Alchemy- Murphys, CA
Calaveras Enterprise Column 05/06/09


Alchemy Market and Cafe—A Little Magic in Murphys

By Antoinette May Herndon

The conference date loomed ominously large as Kathie, Ginger and I struggled to pull a writing event together. There were final nitty-gritty details to hammer out. Clearly, a power lunch was in order. But where?

It isn’t easy to find a “fun” restaurant open on Tuesdays—the only day that worked for all our schedules. Kathie’s suggestion—Alchemy—seemed as magical as its name. Whoever chose that moniker for a dining spot was thinking beyond food, was in fact holding out the promise of transformation, maybe even magic. We needed a dollop of that.

Though located in the heart of “down town” Murphys, Alchemy has a French bistro feel to it. The chic dining room centers around a lively wine bar. Warm maize walls are a perfect foil for crystal chandeliers and elegant Picasso-like drawings.

Off to the left, co-owner Sandra Carrillo presides over a mini market where bread, cheese, pate, and wine are sold. Sandra’s luminescent smile lights up the place. What a lovely launch for a picnic.

In the dining room, large windows and doors opening out to a leafy patio lend an inviting outdoor-indoor feeling.

Chef Jason Wright, the new owner, is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He comes to Murphys by way of Carmel where his two upscale restaurants were voted the best in town.

Jason’s an innovative cook. Everything on the menu looked good. Obviously we had tough choices to make.

Ginger went for the Thai Chicken Salad ($14). It was spicy and full of surprises: chicken, cilantro, mint, crisp carrots, peanuts and crispy rice noodles tossed with lime-chile vinaigrette.

Kathie’s pick was the Chicken Sunrise Salad ($13), a real winner with romaine lettuce, dried papaya and pineapple, coconut, sunflower seeds, cranberries, raisins combined with papaya vinaigrette dressing.

I went wild with the Tropical Ahi Salad ($15), a chile-crusted ahi with watercress, mango pineapple, marinated red onion, almonds, crispy wonton strips with papaya-line vinaigrette drizzled with wasabi cream.

The Gold Nugget Cheese Bread was the perfect complement to our salads.

A tasty blend of butter, white Parmesan cheese, corn and jalapeno peppers—it just may be the best restaurant table bread I’ve ever eaten in my life. Yes! It was really that good.

Kathie and I drank lots of ice tea ($2)—real tea with plenty of oomph to it, not to be confused with that wimpy stuff that most restaurants serve. We were taking the power lunch seriously and needed that caff, Lots of hard-hitting decisions to be made (like who would clean up after the conference.) Ginger was so cool with her lemonade ($2).

Our server was brisk to say the least, the concept of accommodation outside her radar screen. Attitude. I thought about it on the way home, remembering that from the start Alchemy had seemed like a tiny slice of Paris. And we all know about Parisians. Sometimes zay can be—how do you say—a leetle bit crankyyyyy.

VITALS: 191 Main St., Murphys. Phone: 728-0700. Market: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Restaurant: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Wednesdays. No reservations for lunch. Credit cards accepted.