wanted me to try the Shepherd’s Pie, which he had especially enjoyed the last time he had dined there.

I wasn’t sure they served the Shepherd’s Pie at lunch, but our kind server assured me they did, so we ordered that from the “Pub Favorites” portion of the menu and the Fish and Chips from the “Kids & Seasoned Citizens” portion of the menu. We told our server that we would be splitting our dishes, so when they arrived she brought us two small plates.

Both dishes were excellent.

The Shepherd’s Pie was made with a lot of seasoned coarse ground chuck, mixed with peas (don’t all British dishes have peas in them?), covered with browned mashed potatoes. It also came with a roll and butter.

It was delicious and large enough to be quite a filling meal for one. For the two of us it was perfect. The coarse ground chuck was excellently seasoned and there was at least a half pound of it, mixed with the tender peas. The browned mashed potatoes still had some texture and the whole dish just went together beautifully.

The “Seasoned Citizen” portion of fish and chips had one large piece of perfectly cooked, not greasy and very fresh Alaskan Cod, an abundance of steak fries and some of the best cole slaw I have tasted in quite a while (fresh and a bit tangy from what I think was a tiny bit of horseradish). Many places just serve you the fish and chips, but the cole slaw really makes the dish complete. Besides that, you need some greenery in the dish.

The tarter sauce was also excellent and mostly disappeared on my steak fries, which were good, but could have been a bit crisper.