The Balcony is Open
By Antoinette May Herndon
Ten years ago Charles was a mountain man with a cougar (the four -footed kind) for a neighbor. I was a city lady from Palo Alto. We’d met on the internet. (Sometimes those things really do click.)
I was and am a travel writer with a specialty in the paranormal. A ghost chaser, if you will. Soon Charles had just the lure. “The Leger Hotel in Mok Hill dates from the Gold Rush,” he told me, adding: “they say it’s haunted.”
I was hooked. Charles was waiting in the hotel bar when I arrived. If those old walls could talk! Mok was once the biggest, baddest, most important town around (17 people killed in 17 weeks, then five more shot the following weekend.)
We decided to make our own history, moving to the balcony for drinks.
Let me tell you about that balcony. The Leger’s been around since 1852. Imagine all that hand holding, all those burning glances, romance seeping into every pore of the wooden frame. You can feel the vibes and the view’s dreamy: wooded hillsides, miners cabins, ancient hand-cut stones.
We sat for hours enchanted by the scene unfolding around us. It was one of those magic Indian summer nights. Down the street a small group sang off key. I didn’t know it then but I was falling in love with Charles, with Mokelumne
Hill, with the whole foothills scene.
That fall Ron and Jane Canty with their daughter, Ashley, bought the hotel. The fortunes of the town skyrocketed. Ron and Jane put their hearts and souls into the place. Ashley, a chi-chi Bay Area decorator, recognized “good bones” and transformed them with antiques and ambience. The Canty’s son, Shawn, came home from the wars and turned bar tender. He makes a mean martini.
The new news is Myron Turk, a graduate of the Lederwolf Academy of Culinary Arts. A student who never received less than an A in any class, it’s no wonder Myron’s teachers hired him again and again for their own catering jobs. Clearly he knows his way around the stove and loves to do it all. But here’s a secret: pasta is Myron’s true love. He’s perfected 20 variations of cannelloni.
Between the two of them, Ron and Myron have created an exciting new agenda. It begins with Sunday Night Pizza—five luscious varieties of12-inch Italian pie for $9.95. Monday continues as the ever popular Mexican Night, all the south of the border favorites plus one special. (Most recently, drunken chicken verde.) Again the price is just $9.95)
Martini Thursday remains a weekly highlight with such winners as a Basque Dinner that includes fried chicken, pork chops, lamb stew, spaghetti, salad, Ron’s homemade bread, plus wine for just $13.95.
is Catch of the Day Night fresh fish vying with a rib steak that’s been stepped up to USDA choice. Prime rib highlights the Saturday night menu,
All those innovations are enticing enough to ensure the Leger’s ongoing rep as the town living room, but here’s the best news: Spring is finally here. On a recent Saturday night the balcony door was open, Charles and I the first to step out.
It was heaven, fragrant lilacs on every table, trees laden with oranges, and green hills as far as we could see. I chose chicken piccata, a thigh pounded to such perfection that I could cut it with a fork. ($14.95) It was marvelous. Charles went with one of Myren’s prize pastas, a penne with sun dried tomatoes, prosciutto, sliced almonds, parmesan cheese and cream. ($10.95) We each had a cup of Jane’s cream of artichoke soup ($4.95) and finished by sharing a slice of Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! ($4.95)
Take my word, the balcony’s divine. Now, some day I’ll tell you about the ghost.
VITALS: The Leger is located 8304 Main St., Mokelumne Hill. Phone: (209) 286-1401. Dinners served Thursday -Monday, 5 p.m. to 9: 30. Reservations advised.
Pictures: The Hotel Leger balcony in Mokelumne Hill is a great spot for moon `watching
Marcell Engstrom, a wait person, on the Leger staff is a popular attraction.
Fragrant flowers are part of the charm on Leger’s celebrated balcony in Mokelumne Hill.